Moderate

March 08, 2010

Pushed Foie Gras, sauternes, pear, chervil

It is so hard to believe that just four weeks ago there was four feet of snow outside my front door, and that today, the temperature will be 60 degrees, the sun will shine, and there will be nary a cloud in the sky.  The weather was gorgeous all weekend, so while I'd had visions of working on the two bison dishes, I completely blew it off and worked outside in my yard for hours on end, cleaning out all the fallen limbs and piles of moldy leaves, pulling weeds that somehow grew beneath the snow, and taking those first steps toward greeting spring.  I have SO MUCH work to do today that it will take all the energy and concentration I have to get it done, instead of standing outside on the front walk, tilting back my head, closing my eyes, and letting the sun warm my face for a bit.  Oh, who am I kidding... I'll do all my work AND take those sunshine breaks, too.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I split one foie gras between two dishes.  This is the second dish.  The preparation for the foie was exactly the same in both recipes, so after I'd pushed the cured and blanched foie through the tamis, I set aside half of it on a parchment-lined sheet tray in the freezer until it was time to plate.

I often do two Alinea dishes concurrently.  Sometimes even three if there are (expensive) shared ingredients I need to work with in a timely fashion.  Doing these two at the same time was actually really easy.  I actually enjoy figuring out what needs to dehydrate when, and what needs more time in the fridge or freezer, and then figuring out what other elements of the dishes I can do during those downtimes.  Some people enjoy rock climbing.  I enjoy time management of cooking things.

The first thing I made was the roasted pear puree.  I roasted 10 pears in a bed of kosher salt for 45 minutes in a 375F-degree oven:

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After they'd had a chance to cool, I peeled and cored them, then pulverized them in the blender for about three minutes, along with some salt and sugar:

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The roast pear puree gets split between two elements in this dish -- pear sorbet and pear panna cotta. 

First, the pear sorbet -- I mixed some of the pear puree in a saucepan with some heavy cream, salt, glucose, and Trimoline and brought it to a boil.  I then let it simmer for about 5-6 minutes before turning off the flame and then adding the juice of half a lemon.  I put the mixture in the fridge for an hour to cool it, before putting it into my ice cream maker for a half-hour.  After it'd been thoroughly chilled, I scooped it into a loaf pan and stored it in the freezer until it was time to plate:

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Next, I made the pear panna cotta.  I soaked 5 gelatin sheets in cold water until they were pliable and all squooshy and stuff.  Then, I put the gelatin sheets in a saucepan with some pear puree, heavy cream, sugar, and salt, and warmed it over low-medium heat, stirring until the gelatin had fully dissolved.

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I removed the liquid from the heat and poured it into plastic-wrap-bottomed ring molds.  You should know the recipe made more than just the six ring mold you see in the photo below.  I also had enough to pour some into 6 more little ramekins, so I had a few extras to enjoy.

The panna cotta-filled ring molds went into the fridge until the liquid had set -- which took about 2 hours.

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The second step of the pear panna cotta was to make a Sauternes gelatin, which I did, and which I also poured on top of the set pear panna cotta and allowed it to set.  No photos of that... sorry.  But you'll see that second layer in the final plating photo.

Now, the one thing I actually did a day before serving (the same day I started the foie) was make the pear chips.  I sliced this lovely little D'Anjou pear lengthwise on my mandoline:

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Then, using a 1" round cutter, I cut out little discs, keeping the pear skin intact in part of it:

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I poached them in some simple syrup for about 2 minutes:

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Then, after gently drying them with a paper towel (those suckers were fragile), I put them in the dehydrator.

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The book suggests they'd be dehydrated and crisp in about three hours, but I'm glad I started these a day ahead, because they took nearly 12 hours to fully dehydrate. 

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To plate, I gently pushed the panna cotta topped with Sauternes gelee out of each ring mold and onto a plate.  Then, I topped it with some of the tamis-ed foie gras (which had actually only been in the freezer for about a half hour).  Next to the foie, a spoonful of pear sorbet, with a pear chip.  Last, a garnish of baby mint leaves.  The recipe called for anise hyssop (even though the title of the dish mentions chervil), but my anise hyssop plant is still hibernating, so I opted for mint (similar taste).

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I served this dish the same afternoon I served the foie gras candy you read about earlier.  We ate this one first, before trying the candy.  It was cold and smooth and fresh, and I absolutely loved the mellow, hey-how-YOU-doin' sweetness of the pear with the taste of Sauternes (I'm not a big fan of dessert wines, but in this preparation, I did), and the creamy foie with that?  WOW.  I didn't think I'd dislike it, but I also didn't expect to like it this much.  I can't imagine a preparation where I wouldn't enjoy foie (okay, maybe foie with celery and cilantro), but this dish is something I'd definitely make again.  Or, you know, I suppose I could just roast a small foie and make a pear chutney to eat with it. 

Pardon me while I go drool......

Up Next: Bison, braised pistachios, potato, sweet spices

Resources: Foie gras from Hudson Valley Foie Gras; D'Anjou pears, mint, and lemon from HMart; David's kosher salt; Domino sugar; Organic Valley heavy cream; gelatin sheets, glucose, and Trimoline from L'Epicerie; Castelnau de Suduiraut Sauternes (2003); 

Music to Cook By: Fitz and the Tantrums; Songs for a Breakup, Vol. 1.  I completely forgot the name of this album, because I never heard a breakup sound quite like this. There's more soul to this album than anything I've heard in the past 20 years.  It feels like soul music did in the early 60s -- nothing over-produced, no artist bigger than the song, just straightforward music with fantastic vocals, and a beat you can't help but bop your head to.

Read My Previous Post: Foie Gras, spicy cinnamon puff, apple candy

February 22, 2010

Orange, olive oil, almond, picholine olive

First, let me tell you who won the vanilla sugar (because I'm lame and forgot to do that last week).  Congrats to Mia Blankensop!  Life's about to get a little bit sweeter for her.  I know, I know..... groan.  And you guys?  All the comments on that post about how you repurpose things?  So awesome.  I got a million great ideas, so THANK YOU -- I learned so much!

Second, thanks so much for all your emails about the tree and the snowstorm.  The tree is still on the house, but it's coming down on Wednesday.  They'll tarp the roof until the rest of the snow melts and my contractor can do his thang.  That'll be a load off my mind, for sure.  A big shout-out to Met Life, because they have been remarkable every step of the way, and I highly recommend them if you're in the market for homeowners insurance.

Third, are you watching the Olympics?  Did you see my boyfriend, Shaun White?  It's not often that I talk to my TV, but on that first run?  The air he got on the first run off the halfpipe?  I fist-pumped a hearty "YEAH!" and was even more psyched that though he already had the gold medal locked down before his second run, he decided to give it his all and treat it like he was still in competition.  That's what I love about people like Shaun -- they prove the adage of if you do what you love, it doesn't feel or look like work.  Makes you think, doesn't it....

Now, on to this dish...

If I'm being completely honest, I was really, really, REALLY distracted the whole time I was making this.  The tree on the house unnerved me more than I thought it would.  That, combined with being snowbound for 10 days and all the residual blizzardosity made me a little antsy and off my game in the sanity department.  Then, add to that some new and interesting developments on the professional front, and I had a hard time keeping my head in the kitchen.  Also, I'd already started this dish once before -- when I tried to make the vanilla bean powder that ended up not becoming a powder, so I went into this attempt a little distant, keeping it at arm's length.  I know that sounds weird, but it's true.  This time, I just plain ole skipped the vanilla-olive oil powder.

I hate that I kind of phoned it in as I was going along... doing it all by rote, not really stopping to smell the roses (or olives, in this case), as they say.  Nothing in this dish is particularly difficult.  If you can read, you can make this dish.  But knowing how it turned out, I wish I'd paid more attention and enjoyed the cooking process, because (spoiler alert) the final result ended up taking my breath away.

Let's start with the olives: I pitted some picholines and dehydrated them.  The book says to do it overnight, but mine must've been extra-juicy because it took a full 24 hours in the dehydrator before they were completely dry and crunchy:

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I ground them up  in the mini chopper, and then my spice grinder (a separate coffee bean grinder I use only for spices), then whisked the powder into some olive oil, and set it aside until it was time to plate:

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Next up was making the olive oil ice cream and the orange sorbet.  Sadly, I don't have any photos of the olive oil ice cream, but let me tell you this: I am so thankful for David Lebovitz and his book The Perfect Scoop.  I'd never made ice cream before I'd read that book, and because of him, I haven't eaten store-bought ice cream since.  I can't.  It just doesn't taste right.  And thanks to David's training, making Grant's olive oil ice cream for this dish was a freakin' breeze. 

