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

Sign in to follow this  
ronnie_suburban

Inside the Alinea Food Lab

Recommended Posts

As an outside observer I feel very privileged to be afforded the opportunity to watch Chef Achatz work in the Alinea Food Lab. While I am intricately involved in the business of Alinea, obviously I am not a chef and will have no involvement in the creation of the dishes. As an amateur I have a unique perspective on Chef Achatz’ creative process, and the craft of cooking at such a high level.

Several things are striking.

Perhaps most surprising is that there are no shortcuts, nor are there significant differences in speed between Chefs Achatz, Duffy and Peters and a passionate, skilled home cook.

I watched Chef Peters peel grapes for nearly 2 hours, sweating at the brow, holding the grapes up closely to his eyes to be sure that he had removed all of the peel. This was accomplished with a pairing knife. Occasionally, one of the grapes would fall from the vine – which was intended to remain attached – and thereby render that grape useless. This all seemed like a terrible bother to me… peeled, unpeeled, what’s the difference? I thought this expenditure of tedious effort was for a minor difference in taste that would hardly be noticed. I mentioned this to Chef Peters.

“Have you ever tasted a peeled grape, Nick,” Chef said.

“I don’t really know,” I replied as he handed me one of the fallen grapes and picked a fresh one off the vine. I tried the grape with the peel first. Then I tried the peeled grape.

The difference was not subtle. The peeled grape was sweeter, fruitier, and lacked any bitterness or tannic taste. I must have given a curious look, because he just laughed, smiled at me, and went back to peeling grapes. Now I understood why.

gallery_21344_267_1098333950.jpg

Chef Peters' Peeled and Coated Grapes

Obviously, I think there is a great difference in speed and skill between Chef Peters and me. It would have taken me all day to peel those grapes, and they would have looked lousy. But my point is, I could peel 10 of them well – and serve them to guests – and it would be a lot of time and effort, just as it is for Chef Peters. There is no fancy grape-peeling gadget (at least, not that we know of…), and despite the difficulty, Chef Peters happily struggles through because it tastes better. And that is enough.

Watching Chef Achatz plate the Shellfish Sponge dish today was another eye opener. For several hours this morning he created the components to the dish. One of the key components, mussels, was cooked and then the mussel was removed. Then, Chef G spent another half hour removing small portions of the mussel to feature just the cutlet – a sort of filet of mussel.

Meanwhile, after reducing, gelatin in the form of alginate was added to the mussel broth and whipped for 30 minutes into the sponge. All of the complimentary flavor components were also cooked or cut delicately into their final form.

In and of themselves, none of these steps were significantly different than what I do for a typical dinner. I braise, I reduce, I sear. OK, I admit I don’t use much alginate, but once I see how that is done, I can blend in some alginate too if I need to. I can even use a kitchen-aid mixer!

But then, assembled before him are all of these components. And a mold ring. And 5 minutes later, using just a spoon and an offset spatula, there is this beautiful plate. It was nothing short of amazing, and it reminded me immediately why I am involved in this whole venture.

gallery_21344_267_1098323831.jpg

Grant plating the Seafood Sponge dish... this does NOT look easy!

gallery_21344_267_1098323936.jpg

CHef Achatz' "Seafood Sponge" as seen from above

All of this ends up sounding like a Monday-morning-quarterback watching a football game. Hey, he says, I can throw a ball, too. And it definitely feels that way. In the end, you know you can’t do it, but you think, just maybe, you can. And that is the fun of watching the process up close. The illusion of simplicity is right before you – there are no tricks – and yet, there exists this finely honed craft hidden just below the surface.

____________________________________________________

Very separate from the actual execution of the dishes is the process of conceptualizing them. In this regard, Chef Achatz considers everyone’s input and is one of those people who truly listens to what one has to say.

Today, one of the questions he had was, “what is pure bitter – how can we achieve pure bitter?” It sounds simple, but the contrast was: pure sweet is sugar, pure sour is citric acid, and pure salty is salt… so what is pure bitter?

In these exchanges Chef Achatz will listen to everyone. He is exceptional at taking in a divergence of thought and honing the concepts down to the salient idea. In this case, everyone had some input ranging from “burn anything and it’s bitter” to specifics like coffee, unsweetened chocolate, a tea of hops. As a first effort, Chef Duffy burned sugar (intentionally..), and then diluted that with water, then reduced it. The final dish might be self-encapsulated flavors of sweet, salty, sour and bitter… then again it may not. But the process is one of pure creation… of shouting out ideas without fear of judgment.

