Bites

04th November
2012
written by scott

I’ve always been fascinated by puffed foods. Maybe it’s because our brains are hardwired to enjoy crunchy snacks… maybe it’s because Snap, Crackle and Pop were sending subliminal messages when I was a kid. In this video, I explain the science of puffing and show you a simple one you can make at home: puffed rice crisps.

21st April
2012
written by scott

5 hour energy hypermelon

This may be the most dangerous food I’ve ever created. I came up with the idea near the end of a very long day of work, when delirium had set in and all of my ideas were at their most absurd. But, in the morning, the idea still lingered with me, so, despite my sense of impending moral conflict, I present Hypermelon.

Hypermelon is melon that has been vacuum infused with an energy drink. Strong vacuum pressure causes the cellular structure of the melon to change, and when atmospheric pressure is returned, the melon sucks up a proportionally large amount of any surrounding liquid. In these experiments, I infused watermelon with 5 Hour Energy and Sugar-Free Redbull. It’s pretty easy to extend the recipe to Rockstar Energy Drinks or other high-caffeine beverages. The watermelon helps to mask the semimedicinal flavor of the energy drink, making consumption of those beverages even more dangerous.

redbull energy hypermelon

Here’s a short video showing the vacuum infusion process. As you can see, the watermelon sucks up quite a bit of liquid. In fact, it only takes 200g of watermelon to absorb an entire 5 Hour Energy.

Watermelon being vacuum compressed in a pool of Redbull

I encourage you to exercise caution when making hypermelon. This shit is no joke.

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!

10th November
2011
written by scott

waffle ice cream in chicken skin cup

Ah, chicken & waffles.  Having grown up in Los Angeles, I’ve made a few late-night pilgrimages to the famed Roscoe’s House of Chicken’n Waffles, and every now and then, I get a craving for crispy fried chicken alongside a lightly toasted waffle.  But other times, my desires are a little more unsavory (pun intended). So, in a recent [epic] Jet City Gastrophysics jam session, we came up with the above: waffle-flavored ice cream served in a crispy chicken skin cup, with maple syrup. 

The first step is to make a neutral ice cream base infused it with waffle flavor. Jethro took on the challenge and nailed it.  He used a standard ice cream recipe (6 egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, ice cream machine, etc) except for three variations:

  1. He toasted up 6 Eggo waffles and soaked them in the milk after it had been brought to a simmer.  After 30 minutes he pressed the milk/waffle goop through a sieve.
  2. He replaced half the required amount of sugar with maple syrup.
  3. For good measure he threw in a chunk of butter to give it that waffle flavor.

chicken skinnedNext, we needed to make a chicken skin cup.  So, I skinned a chicken (it was already dead).  We thought that an intact chicken skin was fun to play with, so we gave it some time in the spotlight, as you can see on the left.  With a little Activia, we could have done a Silence of the Lambs dish (it puts the Hoisin on the skin, or else it gets the hose again!) but we decided that we’re probably on enough FBI watch lists already. 

I removed as much of the fat as I could from the inside of the skin, making sure not to accidentally create any holes.  Using a 4” biscuit cutter as a guide, I removed a circle of skin to eventually form our cup. 

With the waffle cone maker preheated, I crisped the skin until it was golden brown, but still slightly pliable.  I immediately placed the disk on top of an inverted stainless steel condiment cup, then pressed another cup down against the skin to form it into a bowl shape.  We waited for the skin to cool down, and lo and behold, it held its form.

One scoop of ice cream and some really excellent maple syrup later, we had an incredibly satisfying dessert that tastes exactly like chicken and waffles.  Unfortunately, it was a little unwieldy to eat in that form factor – the cup was too big to take in one bite, but not quite brittle enough to shatter at the tap of a spoon.  So, we (including Eric, via Skype) brainstormed an alternate presentation. 

 

chicken skin and waffle ice cream with coffee

We decided that the dish would be easier to eat as a single bite served on a waffled chicken skin wafer.  Eric actually suggested making a coronet from the chicken skin and serving the dish as a miniature ice cream cone, but we were feeling impatient.  So, I fried another piece of skin and broke it into shards.  We also garnished the dish with espresso powder, as it seemed a fitting compliment to the breakfasty flavor of the waffle ice cream. 

Ultimately, we determined that the best presentation of this dish would be to cast the ice cream into a miniature waffle mold, served on a waffled chicken skin wafer, topped with maple syrup and perhaps even a miniature dollop of espresso whipped cream.  We’ll save that for round 2.

02nd January
2009
written by scott

beef wellington hors d'ouvre

I love the richness and elegance of beef wellington, particularly for fancy winter dinners.  Beef wellington, if you haven’t had it before, is a medium rare slab of steak, topped with fois gras and mushrooms, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  The dish can be an expensive proposition, so I’ve transformed it into economical hors d’oeuvres. 

Makes: about 30 bites
Total kitchen time: 25 minutes (longer if starting with rare tenderloin)

Shopping list:

  • 2 1 lb. fully cooked beef tenderloins (available at Trader Joe’s seasonally)
  • 4 Oz. pâté (chicken or duck will work fine)
  • 2 12” square sheets of puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • Toothpicks, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the top rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. If you are starting with an uncooked beef tenderloin, season it to taste and cook until rare.  Allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature before carving, at least 30 minutes.  If using pre-cooked tenderloin, remove from the packaging and wipe all sides dry with paper towels.  Cut the tenderloin into long, 1” square strips.  You should get about 3 good strips per tenderloin; the rest can be saved for excellent next-day sandwiches!
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick mat.  Lay out one sheet of puff pastry and place the cut tenderloin about 1/2” from the top edge.  Spread a little of the pâté on top of the tenderloin.  Then, carefully fold the puff pastry over the tenderloin, rolling the meat and the dough until you’ve completely encased the tenderloin.  Press the dough down at the seam to seal it.  Using a sharp knife, cut the sealed portion of dough away and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat for a total of three “logs” per sheet of puff pastry.
  4. Bake until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.  Slice each “log” into 1” pieces, skewer with a toothpick, and serve!

We were able to save a little cash by using chicken pâté instead of expensive (and rare) fois gras.  We also left out the mushroom mixture you usually find in beef wellington – for our purposes, the mushrooms would be a little messy since they’d fall out the sides of the cut pieces.  Trust me, your guests won’t miss them.