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Michael Laiskonis

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posts posted by Michael Laiskonis

  1. I've produced, or at least pondered, many of the flavors some of you have mentioned, and perhaps others that would raise some eyebrows.

    Two that stand out for me, are Alain Passard's nearly famous mustard ice cream at Arpege, served atop a gazpacho, and at Petrossian, also in Paris, Philippe Conticini's white salmon sorbet- bright, briny, rich in flavor- which, in context, was amazing. The best cover Pastry Art and Design magazine ever shot was of Philippe, holding a big salmon by the tail, and a caption that simply read, "The Man Who Put Salmon in Sorbet".

    Perhaps it is interesting for me, a pastry chef, to mention two examples that were in 'savory' settings. Utilizing the broad palette of herbs, spices, vegetables, alcohols, vinegars, sweeteners... it all has become par for the course. Shock value... I don't have much patience for it. But with the ever increasing complexity of desserts, and the use of pastry techniques, like sorbet, in savory dishes, where context plays a vital role, the boundaries have certainly been expanding for some time.

  2. Elizabeth, I'm not sure exactly how you wish to incorporate the caramel, but I'll offer you a nice version that I use, for everything from a layer in entremets to dipped or enrobed in chocolate as a petit four. The quantity is indeed large. I pour it into caramel rulers, set onto a full sheet pan sized silpat, but the recipe can easily be broken down by half or in thirds, if you like. The addition of the cocoa butter, in the form of milk chocolate, adds just enough structure; the recipes that call for cooking sugar and cream or milk to a certain temperature can be fickle. If coating in chocolate, I'll let it set for a day or so at room temperature (I treat it just like an enrobed ganache. Allow it to set or crystallize, apply a 'foot' or coating of chocolate for the bottom, cut, allow it to form a bit of a 'crust', then dip); if I'm using it as a layer in an entremet or individual dessert, I'll chill or freeze either as a sheet or in appropriate forms- but once it is chilled or frozen, the moisture from condensation alone will give it a softer texture once thawed. I prefer it made with salted cashews or peanuts, but any roasted nuts will suffice, though I might add a bit of salt if the nuts are unsalted...

    Cashew Caramel

    YIELD: approx. 3.3#/1500g

    300g granulated sugar

    125g glucose

    375g heavy cream, warm

    200g milk couverture, chopped

    600g roasted, salted cashews, chopped

    1. Combine sugar and glucose in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan and cook to a medium-dark caramel.

    2. Remove from heat and deglaze with a portion of the warm cream. Add remaining cream and cook until caramelized sugar has dissolved and mixture is homogeneous. Final amount of caramel should measure approximately 675g.

    3. Combine chocolate and cashews in a large bowl. Pour the hot caramel into the bowl, stirring to combine completely, ensuring all chocolate is melted and thoroughly incorporated.

    4. Pour into silpat-lined frame or other form and allow to set at room temperature or under refrigeration.

  3. In my experience, perhaps as important as aligning yourself with particular critics or merchants, it can be helpful to pay attention to who is importing the wine (with emphasis, obviously, on old world regions). I, too, tend toward 'adventure', looking for the best of the little known appellations, the young up-and-coming winemakers, and, in general, small-scale producers. Round up your favorite bottles and notice the names on the back... I've fallen out of the habit of reading the guides, though, luckily, I get to taste and discuss a lot at work. In an unfamiliar shop, I know that if I see something new from an Eric Solomon, Peter Weygandt, Christopher Canaan, Fran Kysela, etc., it may be worth a try. I tend to side with the little guys, who know the wines and the region, and, including the few of the above that I've met, are serious and passionate about what they do. If I remember correctly, the Advocate usually drops the name of the importer... perhaps you will notice your own patterns with regard to scoring.

  4. When I was at Notter's school a few of years ago, they were using the Campbell-Hausfeld. I liked it, and I bought one (Home Depot) shortly thereafter. I want to say it was about $150, maybe a little more. Within the last few months, a part turned up missing, and I have yet to replace it. Finer spray, less noise, more control.

    So I still use the Wagner, too. Faster to set up and break down, and transportable- easy to box and ship if you are travelling.

    Another tangent... somewhere in the last year year I read something from Norman Love about a sprayer/airbrush that hooks up to an aerosol-type can... Anybody know what I'm talking about?

  5. Edit: Note to self, read all of the preceeding posts before adding my own... I missed chefette's recipe and the incorporation of the butter...

