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e_monster

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 8)

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what does your rotisserie look like? a few pics? if the meat is rotating and your Blow Torch is at just the right distance, its sort of like that that greek gyros thing.

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what does your rotisserie look like? a few pics? if the meat is rotating and your Blow Torch is at just the right distance, its sort of like that that greek gyros thing.

Its a showtime rotisserie that i modified to be controlled by a PID controller. The probe is located at the top toward the front away from the heating element that is located in the rear. It works really good at maintaining low temps between 150-250F. I havent tested it at higher temps since i have another rotisserie just for high temp cooking like chickens and turkeys.

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Is it possible to cook/chill the roast? Cook it to 130 for 12 hours SV, then as quick as possible chill to refrig. temp, then a couple hours in the rotisserie to crust/retherm to an internal temp of 120-125... just a thought

I like the idea of cooking a few days earlier to 130F then quickly chilling in an ice water bath. But would i retherm it back in the sous vide to 125F? or retherm directly in the rottiserie to the target temp of 135F? It seems in that case why not just sous vide to 130F and let it drop 10 degrees before putting it into the rottiserie to climb up to 135F and build a crust.
I was originally thinking to retherm it completely in the rotisserie to a target internal temp of 120-125. I would actually get the rotisserie going on the hot side, rather than keeping it cool, which will help get a nice crust, but remember, you just need to warm up the center, as it's already been cooked to 130. Also, according to MC, the showtime rotisserie is more like an oven than a true rotisserie - because the door keeps in heat... maybe you could keep the door open to keep it cooler around the meat while the one side (rotating) gets continually blasted with the infrared?

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Is it possible to cook/chill the roast? Cook it to 130 for 12 hours SV, then as quick as possible chill to refrig. temp, then a couple hours in the rotisserie to crust/retherm to an internal temp of 120-125... just a thought

I like the idea of cooking a few days earlier to 130F then quickly chilling in an ice water bath. But would i retherm it back in the sous vide to 125F? or retherm directly in the rottiserie to the target temp of 135F? It seems in that case why not just sous vide to 130F and let it drop 10 degrees before putting it into the rottiserie to climb up to 135F and build a crust.
I was originally thinking to retherm it completely in the rotisserie to a target internal temp of 120-125. I would actually get the rotisserie going on the hot side, rather than keeping it cool, which will help get a nice crust, but remember, you just need to warm up the center, as it's already been cooked to 130. Also, according to MC, the showtime rotisserie is more like an oven than a true rotisserie - because the door keeps in heat... maybe you could keep the door open to keep it cooler around the meat while the one side (rotating) gets continually blasted with the infrared?

I think im going to try sous vide to 135F a day in advance then quickly chill. Then like you suggested, retherm it to 125F in the sous vide the morning of and finish it in the rotiserie at high heat untill it develops a nice crust with rotuts suggestion of using the blow torch to help speed the crust development. I just hope im right on the time. Im thinking 15 minutes at high heat in the rotisserie to get a nice crust with little over-cooking. But im open to more suggestions.

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a little blow-torch on the rotisserie wouldnt hurt either!

I do use a blow torch alot but the crust and flavor from a blow torch just doesnt come close to the flavor and crust you get from a rottiserie.

....Oh i see, your saying hit it with the torch while on the rottiserie. Good idea, but my blow torch might kill the heating element and warp the inside of the rottiserie if not careful. It gets rediculously hot!

I have two thoughts: since you have a rotisserie that can cook at low temperature, I would be inclined to do the cooking that way rather than sous-vide. If you blowtorch first then cook at 150-200F, you will get some nice tenderization and a nice crust as well.

Both Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller recommend hitting a roast with a blow torch before the cooking starts. It does two things: sterilizes that outside AND jump starts the crust formation. You don't even need to get the meet browned -- you just need to get it 'gray'. I read an article by Harold McGee where he says that he was skeptical that this would work but that he tried it and that it works well. I have done a few roasts where I blowtorched and cooked at about 175F and the crust turned out really nice. I did a tiny bit of touching up with the torch after the final rest.

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First - I agree with e_monster.. if you have a rotisserie that goes down that low, why play with SV at all? It's a lot of trouble to bag a big roast, SV, then chill, then retherm...

