Today is a celebratory event in our family. The announcements for the 2018 Michelin star restaurants in the Bay Area had been delayed because of the terrible fires in the Napa/Sonoma region. Sarah and Evan were on tenterhooks because Rich Table had been dropped from Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list from last year. That meant they were either going to get a star or they were going to get nothing. Originally the stars were to be announced one week after the Bib Gourmands, but on the eve of the announcement. Michelin decided to delay. That was a good decision because some of the restaurants were threatened by the fires, and those that weren’t were cooking food for the fire victims. Sarah already had experience with that. In 2001, she worked at Bouley in Lower Manhattan a short way from the World Trade Center. The restaurant was closed for months after 9/11, and each day for weeks she helped cook meals and then transport them to the site.
Back in San Francisco, there was no further notice about when the list would be released until yesterday. The wait was agonizing, and the silence, of course, stimulated social media gossip including one person who allowed it would be March before the announcements came. No way! Michelin has books to sell.
All morning long I checked my cell phone. Nothing. Until I got a text message from Sarah that burst into a flurry of stars. There were no words, but the message was clear.
It’s official: Rich Table has been awarded one Michelin star. That matches Michael Mina where Sarah worked as sous chef. As well, Coi, where Evan worked as chef de cuisine, has gained its third and ultimate star.
I know that Sarah and Evan plan to celebrate this evening. We are also going to have our own little celebration.
The other evening we were invited to a dinner party. It was a little bit of a pot luck, and we were asked to bring a light appetizer. I decided to use some puff pastry from the freezer to make empanadas, but that seemed a little bland, so I also made some mayonnaise as a dipping sauce.
Mayonnaise is so easy to make, and it tastes so much better than the bottled kind, that it seems crazy not to make your own. Especially when you have a fool-proof recipe (so far at least) from one of the world’s greatest chefs. Michel Roux of the Michelin-starred, much-honored Waterside Inn in England, has written a beautiful little book simply called “eggs” (John Wiley and Sons, 2005) filled with amazingly creative, not-so-classic and classic egg recipes including, of course, mayonnaise.
I doctored up the basic recipe using some tricks from Sarah and Evan. The additions of freshly grated horseradish and finely chopped chives or green scallion tops make a great dip that perks up the empanadas.
I filled the empanadas with hearts of palm, parsley, and grated Parmesan, but you can let your imagination run wild: tiny button mushrooms, little shrimp (is that redundant?), water chestnuts, olives (seed removed, of course), cubes of cheese, dolma filling, etc., etc., would all be good. I don’t know, but maybe a little oyster would work.
This recipe makes 20-24 appetizers depending upon how big you make the empanadas
- Put the egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl with handles and/or on a towel or other non-slip surface. Combine with a balloon whisk until smooth.
- Whisking continuously, add a few drops of oil. When the oil is completely incorporated, add more oil, repeating the process until the mayonnaise thickens. You may then add the oil in a more continuous stream, but pause occasionally to make sure the oil is fully incorporated before adding more.
- When all of the oil has been incorporated, whisk for another minute or so until the mayonnaise is smooth. Then add the lemon juice. The mayonnaise will become visibly less yellow. Adjust with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper to suit your taste.
- Stir in the horseradish and chives or scallions. Add more of either to suit your taste.
- Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to use. This should hold for several hours.
Puff Pastry Empanadas
- ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly and finely grated
- 1 sheet commercial frozen puff pastry, thawed according to directions
- 1 14½ ounce can hearts of palm, drained and cut into ½ inch coins
- 1 egg, beaten well with 2 tablespoons water
- In a small bowl, combine the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Set aside
- On a lightly floured work surface, open the thawed sheet of puff pastry. With a lightly floured rolling pin, flatten the pastry to about 1/16 inch thick
- Using a 3 inch circular cookie cutter (a 2½ inch biscuit cutter will do) cut circles in the flattened pastry dough. Working quickly, place a palm coin and about ¼ teaspoon of the parsley/Parmesan mixture in the center of each circle. Paint the edges of the circles with the egg mixture, using a small pastry brush.
- One by one and using your hands, stretch the dough gently to cover the palm disk. Pinch the edges of the half-moon empanada closed with your finger and then seal with the tines of a dinner fork
- Arrange the empanadas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Paint the tops of the empanadas with the egg mixture, trying not to let it drip onto the parchment.
- Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 400°F for 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool.
- Serve with the dipping mayonnaise either at room temperature or gently rewarmed.
Egg yolks, mustard, salt and pepper ready to receive the oil
One cup of peanut oil
Parsley and grated Parmesan
Puff pastry empanadas ready for the oven
Baked puff pastries