Archive for September, 2010

29th September
2010
written by scott

failed clear ice balls

The ball on the far left was made from plain tap water – never boiled, never filtered.  The 2nd ball from the left was made from tap water which I boiled for 3 minutes, then cooled, then boiled again.  The 3rd ball was made from water I filtered through my Brita then boiled once.  The ball on the far right was made from filtered, double-boiled water. 

Can you see the difference in clarity? Yeah, me neither.

My goal was to make clear ice – that is, ice that is totally transparent without any haziness or white fissures.  I know that commercial ice makers use fancy processes like upside down freezing, but several websites propose that you can make your own clear ice just by boiling (or double boiling) water before freezing.  I put this to the test, and as you can see, my results were less than stellar. 

The complication may have to do with the ice ball molds I was using.  The molds are sealed, so it’s possible that some gasses (or evil spirits) weren’t able to escape during the freezing process.  I’ll try again with regular cubes or blocks, but for now, I’m a little pissed that I’ll have to chill my morning gin with cloudy ice.

24th September
2010
written by scott

The nice folks at Polyscience were kind enough to loan me their new SousVide Professional heating immersion circulator. This is the first circulator that they have designed specifically for sous vide cooking, and it performs exquisitely. 

After a few weeks of intense use, I found the temperature accuracy to be precise (eggs are a great test!) and the stability to be very reliable.  The powerful circulating motor is a little noisy, as you can hear in the background of the video above, and I often wished it had a low-speed setting – instead, there is a valve you can adjust to regulate flow. 

The video below displays the results of a heating and temperature stability test I ran.  The machine is heating three gallons of water to 65.5C with no lid on the water bath.  The video is sped up by 20x so you aren’t bored to tears (and because a watched pot never boils becomes delightfully tepid).

 

Polyscience SousVide Professional – $799

15th September
2010
written by scott

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If sous vide eggs had been invented two thousand years ago, there would have been entire books of The Bible dedicated to their praise.  But at the last meeting of the Jet City Gastrophysics, we took a giant leap forward.  You see, the beauty of a sous vide egg lies in it’s exquisite texture.  After about an hour in the water bath, the yolks become buttery with nearly the texture of pudding.  The only way to improve on this amazing transformation is to add a crunchy shell. 

Makes: 6 pieces
Total kitchen time: 90 minutes (30 minutes active time)

Special equipment: sous vide heating immersion circulator

Shopping list:

  • 6 + 1 organic eggs
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • canola oil, for frying
  • 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. black truffle salt
  • 1 tbsp. fine lemon zest (optional)
  1. Cook 6 eggs (reserving one) sous vide at 64.5°C for 60 minutes.  Let the eggs cool in a bowl of tepid water for 10 minutes.
  2. Turn on the faucet to very low. Working one by one, carefully crack a cooked egg into your hand, and let the white drip away under the water.  Set the yolks aside.
  3. Heat about 1.5 inches of canola oil in a small saucepan until it reaches 360°F (make sure the temp doesn’t exceed 370°F).
  4. In a small bowl, combine the flower, baking powder and sea salt.  In a second bowl, whisk the remaining (uncooked) egg.  Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate.
  5. Gently roll each yolk in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg wash, then roll in breadcrumbs.
  6. Fry each yolk for about 30 seconds, or until lightly golden brown.  Drain on a paper towel, then sprinkle with black truffle salt and lemon zest.

These fried eggs make excellent tapas, particularly if your guests aren’t expecting what’s inside.  Perhaps in another thousand or two years, we’ll discover something even more delicious.

08th September
2010
written by scott

thermometer in ice water
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a handful of thermometers dancing around your drawer of miscellaneous kitchen tools.  But, are they accurate?  If you’re roasting a turkey, a degree or two of inaccuracy isn’t going to make a dramatic difference.  But, if you’re making caramel, tempering chocolate, cooking sous vide, grilling a steak, or doing any number of other tasks that require a precise temperature, having a thermometer you can trust is clutch. 

Calibrating your thermometer is quick and easy.  Many analog and digital thermometers allow you to offset the temperature to adjust for the calibrated value.  However, if your thermometer doesn’t offer an offset function, a piece of blue tape with the delta will work just fine. 

