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Chris Amirault

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)

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OK if by "bitter" he means "Seville" then I would just use half the amount of regular orange zest, because it is more acidic/strongly citrus flavored than Seville orange zest.

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It all looks fun but, it just is funny to me to see people without solid foundation jump to the next level of cooking.

Does that mean you make the cooks under you cook over a wood stove before you let them near the gas burners? Or make all their purees with a food mill before you let them use the blender?

There is some sense to learning foundations of cooking before trying advanced techniques that draw on more basic skills. But sometimes technology takes a quantum leap forward, and the old techniques simply become obsolete - in other words, sometimes, the foundations, the points of reference, change.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I have a question regarding the Risotto parametric table that was just released. For Pressure Cooking, or Boiling for that matter, do you not add oil, onion and then stir in the rice before adding the liquid? It sounds like that is skipped but wondering if it was done to simplify the chart? Also, it says to use water as the liquid for the parcook - is it better / possible to use stock in this step or should it only be done with water?

rg

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Chris,

I was wondering--I don't have a preview copy--does it say if the Angelica Root is fresh or dried? Is dried OK?

It says "Angelica Root, sliced" which I was assuming meant fresh, but I don't know that for certain. It's a bit player in a brine, so it may work fine with dried.

I'm rethinking this plan: I had intended to basically "part out" the pork tenderloin section of the Choucroute Royale recipe, but on reading the whole thing every component sounds fantastic. I'm thinking I might start some sauerkraut tomorrow (takes two weeks to make by the recipe in the book). I started the "Aromatic Alsatian Mustard" today, that takes a week but can be held longer. The other components are quicker, though I'm not going to be able to get my hands on pork cheek either, I'll have to sub in something else. Any suggestions there?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm not going to be able to get my hands on pork cheek either, I'll have to sub in something else. Any suggestions there?

Belly?


 

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Belly might work: based on the photo it looks like the pork cheek they mean is just the nugget of meat in the jowl, though, not the whole thing, so I guess I'd have to trim the belly up to get something similar.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm not going to be able to get my hands on pork cheek either, I'll have to sub in something else. Any suggestions there?

I live in a very remote area of the Pacific Northwest. The closest city with a population of more than 10K ppl is more than 100 miles away. We have 2 grocery stores within 30 miles, Safeway and Fred Meyer's. I was looking for pork belly, there was none to be had, but the guy at the meat counter had some pork cheeks kryovac'ed. I was so surprised. If my regular everyday grocery has it, maybe yours could get it for you in time?

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. . . I'm not going to be able to get my hands on pork cheek either, I'll have to sub in something else. Any suggestions there?

I think if you got some decently sized hocks, you could either trim out the meat and treat the larger pieces like cheek, or adjust the smoking and cooking times to accommodate hocks, then harvest the meat.

Speaking of smoking, the recipe says 7C/45F at 50% relative humidity for 24 hours. Are you going to attempt that, Chris, and if so, how?


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I haven't decided whether to cold smoke or hot smoke: I'd like to go cold, but my rig is no longer set up for it so I'll have to improvise. Might pick up a soldering iron and go that route.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I read in a number of places about MC's workaround for not having a proper brick oven to cook pizza, consisting of putting a 1/4 inch-thick steel sheet and using it instead of a stone. Two questions about that: any steel will do it? would it work for baking bread?

Although I don't have access to the book anymore, I read that section with interest. Let's see how good my recall is...

The reason that ovens retain heat is because the sides of the oven heat up. The air in the oven is mainly incidental and will heat up fairly rapidly when the door is shut. Hence opening and closing the door causes less damage than most would think (eg. in the questions about basting).

Using a sheet of metal means that you add another source that effectively absorbs and radiates heat, thus making the heat sources in the oven more stable. So in answer to your specific questions: any steel should do as long as it can store and release heat. Secondly, it should be good for bread because of its contribution to the overall heat profile within the oven.

Nick's memory is excellent. :wink:

They recommend a piece of steel or aluminum (the latter is much lighter, of course) that is 2 cm -- that is to say, 3/4 in, not 1/4 in -- thick.