So, I made the olive oil ice cream (minus the stabilizer), ran it through my ice cream maker, put it in a 9x13" pan, and stored it in the freezer.  Then, I made the orange sorbet.  I brought orange juice, water, sugar, glucose, and citric acid to a simmer over medium heat:

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I let it chill in the fridge, then processed it in my ice cream machine.  Then, I poured it into another 9x13" pan and stuck it in the freezer. 

When both the ice cream and the sorbet were frozen solid, I fired up my little creme brulee torch and heated the surfaces of the ice cream and the sorbet, then inverted the sorbet out of its pan onto the olive oil ice cream, pressing down to fuse the two layers, then put it back in the fridge until I was ready to plate:

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Next, I made the frozen liquid sable portion of the dish.  I had to de-glutenize it, and crossed my fingers that it would work.  In the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer, I creamed the butter, sugar, and salt.  Then, I added the two egg yolks, one at a time, followed by the flours.  The recipe already called for almond flour, so I put that into a bowl.  Then, instead of 470g of all-purpose flour, I did the following: 230g sweet white sorghum flour; 230g tapioca flour; and, 10g xanthan gum.

I whisked them all together, then added the flour in small batches to the mixing bowl and kept the paddle going (on slow) until everything was incorporated.

The thing is, gluten-free doughs don't act like glutened doughs.  They don't necessarily come together into one ball.  Depending on exactly how you do it, the dough is usually crumbly, or comes together in chunks instead of a smooth, pliable ball.  It's the gluten that makes that smooth pliability possible.  So, while I'm not yet an expert on gluten-free baking, I am getting pretty familiar with textures and consistencies, and patience in knowing how to work with this new (to me) kind of dough.

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Looks like chunky organic peanut butter, doesn't it?  I poured the crumbly dough onto the countertop and worked it together into a ball, which I wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the fridge for 3 hours.  Then, I took it out, let it rest on the counter for an hour, put it between two layers of parchment and rolled it out to half-inch thickness and baked it in a 350F-degree oven for 25 minutes:

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I broke the pastry into 1" and 2" pieces and weighed out 200g of it (stored the rest in the freezer, and have been nibbling on it all weekend long -- oh my....), and put it in the blender with some olive oil and whacked it all up into a batter-like consistency.  I poured it onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and stored it in the freezer for about 4-5 hours.  When it had set, I cut it into 1x4" rectangles, then put those back into the freezer until I was ready to plate:

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Next up? The marcona almond brittle tuille.  I cheated a bit on this one, and took some creative license at the same time.  The marcona almonds I bought were already roasted and salted, so I didn't need to do that.  I also decided -- once I'd made the hot, sugary brittle part -- that I wasn't gonna do the final tuille-making step of the process.  I loved the look of the brittle once it had hardened, and I knew my friends would, too. So, I just let the brittle be brittle, and I'm glad I did:

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While the brittle was hardening, I started working on the picholine olive brine candy.  I love my guys at the Whole Foods cheese and olive counter.  They let me take as much brine as I need for these dishes, and never charge me a cent.

I brought the olive brine to a simmer, then whisked in a mixture of yellow pectin, citric acid, and sugar, bringing it to a boil, adding more sugar and glucose, then heating it to 219F.  I removed it from the burner and poured it onto a Silpat-lined sheet tray to set.


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My expectation was that it would harden and be crackly.  It wasn't.  It was like a smooth gel -- really viscous, with a little elasticity, but not jello-y at all.  Kind of like molasses.  So, while it's hard to tell by the photo of the dish in the book what the heck this was supposed to be, I knew this probably wasn't right, but it also wasn't so wrong I had to trash it.

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Onward and upward! Chamomile pudding.  You know, I've never been one for chamomile tea, or anything chamomile-related.  It's not that I don't like it, or am offended by the smell.  I think I just never really paid much attention to chamomile.  That's changed.  These little dried buds, leaves, and flowers were delightful, and perked up my senses quite unexpectedly:

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I put the in a saucepan with some water, sugar, salt, and saffron, brought it to a boil, covered the pot, turned off the burner, then let it steep for 5 minutes.  I poured it through a fine-mesh strainer into another saucepan.  While the liquid was steeping, I soaked some gelatin sheets in cold water.  I added those gelatin sheets to the now-strained and re-heated liquid (to which I'd added some agar agar), and whisked until they'd dissolved completely.  I poured this gelatinzed liquid into a shallow baking dish, which I set in a larger baking dish filled with ice, so it could cool and set.

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Once it had set, I spooned it all out in small chunks, pureed it in the blender, and pressed it through my tamis into a small bowl.  You'll see photos of it in the final plating.  This and the olive oil ice cream were the two things that really stood out as I tasted them along the way while I was making this dish.

But still.... even as good as those two things were on their own, I still was really ambivalent about this dish while making it.  Not enthusiastic or curious or excited in the least.

The last two things I made were the basil sauce and supreme-ing an orange to get some fresh segments for the final plating.  I forgot to take pictures of the basil sauce-making process, but it's really quite easy: I blanched some fresh basil, then pureed it in the blender along with some water, salt,and sugar.  Then, I strained it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, then back into a now-clean blender, where I added some Ultra-Tex 3.  I passed that mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a squeeze bottle and used it in the final plating.

One of the last steps was cutting the ice cream-sorbet combo into rectangles to sit atop the frozen liquid sable/shortbread plank:
 
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Then, I plated:

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Picholine olive oil sauce went first, then topped it with the ice cream-sorbet on the plank.  Surrounded it with small dots of dark green basil sauce, the picholine olive brine candy (closest to the orange segment), the chamomile pudding (closest to the marcona almond brittle), then added a piece of the brittle and some baby basil leaves.  This dish also called for Thai basil (which would have made it even better, I know, but the Asian market hadn't yet gotten its delivery of it, so I had to skip it).

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I plated six of them, called my friends over, and we sat at the dining room table to dig in.  Off-handedly and still feeling a bit detached, I very quickly described the elements of the dish, and we took our first bites.  I couldn't talk.  Not because the ice cream and sorbet were so cold, but because this was SO GOOD.  I was so caught off guard that I really didn't say much at all while we ate.  My friends did all the talking.  I already knew I liked the taste of olive and citrus together, but this took it to a whole different plane.

The olive oil ice cream and orange sorbet? Better than a Dreamsicle.  It's like a holy-mother-effer-sicle.  The shortbread-y plank below it -- the one I had to deglutenize -- was really nice, too.  The olive oil sauce offered a salty-briney pull, and the chamomile and picholine sides were fragrant and lovely-delicious and just allowed the other flavors to sing.  The basil made it feel so fresh and not like a dessert at all.  I'm glad I kept the marcona almond brittle as a brittle because it added a really nice textural component to it... or, you could do as one of my friends did and save it for last, eating it like a dessert to the dessert.  I finished mine pretty quickly, and as I looked around to see if everyone else enjoyed theirs, I had my answer:

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Blown away.  Honestly and truly. 

And, exactly what I needed.  I'll be noshing on the leftovers the rest of the week.  Want some?

Up Next: Foie gras, spicy cinnamon puff, apple candy

Resources: Monini olive oil; Organic Valley heavy cream; Domino sugar; Clabber Girl cornstarch; David's kosher salt; Tropicana orange juice; glucose, citric acid, gelatin sheets, yellow pectin from L'Epicerie; 365 butter; Smith Meadows Farm eggs; all flours from Bob's Red Mill; Marcona almonds, orange, basil, olives, and olive brine from Whole Foods; saffron and chamomile from TPSS Co-op; agar agar and Ultra-Tex 3 from Terra Spice.

Music to Cook By: Prince; Purple Rain.  Needs no explanation.

Read My Previous Post: Maytag Blue, grape, walnut port


February 08, 2010

Maytag Blue, grape, walnut, port

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..... so that happened.

I'm fine.  My house is (mostly) fine.  It happened at 3:45 a.m. Saturday while the blizzard was pummeling us, and it happened to my attic and bedroom window (that was fun, only not).  I finally got a chance to get a closer look at the damage and tree positioning this morning, and it looks like I need to spend some time tonight clearing out the dining room because there's a chance that with the next foot-or-more-of-snow coming on Tuesday and Wednesday, the tree could shift.  And, if it shifts in the direction we think it very well might, it'll tear off part of the roof and crash down onto the dining room roof on the first floor, which would be a very, very bad thing.

So, if it's okay with you all, I'm gonna whip through this post so I can take advantage of the waning sunlight and get back to shoveling a path for the insurance estimator to do his thing tomorrow morning, and to prepare to move out of my house should the tree do further damage.  The tree guys can't get here until tomorrow, and even then, they're not sure they can do anything about this for another week.  Lots of people here in town had far worse tree/house damage than this, so we get taken care of in priority order.

