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.

Fay Jai

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 1)

Recommended Posts

Thanks Nathan,

I think I may stretch the budget and go for the Minipack you so kindly offered a link to.  But that page raised another question.  They have an option of either 2 4mm seals or one mm seal and a cutoff wire.  Would the cutoff wire be used for roll bag applications, not really applicable to sous vide?

The cutoff wire is for roll bags, or for using heat shrink bags. You could use either one for sous vide. However it is not particularly useful.

Meanwhile having double seals can be useful to keep the bag shut. So, I had the option, I'd go for the dual seals.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
New article appearing in the Washington Post....

Sous-vide in Washington DC.

Can't believe Michel Richard is doing almost all of his entree's sous vide!!!

That's pretty intense.


2317/5000

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was a bit surprised because I ate there recently and would not have thought that. But maybe so...

At CityZen, also in DC, it is quite easy to believe, but Citronelle is more classic.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Got my copy of Sous-vide Cuisine on Friday, and I'm ready to start testing with chicken breast.... but........ I found the recipe for Breast of Poulard on page147, and I started staring at the picture on 146.... The morsel of meat in the upper right corner of the picture looks very moist, and I'm ready to go, but the strips that are curled up look rather "raw" to me. Is this another mind over matter learing curve like moving to sushi? I can eat rare meat, and love sushi, but I'm not sure I'm ready for raw looking poultry. Is that the appearance we'll end up with? How do I assure family and friends that it is indeed cooked and safe?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, after discovering that my Lauda MS was defective and finding a Lauda B instead, I was finally ready to do my first sous vide experiment this weekend. I cooked beef short ribs at 60C for 30 hours. The short ribs were not browned before or after. I had trimmed the external fat from the short ribs beforehand, had rendered out the fat and had used the meat scraps and a few of the smallest bones to make around a quarter cup of super-concentrated beef stock. Both were frozen and added to the bag with the short ribs before I sealed it. Here is the result:

gallery_8505_1885_16986.jpg

I made a sauce out of the defatted liquid from the bags. This tasted much more like a gravy made from roast drippings than it did a sauce made with stock. Very interesting. I served it with kale and smoked garlic mashed potatoes.

gallery_8505_1885_2060.jpg

As you can see, the meat is quite pink (ambient light)

gallery_8505_1885_67735.jpg

Here is another look at the meat (with flash)

It was very interesting. Next time, I think I'd go longer with the cooking. It was very tender with some resistance. Not dissimilar from a strip steak, I'd say -- which is to say that it wasn't cut with a spoon tender. But it was quite interesting to eat what was more or less medium rare short rib that was tender like that.

More thoughts later. . .


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Following the Sous-Vide thread, I'm trying my luck at some short ribs. I packaged them with a FoodSaver and have them sittling in my combi oven at 130. When I packaged them, yesterday, they were nice and tight, but I noticed today that the bags are bloating. They went into the oven at room temperature about 24 hours ago, so I don't think the 60 degree temperature change would cause that much gas expansion. They're not to the point of bursting, I can squeeze them a bit, maybe 1/2 capacity. In normal cooking this would tend to make me think the food is probably bad, and serving it would not be a good idea. Do the same rules apply with sous-vide, or is this bag bloating to be expected?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bag bloating is supposed to be an issue with FoodSaver bags compared to bags vacuumed and sealed by the commercial machines. I don't think it's a big deal from a safety standpoint, as long as you cook for a sufficient length of time (there is safety information in the main sous vide thread).

How much air are you talking about? I just did a bunch of short ribs for around 30 hours at 60C using a FoodSaver bag and a circulating bath with very little air showing up in the top of bag. That said, I carefully positioned the short ribs in the bag to minimize any hidden air pockets, I did an extended vacuum before sealing, and after sealing I sealed the bag again much closer to the meat (essentially eliminating a lot of extra bag space to which air or liquid might migrate).

What do you have in the bag besides short ribs?


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1/2 full I think is more than simple temperature expansion of the bags, though.

I'd be concerned. If you know a microbiologist, have them open the bag and smell.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How much air are you talking about? 

What do you have in the bag besides short ribs?

Well, I'd say it's about 1/2 capacity with air now... I did add some mushrooms to the bags before sealing as a test, and some wine and stock (seasonings and a little garlic as well).

Here's a pic...

SV-short_ribs_bag_bloat.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmm. That is an awful lot of bloating. But I think I have read that certain vegetables tend to be gassy when cooked. Perhaps the mushrooms? Or the alcohol from the wine? Others will know more about this than I.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More sous vide experimentation. This time it was chicken breasts with scallions and shitakii mushrooms. I bagged it all together with the FoodSaver and cooked it for 40 minutes in a 65C water bath. Nothing else in there but some salt, white pepper and around a teaspoon of rendered chicken fat from the freezer. Yea, yea. . . I know I could have gone for a lower final temperature, but as this was the first time I wanted to make sure it had a familiar "cooked chicken" texture.

