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Cooking with the Alinea Cookbook


Chris Amirault
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Blackberry, Coffee, Mint, Smoke

Scatter brained me, I completely forgot to buy the stupid cigar for the Tobacco piece of this. So, I made it coffee flavored instead. This is easy to make, but looks impressive and tastes fantastic.

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E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Blackberry, Coffee, Mint, Smoke

Scatter brained me, I completely forgot to buy the stupid cigar for the Tobacco piece of this. So, I made it coffee flavored instead. This is easy to make, but looks impressive and tastes fantastic.

Duh! I've been looking at that dish, but I didn't feel quite "hardcore" go with the tobacco flavor. Coffee sounds great (and it will cause a lot less eye-rolling at home!)

"looks interesting": it really is, but you may want to take a look through it at a bookstore, or better, check it out of your library, first. There are quite a few dishes that require obscure molecular gastronomy ingredients and/or equipment. There are a few dishes that are simple and great, but most are hyper-complicated and the result can be "unconventional". If nothing else, it's really, really beautiful. I don't want to discourage you, but check it out before you spend as much as a nice restaurant dinner on a book that may be pretty, but functionally useless (unless you want in on this weirdness! :cool: )

Check out the blogs "alineaathome" and "alineaphile" for blow-by-blow examples of folks actually making these dishes.

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I tried the Cassia Bud ice cream this weekend. Obviously (?) I don't have a PacoJet (or the mysterious "Stab 2000" that doesn't seem to exist on Google*), so I mixed it up and threw it in my home core-in-the-freezer ice cream machine. Having read most of the PacoJet thread here, I knew that PacoJet "ice cream" is usually low in fat and high in solids - exactly what the Cassia Bud ice cream recipe has. As I was mixing it up, I was thinking "this is going to be ice milk, not ice cream."

Yep. Ice milk. It wasn't a solid block of ice, because of the sugar content, but it sure wasn't a nice mouth-feel ice cream.

The Cassia Buds (source: The Spice House in Chicago) smelled great when toasting them, but became a fairly normal, familiar cinnamon flavor when steeped in the milk. The final flavor is a very nice cinnamon ice cream (and I usually don't like cinnamon ice cream), but it lacks the spicy, exotic "je ne sais quoi" that you get when toasting the buds.

(*L'Epicerie carries something along the lines of "STABI 3000" - I wonder 1)if this is a good substitution, and 2)if a stabilizer would make much difference, or if I need to fundamentally change the mix to one appropriate for the home ice cream maker.)

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I tried the Cassia Bud ice cream this weekend.  Obviously (?) I don't have a PacoJet (or the mysterious "Stab 2000" that doesn't seem to exist on Google*), so I mixed it up and threw it in my home core-in-the-freezer ice cream machine.  Having read most of the PacoJet thread here, I knew that PacoJet "ice cream" is usually low in fat and high in solids - exactly what the Cassia Bud ice cream recipe has.  As I was mixing it up, I was thinking "this is going to be ice milk, not ice cream."

Yep.  Ice milk.  It wasn't a solid block of ice, because of the sugar content, but it sure wasn't a nice mouth-feel ice cream.

The Cassia Buds (source: The Spice House in Chicago) smelled great when toasting them, but became a fairly normal, familiar cinnamon flavor when steeped in the milk.  The final flavor is a very nice cinnamon ice cream (and I usually don't like cinnamon ice cream), but it lacks the spicy, exotic "je ne sais quoi" that you get when toasting the buds.

(*L'Epicerie carries something along the lines of "STABI 3000" - I wonder 1)if this is a good substitution, and 2)if a stabilizer would make much difference, or if I need to fundamentally change the mix to one appropriate for the home ice cream maker.)

I would think the STAB3000 would work, but I really do not think it is essential. So, yes, to make this recipe at home you might have to change the mix since you do not have a pacojet. I don't have one either, but have not given the ice cream recipes from Alinea a try yet.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I just bought "Frozen Desserts" from the CIA, so once I've finished the chapter on overthrowing democratically elected governments ( :wink: ), I'm going to read up on ice cream mixes and stabilizers.

