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.
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.
I encourage you to exercise caution when making hypermelon. This shit is no joke.
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:
- 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.
- He replaced half the required amount of sugar with maple syrup.
- For good measure he threw in a chunk of butter to give it that waffle flavor.
Next, 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.
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.
For some reason I can’t remember, Jessie Oleson (of the fantastic blog Cakespy.com) and I decided to get together and absolutely destroy a few sweets using some of my favorite kitchen tools: the sous vide machine, the centrifuge, the rotor-stator homogenizer, the blowtorch, the vacuum chamber, and the blender. I took photos of our mayhem and Jessie illustrated them and crafted a story in her signature style. The result is… disturbing. Without further ado, here is the Photo Story of the Misfit Pastries.
In a land not so far away, in the dark endcap displays of the grocery store, exists the land of misfit pastries.
These are the sad, stale, and typically on-sale sweets that have not been purchased, the unloved in a generally lovable section of the food pyramid.
Like shooting stars, their futures initially looked bright. But as someone (don’t ask me who, probably a lighting salesman) once said, "the brighter the light, the bigger the shadow". And here, we are going to delve into some of the bad things that can happen to fallen pastries.
Take here the hapless cookies, so festive and fresh a few days ago, which are now inspiring the ire of a rather dapper Watermelon. What will happen next in this scene? We cannot be sure, but one thing is certain: that Mr. Watermelonsworth is displeased, and his monocle and mustache should tell you that he means business.
…or see how cupcakes have fallen into an unfortunate series of events. sometimes we do senseless things when we are bored or just hungry. were these purposeful lures or simply a cupcake playdates gone bad? Nobody can be sure, but one thing’s certain, these poor Hostess cupcakes are never gonna be the same, and their friends are looking hungry.
If you’ve ever been in an upscale restaurant and ordered a sorbet or ice cream with a consistency that seemed to defy the laws of physics, it was probably made in a Pacojet. This $4000 machine is a staple in many restaurant and hotel kitchens for its ability to produce exceptionally smooth and creamy desserts and savory dishes. However, if I’m going to drop four grand on a kitchen machine, it damned well better take voice commands and wear a skimpy outfit.
My method uses dry ice for instant freezing and Xanthan Gum, a popular soy-based gluten substitute, as a thickener for a more velvety texture. In addition, I’ve added a small amount of Versawhip, which creates a subtle but stable foam, giving the finished product the unexpected lightness usually associated with mousses. You can substitute the sorbet base of your choice, following the same basic steps.
Makes: about 6 cups
Total kitchen time: 10 minutes
- 20 oz. canned pineapple (crushed, slices, or chunks), including juice
- 6 oz. fresh raspberries
- 1 oz. (a small shot) St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (optional)
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. Xanthan gum (also available in the baking aisle at better grocery stores. Look for the Bob’s Red Mill label)
- 1/2 tsp. Versawhip
- 1 lb. dry ice, crushed into 1/2” or smaller chunks
- Combine the pineapple (including juice), raspberries, St. Germain and sugar in the bowl of a large food processor. Process for one minute or until smooth.
- Add the Xanthan gum and Versawhip and process until combined.
- With the food processor running, add the dry ice and continue processing another 1-2 minutes, or until the sound of the dry ice cracking has stopped.
- Remove from the food processor and serve, or store in the freezer. Can be made 2 days in advance.
It is true that the Pacojet doesn’t require any added thickeners to achieve its magic consistency. However, it does require you to freeze your sorbet mix at –20C for 24 hours before churning. I’d love to do a blind taste test comparison between this method and the Pacojet. As soon as I trip over a pile of cash, I’ll let you know how the test turns out.
I’m not much of a chocolatier, but I’ve watched my dad temper chocolate and make truffles a dozen times or so. The transformation that takes place during the tempering process is fascinating, and it only becomes more curious with my first attempt to temper using sous vide. Notice the pattern of dark, shiny dots and lines? I didn’t put it there.
I had this grand idea for a “gingerbread” house this year: a scale replica of the Seattle Central Library building – one of the few modern architectural landmarks of our city, and a magnificently example of complicated geometry. I planned on making the whole thing out of sugar, since the library building has an all-glass exterior. And, to top things off, I was going to laser-cut all of the pieces I needed, since the project clearly wasn’t geeky enough to begin with.
Instead, I ended up with this 6” spiral staircase. Let’s review what happened…
It doesn’t matter how old you are – there’s still a little kid inside you who just loves roasting marshmallows over a campfire. However, if a campfire is a impractical for your next dinner party, try this simple trick: use your fondue set for tableside s’mores. [Caution: locate your nearest fire extinguisher before attempting, and don’t serve alongside that bottle of 90 proof Brandy.]