Method 1: Ice Water

  1. Fill a glass with ice cubes, then top off with cold water. 
  2. Stir the water and let sit for 3 minutes.
  3. Stir again, then insert your thermometer into the glass, making sure not to touch the sides. 
  4. The temperature should read 32°F (0°C).  Record the difference and offset your thermometer as appropriate.

Method 2: Boiling Water

  1. Boil a pot of distilled water.
  2. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, insert your thermometer, making sure not to touch the sides or bottom of the pot.
  3. The temperature should read 212°F (100°C).  Record the difference and offset your thermometer as appropriate.
    [Note: The boiling point of water will vary with altitude.  Use this handy water boiling point calculator to find the right temperature for your elevation.]

Now that you’ve got a thermometer you can trust, go forth and cook with confidence!

01st September
2010
written by scott

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On Thursday, I had the extremely rare privilege of getting an inside look at the kitchen laboratory at Intellectual Ventures.  If you aren’t aware, Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures CEO) along with chefs Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, has spent the last four years working on the book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.  This will be no ordinary cookbook – at 2400 pages and 5 volumes, it is unarguably the most in-depth, detailed compendium on the scientific process of cooking that has ever been written.  I’ll have many more interesting facts on the book in upcoming posts, but if you want the big picture, check out my interview with Nathan Myhrvold back in May.

The pictures and videos below are from a reception that the Modernist Cuisine team hosted as part of the International Food Blogger’s Conference.   Needless to say, this is the most sophisticated kitchen on earth, and as a food geek, I was in heaven.  Click through for more photos and video.

Lab panorama
[Click the picture to view full-size] This panorama gives you a sense of the kitchen’s layout.  All of the stations are on wheels and the whole kitchen can be rearranged as the team focuses on different projects. 

 


In this video clip, CEO and King of the Food Geeks Dr. Nathan Myhrvold discusses the decision to not dumb down the book to cover only the equipment you’re likely to have in your home kitchen.

Spice Cabinet
[Click the picture for the full-size image (so you can read the labels)]  This is the Modernist Cuisine kitchen’s idea of a spice cabinet.  Many of the products are available through the website www.chefrubber.com

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A centrifuge is used here to separate solids from liquids and clarify sauces and stocks.  The green bottle is finely-blended raw peas that have separated into solids and pea water.


In this video, Chef Chris Young talks about the benefits of having a kitchen without customers.  The unique design of the Modernist Cuisine kitchen allows the staff (up to 36 people at certain points in the book’s development) to focus on research and testing of new recipes and techniques. 

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You’re looking at the world’s only deep-fried watermelon chips.  I have no idea how they managed to deep fry watermelon, but I promise that it’s a dangerous proposition if attempted incorrectly.  The chips were light and delicious, with a recognizable hint of caramelized watermelon flavor.

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Those look like beautiful cherries, don’t they? They’re actually made of foie gras.  And yes, they were delicious.

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Chefs plate a small bite of horse mackerel sashimi with ginger and plum, proving that not all of the recipes require a particle accelerator.

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My favorite dish of the night’: "tongue and cheek pastrami and rye”.  A thin slice of sous vide smoked Wagyu beef cheek is served with thinly-shaved tongue and delicate rye chips.  But, what makes this dish spectacular is the beef marrow mousseline (shown being shot out of a CO2 charger).  The mousseline is like the richest, fattiest mayonnaise you could imagine, except it’s made from sous vide egg yolks and bone marrow, and it is served warm. 

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The frozen pistachio “cream” (ie. pistachio ice cream) alone is worth the price of the book.  As you can see from its beautiful glossy sheen, the ice cream was creamy and incredibly smooth.  What makes this dish really incredible is that the ice cream is made only from pistachios, emulsifiers and sugar.  No milk. No Cream. No eggs.  That’s right, it’s vegan!

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And, for a little whimsy, they made olive oil and vanilla bean gummy worms.

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And finally, I was thrilled to get a picture with Nathan.  See that grin on my face?  I kept it for days.

For more information on the book, check back here and also be sure to visit the official site for the project, www.ModernistCuisine.com

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Update: The book finally has a shipping date – March 14th, 2011!  Pre-order your copy today!