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April 19, 2009

Pineapple, bacon powder, black pepper

If you've been reading this blog from the beginning, you may have noticed that I have been incredibly resistant to buying and/or owning a juicer.  I just hate the thought of forking over my hard-earned dough to buy appliances or tools I'll never really use, and my kitchen storage space is pretty limited, so I've held off on owning a juicer.  And where I live, the hippies at the local co-op love to strike up a "conversation" in the produce aisle and lecture on and on and on about all the (use your know-it-all, semi-stoner NPR voice here) organic, free-range, local, raw, earth-saving, vitamin-boosting, colon-blowing things they put in their freakin' juicers (which, let me just say this: I do not need to hear about anyone's colon when I'm food shopping, because, GROSS), so juicers are just not my thing.

Until now.

That's right, my friends, I am now the proud owner of a HealthMaster JuiceDude 2000 (I made up that last part), courtesy of my friend Anita's sister, Patti.  As the story was told to me, Anita (who lives in the SF Bay Area) and Patti (who lives in suburban VA) were talking on the phone one night and happened to talk about this blog, and Patti mentioned that she had a juicer sitting on a shelf in her basement that she has never used and would be happy to donate to the cause.  I imagine the conversation went a little something like this:

Patti: I was reading one of Carol's posts the other day, and I really think she should use a juicer instead of her food processor or buying that bottled stuff, I mean COME ON.  What is WRONG with her?

Anita: Totally.  She's such an anti-juicite

Patti: She's a RABID anti-juicite.

Anita: It starts with a few jokes and some slurs, "Hey, hippie..."

Patti: Well, I have a juicer I can give her.  Think she'll want it?

Anita: I dunno.  I mean, I can ask her, but if you hear roaring, screeching, cursing, and spitting from the other side of the Potomac, then I guess you know her answer.

Patti: Maybe we can convert her... show her the way of the juice.

Anita: You're right.  It's the least we can do.

Patti: I mean, what's the worst that can happen?

Anita: She makes up fake dialogue between us.

Patti: Oh yeah, right.

And, scene.

So, I picked up the juicer from Patti at her house (who many years ago, I found out, had brought the juicer home when her old office closed because no one there ever used it and she thought she might, but never did -- so WHO'S the anti-juicite NOW, Patti, HUH????), brought it back to my house, and, with a heavy sigh, put it to work on this dish.  I also kicked a hacky sack around while I did it.  (No I didn't.)

The first thing I did was pull out the list of cookbook errata that Grant emailed me a few months ago, to check and see if any of the ingredient measurements needed to change -- and sure enough, this was one of the dishes that had some edits.  I'll share them as I go.

The first thing I did was peel, core, and quarter the pineapple:

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Technically, I more than quartered the pineapple, because the juicer's fruit chute was a skinny little thing, so I needed to make the pieces more slender to be able to fit.

I juiced the pineapple, and strained the juice into a saucepan:

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Go, JuiceDude, go!!!


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Now, before I go any further, I need to 'fess up that when I weighed the pineapple juice before mixing in the sugar and saffron, I encountered a little snag: the book says I need to work with 350g of pineapple juice, and my pineapple yielded only 300g of juice (85% of 350g, or 15% less than 350g).  So, using my handy-dandy calculator, I adjusted the already-adjusted numbers.

Here's what the corrected numbers are supposed to be (make a note in your book, if you have one):

    -- 350g pineapple juice
    -- 25g sugar
    -- 1g salt
    -- .25g saffron threads
    -- 45g Pure-Cote B790 modified food starch (which gets added later)

But, since I only had 300g of pineapple juice, I added 21g sugar, 0.85g salt, and just a pinch of saffron threads.  I also had to modify the Pure-Cote measurement later on, and added 38g of that instead of the full 45g.

Parents, feel free to show this post to your kids when they bitch and moan that "I'll never need to know how to do fractions or percentages ever in my life so why do I have to do this stupid math homework?!?!?!! GAH!!!!!!!!"

Look at me, all about the life lessons.  First, showing tolerance in embracing the juicer, and now amazing you with my mathematical prowess and the power of learning.  Believe it or not, there are even more life lessons to come in this post, I promise.  It's like a regular afterschool special up in here.

So, where were we?  Ah yes, the pineapple juice, sugar, salt, and saffron in a saucepan.

