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KaffirLime

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 4)

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I believe, at least for Nathan and Daniel, they calculated the values themselves so you can cite them.

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I think it’s fabulous sharing this information.  Could you give the source.  Obviously, this type of information on storage times/temperatures cannot be easily verified and is pretty safety-critical.  I’d like to use the data, but clearly it would be difficult to justify without a reference.  Thanks.

Douglas has some references on the great SV page he has been building.

http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html


My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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pounce – thanks for posting the link. Happy I can track the storage temperatures back to a reviewed source.

Douglas – Great work! Love the egg pictures – looks just like the ones that come out of my water bath. Do you have experimental data that confirms the heating/cooling tables you’ve put together? For example, I’ve found that in the case of a sausage vs the same thickness piece of meat, the sausage ‘cooks’ a good deal faster (measured with a probe thermometer), so geometry could be an additional factor.

Any idea if there is a measurable difference between the use of a circulating and non-circulating bath? I’ve only got a non-circulating bath, and haven’t found an inexpensive way of pushing the water around at, say, 70C so I can test the difference.

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Baggy - Of course you had to expect your results right? The charts that Douglas and Nathan provided are assuming you are using normal cuts of proten (beef, chicken, pork, fish). They are not charts for head cheese, sausage, dumplings, or

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Any idea if there is a measurable difference between the use of a circulating and non-circulating bath?  I’ve only got a non-circulating bath, and haven’t found an inexpensive way of pushing the water around at, say, 70C so I can test the difference.

How significant the difference in water temps will be in the bath depends on where the heat source is located and the insulation characteristics.

A number of us have found that an aquarium air pump (less than $10) will provide ample circulation for most baths. They can be used with or without air stones.

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sygyzy – you’re right, and I was expecting a difference. What I didn’t know until I tried it was how big a difference there is between items of different geometries. Initially I started with a simple theoretical model based on Peter Barham’s formula included in his book ‘The Science of Cooking’. Unfortunately, the experimental approach seems to be at variance with the theory. So, I pose the question – has the theory been subjected to any real-world testing? I’m feeling my way in this area and have the impression that we are not quite ready to recommend a 20 mins a lb approach.

e_monster – thanks for the thought. I’ve been measuring the water temperature and find some minor variation depending on location within the bath. What surprised me was the additional variation caused when a pack is added – the temperature is consistently higher than the thermostat setting. So I figured that some circulation might help. After a long conversation (convoluted) with my local aquarium shop I came away with some doubts about using a circulating pump due to the high temperatures (and kit in the UK doesn’t seem to be as inexpensive as in the US). I guess that an aerator seems to work OK for you – how much stuff can you put in the bath before the circulation is slowed?

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If you want to try an aquarium approach you don't want a power head or a water pump. You want an air pump.

http://www.aquatics-online.co.uk/catalogue...-and-spares.asp

It's just going to bubble air through a plastic hose in your SV.

This works find for long times. Short times benefit from faster moving water. You aren't just keeping the water in the bath the same temp by mixing it you are effecting how fast the item in the bath heats the item by keeping the fluid that is in contact with the item at the right temp. Think about it. If you put a frozen steak in a still, but hot, pot the water will be hot most everywhere, but the water right next to the frozen steak will be cooled. If I was smarter I would quote all sorts of thermal and fluid dynamics stuff. I just know that the faster the water flows (within reason) and the more consistent you can keep the overall fluid temp the faster the item will arrive at temp.


My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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e_monster – thanks for the thought.  I’ve been measuring the water temperature and find some minor variation depending on location within the bath.  What surprised me was the additional variation caused when a pack is added – the temperature is consistently higher than the thermostat setting.  So I figured that some circulation might help.  After a long conversation (convoluted) with my local aquarium shop I came away with some doubts about using a circulating pump due to the high temperatures (and kit in the UK doesn’t seem to be as inexpensive as in the US).  I guess that an aerator seems to work OK for you – how much stuff can you put in the bath before the circulation is slowed?