    The amount of starch and fat, and errors in the cooking process are all variables when it comes to a smooth vs. grainy texture. Some chefs may also enrich their pastry creams with butter... if added while the cream is too hot, the butter will melt, rather than 'emulsify', When chilled, this will often result in an unpleasant grainy texture as well. Same problem can happen with similar creams, like lemon curd. To illustrate, melt some butter, then chill it. Then taste it. Ick.

    For a pastry cream, I'll immediately throw it into a mixer, with the paddle attachment. After a few minutes, depending on the size of the recipe, once the bowl is cool to the touch, I'll then add soft butter. This is also good idea in terms of food safety, as I am speeding up the cooling process- less time in the 'danger zone'.

  6. I, too, missed the last series of posts initially, but enjoyed Steve Klc's description of the evolution and thought process behind these dishes. It sort of gives me an "I'm OK, you're OK" kind of feeling... Steve, I envy the collaborative relationship you have with Jose. That sort of rapport must be rare in our business...

    By the way, the addition of fromage blanc also did wonders for the olive oil ice cream I've been doing. Thanks for the tip!

  7. I'm glad I've now had a chance to read the Hunt piece... I had heard rumours about its content over the weekend, most of which now seem overblown.

    In his acceptance speech Monday night, his ultimately humble nature was evident as he gave all the credit to his kitchen team, and "my mentor, Thomas Keller." And hanging out with him afterward, he was still all about business.

    As for Steve's question regarding the Midwest regional award, I'd like to think Takashi has had a long record and staying power; remember that he ran the kitchen at Ambria for years before coming to open Tribute. Tony Mantuano has also maintained the same level, but seems to me to keep a lower profile perhaps, and I think Kahan and Kornick, and Roger Johnsson, all still relatively young, will eventually have their day.

    Honestly though, I think all of us at one time or another have wondered how exactly the Beard Awards selection really works...

  8. The whole ceremony will be aired on A&E, I believe this Sunday

    Actually, the A&E special is to air on June 28th.

    This was my first time attending the ceremony, but I cooked for the reception last year. Additional congratulations to José Andres (the Steve Klc connection) and my own boss Takashi Yagihashi. I was glad to see Hiro Sone grab the award for California, too.

    Yes, the affair was long and boring, but my peeve... I wish the presenters were able to correctly pronounce all of the nominees' names... there were more than a few that made me wince.

    Balthazar? And I thought all the beautiful people had made it to Olives.

    And Tony, every time I saw you, you appeared occupied, and thus I didn't get a chance to say hey. That, and I forgot the secret eGullet handshake...

  9.   (Note Michael's comments on the changing of the guard at Five Lakes Grill.  I didn't know that so it might effect my "recommendation."  Perhaps Michael might bring us up to date?)

    I think I mentioned sommelier/GM Ron Edwards move to Tapawingo, and that the day to day kitchen operations were run by Chris Brown. I've heard Chris has since left, and while I don't know of his replacement, realize that Polcyn's vision has consistently remained intact. While he may not be in the restaurant for every service, it is still "his" food.

    Of course, don't expect anything approaching avant garde from Five Lakes. Polcyn's philosophy is one of, "I don't need foie gras and truffles to make something taste good, just give me a carrot and a shank."

  10. Tammy, I enjoyed the report of your meal at Tribute (was a while ago, yes?). I wish I could read more honest reviews from our guests; while sometimes humbling, such comments are quite helpful.

    "Avant garde" is quite a fuzzy category, often relative to what else is available in any particular city. While Takashi (Yagihashi, the executive chef) and I (the pastry chef) flirt with the cutting edge, and at the very least, discuss and remain aware of what most consider "avant garde" in the food world, by no means do we feel we do/can practice it here in sleepy Farmington Hills.

    It is true, in my view, that Detroit lacks a vibrant high end food scene. There are contenders, but few who can take the prize. Setting aside Tribute, if I may, the best dining in the state can be found at Tapawingo, as Matthew mentioned, though it is quite a detour (three to four hour drive from metro Detroit). Chef Stuart Brioza is an amazing, refreshing young talent and has recently been recognized as one of Food and Wine's Best New Chefs for this year. He came to Tapawingo via Chicago, logging a fair amount of time with John Hogan, and was part of the opening team of Savarin.

