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Erik Shear

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (Part 2)

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[Moderator note: This topic became too large for our servers to handle efficiently, so we've divided it up; the earlier part of the discussion is here: Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (Part 1)]

I have been cooking out of MC@h for a few months now and haven't found this forum until recently. I thought I would stop lurking a participate as I have tried many of the recipes with great success, as well as had some pretty spectacular failures :) I mean who hasn't?

Last night I decided to try the pressure cooked pork belly adobo I served it like a lettuce wrap with some sweet onion, diakon and cilantro and it turned out fantastic. I wish I had taken a picture.

For those who have made the adobo it is rather rich and I want to add something more to cut through it a bit and was thinking of a foam so I can practice with my new whipping siphon. The addition of the lettuce cups with the onion and diakon helped a bunch I just think it needed one other element to really balance it out.
Any thoughts on what you would use?


-Erik

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I would serve the pork on a steamed bun with some pickled veggies, but that's just me...

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I would serve the pork on a steamed bun with some pickled veggies, but that's just me...

I like th

I'd go about taming it through my choice of vegetable side. Some sort of salad, perhaps involving cabbage, with a fairly acidic dressing.

Thats kinda what I was going for with the lettuce cup idea but just need bit more acid. I think the pickled veggies would be perfect. I like the idea of a steamed bun as well. Have to give that a try.

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The caramelized carrot soup was way too sweet for me.

I made it and found it to be very sweet as well, almost cloying so. I am going to try it again leaving the cores in as I think that should make it not so sweet.

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I never bothered with removing cores but that is just lazy me. Also, there is tons of other vegetables that requires less work. I use this technique for my quick & easy meals all the time. I said it somewhere before, but you can leave out all the butter and add only to your taste. The technique works even if you dissolve the baking soda in a tiny bit of water or vegetable juice.

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Tried the sous vide lamb skewers on page 86 of the kitchen manual. I cooked the lamb at 133 degrees rather than the suggested 135 degrees because I wanted them more on the rare side. The lamb really picked up the marinade flavour however we found them borderline salty. They were left in the sous vide bag with a little residual marinade on the surface for about 7 hours before being cooked which could have made them a little salty. Or too much salt in the marinade....it did seem like a lot of salt when I was mixing up the marinade. I used lamb leg and they turned out very tender.DSC_0001.jpgDSC_0003.jpg

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Tried making pressure cooker carnitas yesterday. It was the first time I've ever used a pressure cooker, so I'm still getting used to the kinks. It seems like I used too much water. I used the jus to make a batch of beans in the pc, instead of reducing it down to add to the pork. 30 minutes at 15psi gave soft meat, but it was drier and less succulent then the carnitas I've made the old fashioned way. Next time, I think I'll let the meat rest in the jus so it can reabsorb some of it. I didn't shred and deep fry per the instructions. I just crisped them up in my cast iron skillet with a little oil. I liked the ratio of crispy to tender meaty I got that way.

One odd thing I noticed, is that when I went to crisp up a batch tonight for dinner, the pork sucked up the oil. Almost like it was eggplant!

All in all, I think it's winner. I just need to tweak it a bit for my taste, and get more practice in with the pressure cooker.

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uploadfromtaptalk1359983100943.jpg

Crispy Korean Chicken Wings.

Made those for the Super Bowl and they are probably the perfect chicken wings. Great texture and amazing flavors going on here. I don't know how I went so long without cooking with Korean pepper paste. That stuff is brilliant. I served them with a crunchy salad of sorts made with celery and blanched kale stems and flavored with pickled ginger and ponzu.

uploadfromtaptalk1359983395883.jpg

White Bread.

Easy to make and very tasty, especially in grilled cheese sandwiches.

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E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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After weeks of having the book, and not having the time to cook, I spent most of Sunday doing just that...only to get much less done than I expected. I could really use 3 more pressure cookers.

