Recipes

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.

09th July
2012
written by scott

Update: Thanks to keen reader Edsel for pointing out that ModernistPantry.com is now selling WRISE.  This recipe was written for the standard version of WRISE, but they’ve recently introduced an aluminum-free version as well. 

I promised myself that, before the summer is over, I would learn to make fabulous pizza at home.  It turns out, making pizza at home is a fascinating problem.  Almost everyone I know eats pizza at home, but hardly anyone makes it… unless you count baking a frozen DiGiorno or putting toppings on a pre-baked crust.  My self-challenge encompasses aspects of both innovation and practice, and with a food as technique-centric as pizza, there’s no getting around the need to practice. I’ve made about 30 pizzas so far this summer, and my technique and confidence increases with each one.  However, I’ve recently made a breakthrough in recipe development that shows serious promise: no-yeast, no-rise, Champagne-flavored pizza dough that you can make from start to finish in under 40 minutes.  [pictured above]

Seriously. 40 minutes, from scratch. Minute 1: turning on the oven, taking out the stand mixer and grabbing a bag of flour.  Minute 40: eating a goddamn delightful pizza.

Champagne 2The secret to this recipe is microencapsulated leavener – a fine powder made of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium aluminum phosphate that have been microscopically sheathed with non-trans palm lipid to prevent them from reacting with surrounding any acid until they are heated to the point at which the lipid coating melts away.  This means that the leavening action of the baking soda doesn’t kick in until the pizza is heated, and unlike yeast-based doughs, there’s no need for the dough to rise ahead of time.

I first read about encapsulated leaveners in Cesar Vega’s fantastic book, The Kitchen as Laboratory.  Tom Tongue, the R&D Director at Innovative Food Processors contributed a chapter that discusses the use of these products in commercial, take-and-bake pizzas.  I was immediately fascinated by the concept and tracked down a sample package of WRISE from The Wright Group.

In my first tests, I simply added a bit of WRISE to a traditional pizza dough recipe (actually, the Neapolitan pizza dough recipe from the upcoming Modernist Cuisine at Home, to which I have access, neener neener).  Although you’ll need to buy the book to read the full recipe, it relies on yeast and a rise time of at least one hour before baking.

DSC_7292

A few weeks ago, Cesar Vega and Alex Talbot (IdeasInFood.com) happened to be passing through Seattle and joined Jethro and me for dinner at my place. Among other things, we made pizza using the yeast + WRISE method, and I let the dough proof at 55°F for 6 hours before rolling out the crusts. The pizzas were great, but Alex was quick to plant a nagging question in the back of my mind: why do we need yeast in the dough if we have another source of leavening already? It was a great question, and one I couldn’t shake. The yeast and leavener combined to create an extraordinarily light and puffy pizza crust, which I loved, but presumably one could generate enough lift from the leavener alone. Of course, yeast adds flavor to the dough, but flavor can come from lots of sources other than yeast. Buttermilk, whey, blue cheese, soy, miso, beer, and a dozen other foods could stand in for yeast to produce an interesting dough. Then, Alex threw down another challenge: make a new batch of dough, and bake it without letting it rise to see just how much lift the encapsulated leavened provided.

So I did.  The dough recipe takes 20 minutes to make, which includes 10 minutes of rest time in between 5-minute kneading cycles in the stand mixer.  As soon as the second knead was done, I portioned the dough, stretched it into a 12-inch crust, and threw it in my 850°F grill-turned-pizza-oven (more on that later – it’s badass).  The dough rose, but not nearly as much as the yeast dough that had been left to rise for several hours.  A few bites into this “test” pizza, I realized that there was very little acid in the dough with which the sodium bicarbonate could react, which would explain the measly rise.  The only acid, in fact, came from a small amount of honey.  The liquid content of the dough was all water.  The next logical step was to replace the water with a flavorful, acidic liquid and see what happened.

Over the next few weeks, I went to work testing yeastless, WRISE-only dough variations.  Now, this is probably a good time to explain that I’m a shitty baker, and my scientific knowledge of the processes that take place inside wheat doughs is limited to some light reading on Wikipedia.  However, there’s nothing like empirical experimentation to help me learn my way around a concept, so I have no problem conducting experiments to which a wiser man may already know the outcome.

