/ FEBRUARY 2013
at the table
acacrons are the chinkin my pastry armor. It'swith resolute convic-tion that I've appliedmy palette to the vitals of Paris' arrondisse-ments, and with invariable consistency I'menticed by the pastel charm and signature fla-vor that is the pistache classic.Le Macaron on St. Armand's Circle concoctsa masterful pistachio macaron, the essence of which is imported from the Lenôtre pastryschool in France. "It's the same recipe andingredients that we used in Paris," says chef Didier Saba. "If you go to the Champs Elysees,you will find the same thing. It’s very expen-sive, but that’s why it’s good.” Saba says heships everything in to ensure the ingredient'sconsistency with his expectations.Didier and his wife Audrey demonstratehow they assemble the dainty treats. Onebatch makes 160 macarons, and the process issplit up by shell and filling, with the latter com-ing first since it sits overnight before applica-tion. The filling is made from Sicilian pista-chios, almond and pistachio paste imported
from France, eggs, butter and a dab of kirsch, acolorless fruit brandy made from cherries.These are mixed until heated to roughly 65degrees Celsius, then refrigerated overnight.The shell is where the expert's touch sepa-rates consistency and quality from humdrumefforts. At this stage, the alchemy of the mac-aron hangs in a subtle balance requiring preci-sion, and every variable plays a factor. “Itdepends on the weather outside, on the humid-ity, if a gust of wind comes through thekitchen," says Didier. “If you keep the macaronsout too long before you put it in the oven, it’snot good. Every time, the macarons change.”The nuances in the ingredients can have analtering effect as well; the shell is simply pre-pared with white eggs, blanched almond butterand confectioner sugar, but even the butter,which is shipped from California, can vary byseason and throw of the intended balance. “He’sa perfectionist," says Audrey. "He has to be verycareful of the products he chooses. They’re sodelicate and difficult to make." Didier reevalu-ates his recipe every three months.The batter for the macaron shells is whirledby hand onto sheets for the rotating oven,where baked 25 minutes at 150 degrees. Didiersays his secret is applying a swab of water tothe sheet just under each dollop, so when heat-ed, humidity is applied to the interior of theshell. Once out of the oven and briefly cooled,the filling is sandwiched between shells byhand, and a new batch is born. "It has to befirst crispy but soft on," says Audrey. "Whenyou have the softness, you have the filling. It’sa different flavor and texture. Then, you havethe creaminess from the paste, and you havean explosion of flavor from the macaron."
Over a decade ago, Chef Stefano Sasso of Cafe Epicure ferried the Italian's insalata, orsalad, philosophy to produce a minimalistalignment of pairings. A sit down with Sassoilluminates the greens and why, counter topopular salad belief, less is more.“The ingredients are the first part of every-thing you do. When you use good quality food,you don’t have to play too much. Others thinkby putting more ingredients, the platebecomes tastier. It’s not that way. If you eat agood piece of beef or fish, you don’t need to
CLOCKWISE: CAFE EPICURE’S WATERCRESS SALAD.CHEF STEFANO SASSO. LE MACARON’S PISTACHIOMACARONS. PASTRY CHEF DIDIER SABA.