And here, in the purely conceptual realm, everyone is an equal player.

__________________________________________________________________

There are several techniques I will certainly take away from watching the chefs and use in my own home cooking….

The most obvious is cooking Sous Vide. I know that sous vide cooking has been covered extensively on eGullet, so I will not delve into the details. But it is a wonderful cooking method that can be achieved with a FoodSaver, a digital thermometer, and a pot of water. It is difficult to overcook items if the water temperature is properly regulated, and the flavor lives up to the ideal of chefs like Achatz, Keller, and Trotter: a purity of flavor based on the foodstuff itself.

On that same note, I am constantly struck by the fact that the best sauces I have ever had have but one main ingredient in them – the thing itself. So at this point if I wanted to make a grapefruit sauce, or a pea soup, or a tart lemon sauce, I would cryovac the grapefruit, cook it sous-vide for a few hours, and blend it smooth (peel and all) with a little cold water. At the end I might add some sugar or salt. That’s it.

gallery_21344_267_1098334790.jpg

Chef Achatz spices the vermouth for the mussels, while halved passion fruit cook sous vide

It is astonishing to see this method and then to taste the final product. Yet, despite the relative simplicity of the cooking method itself, and the ability to craft one component of the dish well, I am left amazed by Chef Achatz' ability to create a unified whole out of 10-15 flavor components. Ultimately, this is the real skill, the art, which eludes the rank amateur.

I am left with a note, Chef G ends up with a composition.

gallery_21344_267_1098322183.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Simply gorgeous. I'm astounded at the beauty represented here.

On that same note, I am constantly struck by the fact that the best sauces I have ever had have but one main ingredient in them – the thing itself. So at this point if I wanted to make a grapefruit sauce, or a pea soup, or a tart lemon sauce, I would cryovac the grapefruit, cook it sous-vide for a few hours, and blend it smooth (peel and all) with a little cold water. At the end I might add some sugar or salt. That’s it.

I am very happy to hear that very inspiring bit of advice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ChefG:

I have a question regarding the seafood sponge...

I came across a kilo of alginate and have only experimented minimally with it. I am amazed by the potential of this product. My problem is: there aren't too many resources regarding the use of alginate in cooking that I have been able to find. I love your use of it to create this ethereal, whipped mound of flavor...but I am curious: what ratio do you use it in? From experience I have found that a little goes a long way, but I thought it might be worth the time to ask the mad scientist himself. So far I have only used it to keep gelato from crystallizing and thicken lightly reduced sauces...but even then it was pretty much a guessing game as far as amounts. Can you lend any advice?

Thanks

B

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cannot believe we are actually observing this process, the Alinea R&D oner could call it. It really is one of the most amazing things to see how these delectables are created.

With the broccoli dish, it is very interesting how rustic the stem/bread combination looks right before plating and how refined it becomes after it is plated.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Elie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Please keep this coming. It is amazing. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to try some or all of these dishes and others. The sheer creativity is phenomenal. The writing, too, is a pleasure to read.

As far as the dried creme brulee, are you going to discard the idea because someone else came up with a similar product presumably through a different process? That is the impression I got and I hope it ain't so as yours looked marvellous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChefG:

I have a question regarding the seafood sponge...

I came across a kilo of alginate and have only experimented minimally with it. I am amazed by the potential of this product. My problem is: there aren't too many resources regarding the use of alginate in cooking that I have been able to find. I love your use of it to create this ethereal, whipped mound of flavor...but I am curious: what ratio do you use it in? From experience I have found that a little goes a long way, but I thought it might be worth the time to ask the mad scientist himself. So far I have only used it to keep gelato from crystallizing and thicken lightly reduced sauces...but even then it was pretty much a guessing game as far as amounts. Can you lend any advice?

Thanks

B

Actually that is a typo on Nick's part. We used gelatin to make the shellfish sponge. We use the alginates as thickening agents and as a method for encapsulation.

This seems slightly off topic but I feel your segue is the perfect opportunity to comment on something that has bothered me for some time now.

