Archive for December, 2011

31st December
2011
written by scott

cryopoached coconut puff copy

Jethro and I were asked to create a dish with “wow factor” for a group of scientists for an upcoming event.  We wanted to craft a bite that’s first and foremost delicious, but also illustrates some of the hallmarks of modernist cooking: textural transformation, surprise, and use of unconventional techniques to refine and reinterpret something traditional.  It also had to be practical and economical, since we’ll be serving nearly 200 people in two hours.  This meant quick plating time, low portion cost, and minimal prep.  After some brainstorming, we decided that a cryopoached (liquid nitrogen-frozen) puff would fit the bill.  Jethro had already made the Fat Duck’s Cryopoached Green Tea Sour (which I recognized from Modernist Cuisine), but we wanted to make a version that was our own, and frankly, one that was simpler and cheaper.

I knew from prior experience that coconut milk foams nicely through a whipping siphon – I use it as a garnish for MC’s caramelized carrot soup.  Jeth and I came up with a list of complimentary flavors, including licorice and lime.  We combined coconut milk with a shot of absinthe, which made a delicious puff.  However, the strong licorice flavor of absinthe turns a lot of folks off, so we decided it wouldn’t be a crowd pleaser.  But coconut and lime?  Who wouldn’t love that.  And, for a little color and flavor contrast, we dusted the tops with ground, freeze-dried strawberries.  

cryopoached coconut puff open copy

When cryopoached properly, the “meringue” has a crunchy exterior shell that gives way to a light, foamy interior.  But, within a second of being in your mouth, the whole thing melts into liquid – the sensation all but forces a smile!  We got the best textural results when we poached the meringues for 20 seconds, flipping once, then letting it rest 10 seconds before eating.

Makes: a lot
Total kitchen time: 20 minutes
Special equipment required: liquid nitrogen, whipping siphon

INGREDIENT

QTY.

SCALING

PROCEDURE

Thai Kitchen coconut milk

387g

100%

  1. Combine all ingredients in a whipping siphon. Attach the top of the siphon and shake to mix well.
  2. Prepare a medium bowl of liquid nitrogen.
  3. Charge the siphon with 2 cartridges of nitrous dioxide.
  4. To serve, dispense a small ball of the meringue base onto a spoon.  Drop in the liquid nitrogen.  Poach, turning constantly until frozen on the outside but still soft on the inside, about 20 seconds. 

Sugar

67g

17%

Vanilla extract

2g

0.5%

Lime juice

4g

1%

Iota carrageenan

2g

0.5%

 

 

 

Freeze dried strawberry, powdered

as needed

5.       Dust over the frozen meringues and serve immediately.

Also, an important safety note: DON’T LICK THE SPOON!  Any metal or dense materials that come in contact with the liquid nitrogen will get cold and stay cold – cold enough to burn your skin and freeze your tongue like a flagpole in a snowstorm.  As a gentleman and a friend, I’m choosing not to post the picture of Jethro’s “lesson” in thermodynamics, but let’s just say that the spoon now has more taste buds than he does. 

*Thanks to Mr. Eric Rivera for the carrageenan tip!

22nd December
2011
written by scott

goose
My favorite part of any bird is the dark meat – besides the skin, dark meat is the only real “flavor country” found in foul.  I’m particularly fond of duck because both the leg and breast meat is darker than you’ll find in a chicken or a turkey.  But ducks are relatively small and, shall we say, flat-chested.  A goose, however, is a much more curvaceous creature and offers quite a lot to love.  Like ducks, geese fly quite a lot.  And just like in any other animal (that I’m aware of), the more a muscle needs to work, the darker its meat will be.  So, geese end up being an animal composed entirely of dark meat!

But, if the idea of roasting a goose gives you anxious visions of forgotten kitchen timers and smoking ovens, let me assure you that there’s a better way.  Just like a turkey or a duck or a chicken, a goose is a great candidate for sous vide cooking.  I started with a whole goose, which I carved into four pieces: two breasts and two legs.  I packed each piece in a vacuum bag with salt, aromatics and fat, then cooked sous vide.  Just before serving, I shallow-fried each of the pieces to brown and crisp the skin.  In reality, I treated the goose just like I was cooking duck confit, sous vide style.  This was phenomenally easy, risk-free and wonderfully delicious.

Many thanks to Whole Foods for providing a complimentary whole goose for the development of this recipe.

