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.

Chris Amirault

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)

Recommended Posts

The promised photos. First, a shot of the potatoes in the FoodSaver bags. They were all trimmed square; if I had been thinking, I would have grated the trim for hash browns at lunch. As I mentioned above, no water in the bags:

DSC00006.JPG

A note to the SVS owners: those bags were just barely too big for the SVS, so I had to get two long skewers, poke holes in the top of the bags, and let them sit slightly diagonally from the top. I learned the hard way that big bags lying flat are a nightmare for the temperature controls on the SVS for all obvious reasons.

Meanewhile, here are the steaks getting ready for the smoker along with some other items:

DSC00003.JPG

Post-cold smoke (~2h of apple smoke; never got about 50F in the smoker) and trimmed. I am seriously looking forward to using that smoked fat somehow:

DSC00007.JPG

I was working quickly -- the steaks were a bit warmer than I'd like -- and I got them into their bags with some black pepper, Aleppo pepper, kosher salt, and a knob of rendered beef fat:

DSC00012.JPG

Into my high-tech, super-expensive ice bath:

DSC00015.JPG

As I mentioned above, I SVed them at 56C, which was a bit warmer than I'd have liked for the steaks, but I was thinking about our guests. Here they are getting their last marks on a screaming hot grill that I'd sprayed with high-heat Pam:

DSC00018.JPG


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We love our centerfuge, but it is not really required for any recipe. You can use other methods to separate solids - the book has many alternatives that are much less expensive. The point of a centerfuge is to separate food by density - usually taking solid particles out of a liquid to clarify it. While this is a wonderful thing to do for presentation, it usually can be bypassed.

One can also do without a colloid mill. It is perfect for grinding things into a super smooth paste - such as nut butters. As the post above says, very high quality commercial nut pastes will work as an alternative.

The same thing is true for most of the cool equipment we use.

Our rotor stator homogenizer is our second favorite tool after the centerfuge. They are expensive but I predict people will offer kitchen models in the future that are MUCH cheaper. It shouldn't cost any more than a good blender.

A good commercial blender, like Vitamix or Blendtec, and/or for some recipes a hand blender like Baumix, will subsitute most of the time.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our rotor stator homogenizer is our second favorite tool after the centerfuge. They are expensive but I predict people will offer kitchen models in the future that are MUCH cheaper. It shouldn't cost any more than a good blender.

What do you use it for? Not prime rib PCR, I hope.

You can buy a rotor-stator homogenizer probe that affixes to a Dremel tool. Too bad they cost $500+. Maybe Harbor Freight can make a $10 knock-off.


Edited by emannths (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As promised, my second foray into cooking from the book is a repeat of the first. Having worked out all the procedural variables and substituted where appropriate, I decided to do a "cheffy" version of the dish.

Here is the result:

Modernist cuisine tagine.jpg

This time I used poussin rather than chicken and made the plate less crowded [although on eating, more of the food was added ;) ].

Also, I was building a computer today and forgot to do the flatbread (bows head in shame); the bread is store-bought "Turkish bread."

The recipes are achievable with a bit of substitution. As for last time, the flavour and texture combinations were delicious. When you get the book, please try the plated recipes out rather than making this one of the best recipe books that you have not cooked from. The dishes really are special.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are several new articles about the cookbook and the dinners we have been doing for chefs and others in the food business.

Here are comments by Michael Laiskonis, Kenji Alt-Lopez, and two articles by Katy McLaughlin, one about the dinner, and one about the book.

These articles have pictures of dishes from the book, but the other interesting thing is that they have comments on what people thought of how the dishes taste.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nathan

What a lovely experience you gave your guests. I had read Katy McLaughlin's WSJ articles yesterday and found them most enjoyable to read...almost like being there. I especially enjoyed her run down of each of the 30 courses. When my copy of Modernist Cuisine arrives, I hope to be able to attempt some of the dishes you presented and others like such as those Chris and Nickrey offered in this topic.

A quick question, if I may? I am intrigued by the 'pea butter' and would like to attempt it at some time. I know one of your pieces of equipment is the refrigerated centrifuge. While I am never one to shy from my tendency to overbuy equipment for my kitchen, I do not need to make production scale quantities. In researching other centrifuges besides the Sorvall you have in your kitchen, I find they have what seem to be small vessels, probably not not a good size for preparing something for four to six people. Do you recommend certain specs for such machines or do I need to scale up? Further, I want a machine that is safe and won't disintegrate when spun up. One last question, what is your opinion of hand-held rotor-stator homogenizers? What stator size is most useful?


Edited by JBailey (log)

"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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm doing a few different things today that are influenced in part by the MC book. One is smoking a few things, and bc of the book's discussion of wet-bulb temperatures I've got the hygrometer in there, trying to maintain a humidity around 65%.