DSC_0007

I brought it to a boil over medium heat, then turned off the flame, covered the pot, and let it steep for five minutes.  That gave me just enough time to dismantle and clean my JuiceDude 2000.  Well, that's sort of a lie.  It gave me enough time to dismantle it, wipe down the machine, and rinse the removable parts before putting them in the dishwasher.

I strained the steeped juice through my chinois and into a blender.  I added the PureCote modified starch and blended it on high speed for 10 minutes:

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Can I just say that 10 minutes is a really long time when you're standing at the blender, holding the lid on tight because you're pretty sure if you don't, it'll fly off at some point and spew pineapple-saffron juice all over your kitchen, which will inevitably attract an army of ants and the exterminator bill for that is something I just don't have in the budget right now, thankyouverymuch.

I poured the starched, blended juice through my chinois and into a bowl so it would be more pourable for the next step:

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Now, here's another life lesson from me to you: don't assume or think you know more than one of the greatest chefs in the world, and decide that using your Silpat instead of a giant sheet of acetate is an acceptable next step, because if you do, your lovely pineapple glass -- which is supposed to dry on a flat surface at room temperature overnight (10-12 hours) on a sheet of acetate will go from this:

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... to this:

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Um, yeah.  I don't think this is what pineapple glass is supposed to look like. 

At this point, I consulted the book to see if the bacon powder was even worth pursuing, and decided to abandon this dish and put the bacon to better use.  I scraped the pineapple glorp off the Silpat, muttering to myself about my rassin'-frassin' cock up, and hit Twitter to ask those who follow me what flavors they think didn't go with bacon.

I mean, it's easy to think of things that go with bacon -- and one of the reasons I was psyched about this dish (before I screwed it up) is because pineapple and bacon are delicious together.  My favorite pizza topping combination is bacon and pineapple (with onions and extra cheese).  And, while bacon on its own is quite lovely (even though I think bacon has jumped the shark, but that's a whole separate topic, I suppose), I figured in the spirit of exploration and creativity, I would be the Internet's guinea pig in tasting the very things that people thought would be absolutely terrible with bacon.  I got quite a few replies to my inquiry, and the twelve things that popped up most frequently in people's responses are as follows:

  1. Orange
  2. Peppermint
  3. Lemon sorbet
  4. Watermelon pickles (couldn't find them, so went with pickled pumpkin instead)
  5. Kiwi
  6. Anchovies
  7. Graham crackers
  8. Carrots
  9. Blackberries (the person actually suggested raspberries because he/she knew I hated them [*evil*], but Whole Foods didn't have any raspberries, so I went with blackberries instead [*nanny-nanny-boo-boo])
  10. Banana
  11. Durian -- which I couldn't bring myself to do, because it was at this point that I was moving across the street to stay with my neighbors while my house was being worked on, and I couldn't subject them and their lovely home to that smell, so I swapped the durian out for Peeps, and
  12. Swedish fish.

While I roasted the bacon in the oven (a far superior cooking method than pan-frying, in my opinion, and done at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes), I prepared the mise en place of the other ingredients.

DSC_0001 

I dragged my helpers (my neighbor's two sons, ages 10 and 12) away from the Wii, and we began our taste test of bacon with the aforementioned ingredients. First up?  Bacon with oranges -- I brushed on an orange glaze I'd made for salmon the night before, which was just fresh-squeezed navel and cara cara oranges, reduced over a low heat for about 4 hours:

DSC_0002 2Delicious.  We were psyched that we'd gotten off to such a great start.  Bacon + orange = yum!

Next up was bacon with carrots.  I had blanched some carrots the night before for another dish, and held these aside for this experiment:

DSC_0003 2 Surprisingly good!  We thought it would be gross, or at least an odd texture, but the kids ended up fighting over who got to eat the fourth one. Score!

Now, it was time for bacon with graham crackers:

DSC_0004 2 The kids liked this one, but I thought it tasted like bacon dredged in sawdust. Blech.

And the one we were all prepared to hate and spit into the sink -- bacon with anchovy:

DSC_0005I think the quote of the day was from the younger of the two brothers, the 10-year old who said, "This is a salty, fishy surprise, like caviar -- I love it!"  I did, too.  We all did.  It was the surprise hit of the afternoon.

