John Howard’s Champagne Gratin is a sabayon poured over fresh fruit and browned on top. Your choice of fruit can vary with the seasons. Chef Howard makes his sabayon over direct heat, relying on his experience to tell him when to lift the pan and let it cool. The method suggested here uses indirect heat; it takes longer, but is less risky.
- Egg Yolks - 4
- Champagne - 1 cup
- Sugar - 1/4 cup
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 1/4 cup, beaten to soft peaks
- Grapefruit - Sections and juice from 1 grapefruit
- Raspberries - 24 to 30
- Strawberries - 6 large, hulled
- Mint Sprigs
Combine the egg yolks, champagne, and sugar in a saute pan or sauce pan and whisk together off the heat. Place over a saucepan of gently simmering water and begin whisking constantly. The sabayon will begin to froth. As you continue whisking over the heat, the mixture expands and the bubbles become smaller until it becomes a smooth foam with very small bubbles, and begins to hold its shape in the pan. You will begin seeing the bottom of the pan as you whisk. The time this takes varies, depending upon heat and whisking, but allow about 5 minutes or even more. Do not let the mixture become too hot or it will scramble in the pan. When the mixture thickens and begins to hold its shape, remove from heat and continue whisking until the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Fold in the whipped cream.
If using the broiler to brown the tops, preheat the broiler to high. Place the fruit in heatproof dessert dishes and drizzle the grapefruit juice over it. Spoon the sabayon over the fruit. Brown the tops under the broiler, or with a kitchen torch. Garnish each with a mint sprig and a dusting of confectioner’s sugar.