When Pedro Sanchez, CEC, Executive Chef of BraeBurn Country Club in Houston, Texas, was tasked with creating a dinner that paired champagne and caviar on every course, he found the dessert portion particularly daunting.
“My first thought was that it’s impossible to successfully pair the two,” he says. “I was inclined to make a molecular fruit caviar, just to mimic the shape.”
But as he was writing the menu, inspiration struck.
“I remembered reading a book from Chef Heston Blumenthal, where he explained why white chocolate and caviar pair well together,” Sanchez says. “I asked my pastry chef to make me a white chocolate ganache, and I got a sample of different caviars and starting tasting until I landed on bowfin caviar. Then it was a matter of deciding which was the best way to deliver the white chocolate; I chose panna cotta and added the apple granita for the acidity.”
Once he tried the final dish, Sanchez knew he had a hit.
Club + Resort Chef (C+RC): How would you describe the flavors?
Pedro Sanchez (PS): The panna cotta is very rich and silky, with delicate white chocolate flavors. Once the granita hits the palate, you feel the cold and sour marrying perfectly with the sweet chocolate—and then the caviar hits, and it’s like adding the perfect amount of salt and umami flavor to the palate. It’s a very powerful combination that awakens all your senses.
C+RC: What makes this a successful dish?
PS: I think is the combination of the surprise factor when you see caviar on your dessert, and then when you try it, you feel the subtle and assertive combination of sweet, sour and salty being driven by the silky texture of the white chocolate. It’s a party in the palate.
C+RC: What about this dish makes you most proud?
PS: I pushed myself to create something different, using my expertise and refined palate to look at ingredients in a nontraditional way and make them work in symphony.
C+RC: Do you think other chefs might be inspired by this dish?
PS: I think it will inspire chefs to push the limits on flavor/ingredients combinations that are not traditionally presented together. It’s a fun process, and if it doesn’t work once, keep trying. Once you find the right combination, it’s definitely worth it—especially the reaction from members when they try it.