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.

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blacklight oyster
I really wanted to make glow-in-the-dark oysters.  More accurately, I wanted to make oysters fluoresce under ultraviolet light (sometimes called “black light”).  Why?  Because it’s cool, of course.  [If you were hoping for a more noble, practical reason, you’re probably reading this blog by mistake.]

I knew two things before beginning this experiment: 1) the quinine in tonic water fluoresces under UV light, and 2) oysters are “filter feeders,” meaning they trap particles from the water as a means of taking in nutrients.  Modernist Cuisine includes a recipe, which is an adaptation from Dave Arnold and Nils Noren, for Beet Juice-Fed Oysters (book 3, page 206).  The recipe calls for submerging live oysters in beet juice strained through a 500 micron sieve and letting them feed for 48 hours.  The flesh of the oyster turns pink and red as it takes on the microscopic particles of beet juice. 

Following this example, I thought there was a good chance that the oysters might filter the quinine out of tonic water in the same way, leading to slightly sweetened oysters that would glow iridescent blue under a black light.  In my experiment, however, they did not.  The picture you see above is one of my test oysters under a fluorescent UV bulb.  Although it looks cool in the photo, it is very much not fluorescing.  If I put a white cloth next to the oyster, the cloth lit up like a warehouse rave, but the oyster was only reflecting the bluish hue of the visible light from the UV blub.  Interestingly, a portion of the shell just at the hinge is fluorescing (it’s a brighter blue-green in the picture) but I did not achieve my intended result of an iridescent mollusk. 

Why didn’t it work?  I have a few theories:

  1. Perhaps the oysters were DOA.  Shamefully, I purchased the oysters at the type of grocery store that also sells name-brand cola and US Weekly.  I should have known better, and I’ll never do it again, but it’s quite possible that these fugly-ass oysters were dead before I got them home.
  2. Salt problem?  The Modernist Cuisine recipe calls for 2.6% aquarium salt.  I’m not sure what that is, so I used regular table salt.  Perhaps that’s an important difference. 
  3. Is tonic water lethal to oysters?  The shells were still tightly closed when I removed them.  I did notice that, for about 30 minutes after I covered the oysters in tonic water, they were releasing a constant stream of very small bubbles from the edges of their shells.  I assume this was a result of them circulating the water through their muscular little bodies.  But perhaps the fact that the bubbles stopped after 30 minutes is evidence that they didn’t survive the pre-cocktail environment of a bottle of Canada Dry.
  4. The quinine in tonic water might be inaccessible to the oyster’s filtration system.  Either the quinine particles are too large, too small, or for some other reason can’t be filtered by the oysters. 
  5. Not enough quinine?  Perhaps everything did work as I anticipated, but the concentration of the quinine was just to weak to show up in the oyster bodies. 

I may repeat this experiment with higher-quality oysters and additional quinine.  Alternately, if any geneticists out there want to grab the fluorescence gene from a modified zebrafish and put it into a Samish Sweet or a Blue Pool, I’ll gladly shuck and slurp with you!

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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!

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