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Perfect Matches : Five Southern California Chefs Recommend Champagne-Friendly Appetizers

December 04, 1988|BETSY BALSLEY | Balsley is The Times' food editor.

THE HOLIDAYS ARE AT HAND, and many of the city's leading hosts are bringing on the champagne. But matching foods with specific champagne types can be a bit tricky. So we asked five much-admired Southern California chefs to tell us what first-course appetizer they would serve with some of the many different champagne types evaluated in the Los Angeles Times' 15th Annual Wine Tasting (see Page 45). The results are both interesting and delicious.

As the accompaniment for a non-vintage brut sparkler, Ken Frank, of La Toque on Sunset Boulevard, prepared a shredded-potato pancake topped with creme fraiche and caviar. To go with a "prestige" Champagne, Roland Gibert, of Califia in the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Manhattan Beach, opted for an elegant gratineed mushroom-and-oyster appetizer.

Michel Blanchet, of L'Ermitage on La Cienega, selected a clam-and-asparagus-tips savory, served in the clam shell, as the ideal companion for a vintage brut, and Hugh Carpenter, of Chopstix on Melrose, paired a wonderful salmon-filled dim sum dumpling with a blanc de blanc.

Our fifth chef was Michael Roberts, chef and partner at Trumps on Melrose, who served a rich onion, artichoke and Gruyere deep-fried croquette with a blanc de noir.

Produced by Robin Tucker; food styling: Karen Gillingham

Glassware Sources

All paper from Pavilion Papers, Pasadena.

Page 46: Sasaki "Lotus" flute and California Bronze plate from Lynne Deutch Limited, Beverly Hills. Puiforcat "Annecy" fork from Gump's.

Page 47: Hand-painted charger by Naiva. Christian Dior "Gaudron Gold" plate and champagne saucer, Correia glass ornaments, from Geary's. George Jensen "Bernadotte" fork from Gump's.

Page 48: Baccarat "Merkur" and "Neptune" flutes from Gump's. Glass dish from Tesoro.

Page 49: Top, blond wood charger from The Pavilion at Tanner Market. Square plate from Tesoro. Baccarat "Montaigne Optic" champagne saucer from Geary's. Bottom, Swid Powell "White Stripe" buffet plate and Sasaki "Eclipse" glass from Geary's. Candles from The Pavilion at Tanner Market.

POMMES ROSTI AU CAVIAR (Rosti Potatoes With Caviar) 4 tablespoons creme fraiche, Devon Cream or sour cream Juice of 1/4 fresh lemon 1 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh chives 2 or 3 grinds fresh ground white pepper 2 medium russet potatoes 1/2 cup peanut oil, about 1/4 pound caviar (or more)

Combine creme fraiche , lemon juice, chives and pepper in small bowl. Set aside 2 hours.

Using coarsest side of cheese grater, grate unpeeled potatoes into bowl of cold water. When ready to cook, drain potatoes on paper towels; pat as dry as possible. Loosely form shredded potatoes into 8 patties about 1/2 inch thick. Do not press.

Heat 1/8 inch peanut oil in saute pan; the oil is hot enough when a test shred of potato sizzles. Using a spatula, carefully place potato patties in hot oil. Fry over medium heat 2 to 5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove patties from skillet and blot excess oil on paper towel. Cook remaining patties in same manner, adding oil as needed.

Arrange patties on plates. Top with creme fraiche and caviar. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

HUITRES AU CHAMPAGNE (Oysters With Champagne) 6 tablespoons butter 4 shallots, finely chopped 1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped 1 cup whipping cream Salt, pepper 24 oysters 3 egg yolks 3/4 cup Champagne

Melt 3 tablespoons butter. Combine melted butter, half the shallots, mushrooms and 1/2 cup whipping cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer until liquid is evaporated. Set aside over hot water to keep hot.

Open oysters over a bowl, saving the liquid from the shells. Set the empty shells in the warm oven to dry.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a pan, add remaining shallots and cook until shallots become just transparent. Add reserved oyster liquid, Champagne and oysters. Poach 2 minutes. Remove oysters with slotted spoon, and set aside to keep warm.

Reduce cooking liquid to two-thirds by gently boiling uncovered. While stock is reducing, whip remaining cream lightly, just to incorporate some air. Gently fold egg yolks one by one into cream.

Place empty oyster shells on broiler pan and fill almost to the top with warm mushroom puree. Set oysters on top of puree. Fold egg yolk cream into the reduced oyster, shallot and Champagne stock. Top each oyster with the egg yolk cream mixture. Broil until lightly browned. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

CLAMS FILLED WITH ASPARAGUS TIPS 12 medium asparagus spears 1/4 pound butter, softened 1 garlic clove, finely chopped 1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped Salt, pepper 24 clams

Blanch asparagus 5 minutes in boiling water. Cut asparagus spears 2 1/2 inches from tip (reserve bottoms of spears for other use). Slice tip ends lengthwise in halves.

In small bowl, combine butter, garlic and parsley, mixing to a paste-like consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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