If you are dead-set on SV, and like my ideas before - I would like to add that it seems that I'm not coming through clear. I would retherm completely in the rotisserie - not retherm at all SV - but, since the roast is already cooked, you only need to rotisserie so that the inside is warm, proper eating temperature... say 125degF. I'd assume that if you're starting from refrigerator temp, by the time the inside gets to 125F, you should have a decent crust on the outside. Of course, you will get some gradient this way, which is not always a bad thing.

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I wanted to sous vide first to get a more tender end result since the cut is somewhat on the low end side being at best barely legal to be called choice grade. I got it for a good price otherwise i would have took it back to the butcher. That said, i dont know what temp i would rotisserie it to have it done by 1pm for easter. I dont believe i would get a tender final product if i completely cooked it in the rotisserie for under 7 hours if i started it at 6am. I would have to start it the night before at the latest 12 at night.


Edited by FeChef (log)

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if this cut is 'bone on' and you have not started yet, make sure you remove the thin tough membrane on the bone side of the meat: if its there: this is the parietal plura:

you could google it but it might gross you out! there is a similar membrane in the abdominal cavity and those who do pork ribs know to remove this carefully as is semi- impermeable and very tough!

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I am new to sous vide, but I would like to draw your attention to a slow oven roasting method that Cooks Illustrated published a few years ago. I have used it several times and the meat is pink to the edges with a nice crust. The result is quite delicious. Can it be adapted to what you're trying to do?

Here's their method:

SLOW-ROASTED BEEF

Published January 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

Serves 6 to 8.

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS:

For an inexpensive slow-roasted beef recipe, we transformed a bargain cut into a tender, juicy roast by salting the meat a full 24 hours before roasting and then cooking it at a very low temperature, which allowed the meat's enzymes to act as natural tenderizers, breaking down its tough connective tissue. We don't recommend cooking this roast past medium. Open the oven door as little as possible and remove the roast from the oven while taking its temperature. If the roast has not reached the desired temperature in the time specified in step 3, heat the oven to 225 degrees for 5 minutes, shut it off, and continue to cook the roast to the desired temperature. For a smaller (2 1/2- to 3 1/2-pound) roast, reduce the

amount of kosher salt to 3 teaspoons (1 1/2 teaspoons table salt) and black pepper to 1 1/2 teaspoons. For a 4 1/2- to 6-pound roast, cut in half crosswise before cooking to create 2 smaller roasts. Slice the roast as thinly as possible and serve with Horseradish Cream Sauce (see related recipe), if desired.

INGREDIENTS

boneless eye-round roast (3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds) (see note)

teaspoons kosher salt or 2 teaspoons table salt

teaspoons vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon teaspoons ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Sprinkle all sides of roast evenly with salt.Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate 18 to 24 hours.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 225 degrees. Pat roast dry with paper towels; rub with 2 teaspoons oil and

sprinkle all sides evenly with pepper. Heat remaining tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until starting to smoke.

Sear roast until browned on all sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer roast to wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Roast until meatprobe

thermometer or instant-read thermometer inserted into center of roast registers 115 degrees for medium-rare, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4

hours, or 125 degrees for medium, 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours.

3. Turn oven off; leave roast in oven, without opening door, until meat-probe thermometer or instant-read thermometer inserted into

center of roast registers 130 degrees for medium-rare or 140 degrees for medium, 30 to 50 minutes longer. Transfer roast to carving

board and let rest 15 minutes. Slice meat crosswise as thinly as possible and serve.

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Apologies in advance if this has been extensively discussed. I searched, but couldn't really find much of a discussion.

I was wondering what opinions everyone had about the refrigerator shelf life of vegetables after a full sous vide cook (unopened, in bags)? I'm mainly talking about root vegetables done at 185 for 1-2 hours, then refrigerated. I've read some people claiming about a week, but I've had mine be just fine at a month or more. Not sure what the end point would be anyway. I'm assuming that the vegetables should be bacteria free after a relatively long, hot cook. Maybe textural changes?

Anyway, I was hoping for some kind of official guidance on refrigerator shelf life of sous vide cooked vegetables and perhaps some reasoning behind the guidance.

Thanks!

Chris

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this has been studied. as long as you do a very quick icing in water with a lot of ice they will keep in a very cold refig. for 30 to 60 days.