Shopping list:

  • 1 whole goose, thawed
  • 40g kosher salt
  • 35g juniper berries
  • 65g light brown sugar
  • 10g fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1g cinnamon stick, microplaned (or ground cinnamon)
  • 150g rendered duck fat
  • Canola oil, for frying
  1. Rinse the goose thoroughly and remove the neck from the interior of the body.  Reserve the neck for another use.
  2. Remove the legs and thighs.  With the goose breast-side-up, grab the end of the drumstick and pull the leg outward from the body of the goose.  Cut through the skin underneath the rib cage as you pull the leg away.  Flip the goose over and fold the leg away from the body until the “hip” joint is visible.  Run your knife through the hip joint to free the leg and thigh.  Trim away excess fat and skin, leaving enough to cover the meat.  Repeat for the other leg.
  3. Remove the breasts by making an incision through the skin of the breastbone.  Allow your knife to follow the contour of the rub cage on one side and peel the breast away as you cut .  Trim away excess fat and skin.  You may save the fat, carcass and wings for another use, such as a pressure-cooked goose stock.
  4. Combine the salt, juniper berries, brown sugar, rosemary and cinnamon in a large bowl.  Mix to combine, gently crushing the aromatics to release their oils.  Toss each goose piece in the salt mixture until well-coated.
  5. Divide the duck fat among four vacuum bags (or two, one for breasts, one for legs).  Place the goose pieces in their respective bags and toss in any juniper berries and rosemary that may have been left behind.  Vacuum seal on high.  Refrigerate overnight.
  6. Preheat a sous vide bath to 62C.  Add the goose legs and cook for 18 hours.  If you’re not serving the goose immediately, remove the bag and chill in an ice bath.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  7. Preheat a sous vide bath to 54C.  Add the goose breasts and cook for 6 hours.  If you’re not serving the goose immediately, remove the bag and chill in an ice bath. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
    Note: If you have two sous vide baths, you can perform the previous two steps simultaneously. If you only have one sous vide bath and don’t want to wait quite as long, you can turn the temperature down from 62C to 54C after 12 hours and add the breasts to the same bath as the legs. The legs won’t turn out quite as flaky, but they’ll still be delicious.
  8. Heat a large pot of canola oil 1/2” deep to 400F.  Remove the goose from the vacuum bags and wipe off any juniper berries or rosemary that may be clinging to the skin.  The meat will be wet from the duck fat, but that’s OK for frying.
  9. Working one piece at a time, fry the legs skin-side-down for about 1 minute or until golden brown.  Flip and fry for an additional minute skin-side-up.
  10. Fry the breasts, skin-side-down only, for about 1 minute or until the skin is golden brown.
  11. Slice as desired and serve immediately.

As you’ll notice in the picture above, geese have a hefty layer of fat underneath their skin.  This helps them stay buoyant and warm, and I personally enjoy eating the fatty exterior, which is made soft and delectable by the long cooking time.  However, if you want to reduce the fat layer and you have a little extra time on your hands, before step 4, remove the skin from each piece of goose.  Using the back of your knife, scrape the fat away from the underside of the skin.  Dust the skin with Activa RM (transglutaminase; meat glue) and place it back on the meat before vacuum sealing.  It’s a little trick I learned from Modernist Cuisine, which has quite a lot to say about cooking tough and tender meat sous vide.

21st December
2011
written by scott

peeking over MC 690

I’m over­joyed to announce that, start­ing in January, I’ll be join­ing the Modernist Cuisine team full-time as the Business Development Manager… and Modernist Cuisine Evangelist! If you’ve been fol­low­ing the blog (or if you’ve ever had a 5-minute con­ver­sa­tion with me) you know that I’ve been a huge fan of Modernist Cuisine since I first heard about the project. From my first inter­view with Nathan Myhrvold in May, 2010 to my recent expe­ri­ence of intern­ing with the kitchen team, it has been my dream to join this team. Now, I’ll have the tremen­dous plea­sure of help­ing Modernist Cuisine grow in new and excit­ing ways, and spread our mes­sage to a much broader audience.

