Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home
While many people get caught up in the merits of dumping a wad of cash on a fancy nine course tasting at a restaurant like Per Se, Gothamist can only think about the immeasurable impact innovative chefs like Thomas Keller have on the rest of the culinary world.
In many ways, chefs like Keller inspire a whole new generation of chefs and passionate home cooks that extends well beyond an expensive check or the twenty extra bucks for The French Laundry Cookbook.
An example would be the Keller classic and Per Se signature dish called Oysters and Pearls. The ‘pearls’ consisted of a creamy custard featuring tapioca, a starch made from the cassava root. Keller treats them as you would any starch, yet the tapioca adds a natural sweetness and chewy texture that pasta, couscous or rice couldn't provide.
Best of all, this isn’t a technique for the elite chef or well-off gourmet. Gothamist created a version of Per Se’s tapioca pearls for a light, satisfying soup that cost less than $15.
Per Se’s Creamy Tapioca Pearls
Mint, Green Onion Soup
This soup is best served warm, but it’s great at room temp as well. If you can’t find a massive jumbo scallion like the recipe calls for, you can use a few Vidalia or white onions and a couple bunches of scallions.
Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves two people, with a few portions of left over soup.
1 bunch jumbo scallion, 3 to bunch(currently at Fairway. Substitute with 3 large Vidalia or white onions and two bunches scallions.)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 large cloves garlic
1 bunch mint
1 stick butter
1 pint whole milk
1 package of whole tapioca pearls
Estimated cost of ingredients: $15 at Fairway
Special Equipment: Stainer, multiple pots, food processor or blender, but ideally an immersion blender.
Prep Onions for Soup
Wash the jumbo scallions or tops of the regular scallions. Remove the outer skin of the white jumbo scallion or white onions. Slice the white part of the jumbo scallion bulb or the whole onions into thin rough slices. Set aside the green tops of the jumbo or small scallions for later use. Take the four cloves of garlic from skin and set aside.
Make the Soup Base
Place a glug of olive oil into a large pot. Turn heat to medium. After a minute, add all of the white sliced onions to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until onions become translucent and they release their liquids, about 4 minutes. Next, add enough cold water to the onions so they are barely covered. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer on medium low heat for about 8 minutes, until the onions are very soft and most of ½ of the liquid is reduced. Add about ½ cup of whole milk and 1 tablespoon of butter to the pot and simmer for another couple of minutes. Take off the heat.
Make the Green Onion Puree
Bring a small pot of water to the boil. Season water heavily with salt. Take all of the whole tops of the scallion and place into the water and blanch for about 1 minute. Strain the tops from the water, then immediately place in food processor. Add pinch of salt, pepper, a glug of olive oil and a small ladle of the liquid from your onion soup base. Puree until smooth and reserve. Fold the puree into the onion soup base and place on low heat, just getting it warm so the puree infuses into the liquid for a few minutes.
The next step is to puree all contents of the soup together to further intensify the onion flavor. You can either add the mixture in batchfuls to a blender or food processor, or better yet just take an immersion blender to it and puree right in the pot. Strain through mesh strainer into another pot and reserve.
Make the Tapioca
Place a large pot of salted water on boil. Place about ¼ of tapioca bag into boiling water and cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until soft yet al dente and clear in appearance. Taste continuously in order to get a sense of how it comes along. Drain.
Take the same pot and add 1 tablespoon butter on medium heat. Add one handful of chopped mint to butter, then add the drained tapioca. Season with salt, pepper and add just a small touch of milk to make it pliable. Taste and season again. You can add more butter here, more mint, or a grated cheese would also work.
Finish the Dish
Bring your soup and tapoica to a warm temp. Taste your soup and season to taste with salt and pepper. You can add a hunk of butter if you’d like. Place a few heaping spoonfuls of tapioca into a bowl. Ladle soup around the tapioca and serve.