Recipe: Lemon Ice, Dill Shortbread, Tobiko

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Here’s a recipe for the next time you’re bringing dessert to a seafood-themed dinner party. Inspired by one part morbid curiosity, two parts Iron Chef, we wanted to round out our trio of seafood recipes with something decidedly thematic. Seafood dessert. You read that right; and it couldn’t be more simple. Allez cuisine!

It started with a simple question: could we make a three-course seafood meal? Appetizers (like our salmon gravlax) and mains (may we suggest our clam chowder?) are easy. But dessert? There are few things more culinarily disconcerting than sweet seafood. Challenge accepted.

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Of course, it had to be ice cream. When one is proving whose cuisine reigns supreme, nothing makes a statement like turning your theme ingredient into a frozen sweet. While squid ink is the calling card of the 90’s Japanese cooking competition, it’s an ingredient that’s difficult to source in Toronto.

Instead, our minds drifted to fish roe. Something about their brilliant hue and briney pops of flavour called to us. And, as a plus, they were already naturally in a spherical form: perfect for the molecular gastronomy-esque nature of an experimental dessert. For your purposes, nearly any fish roe will do (though we suggest keeping your beluga caviar for champagne and blintzes). We used tobiko, or flying fish roe. Smaller and less intense than salmon roe, they offer a contrast of colour and flavour that doesn’t overwhelm. It doesn’t hurt that tobiko is extremely easy to find in the frozen section of most reputable Asian grocery stores.

When it comes to seafood, our minds instantly turn to citrus and fresh herbs. We turned to a lemon-infused, no-churn ice cream recipe from Kirbie’s Cravings as a base for our dessert. On its own, this recipe is outstanding. You could just bring a tray of this to your dinner and be done with it. Perhaps sandwiched between the dill-infused shortbread we’ve adapted from a Yummly recipe. That’s the safe way out of your predicament.

But if you’re going to serve fish for dessert, it behooves you to not hide it from your guests. We stripped the smoked salmon from the original shortbread recipe and deconstructed the plate. Go ahead - crumble one of those cookies for garnish. Plate everything on one side. Then place one heaping teaspoon of tobiko proudly atop your creation.

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Now take a bite.

We promise you’re going to be pleasantly surprised. Our absurd combination works. As it turns out, the tobiko adds a rich, salty pop that contrasts against the lemon ice cream. Then, there’s the nutty crunch from the shortbread that brings everything together.

In fact, we’d take this even further next time by accentuating the dill in the dish. Our recommendation: just make normal shortbread. If you want to add dill to the dish, why not a little drizzle of dill-infused olive oil over your quenelle of ice cream?

There’s some executional elements we’d change as well. For those without a blender high-powered enough to completely liquefy the whole lemons called for in the ice cream recipe, we recommend straining the pieces out before freezing. We’d also up the butter in the shortbread recipe; typically, a 1:1 ratio of butter to flour makes for a tender, crumbly cookie.

But the tobiko? The tobiko is there to stay.

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Words by Nicholas Wong. Photos by Abhishek Dekate.