5-Minute Dry Ice Elderflower Sorbet

Video Recipe

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.

Sorbet on Foodista

Interview with Nathan Myhrvold: Home Cook, Modernist Chef, Pioneer & Food Geek

clip_image001[4]

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to talk with Nathan Myhrvold about his upcoming book, MODERNIST CUSINE: The Art & Science of Cooking (by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold & Chris Young).  But this is no ordinary cook book – it is a 4-volume tome totaling over 2200 pages on recipes and techniques you might think of as “molecular gastronomy”.  Although Nathan humbly denies the analogy, this book is poised to do for modern cooking what Escoffier did for classical cuisine a hundred years ago.

If you haven’t heard of Nathan Myhrvold, you’ll likely enjoy his Wikipedia bio, which should be cataloged somewhere between the biography of Leonardo da Vinci and The Adventures of Baron von Münchhausen, except that all of his accomplishments are verifiably true.  Nathan, a native Seattleite, is the founder and CEO of Intellectual Ventures, a company that specializes in “the business of invention”.  His resume includes a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics and awards in wildlife photography.  His archeological paleontological expeditions have discovered more T-Rex fossils than any other group, and he has published breakthrough research on the trajectory patterns of penguin feces.  He designs nuclear reactors and laser guns that zap mosquitoes in mid-air.  And he is a major food geek.

I’ve followed the sous vide thread on eGullet and I noticed that your first post was in March of 2004.  What began your interest in sous vide cooking?

I’ve been interested in cooking forever. I have this very elaborate kitchen at home. It’s the second-most technological kitchen in Seattle – the first is the one that we built over at the lab for the cookbook. But it’s only first because we moved a bunch of my stuff from home over there!

I had bought all of the equipment for sous vide a year or so before that.  I was working with it and getting some results, but I sort of assumed there’s this huge body of knowledge out there and I just didn’t happen to connect with it.  I put that [post on the eGullet forum] out there naively thinking people would say, ‘Fine here’s a bunch of techniques and recipes.’

I was naïve! What I discovered was, nobody actually had a clue. I don’t mean that rudely, but at that point in time (2004) Roca’s book hadn’t come out. The only books I found were books about either commercial food service or a couple of books that were in French, and which seemed to have very high temperatures and were not the real deal.

…A year or so in after I had published my major tables, and I was one of the big posters in the sous vide forum, I realized how little people knew, I saw how much interest there was, I saw how much misinformation there was and so that’s when I decided I really oughtta write a cook book.

 

72-Hour Sous Vide Short Ribs

sous vide short ribs
Sous vide cooking works its magic on a lot of foods, but short ribs yield some of the most dramatic results I’ve seen.  In traditional recipes, the ribs (usually cut into short 2-3” chunks by the butcher) are braised for several hours.  Although the braising method adds great flavor and makes the meat extremely tender, the meat is also necessarily well-done.  But, thanks to our sous vide wizardry, we’re able to maintain a perfectly-pink medium rare and have our meat come out fork-tender.  Feel free to experiment with marinades in the bag, but know that some herbs, like thyme, will start to reek after 3 days in the bath.

Makes: 6-8 best-of-both-worlds short ribs
Total kitchen time: 72.5 hours (give or take)

Shopping list:

  • 6 lbs. short ribs (I used a 6 lb. uncut slab from my butcher, but you can use 6-8 pre-cut pieces)
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tbsp. coarse smoked salt (I prefer Alder wood smoked salt)

Special equipment: sous vide heating immersion circulator, vacuum sealer and (optional) blowtorch.

  1. Preheat a large water bath to 56C (133F).
  2. If using an uncut slab of short ribs, trim off any large areas of fat on both sides. 
  3. Coat all sides of the meat with salt and garlic cloves.  Place slab (or pre-cut short ribs) into a large vacuum seal bag.  If using pre-cut pieces, you may need to divide them between 2 bags, ensuring there is plenty of space between the ribs.  Seal the bag.
  4. Fully submerge your bags in the water bath and cook, turning the bags every 12-18 hours.  After 60 hours, increase the heat to 62.5C (144.5F) and cook an additional 12 hours.
  5. If using a blow torch: Pace a cooling rack on top of a sheet pan or jelly roll.  When ready to serve, remove the ribs from the bag and drain.
  6. If using a slab of ribs, turn the ribs bone-side-up and slice through the meat between the bones lengthwise to separate out each bone.  Cut the membrane running the length of the bone and slide the bone loose (it should give easily, with a little encouragement from your knife).  Trim any access fat surrounding where the bone used to be.  Cut the trimmed meat into portions.
  7. If using the blowtorch, place a cooling rack above a sheet pan or jelly roll pan.  Place each portion of ribs on the cooling rack, allowing plenty of space in between.  Pat the ribs dry with paper towels.  Using your torch, sear all sides for a few seconds, or until golden brown. 
  8. If you’re not using a blowtorch, give the ribs a quick fire under the broiler or in a little oil on a smoking-hot skillet to brown all sides as quickly as possible.
  9. Serve immediately.

After tasting these short ribs, I may never cook any type of ribs the same way again.  This summer, I plan to lightly smoke a rack of spare ribs, then cook them sous vide for a few days before finishing them back on the grill.  I expect pretty incredible results.