My experimental setup is as follows.  I preheated my oven to it’s highest setting (around 550°F, according to infrared thermometer readings) for one hour, with a 25-lb, 1/4” thick stainless steel plate set on the top rack.  As described in Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, a steel plate makes a fantastic pizza stone.  It has a greater thermal capacity than ceramic stones due to it’s higher density, and the higher coefficient of thermal conductivity means that heat can move out of the steel and into the crust faster than it can from a ceramic stone.  I divided each dough recipe into two 200-gram portions, and stretched them as thinly as I could while still maintaining their integrity (no holes).  I rolled, stretched, topped and baked one portion of the dough as soon as it came out of the mixer (left column in the image below).  I let the second portion rest for 15 minutes at room temperature to allow the gluten to relax (right column in the image below).  I topped each pizza with 15g of store-bough pizza sauce and 100g of shredded mozzarella cheese.  Nothin’ fancy here, just aiming for controlled conditions across my tests.  As a control for yeast-based dough, I used a bag of Trader Joe’s premade pizza dough, which calls for a 15-minute rest before using, as it comes refrigerated from the store.

crust results

My goal was to achieve a flavorful, well-risen dough by varying the liquid content across trials.  Besides the liquid, the recipe for each of the doughs was exactly the same.  I specifically chose acidic liquids so that the encapsulated baking soda would have something with which to react to produce the CO2 gas that fills good pizza dough with lovely pockets of emptiness.  Each of the pizzas took between 3 and 4 minutes to bake in my oven.  I ascribe the time differences to cycle timing of the broiler element in my oven – when the broiler is on, the pizza bakes much faster than when the broiler is clicked off.  Here are the results from my trials:

Trader Joe’s Premade Pizza Dough [Control]

[Pictured top-right]  This made a totally decent pizza crust.  It rose well, it was easy to stretch out into 12-inch rounds, and if you live less than 12.5 minutes from a Trader Joe’s, you can theoretically make pizza faster than with the from-scratch method below.  [12.5 minutes x 2 (round-trip) + 0 minute theoretical parking, shopping and checkout time, + 15 minute rest period = 40 minutes.]  Observe the relatively large number of big air pockets and the even rise around the crust.

Water

This trial, which you could also consider a control, I suppose, used 100% filtered water as the liquid content of the dough.  Much to my surprise, it rose pretty well!  As you can see in the recipe below, the only acid content is 4% honey, but the dough still lifted itself into a respectable pizza with a spongy texture and decent, though unremarkable, flavor.  I’m still a little shocked that the dough had this much lift from the acid in honey alone.

Champagne (er, Sparkling White…) – Winner!

In this trial I used a $5.99 sparkling white wine from Trader Joe’s as the liquid content of the dough.  I was counting on the acidity of the wine to react with the sodium bicarbonate, but naively hoping, as well, that the carbonation of the wine would add lift to the baked pizza.  It’s unclear that the carbonation did anything useful (all of the gas was likely released during the mixing process), but the “champagne dough” performed like a champ.  The flavors of the wine were easy to identify in the finished pizza, and the yeastiness you expect in dough was replaced by the similar yeastiness from the wine’s own fermentation.  I could detect apricot and cherry flavors in the pizza, even with the cheese and sauce present.  If topped with muscat grapes, and a wine-friendlier cheese than mozzarella, this could be a smashing success.  I’m excited by the variations that I can achieve using different sparkling (or non-sparkling) wines and more interesting topping combinations.

Buttermilk

I had high hopes for buttermilk.  Buttermilk is mildly acidic (pH around 4.5), but acidic enough that the encapsulated leavened readily foams if heated to 60C in the stuff.  Buttermilk is also delicious, with a wonderful sourness that I admire in pancakes and biscuits.  Unfortunately, [in this recipe, at least] it made very pathetic pizza dough.  Buttermilk must somehow interfere with the formation of the gluten network in the dough, preventing it from holding on to much of the expanding CO2 gas released by the leavener as the pizza bakes.  The dough was still quite tasty, but unfortunately didn’t meet the criteria I was looking for in terms of rise.  Bummer.

