Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)


Chris Amirault
 Share

Recommended Posts

Last night I attended a Modernist Cuisine event at ICE (the Institute of Culinary Education). Attendees were mostly industry people, plus a few hangers-on such as attractive women and me.

The evening began at 9pm with a cocktail half hour, during which roasted-corn elote (freeze-dried yellow corn kernels with N-Zorbit, brown butter powder, spicy mayonnaise, cilantro blossoms, lime and ash powder) was served. I figured this would be my one taste of modernism for the evening so I elbowed my way up to a platter, took a bad cell-phone photo, and grabbed a pre-portioned spoonful.

IMG_20110323_210209.jpg

At first it seemed I might not be able to eat it, as in not physically and mentally capable. As I brought the spoon to my mouth and inhaled (I tend to smell my food before eating it), little particles of ash powder flew up into my nasal passages, causing me to sneeze. This created a not-insignificant and terribly embarrassing dust cloud, which left the front of my shirt looking like I'd been baking bread and my shoulders looking like I was in need of Head & Shoulders shampoo. I abandoned my first spoonful without tasting it, and proceeded to secure the best seat possible for the lecture.

Sitting in my second-row aisle seat I noticed several people with white powder on their neckties, jackets and blouses. It looked a little like Less Than Zero meets New Jack City meets James Beard Awards. I started to think, if all these people can eat it so can I. Restricting my instinct to inhale, I brought another spoonful to my mouth. It wasn't exactly easy to approach. I used the tip of my tongue to grab the top layer of powder a bit at a time, which made me look like a very large and clumsy cat drinking milk. Eventually I made it to the corn layer, which was worth the effort. The freeze drying concentrates the flavor making it taste along the lines of Cope's sweet dried corn, and the rest of the ingredients did indeed give the overall impression of Latin street food. I'm glad I persevered.

Nathan M. then gave about a 45-minute presentation about Modernist Cuisine. The guy has been on a PR death march this week but seemed entirely energetic. I made a very short cell-phone video for anyone who's interested in seeing him in action.

He also gave eGullet a shout out, which was kind.

After the talk, we were invited upstairs for a tasting of eight modernist dishes. The dishes were spread around four of the ICE kitchens, and the crowds were dense, so I needed to strategize. I also got some photos, albeit not quite up to the standard of Modernist Cuisine, or any other published book ever for that matter.

The corn/powder thing was upstairs as well, leaving seven new dishes to try. I thought every dish save one was superb.

Oyster cocktail, consisting of a "cryoshucked' (dipped in liquid nitrogen for 30 seconds to facilitate shucking) Kusshi oyster dressed with centrifuged pear juice flavored with yuzu, white soy and honey vinegar. Topped with hazelnut oil they made themselves, lime droplets and shaved foie gras. It was off-the-charts refreshing, with all flavors preserved in their entirety.

IMG_20110323_224153.jpg

Caramelized carrot soup topped with roasted-coconut ice cream foam and chaat masala. This is actually a dish a normal person can make without too much trouble. The soup requires only a pressure cooker and blender. The foam is a little more complex, requiring an iSi unit and perhaps a water bath, but the soup alone would make for a nice dish.

IMG_20110323_223427.jpg

IMG_20110323_231045.jpg

Polenta with marinara. "Creamiest polenta ever," was what several tasters said. It's so trite I didn't want to say it here, but it was indeed the creamiest polenta ever. The "marinara," by the way, was made from strawberries.

IMG_20110323_223305.jpg

I think this was my second-favorite dish, after...

...Pastrami and sauerkraut. I had Nathan's pastrami earlier this week at the Modernist Cuisine breakfast at Jean Georges. I can't believe a gentile from Seattle has improved pastrami. I'm pretty passionate about deli meats and Nathan's pastrami puts all others to shame. It is also a resounding demonstration of the thicker-is-better principle of pastrami, taken to its logical extreme. I sent Nathan an email in the middle of the night asking what cut of meat he used. I figured he'd reply during his next free minute some time in 2019. But at 6:04am he wrote to say short ribs. Now I'm looking at the written description of the dish and it says short ribs. I hate wasting people's time. Then again eGullet has taken so much of Nathan's time that an extra 30 seconds isn't exactly going to tip the scales.