Mad scientist is not an image that I would proudly carry, and I think there is a real problem with the misconception and labeling of chefs that are executing forward thinking cuisine as being such. Science is important in cooking, and some might be able to argue that the techniques that are becoming widely known as of late seem very scientific on the surface. But I can’t say how different any of them are compared to the leavening qualities of baking powder.

We are somewhat to blame for this public perception. Simply calling our test kitchen a lab certainly doesn’t help matters, nor does the use of freeze dryers, syringes and memberships to IFT. The important thing is to understand is these things are tools and knowledge…… NOT the origin. The syringe is merely a tool, the understanding of the molecular structure of gellan gum is knowledge.

For some reason we all seem to enjoy the vision of a chef in the kitchen filled with test tubes and beakers mixing ingredients together in random fashion and impatiently awaiting the results. It happens quite the opposite. Each of these concepts are developed based on their intent. If one of us brings an idea to the table that requires the development of a new technique, the processes and ingredients must be sought out and worked on. Each step is guided by the cooks’ instinct far more than his knowledge of food on a molecular level. Food originating from science lacks a tangible comfort, it lacks sensuality, it lacks soul.

My commentary is not meant to be defensive. However, as this style of cooking becomes more popular I think the people involved in it need to take control of its image so the public perception is not false. At the core of any great meal is a great cook, regardless of the style of cuisine, not a great scientist. I want my food to be enjoyed just as Chef Keller,Trotter, and Adria want theirs to be, on every level.


Edited by chefg (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I apologize, Chef... I certainly meant no disrespect towards your cuisine or the techniques and struggle and strain that go into its creation. If anything, I was attempting to show great respect for you and those chefs out there who do break down preconceived notions of preparations of food. Too often I hear disdain for what is referred to as avante garde cuisine. People who hear, see, think, and even taste dogmatically commenting on the lack of culinary value. Whimsy is as important to cooking and eating as I believe science is. Like you say, you can set a tone for an entire tasting just by appealing to an emotion, memory or philosophy of the diner with the first bite.

So again, I apologize...you are certainly not "mad"...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Too often I hear disdain for what is referred to as avante garde cuisine. People who hear, see, think, and even taste dogmatically commenting on the lack of culinary value.

This is exactly what I am talking about.

No disrespect taken.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

okay, so all that aside, in making the sponge, you obviously use less gelatin than you would to make a firm gel, right? In the pictures in does appear to be very resilient (seeing the pool of green liquid suspended in the sponge suggests this), but I am curious as to what kind of proportions you recommend using for these results.

Also, with the alginate...do you use a digital scale to get the amounts needed for the encapsulation? I also have 100 g of calcium chloride, but I have yet to purchase a scale that measures in grams, so I am leary of experimenting quite yet. I know that you are supposed to make a 2% solution of the liquid being encapsulated and the alginate and a 1% solution of the calcium chloride...so in the kitchen do you measure these amounts out with a digital scale?

I am sure that this is not the exactly appropriate place to post these q's, but I figured they would be seen quicker. Thanks, chef...

with the utmost respect.

B.Lee

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
okay, so all that aside, in making the sponge, you obviously use less gelatin than you would to make a firm gel, right? In the pictures in does appear to be very resilient (seeing the pool of green liquid suspended in the sponge suggests this), but I am curious as to what kind of proportions you recommend using for these results.

Also, with the alginate...do you use a digital scale to get the amounts needed for the encapsulation? I also have 100 g of calcium chloride, but I have yet to purchase a scale that measures in grams, so I am leary of experimenting quite yet. I know that you are supposed to make a 2% solution of the liquid being encapsulated and the alginate and a 1% solution of the calcium chloride...so in the kitchen do you measure these amounts out with a digital scale?

I am sure that this is not the exactly appropriate place to post these q's, but I figured they would be seen quicker. Thanks, chef...

with the utmost respect.

B.Lee

The sponge is the result of a ratio containing 1 sheet of gelatin to 75 ML of shellfish liquid.

Yes, very acturate digital scales are required for the measuring of most ingredients in the kitchen. All of our recipes are in metric and all of them are documented to the gram, some to the half gram if necessary. Your percentages seemed to be reversed. We basically use a 1% solution of alginate and a 2% calcium solution, but that can vary depending on what base liquid you are dealing with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer. Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique? Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer.  Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique?  Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

No special equipment required. However, I have neither used nor seen a special “lab water bath” as you stated, it may provide the ultimate control in regards to temperature. We have been highly successful with a conventional range and an electronic thermometer. We even used a food saver at Trio until we could afford a commercial machine to vacuum the bags. We feel that induction heat sources are the most accurate and economical type for the sous vide cooking we do. They provide very consistent, low maintenance temperature control.