Next up was supposed to have been the pickled watermelon rind, but because I didn't have a chance to drive to PA to find some in my hometown farmers' market, nor did local pickler, jam maker, and fellow food maven, Heather Shorter, have any in stock, I settled for pickled pumpkin:

DSC_0006 2 This was the worst thing I think I've ever eaten.  It was as if someone had eaten a jar of pickles with some pumpkin pie spice and then vomited it up onto the bacon.  I actually had to spit mine out into the sink, it was that bad.  The kids washed theirs down with a giant glass of water; they were far braver than I.  But we all agreed, it was the worst combination of all the things we tried.  Boooooooo, pickled pumpkin.... booooooo....

So, after you've eaten something that tasted like vomit, and choked back your own vomit in the process, how would you cleanse your palate?  Why, with bacon and Peeps, of course!

DSC_0009 2 This was pretty "meh."  Did not meet expectations.  Was actually more chewy than I'd hoped.  Almost flavorless.  Disappointing all around.  But +10 points for not reactivating my vomit-related salivary glands.

Next up? Bacon with kiwi.  I had very high expectations for this combo, and was actually surprised that more than ten people on Twitter replied with kiwi as a suggestion of something that would NOT go with bacon:

DSC_0007 2 AWESOME.  Love, love, love.  I may actually try to do a kiwi sorbet with candied bacon chunks because I think I would love it.

Next on the list was bacon with Swedish fish (my favorite candy):

DSC_0008 2 This was kind of gross.  Imagine a Ludens or Smith Brothers cough drop with bacon fat in the middle.  Or, a cherry LifeSaver with bacon chunks inside.  Too sweet, too cherry-like, and too tough and chewy.  The orange was a better salt-sweet combo.  This one was icky.  Not disgusting, but not the homerun I thought it might be.

A friend once sent me a tin of bacon mints as a gift.  They were pretty vile because when you opened the tin, a sort of b.o. scent wafted out, and it made those mints all the more unappealing to try.  So, I was NOT looking forward to trying bacon with peppermint (we crushed a Starlight mint and sprinkled it on top):

DSC_0010I was prepared to hate this, but actually kind of liked it.  Not like I'd rush to make or eat this again, but it didn't make me gag,so there you go.  We all kind of liked it.  I was surprised.

Next on the list was a pairing I was also surprised that multiple people on Twitter thought would be gross -- bacon with banana.  I don't know about you, but banana pancakes with a side of bacon at the diner?  That's my kinda breakfast. 

DSC_0011 2This was amaaaaaaaazing.  So tasty and delicious.  But, there was an odd (but good) texture/flavor thing that happened when you paired them -- they tasted like a pear.  It was the weirdest thing.  As I was chewing it, I couldn't figure out what it had morphed into.  The 10-year old said, "Huh, this tastes like pear. I LOVE IT."  He's totally right.  Bacon + banana = pear.  Take that, science.

The next combination we tried was bacon with blackberries.  I love me some blackberries and I love me some bacon, so how could this go wrong:

DSC_0012 2 It even looks pretty... almost like caviar, doesn't it?  Well, it tasted like doody... not that I've ever tasted doody, but you know what I mean, right?  It was just bad.  I was hoping for an explosion of flavor -- of salt and sweet and juiciness -- and instead, I just got a mouthful of gack.  Not a hit with any of us.  I can only imagine that raspberries, my nemesis, would be even worse.  Ugh.

Last, but not least, we paired bacon with lemon sorbet:

DSC_0013 2Kinda looks like little quenelles of Crisco or lard on there, doesn't it?  It's 365 brand Meyer Lemon Sorbet, and together with the bacon, it was a huge thumbs up.  We were sort of dreading this one because it was our last bite, and the fragrance of the sorbet was a wee overpowering as I brought the plate forward and we didn't really want to end on something we disliked, but it was fantastic!  Whew...

So, there you have it.  Not exactly "Pineapple, bacon powder, black pepper," but hopefully enjoyable just the same.  And now, me and my juicer are going to hit the road in our groovy VW bus to buy something tie-dyed and join a drum circle.  Peace...

Up Next: Granola, in a Rose Water Envelope

Resources: Pineapple from Whole Foods; 365 brand applewood-smoked bacon; saffron was a gift from a friend; Domino sugar; David's kosher salt; Pure-Cote B790 from Terra Spice.

