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eG Foodblog: Chris Hennes (2012) - Chocolate, Tamales, Modernism, etc.


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I am 100% with you... Focacia Rolls & Ciabatta Rolls on burgers have to rank right up there with Taco Bell abominations at the official Worst Food Ideas Hall of Shame

100% here as well. A like a bun that isn't so soft it disintegrates in the drippings though, but Focacia is just a burger train wreck of embarrassing proportions. Can't wait for this "great idea" to pass.

Another tip is that at restaurants, I always set it to a 1 second delay. That way, you can remove your finger and the camera will be rock steady the entire time.

Terrific IDEA!! I'm with Chris in believing photo efforts (NEVER use flash) detract from your restaurant experience, but with some adequate prep and practice, Shalmanese's method is the ticket

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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OK, getting started on the Bolognese for tomorrow's lasagna.

I start by gently rendering some pancetta:

Rendered pancetta.jpg

While that renders, dice the vegetables:

Mirepoix.jpg

Those get slowly cooked until they start to soften, then garlic is added and the heat increased:

Garlic added.jpg

I add some tomato paste and cook it a bit to darken it, then deglaze the pan with dry vermouth:

Deglazed.jpg

Then I add the meat: in this case I used a meatloaf mix of 50% beef, 25% pork, 25% veal. I also add a cup of whole milk. That's on the burner now on low, where it will cook for a couple hours.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Item two on today's agenda was originally just to make some onion juice, since I didn't know how long it would take to filter. It went quickly, however, so this is now just step one towards making onion sugar:

Start with two big sweet onions:

Onions.jpg

I don't have a juicer, so I went with the blender:

Blender 1.jpg

One press of the "whole juice" button:

Blender 2.jpg

After straining it through three successive sieves and then through a coffee filter, I wound up with this:

Strained.jpg

I'm hoping that's clear enough that the onion solids that remain don't burn when I make the caramel, but we will find out soon!

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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OK, so I'm making this Modernist onion sugar, and the instructions call for cooking the syrup at 340°F until a light golden caramel forms. Does anyone make caramel by cooking with the hotplate set at a specific temperature? Does it matter? I've always just cooked to a particular target temp, not cooked at some particular temperature.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Yes, but that's old school. Right up there with 'cook til done'. ;)

At least setting the heat source means you cant exceed the target temp, and that's a good thing in relieving some of the constant attention needed. Maybe the next grand invention will be an oil-sous vide machine, to handle those higher temps.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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In wonder how long it would take to make a caramel setting the heat source to exactly the target temp, though. Don't you think it would take hours to hit that last degree or two? Since my heat source isn't controllable like that I'm ignoring the instruction, of course. Makes me wonder if they actually do it in the MC kitchens, though.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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I don't know if I've achieved a success here or not...

These are the ingredients for the onion sugar:

Onion sugar ingredients.jpg

MC doesn't say specifically how to cook them, just that you are supposed to cook them at 340°F until light golden. Of course, it starts out pretty close to light golden because of the onion juice, so I assumed that they wanted you to cook it to 340°F, which for a normal sugar syrup would be a light to medium caramel.

Starting onion sugar.jpg

Boiling syrup.jpg

Alas, by the time mine reached 340°F, it was well past "light golden brown":

Onion glass.jpg

I suspect I was cooking at too low a temperature and the onion solids cooked too much before the sugars reached the correct temperature. I haven't decided yet whether to start over, or to just use this as-is. It tastes OK, mostly like well-caramelized onions, but it does have that slightly bitter note you get when you take your onions just a touch too far. If it were being used raw I'd leave it alone (I don't mind the slight bitterness, I don't care for sweet food anyway), but it's used as a puff-pastry topping, where it will be baked for about ten minutes. What do you guys think? Keep it, or start over?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I don't know if I've achieved a success here or not...

These are the ingredients for the onion sugar:

Onion sugar ingredients.jpg

MC doesn't say specifically how to cook them, just that you are supposed to cook them at 340°F until light golden. Of course, it starts out pretty close to light golden because of the onion juice, so I assumed that they wanted you to cook it to 340°F, which for a normal sugar syrup would be a light to medium caramel.