The main thing that I'm doing is using a new fresh pasta recipe. For years I have used the recipe in the eGCI course:

400g ‘00’ flour

4 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

pinch of salt

The fresh pasta recipe in MC (3-381) is designed "to replicate the appealing al dente texture that comes from classic dried Italian pasta." The one I'm using -- at 3x 100% -- is:

100 g '00' flour (100%)

1 g xanthan gum

2.5 g salt

9 g water

56.7 g egg yolk

10.7 g oil

Yes, that's xanthan gum in there, listed in the "best bets" parametric recipe table as a "texturing agent." 170g of egg yolks is about 9 yolks; I used olive oil and an unsalted shrimp & artichoke stock for the water.

I've just taken a break from kneading, as this is a much stiffer dough than I'm used to. More, later, with results.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Intriguing, Chris - looking forward to seeing the results.

Noting your comment on the stiffness; would it work satisfactorily in a mixer with a dough hook, would you think?


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm on strict orders not to use the KitchenAid for pasta dough -- the second KitchenAid, that is. The one that makes a screeching noise? That one I can use. :wink:

Seriously, though, I enjoy kneading dough and rarely use the old KA for that task, saving it for the rolling and cutting into fettuccine. I don't know how it'd work.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris, is there any discussion of using different types of flour when making pasta? When I want a firmer pasta, I use durum/semolina flour rather than the '00' flour. The dough is definitely stiffer and is harder to knead. If you've ever used it before, I'd be curious as to whether the use of the xantham gum gives you the same effect--or how it differs.



Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Flour, salt, and xanthan gum whisked and holding the yolk mixture:

DSC00003.JPG

Though the dough was, as I noted above, quite stiff, it was very workable once I started rolling and cutting it -- remarkably easy, in fact. I had planned to make farfalle but decided to cut it into fettuccine instead. The nests didn't clot up at all while sitting in the kitchen for an hour while I finished prep:

DSC00004.JPG

One thing I wanted to try was a little trick I saw somewhere for the 65C eggs:

DSC00008.JPG

Those went into the Sous Vide Supreme while I got the water boiling and the rest of the ingredients prepared. The finished dish was fettuccine with leftovers, but pretty tasty ones: artichoke hearts, Maine shrimp, asparagus tips, shallot rings, bacon chips, and a simple butter sauce:

DSC00011.JPG

Egg was great -- though my daughter thought the white too runny and turned her nose up at it. Not mom and dad, who loved it.

The verdict on the pasta? A qualified hit. When I drained the pasta into the collander, it was truly an excellent texture, as promised much more al dente than my usual fresh pasta recipe, both more toothy and tender and less rubbery. (I will add that a slight rubberiness in egg pasta is appealing to me.) However, by the time we sat down to eat it, it had been sauced in a sauté pan, and that seemed to take away some of the toothiness. I think that next time I'd cut back on the cooking time, which was, I dunno, maybe 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, after a long day of cold-smoking, I have a brisket in the SVS starting an MC-suggested 72h bath at 63C. Eager to see what that's like on Wednesday night.


Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris, is there any discussion of using different types of flour when making pasta? When I want a firmer pasta, I use durum/semolina flour rather than the '00' flour. The dough is definitely stiffer and is harder to knead. If you've ever used it before, I'd be curious as to whether the use of the xantham gum gives you the same effect--or how it differs.

First, yes, the parametric tables for pasta feature other flours, including '00', semolina, buckwheat, rice flour, alkaline ramen, and cocoa tajarin.

Second, I've made semolina before and this dough is similarly tough at first. But when I was folding and rolling and cutting, it became both smoother and firmer than the usual '00' dough, meaning that it was remarkably easy to cut and pile into nests. No need to hang, that is -- a real plus in my book. For that reason, I think it may become my go-to long pasta recipe.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, it's a small percentage, but that stuff is some crazy gum powder. I've been using gum arabic for a while (a crucial cocktail syrup ingredient) but just cracked into the Bob's Red Mill xanthan package recently. Little goes a very long way....


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is so true about xanthan. I misplaced a decimal once, and ended up thickening a sauce with 1% xanthan rather than 0.1%. The resulting texture is not one I would care to experience again.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm on strict orders not to use the KitchenAid for pasta dough -- the second KitchenAid, that is. The one that makes a screeching noise? That one I can use. :wink:

I popped a KA with Pasta dough with semolina (about 25%). Killed it dead. Had it repaired. A few flour only pastas later, I damaged a gear .. it mostly works now, but does tend to screech as you say. Now I make pasta down in the FP, which works much better.

For the money, the KA could be much better made. Or maybe it is for a little more money; I dunno, but I do know I am disappointed in the robustness of it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you tried the Hobart N50? It is a geared transmission with three speeds. To change speeds you shut off the motor and then switch into the next desired gear. Very, very heavy duty. The KA was a spin-off from Hobart.

Also, you may want to research MagicMill. They are very good for large quantities of bread dough, but I have not used it for pasta. Again, a durable machine.


"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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One item from Modernist Cuisine that really stuck with me was the famous finding that duck confit doesn't need to be cooked fully submerged in fat. I've been dying to see the recipe for confit that ended up being published, and when I got access to the online review copy, it was one of the first things I looked up.