Aaaaaand, as I'm typing this, a National Weather Service alert just crossed the wires and the county sent me a text with a storm update: Winter Storm Warning Tuesday-Wednesday. 15-20" of snow expected.

Please send Valium.

But yes, in case you're wondering: I still love snow.  Sue me.

*   *   *   *   *

I was a bit distracted when I made this dish because of the whole SNOW!  WINE!  DINNER!  BLIZZARD! CARD GAMES!!  SCOTCH!  BEDTIME!  TREE!  thing, so I didn't take as many photos as I usually do, so I'll go ahead and provide this link to the Google Books version of this dish in the Alinea cookbook.  You can follow along and see how the dish was supposed to be done, and then see my improvisations/adjustments below.

The first thing I did was juice four bunches of green grapes in my juicer, then measure out some of the juice for the grape sponge and some for the grape syrup.  No photos of that.  My bad.

Next up was the walnut milk.  I roasted some walnuts and mixed them in with some already-warm milk, salt, and sugar and let them steep for 6 hours.

Then, I blended the mixture and poured it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl and let it seep through while in the fridge.

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It yielded about a half-cup of liquid.

Next, I took some of the grape juice (which I'd mixed with citric acid, sugar, and salt) and heated it while stirring in some water-soaked gelatin sheets.  I put in in a mixing bowl, attached it to my mixer and whacked the heck out of it for about 8 minutes on high speed until it formed stiff peaks.

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I spooned the foamy goodness into a ziploc bag, cut off the corner tip, and piped it into Pam-sprayed, sort-of-spherical molds, then put them in the freezer:

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Next, I made the grape syrup -- brought some of the grape juice to a high simmer and let it reduce and reduce until it was thick and syrupy.  Then, I turned off the flame and mixed in a bunch of walnut halves, and stirred until they were coated. 

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I made Port gelatin next. by bringing some Ruby Port wine to a boil, then igniting it (FIRE! FIRE! uh-huh-huh.../beavis)...

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After the alcohol burned off and the flame died, I turned off the burner and stirred in gelatin sheets that had already been soaking in cold water.  I let the gelatin set in a bowl nestled in another bowl of ice water.  When the gelatin set, I agitated it with a spoon to create small blobs for plating:

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So, all the core elements were done.

I ground some celery seed and kosher salt in my spice grinder.  I blanched some thinly sliced celery pieces and celery ribbons (which you'll see in the final plating), and decided NOT to shave the bleu cheese onto an improvised anti-griddle.  I bought dry ice (to use under a baking sheet) before the blizzard, but hearing that half my town had lost power, I saved the dry ice in a cooler in case my power went out and I needed to stick it in the freezer.  I already had the block of Maytag in the freezer, so I just decided to plate all the elements and grate the frozen Maytag over the top. 

So, first I plated three now-frozen (but not frozen solid - just set) grape sponge balls.  Then, I dribbled some walnut milk around the edges, as well as a few little blobs of port gelatin.  Then, I placed some syruped walnuts around, as well as some celery, then shredded some frozen Maytag over it with my rasp. Lastly, I sprinkled a pinch or two of celery seed salt overtop the whole shebang:
 

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All day, I was in such a flurry and a hurry because there were tree removal companies to call and insurance estimators to talk to and shoveling to be done and ice dams to be removed and Advil to take and sidewalks to be salted.... that I was buzzing and zipping and scuttling all over the kitchen to get this done and plated and eaten, and then?  After my first bite?

Everything stopped.

Seriously.

It was like the whole world just stood still for 10 seconds while I tasted this first bite.  Holy moley.

You guys, this was AMAZING.  I mean, the flavor combination -- walnuts, bleu cheese, port, grape -- a natural fit, right?  I contemplated ditching the celery, but am trying to be a grown up about it, so I kept it in, and I'm glad I did. But it faaaarrrr exceeded any expectations I might've had, and whiplashed me out of my current state of freaked-out multi-tasking distraction and made me focus on what was in my mouth.

Every single bit of this dish popped on its own, but when combined in one bite was just breathtaking.

Outstanding... and exactly what I needed to ground me and bring me back to earth.

Buy this book.  Make this dish.  Please.  You won't be sorry.  Seriously.  Those grape syrup walnuts alone are worth it.  I have a few left over that I plan to snack on while I soak in the tub after another round of shoveling, hoping to one day be able to feel my extremities again.

Up Next: Orange, olive oil, almond, picholine olive

Resources: Grapes from HMart in Wheaton, MD; walnuts, celery seed, and celery from the TPSS Co-op; David's kosher salt; Domino sugar; Natural by Nature whole milk; Maytag from Cowgirl Creamery; Sandeman ruby Port.

Music to Cook By: This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me podcasts.  If you're not listening to these, you should.

Read My Previous Post:  Here... have some sugar.


January 19, 2010

Bison, cranberry, persimmon, juniper branch aroma

I'm ramping back up to cooking.  It's going well, but I still feel like I'm not yet totally in my own skin.  Getting glutened threw me for a bigger loop than I originally thought.  Instead of 2-3 days of feeling like crap, it took a little over a week to feel like myself again.  I wish I could explain it in greater detail, but the after-effects of getting glutened are so disgusting and embarrassing and soooo not appropriate for a food blog, that I'll spare you.  Trust me on this.  You're welcome.

As I begin to emerge from this food funk of mine, I am reminded of what a strange time it is in my professional life.  I always forget how slow January is.  I forget that, every year, I bust ass up until the week before Christmas, and then it slows to almost a complete halt.  Then, it takes my clients a few weeks to get their own work up and running in January before they have things to throw my way.  I've been a self-employed media consultant for almost nine years, and with the exception of a political transition year such as last year, January and August are dead, dead, dead here in Washington.  It's the nature of what I do, and the kinds of clients I work with.  I look forward to the August lull, because it means I can spend time with friends at the beach.  The January lull is a different kind of animal.  Going from a food and writing funk into a slow period professionally was a bit freakish for a day or two, but because I always seem to have a personal to-do list a mile long, I've started tackling it all.

One of the things on my to-do list that really helped me get my cooking mojo back was to completely clean out, scrub, reorganize, and inventory my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.  I'm kind of a neat freak as it is, but I needed that physical, tactile activity -- touching ingredients, making lists of what I had, replacing things that needed replenished, and appreciating what all was in my kitchen.

You guys, I made lists.  (Like you're shocked.)  But it's true.  I wrote down (and categorized) every single ingredient and food item so that I can more more efficient and resourceful in my everyday cooking, not just cooking for the blog.  My friend, Joe, refers to the crisper drawer in his refrigerator as "the rotter" because he, like so many of us, buys produce and never gets around to using it before it goes bad.  I'm so guilty of that, and it's just wrong.  It's so wasteful, and I don't wanna do that anymore.  And, I need to stop buying meat for awhile -- I have enough meat and poultry in my freezer to last me the next 3 or 4 months... not kidding.  I mean, here... look at the lists I wrote and taped to the fridge so that I can use things and cross them off and be smarter about the way I cook day-to-day:

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And then, there's the list of all the Alinea-specific ingredients I had to inventory and reorganize (hey! I needed a reason to go to The Container Store):

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I know, some of you are thinking she's completely and totally lost it, let's run for the hills! but you must know that this exercise was so incredibly motivating and energizing, and I highly recommend it even if you've got the good mojo goin' on.  It's remarkable to see it all on paper.  It's humbling.  It makes me want to kick my own ass for all the times I've said, "I've got nothing to eat, so I guess I'll get Indian food tonight."  It's made me completely rethink my entire personal cooking and eating plans (and budget) for the next six months.  More importantly, though, it made me feel like I was back in the driver's seat in my own kitchen, and I needed that.

Having done all that and ready to crack the Alinea cookbook open once again, I decided to tackle the Bison, cranberry, persimmon, juniper branch aroma dish (page 323), and see how it went.  I'll say now that I'm pleased... almost even thrilled.  But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves now, shall we?

