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MikeTMD

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 6)

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Shaun,

That is a good question. I have grains on my to-do list, but haven't gotten around to testing them yet. (I tested dried beans last week, and they worked very well.) Since cooking grains is mainly about the gelatinization of the starches granules in the cells, I would first try 175F (80C) (since most starches gelatinize between 140--175F/60--80C). If that temperature is not high enough, I would then try 185F (85C). If neither of those temperatures is high enough, I would try 195F (90C) --- which is what I ended up cooking my dried beans at. As for the cooking time, I would try 1.5 hours at 195F (90C), 2.1 hours at 185F (85C), and 3 hours at 175F (80C) based on the old (very rough) approximation that increasing/decreasing the temperature by 10C halves/doubles the reaction time in biological systems. I would also start with the same liquid-oat ratio you use traditionally, cook it sous vide, and then measure how much liquid you can strain off (and subtract a little less than that amount of liquid on your next experiment). Anyway, that is what I plan to do when I get around to testing the best way to cook grains sous vide.

I look forward to hearing about your results.

Very Best Wishes,

Douglas


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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Thanks for the suggestions, Douglas. I hadn't thought to calibrate the sous vide cooker with an oral thermometer, but I did verify it with a Thermapen kitchen thermometer. The chicken thighs were packed in a single layer, but I did include a chilled glob of olive oil and perhaps that turned the package into a confit. Each package also included a lemon slice (in the first instance) and multiple garlic cloves (the second time), which may have insulated the chicken to some extent.

Following your suggestions, the next time I'll just salt & pepper the chicken, vacuum bag it, sous vide the package and use the juices to develop a sauce after the cooking.

Thanks again for all the work you've done developing, organizing and codifying information about sous vide.

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Back on March 11 KennethT asked whether anyone has done just a marrow bone and if so, what temp/time? But there were no responses then. Anyone have any experiences with sous vide marrow bone?

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Back on March 11 KennethT asked whether anyone has done just a marrow bone and if so, what temp/time? But there were no responses then. Anyone have any experiences with sous vide marrow bone?

I think back at the time, I wound up doing it at 176F for about an hour... worked ok - the marrow came out in one piece and was nice and soft - but I think too much of the fat may have rendered out... I'd be curious to try it again a little differently...

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I'm surprised that the rosemary came through but not the garlic. My small amount of experience with aromatic herbs in vacuum is that they don't work. In my case it was using fresh dill over salmon in a gravlax cure under vacuum. The cure worked fine, but the dill didn't come through. Note however, that Douglas warns against using garlic in sous vide. Though that might only apply to raw garlic.

It isn't so surprising -- not all aromatic herbs are equally aromatic. Dill is much less aromatic than rosemary and juniper berries (at least fresh ones) and even tarragon. I, too, have found that dill is pretty subtle. With rosemary, i also find that toasting it before using it for sous-vide tames it a little bit.

As others have mentioned roasted garlic is not all that 'garlicky' (for want of a better word).

For a couple of years I avoided using raw garlic sous-vide because so many people reported bad results and I relied on garlic powder. A few months ago, I decided to explore using raw garlic and found that if you use the right amount and balance it with some acid and oil in the bag that you can get a nice garlic flavor that is neither too intense or too raw.

I am using this with chicken when I cook it in the 140F to 155F range (lately the temperature is determined by how quickly I want the chicken to be ready). I haven't tried this at lower temperatures -- I suspect that the garlic may mellow a little bit more at these temps than at lower temps.

The amounts will vary on the particular garlic that you have and your taste. Here is what I do. I use a garlic press and press a medium-sized clove into a tablespoon or two of olive oil. I add a little salt and the juice of 1/4 to 1/2 of a meyer lemon (for this use I am preferring meyer lemons to standard lemons) and about 1/4 to 1/2 cap of liquid smoke. I use this amount for two boneless/skinless breasts or 4 thighs.

At 155F, I cook them for an hour or so. At lower temps, I cook longer to make sure they are pasteurized.

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Back on March 11 KennethT asked whether anyone has done just a marrow bone and if so, what temp/time? But there were no responses then. Anyone have any experiences with sous vide marrow bone?