  1. Carnitas set my timing back, since I could not find achiote paste.
  2. I had to make PC garlic confit for the paste, which was on my list to do anyway, but that took the first two hours of cooking. I finished the paste up at night, and it smells great (as did the garlic, of course).
  3. Meanwhile, I made the carotene butter, which is simpler (not PC or SV needed). Used bottled carrot juice from Whole Foods.
  4. I had to make use of my rigged SV set up, so I moved on to another infused butter -- Porcini Butter. This was a failure, and I wonder if the directions are murky. It calls for "crumbled dry porcini", so I used dried shiitakes, which I pulverized in the food processor. There wasn't close to enough liquid from the butter to mix with the dry mushrooms, so I ended up with something more like mushrooms poached in butter, not the other way around. Should the recipe call for fresh mushrooms? When I read "dry", I think "dried".
  5. Next in the PC -- veg confit. Definitely a success, but I would like to add more herbs next time (and find a way to make a larger batch). That's great; I have a technique to play with. I used one jar since two of the ones that I have would not fit (either due to height or the small trivet included with the PC), and it was fine.
  6. PC brown pork stock, which didn't finish to almost midnight, for the carnitas. I realllly wish I had doubled or tripled (if room allowed) the recipe, since 2/3 of it will be used in the carnitas. If the yields are so low, even though the effort is low (vs.traditional stockmaking) is it really worth it? I want to be able to stock my freezer with these building blocks.
  7. Tuna confit brined; will make that and the PC chickpeas tonight or tomorrow.
  8. Soups postponed until sometime this week -- PC caramelized carrot, and apple-turnip (instead of parsnips) -- I just have tons of turnips from my CSA that I need to do something with. I plan on doubling or tripling these since the yield seems low.
  9. Made an orange oil using the lemon oil ratio as a template on Saturday, but it came out bitter; I was trying to use up some old oranges, so that is probably the issue.

I'm finding that I wish there were more non-PC recipes.

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After weeks of having the book, and not having the time to cook, I spent most of Sunday doing just that...only to get much less done than I expected. I could really use 3 more pressure cookers.

  1. Carnitas set my timing back, since I could not find achiote paste.
  2. I had to make PC garlic confit for the paste, which was on my list to do anyway, but that took the first two hours of cooking. I finished the paste up at night, and it smells great (as did the garlic, of course).
  3. Meanwhile, I made the carotene butter, which is simpler (not PC or SV needed). Used bottled carrot juice from Whole Foods.
  4. I had to make use of my rigged SV set up, so I moved on to another infused butter -- Porcini Butter. This was a failure, and I wonder if the directions are murky. It calls for "crumbled dry porcini", so I used dried shiitakes, which I pulverized in the food processor. There wasn't close to enough liquid from the butter to mix with the dry mushrooms, so I ended up with something more like mushrooms poached in butter, not the other way around. Should the recipe call for fresh mushrooms? When I read "dry", I think "dried".
  5. Next in the PC -- veg confit. Definitely a success, but I would like to add more herbs next time (and find a way to make a larger batch). That's great; I have a technique to play with. I used one jar since two of the ones that I have would not fit (either due to height or the small trivet included with the PC), and it was fine.
  6. PC brown pork stock, which didn't finish to almost midnight, for the carnitas. I realllly wish I had doubled or tripled (if room allowed) the recipe, since 2/3 of it will be used in the carnitas. If the yields are so low, even though the effort is low (vs.traditional stockmaking) is it really worth it? I want to be able to stock my freezer with these building blocks.
  7. Tuna confit brined; will make that and the PC chickpeas tonight or tomorrow.
  8. Soups postponed until sometime this week -- PC caramelized carrot, and apple-turnip (instead of parsnips) -- I just have tons of turnips from my CSA that I need to do something with. I plan on doubling or tripling these since the yield seems low.
  9. Made an orange oil using the lemon oil ratio as a template on Saturday, but it came out bitter; I was trying to use up some old oranges, so that is probably the issue.