Bacardi Dark Rum

My line of thinking went like this: if Champagne worked, why not something even more acidic… like rum?!  As you can see in the image above (and as I found out later when researching this), alcohol interferes with gluten in dough.  I could tell just from the mixing process that this dough would suck – it was crumbly and inelastic, and too much stretching would cause it to tear easily.  But, I baked it anyway, and for my commitment, I was rewarded… it turns out that Bacardi pizza will self-flambe after 30 seconds or so of baking in a 550°F oven!  The pizza ignited in a poof of blue flame, then flames gently danced around the perimeter of the dough for the remainder of the baking time.  This pizza was giving off plenty of gas, as you can see by the pocket of lifted cheese in the 15-minute rest trial in the image above.  Unfortunately, the dough just couldn’t hold on and the pizza ended up basically unleavened.  The image below is a video frame-grab of the Bacardi pizza putting on a light show for me.

bacardi pizza flambe

Finally, the winning recipe.

 

No-Yeast, No-Rise Champagne Pizza Dough Recipe

Inspired by the Modernist Cuisine at Home Neopolitan Pizza Dough recipe.

 

INGREDIENT

QTY.

SCALING

PROCEDURE

Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

250g

100%

  1. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment installed.
  2. Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.
  3. Let the dough rest in the mixer for 10 minutes.
  4. Mix on medium speed, again, for 5 minutes.
  5. For easier rolling, allow dough to rest for 15 minutes.  Divide dough into two equal parts, and roll out into 12-14” pizza crusts.
  6. Top to your liking, and bake in the hottest setup you’ve got until the crust is risen and the cheese is golden brown.

Champagne or Sparkling White Wine

155g

62%

Honey

10g

4%

Salt

10g

4%

Vital Wheat Gluten (Bob’s Red Mill Brand)

2.5g

1%

WRISE Microencapsulated Leavener

7.5g

3%

01st April
2012
written by scott

pink slime burger

Pink slime is so hot right now – it’s in fast food joints, at supermarkets, and even in our elementary schools.  But, pink slime is so much better when it’s homemade!  Once you taste a fresh pink slime hamburger, you’ll never be satisfied with the drive-through version again. Grinding our own pink slime is also a great way to tailor the ammonia content to your particular taste, whether you prefer tangy and solvent, or mild and corrosive.

For this burger, I used the left over beef trimmings that I had been saving for compost. They were aged one week at room temperature and had just started to take on the terroir of my compost bin. You can use store-bought ammonia, but if you happen to be (or know) a cat owner, I highly recommend using feline-produced ammonia. It provides a sharper, more vibrant flavor that you can only get from fresh, local sources. I recommend using cat litter that has been sitting for 30 days.  Sift out the solid waste (because it would be disgusting if any fecal matter got near your burger patty) and reserve the litter granules – they contain the precious ammonium hydroxide we’re after. Blend the litter granules into a fine puree, then pass them through a chinois or coffee filter. Combine the aromatic litter liquid with the beef trimmings and feed through a masticating juicer or a pasta maker with a spaghetti die attached.  Form the extruded meat into circular patties and cook on a grill, or sous vide before deep frying for a perfectly brown crust.

I like to keep the rest of my burger pretty simple – a Kaiser roll or a brioche bun, an American cheese slice, some heirloom tomato, and plenty of ketchup to mask the other flavors.  Enjoy at your next backyard barbeque, or any old day of the week!

[The photo above was obviously inspired by Ryan Matthew Smith’s iconic hamburger photo from Modernist Cuisine. Thanks for the inspiration and the tips, Ryan!]

[and happy April Fool’s day.]

26th March
2012
written by scott

shrimp in pea water

If being a student of Modernist Cuisine has taught me anything, it’s that I should strive for purity of flavor.  Achieving this goal is usually an exercise in what to leave out of a dish, not what you put in it, and this recipe is a great example.  Served chilled, the “broth” is made of centrifuged pea water and filtered celery juice.  When blended peas are separated in the centrifuge, most of the starch ends up in the fibrous layer at the bottom.  Since the presence of starch inhibits your ability to perceive sweetness, the starch-free pea water ends up tasting much sweeter than a whole pea.  I didn’t bother to centrifuge the celery juice, but I find that the flavor of celery is so strongly associated with the crunch of the stalks that it creates a fascinating synesthesia to consume it in liquid form.  I made the conscious choice here to leave out pea starch and celery fiber, and the bright flavors of the vegetables shine right through.