Music to Cook By: The Magic Numbers; The Magic Numbers.  Embarrassing confession -- I have seen the movie "Catch & Release" about 50 times.  I can't help it -- whenever I'm bored and flipping channels and happen upon it, I watch it.  It's NOT EVEN A GOOD MOVIE (it's really pretty bad, actually), but for some reason I can't tear myself away when it's on.  One of the last times I watched it, I realized that I really liked the music in the movie, and a few tunes in particular, one of which is "Take a Chance" by The Magic Numbers.  So, I started downloading their other music and really liked it.  Hope you will, too.

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I think you should try this one again. I mean, it hardly seems like you tried to finish (although the bacon testing does seems like a good time).

bacon and banana? how could these people not think they'd go well together? it's 2/3 of the elvis sandwich, fer cryin' out loud...

LOL. Reading this made my night. Thank You.

Now I need to get one of those scales....

Hi Carol -
You should definitely try this again. It was one of the things I had the 1 time I was lucky enough to eat at Alinea and so incredible that I can remember the shock of that wonderful taste combo as I sit here in a cold filled haze a year and a half later.

They served it on a large white napkin covered surface - 2 tiny yellow packets that we were told to place in our mouths. "Pineapple leather" was what it looked and tasted like and then as it dissolved all of a sudden I was practically jumping from me seat "BACON, BACON, BACON - this has bacon in it". It was lovely. I begged for more but they just nodded kindly with knowing smiles, patted me on the head and went to get something else.

Please give it another try. It will be worth it and I want to hear about how the powder is made (even if I could look it up in my own signed copy of The Book).
Thanks -
Mary

Sometimes I think I am that dog in the commercial that runs down the street, woofing "bacon, bacon, bacon" Only, unlike said doggie, I would be totally bummed when it turned out to be dog food.

Bacon is the food of the gods.

Bacon and peeps hahaha. Love it!

I bet JordanBaker develops an eye twitch when she sees that a blender was used for ten minutes.

I loathe pineapple, so I'm not completely upset that this didn't work, but I'm semi-horrified that you may possibly think that bacon has "jumped the shark".

Bacon is still the most perfect food. Even though you shouldn't eat it in mint form.

I suggested the watermelon pickles! Even if watermelon pickles weren't used (and I'm sure they'd be just as horrible), I feel a perverse sense of pleasure in knowing that I voted for the worst combo! :)

I have to agree with Spooneroonie. Bacon is a perfect food.
The pairings were super cool.

you crack me up. How did you know that was *exactly* how the conversation went? Other than the part you left out, where I said you would be hippie enough to use a juicer now that you were "for the earth".

Alinea at home without this dish will be incomplete . I had it at the restaurant and it was one to remember . maybe using a different modified starch ? maybe there is a typo in the book? call your friend Grant A. and ask him!
you can even easily present it like they do .

yeah, that's TOTALLY how the conversation went! Glad you used the juicer, Carol (and glad it's out of my basement now). Bummer the recipe didn't work out. Relieved it wasn't the juicer that did it, though.

- Patti

Bacon is one of my favorite foods, and something I love to try with new pairings. My favorite is to put extra crispy bacon into the middle of a PB&J made with smooth peanut butter and strawberry preserves. I've also been known to coat slices of cooled crisp bacon in milk chocolate and sprinkle with chopped almonds and flaky sea salt and serve it on the side of a scoop of butter pecan ice cream at dinner parties instead of a cookie. I loved this post...hilarious. But I also agree with the other posters that you shoud try again, I had this dish at Alinea, and the first thing I thought when I tasted it was BBQ! The sweet and smoky and meaty and spicy little lozenge was like the best BBQ distilled into a Wonka-esque experience. Go for it, I mean, you do have a juicer now....

Yeah, you gotta try this one again. But, what fun you had with the alternates. So in the end, this too was a success.

"...I think bacon has jumped the shark..."

YOU TAKE THAT BACK RIGHT NOW!

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one who couldn't get this to work. My pineapple glass went from gooey mess to brittle crumbling shards overnight.

(1) [Beavis voice, please] You said "fruit chute".
(2) Elvis could have told you bacon and banana would be good.

Ha ha, I watch Catch and Release every time it's on tv, too. I was actually in Boulder yesteday and was telling my friend about the movie. I think it's so bad it's good.