I did ossobuco with marrow bone at 58.5°C for 12 hours, the meat was pink, succulent and fork-tender, but not falling apart like after traditional braising, and the marrow was soft. For the recipe see http://sousvide.wiki...m/wiki/Ossobuco

I've tried slices of marrow bones @ 135F, overnight packed with sous-vide garlic and BBQ sauce. Great spread on toasted garlic bread (LaBrea). I didn't take notes, careful with the sauce, or it's intrusive.

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Re: marrow bones, thanks for the suggestions. I'm planning a comparo test:

1. fry (with marrow removed from the bone, dusted with flour);

2. roast (450F/230C for 15 mins - because the web is full of a recipe from Fergus Henderson for roast veal marrowbones with parsley salad);

3. SV warm and quick (176F/80C for 1 hour, as KennethT did);

4. SV cool and slow (135F/57C overnight, as yosemit3 did).

In each case, I'll lightly season each the same way with s&p. I hope I can report back after the holidays. Perhaps others can try a similar test to compare results.

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Thanks for your reply Douglas

I will give that I try

I forgot however to ask one further question: if I am using milk (or 1/2 milk, 1/2 water) as my liquid, what should I consider to be the danger zone in terms of cooking temperature. I would guess that 80C or above would be safe, but again I would appreciate your thoughts.

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I forgot however to ask one further question: if I am using milk (or 1/2 milk, 1/2 water) as my liquid, what should I consider to be the danger zone in terms of cooking temperature. I would guess that 80C or above would be safe, but again I would appreciate your thoughts.

Shaun,

Using milk is not a problem from the food safety standpoint. Indeed, the `danger zone' for all foods is between 29.3F (-1.5C) [the temperature at which Listeria monocytogenes begins to grow] and 126.1F (52.3C) [the temperature at which Clostridium perfringens stops growing] unless there are additional hurdles which preserve the food between those temperatures. [Note that the danger zone only applied to pathogenic microorganisms, there are spoilage and beneficial microorganisms which can grow at temperatures above and below the danger zone.] Examples of hurdles include canning (which makes the food shelf-stable by reducing the vegetative pathogens and spores to a safe-level and prevents recontamination), decreasing the water activity (e.g., drying meat to make jerky or curing it in salt), decreasing the pH of the food (say by adding acid or through fermentation), etc.* Frequently, several hurdles are combined to allow the food to be stored at temperatures within the danger zone for extended periods of time.

* For extremely detailed scientific information on food preservation techniques, I recommend checking out the "Handbook of Food Preservation" edited by M. Shafiur Rahman from your local library system [which can probably get it through inter-library loan from a research university].


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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I just had my first (of many I hope) sous vide Xmas dinner.

I sourced a rare breed (Wessex Saddleback) suckling pig with a dressed weight of 10-12 kg.

My set up consisted of a 20 litre (4 1/2 gal) urn, a Sous-Vide Magic temperature controller, and a 28cm Sunbeam Food Saver.

My technique was borrowed from Joan Roca, although I allowed a longer cooking time given his use of a smaller piglet.

I broke down the pig and individually bagged the pieces each with a few tablespoons of olive oil and peppercorns. (Olive oil can be solidified in the freezer which helps avoid having to seal liquid using a Food Save). I cooked in three batches, each batch at 70C/158F for 14 hours. Each batch was rapidly cooled in an ice bath and refrigerated in the meat chiller until prior to service.

About two hours prior to service I reheated the bags using a domestic oven at 80-85C. After taking the meat out of the bags I removed the bones (after reheating it was possible to remove the bones by just pulling them out). I then attempted to crisp the skin up using non-stick pans on the stove top, using a thermometer to ensure the core temperature was raised enough.

The texture of the meat was very good: moist and tender. It was not fork-tender - as I have often seen meat described on this post - but that would not have been to my taste. My efforts to crisp the skin were only partially successful due perhaps to lack of patience and care. But the method was fundamentally sound and I would recommend it.

I note that Thomas Keller has a recipe which is basically an assiette that uses a suckling pig of similar dimensions to the one I tackled. It is a highly technical method that involves differential treatment of different parts of the pig. I can see how this would produce better results, even if the results of the simpler technique I used were more than satisfactory.

I served the pig with mille-feuille potatoes, shallot confit, sous-vide apple wedges, and a coleslaw made with wombok, fennel, watercress, chervil, and hazelnuts dressed with an apple mustard vinaigrette (Thomas Keller being the inspiration behind some of these accompaniments.) I opted against Joan Roca's accompaniment of orange gastrique which, although delicious-sounding, seemed incompatible with potatoes.

