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Msk

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 2)

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I made the parametric recipe for shellfish stock using shrimp heads and shells, with a few major changes: 1) I omitted the fennel bulb and leek because I was too lazy to go to the store, and 2) simmered the stock in a pot instead of cooking it sous vide. I guess that makes it distinctly un-modernist, but it was definitively delicious. The ratios are spot on.


 

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For the life of me I cannot find the recipe for mushroom stock, which is referenced several times in the book. Help?

I believe it is a mushroom broth rather than a mushroom stock: is that what you mean? That's on page 19 of the kitchen manual.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Made the Chili Oil over the weekend, but with different Chilis since thats what I had. Very interesting and deep flavor, intoxicating. Would go great on almost anything.

Just as an update to the Mango Sorbet, I have had limited success making this with other fruits. I have tried adding Xanthan Gum, I even tried adding some Fruit preserves. Almost every time as it reaches the top of the jar, it collapses, sometimes all the way down, sometimes less. The mango is by far the most stable.

The best luck I had was raspberries, with some added seedless rapsberry preserves, and some xanthan.

Mike


Edited by Msk (log)

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Re: citric acid vs. sodium citrate. Citric acid is just hydrogen citrate, and since it's the citrate ion that's doing the emulsifying legwork, they should both help emulsify the cheese. The problem is that citric acid is acidic (duh) and sodium citrate is basic, so your pH will be off. The pH definitely affects carrageenan's gelling qualities, and it may affect the emulsifying properties of the caseins in the cheese as well. Also, acids tend to prevent cheeses from melting by increasing the interactions between the caseins.

If you can, measure the pH of your cheese. If it's below ~5.4 or so, increasing the pH may help.

There's almost infinite more info about processed cheese in this scientific review article.

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After listening to Amirault's raving about the pastrami up-topic of course I had to make some. Having no access to decent beef cheeks (let alone Wagyu), and similarly no good short ribs available the week I wanted to make it, I just went with brisket. I used point, but I don't care for the large wedge of fat running between the two muscles, so I butchered it to remove that vein. What I wound up with where three pieces of brisket that were each more or less the thickness of a beef cheek, or perhaps just a little thicker. So I cured for four days (rather than the three suggested for cheek or the seven suggested for brisket): I'm not sure if this mattered in the end or not. I also left the dry rub on when serving because I really loved the flavor. I have to agree with Amirault's judgement here: holy pastrami. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Pastrami on rye.jpg

(yah, I reheated that in the microwave... even so, it was fantastic)


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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The way I derived the rule is that I did the calculations for literally thousands of different grill configurations and then plotted them up. To my suprise there was a pretty simple correlation which is the rule that we discuss in the text.

Thanks, Nathan.

It surprises me too, but sometimes linear regression works well even in places you don't expect it to.


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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After listening to Amirault's raving about the pastrami up-topic of course I had to make some. Having no access to decent beef cheeks (let alone Wagyu), and similarly no good short ribs available the week I wanted to make it, I just went with brisket. I used point, but I don't care for the large wedge of fat running between the two muscles, so I butchered it to remove that vein. What I wound up with where three pieces of brisket that were each more or less the thickness of a beef cheek, or perhaps just a little thicker. So I cured for four days (rather than the three suggested for cheek or the seven suggested for brisket): I'm not sure if this mattered in the end or not. I also left the dry rub on when serving because I really loved the flavor. I have to agree with Amirault's judgement here: holy pastrami. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Pastrami on rye.jpg

(yah, I reheated that in the microwave... even so, it was fantastic)

Oh that just looks too good. I'm just waiting on the Insta Cure I ordered to come in so I can make some myself. Since Insta Cure seems to be hard to source locally around Los Angeles, does anyone know if you can just make your own? I think it's 6.25% sodium nitrite and 63.75% sodium chloride.

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Also, dumb question time, is citric acid the same as sodium citrate?

Not the same, but you can use it to make sodium citrate. It's basically a matter of adding baking soda, water and heat.

