Usually I’m all for a good trend, regardless of whether it’s really original. Cupcakes? So done, but I still love them. Foams and sous vide? Sure, why not. I can’t do either at home, or I’m too lazy. But regardless of whether the verrine trend spreads across the nation, I don’t buy it. As a general rule, I’ll pay money for almost anything someone makes in a restaurant with equipment I don’t have or can’t afford (usually both), but in this case, I refuse to believe verrines are anything special. They’re parfaits, but there’s nothing parfait about them.
To prove it, dear reader, I tried three of them. I have a unique recipe for you today, this last day of February.
To make a verrine:
1. Think of a food that normally has multiple components. Sandwiches, salads, pasta, soups, and desserts are all wonderful options. The more normal, the better.
2. Gather all the ingredients required. Massage each of the ingredients with a piece of kitchen equipment until they have a slightly different texture than usual. Be sure to spend lots of time chopping, focusing on practicing your brunoise dice (really small and perfect). Puree what goes down the hatch just fine without being pureed, and squish or otherwise manhandle things that are normally poofy, like bread.
3. Grab a juice glass, and layer the ingredients in an eye-catching way, paying attention to different colors and textures. (Oooh, but make sure you have plenty of extra everything.) Dump the glass out, clean the glass, and reassemble in a more pleasing fashion. Repeat as necessary, until the verrine makes you swoon.
There. That’s a verrine. It’s something you’ve already eaten, just composed using considerably more manpower and eaten with more frustration. The possibilities are as broad as those for putting food on a plate, especially if you have access to snazzy glassware or an inordinate number of cool shot glasses, which means you, the diner, will be paying more for the same food presented slightly differently.
My first attempt involved my morning snack, which I have on days like today when snow pulls me out of my chair and into the kitchen for a good stare into the yard. Here’s Greek yogurt, bananas, walnuts, and honey reborn as a verrine:
Pretty, huh? Here’s the secret: it tastes exactly the same as when I pile it into a bowl. That one was the best, though, becuase I could actually eat it out of the glass.
Then for lunch, I made a salad with beets, goat cheese, and tomatoes, which came out like this:
Of course, I should have pureed the beets, and suspended something on a paper-thin toast wafer between two other layers, for a magical floating effect. And there should have been a single hollowed-out tomato balanced on the top to hold the vinaigrette, but hey, I’m no verrine professional, so you can’t depend on me for that sort of creativity (read: effort). This makes for a nice-looking glass of salad, but I had to dump it out onto a plate before I could even think about approaching it with a fork. And in three bites, it was gone.
I then created what I thought would be my chef d’oeuvre, a taco parfait. Into the glass went pureed salsa, shredded lettuce, leftover pulled pork, finely shredded cheddar, avocado, and sour cream:
Not the masterpiece I anticipated. I dumped this one out also . . .
. . .then changed my mind and transferred it into a tortilla and ate it like a burrito, because one can only have so many salads in the same hour.
There is a future for the verrine, and it’s not at Alinea(where I’ll be going, sqquuueeeallll, in April). It’s in research kitchens for places like Chili’s and Applebee’s, where recycling flavors and selling them as new ideas is a great way to make money. And it’s in homes with kids who like to be creative in the kitchen.
Tell your babysitter to try a PB&J verrine: spoon 1 tablespoon peanut butter into the bottom of a shot glass (don’t get the sides dirty!). Carefully chop toasted Wonder bread into 1/4″ cubes, and put a tablespoon of them on the peanut butter, using tweezers to align them in perfect rows around the inside of the glass. Top with a tablespoon of raspberry jam that’s been pureed, strained, stabilized, and formed so that it falls almost all the way into the glass but actually hovers a hair’s breadth above the bread, just for effect. Top the jam puck with finely slivered roasted peanuts, and pack carefully for lunch.
The last bit of the article related the verrine’s arrival on American soil to a sort of restaurant-focused fashion trend. Fashion? I guess it’s not such a surprise that I’m not interested.
But, on the plus side, it would help control portion size. No wonder the piece was printed in the LA Times.