I plan on serving this dish for dinner tomorrow, and I may try adding a wasabi ice or a frozen foam to give it another level of texture.

 

INGREDIENT

QTY.

SCALING

PROCEDURE

Frozen peas, thawed

907g

453%

1.       Blend until smooth.

2.       Divide the pea puree among centrifuge bottles and spin at 1500Gs for 2 hours

3.       Decant the pea water through a paper towel or paper filter.  Reserve and chill pea water.

4.       Scrape, reserve, and chill pea butter.

Celery hearts

907g

453%

5.       Juice in a masticating juicer, such as an Omega.  Reserve and chill juice.

Shrimp, prawns, langoustines, lobster tail or other shellfish

200g

100%

6.       Vacuum seal together using weak vacuum pressure.

7.       Cook sous vide to a core temperature of 54C (for shrimp), about 12 minutes.

Duck Fat

30g

15%

Olive Oil

30g

15%

Small Shiitake Mushrooms

20g

10%

8.       Sweat vegetables in butter.

9.       Cut the onions in half and lightly char the cut sides with a blowtorch.

10.   Plate the dish by spooning 15g pea water and 5g celery juice into a shallow bowl.  Place cooked shellfish in the middle.  Garnish with onions, mushrooms and pea butter.

Small Pearl Onions

20g

10%

Butter

10g

5%

Salt

1g

1%

shrimp splash
One of the shrimp got away and tried to return to his natural habitat.

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.

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.
17th November
2011
written by scott

butternut squash macro

Man, o man do I love butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, delicata squash… you get the point.  When I was young, one of my favorite side dishes at family dinners was an acorn squash, halved, filled with butter and brown sugar, and roasted until soft and sweet.  It tasted like candy, but technically qualified as a vegetable – a loophole that I still enjoy exploiting.

During my recent, steamy love affair with my pressure cooker, I’ve discovered that it does fantastic things to squash.  For example, last week, Jethro served THE BEST butternut squash soup I’ve ever eaten – pressure cooked, of course.  There are two fundamental benefits to pressure cooking, as opposed to roasting, squash:

  1. Speed.  Fork-tender squash takes 15-20 minutes in the pressure cooker, rather than 30-45 minutes in the oven.
  2. All-Over Tan.  Put another way, the pressure cooker achieves deep, even browning on all surfaces, with a significantly reduced risk of burning.  Let’s explore that more…

One of the best tricks I’ve learned from Modernist Cuisine is that adding 0.5% baking soda (by weight) to things you’re about to pressure cook results in fantastic caramelization.  The baking soda increases the pH of the food, which allows the Maillard reaction to take place at the the relatively low-temperature environment of the pressure cooker – typical Maillard reactions start around 310F, but a pressure cooker operating at 15 psi only reaches about 250F.  That means that you get deliciously-sweet, browned squash without running the risk of accidentally scorching your squash.

Also, pressure cookers brown more evenly than ovens.  Think of your oven like a cheap tanning bed, with lights above and below the subject (in this case, food).  The top and bottom of the food is exposed to a lot of light and gets nicely tanned.  The sides, however, remain pasty-white because they’re mostly in shadow. The environment inside a pressure cooker, however, is more akin to bathing in a pool of self-tanner.  The heat and pressure generated by the steam come from all sides, and as a result, your cubes of squash are beautifully browned from every angle, not just the top and bottom.

If you’re ready to drink the Kool-Aid, here are some pressure cooked squash recipes to get you started.

Basic Pressure Cooked Squash Recipe

  1. Remove the skin and seeds from your squash and cut into evenly-sized 1” cubes.
  2. Add 1/2 cup of liquid to your pressure cooker.  I recommend centrifuged squash water (thanks Jethro!), chicken stock, or other flavorful liquid.  Water works fine, too.
  3. Toss your cubed squash in .5% its own weight in baking soda.  You can eyeball this measurement – about 1/2 tsp. of baking soda for 2 lbs. of squash.  Add the squash to the pressure cooker.
  4. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.  Remove and season to taste.