Starting onion sugar.jpg

Boiling syrup.jpg

Alas, by the time mine reached 340°F, it was well past "light golden brown":

Onion glass.jpg

I suspect I was cooking at too low a temperature and the onion solids cooked too much before the sugars reached the correct temperature. I haven't decided yet whether to start over, or to just use this as-is. It tastes OK, mostly like well-caramelized onions, but it does have that slightly bitter note you get when you take your onions just a touch too far. If it were being used raw I'd leave it alone (I don't mind the slight bitterness, I don't care for sweet food anyway), but it's used as a puff-pastry topping, where it will be baked for about ten minutes. What do you guys think? Keep it, or start over?

I'd say keep it, especially if you do not think it tastes burnt or bad. Looking forward to the finished dish and to the rest of this blog.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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OK, thanks guys, I'll keep plowing ahead.

Onto the finish of the bolognese: I cooked it until it was relatively dry, then added a bit of nutmeg, a great deal of black pepper, and some salt.

Finished bolognese.jpg

I think that the in-freezer icemaker is among the least-credited and most important home food safety inventions, providing a large volume of ice to quickly and easily chill even relatively large batches of stuff. I love my icemaker.

On ice.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris. All amazing. Love those supermarkets. Very naive I know, but I didn't have the US down as a great place for supermarket produce. Never seen anything like that range in the UK. London has some good places, but it takes 20 minutes to drive a mile there. At least I can show our friends in France it's not just the UK that's awash with needlessly big cars and pick-ups :-)

Anyway I noticed your hob. Is that induction? For someone so into cooking I'm interested as to why you have that over gas?

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Anyway I noticed your hob. Is that induction? For someone so into cooking I'm interested as to why you have that over gas?

It is a straightforward electric smoothtop, and I wouldn't give it up for a gas range if you paid me (well, OK, if you offered enough I might... ). I have cooked on plenty of home gas ranges and am simply not a fan: all this yammering about "responsiveness." Whatever. If I need the heat to go down fast I move the pot off the burner. The electric elements have plenty of power for normal home cooking, and I have a wok burner on the back patio when I need more juice. Ease of cleanup is unparalleled.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Back to my onion sugar. It's now come to room temp and is time to turn the glass into sugar. Into the blender with it:

Onions glass in blender.jpg

Will it blend?

Will it blend.jpg

Um, yes, a bit faster than I expected. So I actually ended up with something closer to powdered sugar than granulated sugar. Hopefully it will still work ok

Onion sugar.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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So the main thing you prefer electric smoothtop is because it's easy to clean? I'm not saying that's not a legitimate reason to prefer electric smoothtop over gas. For me, what I don't like about them is that the cookware has to be perfectly flat or the heat conduction is wonky. I have any number of pans that have curves or raised rims or other quirks that would make them less suitable for a smoothtop. And I've never found (although I imagine they exist) smoothtops that can get a thick pan as screamingly hot as I can over gas. Of course, I don't have the luxury of a high power wok burner (or a backyard to fire one up in, for that matter). And I don't find cleanup of a gas range all that burdensome.

But that's why they make more than one kind: You don't mind having to play "burner hopscotch" in order to quickly regulate heat, I don't mind the way a gas stove cleans up. We both do mind the other thing. :smile:

--

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I haven't read the recipe in MC yet, so I was holding off responding about what to do with the sugar... Basically, are you're making an onion flavored sugar glass that gets powdered and sprinkled on top of something then heated and melted into a thin shell? I do that type of work all the time using the el bulli method of 50% fondant, 25% glucose, 25% isomalt... But I never take it that dark (unless I want a heavily caramelized flavor)... usually, I want the sugar to have a neutral flavor, although sometimes I'll integrate whole spices near the end of cooking the sugar - but I always cook the sugar to hard crack or a very light caramel color - I usually don't check the temp and do it by eye, but I would imagine 340F is too high. Once powdered and sprinkled into a thin shell, the flavor is less intense, so if it's a little bitter, it's probably still ok... I just don't know if they intended to have the maillard flavor as prominent as it would be in yours.

ETA: also - I find it a lot easier to make the powder in a spice grinder as opposed to the blender because I tend not to make that much at one time - once powdered, a little goes a long way.

Edited by KennethT (log)
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So the main thing you prefer electric smoothtop is because it's easy to clean?

[...]