Also, I tried my first reverse spherification experiment. I did the Ginger Spheres (pg ?). Technically it worked great, but on their own, they weren't exactly yummy.

One trick I figured out, and I think this will go for all the frozen/reverse spheres in the book. When you drop the frozen sphere into the alginate bath, gently roll it around for a while. If you drop it and let it sit on the bottom, there's no way for the alginate to come into contact with the calcium in the sphere solution, thus you get a weak "skin" there, and the spheres will leak, blob-out, etc.

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I made my first attempt from the cookbook today. I made the blackberry smoke dish. I turned out well and looked great. I did not forget the cigar and will note that there was definitely an underlying note of tobacco. In fact, if you taste the cream by itself, the tobacco is overpowering. Mixed with the berry, salt and mint, it was a fascinating combination. Five people tried the dish. One hated it (our young babysitter with a limited appreciation for alta cocina), one was indifferent (me) and three liked it. The good news is, as the previous poster did, I think the tobacco could be replaced and the recipe for the cream (which is basically like a panna cota) could be used with any number of flavorings instead of tobacco. I would make this again, but I am more excited about the possibilities of using the recipe for other flavors.

Here is a photo of the completed project:

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  • 6 months later...

Salsify, smoked salmon, dill, caper

Salsify.jpg

I've wanted to make this dish ever since I first got the Alinea cookbook, but I had a hard time tracking down salsify. So when I finally laid my hands on some last week, I set about this recipe right away.

I'll admit up front that part of the appeal was the fact that it looked long and involved, and I wanted to jump in with both feet. I'll also admit that it pretty much kicked my butt, so maybe "jumping in with both feet" wasn't the best approach.

After three days of making the various components (and giving my dehydrator a serious workout) I ended up skipping two items on the final plate: instead of cooking the salmon sous vide, I just plated two chunks of hot-smoked salmon, and I skipped the dill sauce. Well, I tried to do the dill sauce, but gave up when I nearly burned out my blender. Not sure what I did wrong there.

Either way, it ended up being very tasty, if a little salty. The dried vegetable coating on the salsify was remarkably good, and something I'll definitely be looking to find other uses for. But I won't be repeating the whole recipe - or any other long Alinea recipes - any time soon!

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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  • 4 weeks later...

Cool - I was looking at the salsify "dish". I made a test batch of the "lemon pudding" from that dish. Technically, it worked really well (stiff agar agar gel, that's blender blasted to a "pudding") Several comments, though: I made 1/3 of the full recipe and ended up with something like 6-8 ounces of final product. Given that the lemon pudding is "dotted" in the final plating, I'd suggest making a 1/4 (25%) batch for 8 or fewer servings. (The lower limit is a function of how little gel you can get your blender to blend properly - with my Vita Prep, I realized that lots of "tamper" action was crucial to getting the stuff to blend!) Also, the full batch calls for 2g of saffron. One problem is that 2g runs something like US$20!!! The other is that with good quality saffron, that much will give you a saffron pudding with a hint of lemon, not lemon pudding with a hint of saffron. I used about half as much as was called for, of dubious quality saffron, and it the saffron flavor was almost overwhelming. Lastly, if you're super picky about plating, put the agar pudding on the plate as late as possible, it leaches water slightly.

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Thanks, tomdarch. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the lemon pudding! I made a full batch, and it was actually too much to fit in my blender canister, not to mention blending properly. As a result, it didn't end up a smooth as I would have liked, even once I blended it in several batches. I also used less saffron than was called for (simply because I didn't have 2g in the house), and it still tasted quite strongly of saffron.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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Does anybody ever upscale the recipes to resemble something like dinner? I love the book, and what has been shown here is great food, but I can't justify working all day on some food and ending up with a couple spoons, one per person. My kids would eat me if that's all I'd serve :laugh:

That's my main issue with some of these books, FL, Fat Duck, etc. I'd love to make some of the stuff, but they are meant to be one dish in a long evening of many small dishes, which is of course impossible to do at home w/o staff. And I just can't justify spending all day in the kitchen to have some appetizer that'll then be followed by a frozen pizza :biggrin:

I love reading and learning about these dishes, and sometimes I take some ideas and modify everything so I end up with 4 plates full of food, but that's not really the point.

