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Msk

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 2)

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I've gone over the section of deep frying and am now trying to choose a suitable frying oil for french fries cooked using the first method adapted from Heston Blumenthal. What I want is an oil that can be filtered and reused many times, has a smoke point of at least 400F and helps brings out the best french fry flavor / mouth feel.

Would it be correct to have Palm Oil at the very top of the list? High stability, melting point close to body temperature, high smoke point and under notes it says that it minimizes off flavors very quickly. Anyone have experience frying with Palm Oil?

The Ideas in Food team recommends Rice Bran Oil so that seems like another good choice based on their findings.

I know of a few places that use duck fat but it has a low smoke point of 375F and I think that's going to be too low

Any thoughts?

Roy

I've been using peanut oil for a while and am pretty happy with it. I can reuse many times before seeing it degrade enough to hinder performace and it has a decently high smoke point. I can also get it pretty inexpensively in chinatown. But, I will say that duck fat does taste better... but is really expensive to get enough to deep fry in!

I try to stay away from Peanut Oil due to nieces, nephews and friends children who have peanut allergies. Makes it easier if I can say with 100% certainty that the oil container, frying pan etc did not come in contact with peanuts. I found a place locally that sells rice bran oil so going to pick some up and also bought a duck yesterday so will be butchering that and rendering out some fat.

rg

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Really nice work, Chris.

Do you have the movie rights sewn up yet for "Chris Cooks MC"? :smile:

Only fourteen hunderd and some to go. lol

Larry


Larry Lofthouse

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Modernist Cuisine cooking lab pictures, third post

The next series of courses of the evening.

Apple Snowball

vacuum aerated sorbet, frozen fluid-gel powder

Spring Tagine

pressure cooked pine nuts and sesame seeds, gellan gel

Ankimo, Mandarin, Chamomile

torchon cooked sous vide, centrifuged juice gelee

Spaghetti alle Vongole-Geoduck, Bagna Cauda, Sea Beans

vacuum-molded, centrifuged broth

Beef Stew

jus extracted at low temperature, marrow cured and cooked sous vide

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More to come...

Larry


Larry Lofthouse

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I'm working on the duck confit now: is the chill/reheat step is necessary, or just a convenience?

Mostly for convenience I would think.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I made the corn bread this weekend(pages 5.76 and 6.256) to go with some bbqd chicken and pork chops as well as the much hyped and awesome mac and cheese. forgot to download the pictures for the corn bread, so I will have to post them later but figure this might be helpful if anyone is going to try making it soon.

I think the recipe has 2 issues:

- Steps 2 and 3 are reversed. The picture shows that the corn should be pureed

with the cream, milk and eggs not added afterwards. Adding the corn afterwards

(whole kernels) makes an awesome but very crumbly and very difficult to slice

end product. Now, I was working from the KM so I did not notice the pictures till later when I refered to volume 5 to check for accuracy.

- The baking temperature at 265F for 20 minutes is very low. At 20 minutes the

bread was raw. I upped the temp to 365 and the loaf needed another 45 minutes

approximately to reach 190F internally.

I already forwarded this info to the MC team and, unless I screwed something up, they will need to add it to the errata list.

That being said, the corn bread is really delicious and I have to make it again. Even if the recipe has you blend all the lard/butter fried corn, I will most likely reserve 20% of it or so to add as a mix in. The texture and mild sweet taste were very unique and loved by everyone, kids and adults.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I wouldn't be surprised if the chilling/reheating affected the texture too. Most high-gelatin braised meats (think short ribs, for example) that are cooled and reheated do not soften to the falling-of-the-bone texture when reheated. For example, see the Good Eats video below, starting at 4:45 where he pulls the braised short ribs from the oven and compares the pre- and post-cooling texture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96y1qv8voZA


Edited by emannths (log)

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I try to stay away from Peanut Oil due to nieces, nephews and friends children who have peanut allergies. Makes it easier if I can say with 100% certainty that the oil container, frying pan etc did not come in contact with peanuts. I found a place locally that sells rice bran oil so going to pick some up and also bought a duck yesterday so will be butchering that and rendering out some fat.

rg

That's understandable... I'm usually not cooking for children so it's not really an issue for me. I do have a friend who's allergic to peanuts, but only to the protein... the oil is ok. Proven by how many times she's eaten things fried in peanut oil at my apt.

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I think the recipe has 2 issues:

- Steps 2 and 3 are reversed. The picture shows that the corn should be pureed

with the cream, milk and eggs not added afterwards. Adding the corn afterwards

(whole kernels) makes an awesome but very crumbly and very difficult to slice

end product. Now, I was working from the KM so I did not notice the pictures till later when I refered to volume 5 to check for accuracy.

- The baking temperature at 265F for 20 minutes is very low. At 20 minutes the

bread was raw. I upped the temp to 365 and the loaf needed another 45 minutes

approximately to reach 190F internally.

