Behind the Scene at Alain Ducasse'sHome >> Experiences
Ever since I've had this gorgeous mise en bouche at Alain Ducasse's Alpes de Haute Provence inn, I dreamt about doing it at home. Nothing space age - eggplant caviar and anchoïade over croûtons with radish and butter, but the combination is so successful it immediately plunged me into Provencal ecstasy. I've been waiting for a year to go back and reverse-engineer the extraordinary simplicity of this dish. Ducasse is the richest chef in the world in Michelin stars and he now offers updated traditional French fare in a few of his restaurants. This is Ducasse at his height.
You will find countless recipes for eggplant caviar and anchoïade but this is how they make it at Ducasse - I've been in the kitchen and asked the cooks as you'll see at the end of the article. Ducasse calls this 'Croûtons Sud', a rather tacky name in my opinion.
Croûtons Provencale like Alain Ducasse
1. THE EGGPLANT CAVIAR
The morning before, start preparing the spreads - eggplant caviar and anchoïade. Try to have everything ready some time before the guests arrive. You can safely prepare this half a day before and just arrange the croûtons on a platter a few minutes before. It is very conforting to be greeted with such tempting and delicious food as soon as one arrives in a home - don't make them wait. Your guests will then leave you alone as you prepare the rest of the meal.
Slice the eggplants in two lengthwise and score their flesh crosswise with a sharp knife. Sprinkle some salt, crushed garlic, fresh thyme and rosemary on top and sprinkle about a tbsp olive oil on each aubergine half. Place them on a baking tray and tightly wrap with aluminium foil. Bake in the oven at 180°C until soft - about 50 minutes.
Spoon out the eggplant pulp into a mortar together with the browned crushed garlic we left on top.
Pound to a coarse paste with the pestle and incorporate about 4 tbsp of the very best olive oil.
Taste and rectify with a little lemon and a few peppercorns crushed under a chef's knife if needed.
2. THE ANCHOÏADE
Start the mixer and gradually add about 5 more tablespoons olive oil. When the mixture is smooth and with the mixer running, carefully add a little water to lighten the mixture. The anchoïade should not be too runny.