I have cooked up to an 11 pound brisket (which took up a significant percentage of the surface area) and the temperature distribution remained quite even when the air pump was in use. (Within 0.75F everywhere that I measured when the brisket was in the bath). With a less massive piece of meat, the temperature distribution is much more even than that in my cooker.

With my setup, the heat changes slowly enough that the circulation provided by the air pump is enough to keep the heat evenly distributed. You can search this topic for posts by me to read more about the setups that I use.

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pounce – you are my link master! Now I have to figure out which pump. Any ideas which of the less expensive aerators sit outside the bath (not in it)?

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I'd just look at the shop nearest your house. The entry level pumps for under gravel filtering in aquariums are generally all external. If you are looking at something that is more than 10 you are looking at the wrong thing ;)

Just ask for an inexpesive air pump and don't bother with the air stone etc. just get enough clear plastic tubing to go from the pump to the bottom of your pot with the little more for trial and error etc.


My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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Probably about £10 in a London pet supermarket.

You're looking for something rather like this

http://www.1st4aquatics.com/tetratec-aps-50-3459-p.asp

which is one of the quieter small pumps.

Even if it didn't have quite the output pressure needed for the rather different project I was playing with...


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

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Douglas – Great work!  Love the egg pictures – looks just like the ones that come out of my water bath.  Do you have experimental data that confirms the heating/cooling tables you’ve put together?  For example, I’ve found that in the case of a sausage vs the same thickness piece of meat, the sausage ‘cooks’ a good deal faster (measured with a probe thermometer), so geometry could be an additional factor. 

Any idea if there is a measurable difference between the use of a circulating and non-circulating bath?  I’ve only got a non-circulating bath, and haven’t found an inexpensive way of pushing the water around at, say, 70C so I can test the difference.

While I have collected some experimental data, I base my calculations on the results of various academic journals articles (from Journal of Food Engineering, Meat Science, Food Research International, Lebensmittel-Wissenschaft und Technologie,...). While the mathematics of computing heating/cooling times is straightforward (for a mathematician :biggrin:), it requires numerous assumptions that cannot be true in all (or even any) cases.

My first assumption is that there is no harm in cooking a piece of meat longer than it needs to come up to temperature, but not cooking a piece of meat long enough could be very dangerous. Thus, my goal is to compute cooking/cooling times that assure (with 98% confidence*) that any meat you cook/cool will reach the desired temperature within the computed time.

Therefore, I am not at all surprised that your sausage cooked a good deal faster than my tables predicted. The problem, is that there is no way to determine a priori if the sausage will be done in the time listed or in half the time listed. Even for the same type and cut of meat, one piece could take more than 60% longer than another**.

There is a measurable difference between circulating and non-circulating water baths, but it is less than you might expect. How quickly the surface temperature changes depends on the heat transfer coefficient of the cooking medium. For instance, (very roughly speaking) the heat transfer coefficient of naturally convected air is about 10 W/m^2-C, about 100 W/m^2-C for naturally convected water, 1,000 W/m^2-C for circulated water, and 10,000 W/m^2-C for steam. Using a thermal diffusivity of 0.956 mm^2/sec, a 20mm thick piece of meat takes:

-- 42:37 in naturally convected air,

-- 25:32 in naturally convected water, and

-- 24:51 in forced convection (circulated) water,

to come up to 64C in a 65C cooking medium (with a starting temperature of 4C). The problem, is that a crock-pot has little or no natural convection and the meat could take much longer than calculated. Moreover, the times assume that the average temperature of the cooking medium does not drop substantially when the meat is inserted.

* I am (perhaps fallaciously) assuming that thermal diffusivity is normally distributed.

** For similar pieces of pork, the thermal diffusivity ranged for 1.12 to 1.83 mm^2/sec in [J Food Eng 77 (2006) 731--738].

Edit: Fixed formating.


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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Is there a consensus on the best time to place the meat inside the rice cooker/bath? Should you drop it in after it has come up to temperature or put it in with room temp water and let it sit through the heating process?

