I often pick up good ideas from Iron Chef. Top Chef is less fruitful I find. The iron chefs often use familiar ingredients in novel combinations; the Top Chef candidates use more unusual ingredients and complicated preparations which means I have a tough time envisioning--entastening?--their dishes. I can get a better sense of how Iron Chef dishes will taste more often than Top Chef dishes.
I made note of two particularly interesting and potentially doable flavor combinations from the latest Battle Chocolate: white chocolate and sesame and dark chocolate and pumpernickel. The latter seems familiar but I can't recall when I had it. The former, I decided to check out.
On the show, the white chocolate was accompanied with a sprinkle of raw sesame seeds, but sesame comes in a variety of forms and I did some taste tests to see which worked best. I actually thought the raw sesame seeds didn't hold up against the chocolate. On the other hand, tahini and white chocolate was interesting in a sort of white nutella sort of way. But what really blew me away was white chocolate and toasted sesame oil.
There's probably some way to make that combination work in a pastry, but I'm more practiced in ice cream and it seemed pretty easy to mix the flavors in: melt the chocolate in the dairy and mix the oil into the egg yolks. Specifically, I used one cup milk, a cup and a half of cream and about a 2 inch cube of white chocolate; and three egg yolks, a scant half cup of turbinado sugar and about a Tablespoon of sesame oil. Adding a teaspoon of lemon extract was a last minute decision; the cream was mellowing out the sesame oil's high notes so they needed boosting. I would have used orange extract if I had any on hand. That might have made it a bit more visually interesting, too. I'm tempted to make a sauce just to add color, but it's so flavorful, complex and interesting already I really shouldn't.
I'm quite proud of the results as both the flavors and textures are lovely. All that fat keeps the mix from hardening during the churning or holding much air so the results are smooth, dense and rich. (On the minus side that does mean that it melts very rapidly.) The flavors are all quite intense. They start with the lemon--sweet, but not lemon candy sweet and sour, but not lemonhead sour--with undertones of white chocolate that slowly cross-fade into the toasted sesame oil. The savory toastiness of the oil plays against the sweetness of the sugar and chocolate. There's a fair bit of stuff happening and I find it difficult to explain. I'm going to bring it in to work on Monday; maybe one of my coworkers can give their impressions in the comments.