The reaction is: C6H8O7(aq) + 3NaHCO3(s) -> 3H2O(l) + 3CO2(g) + Na3C6H5O7(aq)

Basically, to get 100g of trisodium citrate:

  1. Dissolve 74.45g anhydrous* citric acid in distilled water. You'll probably need around 125 mL of water to fully dissolve it (more is fine, but it'll take longer to boil off).
  2. Add 97.66g sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) slowly. It will produce a fair amount of carbon dioxide (about 2 soda siphon chargers worth). Citric acid+baking soda+water is the reaction behind many fizzy bath bombs.
  3. Boil off the water; what remains is sodium citrate. This can be done in a 175C/350F oven (though it should be possible to use higher temperatures as sodium citrate is apparently stable below about 300C/575F). Breaking it up periodically while it's solidifying seems to help the result end up closer to a powder.

* If you don't know if your citric acid is anhydrous (for what it's worth, my unlabeled citric acid was), you can convert it to anhydrous with heat. Wikipedia says this occurs above 78C (and citric acid decomposes at 175C) so baking it for an hour or so at 135C/275F should probably convert whatever you started with to anhydrous citric acid (which is weakly hygroscopic so it's probably best to keep it in a sealed container).

If you know you have the monohydrate variety, you can measure out 81.43g of it instead. Or if you don't want to bother, you could just use 74.45g of whatever citric acid you have and stop adding baking soda when it stops foaming (somewhere between 89.29 and 97.66 grams) or when the pH is neutral/slightly basic.

I ran this by a chemist friend of mine and he said a quick and dirty method would be to add baking soda saturated water to solid citric acid until it fully dissolves and stops bubbling (might have some overshoot, but you can add more acid to fix this). He pointed out that distilled water is useful because citrate will preferentially bind to Ca2+ over Na2+ if there is calcium present in the water, though slight impurities probably aren't a big deal. Lastly, he mentioned it should be possible to avoid making the sodium citrate beforehand (i.e., add the citric acid and baking soda in the cheese recipe, which is more or less what emannths suggests).

- Sharif

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Oh that just looks too good. I'm just waiting on the Insta Cure I ordered to come in so I can make some myself. Since Insta Cure seems to be hard to source locally around Los Angeles, does anyone know if you can just make your own? I think it's 6.25% sodium nitrite and 63.75% sodium chloride.

i wouldn't. In instacure the nitrite is bound to the salt so the distribution stays even throughout the bag. If you just put the 2 chemicals together you're likely to have stratification or improper distribution.

Spend the $10 and mail order it.

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I made the carmelized carrot soup on Sunday, and it lived up to the hype. The faint aroma of browned butter filled the kitchen, which was nice, even if it meant that precious volatiles were wasted during pressure cooking! The pureed carmelized carrots were so good on their own (though rich), that I could see serving it as an amuse-bouche on porcelain spoons. I don't have a juicer, so I had to go with carrot juice from Whole Foods, but it seemed fine. The final soup was decadent, pure, and silky. I found minced fresh sage to be a perfect addition, though my guests tended to find it a bit overpowering. Personally, I think the sage gave great variation to those mouthfuls that included it, and recommend it as a garnish...

Another great success for a "not too modernist" MC recipe.

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I did another batch of the mango sorbet and learned a few things. I thought I'd post it here for people to capitalize on.

First, my jars just barely fit inside the VP-112. In fact, it was too snug. I could put the lid down and have them in a sweet spot where the lid wouldn't be touching the jar. However, once the vacuum started, the lid of the VP-112 would push down on the lid of the jar, sealing it, and preventing the vacuum from pulling any air out of the jars. This was the result of my jars that didn't 'fluff' up at all.

My first work around from this was to put the jars in on their side, with the lid screwed down a bit (so the expanding mango wouldn't leak through the side). The problem with these versions is that they would sometimes collapse before they were done. Basically a few bubbles would get big and pop, which would cause others to pop, which would cause a reaction and soon it was nearly the volume I started with.

The fix for that problem was to manually stop the vacuum a bit sooner, or add a little more mango to the jar. You'd see it drop a little in volume a few times and from there had just a few seconds before total collapse (it makes sense when you try it).

