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FrogPrincesse

What Are You Cooking Sous Vide Today? (Part 3)

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On 3/23/2018 at 6:13 PM, rotuts said:

On the Bone or dissected oout ?

 

if just the Br, were you able to remove those two tendons ?

 

get the meat off the bone , however you can.

 

142.5 , 6 hours.

 

believe it

 

I do it all the time.

PERFECT!

 

Ronnie decided to cold smoke it--170F for 4 hours.  Then I SV'd it as per your instructions.  I didn't de-bone.  

 

Turkey sandwiches here we come!

 

IMG_4322.jpg.dff692c4622cd1cd3022ef5a8d2a4e81.jpg

IMG_4326.jpg.50643c4a9549f5debf235d79c202e8a2.jpg

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@Shelby

 

 cold smoke it--170F "

 

that's pretty chilly !

 

I did not realize there was a wing etc.

 

so :  did you do it 

 

after   " The Big Chill "

 

for 6 h ?

 

142.5  ?

 

Im just cleaning out F

 

I had 6  Fz TB's, no wings , waiting for the Call to duty.

 

each was about 8 lbs.

 

I took off just the breast meat , and de-tendon'd each and then

 

breast  ( two muscles ) in 1/2 or so 

 

and bagged w seasonings and then SV'd for 6h at 142.5.

 

rapidly chilled , then folded smoked on the Weber w pellets then rebated and Fz

 

Im no the second set now  ( two Fz TB's ) and have  two more  thawing to the same 

 

rendition tomorrow as it still chilly and still some snow to keep the Weber cold.

 

my do the last 2 Fz TB's , similarly

 

for Good Summer Eating !

 

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Just now, rotuts said:

@Shelby

 

 cold smoke it--170F "

 

that's pretty chilly !

 

I did not realize there was a wing etc.

 

so :  did you do it 

 

after   " The Big Chill "

 

for 6 h ?

 

142.5  ?

 

Im just cleaning out F

 

I had 6  Fz TB's, no wings , waiting for the Call to duty.

 

each was about 8 lbs.

 

I took off just the breast meat , and de-tendon'd each and then

 

breast  ( two muscles ) in 1/2 or so 

 

and bagged w seasonings and then SV'd for 6h at 142.5.

 

rapidly chilled , then folded smoked on the Weber w pellets then rebated and Fz

 

Im no the second set now  ( two Fz TB's ) and have  two more  thawing to the same 

 

rendition tomorrow as it still chilly and still some snow to keep the Weber cold.

 

my do the last 2 Fz TB's , similarly

 

for Good Summer Eating !

 

Yep.  I did it just like you said.  142.5 for 6 hours.  The cold smoke worked....it's nice and smokey.  Absolutely perfect.  Juicy.

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should you save the carcass and the skin you don't eat

 

in the iPot it might made some nice stock for some soup.

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Most of this technique is over in the St.P's thread :

 

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/156356-stpatrick-aka-cornedbeef-2018/?page=5&tab=comments#comment-2146839

 

this is very similar :  SV  boned and tendon'd out  TurkeyBr's

 

SV   140 x 6 , then cold smoked on an inert Weber w smoke pellets.

 

TB's were on sale @ 79 US Cents / Lb a while ago , Fz.    I got 8 , and they weigh in at about 7 - 8 lbs whole.

 

I do two whole BR's at a time  ( i.e.  two turkey TB carcasses )

 

each TB  ends up being 4 generous bags , and  those weighed in at 2.2 KG  trimmed and tied 

 

there is a fair amount of meat left on the carcass even though I have decent knife skills :  the back 

 

the carcass etc.   Ive tried using that in the iPot for stock , but the result tasted too much like TurkeyFat

 

which I don't care for, even though I carefully removed all of the skin and any globs of fat.

 

it might be the higher Temp @ full pressure does something to what little fat is left on the carcass.

 

as after the de-tendoninzing,  I like a similar shape,  and the ties help keep that until ChamberVacc'd  :

 

5aba625e7f926_TB1.thumb.jpg.84fdb9eab7e94aa9b0c694404667ec93.jpg

 

here are 4 bags in the 16 QT Coleman.  2 / bag.  fit perfectly w the Anova at 140 .  I used Sauer's Prime Rib seasoning

 

some times I use Penzies  Chicago Steak.  both are wonderful.

 

TB2.thumb.jpg.01c9bf8ed3a9473e1dee333d243abc62.jpg

 

here they are after a rapid cooling w snow in the Sink , and refrigerated over night :  4.2 KG of meat and some might tasty Jus

 

which Ill freeze.

