About this recipe
A quick note on egg yolks: I use local fresh eggs and the yolks in these eggs are seriously orangey-yellow—the sauce was the deepest orange color before I added the whipped cream; it really didn’t look appetizing, to be honest! After folding in the whipped cream (J.D.’s Country Milk, naturally!) the color toned down to prettier yellow.
SPARKLING WINE SABAYON
In a heavy small pot, bring the water, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately high and cook, without stirring, to a light golden color, about 10 minutes. Add the sparkling wine and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup, about 15 to 20 minutes. (If your wine is cold, the caramel will instantly harden into a solid lump. Don’t despair—after a few minutes it will melt. Just keep stirring.)
Bring an inch of water to a boil in the bottom pan of a double boiler; reduce heat to a simmer.
In the top pan of the double boiler, lightly beat the egg yolks. Very gradually whisk in ¼ cup of the hot Champagne caramel until blended. Slowly whisk in the remaining caramel. Set the mixture over the pan with the simmering water. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard thickens enough to form a ribbon when it falls from the whisk, about 10 minutes. (You want thick ribbons, not runny strings.) Remove the vanilla bean. Transfer the custard to a bowl and let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. The sauce can be prepared a few days ahead to this point. Put plastic wrap directly on the top of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming.
Whip the cream just until firm. Fold into the Champagne custard and transfer to a serving bowl; serve cold.
As noted above, any kind of fruit is wonderful served with or dipped into this sauce, but I think grapes are a natural pairing since the sparkling wine is made from grapes. Roasting them (similar to grilling peaches, nectarines, bananas, etc.) does amazing things to the sugars in the fruit—it’s super easy and fast and looks so extravagant.
Heat the oven to 450°. Toss the grapes with the oil and a large pinch each of sugar and salt. Spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. You can make these early in the day, but they are admittedly much prettier when served soon after coming out of the oven. Spoon them into stemmed glasses and serve topped with sabayon. Serves 12.
ALMOND AND CORNMEAL COOKIES
This is my husband’s favorite kind of cookie—lots of almonds, crunchy, not too sweet. The little addition of cornmeal adds a fun grittiness that is a perfect foil to the custardy sauce. These are similar to biscotti, but you don’t have to bake them twice or worry about trying to get perfectly even slices. I think dipping these in a little chocolate would also be great.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter an 8- by 8-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving a few inches overhang. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, then coarsely chop the almonds. Leave the oven on.
In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with the orange zest and the extracts. In the bowl of a food processor, mix the flour, cornmeal and salt. Add the butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (Or cut it in with a pastry blender or your fingers.) Pulse in the granulated sugar and brown sugar. When the sugars are incorporated, quickly pulse in the egg yolk mixture. Put it all in a mixing bowl and with your hands, mix in the chopped almonds. The dough will be very crumbly, but no dry flour should remain.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and gently press in the crumbs; the surface should be uneven. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before lifting out of pan. You can cut the cookie into 12 pieces, or just put the whole thing on a plate and let your guests break off chunks to dip into the sabayon sauce. Serves 12.