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Jun 26, 2017

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Extreme Cuisine
by Bob Blumer
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.6

photography: Suzi Q. Varin

I've dined among whip-cracking, leather-clad sadomasochists at New York City's short-lived Maison de Sade. Been waited on by a bevy of convincing transvestites at Lucky Chengs (also, surprise, in NYC). Sipped vodka from frozen ice blocks in sub-zero temperatures at the Ice Hotel in Quebec (save your money and jump into a snow bank with a bottle of vodka). Recently fumbled my way through dinner at Dans la Noir?, a pitch-black dining locale in Paris where the waiters are blind and your eyes never adjust to the darkness. But nothing gets me hot and bothered like El Bulli, the world's most intellectually challenging restaurant, located a hundred miles north of Barcelona, Spain, where uber chef/alchemist Ferran Adria pushes the culinary envelope.

Adria has gone so far beyond artfully presented dishes and fusion flavors that he's in a class of his own. Ever tasted mushroom (or asparagus or beet) foam? He invented it. Translucent jelly linguini? (Coming to a restaurant near you soon courtesy of Adria.) Been served soup in a shooter glass? That's Adria, too. (Note: not content to serve a simple shooter, he layers his signature pea soup so that the first sip is hot, after which it morphs into a chilled essence of pea.)

Every year, chefs flock to his secret lab near Barcelona to study at his side. The result's like an Internet joke that travels around the world at breakneck speed. His inventions, techniques and mind-melding flavor combinations are carried back to restaurants all over the world by these eager disciples.

The 25-course dinners, yes, I said 25, at El Bulli take up to six hours and can run into the high triple digits. Diners aren't just presented with the dishes, they're instructed by the servers on specifics of how to consume them. No, this isn't for everyone. Ronald McDonald's thong (yes, he wears a thong) would undoubtedly end up in a knot. And Bon Appetit's wine and spirits editor Anthony Dias Blue hated the experience - what better endorsement could you ask for?!

If you can't make it to El Bulli, or can't wait six months for a reservation, you can get a taste of it with my homage to Adria. This high-concept white chocolate mousse and mango dessert looks like a soft-boiled egg, and runs like a soft-boiled egg. But one spoonful will reveal that the yolk's on you!

An EggsIstential Dessert
(yields 12 bites)

2 ripe mangos, peeled and seeded
12 eggs
3/4 t unflavored gelatin
8 oz. white baker's chocolate, chopped in teeny weeny bits
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream, divided
1 t vanilla extract

Place mangos in a blender and puree. Pour into 1 or more plastic containers so puree is 3/4-inch deep. Cover and freeze 2 hours, or until frozen solid.

Using a sharp knife, carefully chop tops off the eggs as you would a soft-boiled egg. Reserve eggs for whatever, and run the shells under scalding hot water. Be sure to clean out any egg white residue. Reserve shells in egg carton for safe-keeping.

Place 3 T water in a small bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the top and let stand 5 minutes.

In a medium heatproof bowl add chocolate.

In a small pot, bring 1/2 cup cream to a boil. Add gelatin and vanilla and stir 30 seconds. Pour cream over chocolate and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chocolate thickens but still falls off a spoon.

In a stand mixer or large bowl, whip remaining cream until it forms stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently but thoroughly fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture. Return to refrigerator for 2 hours or until set.

Remove frozen mango from containers and slice into 3/4-inch cubes. Using a paring knife, sculpt mango cubes into yolk-shaped balls. Reserve mango yolks in freezer.

To assemble, transfer chocolate mousse (that's what it is now) to a pastry bag or to a large resealable plastic bag with a corner clipped. Fill each eggshell halfway with mousse. Set 1 mango yolk in the center of each shell, pushing down slightly into mousse. Pipe more mousse over yolk, being careful not to leave any air pockets, to just below the top. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow yolks to thaw (thus running when cut).

the adventure club: Cut the egg at the bottom instead of the top. After filling the egg with mousse, seal it with a plug of melted white chocolate. Serve in an egg cup, plug-side down, thereby creating the illusion that the egg hasn't been tampered with.

level of difficulty: Like an elaborate card trick, this seems tricky to pull off at the outset, but when decoded is actually quite simple.

active prep: 1 hour

inactive prep: 4 hours

advance work: Eggs can be made up to 2 days in advance. Refrigerate in an egg carton wrapped with plastic wrap.

liquid assets: Moscato d'Asti is a semisweet Italian sparkling wine that's just light and fruity enough to support the overt sweetness of the white chocolate mousse.

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