IMG_20110323_224903.jpg

Goat-milk ricotta with centrifuged pea puree. The pea puree was particularly nice, made from pea juice and pea "fat." Also pickled lemons, cinnamon, walnuts and pea-butter toast.

IMG_20110323_225116.jpg

Which brings us to the mushroom omelet, which I had on Monday and Wednesday this week. On Monday I said I had a quibble with the texture of the "striped omelet" layer -- too rubbery -- and the same day Ed Levine wrote that he thought it was overcooked. The thing is, when you use modernist techniques, pretty much nothing is ever overcooked. In re-tasting on Wednesday I still found the striped omelet to have a gelatinous texture that I didn't like.

IMG_20110323_224131.jpg

I figured I'd give it one more try, so about a half hour later I had another omelet from a different batch. I still didn't like the texture. It's a visually stunning dish, and the egg and mushroom base is great, but I just don't get that top layer.

Finally, pistachio gelato. This was pure frozen pistachio stuff (plus sugar and an emulsifier). In other words, no dairy or egg at all. Yet it was as delicious as the equivalent flavor from Grom. A very impressive demonstration of technique.

IMG_20110323_224514.jpg

It was after I made it through and checked off every dish...

IMG_20110323_230338.jpg

...that I decided to re-sample the mushroom omelet, after which I grabbed another piece of pastrami. Then, looking at my list, I realized I was only six items away from trying every dish twice. So I re-entered the fray and made it through the list again.

I apologize for having no photos of Nathan. He moves so fast he's always beyond the shutter speed of a regular camera.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Then, looking at my list, I realized I was only six items away from trying every dish twice. So I persevered and made it through the list again.

I'm torn between spending the next 20 minutes banging my head against my desk as a I bemoan my lack of the book and wonder what all those dishes would do to my awaiting palate and despising you for being surrounded by food and attractive women.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polenta is toasted in butter and then pressure-cooked (8 minutes at 15 bar psi).

ETA: The cooking liquid in the polenta is clarified corn juice, and it's actually pressure-cooked in a retort pouch.

Edited again: should read "15 psi" not "15 bar"

Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks. Do you have a sense of how others reacted to the omelet?

It was universally loved.

(Correction: it was Kenji not Ed from Serious Eats who thought the omelet was overcooked on Monday.)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The notecard next to the dish said: "The grits are combined with water and corn juice. They are then vacuum sealed and pressure-cooked for nine minutes."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that write up, Steven. On the "Today" show segment the other day, Nathan demoed the omelette. It was very easy to just SEE it had that rubbery "fruit leather" type of texture to it. And he demoed the pistachio gelato. Used a fancy machine called an "emulsifier" to mix it up. He also made note of calling it "vegan". Was it describe as such at the event?

That pistachio gelato seems to be a good demonstration of "modernist" It's taking a common dish, then focusing on the key flavor and making it taste more like that. Strip everything away in the traditional version that gets in the way of that flavor. Like the milk/cream in this case. That dilutes the taste of the pistachio The mac and cheese everyone is making is the same thing. The bachemel one would use to make a traditional cheese sauce gets in the way of the cheese flavor.

That oytster dish sounds amazing. But does dunking an oyster in liquid nitorgen really do anything other than making it easier to open? I mean, an experienced oyster shucker can open one in WAY less time than 30 seconds.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And he demoed the pistachio gelato. Used a fancy machine called an "emulsifier" to mix it up. He also made note of calling it "vegan". Was it describe as such at the event?

It was described as "dairy-free, egg-free."

But does dunking an oyster in liquid nitorgen really do anything other than making it easier to open?

It makes it really cold.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone have experience with the Electrolux Plug & Cook Mini Combi Oven? This looks like it would be a handy (but expensive) way to cook some of the recipes in MC.

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And he demoed the pistachio gelato. Used a fancy machine called an "emulsifier" to mix it up. He also made note of calling it "vegan". Was it describe as such at the event?

It was described as "dairy-free, egg-free."