Here are some looks at the bag after it came out of the water bath:

gallery_8505_1885_31085.jpg

Mushroom Side

gallery_8505_1885_20951.jpg

Scallion Side (the vacuuming sucked the scallions into the "valleys" between breasts)

Here are the results. Incredibly moist and tender, and exquisitely perfumed with shitakii and scallion. The juices in the bag made a very nice, light "sauce" that I poured over the chicken.

gallery_8505_1885_34787.jpg

On the Platter

gallery_8505_1885_23745.jpg

With Wilted Savoy Cabbage (I think this gives some idea of how moist the chicken is)

This really couldn't have been easier, too. And hardly anything to clean up! With Nathan's charts, it's very easy to get started.

Next time: fish.

  • Like 1

--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That looks great Sam :) I noticed that you didn't get any bloat. We ate the short ribs tonight, and they tasted great. No off odors when I opened the bags. I've posted some pictures on the Big Green Egg Forum. I'm still somewhat baffled by the bloat. Guess if we're all still smiling come morning.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think we've solved the mystery of your "bag bloat." If this is your short ribs and mushrooms after sealing, it doesn't have nearly enough air removed before sealing. To my eye, there is still plenty of air in there. The bag should be tight on all the food.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bloating due to gases from biological growth would only occur if the bacteria have time to grow. They can't grow while cooking if the temperature is 130F/54.4C or above.

Biological bloating would occur if you stored the food too long after cooking - in a fridge or at room temp.

So, I think that your bags are not getting hard enough suction. What happens is that it seems to be enough, but then when you heat the bag the residual air expands.

Alcohol is another possibility. It boils at 175F/78.3C, so as you approach that temperature the alcohol will turn to vapor (gas) and the bag will puff up. At the boilng point you can expect a lot of that, but even below the boiling point you'll get some vapor.

In general, I try NOT to do sous vide with alcohol in the bag. Many chefs (like Thomas Keller) don't like to marinate food in alcohol and will boil wine marinades in an open pan prior to using them to get the alcohol out. Traditional braising recipes usually do not call for that, but it doesn't matter much because a few minutes into the cooking and the alcohol is all gone. However in sous vide there is no place for it to go.

If you get the bag cold - say putting the bloated bag in ice water, does it shrink?

The main harm in bag bloating in sous vide is that if you use them in a water bath the bags float and then the food does not cook evenly. In a steam oven or combi bloat really does not matter.

In addition, it takes longer for the food to reach temperature because the air in the bag does not conduct heat as well as water would against a tightly sealed bag. However it will still work.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eh? Check the temperature profile out here. Bacteria do grow at those temperatures. I have some in my lab that just to get to grow, I have to incubate at 130F.

Bloating due to gases from biological growth would only occur if the bacteria have time to grow.  They can't grow while cooking if the temperature is 130F/54.4C or above.

I'd still say, better safe than sorry. If you're really curious, I'm still recommending talking to a microbiologist and letting them open/culture one bag to see what is really going on.


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just as a test, (after reading upthread some more) You may want to try a bag with everything but the spare ribs, or even, one bag with sauce, one bag with veg, etc. See how those bags act.

What kind of mushrooms and how are they treated before bagging?


I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello world! For my first post (ta dah!) I though I'd ask if anyone has done a rack of venison this way. Its farm raised, 5 ribs, the eye is about 3" in diamater and I was wondering if cutting it into chops would work better than cooking the whole thing as a single piece. FWIW, I plan on adding a little veal jus and some juniper berries to give it more of the "classic" flavors of a Grand Veneur sauce.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I noticed in the NY Times magazine article about nathanm's amazing kitchen that, when he made lamb chops, he did individual (Frenched) chops rather than the whole rack. Remember to blowtorch the outside of the rack and the rib bones. Otherwise they can look kind of raw.

Be careful with the juniper. I love juniper with venison, but sous vide cooking will amplify the impact of the juniper 10 times what it would normally be. Even one juniper berry per individually wrapped chop might be overkill.


--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have my sous-vide station set up... I bought a lauda water bath unit, and didn't like the idea of just putting it in a pot because I'm looking forward to some long, 72 hour cooks. So I bought an ice chest designed for under a bar. It has about an inch of insulation on all sides, a drain, and I cut out a piece of styrofoam board as a lid to keep the evaporation down, and heat in. Here's a pic with the lid off (three porterhouse steaks in there for dinner tonight, and a brisket that's got 48 hours on it.... planning to use it tomorrow )

SousVideSetup1.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I though I'd ask if anyone has done a rack of venison this way.  Its farm raised, 5 ribs, the eye is about 3" in diamater and I was wondering if cutting it into chops would work better than cooking the whole thing as a single piece.  FWIW, I plan on adding a little veal jus and some juniper berries to give it more of the "classic" flavors of a Grand Veneur sauce.
I noticed in the NY Times magazine article about nathanm's amazing kitchen that, when he made lamb chops, he did individual (Frenched) chops rather than the whole rack.  Remember to blowtorch the outside of the rack and the rib bones.  Otherwise they can look kind of raw.

