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Tomato Caprese gets a French twist

Chef Jean Stephane PoinardFew

 Few food pairings are as familiar as Tomato Caprese -- ripe juicy tomato, milky fresh mozarella and sweet basil leaf.

Enter Chef Jean Stephane Poinard. Poinard, a member of the elite Les Toques Blances Lyonnaises, gives this classic Italian insalata a distinct French twist.

Retaining the salad's simple and  fresh flavors, the Paul Bocuse-trained chef, uses the whole tomato to present this elegantly easy and nuanced recipe re-invention.  A fresh mozzarella mousse is stuffed into the tomato shell and flash fried basil leaves and a basil oil finish the plate.

Chiffonading the basil

Poinard and his wife, Valerie, a winemaker from the Domaine de la Fond Moiroux, re-create the experience of eating and dining in authentic French tradition at their Bistro de Leon in St. Augustine.  His Tomato Stuffed with Escargots in a Garlic Cream Reduction is a bistro favorite (recipe below) and demonstrates his dedication to good, uncomplicated food prepared with premium, fresh ingredients. Poinard is generous and genial, happy to invite guests into his immaculate kitchen for a quick cooking lesson.

Contemporary take on Tomato Caprese

Tomato Stuffed with Escargots

To prepare the tomato:

4 large, vine-ripened tomatoes

Bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Cut a cross into the bud end of each tomato. Plunge the tomatoes into the water for 15 seconds. Remove and plunge directly into ice water. Peel the tomatoes, pulling the skin back from the cut cross. Cut the stem end of the tomato off, carefully scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller. Set aside the tomatoes and the tops.

For the garlic cream:

6 cloves garlic, finely diced

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the garlic, cream, salt and pepper in a saucepan.

Reduce slowly over low heat, stirring until thickened.

For the escargot:

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup carrot, peeled and julienne cut

1/2 cup turnip, peeled and julienne cut

3 cloves garlic, finely diced

4 dozen snails

3 tbsp. Grande Absente

Slowly saute the carrot, turnip, garlic and snails in butter over low heat until the vegetables have caramelized. Quickly deglaze the pan with the Grande Absente. Flame the Grande Absente by touching a lit match to the edge of the pan.

To serve:

Sprinkle salt and pepper into the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a 250 F oven for several minutes. The tomatoes should be just warm, not cooked. Place each tomato on an individual plate. Fill each tomato with one quarter of the snail mixture. Place the tops on the tomatoes.

Garnish with 2 or 3 tablespoons garlic cream sauce around each tomato.

For more info:
Bistro de Leon
12 Cathedral Place
St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 810-2100


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