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The evolution of dishes


Reefpimp
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I was toying with Menu 1.1.6 a couple weeks ago, the most recent iteration of the things I'd like to offer my customers if I can ever get the backing for my restaurant project. It's a Mediterranean-Fusion menu: Think French meets Italian, they get into a romantic triangle with Moroccan, run away to Greece, then Lebanese has to spend a year in Montenegro for political reasons and everybody ends up on Malta.

I'd been talking with my friend Catherine in NYC, who is my wine consultant; it would actually be more accurate to say her old roommate is but he doesn't know it, and so we avoid consulting fees :hmmm: She'd mentioned that Pommes Anna might be a nice thing to have on the menu.

So I started thinking about Pommes Anna, and how much I liked Pommes Anna, and what Pommes Anna actually is. Flavorful and a beautiful presentation, but also labor-intensive, and prone to scorching. SO: how to combine other flavors with potatoes but still maintain that beautiful crust, that essence of a perfectly circular presentation?

What I've been doing is steeling myself to eating a lot of taters.

And what I've got to so far (9 tries) is this: Boil my peeled, thinly sliced russets in a minimum of water laced with saffron and cardamom; when *almost* done, pull them out, run through a ricer and spread on a sheet tray to evaporate a little. While that's all been happening, pre-heat oven and 8-oz ramekins to 450* F. When ready to assemble, pull ramekins out of oven and spray olive oil inside to evenly coat. Immediately fill with riced, spiced potatoes; brush top with clarified butter and place back into oven;cook until top is lightly browned.

First attempt was with shredded parm on top. Cheese browned too quickly, no crust on bottom or sides.

Second attempt was sans cheese but used clarified butter in ramekins. Burned.

Each successive step along the way has given me additional information at the price of maybe not being terribly pleasant to eat (although I rationalize it with the idea that potatoes are cheap and the dog isn't as picky as I am) or just not being exactly what I'm after.

#9 as described above comes the closest. Sometimes the interior is a little gooey, and I'm not sure how to correct for it. I've thought about intentionally leaving a void in the center but that's architecturally unsound. Also, it just seems... wierd.

Yet I have no fear. Half the fun of developing Pommes Catherine has been in the experimentation; and when I go visit her in NYC again, I will be able to wow her with this new contraption.

So, to finally get to the point of this thread, do any of you have any stories about developing a recipe? Or updating a classic? Sometimes I wish that my neighborhood had an actual Mad Scientist I could go to. It might streamline the process.

Edited by Reefpimp (log)

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Oh come on. A hundred views and no one's ever tried to evolve something from something else? How are we going to advance our hobby and our craft if you don't share?

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Okay. I developed a version of the Monte Cristo Sandwich as an entry in the Pillsbury Bakeoff a few years ago.

The finished recipe is on my office computer, and I'll retrieve it as post it to RecipeGullet later, but suffice it to say that everyone got pretty tired of eating my evolving work! :sad:

SB (and, suffice it to say, I didn't win $1 million :sad: )

PS: I love Pommes Anna, and use Julia Child's version :smile:

Edited by srhcb (log)
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That's cool, I likes me some Monte Christos. I used to do cordons bleu with Rice Krispy batter, they always went over well.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

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Well, this isn't a classic recipe, but I've been trying to create some good roasted potato wedges for a while. There's a burger joint nearby that does these great, extra big fries (wedges, basically)... I prefer to avoid deep frying, so I've been trying to create someting similar, but by roasting... Now, for the longest time, I used to think it was impossible to get that nice, crispy texture on the surface, that the deep fried spuds had -- but then I found The Fat Duck's Heston Blumenthal's recipe:

Ingredients:

- Potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges.

- Flour.

- Olive oil.

- Thyme, rosemary.

1) Boil wedges in salted water until cooked through, but be careful not to overcook.

2) Sprinkle with flour.

3) Drizzle with oil.

4) Roast at 375 for 1 hour, turning and sprinkling with thyme and rosemary halfway through.

(Well, that is, as far as I remember)

Now, thyme and rosemary is all very great and wonderful, but it's more refined, elegant, suave, or whatnot, than what normally comes to my mind, when I think of fried taters... Perfectly fine for a 3-star Michelin joint, but it's like dressing up a mutt in a poodle suit, if you ask me.

Okay bad analogy.

But here's what I ended up with:

Ingredients:

- Potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges.

- Flour.

- Garlic powder, cayenne pepper.

- Olive oil.

1) Boil wedges in salted water until cooked through, but be careful not to overcook.

2) Mix garlic and cayenne with flour, sprinkle over potatoes.

3) Drizzle with oil.