But that's why they make more than one kind: You don't mind having to play "burner hopscotch" in order to quickly regulate heat, I don't mind the way a gas stove cleans up. We both do mind the other thing. :smile:

Exactly. I also appreciate that I can use it as added counter space when necessary, though that's a pretty minor, secondary consideration. I have never found that this unit lacked enough power to get a pan as hot as I wanted, but then again, you and I have very different cooking styles, I think. My ventilation hood couldn't keep up if this stove cranked out any more heat when I am searing things, I smoke up the house pretty well as it is, so I have taken to doing that sort of cooking on the patio: better ventilation (and 65k BTUs, but the only time I have it cranked all the way up is for stir-fries). But obviously I have the luxury of having a patio, wok burner, and fabulous weather, and lack the luxury of decent interior ventilation.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Basically, are you're making an onion flavored sugar glass that gets powdered and sprinkled on top of something then heated and melted into a thin shell?

I think so: I can't quite tell how much it's actually supposed to melt, it's not in the oven very long. All told it's not really that critical an element: the entire pastry piece is a garnish.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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So the main thing you prefer electric smoothtop is because it's easy to clean?

[...]

But that's why they make more than one kind: You don't mind having to play "burner hopscotch" in order to quickly regulate heat, I don't mind the way a gas stove cleans up. We both do mind the other thing. :smile:

Exactly. I also appreciate that I can use it as added counter space when necessary, though that's a pretty minor, secondary consideration. I have never found that this unit lacked enough power to get a pan as hot as I wanted, but then again, you and I have very different cooking styles, I think. My ventilation hood couldn't keep up if this stove cranked out any more heat when I am searing things, I smoke up the house pretty well as it is, so I have taken to doing that sort of cooking on the patio: better ventilation (and 65k BTUs, but the only time I have it cranked all the way up is for stir-fries). But obviously I have the luxury of having a patio, wok burner, and fabulous weather, and lack the luxury of decent interior ventilation.

Yeah, I'm with Sam on this one. I do not like those smooth tops at all and much prefer my gas top. Maybe it's a partially a romantic aesthetic notion but I love the look of the flame in addition to the pros that Sam mentioned.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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ok - a lot of times, I'll make sugar glass tuiles like that with a similar procedure, except you sift onto a silpat then put in a hot oven for about 30 seconds until the sugar remelts. You're right - garnishes aren't critical, but I'm often surprised at how much of a difference they'll make in people's perceptions - like what would take a really well done home cooked dish to the level of "wow, I feel like I"m in a restaurant"... seems to me that lots of times, the difference is in the little components/garnishes.

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No argument here about the importance of the garnish to the dish overall: it's going to be there. But the sugar itself is a small component of that garnish, and if the garnish itself isn't flawless, it's not the end of the world. If I screw up the gruyere custard I'd have to toss it and start again. A small mistake in the garnish, however, is something I can tolerate on my first run through the dish.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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So the main thing you prefer electric smoothtop is because it's easy to clean?

[...]

But that's why they make more than one kind: You don't mind having to play "burner hopscotch" in order to quickly regulate heat, I don't mind the way a gas stove cleans up. We both do mind the other thing. :smile:

Exactly. I also appreciate that I can use it as added counter space when necessary, though that's a pretty minor, secondary consideration. I have never found that this unit lacked enough power to get a pan as hot as I wanted, but then again, you and I have very different cooking styles, I think. My ventilation hood couldn't keep up if this stove cranked out any more heat when I am searing things, I smoke up the house pretty well as it is, so I have taken to doing that sort of cooking on the patio: better ventilation (and 65k BTUs, but the only time I have it cranked all the way up is for stir-fries). But obviously I have the luxury of having a patio, wok burner, and fabulous weather, and lack the luxury of decent interior ventilation.

Yeah, I'm with Sam on this one. I do not like those smooth tops at all and much prefer my gas top. Maybe it's a partially a romantic aesthetic notion but I love the look of the flame in addition to the pros that Sam mentioned.

Ditto.

I had a smooth one years ago and I couldn't even can on it--burners wouldn't get hot enough to bring the huge pot to a boil.

Love my gas stove :)

But, Chris, I'm glad you like yours. Maybe mine just sucked.

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MC doesn't say specifically how to cook them, just that you are supposed to cook them at 340°F until light golden. Of course, it starts out pretty close to light golden because of the onion juice, so I assumed that they wanted you to cook it to 340°F, which for a normal sugar syrup would be a light to medium caramel.

I don't think you're meant to cook them to 340, You're meant to cook them at 340 until it reaches light caramel which is closer to 320. I imagine that even holding it at 320 is going to make it increasingly bitter over time as the solids start burning which is why you need to reach it relatively quickly and cool it down which is why you can't set the burner at 320. This is just my interpretation.

PS: I am a guy.

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