Be careful with the juniper.  I love juniper with venison, but sous vide cooking will amplify the impact of the juniper 10 times what it would normally be.  Even one juniper berry per individually wrapped chop might be overkill.

I haven't tried cooking venison sous vide yet, but since yours is farm-raised it can probably be treated similar to lamb. Cutting into chops will allow it to cook faster. If you're aiming for medium-rare (low temperature) it should work with the whole rack, but will take considerably longer. Maybe nathanm can provide some guidance here. I've done baby lamb racks whole and cut into chops, and prefer the latter.

Sam's right about the flavor amplification. If you include anything like wine or calvados, be sure to boil off the alcohol first. Sam, do you torch the chops before or after sous vide?

Welcome to eGullet, Ted!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With conventional roasting there is a reason to keep things like a rack of lamb or venison together - because roasting works better with a larger piece of meat (having to do with surface to volume ratio). However, with sous vide you can cook a large piece or a small piece equally well. The only problem is cooking time.

Most sous vide chefs cut food into individual serving portions first, then season, bag, seal and cook. It is almost better to do this.

Elsewhere in this thread are the time / temperature tables. If you cut your venison into individual chops the cooking time will drop. The rule of thumb is that half as thick takes one quarter the amount of time. So, if you have a 3 inch diameter loin on the rack of venison, and you cut it into 1.5" thick chops, cooking time will go down by a factor of 4. What matters is the distance to the center - with a 3" thick cylinder, the radius is 1.5". With a 1.5" thick chop the distance to the center is 0.75".

The thickness to cut the chops depends on the spacing of the bones on your rack, and also how you want the food to appear on the plate.

So, if I were cooking the venison, I would cut into chops. I would be very careful with the juniper berries (as discussed above), probably grinding them and just putting a pinch into each bag. Also, boil off the alcohol for any liquid put in the bag.

I would cook it at 131F / 54.4C. Use the times from the tables depending on the thickness of the chops. If the venison is tough, then you can add some time to the charts - from 8 to 12 hours. Howver it sounds like your venison isn't very tough.

Some people like venison even more rare than this, in which case you could do 122F/50C.

Then right before service I would sear the outside with a blowtorch, or broiler, or pan on the stove with smoking hot oil. As discussed above, running a torch over the frenched bones makes them look nice.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nathan do you really mean 8 - 12 hours for one venison chop? A six ounce portion of lamb or veal loin cooks to medium rare at 140° in less than an hour.


Ruth Friedman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The time to reach 130F/54.4C is short - it depends on the thickness, and the time is in the tables, just look it up.

Typically in sous vide you use a cooking temperature (of the water bath or combi-oven) which is the same temperature as the final core temp you want to achieve. So, to cook to an internal temp of 130F/54.4C I would use a water bath at 131F/55C.

So, if the chops are 25mm / 1 inch thick, it should take about 42 minutes to cook. If they are 50mm / 2 inches thick it should take 2.5 hours. At that point they are done.

Since the cooking temperature is basically at, or only slightly above the core temperature you can leave the food in the water bath or combi oven for longer without it overcooking. The primary reason to do this is if you want the meat more tender. This is explained elsewhere in the thread in more detail. If you wanted to tenderize the venison you could add 8-12 hours to the times above. The reason that the time is so long is that the chemical reactions that help tenderize the meat are very slow at 131F/55C.

Most likely, farm raised vension, and that particular cut, do not need extra time.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think he did. Remember, you need a relatively short period to make the meat "safe" at 131F, but the additional time will contribute to tenderness. I believe in the times article it indicated that he did the lamb chops for 10 hours. At or about 130, the collagen will disolve/melt, but very slowly. Consequently, while the meat may be ok to eat in less than an hour, it might not be as good as it could be... Sous-vide is all about slow cooking....

Share this post


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

  • Similar Content

    • By newchef
      So I've now found myself at the water's edge of Modernist Cuisine.  Specifically, using sodium citrate for emulsifying all kinds of cheeses.  What I'm after is making an emulsified Parmesan sauce as well as another emulsified cheese sauce (most likely using Cheddar or Colby) that I can freeze and use later.  I'm a single guy and am no stranger of tweaking recipes for freezing but I haven't done it for modernist stuff yet.  I'd love to make a big batch of cheese sauce, freeze it into ice cubes for up to 3 months or so, and then take a few cubes out to thaw on a weeknight and toss with pasta, drizzle over veggies, etc.
       
      I looked at the modernist cuisine FAQ and saw this specific post about the cheese sauce that is "probably" freeze-able because it uses something called carageenan.  Has anyone been able to freeze sauce and keep it frozen for, say, a few months?  And not have to use carageenan?
       
      Thanks!
    • 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 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...