PedroG is an expert at this. PM him!


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See Douglas Baldwin's Guide:

after rapid chilling, the food must either be frozen or held at

  • below 36.5°F (2.5°C) for up to 90 days,
  • below 38°F (3.3°C) for less than 31 days,
  • below 41°F (5°C) for less than 10 days, or
  • below 44.5°F (7°C) for less than 5 days

Find out where in your refrigerator the coldest area is and try to regulate it down to 1-2°C, using a calibrated reference thermometer.


Peter F. Gruber aka Pedro

eG Ethics Signatory

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So Im definetly going to sous vide for 12 hours @ 135F and chill in the fridge till easter morning. If i rotisserie at high heat from fridge temp (35-38F) How long should it take to get the center up to 125F? I think the rotisserie gets between 375-400F and the rib roast will be deboned and is roughly 5-6 inches thick and without the bone im guessing 4-5 inches.

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I fear that at the 400 rotisserie temp to get the inner meat temp to 125 will give you a pretty thick bit of "well done" outer rim.

this sounds a lot like conventional roasting, which you had hoped to avoid.

my 2 cents.

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I fear that at the 400 rotisserie temp to get the inner meat temp to 125 will give you a pretty thick bit of "well done" outer rim.

this sounds a lot like conventional roasting, which you had hoped to avoid.

my 2 cents.

Well, Im not sure what you mean. If your saying 400 is too high, I can use the PID controlled one i have for a lower temp. If your saying 400 is too low to get a crust before the center reaches 125F then i could as you mentioned before, use the blow torch to assist in crust development. Im really not sure where you were going with this post. I have in the past done a rib roast sous vide, then straight to a regular oven for i believe 20 minutes @450F and there was a decent crust with very little "grey outer rim". But It just didnt have that nice rotisserie flavored crust that i want.

Easter is comming up fast and the rib roast has been fully thawed and i need to have a plan in place asap so any help on what would be the best approach going sous vide first, then rotisserie would be greatly appreciated.

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I just meant that from refrig temp to internal temp 125 with an external heat source of 400 sounds like a conventional roasting situation, with a fairly thick med-well cap gradient to get that internal temp up.

didnt mean to confuse. do you have the space to do the SV right up to the roasting on the rotisserie which is what you seem to have done in the past successfully moving the warm roast directly from the SV to the oven.

Id still have a blow torch ready for the touch ups while rotating.

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I fear that at the 400 rotisserie temp to get the inner meat temp to 125 will give you a pretty thick bit of "well done" outer rim.

this sounds a lot like conventional roasting, which you had hoped to avoid.

my 2 cents.

Well, Im not sure what you mean. If your saying 400 is too high, I can use the PID controlled one i have for a lower temp. If your saying 400 is too low to get a crust before the center reaches 125F then i could as you mentioned before, use the blow torch to assist in crust development. Im really not sure where you were going with this post. I have in the past done a rib roast sous vide, then straight to a regular oven for i believe 20 minutes @450F and there was a decent crust with very little "grey outer rim". But It just didnt have that nice rotisserie flavored crust that i want.

Easter is comming up fast and the rib roast has been fully thawed and i need to have a plan in place asap so any help on what would be the best approach going sous vide first, then rotisserie would be greatly appreciated.

What he is telling you is that you take your pre-cooked roast from the refrigerator and put it in a 450F oven that by the time the center is 125F, you will have a lot of the roast that has been cooked well above that. If you use a hot oven to heat the meat, you will end up with something that is more well-done than medium rare. The scenario you describe will be very different from cooking at 130F sous-vide and then sticking it in an oven for a brief time to get a crust.

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Well im getting alot of conflicting ideas on how to approach this and get a nice crust using a rotisserie. So what is it? Should i sous vide the night before and go straight into the rotisserie @400F for 20 min till i get a nice crust? Or should i sous vide a day earlier and chill, then retherm in rotisserie to 125F?

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Well im getting alot of conflicting ideas on how to approach this and get a nice crust using a rotisserie. So what is it? Should i sous vide the night before and go straight into the rotisserie @400F for 20 min till i get a nice crust? Or should i sous vide a day earlier and chill, then retherm in rotisserie to 125F?

