Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Msk

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 2)

Recommended Posts

So that you may all learn from my stupidity: 625 grams of egg yolks is a LOT of egg yolks, when you're using whole eggs. Like, 40-50. Which of course I failed to process until I started cracking my one carton of eggs. Doh. If you are making this ice cream **plan ahead**!


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So that you may all learn from my stupidity: 625 grams of egg yolks is a LOT of egg yolks, when you're using whole eggs. Like, 40-50. Which of course I failed to process until I started cracking my one carton of eggs. Doh. If you are making this ice cream **plan ahead**!

Ha! It's definitely taking me a little effort to get used to thinking in grams rather than ounces/pounds. The one thing I keep reminding myself when looking at measures in grams is thinking 1000g is about 2 pounds, similarly 250g is about a half pound. So yeah, 625g is a LOT of yolks! I didn't get to this part yet (and don't keep my books at work) - do they recommend using fresh yolks, or can you use dehydrated yolks and rehydrate? When I used to do candymaking, I would use dehydrated egg whites all the time - they whipped up perfectly and were easy to measure...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think they discuss using dehydrated egg yolks at any point: in a restaurant setting you just buy the yolks and whites in bulk so it's no big deal. It's just us home cooks that have to be careful. My big problem was thinking I was making an ice cream: I even bought cream without thinking about it. But of course this isn't ice cream, so my rationale for thinking "gee I have an entire carton of eggs, that will be plenty" was way off base.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Skirt Steak Tartare with Béarnaise Gelato

Steak tartare (1).jpg

So I did eventually manage to get that gelato made, after a trip to the store for a few dozen more eggs. The recipe actually makes a huge quantity of ice cream relative to the amount of tartare, so I'd be inclined to make a 1/4 batch next time. When I first made the ice cream of course I had to sample it on its own... wow. My brain is completely unable to cope with something that looks like a spoonful of a rich, sweet vanilla ice cream, but that tastes like shallots and vinegar. Even after a couple bites my mind was still reeling: as you might guess, I don't think I've ever encountered a truly savory ice cream before, and it really screwed with my head (in a good way, I mean).

The recipe calls for hangar steak, which I can't get, so I had to sub in skirt: I think it worked well, though I'm sure the texture was a bit different. I really liked the texture of this tartare, though, and I thought the ice cream was fantastic on it. It was still a bit startling at first bite, but the ice-cold creaminess was an excellent foil for the relatively firm beef, and the flavors worked very well together (as they should: the flavors were not unusual for steak tartare, it was the appearance and texture that took this into the Modernist realm). The beef is heated to 122°F for three hours to tenderize, the seared off on one side only and chilled before chopping, by hand of course. My one complaint is that I found that after "cooking" even at that low temperature the beef didn't quite have the bright red color I associate with a standard filet tartare. I don't know if this is an artifact of using skirt instead of hangar, or if that's just the way it is. Still, all in all a really good lunch.

ETA: Above, bobag87 commented that the ice cream was too sweet. I did not find that to be the case, I thought it was well-balanced.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Skirt Steak Tartare with Béarnaise Gelato

Steak tartare (1).jpg

So I did eventually manage to get that gelato made, after a trip to the store for a few dozen more eggs. The recipe actually makes a huge quantity of ice cream relative to the amount of tartare, so I'd be inclined to make a 1/4 batch next time. When I first made the ice cream of course I had to sample it on its own... wow. My brain is completely unable to cope with something that looks like a spoonful of a rich, sweet vanilla ice cream, but that tastes like shallots and vinegar. Even after a couple bites my mind was still reeling: as you might guess, I don't think I've ever encountered a truly savory ice cream before, and it really screwed with my head (in a good way, I mean).

The recipe calls for hangar steak, which I can't get, so I had to sub in skirt: I think it worked well, though I'm sure the texture was a bit different. I really liked the texture of this tartare, though, and I thought the ice cream was fantastic on it. It was still a bit startling at first bite, but the ice-cold creaminess was an excellent foil for the relatively firm beef, and the flavors worked very well together (as they should: the flavors were not unusual for steak tartare, it was the appearance and texture that took this into the Modernist realm). The beef is heated to 122°F for three hours to tenderize, the seared off on one side only and chilled before chopping, by hand of course. My one complaint is that I found that after "cooking" even at that low temperature the beef didn't quite have the bright red color I associate with a standard filet tartare. I don't know if this is an artifact of using skirt instead of hangar, or if that's just the way it is. Still, all in all a really good lunch.

