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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 2)

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Vadouvan knows his pork belly. I do mine at least 30 hours with 36 or 48 or more preferred. I go down to 65C, though.

I just do some salt and some sugar. Then vac and bathe. The hit it with the torch or sear.

Pork belly sous vide is probably my favorite meat right now.

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I am also looking for recipes. There is a recipe for Rack of Lamb Sous Vide on the Dartagnan.com web site under the recipes section.

https://www.dartagnan.com/recipe.asp?id=103&category=8

I just tested this link. This is a very useful article and I am going to try it as soon as I can test the water system that he describes.

Dove

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I got a polyscience 5L-M water bath off E-bay a couple of days ago and have been trying out a few things. After I tested and confirmed it was in good working order (I love gun thermometers) I tried pork loin at 140 for 4 hours with just some salt, pepper, and thyme to season. It came out really nice, moist and tender, however, next time I'll have to season a little more liberally.

Yesterday I tried caramelized yogurt, from ideas in food, at 180 for 24 hours using some Strauss family whole milk yogurt. I haven't thought of how to use it aside from what they have on ideas in food, but at first tasting, to me it is most like a washed rind cheese, with a little bit of a smokey nuance, so right now I'm considering using it like any cheese. At the same time I also threw in some sour cream to see how that would go, some onions in molasses, and some figs....all yet to be tasted.

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Tetsuya Wakuda has a great recipe for confit of Ocean Trout but with maddeningly imprecise instructions - 'turn the oven to the lowest it can go and cook for 6-7 minutes'. The end result as in just about all Tetsuya recipes is brilliant however.

The trout is cooked sous-vide style in oil at a very low temperature and the fish comes out looking almost completely raw, bright red but cooked. My question to the low-tempeature boys here is - what internal temperature should I shoot for and for how long should I cook. The lowest my oven can go is 50C.

(This is a bit of a cross posting from the thread "Emergency court-bouillon: no wine in the house, ''fumet de poisson'': poaching salmon" but there are so many LTLT experts here I thought I might try here also)

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The trout is cooked sous-vide style in oil at a very low temperature and the fish comes out looking almost completely raw, bright red but cooked. My question to the low-tempeature boys here is - what internal temperature should I shoot for and for how long should I cook. The lowest my oven can go is 50C.

Salmon turns color at about 104F /40C. So you want to be below that.

Salmon "mi cuit" (barely cooked) in oil is a pretty popular / trendy dish that has appeared in a number of cookbooks, including French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller and Formulas for Flavor by Joe Cambell. A similar dish is in Joan Roca's Sous Vide book.

Various chefs use sligthly different temperatures. Roca recommends 38C / 100.4C. Keller and Cambell 102F/39C I usually cook it at 38.4C/103F

Best bet is to cook it sous vide, with some oil (usually flavored) in the bag. Use a lab water bath to accurately maintain the temperature.

Next best bet is to cook it on the stove. Put oil in a pan, bring the oil to 39C (using an accurate digital thermometer to check it). Note that a hot tub or hot bath or shower is probably about the temperature - this is not very hot.

If you have trouble keeping the oil at that temperature, use indirect heat, or a double boiler.

Then poach the salmon in the oil until the internal temperature is 39C or so.

Use a thin cut of salmon - this temperature is so low that a thick piece will take so much time to come to tempertaure that there would be food safety concerns.

It will look dead raw, but won't be. Either serve it that way if your guests will accept it. Or, sear the outside using an incredibly hot pan with smoking oil, for just a moment.

I don't think that your oven would work very well - most ovens have very poor temperature control at the extreme low end of their range.


Nathan

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I thought i understood, but nathan confused me with this sentance

"Use a thin cut of salmon - this temperature is so low that a thick piece will take so much time to come to tempertaure that there would be food safety concerns."

I thought that keeping the fish/meat/chicken at a low temperature is ok as long as it is kept long enough to sterilize the meat? For example, a roast at 125 deg. F sous vide can be cooked for 24-36 hours b/c it is long enough to sterilize.

