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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 5)

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I'm sure that buried deep within these pages there is a bitchin' recipe for artichoke, but I can't seem to find it. does anyone have suggestions? time? temp? olive oil in the bag? I know TK does artichokes but I haven't gotten around to shelling out the $75 for Under Pressure yet (It's on my list) any ideas would be cool, thanks

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I've never cooked meat for 76 hours but have done many a brisket and short rib for 48 hours. I have never had an off flavor -- but I haven't used garlic salt either. Raw garlic can lend an off-taste. I would think that garlic salt would be ok but that could be the culprit.

The other possibility is that the meat itself had some off-flavors to start off with. Did you notice anything before you put it in the bag?

For future reference, if your dinner plans change like that in the future, take the meat out of the bath after 48 hours and chill in an ice bath and store in the fridge or the freezer (see Doug Baldwin's pages for guidelines about storage) and then put the meat back in the bath an or or two before you will be serving it to bring it up to temp.

Decent quality, well-trimmed short ribs cooked at 133 for 48 hours should taste like a nice roast beef with no off-flavors at all.

Well I did my first long cook SV this weekend and ate the dish last night. Was extremely disappointed with results. I'm sure some of it is down to my technique.

.....

I cooked short ribs at 55.4C (131.8F) for about 76 hours, followed by a few minutes per side in hot skillet. (Originally planned them to be on for about 48 hours, but dinner plans changed on Sunday). All I used was S&P and a bit of garlic salt.

Colour was fantastic: perfect medium rare and texture was pretty good (when I could find meat).

The taste and smell however were somewhat odd/unpleasant.

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I also had an off flavour when I cooked something for a long time. I think it was due to my plastic bag. Make sure if you cook for a long time that you have boil safe bags. I only made this mistake once and have not had problems since.

2 day chuck is amazing, it's how I sold my wife on all this.

I cooked 36 hours then froze it. Out of the freezer and ready at the same time as my sides-a med-rare steak that cost $3! That should convince anyone.

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I've tried 48 hr. short ribs a few times now.  The first time with just basic seasoning, S&P.  Results were OK, and everyone enjoyed them, but I thought they could be better.  Next time I used a store-bought beef marinade (Stubbs) and I thought they were excellent, much improved from the first batch.

Thanks for reply bob

What temp did you do them at and how do you finish them? How much of the fat did you remove before you bagged them?

I wish I'd taken photos of them. Maybe it was just a bad batch: there seemed to be so little meat on them. My wife actually asked if they were pork (because the flavor was so odd)!


Edited by mark_anderson_us (log)

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For future reference, if your dinner plans change like that in the future, take the meat out of the bath after 48 hours and chill in an ice bath and store in the fridge or the freezer (see Doug Baldwin's pages for guidelines about storage) and then put the meat back in the bath an or or two before you will be serving it to bring it up to temp.

Thanks for reply e_monster.

I didn't notice any strange smell before bagging. Never occurred to me to take them out for 24 hours, but I was curious to see how they would be after 72.

Regards

Mark

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I also had an off flavour when I cooked something for a long time.  I think it was due to my plastic bag.  Make sure if you cook for a long time that you have boil safe bags.  I only made this mistake once and have not had problems since.

Thanks for reply howsmatt

I'm using foodsaver rolls, so these should be OK. I;ve stred, but never cooked, food in them before. Maybe I'll try the chuck this weekend in some beef bourgignon

Regards

Mark

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Baby Back Pork Ribs

Has anyone tried them? I have some in the bath now at 135 with some 5 spice, garlic and ginger. I was planning on 24 hours, but I could go 48. I was thinking I'd take the juice from the bag, add honey, reduce to a glaze, brush it on the ribs and blow torch them to make a bark. What has been your experiences with this cut of meat?

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I have not done ribs but I have done meats with garlic and ginger and my main advice here is to use way less then you think, the flavors an become incredible strong over a long cook time in the bag. good luck and let us know how it works out.


Sous Vide Or Not Sous Vide - My sous vide blog where I attempt to cook every recipe in Under Pressure.

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Thanks for reply bob

What temp did you do them at and how do you finish them? How much of the fat did you remove before you bagged them?

I wish I'd taken photos of them. Maybe it was just a bad batch: there seemed to be so little meat on them. My wife actually asked if they were pork (because the flavor was so odd)!

