chorizo meringues
Thank you, Spain, for one of the best flavor combinations on earth: chorizo, Manchego cheese, and olives.  Any combination of the three yields an irresistible tapa (Spanish snack), and this recipe is no exception.  Turing the chorizo into a savory meringue is a nod to the textural transformations that Spanish chef Ferran Adrià pioneered, and which are now a hallmark of modernist cooking.  Plus, it’s crunchy! 

Makes: about 50 pieces
Total kitchen time: 2 hours (20 minutes working time)

Shopping list:

  • 1 dry-cured chorizo (available in the deli sections of finer grocery stores)
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 lb Manchego cheese
  • 50 Spanish olives
  1. Preheat your oven to 300°F and set the top rack in the middle position.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and dust with flour (adding a little cooking spray to the parchment helps the flour stick).
  2. Cut off about 4” of the chorizo and slice thinly.  Use the remaining chorizo for a snack while you’re cooking – you deserve it.  Blend the sliced chorizo in a small food processor until it is broken apart.  This should yield about 1/2 cup.
  3. Add the egg whites and cream of tartar to the bowl of your stand mixer, with the whisk attachment installed (you can use a hand mixer, but mixing times may vary).  Beat the egg whites on medium-high for about 2 minutes, or until they hold soft peaks.
  4. Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a small bowl.  With the mixer running on medium-high speed, slowly drizzle in the sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Continue mixing until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.  Finally, mix on high speed for 45 seconds until the egg whites are stiff.
  5. Carefully fold the ground chorizo into the egg white mixture.  Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet until it is about 1/2” thick (this will occupy nearly the whole baking sheet).
  6. Bake at 300°F for 90 minutes, or until the top is light brown and firmly spongy to the touch.  Remove the meringue and transfer to a cooling rack.  Let cool 10 minutes. 
  7. Slice the meringue into 1 1/2” squares and top with a thin slice of Manchego and an olive.

I was hoping to find a way to make the meringue using my whip cream charger instead of the stand mixer.  I did come close by rendering the oil from the chorizo and adding it to egg whites and cream of tartar.  It foamed on its way through the charger, but without the sugar, the foam just wasn’t strong enough to hold up in the oven.  Oh well, that’s the fun of experimenting!

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beef wellington hors d'ouvre

I love the richness and elegance of beef wellington, particularly for fancy winter dinners.  Beef wellington, if you haven’t had it before, is a medium rare slab of steak, topped with fois gras and mushrooms, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  The dish can be an expensive proposition, so I’ve transformed it into economical hors d’oeuvres. 

Makes: about 30 bites
Total kitchen time: 25 minutes (longer if starting with rare tenderloin)

Shopping list:

  • 2 1 lb. fully cooked beef tenderloins (available at Trader Joe’s seasonally)
  • 4 Oz. pâté (chicken or duck will work fine)
  • 2 12” square sheets of puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • Toothpicks, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the top rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. If you are starting with an uncooked beef tenderloin, season it to taste and cook until rare.  Allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature before carving, at least 30 minutes.  If using pre-cooked tenderloin, remove from the packaging and wipe all sides dry with paper towels.  Cut the tenderloin into long, 1” square strips.  You should get about 3 good strips per tenderloin; the rest can be saved for excellent next-day sandwiches!
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick mat.  Lay out one sheet of puff pastry and place the cut tenderloin about 1/2” from the top edge.  Spread a little of the pâté on top of the tenderloin.  Then, carefully fold the puff pastry over the tenderloin, rolling the meat and the dough until you’ve completely encased the tenderloin.  Press the dough down at the seam to seal it.  Using a sharp knife, cut the sealed portion of dough away and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat for a total of three “logs” per sheet of puff pastry.
  4. Bake until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.  Slice each “log” into 1” pieces, skewer with a toothpick, and serve!

We were able to save a little cash by using chicken pâté instead of expensive (and rare) fois gras.  We also left out the mushroom mixture you usually find in beef wellington – for our purposes, the mushrooms would be a little messy since they’d fall out the sides of the cut pieces.  Trust me, your guests won’t miss them.

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Reading time: 1 min