ETA: Above, bobag87 commented that the ice cream was too sweet. I did not find that to be the case, I thought it was well-balanced.

Looks very nice. I can see, after looking at the KM (is it wrong to keep it with me at work to steal glances at something or another every hour or so?), why you would not think that the ice cream ingredients will make so much end product. If it was listed as a seperate recipe component with yield then maybe it would've clicked just how much gelato you will end up with.

As for the steak, I think hanger steak is usually thicker than a skirt (also depends if it is inside or outside skirt you used). That in addition to the naturally deeper red color a hanger has could account for the difference in color you are seeing. Honestly though, your version looks damn tasty.

My first recipe from MC ended up being the Brown Beef Stock cooked in the pressure cooker. I needed to make some beef stock anyways with a several prime rib bones (saved them after carving the meat off them). So, I subbed those for the oxtail. I also made a double batch to use up all the bones and it is now frozen in FoodSaver bags. The stock was very tasty and made a semi-firm gel in the fridge (can be spooned but not really cut). I also ended up with a good cup or so of rendered beef fat from it's surface.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Quail with Apple-Vinegar Emulsion and Water Chestnuts (p. 3•101)

Wow.

With that out of the way, here's the assembly...

You start out with four quail, and rub them down with confit curing mix:

Quail - 1 - Confit spice.jpg

That gets sealed up and stuck in the fridge for two hours:

Quail - 3 - Brining.jpg

You also need some Quatre épices which I didn't have on hand, so made according to the recipe on 2•403:

Quail - 2 - Quatre epices.jpg

Next up, you rinse the quail after two hours and bag them up separately:

Quail - 4 - Separate bags.jpg

Those get cooked sous vide at 131°F for 35 minutes, then held at 129°F for 2h17m to pasteurize (optional, I did it). Here they are cooked:

Quail - 6 - Cooked.jpg

A couple days ago I put up some sweet pickled apples (p. 3•348) in the fridge, those are now ready:

Quail - 5 - Pickled apples.jpg

The quail get a fifteen minute rest while you prepare the sauce (chicken stock, apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and shallots, reduced by about 75%, strained, finished with butter... sorry no pics). Then you dredge the quail in either Crisp Coat UC or potato starch (I used potato starch) and the quatre epices:

Quail - 7 - Dredged.jpg

Into the deep fryer at 450°F (yes, that's a 4. Also, I was low on oil so shallow-fried in the wok):

Quail - 8 - Deep frying.jpg

After about 30 seconds, they come out super crispy:

Quail - 9 - Fried.jpg

And get served with the sauce mentioned above, plus a quick saute of the apples with water chestnuts and tarragon. I served with a wild rice pilaf:

Quail - 10 - Served.jpg

Seriously, seriously delicious. This dish is firing on all cylinders: the quail is perfectly cooked, the sauce is amazing, and those pickled apples are stunning on top. It was a lot of steps, but it's a winner.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No doubt! Though at least the individual quail fit in the 1 pint bags, which are the cheapest. At this rate in five or six years I'll be able to justify a chamber sealer :smile:.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone so far discovered any recipes that could be made/made easier/ or specifically call for machines such as a Thermomix or Kenwood Cooking Chef?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A few updates.

The Jean-Georges Vongerichten inspired chili oil is amazing. I have been drizzling it on this leftover flank steak I cooked SV for tortillas last week, and just with that oil and a bit of salt it's a revelation. There's something about the multiple infusions -- vacuum-sealed, then heated SV, then cooled, then strained -- that seems to bring out a very layered, nuanced complexity of flavor.

Finishing up some bacon soon, but won't smoke until after a business trip.

The short rib pastrami is tonight's dinner. I have been mesmerized by this process and am eager to see how it turns out. Pix, of course, later.

Any update on the bacon yet? I was able to find some Fermento and Sodium Erythorbate online for not too expensive. It looks like both play a role in the curing process vs something just added for flavor. The idea of making my own MC bacon and smoking it with some Jim Beam whiskey barrel wood and apple wood sounds too good to pass up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, sorry, I posted that over here:

This last time, following The Modernist Cuisine recipe for house bacon, I let the bacon rest for 10 days in a 40F curing chamber after it was done curing, to allow that diffusion to take place. This bacon is, by far, the best I've ever made, and I'm convinced that the extra time spent is the reason.