We are for­tu­nate to be wit­ness­ing a world­wide, culi­nary rev­o­lu­tion. Much like Escoffier’s Le Guide Culinaire for­ever changed cook­ing in the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury, Modernist Cuisine enables con­tem­po­rary ideas, tools and cook­ing tech­niques to spread more widely than any other book before it. In fact, I’ve been infa­mously quoted as say­ing “Escoffier would crap his pants…” at the sight of the five gor­geous, com­pre­hen­sive vol­umes. However, with the U.S. book launch com­pleted and for­eign edi­tions now broadly avail­able, our work is far from done.

More than ever, we are excited about the huge poten­tial we see in the road ahead. We’ll be explor­ing ways for The Cooking Lab to con­tribute to the Modernist rev­o­lu­tion, not only through our books but also through new ser­vices and prod­ucts that we hope to develop our­selves and in col­lab­o­ra­tion with a wide range of other com­pa­nies, from food and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers to chefs and restau­rant own­ers, to pub­lish­ers and pro­duc­ers. We’ve got a list of great ideas to turn into real­i­ties, but we also want to know what you’d like to see from us. If you have an idea, a request, or a part­ner­ship oppor­tu­nity, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Contact us online or email scott@modernistcuisine.com.

I’m incred­i­bly excited about the future of Modernist Cuisine, and I’m hon­ored by the priv­i­lege of help­ing to shape it!

15th December
2011
written by scott

tomatoes

After much ogling, I finally took the plunge and purchased a VacMaster chamber vacuum sealer when I caught an irresistible deal for an older model on Craigslist.  I had known for a while that my FoodSaver was woefully inadequate at sealing wet foods for sous vide, but after witnessing how much of a workhorse the chamber sealer is at the Modernist Cuisine lab, I knew it was an essential missing piece of gear for my own kitchen.  These are the results of my first real experimentation with the chamber vacuum sealer: “quick pickling.”

A chamber sealer pulls a much stronger vacuum than a FoodSaver – so strong, in fact, that it will boil water at room temperature.  When you apply this ultra-strong vacuum pressure to plant foods, you can physically change their cell structure in a way that causes the foods to quickly absorb  liquids that surround them.  Modernist Cuisine explains the phenomenon best:

The cells of plant tissue contain pockets of air and water called vacuoles.  As the outside pressure decreases during vacuum sealing, these vacuoles act like balloons rising up through the atmosphere, and like balloons they eventually pop.  The popped vacuoles cannot reinflate[…] so they collapse under the weight of atmospheric pressure as soon as the sealing chamber is opened.[…]
Incidentally, this phenomenon also is the reason that infusing liquids into fruits or vegetables under vacuum compression works so well.  Once the vacuoles rupture, they quickly fill with any surrounding liquid.

So, I set out to exploit this phenomenon with a bunch of different plant foods.  Here are the results.

 

Tomatoes
tomato macro

The image at the top of this post shows the outcome of my tomato experiments.  On the left is a raw tomato, sliced 3mm thick.  In the middle is a tomato infused with olive oil.  On the right is a tomato infused with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Since the oil replaces much of the water in the tomato slice, you can safely top these tomatoes with salt without the salt melting, which is a neat trick.

The image just above shows a macro shot of the oil and balsamic tomato slice.  You can actually see the expanded vacuoles, which are now filled with oil.  As the pressure in the vacuum chamber dropped, the tomatoes boiled vigorously in the olive oil – they actually looked like they were being deep-fried, but at room temperature.  I think there’s more to explore here…

Cucumber

cucumber

[Raw on the left, infused on the right].  These are classic pickles.  I infused 3mm cucumber slices in a brine of rice wine vinegar, sugar, salt, water, coriander seed, black peppercorn and fresh dill.  Because the cell walls are collapsed, these pickles don’t quite have the same “snap” as traditional pickles, but they were still excellent.  Having total control over the flavor of the brine and being able to make pickles in less than 60 seconds more than makes up for the difference in mouthfeel.

Quince

quince
[Raw on the left, infused on the right].  Because the quince was so firm, I sliced it to 3/4mm on the mandoline.  I pickled the slices with Noble Tonic No. 4 and thyme.  Although they are quite acidic as a standalone snack, they’d make a fantastic garnish for something fatty, like a slab of pork belly or a chunk of tuna.  They’re also much more attractive when they turn translucent.