Mark,

I do short ribs at 135F for 48 hrs. I might try 131F sometime, but some of my friends don't like their meat too pink. Out of the bag into a Hot cast iron skillet with canola oil. First time I dropped a chuck roast into the skillet, it was way too hot! Sent up a huge cloud of smoke that my crappy little exhaust hood couldn't handle. I've learned to tone it down a little using the skillet indoors.

I only had to do very minimal trimming on the short ribs. They were already trimmed up nicely at the butcher shop.

Bob

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Enter "baby back" in the search topic box towards the bottom of the page and you will find several posts about this. Short version, I smoke them for 15 minutes in a stovetop smoker and cook at 170F for 5 to 6 hours and then brown with a propane blow torch. They are falling off the bone tender.

I don't think that I would cook them at a much lower temp since the fat won't do much rendering and (at least for me) a big part of the rib experience is contribute by the melted fat. And at that temp, I wouldn't cook much longer than 6 hours.

Baby Back Pork Ribs

Has anyone tried them?  I have some in the bath now at 135 with some 5 spice, garlic and ginger. I was planning on 24 hours, but I could go 48. I was thinking I'd take the juice from the bag, add honey, reduce to a glaze, brush it on the ribs and blow torch them to make a bark. What has been your experiences with this cut of meat?

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Hey sous vidies,

Thanks for all the amazing info. Plowing my way through the thread got me excited enough about trying sous vide at home to order up an Auber PID and a tabletop food warmer. Thought you might enjoy hearing the story of my first trip out.

I was cooking a big dinner party and had planned on serving hot spring eggs and SV black cod. I'd tested both in the weeks before the party and loved the results--I was sure guests were going to be into it.

Unfortunately, the morning of the party I took off a chunk of my thumb with the mandoline, so I spent the rest of the day behind on my work, dropping stuff because of my slippery glove, etc. When I got the water bath up and running, it was way later in the day than I'd planned and *could not* get the temp to stabilize. It just kept shooting way, way up--like 20 degrees C over what I'd set. I spent the night manually turning the food warmer on and off to keep the temperature somewhere near the goal zone, dumping in ice cubes and just generally being pissed at the whole thing.

Everything turned out okay, but the fish was way hotter than I wanted it to be. As I lay in bed that night mentally going over the entire day, a little light bulb illuminated: in my rush to get things hooked up, I'd plugged the PID into the wall then plugged the warmer into...the wall. Oops. That's one fancy thermometer.

The moral of the story is that no amount of technology can fix stupid. Next time I will make sure to make myself a little "Pants first, then shoes"-esque sign. Sheesh.

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It sounds like a nightmare. For fish like cod or salmon try olive oil poach at 60 deg for 15 minutes. It is my favorite way of cooking fish. I like it more than SV in bag.

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Anyone catch the final of Top Chef tonight? One of the finalist let her sous chef talk her into a sous vide NY strip even though she had no experience with it. The meat was judged to be tough. No particulars as to timing and technique. Did see them Food Saver bagging the meat but no water bath or temp controlling equipment was shown. They were cooking at Commander's in New Orleans.


Even Samantha Brown would have hard time summoning a "wow" for this. Anthony Bourdain

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That is odd, i mean usually with a tender cut like ny strip you just have to get it up to temp, sear it and it is golden, I have cooked these loads of time doing the minimum time from Douglas' site and have never experienced this, I wonder what went wrong...


Sous Vide Or Not Sous Vide - My sous vide blog where I attempt to cook every recipe in Under Pressure.

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Actually, the cut of beef used by contestant Carla was referred to as sirloin and the resulting texture was deemed tough by the judges. She and her sous chef had a three hour time limit. Is that not long enough to properly cook sirloin via the sous vide method or is that method inadvisable with that cut of meat? I know nothing about sous vide but marvel a the glorious food you are all able to prepare with this technique. Just awful that her sous chef would suggest a method of cooking she herself obviously didn't know how to do properly.


Edited by divalasvegas (log)

Inside me there is a thin woman screaming to get out, but I can usually keep the Bitch quiet: with CHOCOLATE!!!

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If sirloin were indeed the cut then that would be a little more problematic and could explain the toughness. I don't think sirloin is a cut that is ideal for sous vide. Kind of a tweener. Not the tender cut that you nail at 131 in an hour and a half or the tough or the flavorful cuts like short rib that you cook for ever.