Depending on what you are cooking, and the desired effect, determines the temperature range you must keep the ingredients in. For proteins we are within 2 degrees of the determined temperature. It is amazing the difference between 136-138-140 degree lamb when cooking in this manner. The fact that the entire piece of protein is the target temperature leaves little room for error. In other words if you are sautéing and finishing a piece of meat in the oven and you mis-time it a few minutes early the middle will be rare…but graduating out from the center you will find medium-rare, medium, medium well and well. So the rare in the middle becomes less obvious. If you mis-temp during sous-vide by a few degrees you will be left with the entire piece either chewy rare or protein coagulated medium-well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ChefG

In the food lab, it looks like you guys are cooking sous vide in a pot over the range, albeit with a thermometer.  Many of the folks on the forum swear that you need to have a lab water bath or super special equipment to cook via this technique?  Is that true or can you use a regular range as long as you are careful to keep the temp within a couple of degrees?

Thanks again for sharing your vision with the group

No special equipment required. However, I have neither used nor seen a special “lab water bath” as you stated, it may provide the ultimate control in regards to temperature. We have been highly successful with a conventional range and an electronic thermometer. We even used a food saver at Trio until we could afford a commercial machine to vacuum the bags. We feel that induction heat sources are the most accurate and economical type for the sous vide cooking we do. They provide very consistent, low maintenance temperature control.

Depending on what you are cooking, and the desired effect, determines the temperature range you must keep the ingredients in. For proteins we are within 2 degrees of the determined temperature. It is amazing the difference between 136-138-140 degree lamb when cooking in this manner. The fact that the entire piece of protein is the target temperature leaves little room for error. In other words if you are sautéing and finishing a piece of meat in the oven and you mis-time it a few minutes early the middle will be rare…but graduating out from the center you will find medium-rare, medium, medium well and well. So the rare in the middle becomes less obvious. If you mis-temp during sous-vide by a few degrees you will be left with the entire piece either chewy rare or protein coagulated medium-well.

Chef,

there was this cool sous-vide thread earlier on eGullet that had a link to an ebay page with medical waterbaths available at a great price.

the thread is here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showto...st=60&p=741029&

i have had great success with the medical baths over the past year (they are very reliable overnight for 24+hour slow cooking) with gentle heat sources and narrow temp ranges that the med industry requires. I think they are worth a look/see.

We also have used the on-range technique you described above the with smaller packages/digital thermometer to much satisfaction also.

hope that is informative in some way and good luck in January.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

This brings up an interesting point I think, and one that has been debated ad infinitum elsewhere: what is the value of originality and can you be truly original.

I read about the Jose Andres Caramel Light Bulb and brought it to Chef Achatz attention. The irony to us is that we had no knowledge of its existence and yet Chef Achatz independently conceived of a similar dish and the team was working to make it happen. No doubt, had Chef Achatz not acknowledged the existence of the "other" orb, he would have been accused of being derivitive or worse. So one is made sensitive by the nature of this medium - - the internet and its instant information -- and the nature of the critic and of creativity itself. Also, it should be noted, we still have not seen this other orb, and do not know if it is indeed similar to Chef Achatz' Orb of Dried Creme Brulee. Perhaps someone else could inform us on this matter.

I have even seen it happen with my ideas... as most likely you have as well. I have had a few notions of how to technically realize some of Chef's ideas only to find out that someone has done that already. At the end of the day, we may feel like we are a beaten to the punch... but then again, it is easy to point out, how many caramel orbs have you seen?

I may not be expressing my point very well here, but it is this: two artists within the same craft often arrive at similar ideas at or near the same time. Neither should be diminished by this... if anything it is empowering. It certainly has precendents that I can think of in other mediums - -- most obviously visual arts.

So in my book, this is an excellent, well achieved amouse that should remain on the Alinea tasting menu.... but ultimately this is always for Chef Achatz to decide... and I do not know his decision on this...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Also, it should be noted, we still have not seen this other orb, and do not know if it is indeed similar to Chef Achatz' Orb of Dried Creme Brulee. Perhaps someone else could inform us on this matter.