A 30" x 30" steel plate would be about 200 lbs.

I don't see how steel plate can be a substitude for brick. They have completely different thermal properties.

dcarch


Edited by dcarch (log)

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Mac and Cheese (p. 3-387)

No, this isn't some kind of play on words, or a joke-recipe, or some kind of fascinating modernist creation. It's just macaroni and cheese. This recipe is a clear demonstration that while you can use modernist ingredients to create some really crazy stuff, you can also apply them to simply take a classic dish and make it better. And believe me when I say it: this version of mac and cheese is so vastly, clearly superior to anything I've ever had it is mind boggling.

There are two keys to the dish, both related to problems with the original: the first is that when you make a cheese sauce with a bechamel base, you have to use a LOT of bechamel, and there is a limit to how much cheese you can add before it breaks. This winds up diluting the cheese flavor, and is part of the reason I would never consider making a traditional mac and cheese with a really great cheese: its subtlety would simply be lost, and you'd gain nothing over using a simpler cheese. The second key is that not only does bechamel dilute the cheese flavor purely by volume, it also has poor "flavor release" compared to, say, carageenan: the book spends a great deal of time talking about this sort of thing, and it's very helpful for understanding why these techniques work as well as they do.

So, the modernist version of the dish does away with the bechamel base: instead, you make a small amount of a solution of beer, water, sodium citrate (to emulsify the cheese) and carrageenan (the thicken the sauce). You then melt a huge quantity of excellent cheese into it (I used Cabot clothbound cheddar and Roomano Pradera Gouda), in effect making your own processed cheese block. You chill it down until you literally have a block of processed cheese more or less the consistency of Velveeta, and then you shred it. The pasta is cooked in just enough water for it to absorb, and then the shredded cheese product is stirred in. You wind up with a mac and cheese the same texture as if you had used Velveeta: perfectly, flawlessly smooth. Except it tastes incredibly intensely like the best cheeses in the world! Perhaps you have gathered here that I rather liked the stuff. If this is "Modernist" then consider me modernified. Sort of. I did serve it with dry-fried chicken and steamed broccoli...

gallery_56799_5925_112393.jpg

This looks awesome. I'm wondering if the "processed" cheese can be stored in the fridge for weeks like regular cheese...that way mac and cheese is only a pot of boiling water away...

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Mine didn't last long enough to test: I used some on the second day and the rest on the third, both times with identical results to day 1. So it does hold for a little while anyway. It has a higher water content than just cheese, but I am not sure of the preservative effects of the salts.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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So, I'm making (or should I say, "attempting to make") the "Aromatic Alsatian Mustard". Nothing Modernist-y here, it's just mustard. But I realized after blending it that I may have misunderstood the intent of the instructions, so if I could get your take on this:

1) Blanch mustard seeds

2) Combine seeds with vinegar

3) Soak for 12h

4) Combine soaked mustard seeds with other ingredients and process

In step four, do you interpret that to mean "drain mustard seeds and combine seeds only"? Or "combine seeds/vinegar mix"? I simply assumed that, given the very precise quantity of vinegar called for (none of the "to cover" stuff), and given that there is a step for combining the vinegar and mustard seed, that if they had wanted them drained they would have said so. But I'm having second thoughts: the mustard came out of the food processor pretty thin. Any advice?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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nathanm -

With regards to the the pizza method posting...

I am excited to try this method out because I have spent a lot of time trying make pizzas in my home oven that replicate a brick oven.

I tracked down a local steel fabricator and they were concerned with steel and food safety. After much discussion we decided that we need to use T316 stainless steel to create the steel rack for the oven, but they still weren't really able to answer if T316 was safe to 550 degrees in an oven.

Is T316 the correct type of steel to use? Is it oven safe to 550 degrees? What did you use in your tests?

Thanks.


Edited by b-ry (log)

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Is Aluminum going to be ok and is there a specific type/grade I should be looking for? A buddy of mine has a CNC shop and a 3/4 inch aluminum sheet that fits my oven will run around $100 but I'm going to wait for some results, and the book to see the specifics, before I make a decision.

rg

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      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
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      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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