So you'd say (1) do the steps in the order shown in the main volume and (2) 365F until it's at 190F internally?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I think the recipe has 2 issues:

- Steps 2 and 3 are reversed. The picture shows that the corn should be pureed

with the cream, milk and eggs not added afterwards. Adding the corn afterwards

(whole kernels) makes an awesome but very crumbly and very difficult to slice

end product. Now, I was working from the KM so I did not notice the pictures till later when I refered to volume 5 to check for accuracy.

- The baking temperature at 265F for 20 minutes is very low. At 20 minutes the

bread was raw. I upped the temp to 365 and the loaf needed another 45 minutes

approximately to reach 190F internally.

So you'd say (1) do the steps in the order shown in the main volume and (2) 365F until it's at 190F internally?

Pretty much. In the main volume, pay attention to the pictures, as opposed to the steps outlined for the fried corn. The corn (or most of it at least IMO) should be blended with the cream, milk and eggs. Baking at 365F is definitly what worked for me.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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I'm looking at making the pad thai on page 3•385, but I'm confused about one step: one of the garnishes is "pressure-cooked peanuts (see page 3•303)." That recipe, for "crispy boiled peanuts" is seasoned with dried laver (I assume nori?), MSG, sugar and chili powder... so is it the whole recipe that should be made for the pad thai, or should it just be followed up to step 5, with the seasoning omitted? Any thoughts? I don't know a lot about Thai cuisine...


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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I try to stay away from Peanut Oil due to nieces, nephews and friends children who have peanut allergies. Makes it easier if I can say with 100% certainty that the oil container, frying pan etc did not come in contact with peanuts. I found a place locally that sells rice bran oil so going to pick some up and also bought a duck yesterday so will be butchering that and rendering out some fat.

rg

That's understandable... I'm usually not cooking for children so it's not really an issue for me. I do have a friend who's allergic to peanuts, but only to the protein... the oil is ok. Proven by how many times she's eaten things fried in peanut oil at my apt.

Yes, I was of the understanding that peanut oil is ok because the allergy is only triggered by the presence of the proteins. Of course, it may be better not to take the risk anyway.

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Modernist Cuisine cooking lab pictures, Fourth post

The next series of courses of the evening.

Baked Potato Soup

pressure-cooked potato juice

France in a Bowl!

snails cooked sous vide, foie gras custard set at low temperatures

Caramelized Carrot Soup

caramelized in a pressure cooker

Cream of Mushroom

infused sous vide, foamed in a siphon

Raw Quail Egg

a touch of protein to invigorate the appetite

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Larry Lofthouse

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Thanks, Larry, those lab notes are very helpful. I made a version of those crispy beef strands for dinner tonight, but don't recall seeing anything like a corn tortilla in the book anywhere (though I haven't examined the book in quite as much detail as you!). What was the texture of it like? I'm trying to figure out if it was basically a gelled corn juice, or a dough made from dried corn juice, or something else entirely.

Chris, the corn tortilla was soft, with a smoother texture than what you would get in a standard version. But so much great food went over my tongue after that course that it's hard to be sure any more. :smile:

Larry


Larry Lofthouse

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Duck leg confit with Pommes Sarladaises (p. 3•178)

I think I'm the third or fourth person in this discussion to make the confit, I'm falling behind the curve, here! I did change it up a little by not adding any fat at all to the bag, I didn't see the point. As we've discussed in the various confit topics here, it really doesn't matter. Plus, duck legs render a LOT of fat when you cook them anyway. So although my original plan was to rub the legs with duck fat when they came out of the SV, that turned out to be completely pointless, the were already coated with a gorgeous layer of duck fat.

As with any confit, this one starts with a dry curing mix: I made it last week and stuck it in the fridge... when I opened it yesterday it smelled incredible. I bought a duck at my local butcher (Pekin, alas) and butchered the legs so they had enough skin to wrap all the way around them:

Duck Confit - 1 - Legs.jpg

Those get bagged up with the cure mix:

Duck Confit - 2 - Legs in rub.jpg

And cured for ten hours:

Duck Confit - 3 - Legs after curing.jpg

Here they are out of the bag:

Duck Confit - 4 - Legs out of cure.jpg

They are rinsed well, then individually bagged:

Duck Confit - 5 - Leg repacked.jpg

Those then get popped in the sous vide rig at 82°C/180°F for eight hours. In the meantime, I started on the potatoes. These are red potatoes that are cut into coins and sealed up with some duck fat, water, garlic, thyme, and salt:

Duck Confit - 6 - Pommes sarladaises.jpg

That gets cooked sous vide for about 20 minutes at 80°C/190°F. The duck legs come out of the sous vide rig looking like this:

Duck Confit - 7 - Duck confit cooked.jpg

And unbagged:

Duck Confit - 8 - Leg out of SV bag.jpg

I shredded one of the legs for my wife: it had plenty of fat coating at this point, so this is when it became obvious that no extra was needed:

