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Chris Amirault

Cooking with the Alinea Cookbook

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Many of us have been rubbing our hands together over the last few days in anticipation of receiving our copies of the Alinea cookbook. Those lucky ducks who have theirs in hand: what're you doing with it? Those still waiting: where do you think you'll start?

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My first reaction is that many of the component recipes *look* ridiculously easy....which in my experience with the Chez Panisse books means that the recipes can be ridiculously hard to execute because ingredient quality, precision and execution become item No. 1. While ingredient availability isn't really a problem in Berkeley, I think it will make cooking any one dish a marathon. Not to mention to 10 or so components you have to make if you want to do one dish exactly as represented in the book.

But, this isn't the way they want you to use the book, and it's not the way I intended when I bought it. For me, I will use it as a reference for new techniques, flavor combination, and presentation techniques to use, and since I already have most of the technology, or know of ways to mimic it on the budget, I'm reasonably sure I'll be able to accomplish most of what's in the book given proper sources, and ample time.

For the starting point, I think I'll go with the hot-potato cold-potato. Simple, classic flavors, and rich (a why-didn't-I-Think-of-that dish), but I think I'll be making it with concentrated porcini juice since I still consider myself a student on a very tight budget.

The deserts also look fantastic, especially the liquid chocolate square.


Edited by s_sevilla (log)

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I haven't received the book yet, but dabbled with some of it when the mosaic came out during the summer. I think the 'Hot Potato' dish is a pretty good one to start with. It's not too hard and its really delicious, even with the truffles substituted out.

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AEK, what did you sub for the truffles?

I think I used reduced mushroom stock instead of truffle juice and oyster mushrooms instead of the sliced truffles.

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Glad that worked. I was thinking about using some reduced porcini liquid for the stock and the mushrooms themselves for the truffle -- although if I can find a fresh truffle that I can afford without remortgaging the house, this is the first dish I'll make with it.

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AEK, what did you sub for the truffles?

I think I used reduced mushroom stock instead of truffle juice and oyster mushrooms instead of the sliced truffles.

Cool. Thanks. I might try this soon.

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I want to make the pheasant tempura kebab thing sometime this week, I need to start sourcing the ingredients, the hardest thing will probably be the 8 oak leaves.

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Is there a significant flavor difference between male/female pheasant and Scottish wild/domestic? Going to order some from d'artagnan or citarella and curious if that mattered, or if it wasn't a big deal.


Edited by NY_Amateur (log)

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I imagine the biggest difference will be between wild/domestic rather than male/female. Wild birds will typically have gotten a lot more exercise, and probably have eaten much less grain (i.e: corn). Somewhat tougher, but more flavorful. I personally find the difference between domestic and wild duck to be mind-boggling (although to be fair farmed ducks have undergone a lot more domestication: they don't look particularly like mallards). I've never had farmed pheasant, but wild stuff is great.

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I've been looking at the Heart of Palm recipe as a first attempt: I don't think I will make all of the different varieties (five are presented), but maybe one or two to start. They actually look like they would make great "small bites." One thing I am confused by, however, is the inclusion of the recipe for preserved Meyer lemons: I don't see them used anywhere, unless every mention of Meyer lemons in the recipe is meant to refer to the preserved lemons. Am I just missing it, or what? The trouble with using preserved lemons is that that turns this from a one day to a three month recipe! :smile: Not that that has ever stopped me before... and in this case, I could just make some of the other fillings, and skip those that call for the lemon. There are lots of interesting modifications one could make to these recipes: this one in particular seems like fertile ground for experimentation.

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One thing I am confused by, however, is the inclusion of the recipe for preserved Meyer lemons: I don't see them used anywhere, unless every mention of Meyer lemons in the recipe is meant to refer to the preserved lemons. Am I just missing it, or what?

The way I read it, the zest from the preserved Meyer lemons is used to garnish the one filled with fava bean puree. Though that doesn't explain why it calls for you to make 6 of them...

The trouble with using preserved lemons is that that turns this from a one day to a three month recipe! :smile:

What, you don't just keep preserved Meyer lemons on hand at all times? :raz:

Ever since I got access to the Mosaic, I've been dying to make the truffle explosions, and I probably will as soon as I get a pasta roller. It's good to hear that others have had good luck substituting for truffle products; I've been planning on using soaking liquid from dried porcini in place of the truffle juice. I'll have to give some reduced mushroom stock a try.

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As soon as I get my hands on mine...hopefully by next week it should arrive...I'll be skimming through it from cover to cover. For a first recipe, I also think the hot potato, cold potato will be the one.

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One thing I am confused by, however, is the inclusion of the recipe for preserved Meyer lemons: I don't see them used anywhere, unless every mention of Meyer lemons in the recipe is meant to refer to the preserved lemons. Am I just missing it, or what?

The way I read it, the zest from the preserved Meyer lemons is used to garnish the one filled with fava bean puree. Though that doesn't explain why it calls for you to make 6 of them...