 

On the Inert Weber w  Orange Wood pellets:

 

TB3.thumb.jpg.6be5330013261be866916224d0854b0f.jpg

 

One Hour covered.  this is the first time Ive use the O.W. , and it does not have a distinctive ' fruit wood ' aroma.  its a bit harsh.

 

No Neighbors will be stopping over to see ' what's going on in your BackYard ? "

 

5aba63c70548a_TB4.thumb.jpg.6332653b2261659944bfd581923a3cf3.jpg

 

ready for the freezer.   they tasted fine , but Im not going to get any more OrangeWood pellets.  these taste like " smoke "

 

I have 4 more FzTB-Br ,   two are thawing for tomorrow and Ill do the same but w different pellets

 

and the last two will not be smoked , more like " Turkey dinner " TB's

 

the work is fairly easy , and the results are spectacular either w or w/o smoke.


Edited by rotuts (log)
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On 3/25/2018 at 1:44 PM, rotuts said:

@btbyrd

Ive found > 130 smoking might taste nice , but dries out the meat.   Im wondering where you re-hydration is coming from.

 

of course , it you had a Combi-Smoker and smoked at 100 % humidity       nice !

 

To a certain extent, I want the meat to dry out. At least, the meat on the surface. One of the best things about many long-smoked products is the textural difference between the crunchy exterior and the tender interior. But you're right, humidity can be an issue -- especially if your final therm is going to be like an hour or more. In those cases, I'll put the meat on a rack over a sheet pan of ice, which I believe MC recommended. My smoker is a grill, and it doesn't really go lower than 225F, so having the extra ice in there works as both a heat sink and as a source of humidity. But honestly, I don't worry about it for most things. I brine all my pork and poultry, so it stays moist enough, and I've never found the interior of beef to really dry out during the final smoking process. (And some of that is brined anyway). The ChefSteps "smokerless smoked brisket" recipe finishes the brisket in a low oven for 3-4 hours to form the bark; I do the same for as lightly shorter period in a slightly hotter oven/grill with actual smoke.

 

 

On 3/25/2018 at 10:23 PM, gfweb said:

I typically smoke preSV and am very happy with it, but I will give pre and post a try. 

 

I tend to smoke fairly delicate nonfatty meats...pork tenderloin...turkey breast...salmon. Could double smoke be overdoing it?

 

 

This is an excellent point. Smoke is a flavoring agent, and it's possible to use too much -- especially on delicate product. Double smoke could definitely be overkill for delicate items. 

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@btbyrd

 

as Ive moved to cold smoking , I can't be sure what the items will taste like

 

moisture wise when I re-thaw  in the bag for sandwiches etc.  compared to the method I used to use for CB

 

which was a Weber at 130  + smoke.

 

Ive been thinking that both the CB , and the turkey breast have  pouch juices

 

why not add an oz of that back to the post cold smoke bag and chamber vac ?  just enough to coat the meat

 

in its final bag

 

might not make a difference when I get to eating it

 

but with a chamber vac its easy to do.

 

neither the CB note the TB  have bark issues to protect.

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There's not a lot of talk about leg of lamb in these topics. We plan on cooking it sous vide, with a quick finish over charcoal (I like lamb with a little smoke and char).

 

Here's the thing, though. Everyone seems to agree on the temp (around 133°F/56°C for upper-medium rare), but times range from 6 hours (Kenji Lopez-Alt, who says "I don't recommend cooking leg of lamb sous vide for any longer than six hours.") to 24 (ChefSteps, using bone-in leg, but I can't see how that makes a difference with cooking time).

 

Anyone have any guidance? 


Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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Intuitively I would go with 133 for six hrs.

are you butterflying it?

probably a good idea.

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I will either butterfly it, or just be lazy and buy a boned leg, then maybe untie it and roll it out for the grill finish. 

 

I still can't figure out what's behind the timing differences, though. Kenji says the 24-hour version was mushy, whether the lamb was fresh or had been frozen. On the other hand, ChefSteps is usually on the mark.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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2 hours ago, Dave the Cook said:

I will either butterfly it, or just be lazy and buy a boned leg, then maybe untie it and roll it out for the grill finish. 

 

I still can't figure out what's behind the timing differences, though. Kenji says the 24-hour version was mushy, whether the lamb was fresh or had been frozen. On the other hand, ChefSteps is usually on the mark.

Great British Chefs are usually on the ball too and they suggest 6 to 8 hours at 56°C. 


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Stir fry.