4) Stand wedges on their "backs" in a tinfoil covered rack, place on pizza stone, roast at 375 for 1 hour.

I've tried a bunch of different things -- especially Indian style spice mixes (which I've not yet given up on) -- but this one is a total no-brainer success whenever I make it...

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That's cool, I likes me some Monte Christos.  I used to do cordons bleu with Rice Krispy batter, they always went over well.

Okay, here you go ....

Evolution of a Losing Recipe Contest Entry

Chapter I. The recipe I started with:

Monte Crispo Sandwiches

Preparation & Cooking Time 25-30 minutes

Ingredients:

8 1/2" thick slices fresh soft homestyle bread

3 eggs

3 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoon salt divided

1 teaspoon pepper divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated

2-3 cups panko bread crumbs

4 teaspoons unsalted butter, softened

4 teaspoons honey mustard

4 oz. (4 slices) mozzerella cheese

4 oz. prosciutto or other thinly sliced precooked ham

4 oz. precooked or smoked chicken breast thinly sliced

4 oz. (4 slices) provolone cheese

2-3 tablespoons peanut oil for frying

Preparation Directions:

1. In a large shallow dish, whisk together eggs and milk. Season egg mixture with 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and nutmeg.

2. In another large shallow dish, combine panko crumbs with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

3. Place peanut oil in a heavy 10-inch Teflon fry pan or griddle and heat oil over medium to medium-high heat until hot (about 360 degrees F.). Preheat oven to warm (300 degrees F.).

4. While the oil is heating, arrange bread slices in pairs and spread one slice of each pair with 1 teaspoon butter and the other slice of the pair with 1 teaspoon honey mustard.

5. Layer one buttered bread slice with one slice each of the mozzeralla, ham, chicken/turkey and provolone. Place the top slice mustard side down on top of the provolone to close the sandwich. Repeat this procedure to form two sandwiches. Using a large sharp knife, trim off the crusts to form neat sandwiches.

6. Take two completed sandwiches, dip the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches into the egg mixture, then into the crumb mixture. Place the coated sandwiches in the hot oil and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side until the crumb mixture is golden brown and the cheese begins to melt. Transfer sandwiches to a serving platter and place in the preheated oven.

Hold the cooked sandwiches in a warm oven while preparing remainder.

Repeat the entire process to prepare 4 sandwiches total.

Optional Garnish: In deference to the traditional Monte Cristo sandwich serving practice, include a 1-2 Tbsp. dollop of strawberry preserves or another jam or jelly with each sandwich.

Makes 4 sandwiches to serve 4 people.

Coming next, Chapter II. Adapting the Recipe to Contest Rules

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Evolution of a Losing Recipe Contest Entry

Chapter II. Adapting the Recipe to Contest Rules

The Pillsbury Bakeoff has very strict rules about recipe format. The Rules also specify utilization of listed Pillsbury products, the more the better. Here's how the recipe looked after experimentation and adaption.

Monte Crispo Sandwiches

for 2 Sandwiches:

(All Ingredients at Room Temperature)

4 (1/2 inch thick) slices of Pillsbury Refrigerated Italian Garlic Loaf

2 ounces Thin Sliced Ham

2 ounces Thin Sliced Smoked Turkey Breast

2 slices Mozzerella

2 slices Povolone

2 Eggs

2 Tbl Milk

1 Cup Progresso Bread Crumbs *

1 Cup Pillsbury Instant Potato Flakes *

Butter

Salt & Pepper

Pinch of Nutmeg

Mustard

2-3 Tbl Peanut Oil for Frying

Heat Oil in heavy fry pan or griddle to 360 degrees (between Med and Med High)

In a shallow dish whisk together Eggs and Milk, seasoned with Salt, Pepper and Nutmeg

In another shallow dish season combine Bread Crumbs and Potato flakes with Salt and Pepper

While the Oil is heating, arrange bread slices in pairs and spread one slice of each pair with 1 teaspoon Butter and the other slice of the pair with 1 teaspoon Honey Mustard.

Layer one buttered bread slice with one slice each of the Mozzeralla, Ham, Chicken/Turkey and Provolone. Place the top slice mustard side down on top of the provolone to close the sandwich. Repeat this procedure to form two sandwiches. Using a large sharp knife, trim off the crusts to form neat sandwiches.

Take two completed sandwiches, dip the tops and bottoms of the sandwiches into the egg mixture, then into the crumb mixture. Place the coated sandwiches in the hot oil and cook for approximately 2 minutes per side until the crumb mixture is golden brown and the cheese begins to melt.

Slice Sandwiches diagonally to serve.

