This dish inspired bymolecular gastronomy Chef Grant Achatz of Alinea is not only visually appealing but also playful, delicious and easy to make with ordinary items.
The presentation of this dish is outstanding. The transparency of the Manchego cheese sheet allows the diner to peak through and see a wide variety of square food items of different colors which invites them to guess what’s under that sheet of Manchego. When they finally decide to plunge the fork, the tasting and discovery journey begins. The combination of flavors and textures is terrific.
And one more time, another dish that confirms that almost anything tastes great with melted cheese!
Ingredients (4 servings)
- 1 garlic head
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 1 loaf of sourdough bread
- 115 g (4 oz) of Manchego Cheese
- 12 black pitted olives
- 2 slices of smoked trout
- 16 baby arugula leaves
- 8 lavender flowers)
1- Roast the garlic: preheat oven to 190 ˚C (375 ˚F). Coat garlic head with olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast for 45 minutes in the oven. Let it cool down and then carefully peel each garlic clove.
2- Roast bell peppers: brush the bell peppers with olive oil and char them on open flame until the skin is all black. Place them in a sealed container until they cool down. Peel them, remove the seeds and ribs. Cut them in squares of 1.3 cm (1/2 in). Reserve in container.
3- Croutons: preheat oven to 190 ˚C (375 ˚F). Trim off crust from the sourdough loaf. Cut loaf into 6 mm (1/4 inch) cubes. Spread them on a sheet tray and toast them in the oven until they are browned. This may take about 10 to 15 min; turn the cubes every 5 min to toast them evenly.
4- Manchego squares and sheets: for each serving cut a 6 mm (1/4 in) square of Manchego cheese. To cut the Manchego cheese sheets for the transparency you have a couple of options.
The first one is to get a full wheel of Manchego Cheese and cut 4 slices of 2 mm (1/8 in) using a meat slicer. You can use these large round pieces or cut smaller 10.2 cm (4 in) squares. I obviously didn’t do this.
The second option is to buy a section of Manchego Cheese and using a cheese slicer cut enough thin triangles to cover a square of 10.2 cm (4 in). The larger the triangles the better so you end up with fewer overlap areas.
Reserve the Manchego sheets covered with parchment paper in the fridge.
5- Dried Black Olives: dry the olives with paper towels and place them in dehydrator tray lined with mesh screen and dehydrate at 65 ˚C (150 ˚F) for 24 hours or until crunchy. If using an oven, set it to the minimum temperature possible and dry the olives for about 18 to 24 hours leaving the oven door open about 5 cm (2 inches). Time may vary depending on your oven. Never leave the oven unattended. I added a few extra olives to the ingredients so you can use a few to taste for crunchiness during the dehydration process.
6- Smoked Trout: cut the anchovies into 6 mm (1/4 in) squares.
Assemble and Serve
1- On a large square plate, arrange 2 dried olives, 1 red bell pepper square, 1 yellow bell pepper square, garlic clove, olive oil pudding dot, 1 anchovy square, 1 crouton and 1 Manchego cheese square in a square area of 10.2 cm (4 in). If you are using a large round sheet of Manchego you may want to add a few more items on the plate until you cover a surface slightly smaller than the sheet of cheese you are planning to use.
2- Cover the arranged items with a sheet of Manchego cheese. If you are using smaller triangles make sure you slightly overlap them so you end up with a continuous sheet of Manchego.
3- Using a kitchen torch, melt the sheet of Manchego cheese without burning it. Keep the torch a few inches away from the cheese so it slowly melts over the arranged items. Doing this slowly also helps to minimize the holes you may get on the sheet as the cheese contracts when too much heat is applied.
4- Decorate with 3 or 4 small arugula leaves and 2 lavender flowers. Serve immediately or the cheese will get cold and harden.