Of patricide and proteins.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

The first time I made this dish I nearly killed my parents.

Zabaglione is simple, in concept. Whisk together 8 egg yolks, 1/3 cup of Marsala wine and 3/4 cups sugar. Place it in a metal bowl, over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until it increases to three times it’s volume and will hold a soft peak. Serve over fresh berries. There, wasn’t that easy?

There are a few finer points. The basic chemistry of this dish relies on whisking egg yolks over the gentle heat of a double boiler, allowing their tightly-coiled proteins to uncoil in long strands. Those strands interlock forming pockets of air. As the air expands and the egg yolks slowly cook, the whisked custard expands in volume creating an airy foam. Et voilà! Zabaglione. (There’s a joke in there somewhere. Linguistic humor is hilarious!)

How can such a simple dish go wrong? Cook the custard over high heat and fail to whisk constantly, allowing the eggs to scramble before the proteins can uncoil and form air pockets. Then, you end up with about 1 cup of custard, barely a few tablespoons per person, of highly concentrated fat, sugar and alcohol. Which is exactly what I served my parents the first time I made it.

Despite several near heart attacks that night, everyone remains healthy to this day and we continue to enjoy much lighter Zabaglione, like this autumnal version I’ll be serving up at Thanksgiving dinner.

Calvados Zabaglione With Apples

Ingredients:

For Zabaglione:
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup Calvados

For Apples:
2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
4 tbs butter
1/4 cup maple or brown sugar
1/8 tsp nutmeg, fresh grated
1/4 cup Calvados
2 tbs Cinnamon Pear Balsamic vinegar*

*Sapore’s new winter vinegar. You can substitute a syrupy aged balsamic vinegar and a pinch of cinnamon.

Directions:

Zabaglione:

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and wine in a metal bowl placed over a saucepan filled with simmering water.
Whisk steadily, keeping water at a simmer, until cooked through, and volume triples. about 5-7 minutes.

Apples:
Melt 2 tbs butter in large sauté pan over medium heat.
Sauté 1/2 apples for five minutes. Remove, add additional tbs butter and sauté remaining apples. Remove from pan.
Add sugar, nutmeg, Calvados, vinegar and remaining butter. Simmer until thick. Add apples and toss to mix.
Serve apples topped with custard.

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