Pressure Cooked Squash Soup Recipe

  1. Follow steps 1-3 above.  For extra richness, add butter or duck fat to the cooking liquid.
  2. Check after 20 minutes.  Pressure cook an additional 10-20 minutes if the squash isn’t tender enough to fall apart yet (cooking time will vary by species).
  3. Using an immersion blender, puree the squash until smooth, adding additional liquid to reach the desired consistency.
  4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, roasted garlic, nutmeg, maple syrup, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider, tarragon, ginger, or whatever else suits your fancy.

Go wild with variations.  Add other stuff like apples or canned pumpkin or bell peppers or carrots or leeks.  I promise it’ll be good.

[BTW, the picture above is an acorn squash, uncooked.]

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.

27th October
2011
written by scott

brioche with pea butter and sv egg 690

We had friends over for brunch last weekend, so I pulled out an old standby: brioche with a 64°C egg, maple syrup, pancetta and pea butter.  It’s my version of French toast, you know, because of the toast part.  I’m not trying to sound snooty when I say this is “as simple as can be” because you do need a sous vide machine and a centrifuge to make it.  However, provided you have those tools, the recipe brain-dead easy.  When I was growing up, we used to go for brunch at a diner that made “sweet pea guacamole” served alongside a Tex-Mex omelet.  I loved the notion of having peas with breakfast, and once I discovered centrifuged pea butter, that was even more reason to work it into the dish.  I’m sure there’s a “green eggs and ham” permutation of these ingredients, too; if you find it, please share.

Total kitchen time: 10 minutes + 3 hours centrifuge time + 1 hour sous vide time
Makes: 4 servings

  1. Make pea butter by blending 4lbs of thawed peas until smooth, then centrifuging at 1500 RPMs for 2-3 hours. 
  2. Cook 4 eggs sous vide at 64°C for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile. cut 4 slices of brioche, about 1” thick.  Toast on a flat-top grill with copious amounts of melted butter.
  4. Fry up 8-12 slices of pancetta.  Pro tip: frying pancetta in a waffle cone maker keeps it from curling up.

To assemble, top the toasted brioche with an egg. Pour over pea butter and warmed maple syrup.  Finish with slices of fried pancetta. 

[Thanks to the Estevez family and my wife Rachel for helping me make a mess in the photo above]

30th June
2011
written by scott

lamb with carrot demi and leek marrow

It’s been a while since I cooked a meal for the blog, so when a leg of lamb arrived at my doorstep (care of the lovely folks at the American Lamb board), I took that as a sign that I should get my ass in the kitchen.  I’ve been on a carrot kick all spring, and I’ve made several variations of the caramelized carrot soup from Modernist Cuisine.  It occurred to me that the deep, sweet flavor of pressure-cooked carrots is not too dissimilar from that of a beef demi-glace (the thick, rich sauce that restaurants often serve over red meat).  This is undoubtedly the quickest demi-glace you’ll ever make, and I’ve gotta say, it’s fucking amazing. Vegetarians will throw a parade in my honor.

Thinking about demi-glace also got me in the mood for bone marrow.  I’ve seen a few faux marrow preparations in the past and I always find them amusing.  However, a big part of the appeal of roasted bone marrow is its decadent, gelatinous texture.  For my version, I decided to use a section of leek as a fake bone and achieve a convincing marrow texture by pressure cooking leek and onion, then setting it in a fluid gel.  The result was quite a bit darker than roasted bone marrow, but the richness and texture were spot-on.

For the recipe, keep reading…

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09th June
2011
written by scott

pea ravioli
As you may recall, last week’s peas + centrifuge experiment resulted in three stages of pea: pea solids, pea butter and pea water.  This week, I’ve found a use for all three components in my recipe for Pea Ravioli.  The picture above shows three of the delightfully green little pasta pouches splashing into a “sauce” of pea water.  Inside each is a dollop of pure pea butter, shown in the photo below.  Note that this is the natural color of the pea butter.  It’s amazing stuff, and hopefully that shot will give you a sense of its wonderful viscosity. 

 

pea butter on spoon

To make the pasta, the first thing I needed was pea flour.  I’ve seen pea flour used as a substitute or partial-substitute in baking recipes before, so I figured it should work fine for pasta as well.  I spread the pea solids into an 1/8” even layer on a silicone baking sheet and dehydrated it at 135F overnight.  Amazingly, the pea solids lost at least 2/3 of their mass and volume.  I guess a few more Gs in the centrifuge would have helped expel the remaining moisture. 

