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Chris Hennes

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (Part 1)

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We've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Modernist Cuisine at Home since it was announced... copies started arriving today, so it's time to start cooking.

My mom's in town for the weekend and wants to try the Apple Cream Pie: it's pretty straightforward, but I do have a question about the Granny Smith apple juice. Lacking a juicer, I have to make the juice the hard way; should I be doing this cold, or can I use one of the juicing techniques that heats the apples?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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That's my plan: in this case it doesn't ever get heated (I don't think). I bought a lot more apples than I think I should need, so I should be good to go.

Another question: I made the browned butter as detailed in the KM p. 37, with 30g of milk solids and 100g of clarified butter...

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Those milk solids look a bit dark to me. Do you think I should have another go at it and pressure-cook for less time? My cooker is huge (it's a pressure canner) so it takes a long time to get up to temp and to cool down, so I was thinking maybe it overcooked the solids during that extra time. Then again, maybe it's just fine...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Moving on to the "Sous vide vanilla-cinnamon pastry cream" (KM p. 180): step one has you preheat a water bath, but steps 2-4 have you heat the ingredients on the stove and then refrigerate for two hours. Is this preheating step just to get ready for the egg yolks that are cooked in step 6?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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very much looking forward to this thread. thanks also for starting 'early' with such detail.

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I don't have the book yet. Will probably buy a little later when the price drops. Latest Food and Wine issue wrote about quick aging steak per MCaH instructions. Three days marinating with fish sauce followed by three days hanging in the fridge wrapped in cheesecloth. Steak tasted OK. There was some fishy smell initially that gradually dissipated as we were eating (or may be we got used to it) but not the best steak that I cooked or tasted. May be I should have rinsed fish sauce after marinating. People with the book: what does the recipe say about rinsing?

120920 004 Cauliflower Steak.JPG

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Flaky pie crust (continued)...

So the pie crust for this apple cream tart is made with half regular butter and half the super-intense browned butter I described above. I tasted the browned butter and it was fine (well, great, actually) so I guess it wasn't overcooked as I had worried. I went ahead and cooked the egg yolks sous vide to prevent shrinkage (an optional step in the recipe):

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Then the flour, almond meal, powdered sugar, salt, baking soda, and butters are combined with the yolks to make a dough:

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This is pressed out and refrigerated:

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It tastes fantastic, incidentally. The browned butter flavor is incredibly intense.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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this is very interesting. I was not able to make many things from the Larger Tomes ( equip., odd stuff., etc)

this so far looks very very do-able.

thanks again for wetting our appetites!

PS is the 'browned butter' you are using just the supernate or a combination of solids and supernate?


Edited by rotuts (log)

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I don't have the book yet. Will probably buy a little later when the price drops. Latest Food and Wine issue wrote about quick aging steak per MCaH instructions. Three days marinating with fish sauce followed by three days hanging in the fridge wrapped in cheesecloth. Steak tasted OK. There was some fishy smell initially that gradually dissipated as we were eating (or may be we got used to it) but not the best steak that I cooked or tasted. May be I should have rinsed fish sauce after marinating. People with the book: what does the recipe say about rinsing?

The steak aging discussion is just a couple sentences as part of a larger discussion of beef: there isn't any further detailed information in MCaH.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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PS is the 'browned butter' you are using just the supernate or a combination of solids and supernate?

The solids are strained out.

I'm pretty sure that I can make almost 100% of the recipes in the book with the equipment I already own (e.g. no rotovap, centrifuge, spray-drier, etc.)


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Pie crust has never been my forte: this recipe was no exception. Precooking the egg yolks to prevent it from shrinking was handy, but could not resist my powers of pie crust destruction. I think it's mostly salvageable, but I'm glad I don't have to serve it at a dinner party just yet. On the plus side, the sous vide custard worked flawlessly and tastes great.

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks for all the details, very interesting to hear.

