If you run with a gourmet crowd, here’s a suggestion for a first course that’s easy to make, yet impressive and unique. It is especially elegant when you use a ring mold to create a free-standing tower. However, an easy alternative is to layer the ingredients in a dessert glass or juice glass.
For a sophisticated first course: sweet potato and goat cheese parfait. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.
If you can’t find crème fraîche at the store, you can make it from scratch from heavy cream and buttermilk, with this recipe.
For The Salad
1 cup celery leaves
2 tablespoons black olives, diced
1 tablespoon lemon, diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup celery, sliced on a bias about ¼ inch long
6 ring molds, 2 inches in diameter by 3 inches high
*White peppercorns are black peppercorns with the outer black skin removed. They lose some of the heat and flavor, which is contained in the skin. In the halls of haute cuisine, this was done to prevent black flecks of skin from marring the perfect whiteness of a sauce. However, today we live in a much more relaxed culinary society and are not bothered by black flecks.
Crème fraîche. Photo courtesy Vermont Creamery.
1. PREHEAT the oven to 400°F. Season the apples and sweet potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
2. INDIVIDUALLY WRAP the sweet potatoes and apples in aluminum foil, and place them in the preheated oven. The apples will be tender in about 20 minutes; the sweet potatoes will need about 35 to 40 minutes of cooking time. Once they are tender, remove them from the foil. When the apples and sweet potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dice into ¼-inch pieces and set aside. While the apples and sweet potatoes are cooling…
3. COMBINE the parfait ingredients, the chèvre and and the crème fraîche in a bowl and mix completely. Stir in the shallot and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve in the refrigerator.
4. MAKE the crème fraîche sauce: Mix the crème fraîche, shallots, parsley, chives and lemon juice in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Twenty minutes before serving, remove the chèvre mixture from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
5. PLACE a ring mold in the center of each plate and spread 1 tablespoon of the chèvre mixture in the bottom. Top the chèvre with the diced sweet potato, then add another dollop of chèvre, then the diced apple, another dollop of chèvre, then the diced sweet potato. Finish with a layer of chèvre.
6. TOSS the celery leaves, slices of celery, black olives, and lemon together. Drizzle with lemon juice and lemon oil and season with salt and pepper. Top each parfait with a bit of the celery salad, and then remove the mold. Place the parfait in the middle of a plate and drizzle the crème fraîche sauce around the plate and decorate with celery. Serve immediately.