First step? Puffed rice.  Now, I know in the book, it says "puffed barley" but barley contains the dreaded g-word, so I decided to play with some wild rice and see if I could make it work.  First, I toasted it:

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I cooked the rice in hot water and salt, according to the package instructions, then dehydrated it for a few hours:


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While the rice dehydrated, I took the steeping walnuts out of the fridge.  The day before, I toasted some walnuts in the oven, then put them in a saucepan with some milk and walnut oil, and brought it to a boil.  After it had cooled to room temperature, I covered it and let it steep overnight in the fridge.  This day, I strained the liquid into a small saucepan, added sugar, salt, and agar agar and brought it to a boil:

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After it had boiled for a minute or so, I strained it (again) into a small bowl and put it in the refrigerator to set, which took about 30 minutes:

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I broke that solidified walnut awesomeness into small chunks and put them in the blender:

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The instructions say to blend it until it becomes smooth, which didn't necessarily happen.  Instead, after much blending and agitating and further blending, it ended up having the consistency of cat food:

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So, I made the executive decision to add small increments of milk and walnut oil as I continued blending to facilitate the smoothness:

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Eventually, I ended up with this:

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It was a lot creamier in person than it is in that photo.  Much like Christina Hendricks at the Golden Globes, but I digress.

I refrigerated the walnut pudding until it was time to plate.

The next thing I did was make the cranberry puree.  In a small saucepan, I heated cranberries, sugar, and red wine vinegar until the cranberries were soft and starting to break down, and the pan was nearly dry:

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I strained the cooked cranberries into a blender and whacked the hell out of them, then strained them into a small bowl:

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Cooked cranberries is one of my favorite smells.  Didn't know that until I made them like this for this dish, but wowzers. 

Next, I got the bison tenderloin ready to be cooked sous vide.  Remember the rendered beef fat?  Here's what 25g of it looks like:

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I put that in a sous vide bag along with the 100g center-cut bison tenderloin, and let it cook in a 130F-degree water bath for 25 minutes:

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When it was done, I cut the bison into small rectangles and stored them in the fridge:

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Then, the final element: persimmons:

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I removed the tops and the bottoms, and poached them in what felt like a weird ratio of sugar to water -- 5:1... yes, you read that correctly 500g sugar, 100g water. 

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 When they were done, I cut out cylinders using my 1/2" cutter...

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... but realized they'd be too big (the bison pieces wouldn't wrap around them the way they were supposed to), so I trimmed them down a bit into smaller rectangles:

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By now, the rice was dehydrated, so I brought some canola oil up to 425F degrees and deep fried the rice.  Now, I knew it wouldn't be puffy like barley is, but I was hoping the rice would have some good, earthy depth to it, and it did.

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Crunchy, deep-fried rice is delicious.  Why do they not sell this in movie theatres?  WHY, I ASK YOU?

Last, but not least, I ground up some dried juniper berries to be used in the final plating:

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Now, here's where my photography just gets criminal, and it's a shame because this was really not that hard to shoot.  I guess I was just too focused on getting it to taste right.

So, with all the elements in place, I did the final step -- which is wrapping the bison around the persimmon pieces, then searing the seam of each one, before placing it on a hot river stone to serve it.  Here's the wrapping around part (and again, my apologies to those of you who like pretty things, which I know is everyone, so SORRY, PEOPLE OF THE EARTH):

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I had a tray of black river rocks in a 400F-degree oven, waiting to be used in this final step.  The book calls for (and displays a beautiful photograph of) these stones nesting in a bed of juniper branches.  That's the one element I had to skip in this dish.  I wish I hadn't, because juniper is so lovely and fragrant, but it wasn't possible.  So, I put the hot stones on a bamboo board and put a round of bison and persimmon atop it (you'll see the bubbles in the photo below where the meat hits the hot stone and sizzles), and then topped each bite with a pinch of crushed juniper berry, a little blob of walnut pudding, a little blob of cranberry puree, and some crunchy deep-fried rice:

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Yes, the bison fell apart on its way from the saute pan to the stone. 

Yes, I "plated" it on its side instead of the way it was done in the book.

Yes, the photo above looks like something you might find in the tumors chapter of a med school textbook.

I don't care.

THIS WAS DELICIOUS!

The only thing I might've done differently is add salt to the meat when it's cooking sous vide.  After I tasted my first one, I salted the rest with a tiny pinch of Maldon sea salt, and it woke everything up.

So, bison.  I really like bison. It's not as steak-y as steak (which I crave almost daily), but it's smooth and hearty, and I really enjoy it. I've had it in restaurants, but I've never cooked it at home.  So, instead of just ordering the center-cut of the tenderloin (which the book calls for), I bought a whole tenderloin (thanks to the awesome guys at Gunpowder who come to the Takoma Park Farmers Market), and used what I needed for this dish, and froze the rest in individual cuts.

But, bison with the persimmon?  Really nice.  Beautiful balance, flavor- and texture-wise.  I don't eat persimmons all that often -- they're an odd hybrid, flavor-wise, I think... kind of tomato meets pear meets acorn squash, with a hint of (I think) mango and/or apricot.  I can't tell.  It's so complex and unique, and I need to remind myself to eat these more often, because I enjoy them when I do.

So, bison with persimmon = homerun, but then add the nuttiness of the rice with the sharp, tart sweetness of the cranberry and the smooth, mellow walnut pudding?  And, a palate-opening hint of juniper? 

That's what I love about this book -- these are not flavors I would EVER put together on my own.  I'm really good at food shopping without lists or recipes or books.  I see things and know what I'd put together and how I want to cook them.  But I can't imagine for one second, two years ago, going into the grocery store and thinking, hhhmmmmm, there's some persimmon and cranberries... so let's head over to the meat counter for some bison, and then pick up some walnuts and rice, and oh! can't forget about the juniper!  I mean, WHO DOES THAT?  Oh yeah, Grant Achatz.  Which is why getting back in the saddle and cooking from this book is so important to me.  There's so much I want to learn.


Up Next: Yuzu, pine, black sesame, shiso

Resources: Bison from Gunpowder Trading; walnuts and juniper berries from the TPSS Co-op; agar agar from Terra Spice; La Tourangelle walnut oil; Lundberg rice; David's kosher salt; 365 canola oil; Ocean Spray cranberries; Terra Medi red wine vinegar; Fuyu persimmons from H Mart in Wheaton, MD; Domino sugar; black river rocks from Behnke's.

Music to Cook By: Ra Ra Riot; The Rhumb Line.  I love this album, and now that I've read the heartbreaking Rolling Stone review (I didn't know anything about these guys), I love it even more.

Read My Previous Post: Rendering Beef Fat

December 28, 2009

Pork, grapefruit, sage, honeycomb

Hope you all have been enjoying the holidays, and for some of you, hopefully, some time off from all the hustle and bustle.  Last week's snowstorm put me into a comfy, cozy winter mood (yay!) but this past weekend's rain melted all two feet of the white, fluffy goodness, so I'm hoping we get pummeled again soon.  I'm taking it easy this week: working as little as possible and reading as often as I can while sneaking a movie or two into this amazingly comforting sloth thing I've got goin' on.

I made the Pork, grapefruit, sage, honeycomb dish from the Alinea cookbook a few weeks ago, and had some technical difficulties with my camera, so that's why I'm only getting around to posting this now.  Spoiler alert: if you have the book and some time off this week and want to tackle one of the recipes, make this one.  It's delicious.  Here goes....

I removed the silverskin and most of the fat from the pork tenderloin, then trimmed it into two 6" logs (using the thickest part of the tenderloin), then rolled them into cylinders tightly in Saran Wrap and tied the ends.  Put 'em in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.

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Next, I made the sage pudding.  First, I brought to a boil some water, sugar, salt, and sage leaves.

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When it came to a boil, I turned off the flame, covered the saucepan, and let the liquid steep for 20 minutes.  I then strained it into a clean saucepan, whisked in some agar agar and brought it to a boil for 90 seconds:

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I poured it through a chinois into a shallow pan and let it cool to room temperature, and it completely set:

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I took about a third of the set "pudding" and put it in my blender and whacked it all up until it was smooth, pressed it through a fine mesh strainer, and stored it in the fridge until I was ready to plate:

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While all this was going on, by the way, I was cooking a lovely piece of pork shoulder sous vide (180F degrees):

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The pork shoulder needed to cook for five hours in the water bath, so I put that in first, then did everything else -- another of which was bake cornbread.  I used Shauna's corn bread recipe, and then improvised the corn bread puree step in the recipe, because I knew it wouldn't work exactly as written, since I'd made gluten-free cornbread:

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I measured the 500g of corn bread I'd need, and added hot butter and cream mixture to it in the blender, but knew the texture wouldn't be right for the puree the book wanted me to do.  So, instead, I blended it, and pressed it into a baking dish, and chilled it until it was solid again.  Then, I cut out disks of the creamy corn bread and used that in the final plating (which you'll see in the final photo):

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The pork shoulder still cooking along its merry little way, I caramelized some fennel:

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I supremed and segmented a grapefruit:

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And when the pork shoulder was done cooking, I pulled it apart into threads...