I ground the dehydrated pea solids in two stages: first, I dumped them into the Blendtec and let them whirl on high for a few minutes.  It produced a pretty fine powder, but I decided to do a second milling in the coffee grinder (which I don’t use for coffee).  The final texture was finer than cornmeal but not quite as fine as flour. The photo below shows the pea powder at substantial magnification.  The total yield from 3lbs of peas was 200g of pea powder. 

pea flour
Next, it was time to make the dough.  I had no idea what the properties of pea flour would be compared to wheat flour, so I approached making pea pasta like making gluten-free dough… except I added 25% all-purpose flour.  The dough finally came together after adding one egg + one egg yolk, about 6g each of xanthan and guar gum, roughly 150g of water and 75g of olive oil, plus a little salt.  pea dough

I’m not providing an exact recipe since I eventually gave up on precise measurements and just kept adding stuff until the dough looked right.  When I could finally get it to pass through my pasta roller on the 4th setting without breaking apart, I called it good and stamped out a few ravioli filled with pea butter.  The pasta was delicious and had the unmistakable, pure, vibrant flavor of peas.  Unlike most ravioli, the flavor wasn’t just in the filling.  The dough itself packed plenty of pea punch.  The addition of a soft cheese, like a mild goat or perhaps even a creamy brie would certainly be welcome for the filling, if you’re longing for a little something extra.  I didn’t try cooking the pasta directly in the pea water, but that might be a delightful flavor boost as well.

I’m also planning to try a pea version of matzo ball soup (a childhood favorite) made from balls of pea dough and served in a pea water broth.  If you’ve got other ideas for dishes with extreme peaness, please leave ‘em in the comments. 

12th May
2011
written by scott

nitro-shucked-oyster

I don’t have a lot experience shucking – I find it awkward and a little dangerous to go jabbing a blade into an oyster’s crevice.  So, it’s a good thing I can use liquid nitrogen to do the work instead.  Nitro-shucking, or cryoshucking, is the process of opening the shells of mollusks by dipping them in liquid nitrogen then allowing them to thaw.  Due to a process which I cannot (yet) explain, this quick freeze causes the shells to release way more easily, often just by sliding them off with your finger.

When my friend, Becky Selengut, local private chef and distinguished author of the cookbook Good Fish, announced on Facebook that she was getting her shucking knife ready for the bounty of oysters at her book release party, I jokingly suggested that we cryoshuck them.  She said “sure”.

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28th April
2011
written by scott

lemon panna cotta
Now that we’ve seen the first inklings of spring, I thought it would be nice to make a not-too-heavy, not-too-sweet dessert to pair with some sunshine and [the hope for] warmer weather. Although you might assume that I used a hydrocolloid to make the gel-like panna cotta and a modified soy protein to create the foam, but this recipe is actually something your great grandmother could have made.  In fact, I used a basic panna cotta recipe from Epicurious as my starting point.  One of the keys to this recipe is to use really great cream and half and half – find the best stuff you can at a farmers market or a discerning grocery store.

Makes: 8 servings
Total kitchen time: 30 mins working + 4 hours refrigerating

Shopping list:
For the panna cotta

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 32 drops lemon extract

For the candied lemon supremes

  • 1 Meyer lemon, supremed
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water

For the coconut foam

  • 1 13oz. can light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 drop lavender essential oil (one drop goes a long way, but feel free to adjust to taste)

Garnish

  • Shaved coconut (available in the bulk foods section of finer grocery stores)
  • Edible flowers
  • Shaved white chocolate

 

  1. Add the water to a small saucepan and sprinkle over the gelatin to bloom.  After it has been hydrated for 1 minute or so, heat on low and stir until it forms a fluid.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, heat the cream, half and half and sugar to a simmer over moderate heat until, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon extract and gelatin mixture. 
  3. Divide the heated cream base among 8 muffin molds (or ramekins) and transfer to the refrigerator until fully chilled, at least 4 hours. 
  4. To make the candied lemon, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add the lemon supremes and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, flipping once.
  5. When you’re ready so serve, beat the coconut milk together with sugar and lavender essential oil in a medium bowl using a whisk or an electric mixer.
  6. To remove the panna cotta from their molds, I like to use my cooking torch.  With the torch on its lowest setting, quickly heat the outside of each metal mold, spending just a few seconds on each one.  The panna cotta should slip right out.  Alternately, heat the molds in a little warm water and run your knife around the inside to loosen. 
  7. Garnish the panna cotta with coconut foam, candied lemon, shaved coconut, shaved white chocolate and edible flowers.
07th April
2011
written by scott