Nick,

Check out this thread, page 3 (scroll down about half way).

José Andrés' Minibar, run, don't walk, to Café Atlantico

=R=

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Ron... I figured someone would find a picture for us.. just not that fast (and I did Google it!)...

Well, Chef's is quite different than that -- they are similar in that they are both (I assume) "pulled" sugar -- or in our case moulded sugar. Is there anything inside the Andres Bulb...?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It would appear Jose's lightbulb has existed for quite some time now....

Mike


Edited by mikeczyz (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, Chef's is quite different than that -- they are similar in that they are both (I assume) "pulled" sugar -- or in our case moulded sugar.  Is there anything inside the Andres Bulb...?

José Andres uses hot isomalt to make the bulb.

They place a blinking (usually blue) LED inside.

J.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The sponge is the result of a ratio containing 1 sheet of gelatin to 75 ML of shellfish liquid.

Chef,

I remember a "dessert" course in the TDF that was a rutabega sponge, was this the same ratio that you used for that?

And have you used other "gelling" agents to be able to do the sponge warm?

Thanks in advance for the info.

Really enjoying the thread.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Chef Achatz,

I really enjoy reading the Alinea Food Lab posts. I think it is very interesting that you seem to be blending both culinary and food science knowledge. After reading about the Caramel Bubble and the PB&J, where do you draw the line in your menu development? Are there any ideas that are too absurd? I'm also wondering what it is you are striving for with the Alinea menu...what standards must these new items meet? What is it that makes you say "okay" to one menu item and "no" to another?

Thank you for your time,

Rebcameron

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chef Achatz,

This is truely amazing stuff! I have to tell you that reading about your platings is a somewhat perplexing experience. I wish I had a 3D display (with zoom capability) on my computer! Flat images are coming up a bit short, IMHO, but please keep posting them. :cool:

- Would you please introduce your Sous Chefs in brief detail? Who are Mssrs. Peters and Duffy, and how did they come to be selected for duty in the lab? How far in advance are they made aware of your recipes?

Recently, on the serviceware thread, you show several images of the Nantucket Bay Scallop with roasted pear, oil and licorice being served on antennas.

- Forgive my ignorance, was this recipe developed in the lab? Is a close up of the Scallop serving available?

Thank you for your time.

Regards from DC,

- CSR

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Chef(s) -

A question was posted earlier and I don't think it was answered, but I am also very curious to know. Are you still going to serve the Caramel orb creme brulee even though, Jose andres is doing something similar? It just looks amazing and it had a lot of time invested in it for it to go to waste.

Elie

I have not decided what to do with the dried crème brulee. My first impulse was to abandon the dish. This undoubtedly stems from past accusations that my cuisine is imported directly from el Bulli. Of course the dish is like nothing I have ever seen produced by Adria, and after some research I discovered it is also very different than Jose’s. After realizing the originality of the dish was still intact, I was still reluctant to pursue the dish to completion. This was frustrating and it ultimately lead to more thought on the subject of “being first” and how important that was.

The priority to bring ideas to the table before the peers will undoubtably produce a cuisine that is very shallow. I prefer to let the process happen organically, this way the dishes that come out of contemporary kitchens will have certain maturity. If the point is merely to be first, the result will be a style of cuisine that is haphazardly conceived, executed and short lived. Each dish and technique destined to the garbage can at the expense of the next and so on. This will leave no grounding elements, no identifiers, and eventually the characteristics that make this style of cuisine so exciting will kill it off.

Creativity, originality and evolution are still the driving forces behind what we do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Recently, on the serviceware thread, you show several images of the Nantucket Bay Scallop with roasted pear, oil and licorice being served on antennas.

-  Forgive my ignorance, was this recipe developed in the lab? Is a close up of the Scallop serving available?

Here is the picture you requested:

gallery_21344_267_1099403290.jpg

Chef Achatz developed this dish for this benefit. It was conceived and prepared by Chef G and the Alinea team in the "lab".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

. This was frustrating and it ultimately lead to more thought on the subject of “being first” and how important that was.