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You should drop it in after it has come up to temperature. Dropping it in a water bath while it is still heating up might allow toxin producing bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels. For instance, the toxin forming C. perfringens can multiply to dangerous levels if a center temperature of 127.5F (53C) is not reached in less than 6 hours. Moreover, even in a water bath that has already come up to temperature, the meat must be cut so that it is

-- less than 85mm thick when placed in a 131F (55C) water bath,

-- less than 105mm thick when placed in a 141F (60C) water bath,

-- less than 115mm thick when placed in a 147F (64C) water bath, or

-- less than 140mm thick when placed in a 176F (80C) water bath,

to assure that it will reach at 127.5F (53C) in 6 hours.


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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Hello, everyone,

Nice to be back.

I am nursing an idea of making risotto with frog legs - does anybody have any experience/suggestions for frog leg SV?

I am primarily interested in temp/time, but would like to hear seasoning ideas as well. Do we SV legs as we do chicken, because there is some similarity between the two, or do we treat them as fish/shellfish?

Opinions, please!


Edited by MikeTMD (log)

"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

***************************************

My flickr collection

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Douglas, still trying to catch up. Does this mean that the rate limiting step to achieve any given internal temperature is not the interface between the water and food, but the rate of heat diffusion within the food?

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Yes, heat diffusion is the slow part. Roughly speaking you can expect diffusion to scale with time like the square of the thickness, so a steak that is twice as thick should take 4 times longer to cook.


Nathan

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Hi all! Reading this thread provided the impetus to get a SVM PID, 25 cup rice cooker, and cheap aquarium air pump. I've had some short ribs in at 141F for 16 hours now (and counting) and have a couple of questions maybe y'all could help me with:

(1) I noticed that Doug's excellent SV web pages included time/temp for flatiron steak and pork confit--has anyone developed similar numbers for short ribs? It seems as though there's a tradeoff between water temps in the area of steak internal temps (yielding a steakier short rib) and higher water temps (resulting in more of braised final product). Is that an accurate assessment? Since I've still got a good 20 hours or so of cooking time ahead, I thought now might be a good time to ask :smile:

(2) Since I'm using the air pump, I can't close the lid of the cooker and am using aluminum foil over the top of the cooker for insulation/evaporation control. Is the pump necessary when using a closed rice cooker, or is there sufficient convection in the cooker?

(3) My girlfriend thinks that I'm insane and is convinced that I am turning our kitchen into a chemistry lab. Could someone provide the archetypal "blow 'em away" SV recipe that will convince her that I am not a mad scientist, but actually a visionary whose only desire is to offer her other worldly sensual pleasures?

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(1) You are quite right, if you want a `steakier' short rib then you would use a lower temperature for a longer time (say 131F/55C for 24 hours) and if you want a `braised' short rib then you would use a higher temperature for a shorter time (say 176F/80C for 8-12 hours).

(2) The air pump may not be necessary, but it certainly doesn't hurt anything. If you have a good (thermocouple) digital thermometer, you can measure the water temperature at multiple points and see if the water temperature is uniform without the air pump.

(3) Everyone probably has their favorite `blow 'em away' sous-vide recipe. I usually show off the power of sous-vide by making roast beef: chuck roast seasoned with salt and pepper and cooked for 24 hours at 131F/55C. I use chuck roast because it has great flavor, is extremely tender after the collagen has dissolved into gelatin, and is inexpensive (only about $3/lb at Costco).

Some of my friends absolutely love sous-vide salmon, while others don't care for it at all. Many of my friends like sous-vide chicken breasts, but I think that is just because conventionally prepared chicken is grossly overcooked. If you do go for chicken, I would recommend removing the skin first and preparing it separately and then brining the chicken breasts.


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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try plain carrots just peel them, vac pack them and sous vide them.

they will be the sweetest carrots she ever tasted.

say no added sugar or anything else, if this method can do that for a plain carrot imagine what it could do for other dishes. :smile:


"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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Cut the carrot into 2 inch long and 1cm wide sticks.

Depends how tender you want them but I believe the consensus was 83C for an hour.


"so tell me how do you bone a chicken?"

"tastes so good makes you want to slap your mamma!!"