shrimp cocktail

Although the title sounds like the beginning of a bad personals ad, this recipe couldn’t be more innocuous.  I wanted to play with the notion of a classic shrimp cocktail, and somewhat by accident (and inspired by a brainstorming session with Jethro), I realized that I could dehydrate cocktail sauce and produce something that looked quite a bit like prosciutto.  Prosciutto-wrapped shrimp is a great dish on its own, and on first glance, that’s what this dish might appear to be.  However, in a single bite, you’ll quickly identify the unmistakable flavor of cocktail sauce.

Method:

  1. Spread cocktail sauce (bottled or homemade – I’ll admit to using bottled) in a thin, even layer on a piece of parchment.  Make the layer just thick enough that there are no holes or gaps in coverage. 
  2. Dehydrate in a food dehydrator at 135F for 2-3 hours or until it is dry to the touch.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you may be able to achieve similar results in a low oven with the door cracked slightly.
  3. Carefully peel the parchment away from the dehydrated cocktail sauce.  It will peel away just like a fruit leather.  Place the cocktail “leathers” on a silpat or another sheet of parchment – they will stick to counters and cutting boards.
  4. Cut the leather into strips, 3/4” wide by 7” long (for medium shrimp – adjust the size as needed). 
  5. Cook shrimp using the method of your choice.  Refrigerate until cool.  Wrap the shrimp in cocktail leather.  Serve, and watch for the look of surprise on the faces of your guests.
31st March
2011
written by scott

 DSC_0368
Popcorn can be boring.  As much as I love butter and salt, and I do love butter and salt, shoveling greasy handfuls of soggy popcorn into my facehole gets old within a few bites.  Luckily, we don’t have to rely on Orville and Redenbacher for the flavors we crave.  Using tapioca maltodextrin, a modified starch with an amazing talent for dehydrating fats, we can create flavored powders from a wide variety of foods.  In this recipe, we’re powdering duck fat to get all the flavor without the oily mess.  If you’re a popcorn fan, don’t just stop here – you can use the same basic technique for blue cheese and hot sauce, smoked salmon and cream cheese, barbeque, white chocolate, or any number of other bold toppings.

Makes: enough to season one bag of microwave popcorn, amply
Total kitchen time: 15 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 40g rendered duck fat
  • 25g tapioca maltodextrin
  • 1.5g cornstarch
  • 5g sea salt, or ultrafine salt
  • 1 bag microwaveable popcorn – unsalted
  • neutral oil in a spritzer, or 1 tsp. extra rendered duck fat

 

  1. Heat 40g duck fat in a skillet until it is completely liquid.  Transfer to a medium bowl.
  2. Add 20g of the tapioca maltodextrin (reserving 5g) and stir to combine with a fork.  Add the cornstarch and continue stirring.  The cornstarch will help prevent clumping.  The mixture should turn to a very light powder.  If it is still a thick paste, add the remaining 5g of maltodextrin and continue stirring.
  3. If using sea salt, add 5g to a clean coffee grinder.  Grind 30 seconds, or until the salt is very finely ground.  Set aside.
  4. Pop the popcorn, following the directions on your microwave and transfer to a large bowl.  If using an oil-free popcorn, spritz the popcorn with just enough oil to make it slightly sticky.  If you don’t have a spritzer, drizzle over 1 tsp. of melted duck fat to barely moisten the popcorn.
  5. Add the duck fat powder and toss to coat.  Add half the finely ground salt, then adjust the rest to taste.

This technique works best when powdering pure fats like duck fat or olive oil.  For powdering other fatty substances like cheeses, you will need to increase your ratio of maltodextrin and combine with the other ingredients in a blender.  It will turn into a thick, sticky goop, which you can spread thinly onto parchment and dehydrate in a low oven for a few hours.  When it’s brittle, drop it into a clean coffee grinder and pulse until you’ve got powder!  For an example, see the powdered cheese I made for my Most Pretentious Mac & Cheese Ever.

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