Essentially, it's a basic sous vide confit, but since I've never done duck confit sous vide before, I thought it would be a good place to start. (Until recently, I couldn't get duck legs unless I bought the rest of the duck, too. I still have four frozen duck carcasses to turn into stock from the last time I made confit. I'm thinking they'll end up in the pressure cooker, once it arrives.)

Anyway, I started off by mixing up the cure:

Cure for Poultry.jpg

I made only a small batch - enough for the four duck legs I had. Some of the spices are in such small quantities, though, that I had to use my precision scale to measure them out. I'm not sure all the flavours came through in the end, but they were competing with a lot, as you'll see.

Next, the duck legs get vacuum sealed with the cure for 10 hours.

Duck in Cure.jpg

Then they're unsealed, rinsed and patted dry. Because I misread the recipe, this happened at night. I thought the next step was to cook them for 12 hours, but it turned out to be only 8, so instead of staying up late or getting up early, I just let them hang out in the fridge overnight, then sealed them with duck fat and put them in the water bath the next morning.

After 8 hours at 82 degrees, followed by a quick dip in an ice bath, they looked more or less like this:

Sous vide duck confit.jpg

That jelly you can see in the bag? That stuff has the texture of a superball.

The recipe calls for the legs to be reheated in a water bath, then crisped in a frying pan and served with potatoes that are also cooked in a water bath with duck fat, but I had bigger and better plans. I'm not sure how "authentic" my cassoulet was, but it was darn tasty!

Cassoulet.jpg

Anyway, this is now officially my go-to recipe for duck confit. It was far and away the best I've ever made or eaten. The texture was perfect, and the flavour (despite having to compete with all the other flavours in the dish) was great. And honestly, aside from mixing the cure, which can be done in bulk, I found this process considerably easier and less messy than a traditional confit.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Uh... I hacked it together? Basically, I made the confit, made some garlic sausage patties, cooked the beans with some unsmoked bacon (the savory cure from Charcuterie) and aromatics, then layered it all in a pot, along with some onions and some roasted, previously frozen Roma tomatoes, and topped with bread crumbs. That's pretty much all cassoulet is, right? The cooking liquid at the final stage was the drained cooking liquid from the beans along with that wonderful jelly from the confit, plus a little bit of white wine that I reduced first.

Actually, about that wine. For some reason, I decided to go out on a limb and buy a locally produced Aligoté. I've had Aligoté maybe once before in my life, but it was among the better wine matches I've ever served. It just made all the flavours pop. Home run.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Out of curiosity, I googled "DIY centrifuge" to see what came up. I had visions of sticking a cordless drill into the middle of a lazy susan...

A number of links came up, but most interesting was the "Dremelfuge", which can apparently go up to 33,000 RPM for about $50. I already have a dremel, and I've been fascinated by the concept of "pea butter" which was on one of the videos on the Modernist Cuisine website, and $50 doesn't sound like that much...

Other DIY centrifuges that Google found included one that used to be a hand-cranked cream-seperator, one made from a salad spinner (total cost - $30!), and one that used to be a washing machine... the salad-spinner one looks very simple and relatively safe, not to mention cheap.

Anyway, food for thought...

Tempting, but be careful. It would take a machinist to make a centrifuge that wouldn't self-destruct at 30K rpm. Balance is everything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cribbed the pasta recipe from Chris's post for my Valentines day feast and it was awesome. I took the advice on cooking time and only boiled for two minutes. The noodles are amazing. They don't stick together at all and have a wonderful bite. And thats making them with bread flour instead of 00 semolina, too. I did have a little trouble with the first roll out, though. I used the instructions from Marcella and rolled, folded into thirds and rolled again, but when I tried to roll after the second folding, the dough wouldn't go through. In fact, it tore as I pushed it into the rollers. I learned my lesson after this happened on two of the six balls of dough, and I was able to salvage the two folded ones, but it was a curious incident. Do the instructions for rolling pasta in MC differ from typical recipes much?

Also, are there any tips on making pesto? I find that pesto made in the mortar has a much more satisfying flavor (delicious herb paste) than the food processor (chopped up bits of leaf), but I don't always want the arm workout that pounding basil provides. Is there a new, whiz-bang way of making pesto in the book?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Tried the pasta myself last night, in rather a hurry and based only on the list of ingredients Chris published above. I didn't do anything special; just mixed everything, gave it a good kneading then into the fridge for half an hour or so, until I needed it. Because I was rushed I didn't even roll it out before feeding it into the pasta machine - just squashed it between my hands. By about the third thickness setting it was starting to look very nice and smooth, and reached perfection on the last two. I rolled it in three batches and was delighted to find the sheets I'd already done didn't stick to each other while I did the others.

When cooked, it was delicate in the mouth but pretty robust when being manhandled out of the pot. Very good mouth feel, as others have commented. This one goes onto the 'worth doing again' list.


Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Similar Content

    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      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
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...