    Perhaps the most in-depth thread on Detroit to surface on eGullet, and from a time when I was anonymous and fairly frank (and known as mlpc)... it may be a good place to start, however...

    Anyone From Metro Detroit?

  11. Sorry to all for appearing and disappearing... I'm currently in the middle of a move...

    You are right Sandra, the dessert sounds complicated on paper, but it is a stand alone item, and fairly seamless flavor-wise. Imagine the financier baked in a savarin mold (i.e. donut shaped), and all the components tucked inside and stacked up.

  12. As we are finally starting to see spring here in the Midwest, I'm beginning to change the focus of my menu. I put a new dish on over the weekend...

    Almond-Olive Oil Financier

    Sliced Strawberies, Yogurt Cream, Rhubarb-Blood Orange Compote, Basil Syrup, Orange Powder, Sicilian Pistachio, Aged Balsmic Ice Cream, Rhubarb Chip, Yogurt-Strawberry Caramel, and a Strawberry "Water"...

    For the pros... What is new on your menu?

    For the non-pros... What are you doing at home, and what products are you looking forward to when you dine out?

  13. Not much and a lot.

    Not much in that they are all milk or cream thickened, custard like...

    Jackal, might I add to your list...

    Crème Caramel or sometimes refered to as just 'flan'... custard thickened with egg yolks and whole eggs, set in a dish or ramekin to which a caramel was placed into the bottom, so when inverted, voila, a sturdy custard with its own caramel sauce.

    Chibouste... a French classic you don't see much anymore, a crème patissiere (egg yolk and starch thickened custard) lightened with a French-style meringue (simply sugar and raw egg white, whipped). The timing is critical, as both the custard and meringue should be completed simultaneously. Also dusted with sugar and caramelized more often than not. (Come to think of it, this could also work for Sinclair, perhaps in a different vessel, something safe for both freezer and torch...)

    And then a Bavarois... an anglaise, lightened with whipped cream, fortified with some gelatin.

    Ice Cream, of course, is often essentially frozen crème anglaise, though most pastry chefs see it as a somewhat more complex balance of water, fat, sugar, and flavoring.

    I know I've heard of this syllabub business before... how exactly is it prepared/assembled?

  14. Of course, very thin flat disks of a croquant...

    ...could be a very cool "brulee" alternative.

    Or skip the calculations of the stove top custard altogether...

    Fortify an anglaise with a touch of gelatin and throw it into a foam canister. This way, one could even alternate the layers and textures right into the coupe... foam, croquant, foam, croquant... by assembling it a la minute.

  15. I would still vote for Spring. Shawn's food is strongly Asian influenced and the menu is very strong with fish dishes. If I recall, the glass list and bottle list reflect the food well, with some cool, funky selections especially among the whites. A bit more comfortable than Blackbird, yet maintaining some of the hip quotient. I just did both Blackbird and Spring, as well as NoMi, this past weekend- the list at NoMi has some breadth as well as some fun glass selections, and the food is solid, though the atmosphere may be a tad stiffer than the others. Nice view.

    The T's aside, I think the mid-upscale is pretty strong in Chicago.

  16. Chocolate Glaçage

    YIELD: approx. 4.4#/ 2000g

    This yields a lot, so I usually cut it in half, though it stores well and is easy to warm and use from the cold state

    • 32 g sheet gelatin
    • 160 g water, cold
    • 560 g heavy cream
    • 130 g water
    • 840 g granulated sugar
    • 280 g cocoa powder

    1. Bloom gelatin in first measurement of cold water. Reserve.

    2. In a large saucepan, combine cream, second measurement of water, and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook to 103ºC/217ºF.

    3. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa powder, followed by bloomed gelatin and any unabsorbed water.

    4. Process with an immersion blender. Allow to cool to 40ºC/104ºF before glazing, or chill completely for later use.



    ( RG352 )

  17. vox makes a good point. Sometimes you have to use whatever methods your environment allows. I forget sometimes that I am blessed with a chocolate friendly kitchen; the temperature is relatively stable, and I have the space and modest equipment to work with. Ideally, is it best to take shortcuts? Not to me. Is the end result acceptable? It can be, but who wants merely acceptable?

    With chocolate, I like to know "where it is" at all times, and conventional tempering methods help in that sense, in addition to helping me identify and fix any problems that may arise.