To make your s’mores a bit classier, try using premium chocolate (sorry Hershey’s, it’s not me, it’s you). I prefer Seattle-based Theo Chocolate’s Coconut Curry and Fig, Fennel & Almond, though there are hundreds of exotic flavors out there that will easily earn you your Open Flame Artisan Pastry Making merit badge.
If you love chocolate dipped foods, but aren’t quite ready to turn your fondue set inside out, Berries.com offers a variety of chocolate dipped fruits, cake pops and other sweets ready to ship right to your doorstep. And, for the real smores faithful, they even offer chocolate covered smores sandwiches!
If you couldn’t tell, I’ve been slightly obsessed with molecular gastronomy (“modernist cuisine” if you’ve read the Nathan Myhrvold interview). Unfortunately, I’m a long way off from having centrifuges, rotary evaporators and tanks of liquid nitrogen lying around my
lab kitchen. Luckily, some of the geekiest cooking techniques work very well with home kitchen substitutes, and dry ice sorbet is the perfect example. Eric Rivera first introduced me to this technique during one of our periodic food experimentation meetings. Depending on the sugar content of the sorbet base and the type of mixer attachment, you can produce anything from fluffy, soft, taffy-like sorbets like this one to desserts with the consistency of Dippin-Dots. Last night I added lime zest, lime juice and a shot of tequila to the sorbet base, then topped the result with lime salt for the coldest, sweetest smoothest margarita sorbet you’ve ever tasted!
Note: Whenever you’re working with dry ice, WEAR THICK GLOVES. Having sensation in your appendages is a good thing.
Note Two: In the video, I say to bring the sorbet base to a boil. Further testing has shown that’s really not necessary. A simmer is usually sufficient for the sugar and water to be completely combined.
It took a lot of work, but I’ve finally made the most trendy food possible. These molecular gastronomy “cupcakes” infuse the idea of local stinging nettles into an airy foam, which is balanced out by bacon cured in a barrel of black truffles, then finished with salt smoked with chipotle peppers in a cave in Nepal. The whole thing is vacuum bagged with a tablespoon of rendered duck fat, then cooked sous vide for 5 days. Optionally, you can garnish with a fresh nettle leaf – the gentle sting of which is a reminder of the frailty of life.
[Happy April Fool’s Day]
Molecular gastronomy, the geekiest incarnation of cooking known to man, has recently piqued my interest. Foams and spherification and liquid nitrogen and the like aren’t particularly common on Seattle menus, but on a recent trip to Spur Gastropub, my dessert was adorned with a pinch of powdered olive oil. The powder was a delightful surprise – it tastes just like olive oil, and when the dry granules hit your tongue, they dissolve almost instantly. When I got home, I looked online for a recipe for olive oil powder, but came up empty handed. I did, however, find an article that described using tapioca maltodextrin to dehydrate olive oil. I don’t have any maltodextrin, but I did know where to find some instant tapioca mix. A few hours of experimentation later, and I had a viable recipe.
Total kitchen time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup of powder
- 1 3oz. package Jello Cook & Serve Fat Free Tapioca Mix
- 2 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Using a sieve or a fine mesh strainer, sift the tapioca to remove the little tapioca balls. Discard the balls.
- Place sifted tapioca powder and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small food processor and pulse on high until blended. Add the remaining olive oil, 1/4 tsp. at a time just until it forms a spreadable paste. You may not need to use all of the olive oil – the paste should feel chalky.
- Spread the olive oil mixture in an even layer on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high for 90 seconds. Remove and let cool 5 minutes.
- Using the tines of a fork, break the cooled paste into small pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.
This powder is an excellent addition to a bowl of ice cream or other sweet dishes. Unfortunately, since we’re using off-the-shelf tapioca mix, we do get some of the tapioca flavor. However, the overwhelming taste is definitely olive oil, and unless you’re ready to start ordering commercial food chemicals, this method ain’t bad for $2.30.
I wish I could take credit for this recipe – the best new thing I’ve tasted all year – but the credit actually lies with two of my favorite chefs in Seattle: Philippe Thomelin of Olivar, and Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez, formerly of Harvest Vine and now playing around at Txori. On the night I first tasted chorizo caramel confit, I had just finished an excellent meal prepared by both chefs on a special evening at Olivar. I happened to be sitting with Jay of Gastrolust.com, and Joseba came over to say hello. Of course we praised the meal, and I jokingly asked, “But where was the chorizo?” Joseba disappeared into the kitchen and emerged a minute later with a plate of sticky-sweet chorizo atop crostini. They were unbelievable, and I’ve dreamt about them ever since. Apparently, Philippe and Joseba had hand-made the chorizo earlier that day and had been cooking slowly in caramel. Philippe generously shared his simple recipe, which I’ve recreated here using store-bought chorizo.