Why are you saying the salmon has to cook quickly?

jason

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Because the temperature in this case is WAY BELOW the temperature where long term cooking will sterilize.

Human body temperature is 98.6F/37C and we are talking about cooking just above that temperature. This makes it a perfect temperature to incubate germs that could infect you.

US FDA rules, as discussed in previous posts in this thread, and a couple others, put the minimum temperature for sterilization at 130F/54.4C - and you need at least 112 minutes at that temperature. Here we are talking about MUCH lower temps.

It is within the FDA rules to cook Salmon mi cuit - or even serve salmon sushi or sashimi that is totally raw. However, you should not cook it for an extended period of time.

Techincally, FDA rules would say no more than 4 hours total time between leaving the refer and being consumed, with cooking as part of this. Also, as a technicality, if a health inspector questioned salmon mi-cuit as being proper, the answer is that it would qualify as RAW salmon (which happened to be warm) rather than cooked.

Although 4 hours is within the rules, I personally would not risk taking it this long. There is no hard cut off, but I generally size salmon mi cuit so that it cooks in about 20 minutes - which means 1 inch thick or less. I would do up to an hour, but no more than that.

Which means you should have a salmon fillet or steak. I would NOT try to do a whole salmon, or a large chunk from one.

My favorite cut of salmon for this kind of cooking is the belly meat, which is very thin anyway. The rich fat in the belly meat makes this method particularly attractive.

Salmon mi cuit can be perfectly safe, so don't let this dissuade you.

Incidentenally, this is a FANTASTIC thing to do with a fish called Escolar, sometimes called "white tuna" by fish markets. Just incredible this way.

It is also very good with tuna. Try it with tuna also, particularly toro - bluefin tuna belly. Some would say it is sacrlidge to heat toro, but doing it this way it is really amazing - the warmth brings out the flavor.


Nathan

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mi-cuit smoke cooked fish is great as well...cook it in coolish smoke

I agree with Nathan and others. These temperatures are not high enough to kill bugs that can be very bad for you. In fact they just encourge them to breed, so treat the fish essentially as raw, cook and eat with 4 hours or so.

For meat I'd follow the FDA guidelines with 130F/112 minutes as the lowest safe temperature/time. Below that the curve goes up very sharply, and the bugs breed quicker than they are killed. The meat is essentially raw. If you want to serve warm carpaccio or tatare fine, but treat it as raw meat.

Nathan earlier provide a reference to

http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents2001/time-te...lculations.html

which suggest the lowest safe temperature is 127.5F. However at that temperature the meat will stay essentially raw, and the collagen scarcely dissolve


Edited by jackal10 (log)

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Nathanm - thanks for the detailed help. Your generous reply is great as ever.

I still don't have a lab bath yet so I am going to have to stick to the oven at the moment. Actually I've checked the oven with a high accuracy thermometer and it is pretty reliable - no more than a degree out.

Here's the thing Mr Wakuda strikes me as an honest man so I think I can trust that a low heat in the oven for 6-7 minutes will produce the correct result. In the book he says the lowest temperature possible in the oven, with the door open, for 6-7 minutes and no more than 10.

The question is - what is the lowest temperature - Some people report cooking the Trout at 100C others at 50C-60C. What's the consensus?

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Well first of all I'll answer my own question - I cooked the trout at 60C just until the internal temperature got to 39C (8 minutes or so - more or less what the book said) and the result was perfect. I'd recommend the dish to anyone.

And now on to more important matters... I am making my own Sous Vide appliance. I will be doing this using a Microprocessor controlled Temperature regulator, a precision thermocouple, a Solid State Relay and a hotplate. This will cost many times less than a Laboratory bath and will have the advantage that I can use any of my own pans to cook with. It might well also be safer than buying a second hand one on eBay - no nasty chemicals!

But first I'd like some advice from the eGullet sousvideratti. I have two potential problems that I'd like your opinion on.