Creativity, originality and evolution are still the driving forces behind what we do.

i was told by my former headchef who worked for the creative team at el bulli in this last season that ferran adria doesn´t read any cookbooks or has a favourite chef or anything else....

i like this attitude a lot because it shows that mr.adria is like an artist. inspired by almost everything he is getting in contact with visual, emotional etc....

challenged every year to be the "first" mr.adria is using the power of pr and marketing to announce his new creations before anybody else is coming up with something similar.

i think this new form of avantgarde cooking led to a head to head race. everybody wants to be first. new machines and techniques are essential and you don´t have to be a trained chef anymore which is, in my opinion, a little bit sad. where is the end of this avantgarde "cooking"? eating gels, airs or even just aromas? having the ultimate experience? time will show us....

anyway i like your version of "creme brulee" and i think you should share your vision with your audience. marco pierre white once said "at the end of the day it´s just food"

you are so right marco!

vue

Share this post


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

  • Similar Content

    • By Chris Hennes
      On Nov. 7, 2017, Modernist Bread will finally arrive on my doorstep. Having preordered it literally the first day it was available, to say I'm excited about this book is a bit of an understatement. The team at The Cooking Lab have been gracious enough to give @Dave the Cook and me early electronic access to the book and so I've spent the last week pouring over it. I'm just going to start with a few initial comments here (it's 2600 pages long, so a full review is going to take some time, and require a bunch of baking!). Dave and I would also be happy to answer any questions you've got.
       
      One of the main things I've noticed about this book is a change in tone from the original Modernist Cuisine. It comes across as less "everything you know is wrong" and more "eighty bazillion other bakers have contributed to this knowledge and here's our synthesis of it." I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Myhrvold and company are now the most experienced bread-bakers in the world. Not necessarily in terms of the number of identical loaves they've produced, but in the shear number of different recipes and techniques they've tried and the care with which they've analyzed the results. These volumes are a distillation of 100,000 years of human breadmaking experience, topped off with a dose of the Modernist ethos of taking what we know to the next level.
       
      The recipes include weight, volume, and baker's percentages, and almost all of them can be made by both a home baker and someone baking in a commercial facility. The home baker might need to compromise on shape (e.g. you can't fit a full-length baguette in most home ovens) but the book provides clear instructions for both the amateur and professional. The recipes are almost entirely concentrated in volumes 4 and 5, with very few in the other volumes (in contrast to Modernist Cuisine, where there were many recipes scattered throughout). I can't wait for the physical volumes to arrive so that I can have multiple volumes open at once, the recipes cross-reference techniques taught earlier quite frequently.
    • By eG Forums Host
      Introduction

      Welcome to the index for the Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques, & Equipment topic, one of the largest and most influential topics on eG Forums. (The topic has been closed to keep the index stable and reliable; you can find another general SV discussion topic here.) This index is intended to help you navigate the thousands of posts and discussions to make this rich resource more useful and accessible.

      In order to understand sous vide cooking, it's best to clear up some misconceptions and explain some basics. Sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing food in a plastic bag and cooking it in a water bath at precise temperatures. Though it translates literally as "under vacuum," "Sous vide" is often taken to mean "under pressure," which is a misnomer; not all SV cooking involves food cooked in conditions that exceed atmospheric pressure. (See below.) In addition, calculations for SV cooking involve not only time and temperature but also thickness. Finally, due to the anaerobic conditions inside the bag and the low temperatures used, food safety issues are paramount.

      You can read the basics of SV cooking and equipment here. In the summer of 2005, Nathan Myhrvold (Society member nathanm) posted this informative, "I'm now going to answer my own initial questions" post, which addresses just about everything up to that point. For what came next, read on -- and be sure to order Nathan Myhrvold's highly anticipated Modernist Cuisine book, due in spring 2011.

      As with all indexes of on-going discussions, this one has limitations. We've done our best to create a user-friendly taxonomy emphasizing the categories that have come up repeatedly. In addition, the science, technology, and recipes changed over time, and opinions varied greatly, so be sure to read updated information whenever possible.

      Therefore, we strongly encourage you to keep these issues in mind when reading the topic, and particularly when considering controversial topics related to food safety, doneness, delta T cooking, and so on. Don't read a first post's definitive claim without reading down the topic, where you'll likely find discussion, if not heated debate or refutation, of that claim. Links go to the first post in a series that may be discontinuous, so be sure to scan a bit more to get the full discussion.