I might have to put these things on the back burner until the kids are out of the house, when I'll have time to just play with some food for the fun of playing, without the need of feeding 4 at the end of the game.

Did anybody here ever make a full menu from Alinea or FL etc?

Oliver

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Does anybody ever upscale the recipes to resemble something like dinner? I love the book, and what has been shown here is great food, but I can't justify working all day on some food and ending up with a couple spoons, one per person. My kids would eat me if that's all I'd serve :laugh:

This is my same complaint with the books you mention. I have two teens at home, and they are hungry, all the time. The third one is in college, so any spare time and funds are devoted to paying tuition, and mailing her packages.

This book, and the others you mentioned, are not for those of us who are feeding those with hollow legs, nor those with hollow tuition payments. Those kids don't want a Tablespoon of something exquisite, they want FOOD.

Never mind that nothing the recipes seem to need are those I can hunt and gather.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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This is my same complaint with the books you mention.

But that's what those books are all about and I'm guessing the majority know that going in. Why use them to cook the family dinner if that's not what's needed/wanted? Use them for ideas/components or when you're doing that fancy dinner party or to make some nibbles for a gathering/party or something. Or upsize the portions if you really want to try them on the family... the book won't mind.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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my guess would be that most that buy these books never make a single dish from them, but just love to have them. Maybe to add to the experience of having eaten at the restaurant, or info before going there. Or just for the fun of it, to somewhat stay on top of the top of cooking.

Personally I am sure I will never buy an anti-griddle and I'm doubtful that I'll ever do Sou Vide at home (I still somewhat consider it a little bit like cheating at home), but I am getting an ISI foam thing for xmas, I want to make the whiskey gums from the Fat Duck and several things from the French Laundry. Alineathough, most things are so far "out there" and need special equipment, dishes, tools, what not. I can just marvel. It did put Chicaco on my places to go to list, I'd love to eat there some day. Despite the mixed reviews I've read, I think it would be a lot of fun and I'm sure I'd enjoy it a lot. I'm secretly hoping they'll open Alinea II in SF before I can ever make it there though so I don't have to go to Chicago :cool:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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my guess would be that most that buy these books never make a single dish from them, but just love to have them. Maybe to add to the experience of having eaten at the restaurant, or info before going there. Or just for the fun of it, to somewhat stay on top of the top of cooking.

Nothing at all wrong with that... but it would make portion size, which was the complaint, irrelevant.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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... so I don't have to go to Chicago :cool:

Hey - dinner at Alinea would simply be like a cherry on top of any visit to Chicago - you should be so lucky! :biggrin:

FYI - you don't "need" an anti-griddle - a baking sheet on a block of dry ice should do the trick!

But, yes, scale up the dishes! The wagyu cap with melon looks totally adaptable (albeit with a cheaper version of the cut!) and I'm planning on scaling up the pork belly with barbecue tuile and doing the duck/banana soup with larger portions of duck. On Alinea at Home and Alineaphile, they've both used excess components/ingredients in some great looking alternative dishes.