The other problem here is that when the air was reintroduced to the chamber, the lid would seal on the jar, but not before letting some air in, which would reduce the foam by 50% or so.

The next thing I tried was my jar attachment. This had the same problems as above. Sometimes the seal would be pushed down too much and it would vacuum at all, sometimes it would collapse, sometimes it would go through and foam up well but extra air would collapse it some right before sealing.

I'm still working on a solution. I'm thinking maybe that universal lid that is used in an above post might work better for the last sealing step and not introduce air because of how it works (maybe) since it seems you leave it on the jar and don't use a standard lid. Maybe I can get a few of them and use them with my big jars (4 pint) to do large batches all at once. My only worry here is that with jars that big the mango won't have enough time to reach all the way up. I was doing it for the full 60 seconds the machine allows in the pint jars and sometimes that would just barely be enough time to get it done all the way to the top. I'm not sure how well this scales.

My other idea is to put the jars inside bags, with the lids screwed down (but not fully tight) and then putting them in the VP-112 on their side. Then letting them fully inflate and manually stopping them just before I think they are going to collapse. The hope here is that then when it reaches that point, the bag will then seal before any air is let back in. That will mean that there isn't any extra air inside the jar that can be forced into the jar collapsing things. I'm not sure if cutting the bag open after it's all done will let air in or not (depends on how well the jar seals with only outside air pressure through the bag) but I figure I can just throw the whole thing into the freezer and wait till it freezes and stabilizes before I have to worry about that.

The good thing about this recipe is that the base amount in the book gives you a LOT of jars to play with. I certainly needed all those extra attempts.

Also, I think for trying other fruits the process won't be that bad. As I found above, most my issues were caused by the sealing of the jars themselves. I think for testing fruits it's easy just to put some of it in an open jar, without a lid, and see if you can get it to foam up. I'm confident that if you can, the process will work if you can get it sealed properly.

I think someone (Nathan?) said it was the pectin that makes mangoes a good choice. I also thought I remember someone saying the citric acid helps in reacting with the pectin. I'm wondering if just using strawberries (or whatever) and citric acid and adding some pectin manually will let the same effect work. It should be easy enough to experiment with since you can remove the jar sealing from that step and just add ingredients as necessary to work on ratios.

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Phaz, I was following Nathan's suggestion of using Xanthan, perhaps I just didn't use enough. I decided to add some jelly of the same flavor fruit puree to add pectin content since I don't have Pectin on hand, again maybe there wasn't enough pectin in the jelly. Oh I did the above attempt without any citric acid at all. (the first successful one with pictures) So thats not even needed with mango.

You may have hit on a point too about the universal lid pulling a different type of vacuum, I haven't gone back to using that since I bought the smaller Ball Jars. I made a batch of the Simple syrup so maybe Ill give it another go tonight with some other fruits.

The other question is, if just adding Pectin is the answer, does it have to be heated to get hydrated? Most jelly recipes include it for canning which means its always heated.

Mike

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Phaz, your thought that the release of vacuum in the VP112 is allowing a bit of air in before the jar can seal makes sense although I still can't figure out why one of my jars worked absolutely perfectly, filled right up and stayed that way and why others only partially filled and others wouldn't even start to rise. More experimentation necessary for sure. Since I scaled the recipe down by a large degree I didn't have as much to play with. I did use 1/2 pint jam jars instead of 1 pint jars which fit in the chamber just fine. I figured the end resultant quantity would be fine for service directly from the jar as individual servings (even though there was only 20 grams of mango base in the jar it 'looks' like a large portion to the diner).

Doing a test with other fruits, as you suggest, makes sense too. I did add some pureed frozen saskatoon berries to the remainder of my test batch of mango and while it did expand satisfactorily, the fruit the fruit-to-seed ratio in Saskatoons (service berry) made for a not so pleasant eating experience.

Will try the jar in a bag idea and also with the one small container that was made for vacuum sealing - if a person could find a source for inexpensive or semi-bulk purchase of these canisters it could be good for individual service. Another thing to try would be putting a jar (would probably need to be the 1/2 pint size with its lid and snug ring) inside the external vacuum canister and then repeat with additional jars.