I also have the power to destroy any pie crust that comes within 10 meters of my presence, so you're not alone!

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Tangentially, pie crust is not my forte, either, but I've had excellent results with the CI recipe for pie crust that replaces a part of the water with vodka; at the risk of being tedious (not many things are more tedious than yet another suggestion for something that consistently crashes and burns on you, but...) have you had any luck with that one?

Yes, but it's a completely different style of crust from this one. And this one tastes better :smile:.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I'm still jealous about that SideKIC Chris. Amazon won't ship it to Canada. I contacted ICAkitchen directly, they can't sell it in Canada yet due to needed regulatory approvals. He said it almost definitely won't happen before the end of the year. Disappointing but that's the way it is. The pie sounds really tasty. I've done brown butter crusts but I'm sure they weren't the same critter as what the MC guys came up with. They didn't involve sous vide equipment. I'm going to get those books one of these years...


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Tri2Cook, I'd say the two major "Modernist" contributions to the pie crust are the use of the intensified brown butter (via the inclusion of extra milk solids in the browning process) and the use of pre-cooked egg yolks to prevent contraction of the crust. Otherwise it's a pretty normal short dough.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Those milk solids look a bit dark to me. Do you think I should have another go at it and pressure-cook for less time? My cooker is huge (it's a pressure canner) so it takes a long time to get up to temp and to cool down, so I was thinking maybe it overcooked the solids during that extra time. Then again, maybe it's just fine...

I think they should be fine. Thats about the level we take it to at work, and like you the first few times I saw it done I thought they had burned it :P

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I'm a curious: how much does a sous vide rig figure into the MCaH recipes? I have $250 in amazon gift certificates and have been wavering on what to get, and this is looking increasingly attractive... but I don't have a sous vide rig. Yet.

I think a sous vide setup and a pressure cooker are going to be mandatory if you really want to get the most out of this book. Almost all of the recipes Ive looked at thus far use one or the other.
Edited by Twyst (log)

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Apple Cream Pie (continued)

This morning I assembled (and ate) the Apple Cream pie. Last night we made the apple foam, which then sat in the fridge overnight.

Will it blend?

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Strained:

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After overnight refrigeration, dispensed onto the pie (whose crust did not appreciate being extracted from the tart pan):

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I was a little surprised at the stability of the foam after slicing. I figured it would run some, but it actually stayed quite neat:

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Overall, the taste was good, in particular the combination of the apple foam, vanilla custard, and brown-butter crust. The general consensus was that next time I should double or even triple the amount of apple foam, which gives a great apple punch as you first take a bite, but is too quickly lost to the custard. I also thought that I should have used fresher cinnamon (and probably actually canela as I'm sure the recipe intended... all I had on hand was some Rancho Gordo Mexican true cinnamon, which is not as intense). Still, everything worked well, and with some tweaking this is a winner.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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This is really interesting, Chris. I have the book on my Christmas wish list and so am enjoying this thread.

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Has anyone who's already gotten the book looked at the chicken wings chapter? I was hoping my copy came in before next weeks game (Broncos vs Pats) but it looks like I might miss that by a few days. I'm curious what their general process for perfect buffalo wings is.

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They don't show a single "perfect" process: there are several different techniques they use to achieve different sorts of results. One is boneless, one is skinless, one is more like the traditional. The specially engineer the "traditional" sauce to be low water content so it doesn't make the wings soggy.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Fresh apple juice and gelatin, mostly (some lime juice, sugar, and salt as well): chilled for four hours and then dispensed from a thermowhip. It held its shape for about a half hour before deflating, so it has to be a last-minute addition to the pie before serving.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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If you kept the pie refrigerated, would the foam still deflate? I'd imagine it deflated at room temp as the gelatin lost its structure. Do they talk about other hydrocolloids in the book, or is their discussion limited to the main, easily obtainable ones? (gelatin, agar, etc.)

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      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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