 

Actually a scotch fillet coated in ground mountain-pepper berry, SV at 58 degrees in real temperature units for 2 hours, sliced thin then added to the stir fry at the last minute. The steak ended up very soft but not mealy. I may try bumping up from the hour I usually use for other cuts.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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At Marilu's market in Burlington today I noticed a sign on top of the meat case - "sous vide meats" - apparently they sous vide for you - you buy in the premade meal case and finish them at home.

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9 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

At Marilu's market in Burlington today I noticed a sign on top of the meat case - "sous vide meats" - apparently they sous vide for you - you buy in the premade meal case and finish them at home.

 

And I'm bringing my cooler.

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DB85A9A5-3E07-4748-BC2E-D28C1DF168E8.thumb.jpeg.d7d999d69a6f3fe0a0ef235733becc9e.jpeg

 

8639D7AC-3B16-471C-A06E-AF8E3C09C69E.thumb.jpeg.6e87379334be29b7605a475b08e30145.jpeg

 

 Two chuck eye roasts that were a gift. I took the photos sometime ago before I froze them so it’s possible you’re seeing a picture of the same one rather than two of them.  Anyway they are swimming in the bath at 56°C and I will leave them there for 24 hours. 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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@Anna N

 

they look outstanding !

 

hope more info and pics later ?

 

 

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this pic is this AM :

 

5abe6b9f7c0ff_TBWal.thumb.jpg.ce63957ea0b452d10bb685934c30a84f.jpg

 

not a lot of Sv going on here , but this in the end-stage for 2 more full TB's  boned out and 

 

SV 6 H 142.5

 

then cold smoked as above.

 

there will be no m,ore snow , and its 50 F outside

 

so I took a little of the leftover snow on the deck and put it on top of the Weber.

 

Of I sued other snow last evening to rabidly chill these 8 delicious packages after the SV

 

Ive leaned this :

 

shovel out the Weber , no matter what.  move it if less show removal is possible.

 

take your CornedBeef's and Turkeys and deal with them while there is snow on the ground 

 

as cold smoking is very very nice

 

the above , you can't quite see it is BalckWalnut pellets.

 

smells soo soo good.

 

I sued Penzeys Chicago Steak , a favorite  and saved and Fz the jus.

 

Ill have a sandwich and soup with one of these I did not freeze tonight.

 

I have 2 more Fz TB's

 

and fortunately no more snow

 

Ill SV them , and use some LowSalt Minors Turkey Base w a dusting of Bells seasoning on those

 

for " Turkey Dinner Tonight "

 

alter

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@rotuts  I have the same grill.   Needs to be replaced.  The wheels are gone and legs rotting out and on bricks but it still performs well.   

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if it preforms well :

 

get new bricks.

 

Mine is so old Ive forgotten when i got it

 

Id say mid '90's

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On 2018-03-30 at 12:53 PM, rotuts said:

@Anna N

 

they look outstanding !

 

hope more info and pics later ?

 

 

959D4307-2AB7-4F7C-8011-E372AC0BE814.thumb.jpeg.16c5afdd1fff953b3df4b12aae203f26.jpeg72F26F54-7189-4A3E-9A78-9D44C823C3FD.thumb.jpeg.f14241e8dff5f9246ec69b4fc66512d6.jpeg

 

 

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Cooked chuck steak (eye roast cut, not sure if this translates to USA) for 50 people. 24 hours at 56C (132.8F). Removed cooking juice for sauce, cooled, resealed and stored. The day before reheating, I cut the cold steaks into serving pieces and rebagged. Steaks were reheated at 56C for an hour prior to a flash fry on each side on a pan on a commercial cooktop.

 

Steaks were cooked with salt and pepper as well as green peppercorns. Sauce was made from heated and strained cooking juices, chicken stock and 3 1/2 bottles of well made merlot. Reduced by half, simmered some cut carrot and celery in there for a little while then added thyme to infuse while it was cooling. Strained sauce and then thickened to sauce consistency with potato starch (one of the diners is gluten intolerant). Sauce was livened up with a bit of sherry vinegar.

 

Served with roasted smashed potatoes, cooked on onion in chicken stock with honey glazed carrots.

 

The majority believed it was fillet steak and wondered why it had so much flavour.

IMG_3289.thumb.JPG.98ead276e6b0a57825d121c542ee89a9.JPGIMG_3324.JPG.befefb840042b005e8d4239e81649057.JPG

 

 


Edited by nickrey excess words; added sherry vinegar to sauce description (log)
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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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@nickrey

 

nice

 

what this a wine tasting affair ?

 

I see a pen and 6 reds.

 

what were you tasting ?

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5 hours ago, rotuts said:

@nickrey

 

nice

 

what this a wine tasting affair ?