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Shaun

Last summer I cooked a suckling pig sous vide using Joan Roca's method. I chilled and refrigerated the pieces still in their vacuum bags. Before serving I crisped the skin over a sear burner. I kept one of two pieces back (I think I even froze one piece) and crisped those in a cast iron pan. All emerged beautifully crisp and I would do them the same way again. A few weeks later my husband and I were at Can Roca and suckling pig was on the menu. It could have been the same pig that I took off my grill! Joan Roca's recipes are supremely reliable.

Ruth


Ruth Friedman

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I got the 'Sous Vide Supreme water oven' for Christmas. There is no virtually assembly, it is intuitive to use right out of the box. Slick looking, the footprint is relatively small, it is easy to lift for water fill/empty, quick to ramp up to selected temperature and seems quite accurate (verified with IR thermometer). Compared a ribeye v tri tip (salt/pepper/garlic/butter)132F for about 6 hrs, both perfectly medium rare, the tri tip incredibly tender and succulent. Yesterday did eggs 148F for 1 hr and they were exactly as documented here: http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html

Still a rookie having used it only twice but thus far I give it two thumbs up.

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I can see both pros and cons in using the Sous Vide Supreme instead of a temperature controller / cooker combination.

Cons:

1. The combination is potentially cheaper: about $150 for the controller + between $50 and $200 for the cooker depending on size (cf $450 for the Supreme)

2. The combination gives you a potentially bigger water bath. I use a 20 litre urn that cost A$100 on Ebay and could safely cook about 3kg meat - in the 10 litre bath of the Supreme I would guess you are limited to 1 - 2 kg before your heat transfer from water to meat becomes too slow. (Doug Baldwin can probably provide some figures on all this).

Pros:

1. Slick design, all-in-one package

2. Less bench space

3. No need to worry about PID settings (although the Sous Vide Magic has an auto-tune function for this)

What is not clear from the Sous Vide Supreme specs is: (a) power of the heating element, which determines how quickly you can get your water bath to the right temperature, and (b) how well insulated it is, which determines how efficiently and therefore economically it operates. Also the specs do not indicate there is any circulator built into the device, from which I would assume that the precision of temperature control no better than the combination using cooker that heats from the bottom.

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>> Also the specs do not indicate there is any circulator built into the device, from which I would assume that the precision of temperature control no better than the combination using cooker that heats from the bottom. <<

There is no circulator. They have a perforated bottom and based on comments I read on on one of the blogs they have multiple heating zones that they activate to generate some sort of current within the bath.

Judging their marketing, they are after the no carb dieter rather than the "How can we poach this in butter" Egullet food scientist so this is maybe why they leave lots of info off the table.

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What is not clear from the Sous Vide Supreme specs is: (a) power of the heating element, which determines how quickly you can get your water bath to the right temperature.

If anyone is interested, I can do some power draw / time measurements for my Sous Vide Supreme machine once I get home (Jan 4th)

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re: the sous vide oatmeal upthread- I have done this several times (even replied to a rice-cooker/oatmeal thread here on eG about it). I did it as more of a convenience breakfast item rather than an attempt to improve upon conventionally-cooked oatmeal though...

I use Alton Brown's 'overnight oatmeal' recipe, put it all in a bag, and set it in a PID-controlled rice cooker at 182degF overnight (I generally start with room temp/cold ingredients - ice cubes and frozen half and half for the liquids, so it takes a while to come up to temp each night - probably ends up being at 182 for 6 hours???? It's been a while since I've done it).

I'm not exactly sure why I settled on 182 degrees (can't remember or find my scribbled notes).? I was starting to read about starch gelatinization at the time though. From Doug's post (thank you for everything you've done for all of us amateurs, BTW!!!) it looks like I could drop the temp even lower. My version is probably not quite as nice as oatmeal made in a pot over the stove, but much less labor intensive (In the morning, I empty the bag into a mixing bowl and give it a few good stirs, but other than that, it is hot and ready when I wake up)!

- c o r y

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Thanks for that Corymoto. So far I have tried 90C for one hour and 85C overnight. Cooking times of 2, 3 hours are not really practical because I don't want to get up really early and if I do it the night before the oats continue to cook and break down overnight anyway.