I'm finding that I wish there were more non-PC recipes.

Hi Reignking,

Sounds like quite the undertaking!

I buy achiote paste at a local Mexican market in Seattle. I'd recommend checking for such markets in your area, or using the recipe in MCAH.

Judy


Judy Wilson

Editorial Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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Part of the day was 90 minutes at the Buford Highway Farmer's Market, which, I thought, had everything. That's one of the few places I can find obscure things like kaffir lime leaves; the place is gigantic, and has aisles dedicated to Latino foods (and at least 3 for each Chinese, Japanese, Korean). I didn't even have time to look at Eastern European aisles.

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Longtime lurker, first time poster.

I ventured into my first recipes from MCAH this past weekend. Of course, the obligatory carrot soup and based on the posts on the forum, Pork Belly Adobo.

A couple of issues I wanted to run by the experts:

When I made the carotene butter for the soup (stovetop method) I couldn't get the butter to separate. I got the impression from MCAH yield and photos that it was supposed to be just the butterfat infused with carotene along the lines of a clarified carrot butter. Instead I got one continuous emulsion with a little bit of foam at the top. I used an immersion blender to incorporate the butter, per the recipe. What did I miss? The soup was excellent, regardless, so not a waste at all!

On the Pork Belly Adobo, after pressure-cooking, the liquid that is used as a sauce was more of a broth than sauce consistency. The portion in the pan reduced to the glaze was perfect. Was this other people's experience as well? Once again, the dish was great and I guess this one is more of an issue of judgement as I can always reduce the liquid to a desired consistency.

I guess with MCAH's precision in measuring ingredients I was hoping the recipes would be more predictable. In the end I guess it's all up to personal taste ...

The forum is great and I can't wait to work my way through more recipes and learning through the process!

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Did you let the butter cool?

I absolutely loved the carrot soup; it's a definite winner. I tried it with turnips and apples -- obviously not as sweet, but the caramelizing was fantastic.

I enjoyed the carnitas, but the flavor of the achiote paste didn't come through enough. Also, I need to defat it at some point. The pork stock was the important takeaway, as that really made some porky goodness.

I loved the tuna confit, and it holds up really well. Glad that I could reuse that oil in the chickpeas, because it used a lot. One interesting note -- I made 1/2 of the emulsion without the sardine, and its volume was 40-50% of the recipe. That sardine really emulsifies well, apparently.

And the chickpeas -- adding calcium chloride (on-hand from cheesemaking) is now another no-brainer.

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Anyone try the sous vide coffee creme brulee? I found the texture too thick. How do I make it more silky?

What is the purpose of heating the bath to 180F and taking out the ramkins when the custard is 176F? Why not just heat the bath to 177F so you don't overheat the custard?

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Did you let the butter cool?

I did let the butter cool. I put the pot in an ice bath trying to get it cooled down quickly to put in the fridge. Then I let it sit overnight. When it was still one consistent mass the next day, I reheated it and tried letting it cool on its own. Still the same result.

Anyway, you and others successfully made the butter? I will definitely try again before purchasing a centrifuge!

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For people who have made the sauces: how well do they hold up after freezing, the book says they hold up for 6 months? I've been making them with the dish but the extra 30-45 min of the simpler sauces is taking away from the main course, as well as having to use my pressure cooker or sous-vide set up and then use it again.

So:

If you've frozen your sauce and then reheated it, how did it turn out, how long did you have it frozen for?


“...no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”

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I've never had a problem freezing and reheating sauces. It makes sense for a home cook.


Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Did you let the butter cool?

I did let the butter cool. I put the pot in an ice bath trying to get it cooled down quickly to put in the fridge. Then I let it sit overnight. When it was still one consistent mass the next day, I reheated it and tried letting it cool on its own. Still the same result.

Anyway, you and others successfully made the butter? I will definitely try again before purchasing a centrifuge!

I have, but I also think that if you still had some of the "unwanted" liquid, it wouldn't matter.