 

I see a pen and 6 reds.

 

what were you tasting ?

It was the Wine and Food Society of New South Wales. We had a wine tasting of Australian Shiraz. The pepper steak was done as an food match to complement the pepper elements in the wine as well as having umami and body to match the power of the wines. 

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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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      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
    • By ronnie_suburban
      Sometime this week, at an undisclosed location in the city of Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz begins the next leg of his journey to open his new restaurant, Alinea. Grant will christen the 'food lab' where the menu for Alinea will be developed. eGullet will be trailing Grant and his team throughout the process -- not just in the food lab but through every facet of the launch. Over the next six months, we will follow the Alinea team as they discover, develop, design and execute their plan. We'll document behind-the-scenes communications, forwarded directly to us by the Alinea team. We will be on the scene, bringing regular updates to the eGullet community. And Grant will join us in this special Alinea forum to discuss the process of opening Alinea. eGullet members will have the opportunity to ask Grant, and several other members of the Alinea team, questions about the development of the restaurant.
       
      A Perfect Pairing?
      By the time he was 12 years old, Grant Achatz knew that he would someday run his own restaurant. The story of Alinea is the story of Grant's personal development as a chef and a leader. Grant was brought up in a restaurant family. He bypassed a college education in favor of culinary school, after which he ascended rapidly to the position of sous chef for Thomas Keller at The French Laundry in Yountville, California. In 2001, Grant took the helm of Trio in Evanston, Illinois, which had previously turned out such noted chefs as Gale Gand, Rick Tramanto (Tru) and Shawn McClain (Spring, Green Zebra). In 2003 Grant won the James Beard Foundation's "Rising Star Chef" award, and other prestigious awards followed. By 2004, Grant was recognized as one of the most influential and unique voices on the international culinary scene.
       
      In January 2004, Grant met Nick Kokonas, a successful entrepreneur who was so obsessed with haute cuisine that he had traveled the world in search of it. After globe-trekking specifically to eat at such culinary meccas as Alfonso 1890, Taillevent, Arpège, Arzak, and the French Laundry, Nick was in near disbelief when he realized that the "best food in the world was 10 minutes from my house." Nick had not previously consideredbacking a restaurant, even though he has both relatives and friends in the industry. But in Grant, he saw an opportunity to help create something great.
       
      Through Grant's cuisine, a bond formed between the two men. So inspired was Nick by Grant's culinary ideas that he returned to Trio almost monthly. Finally, he challenged two of his friends, one from New York and the other from San Francisco, to fly to Chicago and experience Trio. He wanted to prove definitively to his skeptical, coastal buddies that Trio was the best and most important restaurant in the country, assuring them that "if the meal at Trio isn't the best meal you've ever had, I'll pay for your meals and your flights." Nick won his bet: his friends were blown away.
       
      Later that night, after service, Grant joined Nick and his guests at their table. The men chatted about a variety of topics and in the '14 wines' haze of the late evening, they discussed Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure, Joseph Wechsberg's gastronomic memoir. The next day, Grant emailed Nick to ask again about the title of the book they had discussed. Not only did Nick remind him, but, within a few days, sent Grant a copy of Wechsberg's book. A friendship was born.
      Shortly thereafter, Grant sentNick his business plan for Alinea, sending an email after evening service. By the following morning Nick had read it and replied with his own enthusiastic amendments. With a burgeoning friendship already in place, trust developing between the two men and proof they could work together crystallizing before their eyes, it became clear that they would become a team. Says Grant, "I think most people, in a lot of ways, look for themselves in other people in order to match with and I think to a large degree, the reason why we get along so well is that our personalities align very well."
       
      Nick felt the same way. "It's one of those situations where everything just lined up right. I had the interest, I'd started a number of different businesses and I felt like it would be an opportunity to work with someone who I'd get along with very well. I wouldn't want to build a restaurant just to build a restaurant and I doubt I'll ever develop some other restaurant. I think this is the right situation at the right time."
       
      Grant adds, "I think we're both very driven and passionate people. So for me, it was about finding someone I could trust, someone that I knew was going to think like me, be as motivated or more motivated than me. Those things were very, very important--and something I hadn't seen--or something I didn't believe in--that I saw in Nick." Nick continues, "I think a lot people come to a chef with their pre-existing vision of the restaurant they want to build. I didn't even want to build a restaurant before I saw his vision, so it wasn't like I was saying 'I'm building this restaurant and I want you to be my chef' -- it was more like 'I think you should build a restaurant, what can I do to help you build it?'" Grant would have the additional supportive backing he'd need and Nick would have another venture -- and one he solidly believed in -- in which to direct his business acumen.
       