The trouble with using preserved lemons is that that turns this from a one day to a three month recipe! :smile:

What, you don't just keep preserved Meyer lemons on hand at all times? :raz:

Ever since I got access to the Mosaic, I've been dying to make the truffle explosions, and I probably will as soon as I get a pasta roller. It's good to hear that others have had good luck substituting for truffle products; I've been planning on using soaking liquid from dried porcini in place of the truffle juice. I'll have to give some reduced mushroom stock a try.

I know this is a bit off topic, but ever since I read Eric Ripert's A Return to Cooking, I ALWAYS keep lemon confit (preserved lemon) in the cupboard.. it's quick and easy and cheap to make (well, quick not counting the preserving time), keeps for a long time, and I use it in almost everything - it really gives a great sparkle to dishes without the acid of lemon juice... if you use only a little bit, it adds that "jeez, what is in this that makes it so good?" quality without making it lemony....

I go through so much that now I have a revolving stash... I have one mason jar ready to go in the cupboard, while another is "curing" for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator.... usually, by the time my cupboard runs empty, the refrigerator one is ready to go... so it goes into the cupboard and then I just make another batch to get started again!

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Cold Potato Hot Potato--pretty easy to do, used mushroom stock instead of truffle juice. Had a real truffle though.

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Excellent dish full of umami.

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Just got mine and have to wait a week or so before I start playing around. I'm struck by the number of doable recipes; I think that quite a few elements could be used in other dishes as well.

Has anyone tried anything else?

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I've started working on the "Kuroge Wagyu" recipe. It looks doable with time and some chemical collecting. So far I've made the dehydrated red bell pepper, and sous vide'd some ribeye steak and the acorn squash. As soon as I score some Ultra Tex 3, I'll make the two puddings.

Only comment so far is that dehydrating the bell pepper strips shrinks them by about 70%... so pay attention to the 1/8" spec and place them close together on the dehydrator tray when making the "web"

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Here it is, my debut recipe from this amazing book. Encouraged by Carol from Alineaathome.com, I decided to make the Bacon, apple, butterscotch, thyme recipe. I also had everything on hand and it just sounded delicious.

For such a simple looking recipe, this was not "easy". It involved some monitoring of the drying bacon and the apple leather. I have no dehydrator so I used my oven and the process took longer than it would've in a proper dehydrator. Also, cutting the apple leather into 1/8 inch ribbons is tedious and I found out that a pizza cutter is the best tool for the job. I still cut most of them around 1/4 inch wide.

The end result was simply fantastic, way beyond the sum of its parts. I am hoping to make some as an appetizer for Xmas...if I have some helpers :smile:. The flavor combo of bacon and sticky sweet butterscotch with the tang of apple and the hint of thyme was addictive even to my two-year old.

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I only had 2 Granny Smith apples, so I used 2 Cameo apples in place of the other two.

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I used home cured and smoked bacon.

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No acetate sheets, so I used parchment. It worked well despite the "wrinkling".

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Apple Leather

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Butterscotch

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These look great! Thank you for sharing and props to you for taking a stab at one of these recipes. I've been reading through the book for the past week or so and I have to tell you that I can't even begin to wrap my head around this thing. Truly ahead of its time.

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Truly ahead of its time.

And the funny thing is, for them it's behind the times. We're getting the "been there, done that" recipes that they've already left behind in search of new ideas. A beautiful book, I'm inspired to do some serious woodshedding with this one.

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Bacon, Butterscotch, Apple, Thyme

I've got a dehydrator, but it only gets up to 145F and the recipie calls for 170F. After a couple hours in the machine I moved to the oven at 200F for an hour (I was baking meringue) and that rendered out a lot more fat but it didn't get "dried and crisp".

I read Alineaphie's blog where a Nesco American Harvest Dehydrator was used, but while the author states it was run at 185F the advertising for the device states that it is good for 95-155F. What is everyone using? What is the minimum temperature/time you need to ensure the bacon is safe?

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Here are my most recent trials from Alinea. Except for the Pork-Cider-Oak dish, these were served as part of Valentine's dinner I made last week.

Pork, cider, Oak

This is the pheasant dish, but I did not want to splurge on pheasant to use a few ounces of it here. I figured pork tenderloin would be a very good sub. Afterall, pork and apples are an excellent match. I was right and this morsel is delicious. Note the error in the tempura recipe here. You only need 75gr of the base to mix with the water.The trickiest part here was frying the damn things while not burning your finger tips and not crisping the oak leaves!

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Pork Belly, bbq sugar, pickled vegetables and polenta

I tried making this slightly bigger than what the recipe had to serve it as more of a course. I should've paid more attention in geometry class I guess. My tuilles were a bit too small as were my vegetables. The end result was still pretty but the pork cubes did not get fully enveloped. The taste was like bbq pork candy. Pretty awesome. I have a lot more plain tuille base left and I am thinking about experimenting with it to make candied apple bites...

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Verjus, beet, olive oil and lemon thyme

This was the surprise hit of the evening. We did not know what to expect, but the flavor (after popping the beet sphere) was a pure delight, tangy sweet earthy and cold. I do not have one of those NO2 canister things to make the lemon thyme foam, so I improvise. I figured it's base is more or less similar to a marshmallow base (liquid + gelatin), so I whipped it with a hand mixer until it cooled and I got a lovely fluffy foam.

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