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... which I deep fried, then liberally salted, in batches of 8 (one for each plated serving):

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While I fried each bit of pork shoulder, I was bringing a pot of water to 135F degrees (it would have taken to long to let my immersion circulator bring the pork shoulder water down from 180 to 135) in which to cook the pork tenderloin:

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I sliced the tenderloin into 1" medallions, and began to plate -- a corn "puree" disk, dollops of sage pudding, drops of honey, crispy pork shoulder, grapefruit pieces, sage leaves, fennel fronds, pieces of caramelized fennel...

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If someone had invited me to dinner and said, "I'm making a pork-grapefruit dish, whaddya think" I'm not so sure I would have been all that thrilled about it becase a) I don't think I'd ever thought about those two ingredients together in one dish before; and b) when I did think about it, it didn't jump out at me as something I needed to make or eat.

That said, this dish changed my mind about grapefruit -- which has always been as bitter to me as cilantro has been soapy and milk chocolate has been metallic.  The flavor profile of this dish is just fantastic -- salty crispy fried pork shoulder with cool, airy fennel, soothing sage, sweet and creamy corn, smooth pork tenderloin, and the acid of the grapefruit and the sweet, floral balance of the honey (I used a local guy's honey from here in town -- didn't do the honey comb/extractor thing).... it was really, really delicious. 

When I was growing up, we had a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of eating pork, sauerkraut, and mashed potatoes on New Year's Day.  I might just have to alter that tradition and make this dish (or a variation of it) again for my friends on this New Year's Day.  If pork is in your future, think about the elements of this dish and see what you can come up with on your own -- I think you'll love it.

I'll be back in a few days with a post that has a little something to do with these:

TAP

I've been practicing, but boy am I rusty.  Getting back into tap shoes feels really good, but this little performance of mine most definitely has the potential to be pretty, pret-ty bad.  I originally had plans to light sparklers and twirl them around as I danced, as a distraction from my bad footwork, but thanks to Mister Amsterdamian-Detroitian-Nigerian Terrorist Dude, I get the feeling that lighting anything on fire in front of the White House anytime in the near future will be frowned upon.  Dangit.  But the dancing shall commence... trust.

Stay tuned.... (and there's still time to donate!)

Resources: Pork from Whole Foods; sage, fennel, and grapefruit from HMart; agar agar from L'Epicerie; Organic Valley heavy cream; honey from the TPSS Co-op.

Music to Cook By: I made a "Mad Men" playlist based on the songs used in the series.  The list is here.  I'm addicted, and officially, an old fart 'cause I am totally enjoying all these OLD SONGS.  I think I was born in the wrong era.

Read My Previous Post: Trout roe, coconut, licorice, pineapple (kinda, sorta)


December 07, 2009

Pork Belly, pickled vegetables, BBQ sugar, polenta

I will confess, I'm kinda tired of all the rah-rah bacon and oooooooo, pork belly talk in the media, on the Internet, and everywhere else. And by saying that, it's not like I'm trying to be all, "I liked bacon before bacon was cool." Not at all. I just have reading-and-talking-about-pork fatigue.

I mean, I get it: I love pork and you love pork. What's not to love about pork? Pork is great. But can we talk about something else for once? PLEASE?

Oh, crap.

Wait.

This entry is supposed to be all about pork. Pork belly, actually, Alinea-style.

FINE.  BE THAT WAY.

I have high standards for pork belly, in case you were wondering.  (shocker)  Why?  The two best pork belly dishes I've ever had were at Alinea and Per Se.  (yes, I'm spoiled, and I'm the first to admit it)

After my dinner at Alinea in May, I wrote this about the pork belly course:

Our next course was pork belly, served in a cucumber juice-infused lettuce cup with a variety of Thai spices and flavors, and a shot glass off to the side with a really clean and lovely (and not overpoweringly spicy-hot) distillation of Thai green chili and lemongrass.  Now, I'm of the school of thought that it's really hard to screw up pork belly, but it also takes someone special to make it sing and make you go from, "oh cool, pork belly" to "HOLY MOTHER OF CHARLES NELSON REILLY THIS IS AMAZING!!!!"  This course was a perfect balance of cool, heat, salt, kick, and crisp.  Again, I could've eaten three or eleventy kabillion of these, too.

After my birthday dinner at Per Se in August 2008, I wrote this about the pork belly course:

* "Smoke;" All-Day Braised Hobbs Shore's Pork Belly, Heirloom Beets, and Burgundy Mustard. I knew what type of preparation was coming when I saw the crystal spheres being so gently and carefully carried into the room, but I had no idea I was in for the single best piece of pork belly I've eaten in my life. This dish, if you'll indulge me in a rather nerdy confession, almost made me cry, it was so good. The reveal that takes place when the top of the sphere is removed and the smoke rises up and into and onto your palate is such a wonderful tease, and to be able to feast on even that small morsel of pork belly that has spent a day braising to absolute perfection (along with beets and mustard that more than held their own) is nirvana.

Over the years, I've had pork belly in many, many restaurants, and I can't recall any of them ever being bad or awful or just not right.  Some have been outstanding, and many of them very, very good.  But those two stand out in my mind far above the rest because they stopped me in my freakin' tracks and made me wanna slap somebody.  HARD.  A quiet storm of delightfully hysterical deliciousness, they were.

So imagine the standard I set for myself when starting out to make this dish from the Alinea cookbook.  It couldn't be just good or okay.  I wanted it to be EXCELLENT.  I wanted it be AWESOME.  It had to bring me to my knees. 

No pressure.

In reviewing the recipe and instructions one more time before getting started, I realized that none of these components were difficult.  They all involved ingredients I was very comfortable with, and techniques I (now) know well.  Still, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and excellent and turn out a fantastic bite of food, because who wants to fail at pork belly?

I made the cure: sugar, kosher salt, smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder:

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Then, I rinsed and dried the piece of pork belly I was going to cure:

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Then, I packed that sucker in among the cure and rolled it tight in a ziploc bag and stored it in the fridge for two days.

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After two days, it looked like this:

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Because the Cryovac Fairy still hasn't shown up at my house, I've been looking into other options for vacuum-sealing my plastic bags better for cooking en sous vide.  The FoodSaver is out -- it doesn't really work and pulls out too much moisture when sealing.  And, while I'm getting better and better at wrapping things on my own, I wanted to try another method, so I splurged (**cough$4.25cough**heybigspender) on the Ziploc-brand hand-vacuum sous vide kit at my local Giant grocery store:

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Really easy to use, and the hand pump was a no-brainer:

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But, as the bag o'bacon wiled away the hours (four of them, to be exact) in the 190F-degree water, I noticed that it would rise to the top every 40-45 minutes. And, I could see that air (but luckily no water, 'cause I kept that part above the water's surface) was seeping in.

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So, I just kept pumping out the air as often as I could, and hoped for the best.

While the pork belly spent time underwater, I worked on the smoked paprika tuile -- or, the BBQ Sugar portion of our program. 

In a small saucepan, I heated fondant, glucose, and isomalt to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, then poured it onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet:

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That doesn't look right, does it?  I should've, at that point, trusted my instincts and thrown it back in the pot and taken it up another 50 degrees or so, but I didn't.  I figured I'd sort it out after it had hardened.  Which it didn't really do.  I mean, it got hard (heh... /dirty), but it was still a little bendy.  Regardless, I broke off 75g of it and threw it into my spice grinder with some sweet smoked paprika and cayenne, and set about turning it into powder:

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I walked over to the other side of my kitchen to plug in the grinder and get it goin' when this happened:

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Not sure how it happened, to be honest, but I dropped the whole thing, the contents of which went all over my pants, my shoes, the floor, the lower cupboard door knobs, the trash can pedal.  EVERYWHERE.  I let many, many expletives fly (because I wanted so much for this to go well), and went back to the tray of white lumpy stuff, tore off another 75g, weighed more cayenne and paprika and tried again -- this time in a little mini-food processor/chopper thingie that sat on a counter and did not require my holding it.

But even after that, it ended up looking like this (and not a fine powder):

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So, I threw it into a small saucepan and figured I'd heat the crap out of it until it was melted and smooth and would harden on the Silpat:

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YES!!!!

(doing the cabbage-patch over here, complete with white-girl's overbite)

I broke it up into pieces and put it back in a now-clean mini-chopper, and let 'er rip:

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Then, I put it through a fine-mesh strainer so that I'd have the finest powder in town:

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I made a square stencil (by cutting a 2x2" square out of a piece of paper) and, using yet another fine-mesh strainer, sifted the fine sugary, paprika and cayenne powder onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet in eight little squares:

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I put them into a 350F-degree oven for a minute.  The book said to "turn the squares once" after 30 seconds, but I didn't know if that meant actually flipping them with an offset spatula (which seemed odd and not possible) or turning the tray around, which didn't really make sense to me either, so I did neither.