      It's All About The Container
      Anyone who's eaten Grant's cuisine at Trio knows that he is intensely concerned with food and the optimal ways to prepare and serve it. His dishes innovate in flavor; they challenge, tease and delight the senses. But Grant is also driven to innovate in service and technique, constantly seeking new vehicles to deliver sensations to the diner. He works closely with a trusted collaborator, Martin Kastner of Crucial Detail in San Diego, CA to create original service pieces for many of his dishes. And as Grant has searched for additional ways to expand the continuity of the dining experience, it has become clear to him that it starts before the diner even gets to the restaurant's front door.
       
      According to Grant, "You can pull it back as far as you want. The experience is going to start before someone even picks up the phone to make a reservation to this restaurant. It's going to be about their perceptions; why are they picking up the phone to make a reservation? What did they see? What did they read? What's leading them up to that point? They call to make a reservation, that's another experience. The drive to get to this neighborhood is another experience. The minute they open their door and take one step out of their car, now they're surrounded by another experience."
       
      Advancing the functional elements of how food is served is an innate part of the cooking process for Grant, who seeks to render the traditional boundaries of dining obsolete. When asked what he will be able to accomplish at Alinea that he couldn't accomplish at Trio, Grant says, "the obvious is to create the container in which we create the experience. I think that's the very exciting thing for me that I've never been able to have a part in." For Grant, a restaurant's physical space represents the ultimate container and the ultimate personal challenge. The result should break new ground in the world of fine dining.   Grant and Nick are intense and competitive. In both their minds, "crafting a complete experience" is the primary focus of Alinea. According to Nick, "the whole idea is to produce an experience where the food lines up with the décor, which lines up with the flow through the restaurant and from the moment you get, literally, to the front door of the place and you walk in, your experience should mirror in some respects--and complement in others--the whole process you're going to go through when you start eating." Grant takes it a step further. "It's about having a central beacon from which everything else emanates and therefore, it's seamless. The whole experience is crafted on one finite point and if everything emanates from that point, then there's no chance that the experience can be interrupted."
       
      The search for Alinea's space further reflects not only their shared philosophy but also their separate intensities. Says Nick, "One of the things we felt really strongly about, and we both came to it, was that we wanted it to be a 'stand alone' building because if you're in something else you can't help but take on some of that identity. And it's really difficult to find the right size building in the right kind of location, with the right kind of construction that was suitable for the identity of Alinea."
      Nick and Grant drove down every street within a chosen geographical band, armed with a giant map and a set of green, yellow and red markers. Once they had found a set of acceptable streets, they asked a realtor to show them every space available on them.
       
      "Once we did find the building," says Grant, "whichever space we would have chosen, we would have analyzed and considered each different aspect to provoke a certain emotion, a very controlled emotion depending on how we wanted it arranged. But I also think that we wanted the neighborhood to feel a certain way, the street to feel a certain way. Is it like Michigan Avenue where I have people 4-deep, walking straight down the sidewalk, non-stop, all day and all night or is it more of a tranquil environment outside? All those things were spinning around and once you identify the golden egg, then you have to go find it."
      While they would probably never admit it, each innovation, each step they take together in building their venture serves as yet another a opportunity for the Alinea team to challenge the restaurant's competitors. Their attention to all the details provides countless opportunities to distinguish Alinea from other restaurants.
       
      Here the two men can share in the creation, combining their diverse skills and experiences into a unified and shared vision. Alinea will be their baby. They want it to be the best --not just the best food -- but the best everything. They even want the experience of calling for a reservation to be a memorable one.
       
      The Path From Here
      In that spirit, the Alinea food lab opens this week. Grant refuses to promote even one of his legendary creations to 'signature dish' status. Instead of populating Alinea's menu with previous favorites from Trio or 'trial' dishes that have been only roughly tested, Grant and his team will take six months to devise, develop and perfect the dishes and delivery modes that will appear on Alinea's opening menu. When the idea of maintaining a kitchen staff for six months before the restaurant's opening was presented to its investors, in spite of the additional expense, "it seemed like a no-brainer" according to Nick. Grant is an equity partner--a true chef/owner--in the venture and there is a solid consensus among all the backers about the priority of his vision.
      * * * * *
      In addition to being one of today's foremost chefs and culinary innovators, Grant Achatz is a long-time member of eGullet, and a lively, provocative contributor to our discussion forums. Read his March, 2003 eGullet Q&A here.
      Photos courtesy Alinea
       
      eGullet member, yellow_truffle, also contributed to this report
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