Even Samantha Brown would have hard time summoning a "wow" for this. Anthony Bourdain

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Sirloin can be tough. 3 hours is pretty marginal timing, particularly if it was thick.

That said, there is no cooking techique that could render it tender in that timeframe unless you cook it to death, which of course you could do with sous vide also.

If I had to cook sirloin that might be tough in 3 hours, I would still use sous vide. If possible I would jaccard it. I would make sure that it was not too thick (cutting it if need be) and then cook it at 125F/51C to 130F/54C, then sear.

The key however is to plate it thinly sliced and fanned out. Or thin sliced as part of a dish like fajitas, thai beef salad etc.

Regardless of whether you cook it sous vide, or cook it any other way, you aren't going to tenderize it in that time frame without overcooking it. So you need to deal with the toughness mechanically. Thin slicing and jaccard are about the only way to "tenderize" it in that time frame.


Nathan

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It just seems crazy that she would pick sirloin as a "meat and potato" meal for all of the money. They showed her butchering the large primal cut and it looked (albeit on a real fast cut) like a portion with some rib in it. Not the sirloin. As Nathan says the three hour window doesn't allow for an easy way to pull it off either sous vide or conventional. Her only hope was to cook it conventionally and then slice it thinly and hope for the best. She from the pictures served in a large piece of meat. She had a free rein with product, nail a two hour strip that we all know and love. I hope this doesn't mean that the public become disenchanted with sous vide.


Even Samantha Brown would have hard time summoning a "wow" for this. Anthony Bourdain

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Baby Back Ribs Results

I rubbed the ribs with a paste of garlic, ginger and salt then sprinkled Chinese 5 spice powder on top. Then I vacuum packed them and cooked SV for 24 hours.

First surprise was that they lost a huge amount of liquid which worried me. I tasted ate one straight from the bath and was surprised by how nice the texture was. They were soft but not mushy. Perfect texture. The taste was very subtle... actually they were bland and that disappointed me.

So I took the juice from the bags, added honey, barley malt syrup, soy sauce, black vinegar and some dried thai chilis and reduced it to a glaze. Then I brushed the glaze on the ribs and cooked it on with a torch.

The result was an intensely delicious, sweet, spicy porky bark on perfectly cooked soft pork meat that lacked flavor. The fat didn't render out, but since I used very high quality meat there were no bothersome stripes of fat.

They were good, but not nearly as good as smoked ribs. I'm going to try it again but next time I'm going to marinate them for several days to see if I can up the flavor quotient.

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It just seems crazy that she would pick sirloin as a "meat and potato" meal for all of the money.  They showed her butchering the large primal cut and it looked (albeit on a real fast cut) like a portion with some rib in it.  Not the sirloin. 

It looked like NY Strip to me and that is how the Bravo Recipe page identifies the steak.

I did a google search and the recaps I found which mention the cut of meat Carla used all stated it was NY Strip.

The recipe for the steak on the Bravo recipe page omits the Sous Vide cooking.

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I feel that marinading for a long time is not the answer as it (in my opinion) hurts the texture. If you like smoke ribs, there are a few things. Even just 15 minutes in a stovetop smoker will imparts a fair amount of smoky flavor. I would rub 'em with your favorite rub -- rather than fresh garlic and ginger I would use garlic powder and ginger powder. I find that fresh garlic and ginger SV don't work great.

If you don't want to hassle with pre-smoking, 1/2 cap of liquid smoke works wonders. I sometimes cook ribs in with some marinade in the bag that is made up of equal parts cider vinegar, soy sauce with a little sugar and olive oil thrown in.

I also think that the mouth-feel is better at 170F for 6 hrs versus 24 hours at something like 135. I think the rendered pork fat is an important flavor component in addition to how it feels in the mouth.

Anyway, that is my take.

Baby Back Ribs Results

I rubbed the ribs with a paste of garlic, ginger and salt then sprinkled Chinese 5 spice powder on top. Then I vacuum packed them and cooked SV for 24 hours.

First surprise was that they lost a huge amount of liquid which worried me. I tasted ate one straight from the bath and was surprised by how nice the texture was. They were soft but not mushy. Perfect texture. The taste was very subtle... actually they were bland and that disappointed me.