1. To keep the budget low the controller I will be using is only capable of maintaining to whole numbers i.e. One degree C or one degree F. No numbers after the decimal point. Controllers with greater resolution are available but they cost more. Would it be too restrictive to only be able to hold to only whole numbers?

2. The more expensive water baths and heating units have some kind of circulation method to move the water and presumably maintain a more stable temperature. I considered having something like an aquarium fish pump in the water bath but I think the temperature (55C/131F?) would be too great for the pump. Do you think I need to circulate the water or do you think it wouldn't adversely affect the cooking process not to have moving water?

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And now on to more important matters... I am making my own Sous Vide appliance. I will be doing this using a Microprocessor controlled Temperature regulator, a precision thermocouple, a Solid State Relay and a hotplate. This will cost many times less than a Laboratory bath and will have the advantage that I can use any of my own pans to cook with. It might well also be safer than buying a second hand one on eBay - no nasty chemicals!

The equipment you plan on using does not sound inexpensive. I bought a Julabo circulator for $900. It fits into any stockpot, maintains water temperature to .1°C and keeps it circulating. I am thrilled with it.

When cooking sous vide for only a short time (less than an hour or so) I doubt that it makes a big difference whether or not the water is circulating. However I would imagine that it might make a difference if you are using a large pot over several hours.


Ruth Friedman

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Joesan, i have made a setup similar to yours. I used a Dawson temp controller with 1deg. F resolution, a hotplate, a thermocouple and a pot. It worked well to confirm that i likes sous vide, and it made good food. I did find some stratification of heat, which may or may not have been a problem.

If you can find a cheap pump i would add it, i also thought of just adding an aquarium bubbler to the pot, which would at least move the water around somewhat, and the hot water would not be a problem since it doesn't go through a pump.

I found that leaving the hotplate on the lowest level reduced the overshoot by a great deal. My controller wasjust on-off, not a PID. A PID may be able to do better.

jason

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Do you think I need to circulate the water or do you think it wouldn't adversely affect the cooking process not to have moving water?

For a completely accurate temp yes, but one thing to consider if you're using this at home is the noise from a pump system. My circulating water bath is so damn loud I can't leave it on overnight :wink: , so I have to rely on a non-circulating one for longer cooking. Think I need a kitchen door.


restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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Ruth - the entire setup should cost about $120. For that you get basically identical performance to the Julabo, maybe a little less accuracy plus no circulator. It's a worthwhile saving I feel. Plus you get the (dubious) joy of doing-it-yourself. The other plus is I think I can build it to look a lot less like something out of a laboratory

Jason - Your always one (or more!!) steps ahead of me. But I am going to use a PID so maybe I can claw back some kudos there.

Digijam - That is indeed a factor to consider. I can't eat in the same room as my ice cream machine. I can imagine that a circulating pump might be just as bad.

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Joe, give the PID a try, it should work better. Some people on ebay sell autotuning PIDs for $50, they should work well. You could also use a crock pot and splice in to allow the PID to control the on off. I thikn this would work better than a hot plate and pot, since it would be better insultated, and be a cleaner easier solution instead of having wires running everywherE:)

Good luck. It is WAY WAY cheaper than a circulator. You should be able to get eveything for about $100 as you said, if not less. If you already have a crock pot, even better.

keep us up to date with results.

jason

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Jason - yes PID is definitely the way to go. I quite like the idea of being able to use different size pots - you know one size when doing the joint of beef another when preparing potatoes for Heston's mash etc. I'll post a picture of the setup when I'm done.

Bryanz - I see that you've got some really nice results with your waterbath (you got it from eBay I seem to recall). I'm interested in your comments that I don't need the 0.1 and the circulation. Can you elaborate a bit on your experiences? I can get a more accurate PID but they are more than double the price.