I followed the recipe very closely, and next time I'd up the pepper for the base recipe and probably try some of my usual variations, especially when my rosemary plant gets going in earnest. But, as I said, this is the best I've ever made, and I've made a boatload of bacon, let me tell you. In particular, the cure was far better distributed throughout the bacon than ever before. This was first notable when I cooked it and discovered that I was getting none of the edge darkening that has happened often in the past -- which I now attribute to inadequate distribution of sugar.

Great recipe, great result.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, sorry, I posted that over here:

This last time, following The Modernist Cuisine recipe for house bacon, I let the bacon rest for 10 days in a 40F curing chamber after it was done curing, to allow that diffusion to take place. This bacon is, by far, the best I've ever made, and I'm convinced that the extra time spent is the reason.

I followed the recipe very closely, and next time I'd up the pepper for the base recipe and probably try some of my usual variations, especially when my rosemary plant gets going in earnest. But, as I said, this is the best I've ever made, and I've made a boatload of bacon, let me tell you. In particular, the cure was far better distributed throughout the bacon than ever before. This was first notable when I cooked it and discovered that I was getting none of the edge darkening that has happened often in the past -- which I now attribute to inadequate distribution of sugar.

Great recipe, great result.

Chris, why are you so surprised that a longer time in the cure will distribute the ingredients better?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chris, why are you so surprised that a longer time in the cure will distribute the ingredients better?

I'm not surprised that that happened. I was surprised that an additional ten days -- ten days more than anyone has ever suggested to me, including Ruhlman & Polcyn -- would have such a dramatic effect.

And NB: it wasn't extra time in the cure. It was extra time OUT of the cure, in a curing chamber.


Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever seen a recipe that suggests a week post-cure and pre-smoke for distribution? I haven't -- but then again, you know your charcuterie stuff far better than I.


Edited by Chris Amirault Typos -- CA (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No sir, haven't. I've never made smoked bacon, i've made smoked pancetta, which is cured, smoked, then dry cured so the distribution probably happens later.

Do you think some of the improvement is also because of the moisture loss in those 10 days which would concentrate the flavors before smoking the belly?

I haven't gotten to the salumi section (only skimmed it) in MC, as i'm sort of reading it "novel" like...i've finished volume 1 i'm up to "baking" in Volume 2.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Do you think some of the improvement is also because of the moisture loss in those 10 days which would concentrate the flavors before smoking the belly?

Yes, I think so -- and based on my experiences with stresa pancetta, it makes sense.

So, a combination of things, including moisture loss, diffusion, and controlled aging of the meat, probably combined to make it work. Oh, and for MC owners, this all happened without any Fermento.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever seen a recipe that suggests a week post-cure and pre-smoke for distribution? I haven't -- but then again, you know your charcuterie stuff far better than I.

The River Cottage Meat Book calls for hanging bellies for a period after rinsing off the cure. Don't recall the duration off the top of my head.

eta: quote for context


 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I finished (and finished off) the pastrami tonight. I used boneless shortribs, 3.5 pounds cut into 8 pieces. I only made enough brine for the recipe, which uses a kilo of meat; I didn't scale it but it was fine, there was enough instacure to turn all the meat pink. I did scale the rub though for the amount of meat I had.

It was very moist and delicious. I smoked the meat for 4 hours at 171F per the recipe but I though the meat was a little too smokey. I used applewood. What kind of wood are you all using for your pastrami? I thought maybe mine was too smokey because I had so much surface area.

All in all it was a success, my dinner guests said it was the best pastrami sandwich they ever had, and the beat sandwich they ever had. This book rocks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I keep burning my carrots when making the pressure-cooked caramelized carrot soup.

I've only used my pressure cooker twice, and it was for this recipe both times. The recipe calls for pressure cooking for 50 minutes. After about 30 minutes, both times, I could smell burning. I removed the pressure cooker from the heat and rapidly cooled it. When I opened the lid, I discovered that the bottom of the pan was covered in burnt (not just caramelized) carrot. I was able to salvage most of the unburnt carrots, but the scorched flavor had already made it's way into the soup.

So, what am I doing wrong? My pressure cooker's manual says to always operate it over high heat. On my second attempt, I ignored that instruction and used medium heat. I even picked up the pressure cooker and jostled it around a few times to try to mix up the carrots inside. Still scorched after less than 30 minutes. There's no pressure gauge on my cooker, so I don't know how many psi it's running at.

Note that the recipe does not call for any additional water. The only moisture comes from the butter and carrots, which is plenty to produce lots of steam pressure.

Has anyone else run into this issue?


SCOTT HEIMENDINGER
Co-Founder, CMO

Sansaire

Share this post


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

  • Similar Content

    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...