Jicama

jicima

[Raw on the left, infused middle and right].  Much to my surprise, the jicama didn’t compress much or turn translucent.  However, it did do a fantastic job taking on surrounding flavors.  My first test was Sriracha and light coconut milk.  This worked like a charm – the liquid was quite thick, but even after I rinsed the jicama, the flavors remained.  The second test was a brine of apple cider and fennel seed.  This has the potential to become a fantastic slaw.  Although I was happy with the flavors, I didn’t compare the results of the vacuum compression to simply soaking jicama in these liquids, so I can’t say for sure that vacuum did any magic here.

Turnip

turnip

[Raw on the left, infused on the right]. This was one of the most promising results – I infused 3/4mm sliced raw turnip with Nobile Tonic No. 1 Maple Syrup.  In fairness, I could lick that maple syrup off a cast iron griddle and still love it.  However, the sweetness of the syrup added a wonderful complexity to the bitter, spicy finish of raw turnip.  I could see these infused turnip sheets used as a wrapper for a filling, or perhaps deep fried into chips.

I’m very excited about the results of this first round of testing, and I look forward to more experimentation with the chamber sealer.

01st December
2011
written by scott

Latkes Stack 690

Although I don’t consider myself Jewish, I did grow up in a household that observed the major Jewish holidays like Passover, Yom Kippur, and of course, Hanukkah.  One of my favorite memories of celebrating Hanukkah is the tradition of eating latkes with sour cream and apple sauce.  For the gentiles out there, latkes are potato pancakes, made from shredded potato and onion.  In fact, latkes are pretty simple to make, which is why I wanted to take on the challenge of making them better.  To me, a latke should have an awesomely crunchy outside and a creamy inside.  So, I started experimenting with ways to get the ultimate potato crunch. 

DSC_7573

My instinct was that the key to crunchier latkes was adding starch to the potato.  I cooked three variations: a control (no added starch, top), a latke sprinkled with potato starch (right), and a latke coated with butter-flavored instant mashed potato flakes (bottom).  To keep the experiment rigorous, I packed the same quantity of potato mixture into a ring mold and fried the latkes for the same time at the same temperature.  The instant potato flake latke was the clear winner – the dried starch added extra surface area for frying and made the potato wonderfully crunchy.  Unfortunately, much of the potato flake broke off during frying, which clouded the oil.  With some good advice from Maxime Bilet, I altered my method to avoid this problem.  I ended up with fantastically crispy latkes, which I wouldn’t mind eating for eight consecutive nights this year.

Makes: 12 crispy latkes
Total kitchen time: 1 hour

Shopping list:

  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 4 russet potatos
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 waxy potato
  • 1 egg
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 100g (about 5 tbsp.) instant masked potato flakes, butter flavor
  • peanut oil, for frying
  • sour cream & apple sauce for garnish. 
  1. I recommend using the grater attachment on a food processor to make quick work of this task.  If using a food processor, add lemon juice to the bowl.  If grating by hand, add lemon juice to the bowl that will contain your grated potatoes.
  2. Peel and grate the potato, tossing occasionally to coat with the lemon juice.  Reserve 2/3 of the grated potato mixture in a separate bowl to become the exterior coating. 
  3. Grate the onion.  Combine the remaining 1/3 grated potato and grated onion in a medium pot.  Add water to cover and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and strain to remove most of the water.  Season with .05% salt and .005% pepper. 
  4. Peel and microplane the waxy potato into the bowl with the reserved 2/3s grated potato mixture.  Pour the mixture into a large cheesecloth and ring as tightly as possible to remove as much water as you can.  Return the mixture to a bowl.
  5. Add 1 egg, .05% salt, .005% pepper and instant mashed potato flakes to the bowl and toss well to combine.
  6. Heat 1” of peanut oil in a deep skillet to 400F. 
  7. While the oil is heating, assemble the latkes on a nonstick baking sheet.  Grab a small handful of the uncooked potato mixture and press into a disk, one layer thick.  Top with a tablespoon of the cooked potato and onion mixture, spread evenly.  Finish with another later of the uncooked potato mixture. 
  8. Fry the latkes a few at a time, being sure not to overcrowd the pan.  Flip once if necessary to ensure even browning on all sides.  The latkes should cook for 2-3 minutes, or until dark and golden.  It’s critical that you keep the temperature of the oil at 400F before and during frying to ensure maximum browning – if necessary, momentarily remove the latkes to allow the oil temperature to come back to 400F. 
  9. Drain on paper towels, and serve alongside sour cream and applesauce.