The eating experience of the aerated sorbet was quite nice, especially as it just starts to soften enough to make it easy to spoon out and before it 'melts'.


Llyn Strelau

Calgary, Alberta

Canada

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Carlton-they sell curing salt (pink salt) at Williams Sonoma. It's in the spice section. Of course, I can never leave that damn store with just what I went in for, so be warned you might spend more than you'd bargained for :wink: ...


If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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After listening to Amirault's raving about the pastrami up-topic of course I had to make some. Having no access to decent beef cheeks (let alone Wagyu), and similarly no good short ribs available the week I wanted to make it, I just went with brisket. I used point, but I don't care for the large wedge of fat running between the two muscles, so I butchered it to remove that vein. What I wound up with where three pieces of brisket that were each more or less the thickness of a beef cheek, or perhaps just a little thicker. So I cured for four days (rather than the three suggested for cheek or the seven suggested for brisket): I'm not sure if this mattered in the end or not. I also left the dry rub on when serving because I really loved the flavor. I have to agree with Amirault's judgement here: holy pastrami. This is the stuff dreams are made of.

Pastrami on rye.jpg

(yah, I reheated that in the microwave... even so, it was fantastic)

Oh that just looks too good. I'm just waiting on the Insta Cure I ordered to come in so I can make some myself. Since Insta Cure seems to be hard to source locally around Los Angeles, does anyone know if you can just make your own? I think it's 6.25% sodium nitrite and 63.75% sodium chloride.

I couldn't find Insta Cure locally on Long Island and my short ribs were going to spoil if I waited for mail order. I found curing salt at Williams Sonoma and it worked great! Amazing pastrami!


Anne Napolitano

Chef On Call

"Great cooking doesn't come from breaking with tradition but taking it in new directions-evolution rather that revolution." Heston Blumenthal

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I get my instacure from Amazon. Supermarkets often have Morton's cure mix too. I forget what they call it.

Sent from my Droid using Tapatalk

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Morton's Tenderquick is not a substitute for Cure #1 or #2. It contains an unspecified amount of nitrates, nitrites and sugar as well as salt.

What is it good for?

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Morton's Tenderquick is not a substitute for Cure #1 or #2. It contains an unspecified amount of nitrates, nitrites and sugar as well as salt.

What is it good for?

I guess it's good if you follow a recipe formulated to use Tenderquick. I thikn there are web pages that detail the % of the contents, but it's not on the package.

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I've seen that one on Amazon, I just have a problem spending $10 shipping on a $6 item. I ordered from sausagemaker.com because you can get a $10 off coupon for signing up for their catalog if you are a new customer. Wound up only costing $9 shipped.

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I've seen that one on Amazon, I just have a problem spending $10 shipping on a $6 item. I ordered from sausagemaker.com because you can get a $10 off coupon for signing up for their catalog if you are a new customer. Wound up only costing $9 shipped.

You can also get it on ebay, 4oz for $4.75 incl shipping. Just search for curing salt or prague powder or pink salt, etc.

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Has anyone tried to make the bearnaise ice cream from the hangar steak tartare recipe? I'm curious about what the actual yield of the syrup is, since the recipe calls for around a liter of input to yield only 45mL of output. Does it really get reduced that much, of is there a lot left over?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Has anyone tried to make the bearnaise ice cream from the hangar steak tartare recipe? I'm curious about what the actual yield of the syrup is, since the recipe calls for around a liter of input to yield only 45mL of output. Does it really get reduced that much, of is there a lot left over?

I made it and I don't remember much excess. I will note that the ice cream seemed to our tastes way too sweet so maybe I missed a step.

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Thanks--I just finished making the reduction and sure enough, I was barely able to eek 45 grams out when all was said and done: definitely no leftovers. I'm looking forward to this ice cream (well, not really an ice cream, I guess, with no cream. Gelato?), the reduction smells great. This is lunch tomorrow, I think.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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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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