Regarding the use of liquids I have found the difficulties of bagging liquids using a domestic vacuum sealer are overstated by many.

I have a foodsaver with a manual "pulse" option that is perfect for things such as porridge.

I hold the bottom of the bag over the end of the bench and use gravity to keep liquid away from the vacuum channel. By using the pulse buttom I can remove the air just to the point the liquid starts to move towards the channel and then seal. No problems and no air bubbles.

This method works fine for liquid marinates and syrups as well.

Theoretically freezing is preferable so that you can get more pressure but I doubt it really makes that much difference.

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...

Regarding the use of liquids I have found the difficulties of bagging liquids using a domestic vacuum sealer are overstated by many.

I have a foodsaver with a manual "pulse" option that is perfect for things such as porridge.

...

Shaun, the liquid difficulty is not with a domestic machine, as such.

The difficulty is with liquids and a basic full-auto machine, with no manual control whatsoever.

With an auto-only machine, freezing of liquids/sauces/etc is required.

But domestic machines with manual control options are just fine. And the more options, the more control, the better.

I'm still delighted with my clearance-priced FoodSaver V2860.


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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I love cooking small birds - quail, squab, etc etc... and I find sous vide great for this - but, I've always been disappointed with some, especially squab. My feeling has always been that the squab we get in the US has very little flavor compared to its equivalent in France. I can't tell you how many restaurants I've been in France where the squab has had tons of flavor - then when I get back to the US, it's always relatively flavorless... So the other day, I started doing some research - it seems that the french birds are hung for several days post slaughter as a sort of dry-age, whereas, I gather, the US birds are not... so I first started thinking about dry-aging the squab for a few days in the refrigerator - but I don't know much about that (and it's for a different topic), so I decided to try to enzymatically accelerate it prior to cooking...

I made 2 squab breasts (from the same bird) - both were seasoned equally, then seared on all sides, then put into 2 different bags. One bag was held at 100F for about an hour (the other in the refrigerator), then the temp of the bath was increased to 132F, and the second squab was added, and both cooked for about 1.5 hours (roughly - I didn't time it exactly) to cook medium-rare and pasteurize.

The results were conclusive - upon a blind tasting, the accelerated squab breast was noticably more flavorful and slightly more tender! I will definitely do this again - but next time "age" it for 2-3 hours to see what happens...

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I asked this question in the Confit Myth thread but it was a little off-topic so I thought I would try here:

Both Keller (in Under Pressure) and Paula Wolfert have noted that if you plan to keep sous vide duck confit more than a week or so that it should be repackaged. I'm not quite sure I understand why keeping it in contact with the "duck jelly" is problematic but I'm obviously quite concerned about botulism.

I have some confit that's about 4 months old, was chilled rapidly after sous vide confit, and has been refrigerated ever since (the bag is still tightly vacuumed). Would people here eat this? Or throw it away?

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...

I have some confit that's about 4 months old, was chilled rapidly after sous vide confit, and has been refrigerated ever since (the bag is still tightly vacuumed). Would people here eat this? Or throw it away?

It depends on two things: how cold is your refrigerator and did cooking reduce non-proteolytic C. botulinum to a safe level? To quote my guide:

A few sous vide recipes use temperature-time combinations which can reduce non-proteolytic C. botulinum to a safe level; specifically, a 6D reduction in non-proteolytic C. botulinum requires 520 minutes (8 hours 40 minutes) at 167°F (75°C), 75 minutes at 176°F (80°C), or 25 minutes at 185°F (85°C) (Fernández and Peck, 1999). The food may then be stored at below 39°F (4°C) indefinitely, the minimum temperature at which B. cereus can grow (Andersson et al., 1995).


Edited by DouglasBaldwin (log)

My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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I'm assuming you didn't use any nitrite in the salt cure?

Obviously, the "when in doubt, throw it out" rule applies, but on a whim, I just looked up the temperature for destroying botulinum toxin. The CDC says:

Despite its extreme potency, botulinum toxin is easily destroyed. Heating to an internal temperature of 85°C [185°F] for at least 5 minutes will decontaminate affected food or drink.

So that might be the way to go, if you feel comfortable with it.


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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      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
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