Duck Confit - 9 - Shredded leg.jpg

And of course, the liquid gold exuded from the legs while they cooked, destined for lunch tomorrow:

Duck Confit - 10 - Liquid Gold.jpg

Next up, the duck leg is sauteed quickly to crisp up the skin. Yes, I completely stole the plating from the MC team, including the little purple flowers (mine are sage blossoms, since that's what's in bloom in the garden today):

Duck Confit - 11 - Plated.jpg

I will stop boring you with superlatives, or faux surprise at how well the dish turned out. This, for me, is the definitive proof that the traditional confit technique is completely superfluous. Cooking the legs sous vide with no added fat yields precisely the same result: flavor, texture, everything. Oh yeah, it's delicious. I love duck leg confit. This technique is easier, cleaner, and required no vast supply of duck fat waiting in reserve. I love it.

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Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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As I mentioned above, I'm making a Mothers' Day dinner that needs to account for quite a few dietary restrictions, and I'm hoping to use MC for quite a bit of it. Here's what I've got so far, with MC recipes marked:

champagne cocktails with rhubarb syrup (3-291), lemon, & Cointreau

asparagus royale (4-94) with shaved blackstrap ham

sous vide braised snails (5-243) on carrot purée (3-292)

juniper brined pork tenderloin (5-36)

sweet potato fondant (4-39)

salted apple caramel purée (5-20)

herb spaetzle

If anyone has experience with any of these dishes, please let me know. One note: I can't do the leek wrap on the pork tenderloin, so I think I'll cook it SV, wrap it in bacon that I've sealed with Activa, and sear it off just before service.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I don't always agree with Alton Brown... I think for example in this video his theory of resting the meat for juice redistribution is to allow the internal pressure of the meat to subside and allow juices pushed into the meat of the steak to go back to the edges. However this seems to contradict what is written in MC in that actually when cooking juices in fact go to the edges and not the middle due to evaporation and capillary action, and resting is to allow for coagulation of the juices.

Watch from this video from 6:04

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I don't always agree with Alton Brown... I think for example in this video his theory of resting the meat for juice redistribution is to allow the internal pressure of the meat to subside and allow juices pushed into the meat of the steak to go back to the edges. However this seems to contradict what is written in MC in that actually when cooking juices in fact go to the edges and not the middle due to evaporation and capillary action, and resting is to allow for coagulation of the juices.

Watch from this video from 6:04

It's also interesting to learn that since McGee we have always been told that searing does not seal in the juices... however in MC they say that after juices from the edge have evaporated, a dry crust forms which inhibits further evaporation significantly. Obviously it is not the same as a waterproof seal, but it is interesting to learn...

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I certainly don't think that AB is infallible. But in this particular case of the reheating of braised meats, I think he's right, based on a combination of personal experience and the absence of contradictory evidence (though unfortunately, outside of AB, there seems to be a lack of supporting evidence as well). Does MC say anything about reheating braises for service?

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Had to nix a few things after running it by Central Office, so it's much simpler now:

asparagus royale (4-94) with shaved blackstrap ham

juniper brined pork tenderloin (5-36)

sweet potato fondant (4-39)

salted apple caramel purée (5-20)

herb spaetzle

Doing the shopping and prep list now.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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How are you guys tracking/compiling/choosing items to make as you go through MC? I've been reading through it, i'm about 1/2 thru volume 2 and 1/2 thru volume 3...there are recipes interspersed throughout, but unless i jot them down i'm sure i won't remember that they sounded interesting.

I guess what i'm asking is, how are you deciding what to make and creating menus from MC? There is so much information over so many books that it would seem hard to keep it all straight. I haven't even opened books 4 and 5 so that may be why i'm having some troubles.

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I have about one hundred post-it notes stuck in the KM and the various volumes, and every few days, especially before weekends, I snoop through to see what tweaks my interest. I'm also constantly refilling the larder with things like bacon, and each time I do that I review the book to see if I can learn anything new. (The answer, 100% of the time, has been yes.) The menu above involved a more focused project with a limited range of ingredients, though.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I certainly don't think that AB is infallible. But in this particular case of the reheating of braised meats, I think he's right, based on a combination of personal experience and the absence of contradictory evidence (though unfortunately, outside of AB, there seems to be a lack of supporting evidence as well). Does MC say anything about reheating braises for service?

I just quickly looked through MC and McGee but can't see anything specifically about the energy required in reheating braises. McGee does however recommend cooling braised meats in their juices as reabsorbtion takes place, cooler meats have a higher water-holding capacity, and gelatinised collagen can also hold onto more juices.

I just quickly looked through, but as I say I didn't see anything.

I wasn't directly discrediting AB's theory of the required energy to reheat the braised meat, but his idea of the resting juices was something that was on my mind for a while, and when he was mentioned again in this thread it reminded me to point it out, as I was disappointed that someone interested in demystifying kitchen science was making a false statement.

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      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
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