      Recipes were chosen based solely on having a clear set of information, not on merit. Indeed, we've included several stated failures for reference. Where possible, recipes include temperature and time in the link label -- but remember that thickness is also a crucial variable in many SV preparations. (See below for more information on thickness.)

      History, Philosophy & Value of SV/LTLT Cooking

      Over the years, we've talked quite a bit about SV as a concept, starting with this discussion about how SV cooking got started. There have also been several people who asked, Why bother with SV in the first place? (See also this discussion.) What with all the electronics and plastic bags, we asked: Does SV food lack passion? Finally, there have been several discussions about the value of SV cooking in other eG Forums topics, such as the future of SV cooking, No More Sous Vide -- PLEASE!, is SV "real cooking," and what's the appeal of SV?

      Those who embrace SV initially seek ideas about the best applications for their new equipment. Discussions have focused on what a first SV meal should be -- see also this discussion -- and on the items for which SV/LTLT cooking is best suited. There's much more along those lines here, here, and here.

      Vacuums and Pressure in Sous Vide Cooking

      As mentioned above, there has been great confusion about vacuums, pressure, and their role SV cooking. Here is a selection of discussion points on the subject, arranged chronologically; please note that later posts in a given discussion may refute earlier ones:

      Do you need a vacuum for SV cooking, and, if so, why? What exactly is a "vacuum"? Click here, here, and ff. Are items in vacuum-sealed bags "under pressure"? Does a vacuum sealer create a vacuum inside the bag? Do you really need a vacuum, or can you use ZipLoc bags? Also see here, here, and here. If "sous vide" means "under pressure," aren't the items in the bag under pressure? There is more along these lines to be found in this discussion.  

      The Charts

      We've collected the most important of many charts in the SV topic here. Standing above the rest are Nathan Myhrvold's charts for cooking time versus thickness and desired core temperature. We worked with him to create these three reformatted protein tables, for beef, fish, and chicken & pork.

      Nathan provides additional information on his charts here. Information on how to read these charts can be found in this post. For an explanation of "rest time" in Nathan's tables, click here.

      Other Society members helped out as well. Douglas Baldwin references his heating time table for different geometric factors (slab/cylinder/sphere) here; the pdf itself can be found here. pounce created a post with all three tables as neatly formatted images. derekslager created two monospace font charts of Nathan's meat table and his fish table.

      Camano Chef created a cumulative chart with information gathered from other sources including Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc. Douglas Baldwin shared this chart devoted to pasteurizing poultry. PedroG detailed heat loss and steady state energy consumption of sous vide cookers in these charts.

      Finally, there is also an eG Forums topic on cooling rates that may be of interest.

      Acknowledgment & Comments

      This index was built by Chris Amirault, Director, eG Forums. It was reviewed by the eGullet Society volunteer team as well as many Society members. Please send questions or comments to Chris via messenger or email.
       
       
    • By Paul Bacino
      Wonder if someone could get me in the ballpark..the amount of Transglutamase...to make scallop noodles..    %  I mean
       
      ill use a food processor..to purée the scallop..  then inject into a water or broth..to cook?
    • By TomRahav
      Hi,
      I've tried to make the spherical mussels recipe from the Modernist Cuisine books and it didn't work as I expected, so I would appreciate any advice that may help here.
      The recipe calls for calcium gluconate which I couldn't get hold of, so I replaced it with calcium lactate gluconate that I had at home. I used the same ration (2.5%)
      When I tried to create the spheres in the sodium alginate bath I encountered two main problems;
      1. instead of spheres the mixture just stayed as uneven shape on the surface. The bath was 1Kg. water with 5gr. sodium alginate and I let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using it so I think the problem is not here. However, the mussels jus mixture (100gr. mussels jus, 0.5gr. xanthin gum and and 2.5gr. calcium lactate gluconate) had a lot of air bubbles in it. Can that be the issue?
      2. In the book the spheres seem to be completely transparent whereas my mussels jus mixture was pretty white and opaque. Is it because I replaced calcium gluconate with calcium lactate gluconate? Or maybe it's because the jus itself should be clarified before it is used?
      Thanks in advance for your support,
      Tom.
    • By chriswrightcycles
      Good afternoon everyone!
       
      I currently own a MiniPack MVS31x chamber style vacuum sealer and am wondering if a Polycience vacuum canister will work in my machine? The intended use is for making a larger batch of aerated mousse. 
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×