I did, however, keep the oven door open a crack while I counted out those 60 seconds.  Not sure why, but it felt like the right thing to do.

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While they cooled, I diced some red bell pepper:

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I made some carrot balls and soaked them in sugar, water, and white wine vinegar:

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And I made some cucumber balls, too:

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The pork belly was done sous vide-ing, so I plunged it, still in the bag, in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process:

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I trimmed and cut it and made 1" squares that were about 1/4"-1/2" thick:

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(I saved all the rest of it in a bag, thinking I'd snack on it over the next few days.  Um, yeah. I finished it that night.  Oink.)

I made the polenta, and added lovely, lovely butter and mascarpone:

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Then, I seared the pork belly squares over very high heat on one side only, until that one side was nearly charred:

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Then, I arranged all eight pork squares on a small baking sheet, topped each one with two carrot balls, two cucumber balls, and a wee piece of red bell pepper in the center

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I topped each one with one of the hardened paprika-cayenne tuille squares, then put them under the broiler, so the squares could melt down and around the pork belly and its adornments (which took all of 5 seconds) and then re-harden.

To plate, I put a blob of polenta on a spoon, topped each one with a pork belly square, and added a few leaves of marjoram:

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There were eight spoons.  There were eight people.

We each took one, opened our mouths, inserted a spoon, slid it out, then chewed.

It's the quietest my house has EVER been.

And, it's the most I've wanted to slap someone hard across the face over something I made.  It was THAT good.

Smoky pork with a bit of heat (but not a ton); smooth, warm, delicious polenta; cool, crunchy vegetables; the sweet, smoky, salty envelopment; and, the marjoram... still now today, days after eating it, I'm having trouble summoning the right words -- any words, for that matter -- to describe how good this was.  It's definitely the best thing I've made for the blog, hands-down.  But even bigger than that, it really and truly is one of the best things I've ever made in my whole life.

It's times like these I wish I could have every single one of you here in my house, standing around my dining room table, taking a bite, and savoring it, so that I could say, "See... SEE!??!!?!?  THIS is why I love to cook from this book.  This pork belly bite is sooooo WORTH MAKING!!! TRY IT!!!!"  And, I wouldn't even slap you.  Well maybe I would.  And you'd probably like it.

Up Next: Trout Roe, coconut, licorice, pineapple (MAJOR adaptation on this one, y'all)

Resources: Domino sugar; David's kosher salt; paprika, cayenne, and chipotle chili powder from TPSS Co-op; Cedarbrook Farm pork belly; fondant from that stinky craft store, Michaels; glucose and isomalt from L'Epicerie; bell pepper, carrot, marjoram, and cucumber from Whole Foods; Terra Midi white wine vinegar; Bob's Red Mill polenta; 365 butter; Crave Brothers mascarpone.

Music to Cook By: The Editors; The Back Room.  Thanks to my Twitter compatriot EricDM1 who answered my call for new music a few weeks ago.  He suggested their album "In This Light and On This Evening," which I also love, but there's something about The Back Room that is just captivating.

Read My Previous Post: Ni├žoise Olive, saffron, dried cherry, olive oil


November 16, 2009

Apple, horseradish, celery juice and leaves

For years, I've really, really loathed three things for their dental floss-like texture: rhubarb, celery, and frisee.  I got over my frisee issues by being fed a really nice, non-floss-like frisee salad (with poached egg, lardons, red onion, and black truffle at Central.  Thanks to one of the dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook, I don't hate rhubarb anymore, either.  Not that I ever crave it, but I have warmer, more gentle, less squicky feelings about it.

But celery?

I just don't get celery.  I don't get it at all.  It's like stalky, watery dental floss.  When I was little, my mom would fill the channel of a celery stalk with peanut butter, and give it to us as a snack.  I'd lick the peanut butter right out and leave the celery.  Celery on a vegetable tray at a party?  Makes me mad.  Vegetable trays, in general, make me mad because they're usually pretty gross and tasteless, but the added insult of having celery on there just makes it that much worse.  And there's only one good way to ruin a Bloody Mary -- and that's plonking a stalk of celery in it.  Like I wanna gouge my eye out when drinking what otherwise is a lovely, lovely beverage.

Cooking my way through The French Laundry Cookbook and now the Alinea cookbook is supposed to be about not just trying new things, but also about second (or third or fourth) chances for some foods.  It's about being open to different preparations and flavorful combinations.  But again with the celery?  Alright, FINE.  I'll give it a(nother) shot.  I mean, what's not to love about apples and horseradish?  Maybe I wouldn't even taste the celery at all!!  A girl can dream...

The first thing I needed to make was the apple juice for the apple spheres.  I juiced three Granny Smith apples in my juicer:

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I brought the juice to a boil, and skimmed all the brownish scum that rose to the top:

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I strained the juice through a chinois into a bowl nesting inside a larger bowl filled with ice:

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I stirred in simple syrup, salt, and citric acid, stirred to dissolve, and poured the apple liquid into a squeeze bottle so that I could more easily fill the spherical molds:

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The book suggests that you might want to make up to twenty apple spheres because they're fragile and therefore prone to breaking apart when you pin them and dip them in a horseradish mixture later on.  So, I did what I was told and made extra ones -- 18 of them -- 9 in each mold.  And then I freaked out that all 18 would fall apart and I'd be left with just CELERY JUICE to drink at the end of this, and I might possibly have cursed under my breath.  Or out loud.  Yeah, definitely out loud.

DSC_0035The darker blue ice cube tray is actually deeper and more rounded on the top than it looks, so they'll be 3/4 of a sphere.

I put the apple liquid-filled molds in the freezer and let them harden overnight.

The next morning, I made the horseradish liquid for the outer shell coating.  I peeled and diced horseradish root and put it in a Ziploc bag with some salt, cocoa butter powder, and white chocolate.  I sealed the bag and put it in a large stockpot of boiling water, and let it cook for 20 minutes.

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I strained the contents of the bag into a small bowl, and stirred in the white wine vinegar with my immersion blender.

 

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I used a turkey-lacing pin to hold each apple sphere and dunk them, one by one, into the horseradish liquid:

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They looked nice and frozen to me, but they were delicate and had the potential to break apart, I could tell.  They were kinda crystal-y and looked like little frozen mini shards of ice in a compact little ball.  But, I must gloat for just a second: not one single sphere of mine broke or splintered or fell apart.  Wooo-hooo!!!!!!  Every single one got poked with a pin, dunked in the liquid, and put back on the mold to go back in the fridge so that the apple could melt now that it was encased in a quickly hardened horseradish shell.

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Ladies, I know it looks like the Brazilian room at the day spa blew up on that tray, but trust me: most of the spheres were nice and smooth.  Only a few had some extra drizzles and bumps on them.

The apple spheres needed to be in the fridge for about five hours so that the frozen apple sphere could melt within the hardened shell, so the only thing I had left to do was make the celery juice.

Gah.  I can't even stand looking at the stuff.  It's just so... so... celeryish.

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I resentfully and loathingly cleaned all 20 stalks and cut them into 2" pieces, and blanched them for about 30 seconds:

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I juiced and strained every last bit of that stalky dental floss, which resulted in the most lovely green liquid:

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Hhmmmmm..... maybe it wouldn't be that bad.

I stored the liquid in the refrigerator until the five-hour mark was up, and the apple spheres were all liquidy inside.  I whisked in some salt and simple syrup, and filled six shot glasses about halfway with the juice.  Then, I gently placed an apple-horseradish sphere inside, and topped that with a few flakes of sea salt and a small celery leaf:

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Bottoms up!

The horseradish-apple sphere broke apart in my mouth quite easily, and the combination of tart apple liquid with the sharp heat of the horseradish was intense.  It made my cheeks flush!  The celery juice buffered it a bit, but I actually like how confidently those flavors slammed my palate. 

I thought I might have issues with the texture of the horseradish shell as it disintegrated, what with the cocoa butter powder and white chocolate in there, but I barely noticed it at all.  It wasn't slimy or silky or slippery, like I thought it might be.

And the celery juice?  I actually kind of liked it.  Seriously!  It was smooth and fresh, and really complemented all the other flavors that were slammin' around.

NOW what food am I gonna be mad at?  HUH!?!?!?!


Up Next: Peanut, five other flavors

Resources: Apples, horseradish, and celery from HMart; David's kosher salt; citric acid from L'Epicerie; cocoa butter powder from InstaWares; El Rey Icoa white chocolate; Domaine Des Vignes white wine vinegar; Maldon sea salt.