  18. Thanks for your input, chocartist, and welcome to our discussions.

    As chocartist mentioned, a sense of relaxation is important. As complex a substance as chocolate is, and though temperature is obviously crucial, I'd advise that the primary hurdles to pass are patience and cleanliness.

    I'm sure someone has already mentioned it, but always test the chocolate on a strip of parchment, or a knife, or even a plastic bowl scraper. Never proceed if you are unsure. Take the time to make your adjustments gradually- avoid the temptation of ice and double boilers, which can cause harsh spikes in temperature and introduce water into the equation, which is always risky. Not necessarily an investment a home enthusiast will want to make, but a $25 heat gun can be quite useful, if you can't fit into a microwave.

    I was doing a demo recently and when the topic of specialized chocolate tools arose, I noted that the most important tool in chocolate work, for me, is the blowtorch. I find myself constantly cleaning my marble, cleaning my spatulas and scrapers and forks. Keeping the sides and rim of a bowl of tempered chocolate clean and free of hardened chocolate is paramount. You can't come close to producing fine chocolate candies or elegant garnish work without a high level of cleanliness.

    As small as that "in temper" window may seem, with experience and familiarity with how particular chocolate brands behave, and even certain work environments, you will eventually be able to sense things without constantly poking a thermometer into the chocolate. Chocolate work for me, admittedly it is on a small scale, has become my moment of zen, my right brain time- usually my reward to myself for getting everyting else done early or on time. It is when I'm most relaxed; I tend to do it right around the end of prep and beginning of service, when the rest of the kitchen is in full swing and stressed. I even use the marble to temper, because I like the movement and the feeling that I'm closer to the chocolate. And my thermometer of choice is usually that area just below the bottom lip, or as my friend Martin Howard likes to say, "cocoa butter is a great moisturizer, and if you forget to wipe it off, the crazy people on the subway ride home won't bother you."

    Chocolate is complex and fickle, yes. But if it ain't fun, don't bother.

  19. This type of rotating bowl is used in a variety of mass market candy production. I've seen this smaller kind of attachment available through PCB Creation in France, as well.

    I make the chocolate coated almonds, followed by a coating of confectioner's sugar, using untempered melted chocolate stirred into the nuts, the bowl of which is set into an ice water bath. It's quite simple, though hard on the stirring arm and somewhat time-critical. I would guess with this attachment, you would need to start with chocolate in temper. I could find other tools that I'd rather spend my money on, but it is kinda cool nonetheless.

  20. One of the few desserts that my grandmother made was the very classic Chinese steamed sponge cake.

    A 'lurker' friend recently sent me a recipe for a similar steamed cake as well, after seeing mention of it earlier in this thread.

    One of my goals in pastry is to start with a base in Asian classics/tastes/ingredients, apply them to French patisserie and then further refine them with the Spanish and Catalonian influence.

    Indeed, a great, solid goal, and one we'll see more of, I'm sure. Have you fleshed out any specific ideas yet? As you are no doubt immersed at the moment in French technique, how might you describe, from that vantage point, what you find appealing about the Spanish approach?

  21. That was a great post Ian. I'm not sure whether you were referring to the "networking" of the dining public, or chefs, but I was actually struggling to adaquately pose a similar question while the Achatz Q&A was still active... In what ways are chefs at this level of development communicating with one another?

    There are, of course the conventional methods of interaction- the opportunities to meet and cook with other chefs at numerous events around the country (and, of course, the world), sending young cooks to do "stages", and simply getting out and eating in these restaurants. The more I progress in my own thinking, the more "awareness" I gain, I just don't have much use for the traditional food media any more. Its coverage of such chefs is, at best, merely anecdotal and out of date, and at worst, mocking and trivial. And that is why I'm so drawn in and inspired by the idea of eGullet. This site (and I hope more will follow) has a unique opportunity to revolutionize, in some small way, not only the communication between chefs, but also the cultivation of and rapport with the dining public.

    The idea of chefs networking and the exchange of ideas is one that increasingly interests me. And more so, considering, as Fat Guy noted, that "innovation" is no longer confined to established culinary scenes. However pretentious one finds the manifestos of groups like akwa, I think such interaction and mutual inspiration is crucial to the development of young chefs and the cuisine they produce now, and in the future. Only so many ideas can come from within.

    Grant, if you're reading, in what ways are you talking with other chefs, and do you see potential in such exchanges and collaborations? Is there any interest for the American or international "avant garde" version of the "Bande a Bocuse" or "Groupe des Huit"?

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