But with the three teenagers - if you could get a good couple of day's kitchen labor out of them, you could probably get a enough dishes together at the same time to make a decent meal! :raz:

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That's a great idea with the baking sheet and dry ice! They sell that stuff at Safeway here, I'll have to try that. My kids are 2 and 6, but I plan to employ my boy in the kitchen soon, he's getting a cook book (Silver Spoon for Children), a small Chef's knife, and an apron for Christmas. Hopefully we won't see too many trips to the ER :laugh:

I'll have to check those two sites again and look for those upscaled recipes. Just pulled the book out again last night after posting here, it's sure a stunning thing. Already thinking about how to build some of those out there presentation dishes/displays myself.... :smile:

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Personally I am sure I will never buy an anti-griddle and I'm doubtful that I'll ever do Sou Vide at home (I still somewhat consider it a little bit like cheating at home), but I am getting an ISI foam thing for xmas, I want to make the whiskey gums from the Fat Duck and several things from the French Laundry. Alineathough, most things are so far "out there" and need special equipment, dishes, tools, what not. I can just marvel. It did put Chicaco on my places to go to list, I'd love to eat there some day. Despite the mixed reviews I've read, I think it would be a lot of fun and I'm sure I'd enjoy it a lot. I'm secretly hoping they'll open Alinea II in SF before I can ever make it there though so I don't have to go to Chicago :cool:

Oliver-

I am a bit confused by your statement about Sous Vide at home cooking. That it's like cheating. Can you elaborate. I do not want to go OT here so maybe the great Sous Vide thread is a good venue for this. I am curious why you would say that.

More OT. I also disagree about your fat duck vs. Alinea cookbook comparison. To me the fat duck has many more "out there" recipes. Sure, Alinea usually has many more components but with time and organization I do not think a single recipe actually needs a special piece of equipment. FD on the other hand is also brilliant but without a centrifuge you cannot make the Chocolate Wine recipe and without the vacuum you cannot make the aereated chocolate. Some FD concepts are so out there that even though no special equipment is needed I will not try them at home, like the sardine and toast sorbet. Sure I would love to try them at FD but not at home where I will be stuck with a gallon of fish flavored sorbet.

I think so far I have cooked 4 or 5 recipes verbatim from Alinea (I posted some here and some on my blog), the most involved is the buckwheat ice cream and coffee capsules with passion fruit and mint recipe. I have used many Alinea components and techniques in my own dishes though. I think that is the best use for Alinea and FD at home.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I've had the book for a while and have singled out a few recipes to make.

Mostly I got the book to learn the techniques, and possibly find some other applications for them. This is one of the few books with information more thorough than what you can find online.

Sous vide is cheating? Yes, of course it is. Just as a the gas oven must have looked like cheating to people used to a wood stove, or an oven with a thermostat must have looked like cheating to people without ...

Notes from the underbelly

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without the vacuum you cannot make the aereated chocolate.

Not true. In his show "In Search of Perfection" he shows how you can do the aerated chocolate at home. With minimal expense really.

And even Heston's rig isn't necessary, though it does work well. It makes bigger bubbles but you can get great results with no vacuum source at all... just spray it into a cold container and get it in the cooler quick.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I am just talking about the Fat Duck cookbook. I've never seen the TV show, so I cannot speak to that. My guess is you can make a version of the recipe, but really not the exact same thing he is making at the restaurant and the one he gives instructions for in the book. If there is an easier way to achieve the exact same thing without costly equipment, why would he not just do that. In the intro to the recipe he makes a point of highlighting how important big bubbles are. Either way, I was just giving an example and again, this is not the topic to discuss FD.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I just got this as an early christmas present from my Wife. Great looking book with lots to read through and apply in different areas.

One thing that did surprise me was the sheer volume of components to dishes involving hydrocolloids. It seemed like every dish had at least two varieties of jellies.

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I just got this as an early christmas present from my Wife. Great looking book with lots to read through and apply in different areas.

One thing that did surprise me was the sheer volume of components to dishes involving hydrocolloids. It seemed like every dish had at least two varieties of jellies.

Yep! I went through the book to put together a "shopping list" and came up with something like 22 different hydrocolids and texture modifiers, plus 6 different "sugars", and a few odd things like ice cream stabilizer and "UltraSperse 3" for making films.

What I've done is flip back and forth between recipes to pick out a few that use a specific set of these "unique" ingredients to limit what I've had to buy.

Out of all these molecular ingredients, I have actually used citric acid in a couple of dishes to boost the tartness or balance against sweetness.

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