Yes, they use fat elements from pistachios themselves in place of any milkfat or egg. So it is truly vegan by standard definitions. Can't swear that there are absolutely no animals involved in the production of all elements at any stage, since you can't even say that about most vegan food, but for all practical purposes, it's definitely vegan. And still yummy...who woulda thunk.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the report and photos! Next time bring a big cooler with dry ice, so you can collect samples for the rest of us! :laugh:

I'm really looking forward to the books. That the index is only in one book is a bummer, I'll print and bind the online version to have handy then. Actually even better than having it in the back of the book(s) and if it gets dirty I'll just print a new one :-)

But I'm also curious, are most of the recipes for this kind of micro food? I love it, but I can't see myself spending hours in the kitchen and ending up with a spoon full of something or other. That's why I go to restaurants, so others do that for me. Well, I've only had a few of these dinners, top of the line at the French Laundry, and very very good at Manresa and Terra. But I need to feed a family, not rich people or food fanatics :wink:

the mac&cheese is a good sign that there are family friendly dishes in there, how would you say things balance out in total? Mostly extreme/fine dining food, a good balance between extreme and doable, more doable than extreme? Just curious, I'll get the books any way, just as I have the big Big Fat Duck book and the small version, I can't control myself in that regard :cool:

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

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone have experience with the Electrolux Plug & Cook Mini Combi Oven? This looks like it would be a handy (but expensive) way to cook some of the recipes in MC.

It's 230 volts though so you can't just plug it in to the wall.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tonight I made another vegetable side dish using the "Best Bets for Cooking Vegetables Sous Vide Until Tender" on p. 6•139 (which is an incredibly useful table, by the way). Tonight was rutabagas, bagged up with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt, cooked for an hour at 85°C/185°F: they were awesome. Who even knew a rutabaga could be awesome?

Sous vide rutabaga.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polenta is toasted in butter and then pressure-cooked (8 minutes at 15 bar).

ETA: The cooking liquid in the polenta is clarified corn juice, and it's actually pressure-cooked in a retort pouch.

Is that bar? 15bar is a lot.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone have experience with the Electrolux Plug & Cook Mini Combi Oven? This looks like it would be a handy (but expensive) way to cook some of the recipes in MC.

It's 230 volts though so you can't just plug it in to the wall.

Oops - I stand corrected - I must have been looking at a european web site - looks like it's 120V in North America.

In which case it should work!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polenta is toasted in butter and then pressure-cooked (8 minutes at 15 bar).

ETA: The cooking liquid in the polenta is clarified corn juice, and it's actually pressure-cooked in a retort pouch.

Is that bar? 15bar is a lot.

lol, yeah, a LOT is right! No, it's 1 bar, 15psi. Sorry, transcriber error.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tonight I made another vegetable side dish using the "Best Bets for Cooking Vegetables Sous Vide Until Tender" on p. 6•139 (which is an incredibly useful table, by the way). Tonight was rutabagas, bagged up with a knob of butter and a pinch of salt, cooked for an hour at 85°C/185°F: they were awesome. Who even knew a rutabaga could be awesome?

I knew a rutabaga could be awesome! One of my favorite root vegetables, at least once I learned how to cook them. I roast mine with olive oil and a tiny bit of maple syrup, and they're incredible. I'll try this recipe and let you know what I think, as I'm live in the land of rutabagas.

For the record, I grew up with mind-blowingly dull bitter mashed rutabagas. So I understand why people don't like them. But prepared correctly, they are wonderful.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The polenta is toasted in butter and then pressure-cooked (8 minutes at 15 bar psi).

ETA: The cooking liquid in the polenta is clarified corn juice, and it's actually pressure-cooked in a retort pouch.

Edited again: should read "15 psi" not "15 bar"

What the heck is a "retort pouch"?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A vacuum bag that can withstand the high temps of a pressure cooker. They are generally thicker material than standard vacuum bags, and require better sealers.

My waterbath has stopped heating up recently, but I already had a batch of duck legs cured and vacuum packed, and since my pressure cooker is the largest cooking vessel I had, I decided I would cook them inside that but with the lid just loosely placed on.

The bag burst pretty quickly and I ended up eating poached duck legs :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A vacuum bag that can withstand the high temps of a pressure cooker. They are generally thicker material than standard vacuum bags, and require better sealers.

So, you do "sous vide" but in a pressure cooker instead of a water bath?? Do you just use water in the pressure cooker?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

  • Similar Content

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...