I would sous vide overnight and then go directly into the rotis as hot as you can get it for whatever time it takes to get the crust you want. 15-20 minutes should do the trick. Have the torch handy to touch up any areas that don't get as crusty as you want.

When I do momofuku short ribs I sous vide them for 48 hours and then dry them off and deep fry them for 2 or 3 minutes. They get a fantastic dark brown crust and are perfectly medium rare all the way through.


Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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Well im getting alot of conflicting ideas on how to approach this and get a nice crust using a rotisserie. So what is it? Should i sous vide the night before and go straight into the rotisserie @400F for 20 min till i get a nice crust? Or should i sous vide a day earlier and chill, then retherm in rotisserie to 125F?

I would sous vide overnight and then go directly into the rotis as hot as you can get it for whatever time it takes to get the crust you want. 15-20 minutes should do the trick. Have the torch handy to touch up any areas that don't get as crusty as you want.

When I do momofuku short ribs I sous vide them for 48 hours and then dry them off and deep fry them for 2 or 3 minutes. They get a fantastic dark brown crust and are perfectly medium rare all the way through.

I think thats the route im leaning toward. I liked the idea of having it ready in advance, but if bringing it back to serving temp is going to be "iffy" then I will just pull it out of the sous vide at the target temp and quickly sear it on the rotisserie for 15-30 and hope for the best. Atleast i know its where it needs to be. Im thinking also that there will be a slight drop in temp from going from bag to spit so may give me some extra time on the searing.

BTW, I had very bad results doing short ribs,always come out dry and mushy sawdust texture, even at 132F. But chuck roasts @ 24 hours always come out great.

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Yar. thats it then: SV to the time you blast with the Roti. use a blowtorch as you do it if you have the time, as soon as you get the 'crust' you like just turn the Roti off and lightly cover to conserve the heat.

done

love to see a set of pics!

BTW make sure your roast is very dry before you put it on the Roti. that just creates steam. save what little 'jus' you have for maybe basting with a little butter added to the Jus for the final crust.

I bet its going to be the 'best' many people would have ever had!

as you suggested the Roti adds a 'flavor' the hot oven does not? thats very interesting: are you talking about the aroma 'Sent from Heaven' of "Burnt Meat?" and "burt Fat" ???

as your meat is 'done' if you have the time use the torch in addition. it adds 'drama' etc. but use the torch very very carefully : "burnt" is not Malliard. and the crust you are looking for as long as its not burnt is really not so deep into the meat. 'burnt fat' is somthing else. its in the Bible after all!

check your smoke detectors! take those pesky batteries out!

you and your guests are in for a fine treat!


Edited by rotuts (log)

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Rotuts, Im most likely not going to have pics. When I have 10+ people around, I dont make a habit of taking pictures of food. Especially if im not sure how "good" something will turn out. If you knew my family you would understand. As for the roast, I am going to pre sear with the blow torch before sous vide to add color, and kill any bacteria that could be present. I personally feel it adds flavor aswell. I am going to pat dry with paper towels and use a rub before adding to the rotisserie. Its basicly a light coat of mayo (canola) and tones signature beef seasoning. It adds great flavor to the crust. And ive already removed the battery from the kitchen smoke detector long ago.

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My grandmother always used mayo on her turkeys and told me it helped in browning the skin and also helped spices stick better then just oil. I always use it on my turkeys,chickens, and beef roasts. You can use it on briskets instead of mustard too.

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I wanted to sous vide first to get a more tender end result since the cut is somewhat on the low end side being at best barely legal to be called choice grade. I got it for a good price otherwise i would have took it back to the butcher. That said, i dont know what temp i would rotisserie it to have it done by 1pm for easter. I dont believe i would get a tender final product if i completely cooked it in the rotisserie for under 7 hours if i started it at 6am. I would have to start it the night before at the latest 12 at night.

This may have been said already, but cooking to 125, then chilling, then putting it on the rotisserie, will not be a positive difference over rotisserie alone. In both situations, you will be starting from roughly the same temp, so it will take roughly the same time to heat to serving temp. But if you've sous vided first, everything will be concomitantly more done.

I would sv, then go straight from water bath to rotisserie at high temp long enough before serving to get your crust. 400 would probably work, but I'm a fan of hitting sv meats with as high a temp as I can go to get the crust -- 700+ on my propane grill, or 1000+ on my CookAir.

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      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      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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