Who in hell thinks Bacon and Banana would be bad? Have they not had the joy of a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sammich? Or, my personal favorite, a peanut butter, nutella, bacon, and banana sammich ON GRILLED POUND CAKE????

Heathens.

The juicer is super cute, though. I kind of want him to be my robot friend. And spoonie is right--my nostrils contracted when I thought about running a blender for 10 minutes because the smell of a thousand blender motors burning out is now locked in my sense memory.

Wondering why your sub of silpat for parchment went so awry? I use my silpat all the time instead and can't figure this one out. Any theories?

watermelon rind pickles might actually be pretty darn interesting with bacon. they have an unusual texture that is nothing like watermelon (or pumpkin, for that matter) and they are sweet with a clove-y tang. worth making if you are ever overcome with such an old-school desire on an August afternoon. So yummy. :-)

Carol - OMG, I almost wet myself reading this post...the juicer conversation nearly did me in. Have you checked with Grant about the acetate question, or does he think there was another problem? Only half sorry that it didn't work out, I mean if it had, the world would have been denied the beauty of your "pork and peeps" dish.

I also need to ask you to take back your comment about bacon having "jumped the shark." Pure (ahem) hogwash.

Carol, what kind of scale do you use that you can go to hundredths of a gram? I'm jealous :)

You make me LMAO, and that's all I have to say about that. =D

I have been following you since you started with French Laundry and never commented.

This post made me laugh out loud multiple times! Oh so funny!!

And I totally lose no respect over the fact that this recipe broke down in a bacon battle of sorts. Awesome!

I think the problem lies in the blender. I too have tried this recipe and it did not work out. On the Alinea Mosaic board I was instructed to use a higher powered blender which unfortunately I do not have :(

Gaah! "...me and my juicer are going to..."??? It burns! It burns!

("My juicer and I...")

ChefDJen: If you have the book, you'll see that if you screw up the pineapple glass step, there's no point in continuing, because otherwise, you'd just eat a square of bacon powder. I am thinking about a do-over, though, because I'm pissed it didn't work, and the very idea of this dish makes me drool with pleasure.

Mary and subsequent commenters who politely asked for a do-over: See above. :)

Frodnesor: HA! I actually had [/Beavis] after "fruit chute" in the post and deleted it. *snerk*

AnalChef: Stop twitching. Now that I'm a hippie with a juicer, I can devolve into teen-speak whenever I want. (I know the proper usage, hon.)

Carol, you have excelled yourself with this witty post.... it just shows that a recipe gone wrong can always have a happy outcome. Hmmm... some interesting combinations there. Loved the idea of kiwi and bacon whoever suggested that - now kiwi is so intriguing.... I have in the past put it with smoked eel and it was gorgeous. Kiwi can just cut through all different tastes and add that surprise element.

I think some of the flavour pairing brigade were out when you asked for suggestions... the pork and banana suggestion was probably inspired by khymos and his pork with bananas and cloves ( http://blog.khymos.org/2008/10/27/tgrwt-11-pork-tenderloin-with-banana-and-cloves/).

I second a revisit to this recipe.

The bacon taste tests rule! Where was a neighbor like you when I was a kid? Ah hell, who am I kidding, where is a neighbor like you now?!

Carol, I think one of the things that endears us most to you is your honesty. When things don't go right, you don't hide it. You could have taken a number of different avenues (skipped this post, faked the pineapple glass by using something else, etc.) but you instead show us what happens when Grant's recipe isn't followed exactly.

And I think that's the point. And I appreciate your honesty and insight in exactly how difficult these dishes are to pull off sometimes. Still fun to read, whether it works or not.

Thanks!

After I just spent the morning shopping for a juicer... no um not for colon reasons... and decided 'fuck it' I've got a food processor and a strainer! This cracked me up. And can I just say that you have got to love a woman who not only ingests peeps with bacon but proclaims that they didn't meet expectations... brilliant.

This is the first time I have read your blog - and I nearly wet my panties! You cook up more than some Perfect Pork Fat here! I will be a follower!

This is my favorite post so far! Lemons, meet lemonade.

I love reading your posts!

This is not a bad thing, but have you ever tried bacon brittle? There's a great little ice cream shop in SF that sells homemade version.

You would love this place:
http://www.humphryslocombe.com/%7C_Flavors_%7C.html

P.S. See's Scotchmallow's are one of my favorites too! Have you tried the Rechiutti S'mores Bites?

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