Food and Entertaining

Binging With Babish: Tomate Du Saltambique From The West Wing

PRES. BARTLET: “His specialty is his dessert: Tomate du Saltambique.” CHIEF of STAFF McGARRY: “That’s going to be a big seedless beefsteak tomato, stewed for three hours in creme de caramel, and stuffed with…” BARTLET: “Passion fruit, kiwi, and hazelnuts. And…” McGARRY: “Served on a pomegranate reduction. Yes.”
BARTLET: “There you go.” Hey, what’s up guys and welcome back to “Binging with Babish”. For this week, I’m finally living up to my namesake and making something from “The West Wing”, which involves making dessert out of a tomato. This will be interesting. My first attempt at this dish is going to be a very literal recreation based on President Bartlet’s description: Three chopped kiwis, the pulp of six ripe passion fruits, the seeds of which turned out to be very tart so if you’re going to go for this interpretation, I recommend running them through a food mill first. We’re gonna place those into a large bowl. Then we’re going to combine with maybe half a cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts. Again, if you were choosing to do this version yourself, I would chop everything a lot finer. I’m kind of going half effort here because I don’t think that these are going to work. I think the tomatoes are too big. Speaking of which, we’re going to cut the tops off and core two large beefsteak tomatoes that we’re going to fill to the brim with our fruit nut mixture, topped with their tops, and place into a bubbling vat of creme de caramel (which I’ll show you how to make a little bit later on). We’re going to constantly baste the tomatoes with the creme de caramel for three hours as instructed. In the meantime, we’re going to make a basic pomegranate reduction. Start by splitting open your – ohh oop! – by splitting open your pomegranates, cracking them open a little bit and whacking them on the back with a woooden spoon, until they’ve yielded all their delicious little seeds. Then we’re going to place into the jar of a blender and blend just enough until we’ve gotten the juices out of them. We don’t want to cloud the juice with tiny little seed fragments. We’re going to drain those through a fine mesh sieve, place in a small saucepan along with maybe quarter cup of plain white sugar, and boil down to a syrupy consistency. Three hours later, and it’s time to eat our vegetables for dessert. Just kidding. Tomatoes are fruits. I just wanted to upset you for a second. But these fruits, unfortunately, are totally destroyed. Three hours was way too long to stew any tomato. It’s not going to retain structural integrity for that amount of time. That being said, the flavors were exciting, so I wanted to make an interpretation closer to Alain Passard’s “Tomate confit une douzaine de saveurs”. Which, when pronounced properly, translates to “tomato confit with a dozen flavors”. In the case of this dish: apple, pineapple, pear, pistachios, walnuts, and the zest of both a lemon and an orange. We’re also going to add some grated fresh ginger before sauteing in butter until soft, fragrant, and delicious. But made even more delicious by the addition of the remaining flavors: one whole star anise pod, a tiny pinch of ground cinnamon, and a tiny pinch of ground cloves. And this is dessert after all, so a few healthy pinches of white granulated sugar. Saute for 5-10 minutes, or until those flavors that have had a chance to get to know each other. Remove the star anise pod and let’s start prepping some much more reasonably sized Campari tomatoes, two of which we’re going to leave the skin on and the other two (for the sake of science) we’re going to blanch, shock in an ice bath, and peel to see if they will cook a little bit more consistently in the creme de caramel. Which we’re going to make now. Start by heating a cup of white sugar over medium heat until it’s completely melted and about the same color as this whiskey. In the background, we’re boiling two cups of heavy cream. along with a stick of butter that we’re going to add to our melted sugar, whisking constantly to create creme de caramel. Don’t worry if it’s thin because it’s going to thicken up significantly over the next two or so hours of cooking. Very carefully core and seed your tiny little tomatoes, [and] place them in a small saute pan. They’re going to have a hard time staying upright so try and balance them against each other. Fill with our fruit and nut mixture. You want these filled but not overstuffed. We’re then going to fill the pan with caramel until it comes halfway up the sides of the tomatoes. Now you might be saying to yourself, “Andrew, that’s only 11 flavors! I counted.” Well, first off: stop micromanaging me. And second off: I’m not done yet. We’re going to put four strips of orange peel into the caramel, which is going embue the caramel with a lovely orange flavor and also give us some nice pieces of candied orange peel. Now as you can see, the blanched tomatoes did not make the cut. They fell apart way too early, but the ‘skin-on’ tomatoes held together beautifully during their two-hour cook time, allowing the creme de caramel to cook down into a beautiful syrup. Which we’re going to drizzle over the top of a plated up tomato, along with some crunchy sea salt flakes and some julienned candied orange peel. And it’s time to dig into a much more reasonably portioned desert tomato. Now, these flavors actually worked. The tomato brought a lovely acidity and mineral-ity to all the sweetness. And this is something I’m actually genuinely going to make again. Mainly because I want to see the look on my dinner guests’ faces when I tell them we’re having tomatoes for dessert. Hey guys, I just want to say a quick ‘thank you’ for all your support over the past year and making this show. We’re coming up on a million subscribers which I’m very excited about I’m gonna be celebrating in a few different ways with some giveaways, some behind the scenes stuff, and more. Keep an eye out for that content coming in the next few weeks. I’m excited to share some secrets about the show, like sometimes, I’m not wearing pants underneath my apron.
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