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Watermelon Soup

Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen / March 2011

For 8 servings (requires advance preparation)

Watermelon consommé:
• 1 lb. plus 1 1/2 oz. watermelon, pureed until smooth
• 2/5 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 tsp. agar-agar
• 1/8 tsp. salt

  1. Bring 2 cups puree, sugar, agar-agar, and salt to a boil in nonreactive saucepan; reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring constantly, 4 minutes; whisk in remaining puree; remove from heat; place in hotel pan; cool completely; let stand until set.
  2. Cut into squares; place on double sheet of cheesecloth; bring up ends of cloth to make a bag; tie shut with kitchen twine; suspend over a bowl; let stand overnight; wring out any remaining liquid from cheesecloth; discard solids; place consommé in airtight container; cover; reserve in refrigerator.

Pastis pearls:
• 7 Tbsps. pastis
• xanthan gum
• 6 Tbsps. plus 1 tsp. granulated sugar
• 2/5 tsp. agar-agar
• canola oil, chilled

  1. Heat oven to 150°F.
  2. Mix pastis with a very scant amount xanthan gum in large bowl, being careful not to aerate; reserve.
  3. Bring 1 1/4 cups water, sugar, and agar-agar to a boil in nonreactive saucepan; reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring constantly, 4 minutes; add water mixture to pastis mixture; place immediately in squeeze bottle; place oil in tall container; squeeze pastis mixture into oil drop by drop; let pearls stand 5 minutes; strain oil through fine strainer into clean container, saving oil for another use; carefully rinse pearls; reserve.

Compressed melon:
• various ripe melons, cut into sm. dice
• sm. shiso leaves

  1. Place some melon and some shiso leaves into vacuum-sealable plastic food bag; vacuum seal; reserve in refrigerator.

Assembly:
• 6 2/3 Tbsps. whole milk
• 4 stems tarragon
• 4 Tbsps. granulated sugar
• 1 tsp. salt
• 1/4 oz. gelatin, bloomed in cold milk
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2/3 cups heavy cream, beat to soft peaks

  1. Bring milk to a boil in a saucepan; remove from heat; add tarragon; let stand 15 minutes; strain through fine chinois into clean saucepan; place over medium heat; add sugar and salt; cook until sugar has dissolved and liquid is warmed through; stir in gelatin until dissolved; remove from heat; stir in sour cream; place in a bowl; fold in cream; divide among 2 oz. ramekins; refrigerate until set; reserve.
  2. To serve, unmold each panna cotta into a shallow bowl; remove melon from bag; scatter melon and pearls around; pour chilled soup into bowls tableside.

What to drink: Moscato d'Asti