-----

I tried a few other recipes this weekend:

SV Chicken breast skewers with PC Peanut sauce: The chicken was ok, but not as tender as I was hoping. The sauce, however, was fantastic. Learning about PC-caramelization from that and the carrot soup is a great takeaway.

Pistachio pesto -- excellent. I omitted the $19 bottle of pistachio oil (couldn't believe my local, normal grocery store had it), but it wasn't necessary. The few "extra" steps of blanching the greens, and the especially the garlic, were worthwhile. Glad I doubled that recipe.

I'll be using the mushroom jus in some risotto at some point in the next week.

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For people who have made the sauces: how well do they hold up after freezing, the book says they hold up for 6 months? I've been making them with the dish but the extra 30-45 min of the simpler sauces is taking away from the main course, as well as having to use my pressure cooker or sous-vide set up and then use it again.

So:

If you've frozen your sauce and then reheated it, how did it turn out, how long did you have it frozen for?

I will tell you a great winner is Instant Sous Vide Hollandaise, I just used my last pouch this past weekend. The sauce was 2 months old.

A winner.

Todd in Chicago


Edited by Todd in Chicago (log)

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I will tell you a great winner is Instant Sous Vide Hollandaise, I just used my last pouch this past weekend. The sauce was 2 months old.

At what stage did you store it? I am presuming frozen?

PK

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Crab-eggs-benedict.jpg

I will tell you a great winner is Instant Sous Vide Hollandaise, I just used my last pouch this past weekend. The sauce was 2 months old.

At what stage did you store it? I am presuming frozen?

PK

PK....

I completely made the sauce and then portioned it into smaller bags and sealed and froze.

Here is the Crab eggs benedict it was used on.

Cheers...


Todd in Chicago

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I have made espuma hollandaise (well, bearnaise actually), although not prepared sous vide. While good, I don't feel that using a siphon adds anything to the presentation of the sauce. I cook my hollandaise and bearnaise in a copper pot over direct heat.

The pictures of the procedure on page 107 show the sauce being added to what looks an awfully lot like a Thermo Whip, with instructions to use a water bath -- something iSi says not to do.

Tonight however I made my first real recipe from MC@H: peanut butter gelato (pp 370-371). I had set off to make pistachio gelato but was unable to find the ingredients locally. The result astounded me. Other than the salt being a little much, the gelato was perfect, and wow, did it taste like peanuts. I had three scoops. Then I compared it to a bowl of my twenty something percent butterfat custard vanilla ice cream. Texture, mouthfeel, and meltdown were remarkably similar. I had two more scoops.

Would the MC version of the recipe be any better?

MC@H is a beautiful book, but I have to say I am a little disappointed. I was hoping for something like On Food and Cooking, but with pretty pictures. I realize now that was not the intention of the book.

Part of my disappointment is that I don't have the tools for many of the recipes. I'd love to make the caramelized carrot soup (pp 178-179), but I don't have a blender or a (working) pressure cooker -- part of my love/hate relationship with Cuisinart who don't sell replacement parts. Can the soup be made without the pressure cooking step?

I also don't have a digital scale, pacojet, blowtorch, combi oven, microplane, microwave, nor sous vide setup.

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T-i-Chi:



your'e a Rat for posting that Food p0rn . or as EnriqueB would say while giving that class in Chi: Raton ( accent on the o )



:raz:


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attachicon.gifCrab-eggs-benedict.jpg

I will tell you a great winner is Instant Sous Vide Hollandaise, I just used my last pouch this past weekend. The sauce was 2 months old.

At what stage did you store it? I am presuming frozen?

PK

PK....

I completely made the sauce and then portioned it into smaller bags and sealed and froze.

Here is the Crab eggs benedict it was used on.

Cheers...

Todd in Chicago

So you made the sauce including the foaming in teh iSi? or up to that point and then froze?

Did you iSi it after you defrosted or just warm and put into the eggs?

thanks

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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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