Music to Cook By: Elvis Costello; Best of.  'Cause sometimes, I just need to hear him sing one of my favorite songs.  

Read My Previous Post: Pheasant, shallot, cider, burning oak leaves

October 01, 2009

Corn, (not)coconut, cayenne, mint

Here's where we veer a little off-course from the Alinea cookbook.  One, because if I eat coconut, I break out in hives all over my arms and that's no fun.  Two, because I really don't like the taste of coconut anyway, so even if I didn't have a weird systemic reaction to it, I would've done a substitute for this dish because I'm stubborn like that.  And three, I wanted to mix things up a bit and not do a recipe verbatim.  I really wanted to pair corn with tomato and tarragon, as a sort of farewell to summer because I was not AT ALL ready for summer to end.  Mid-August into mid-September is my favorite time of year.  The food, the weather, my state of mind... it's just the time of year when I'm happiest and love everybody.  Seriously y'all, I'm NICE, and I smile ALL THE TIME.  It's weird.  It's like it's not even me.  It's Bizarro Me. 

Corn, tomatoes, tarragon, scallops, grilled hanger steak, and coffee from Wawa at the beach... that says end-of-summer to me.  But corn?  I could write a thousand love songs about corn.  I can't get enough of the stuff, and it makes me sad every year when the season ends (which is why I blanch and freeze a ton of it in early September so I can treat myself during the winter).

Corn and tomatoes were still in abundance here in the DC area until the very end of September (we had a cold, rainy June, so everything got a late start), so I was happy to have beautiful, fresh ingredients to work with.  The challenge, for me, was figuring out the best way to make this dish work with the ingredients I wanted, while still honoring the intent of the original dish.  One of the things I love most about the Alinea cookbook is that each dish has a number of sub-recipes, and those sub-recipes can be used in so many different ways.  Now that my work schedule is starting to become a little more normal and I'm not on the road as much, I'll start doing some posts about how I incorporate some of the sub-recipes into my everyday cooking, or adapt them in ways that might complement other dishes.

But today, let's talk about corn and tomatoes, tarragon and mint, and remind ourselves what the end of summer tastes like as we slip on a sweater and welcome the crisp fall weather.

Instead of coconut sorbet as the first layer of the dish, I did a tomato sorbet.  I cored and seeded 5 large tomatoes and put them in the food processor, then strained it through a china cap into a large mixing bowl.  To that, I added a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar, and stirred until everything was dissolved and incorporated.

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I poured the liquid into a 9x13" baking dish and put it into the freezer.

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While that was freezing, I made the corn sorbet.  I knew these sorbets would have a different texture, and I was okay with that.  I knew the tomato sorbet would be a little icier, a little more like a granita, while the corn sorbet would be smoother, and a little more like a sherbet.  Fine with me.  I just wanted to taste the two together and see how it'd turn out.

I bought a dozen ears of fresh, sweet, white corn from the farmers market, husked it, and cut off the kernels using an electric carving knife while holding the ear of corn in the center of the bundt cake pan you see below...

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Man, can't you just smell the corn-y deliciousness in that photo?  As I was cutting off the kernels, I was waxing rhapsodic in my head about Grant Achatz and how I loved him so for including a dish in this book that uses one of my most favorite foods ever.  I may have even begun to sing a little self-composed ditty about Grant, and corn, and summer, and love, and sunshine, and loveliness, and corn and bliss and again yay for the corn, and then it all went into a five-spiral crash when I had a bit of a cornsplosion as I began spooning all that corn into my juicer to make corn juice. 

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Corn was spilling everywhere, shooting back out of the top of the feeder tube; and, the front pulp and juice holders blew off just after that photo was taken (luckily, I caught them both against my abdomen and in the crook of my elbow before their contents spilled), and my love song about corn turned into a metal thrash involving vocabulary not fit for a PG-13 audience.  Or, an NC-17 audience, if I'm being honest.

I ended up with 745g of corn juice (the book calls for 750g --whoot!), which I poured into a saucepan.  I added glucose and salt, but skipped the stabilizer the book calls for.  I'd been having some difficulty getting my hands on it to begin with, and I wanted to see if I really needed it for this dish to taste good.  I know restaurants and commercial entities use stabilizers to maintain the product's structural integrity and reduce the formation of ice crystals (which come with temperature fluctuations in the freezer), but I've made enough ice cream and sorbet here at home (thanks to my lovely friend, David Lebovitz), that I wanted to see if I could make this without it.  I know that stabilizers also act as an emulsifier, but knowing there was butter in this recipe, I thought that might be enough of a lipid to make it work.

So, corn juice and salt:

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Adding the glucose:

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I brought it to a simmer over medium heat, whisking to incorporate the glucose, then transferred the liquid to my blender.  I put the blender on low speed, and added 50g of cold butter, one teeny little chunk at a time.

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It was perfectly seasoned -- no additional salt required -- and because I don't have a Pacojet, I chilled the corn liquid in the fridge for an hour or so, then put it in my ice cream maker for 40 minutes to begin to freeze.

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I took the now-frozen tomato sorbet-granita and scraped the top to get enough for a taste test, and yummmmmmmm..... it was so flavorful -- I couldn't wait to see how the two would do together.

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I poured the corn liquid onto the frozen tomato layer and put it back in the fridge for another hour or two, until it had frozen.

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Meantime, I made the mint puree... and added some tarragon to it.  I'm getting near the end of my tarragon in the garden, and while I know I'll make a nice big stash of tarragon butter to freeze and use over the next few months, I wanted to change this recipe a bit and make it a mint-tarragon puree rather than straight mint, since I'd already swapped out the coconut for the tomato.

I blanched and ice bathed 40g of mint leaves and 30g of tarragon leaves:

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After their ice bath, I strained the leaves and put them in the blender along with some salt, sugar, ice water, and Ultra-Tex 3 (which sounds like a shapeware bra for someone with giant bazongas, doesn't it?), and blended it until it was smooth:

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Strained it and funneled it into a squeeze bottle:

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As I poured it into the squeeze bottle above, I noticed it was a little more runny than I expected, so rather than it being a lovely blob of puree atop the frozen sorbet square as it is in the book, I knew I'd have to use it as a sauce, of sorts, in the plating process.

I got out the cayenne, fleur de sel, zested a lime, and cut the now-frozen sorbet into little squares for plating.

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You can see the tomato layer is a different texture than the corn layer, and that it broke off while being cut.  No worries.  This kind of plating wasn't working for me visually or otherwise, so I decided to prepare bites on spoons instead.  First on the spoon went the mint-tarragon "sauce", topped with the tomato-corn sorbet, which was topped with a pinch of cayenne, pinch of lime zest, and a pinch of fleur de sel:

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I'm not sure everyone liked this as much as I did.  The kids didn't like the flavor combination.  The adults weren't jazzed about the frozen nature of it.  I, however, could've eaten the whole tray of it myself.  Is it better than a fresh, room temperature salad of tomatoes, corn, tarragon, mint, lime, salt, cayenne, brown butter, and red wine vinegar?  No.  But it's not a contest.  This was, for me, a lesson in adaptation and reconfiguration... a way to test what I thought I already knew, and how to make it better using ingredients I love.

The tomato sorbet was so fresh and bright and the corn sorbet was so smooth and creamy, and... corn-y.  It was odd eating them together in a popsicle/ice cream-texture, but not off-putting in the least.  I love how the lime, salt, and cayenne played off each other and brought out the flavors even more -- and I was thrilled that I got their balance right.  The tarragon-mint component brightened it without overpowering any of the flavors.  This was a dish that tasted like summer, and from a temperature and texture perspective may have been more enjoyable in July (from the frozen nature of it, but oddly, before those ingredients are truly in season).

Peace out, summer...I miss you already...


Up Next: Idiazabal (or, as I like to call 'em, "Alinea Cheetos")

Resources: Corn and tomatoes from Musachio Farm at the Takoma Park Farmers Market; Domaine des Vignes red wine vinegar; glucose from ShopBakersNook.com; David's kosher salt; 365 unsalted butter; mint and tarragon from my garden; Domino sugar; Ultra-Tex 3 from Terra Spice/Alinea; cayenne from Adriana's Caravan; lime from HMart; fleur de sel de Camargue.

Music to Cook By: Aterciopelados; La Pipa de la Paz.  I was in New York visiting friends a few years ago, and heard Aterciopelados' song Florecita Rockera in a bar and thought if I ever needed an alias or alter-ego name, that would have to be it... because "buttercup rocker"??? How awesome is that?  She's sweet and lovely like a buttercup but SHE ALSO COULD KICK YOUR ASS.  Discovering that song led me down the path of everything Aterciopelados has done, and I just love their sound.  I think I have every album.  Bolero Falaz is great, as is El Estuche.  I wish I was more fluent (or even conversational, heck) in Spanish, because these really are good windows-down, sun shining in, volume up, singalong songs, and I'm sure they way I'm butchering them phonetically has the potential to cause some sort of international incident.  I'm still shocked that the nation of India hasn't bombed us over my phonetic rendering of "Jai Ho."

