February 27, 2024
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Truffle-Scented Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions Over Baby Arugula Vinaigrette

Culinary trends have always been as respon­sive and influential as any other artistic gen­re mirroring social, polit­ical, and economic change. And the leftovers, as usual, are even better.

Consider the 1920s. Prohibition spurred an unprecedented upheaval in American dining. Restaurants and hotels, stripped of liquor prof­its, went out of business. Vineyards stopped producing wine, and turned out grape juice. Much of that juice became home-brewed wine. My father, who grew up in a building shared by Jewish and Italian families, remem­bers the scent—and the taste—of his neigh­bor’s personal label.

“The Delessios didn’t let the Prohibition bother them. He did what all the other Italian families did. He made it out of fermented juice and huge bunches of grapes in the tub. Every­one stomped on it. My mother only had carp in our tub before she put it through the de-fla­vorizing machine. But Mrs. Delessio’s cooking! I went there for dinner every chance I had.”

My Dad sums it up: Hard-wired cultur­al taste combined with an eye for opportu­nity gave rise to thousands of Italian owned speakeasies. Papa’s wine served with tradition­al cooking, like Mrs. Delessios, gave Americans exposure to, and a taste for, authentic Italian food. And in a country where meat was plen­tiful, Sicilian cooks added protein to their pas­tas: meatballs, rich sauces, chicken, with results that became American favorites. And there you have it: Prohibition’s culinary legacy writ large.

Fast forward to the 1980s, another snap­shot of social, political, and economic transfor­mation: Out with the lower income hippie, in with the skyrocketing income Yuppie; crunchy granola, out, expensive restaurants, in. Sud­denly, there’s an onslaught of ubiquitous, tenacious, and patently uninteresting food fads: endless quiche, balsamic every­where, blackened everything, and at eve­ry party, runny Brie and cloying Zinfandel. In a nutshell, haute couture marries haute cuisine and they give birth to the most ex­pensive singular porcini ravioli on an over­sized plate—hardly the stuff of legend.

However, there was goat cheese. There was baby arugula. And there was truffle oil. Even the hedonistic ’80s left be­hind some culinary perks, writ small, but with a largesse I find indispensible.

And so, I give you Truffle Scented Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions over Baby Arugula Vinaigrette.

What You Need

1 10 oz. log fresh goat cheese

8 oz. baby arugula

Flour for dredging, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 eggs

Finely ground dry breadcrumbs, seasoned

Non-stick sauté pan

Medium mixing bowl

Unwaxed dental floss

Wax paper

Sharp paring knife

Olive oil for browning the medallions

Truffle oil

½ C. extra virgin olive oil, best quality

¼ C. fresh lemon juice

½ tsp. sugar

Salt to taste

2 T. finely chopped shallots

½ tsp. minced garlic

Dash hot sauce

¼ tsp. Dijon, optional

What To Do

Unwrap the chilled log of goat cheese. Keep the log intact, carefully removing wrap­per by cutting edges with a sharp paring knife. Cut a piece of dental floss, about 10 inches long. Using the floss, slice the log into eight or nine medallions just shy of one half inch wide. Place the medallions on a wax paper lined tray and place in freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Set up your dredging station. Put about one cup of flour into the first bin or dish, the two eggs, beaten with a dash of salt and a tea­spoon of water in the second dish, and about 1 cup of the fine bread crumbs into the third.

Coat each chilled goat cheese medal­lion with seasoned flour, egg wash, and then breadcrumbs. Coat thoroughly, but avoid pressing the crumbs into the cheese medal­lion. As with basic dredging, the goal is to cre­ate a seal with the flour, an adhesive with the egg, and a topcoat of crumbs. In the browning process, the egg will expand, creating a slightly puffed, crisp exterior.

Return the coated medallions to the freez­er for 30 minutes.

Prepare the dressing by blending the lem­on juice, salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce, sug­ar and shallots thoroughly before adding the oil in a stream, beating as you go. To assist the emulsifica­tion process, you can add a small amount of prepared Dijon mus­tard.

Clean and thoroughly dry the baby arugula, removing any dis­colored leaves. Place in the mixing bowl and toss with as much dress­ing as suitable. Adjust the seasoning. Plate the seasoned greens either in­dividually or on a serving platter.

Heat several tablespoons of ol­ive oil in the skillet. When a drop of water sizzles, the oil is ready for the medallions. Carefully place the medallions on the hot oil, slightly lowering the heat as necessary to avoid burning the delicate outer crust. Brown to a dark, golden color and care­fully turn. I find that using a narrow spatula and a fork allows me to turn the medallions without piercing the crust.

When they are done, arrange them on top of the greens. Use two per individual plate. Grind some fresh pepper over the top, sprinkle a dash of salt according to your taste, then driz­zle lightly with truffle oil. Serve immediately.

Goes well with a chilled white Zinfandel, wide shoulder pads, and anything Norma Ka­mali.

Enjoy!

By Lisa Reitman Dobi

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