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I'm following this thread with interest. I have yet to try sous vide because of the difficulty in maintaining a low temperature for such a long time. It would be great if sous vide equipment was it's own thread. In reviewing the types of commercial equipment I find that they are very similar to a lens tinting tank I have at my office. Still too expensive and large for home use. From what I know about PID it would work well in this application. Joesan, I look forward to seeing pictures of how you set this up. Jmolinari, I think the crock pot idea is great, the only problem being the limitation of vessel size, although you could probably do most things in the cock pot.

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Actually, there is a waterbath thread, and at least one other sous-vide related thread that has do-it-yourself waterbath plans.

Laboratory water baths are ideal, and are not expensive if you get them on Ebay. There is no doubt that one can do a homemade version - this has been discussed extensively on the other thread.

Lab water baths are expensive mainly because they are sold in a market where price does not matter much. So they are typically overenginnered for cooking purposes (0.1 degree resolution, huge temperature range including above boiling...). But the nice thing is that they are very tough and reliable.

At some point somebody will make a cheap cooking oriented waterbath - there is no reason they should not exist in the same price range as deep fat fryers, rice cookers or just a bit more than a crock pot ro similar appliance.

Circulation is important if you have a lot of things in the bath at once, or somethnig large. You need to expose the food to the water evenly, and circulation handles that. You can get by without it if necessary, but in that case be careful not to load it very full, and not to allow the bags to touch or pile up.


Nathan

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Nathan - I was hoping you could find time to comment - you're the sous vide guru :biggrin:

I hope I haven't set this thread off on the wrong direction. It was the most active of the sous vide threads so I posted here. My apologies if I have.

Nathan as regard 0.1 accuracy - on your charts you give some temperatures to 0.X precision. If I do not have the capability to maintain a temperature with this accuracy I am understanding that there shouldn't be too much of a problem. I reckon I can comfortably get to plus or minus 0.5 F or C. That's not such a big factor of error is it?

On the circulation - I am planning on cooking primarily 2kg joints of meat that are approximately 140mm thick and say 180mm long. There will only ever be one of these joints in there at a time, and this is in a domestic setting. Sounds like I may have to find some way of agitating the water? Or perhaps if I use a very large pan the temperature will be more stable (thermal inertia of the water and all that) Ireally don't know if that last sentence makes sense from a physics point of view. :huh:

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Joesan, I hope I didn't make you feel that your post was in any way inappropriate. I am waiting with excitement on your results and didn't want the topic to get lost in the many pages of this thread.

Nathan, thanks for letting us know there were previous threads on the topic.

Here's one I found.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=81201&hl=


Edited by scubadoo97 (log)

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Joesan, I hope I didn't make you feel that your post was in any way inappropriate.

I am waiting with excitement on your results and didn't want the topic to get lost in the many pages of this thread.

No not all - I just realised that Nathan started the thread asking for recipes and maybe the equipment posts should go elsewhere but I put my posts here because it seems to be the most active for sous vide. I like a mix but maybe some egulleteers don't.

Anyway for sure I will post the finished setup when I put it all together.

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Bryanz - I see that you've got some really nice results with your waterbath (you got it from eBay I seem to recall). I'm interested in your comments that I don't need the 0.1 and the circulation. Can you elaborate a bit on your experiences? I can get a more accurate PID but they are more than double the price.

Nathan is right in that if you have a lot of items in a small or crowded bath, you're going to need circulation to make sure you don't get extreme variances. For my purposes, and those of most ambitious home cooks, you're just looking for a controlled cooking environment. Chances are you won't be doing pounds and pounds of meat. For me, it's maybe a couple racks of lamb or duck breasts, four or five chicken breasts, two or three pounds of beef.

I would support the crock-pot-as-water-bath movement, but to me that's a little too bootleg and you really can't do long cooks. Although sous vide is all about accuracy, +/- 1 degree makes very little noticeable difference. The advantage of a water bath is it's easy and reliable; set it and forget it, if you will.

Additionally, the average home cook uses a kitchen thermometer that may well be off by a degree or two anyway. Even this isn't the end of the world.

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      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
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