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I wanted to see what would happen if I smoked a brisket and then cooked it sous-vide. I now have my SV Magic set up with a 30-cup rice cooker (which I got for free through freecycle.org).

- I split and rubbed a brisket. One piece was smoked (over fig wood) for 2 hours to a surface temperature of 124F (core temp of 108F). The other piece smoked normally for 8.5 hrs. to 160F. (The conventional piece was refrigerated and then warmed up to compare.)

Since cooking SV is relatively new for me, I also decided to toss some other things in.

- A beef short rib with S&P, sesame oil, and pomegranate molasses

- Two shallots, one in ooil, the other dry. Most veggies need a higher temperature to break down cellulose, but I thought that shallots might work.

In addition, a pork tenderloin went in for 2 hrs. Prepped 3 ways

(reports here say that garlic does not work well in s-v, so we wanted to try variants):

- S&P, caraway, garlic powder

- S&P, rosemary, fresh garlic

- S&P, tarragon, garlic confit

Conclusions:

- The smoked brisket was not up to my usual standards (a bit dry - maybe this came as a result of refrigeration while waiting for the SV), but it was flavorful

- The smoked/SV brisket had more flavor (both spice and smoke) permeating the meat all the way through, and was moist and tender. It also tasted meatier. The ends were moister and more broken down than the center of the cut, suggesting that longer might be better.

gallery_59025_5958_41808.jpg

The short rib was outstanding, the best of the test

All 3 pieces of pork tenderloin were perfectly cooked, moist and tender, although the sear may have been excessive; the white extended far past the surface. (My Austrian wife said that it was better than the best Schweinsbraten she's ever had.)

- The caraway and garlic powder pork tenderloin was the most garlicky, but the caraway was mostly lost.

- The tarragon note was good, and the garlic confit gave a nice mellow garlic addition

- The rosemary was also good, and the fresh garlic did not lend the off note that others have reported, although it was the least garlicky

I will play with the smoking/SV more. The results were good, but I expect to be able to get something better.

Here is a link to other images.

(Edited to add photo.)


Edited by smashz (log)

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Smashz,

Congrats on your first SV experience!

Few observations:

Most likely you overcooked the meat: I would say it was smoked a bit too long , before you SV it ( internal temp was either too high to begin with, and kept rising)

Generally, onions/shallots don't need to be SV for 48 hours, unless you are trying to make a puree

Also, you seem to "overcrowded" your SV vehicle - I don't know if there was any circulation in that rice cooker, but chances are different cuts were cooked at different temps - I would suggest to allow water to circulate, and to maintain temp within .25-.5C range. If you go beyond that - temp will get out of control, esp. in a limited space.

You use a blowtorch to careamelize your meat - it's a lot of fun, and it looks/feels quite theatrical, but browning meat that way yields uneven results - that heavy cast iron pan and a touch of clarified butter would probably work much better.

I looked at your pics - awesome!!! What internal temp were you trying to achieve for your cuts? Did you check the temps during cooking?

I hope you enjoyed the results, and please don't take these suggestions as critique - the goal for most people here is to perfect the art of SV ( there are a few, however, who make statements and arguments just for the sake of being noticed - hope you don't pay attention to them)


"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

***************************************

My flickr collection

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- I split and rubbed a brisket. One piece was smoked (over fig wood) for 2 hours to a surface temperature of 124F (core temp of 108F). The other piece smoked normally for 8.5 hrs. to 160F. (The conventional piece was refrigerated and then warmed up to compare.)

Conclusions:

- The smoked brisket was not up to my usual standards (a bit dry - maybe this came as a result of refrigeration while waiting for the SV), but it was flavorful

- The smoked/SV brisket had more flavor (both spice and smoke) permeating the meat all the way through, and was moist and tender. It also tasted meatier. The ends were moister and more broken down than the center of the cut, suggesting that longer might be better.

Great post. I have been interested in a hybrid experiment like this but haven't had a chance with brisket yet.

What temp and time did you use on the SV brisket?

I suspect that one doesn't even need 2 hrs in the smoker to develop a fair amount of smoke flavor when it is going to be finished SV.

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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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