Optional Garnish: In deference to the traditional Monte Cristo sandwich serving practice, include a 1-2 Tbsp. dollop of strawberry preserves or another jam or jelly with each sandwich.

Makes 2 sandwiches to serve 2 people.

* This is where the part of the recipe where most of the experimentation took place. I hated to give up the unique properties of the panko, but I was willing to sell out my principles for the right amount, and a $1 million selling-out price is well within the range of my priciples.

Other ideas for the breading included crushed Chex cereal, toasting and crushing the left-over heels from the Garlic Italian Loaf, adding some Grated Parmesan, or just about any combination of the above.

Next, Chapter III. But All is not Lost (yet anyway)

Edited by srhcb (log)
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Chapter III. But All is not Lost (yet anyway)

Not having qualified for the Bake-Off, and its one million dollar First Place Award, I was left with the original, un-Pillsburyized version of the sandwich, all dressed up with no place to go.

Then I ran across another contest, albeit with a much more modest prize. It was a grilled cheese contest, and each recipe was to include a story. I may not be the world's best cook, by any means, but I'm damn good when it comes to making up a story!

Here's the preface I added to the original Monte Crispo recipe:

Monte Crispo Sandwich History

The Monte Crispo is, of course, a version of the famous Monte Cristo Sandwich, which is itself descended from the French Croque Monsieur, a grilled Gruyere Cheese and lean ham crustless sandwich fried in clarified butter that has been served in French cafes for at least one hundred years.

The Monte Cristo seems to have first appeared in California in the early 1950's in conjuction with the Hollywood film version of the Alexandre Dumas novel of the same name. It combined the ingredients of the Croque Monsieur with a similar sandwich called the Croque Madame, which substitutes sliced chicken for the ham.

This combination, in keeping with both the sexual innuendo ever present in restaurant kitchens and the lusty spirit of Dumas' novels, lends itself to suggestive jokes about whether Monsieur (ham) or Madame (chicken) goes on top. The matter is of no culinary importance, since the positions are reversed when the sandwich is flipped in any case.

Continuing along this line of thought, the Monte Crispo sandwich could be updated, taking into account modern safe sex practices, by incorporating another thin slice of cheese between the ham and chicken as a prophylactic layer ? :wink:

SB (didn't win that one either! :sad: )

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I hope that Steve has more stories to tell about the evolution of dishes. Charming little tales they are! :rolleyes:

Reefpimp, I think that people all have different ways of evolving their own dishes. Some find inspiration while shopping, in the grocery aisles. The ingredients just sort of "speak" to them. With others, often the story is that neccesity is the mother of invention. The cupboards may be bare of what is called for in a recipe, and something else is tried in place of it and the thing sings better than before. Many chefs I've known think of food, ingredients, the way writers think of words, or designers color/patterns. It happens in the head, the putting-together of ideas, just like writing a story. The tastes, colors, textures, are flossed out together along with any conceptual plays just in one's mind.

Each evolution/inspiration is different, and often unanalyzed but just enjoyed after it happens. I'm sure that *if* you haven't found the way that best works for you yet with this, that you will with time. And of course, there is nothing wrong with the classics *, just good-tasting things as they have been served over and over again.

Sort of like a zen-thing, you know. Push it and it won't happen. Be ready for it and relax, and it will.

:biggrin:

Best of luck with the floating restaurant. Sounds like great fun. Just make sure the sump pump is as good quality as the kitchen range. :smile:

*Edited to add: Just as long as the classics one serves, if they do serve classics, are not mundane classics. :raz:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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How are we going to advance our hobby and our craft if you don't share?

Oh, RP!! This sounds lovely!!! My first idea on beginning the first post was that you're gonna hand everybody aboard the boat like Cap'n Steubing, take them out to the fishing grounds/oyster beds/lobster traps, let them catch their own dinner, then take them back to that seabreeze porch for a couple of good beverages whilst you whip up their own harvest into an unforgettable seafood feast, to be consumed within sight and surfsound of the water.

And then, my TOO-Southern mind got hold of that ramekin, and Mediterranean or no, a puddle of butter in the bottom, a slice of the cooked-and-dried potato---even a sliced of BAKED, which would simplify things. An ovenful of potatoes baking just to yield those little crusty slices---seems like a worthwhile process. You could even lay a tiny leaf into the butter first, to sizzle a pretty garnish right into the little beauty.

All the flavorful, golden fluffy mass piled atop, to bake and brown the crust, then turned out on a white plate, with the buttery juices flowing down---I'm tasting it now. And I'll never forget your all-nighter on the boat and that ambrosial breakfast at dawn.

Nothin' sucks to be you, Hon.

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