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Iron Chef Recipe:

Wild mushroom soufflé tart with savory Roquefort-Sauternes ice cream

Savory ice cream
Rosemary-walnut tart crust
Fallen mushroom souffle
Buttered pears in champagne vinegar gastrique
Decorations a la Iron Chef

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Roquefort-Sauternes Ice Cream

2 cups milk
4 egg yolks
1 cup pear nectar
1 cup Sauternes
¼ lb Roquefort cheese
1 tablespoon roasted shallot pureé

Heat 2 cups milk in a small saucepan to roughly 160° Fahrenheit, just below simmering. Do not allow it to come to a boil. Whisk the egg yolks with ¼ cup of the hot milk until smooth. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook over low heat and continue to stir for about five minutes. The custard will thicken noticeably. Remove from heat and chill thoroughly, preferably for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. If you have a professional ice cream freezing machine, you can add the mixture after chilling the pan in an ice bath for a few minutes, but this practice is not recommended for home ice cream makers.

Combine 1 cup of inexpensive Sauternes (Muscat, Beerenauslese or a late harvest Semillon or Riesling can be substituted if necessary) with 1 cup of pear nectar, and simmer down over medium heat until reduced by nearly half in volume. Add the shallot pureé just before taking the mixture off the heat, and stir until well blended. As with the custard mixture, chill this liquid thoroughly.

Place the chilled custard and the Sauternes liquid in the bowl of a food processor with the Roquefort cheese. Blend until almost smooth; leave some pea-sized chunks of cheese. If desired, add ¼ cup of coarsely ground black walnuts for a differently textured ice cream.

Freeze according to the directions of your ice cream maker. You can also pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container and place it in the coldest part of your freezer, removing the mixture and running it through a food processor or blender every few hours until it is completely frozen and has a creamy, desirable texture.

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Fallen mushroom soufflé tart

Savory rosemary-walnut shortbread crust

2½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup corn flour
2 tablespoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup coarsely ground toasted black walnuts

Preheat oven to 300° Fahrenheit. Cream butter with sugar and rosemary until light and fluffy. Stir in the walnuts. Slowly knead in the flour by hand, stirring with a spoon until just combined, then kneading by hand until the dough is soft and resilient. Roll out the dough ¼" thick and generously cover a 9" pie pan with some scraps left over. Bake until golden brown, about 55 minutes. "Iron chef" speed cooking fans can increase the temperature to 350° and decrease the baking time to 30 minutes, but the best results in shortbread are from longer baking at low temperatures. The shortbread is done when it is a light golden brown.

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Mushroom soufflé

6 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
8 oz thinly sliced mushrooms
1 cup milk
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 egg whites
2 egg yolks
1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 450° Fahrenheit. Melt all but 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan, blending in the flour to form a thin roux. Cook for two or three minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter foams. Whisk in ¾ cup of the milk to form a thick sauce.

In a seperate saucepan, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter until it foams. Saute the mushrooms briefly over medium high heat, about one to two minutes, and season with salt and pepper. With a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked mushrooms to the sauce. Over high heat, reduce the mushroom liquids left in the pan to a tablespoon or less, and add to the sauce. Blend well, and remove from heat.

While the mushrooms are cooling, generously butter and flour a 9" soufflé dish. Any oven-safe bowl with edges that are at least 4" high will do if you do not have a soufflé dish. Stir the 2 egg yolks into the mushroom mixture. Beat the egg whites with 1/8 tsp cream of tartar to stiff peaks. Carefully fold the mushroom mixture into the egg whites. Immediately pour into the prepared soufflé dish and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, reducing the heat to 375° after 5 minutes. The soufflé should be slightly firm and springy to the touch in the center when it is done. Remove the soufflé from the oven and allow it to cool. It will fall, shrinking considerably in volume and producing a somewhat denser mushroom tart.

Carefully remove the fallen soufflé from the dish and place it over the shortbread crust. If desired, top with additional sauteed mushrooms and toasted black walnuts.

When ready to serve, bake the tart in a preheated oven at 350° Fahrenheit for ten minutes and serve warm with Roquefort-Sauternes ice cream and buttered pears.

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Buttered Pears

2 firm fleshed pears (preferably Comice)
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon brandy or port wine

Peel, core and slice the pears ¼" thick. Melt the butter over medium heat until it foams, and saute the pears until soft. Add the vinegar and the brandy or wine and simmer over low heat for another three to four minutes. Season with freshly cracked black pepper and serve warm with the mushroom tart.

Hints and tips: Crimini (brown) mushrooms are both inexpensive and packed with the intense mushroom flavor that you want in this tart, and are highly recommended for use in the soufflé. You can also use chanterelles or other wild mushrooms, especially to garnish the top of the tart. Roasted portobello caps, sauteed morels or black trumpet mushrooms are excellent and tasty adornments.

Use an inexpensive sweet wine for the reduction with pear nectar, as the reduction and alcohol removal process destroys the subtle aromatics of a finer wine. If you wish the flavor of a better quality of Sauternes in the ice cream, add a small amount of the real thing to the ice cream after it is frozen, blending them together in a food processor and then re-freezing. Do not add more than 10% of the volume of the ice cream in wine, as alcohol is a significant antifreezing agent.

Baking the soufflé and the tart seperately creates a light, buttery crust reminiscent of a savory shortbread cookie. If you happen to be pressed for time, or if you prefer a risen soufflé to the denser fallen version, use the following baking instructions for the crust and tart, which will yield a denser and less tender crust due to the liquid yield from the soufflé.

Use a buttered soufflé ring to raise the sides of the pie pan at least four inches, or make your own by cutting out a long strip of buttered parchment paper and placing it around the crust in a vertically edged pie pan. Paint the crust with a glaze made from one egg white beaten with one tablespoon of water, and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Paint again with another batch of glaze, dust with flour and pour in the soufflé. Turn the heat up to 375° and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

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Decorations a la Iron Chef: Candy tiny, edible lavender blossoms by brushing them lightly with beaten egg white or reconstituted dried egg white and dusting them with sugar. Dry them in the oven at 250° for about 10 minutes, and store any surplus in a tightly sealed container. Be sure to purchase food grade lavender, as the flowers used for potpourri contain chemicals and are not intended for human consumption. Sprinkle lavender blossoms over the ice cream, and decorate with thin strips of gold foil.

Are you ready to challenge the California Iron Chef? If you are, go ahead and enter the Cyber Kitchen Stadium! The gong of fate will sound!

Special thanks and credit to John Burkhart for the gong.

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