Makes: 24 pieces
Total kitchen time: 1 hour (15 minutes active time)
- 1 lb. dry-cured chorizo, sliced into 1/4” pieces
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 stick butter
- 1 baguette, thinly sliced (optional)
- Pour the sugar and water into a medium skillet with high sides (taller than the chorizo is thick). A non-stick skillet makes for easier cleanup. Do not stir the sugar and water together, just make sure all the sugar is wet.
- Over medium heat, bring the sugar water mixture to a soft boil.
- Stir in the butter until melted. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.
- Add the chorizo and continue to simmer for 10 minutes, up to 3 hours. The longer it cooks, the more flavorful the caramel will be.
- (Optional, for serving) Butter one side of thin baguette slices and toast in the oven or on a skillet. Place each piece of chorizo on a piece of toasted bread and drizzle with the caramel sauce in the pan.
Or, dump the whole pot into a mason jar and serve with bamboo skewers.
This is my new favorite dessert, and a dish that I’ll serve often at cocktail parties. If you’re interested in hearing more about the wonderful dinner at Olivar, Jay has a great writeup on his blog. And, many thanks to Frantic Foodie Keren Brown for organizing the dinner!
If you’ve never had a savory ice cream before, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest surprise pleasures. The unexpected, tongue-tingling hint of rosemary adds a bright freshness to the ice cream, and the salt and olive oil make the natural sweet notes sing. It’s important to choose a good olive oil: not too heavy, not too syrupy, not too bright. I chose Villa Manodori ($24 at DeLaurentis, also available online) , which is mild and thin, but has a distinctly fresh olive taste and a spicy bite as it finishes. Luckily, any olive oil that goes well on ice cream will also be killer for finishing hot dishes too.
Makes: 1 1/2 savory quarts
Total kitchen time: 30 mins. plus freezing time
- 1 cup heavy cream (go ahead, choose organic. it tastes better)
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 cup minus 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 2 six inch sprigs fresh rosemary, plus extra to garnish
- high-quality extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- flake sea salt or sel gris
Special equipment: ice cream maker, instant-read thermometer
- Combine the cream, half and half, sugars and scraped vanilla bean and rosemary sprigs in a medium saucepan. Attach a thermometer and bring the cream mixture to 160°F over medium-low heat, stirring often.
- Once the temperature hits 160°F, immediately transfer the mixture to the freezer to cool. Once it is cold (but before ice crystals form) pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- To serve, drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt over a scoop of ice cream. Top with a short sprig of rosemary (optional).
When I attended the Seattle Chocolate Festival last year, my eyes were opened to a whole world of savory chocolates. I tried basil, lavender, cayenne… even tequilla-flavored chocolate. This rosemary fudge is surprisingly quick and simple to make, and is a wonderful twist on a bake sale favorite.
Makes: about 2 lbs.
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 tea bags, a tea infuser, or cheesecloth
- 12 Oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 Oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. gray salt, sea salt, or black salt (don’t substitute table salt)
- Strip the rosemary needles off of the twig and pulverize them in a mortar and pestle to release their inner oils. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, put the rosemary in a plastic bag and rough it up with a rolling pin.
- Divide the rosemary between the two tea bags. Pour the condensed milk into a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the tea bags and submerge, being careful not to let the rosemary spill out. Bring the condensed milk to a simmer (you’ll see wisps of steam) then remove from the heat and let the rosemary steep in the milk for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line the inside of a shallow 8”x8” baking dish with parchment or aluminum foil. Try to get the foil as smooth as possible, so it doesn’t leave wrinkles in the finished fudge.
- Remove the tea bags from the saucepan, pressing them against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon to release as much flavor as possible back into the condensed milk.
- Add the chocolates and baking soda to a large glass or metal bowl and stir until the baking soda is evenly distributed. Add the condensed milk and place the bowl on top of a pot of boiling water to form a double boiler. Gently stir until the chocolate is almost fully melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and continue stirring until the chocolate mixture is smooth.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the salt evenly across the surface of the chocolate. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. To serve, remove the block of fudge from the baking dish and cut into 1” pieces.
You can also try this recipe with sage, basil, or anything else that sounds good to you.
To commemorate a certain special occasion that took place earlier this year, I decided to build the Eiffel Tower, in all its majesty, out of gingerbread. This isn’t the first gingerbread Eiffel Tower in the world, but this may be the first one made with only 4 pieces of gingerbread.
To achieve this marvelous feat of culinary engineering, I built a baking ramp with the same slope as the profile of the tower, so each face of the tower came out curved. As a result, each side fit together perfectly – er, close enough for gingerbread.
Thanks to Rachel’s hard work and perseverance, these profiteroles (a.k.a. pâte à choux, a.k.a. cream puffs) came out perfectly on the first try (of the 2nd attempt). Light, flaky and not overly sweet, profiteroles are a simple but very elegant way to indulge your sweet tooth. Top the puffy dumplings with a semi-sweet chocolate sauce and you’re on your way to portly heaven.