So I took the juice from the bags, added honey, barley malt syrup, soy sauce, black vinegar and some dried thai chilis and reduced it to a glaze. Then I brushed the glaze on the ribs and cooked it on with a torch.

The result was an intensely delicious, sweet, spicy porky bark on perfectly cooked soft pork meat that lacked flavor. The fat didn't render out, but since I used very high quality meat there were no bothersome stripes of fat.

They were good, but not nearly as good as smoked ribs. I'm going to try it again but next time I'm going to marinate them for several days to see if I can up the flavor quotient.

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Well I did my second SV experiment yesterday. A Chicken breast and a couple of tenders with just S&P. 1.5 hours at 60-degrees.

Came out deliciously juicy. Somewhat bland as they were just some purdue ones that were in fridge and needed to be eaten. I may drop it a couple of degrees next time.

Pepper was pretty coarsley grated, so got big mouthfuls of pepper when I encountered it. need to use a fins grate next time. it also looked like it had "burned" into the breast.

Looking forward to getting some decent chicken this weekend and adding more ingredients to the bag.

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Baby Back Ribs Results

I rubbed the ribs with a paste of garlic, ginger and salt then sprinkled Chinese 5 spice powder on top. Then I vacuum packed them and cooked SV for 24 hours.

First surprise was that they lost a huge amount of liquid which worried me. I tasted ate one straight from the bath and was surprised by how nice the texture was. They were soft but not mushy. Perfect texture. The taste was very subtle... actually they were bland and that disappointed me.

So I took the juice from the bags, added honey, barley malt syrup, soy sauce, black vinegar and some dried thai chilis and reduced it to a glaze. Then I brushed the glaze on the ribs and cooked it on with a torch.

The result was an intensely delicious, sweet, spicy porky bark on perfectly cooked soft pork meat that lacked flavor. The fat didn't render out, but since I used very high quality meat there were no bothersome stripes of fat.

They were good, but not nearly as good as smoked ribs. I'm going to try it again but next time I'm going to marinate them for several days to see if I can up the flavor quotient.

I live in the South, so BBQ and especially ribs are a pretty big deal down here (there are two sole food restaurants within a mile of my house) so I have spent the last two weeks trying different approaches to get some good sous vide pork ribs and here is what I have come up with so far: Cooking ribs in a water bath has a couple of problems if you use fatty ribs, like spare ribs. First, even though the meat is fall apart tender, the fat does not render sufficiently and you end up with fat and meat that almost share the same constancy. Second, if you put a rub on your ribs, it tends to get washed away from all the juices in the bag. Third, no smoke flavor! So here are some things I have tried, and had some success with. Let me start by saying, I'm not claiming this to be the ultimate rib recipe, just a work in progress.

First I cut the ribs into groups of four-five, then submerge in brine (10% salt) for six hours. The ribs are patted dry and a rub is applied (I use the one from CIA Pro Chef) I then smoke them with apple wood chips in a smoker box @ 225F for one hour, after smoking they go on a low temp grill (350F) for ten minutes. At this point a lot of the fat has rendered, but there's plenty left to keep them tender in the bag. The ribs are then chilled to room temp and bagged. From there I have cooked them at several different times and temperatures and found what works best for me is 24 hours @ 141F

The result is a rib not quite as tender as one cooked en sous vide from the get go, but still tender, the rub is crusted to the rib from the grill, and they are deliciously smoky.


Edited by photon (log)

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If the fat doesn't render, it is because you are sous-vid'ing at too low a temp. Have you tried temps over 167F? If you cook them at 170F, the fat will render. If you cooked at high-heat long enough to render out the fat of spare ribs you are also missing out on some of the advantages of sous vide because the proteins have probably been pretty well cooked too. I think you will find that if you smoke the ribs for 15 minutes to 30 minutes at lower temp and then bag them put em in the bath at 170F or so that you will get tender ribs and rendered fat. For spare ribs it might take longer than the 6 hours I use for baby backs. And the liquid in the bag will turn the rub into a marinade.

When you take them out of the bag, blasting with a blowtorch or putting 'em under the broiler will give a nice crust and carmelize the sugars from the rub.

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Does anyone know where to get small/mixed quantity of vac bags (3mm) for sous vide and freezer storage?

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      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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