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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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.
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DSC_0028
Sometimes I feel like getting a little fancy, and a whole roasted duck fits the bill.  Don’t let it intimidate you, though.  Roasting a duck is just like roasting a chicken, and no, it’s not absolutely necessary to crack open an actual coconut to make this recipe.  If you’re feeling a little adventurous, give this one a try.  I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

Total kitchen time: 2 hours
Makes: foul for four

Shopping list:

  • 1 whole duck (or 4 duck breasts, if you prefer)
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 24 oz. (4 small cans) pineapple juice
  • 1.5 cups basmati or jasmine rice
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut (from the drink mixers aisle of your supermarket)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. yellow curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your oven to 425° F and set the top rack in the middle position.  Rinse and thoroughly dry the duck, inside and out.  Salt and pepper the skin and inner cavity.
  2. Blend together the orange zest and butter using a small food processor (or with the back of a fork if you’re Amish, in which case I don’t know how you’re viewing my blog right now).  Stuff half of the orange butter under the skin of the duck and rub the remaining half on the outside of the skin.
  3. Truss the duck (it yields better results, but it isn’t absolutely necessary) and place it on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up.  You can also place the duck directly onto a preheated heavy-bottom skillet, but a roasting pan will help the duck cook more evenly.  Whatever you’ve got around will work, so don’t fret.
  4. Roast the duck for 45 minutes, then flip carefully and roast another 45 minutes with the breast side down.  Be sure to pour out any fat drippings from the body cavity when you flip the bird.  Let the duck rest at least 15 minutes before carving.
  5. Meanwhile, boil the pineapple juice in a small saucepan over high heat until it has reduce to about 1/4 the quantity.  It should be shiny and a little syrupy.  Set aside.
  6. Prepare the rice using your rice maker or stovetop, according to the directions on the package. 
  7. In a small saucepan, combine the cream of coconut, coconut milk, curry powder, cinnamon, red cayenne pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, and adjust to taste by adding more curry powder or red pepper flakes.  Fold the coconut mixture into the rice.
  8. Plate the duck atop the coconut curry rice and spoon over some of the pineapple glaze.

If you’ve never cooked duck before, you’ll be surprised at the amount of fat that melts off the bird as it cooks.  Ducks have fatty skin because ducks need to float.  Wood also floats, and burns.  Witches burn because they are made of wood.  Therefore, if a woman ways the same as a duck, she is a witch.  Wow, a recipe and lesson in illogical justice?  What doesn’t this blog have!

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