Read My Previous Post: King crab, vinegar, aromatics, seaweed

September 10, 2009

Octopus, eggplant, beans, soy

This dish really made me miss my dog.  His favorite fuzzy chew toy was a demented-looking green and black octopus.  At least once a week, he'd walk into the living room and spot the ratty thing out of the corner of his eye, and, with his teeth, yank it out of the basket by one of its legs and fling it across the room, barking at it like it was some predatory killer he was protecting me from.  Crazy little wiener dog....

As I was shopping for the ingredients for this dish, I was trying to remember the last time I ate octopus.  There have been a few times I've tried to order it recently in restaurants, but it's almost always had some sort of marinade-related gluten conflict, so I had to choose something else.  Regardless, it's obvious that when I've had it before, it didn't make an impression -- good or bad -- so I feel like I'm starting with a clean slate here.  Feels weird to know I've eaten something before, but have no taste memory one way one another.  Huh....

The first thing I did was prepare the marinade for the octopi.  Wait.  It's octopi, right?  Octopuses?  That sounds slightly dirty.  Hang on, let me consult Merriam-Webster.... okay both are correct.  But both are also weird, aren't they?  Like whoever came up with the word "octopus" back in 1431, or whenever it was, thought it would be hilARious because the plural of the word would make you sound like a dork when you said it.

But I digress...

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Oh, hello there, little guy.

I bought eight octopi, knowing I needed 250g of legs for the final dish, removed the bodies and kept the legs intact of each one, rinsed them, dried them, and put them in a bowl while I made the marinade.

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The marinade is easy: soy sauce, mirin, sugar, rice vinegar, dry red wine, garlic, and fresh ginger -- all brought to a simmer, then allowed to cool to room temperature.


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When it had cooled, I put the marinade in a ziploc bag and added the octopus legs, sealed it, and refrigerated it for 24 hours -- bringing the legs out just in time for grilling just before plating (which you'll see at the end of this post, obviously).


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The only other thing I wanted to do a day ahead of serving was make the frozen eggplant puree.  I peeled and cubed four eggplants to be able to yield 1,500g of eggplant cubes, which I sauteed in peanut oil (which smelled amaaaaaaazzzzzing).

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Once the eggplant had softened and browned, I made the ginger juice by peeling and juicing fresh ginger in my JuiceDude2000:


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Next, I removed the seeds and ribs from these two lovely chilis before mincing them:

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I also made some fresh ground cardamom by removing the cardamom seeds from their pods, grinding them in a spice/coffee bean grinder, and sifting it through a fine-mesh strainer.

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In a medium-sized bowl, I combined the ginger juice, chilies, cardamom powder, soy sauce, red wine, garlic, sugar, and water.

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I added the sauteed eggplant and stirred gently until everything came together and the eggplant was coated.

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I put the eggplant mixture into a ziploc bag, squeezed out as much air as I could (FoodSavers don't work for sous vide cooking, because they suck moisture out, as well as air), and cooked the eggplant en sous vide at 195 degrees Fahrenheit (91 degrees C) for an hour.


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When it was done, and the eggplant was so incredibly tender, I put it into a blender and pureed until it was smooth:

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I added salt, stirred, and strained it through a fine-mesh strainer onto a sheet pan to cool to room temperature:

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When it had cooled, I put it into the refrigerator for a few hours to cool further, then put it in my ice cream maker for 30 minutes.  The book provides instructions for using a Pacojet, which I don't have, because that $4,000 is better spent on other things like, I dunno, my MORTGAGE.

So, I kicked it welfare-style and used my 15-year old Krups ice cream maker to freeze the eggplant mixture.

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I spread the now-sort-of-a-little-more-frozen eggplant mixture into a 13x9" baking dish and put it in the freezer to harden overnight.


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The next day, the day I wanted to serve this, the rest of the prep was pretty damn easy.  I soaked the dried chickpeas overnight, and in the morning cooked them for about 40 minutes.   I dried them, and fried 'em up in some canola oil (400 degrees F), then sprinkled them with kosher salt.


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I also marinated the green beans (sadly, the farmers market and local grocery stores were out of wax beans when I went to buy them for this dish -- which sucked because I LOVE wax beans) in rice vinegar, grapeseed oil, salt, and black pepper.

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Finally, before grilling the octopus legs (the last step before plating), I made the soy bubbles.  In a medium saucepan, I brought my gluten-free soy sauce, water, sugar, and soy lecithin to a simmer, whisking to dissolve the sugar and lecithin.

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I strained it into another container, then used my immersion blender to foam it, which you'll see spooned onto the plate in the final photo.

Last but not least, I removed the octopus legs from the marinade, drained them in a colander, and grilled them over high heat for about 30 seconds on each side.

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I wish I'd shot video footage of this, because when you lay the wet, limp octopus legs onto the grill, they slither and slide and squirm and roll and pop and twitch and bounce from the heat.  It's only slightly freaky, and really kinda fascinating.

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To plate, I placed a small rectangle of the frozen eggplant puree onto the plate, and topped it with some of the green beans.  Then, I placed some of the chickpeas around, and placed a set of octopus legs on top of that, garnishing with sliced scallions, mung bean sprouts, and the soy foam.

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So, how did it taste?

Let me break it into three categories -- taste, texture, and temperature.  Overall, the taste was really, really good.  Everything was seasoned really well, and I thought all the flavors complemented one another beautifully.  Mung bean sprouts are sweeter than I thought they would be (I don't think I've ever had them before), and I really liked the taste of everything separately and together.  The fried chickpeas were one of my favorite elements of this dish -- and something I'll make again as a little treat for when friends come over for a glass of wine.  They were a little nutty, hearty, and just salty enough.  The scallions also complemented the dish nicely -- usually, I think they taste too onion-y, or are a distraction, but not here.

Texture?  Well, that's another story.  I kind of suspected I might have some issues with the octopus legs, and there's just something about their texture that skeeves me.  They weren't rubbery or overly chewy.  I think it's the tentacles.  I'm not sure. I swear I wasn't overthinking it when I was eating it -- it was just an awkwardness in the bite that I didn't expect.

Temperature?  I would've rather had this, I think, with a warm eggplant puree.  The frozen state of it was a little distracting in the overall flavor profile, and we all agreed that we loved the taste of the eggplant... it was just that it was frozen that made us stop and have to think about it for a few seconds as we were chewing instead of instantly knowing how delicious it was.  And, since the eggplant puree was the most labor-intensive part of the dish, I wish I'd liked it more.

All told, it wasn't a bad dish.  I just don't think I'll be adding it to the permanent rotation.

Up Next: Corn or Idiazabal

Resources: Baby octopus from Blacksalt; peanut oil, canola oil, rice vinegar, grapeseed oil, mirin, eggplant, ginger, Thai chilis, scallions, and garlic from HMart; Domino sugar; San-J wheat-free soy sauce; Turley 2007 Juvenile Zinfandel; David's kosher salt; mung bean sprouts, cardamom pods, and chickpeas from TPSS Co-op; soy lecithin from WillPowder; green beans from Glenville Hollow Farms at the Takoma Farmers Market;

Music to Cook By: Chuck Brown; Assorted.  I've lived in the Washington, DC area for 23 years, and you can't live here for 23 minutes without knowing Chuck Brown.  Chuck is the godfather of Go-Go music, and a legend in the music community -- even more so here in DC, as they recently named the street in front of The 930 Club "Chuck Brown Way."  I've heard Chuck, Juju, and the guys (his horn section is fantastic) play at so many music festivals and tributes over the years, and I have a blast every time.  In fact, the last time I saw James Brown in concert (not long before he died), Chuck opened for him, and it was such a great show -- I don't think my body stopped moving the entire night.  So, from time to time, I love to put some Chuck Brown on the kitchen rotation (LOVE "Bustin' Loose" and "We Need Some Money") and put my backfield in motion.

Read My Previous Post: Huckleberry, soda, five flavors gelled

August 22, 2009

Kuroge Wagyu, cucumber, honeydew, lime sugar

If you've ever eaten Snake River Farms beef, you'll know why I wanted to use their Wagyu for this dish.  If you haven't, oh how I wish and hope you will someday.  It's one of those bites of food that renders you mute, and even if you could talk, to try and find the language to describe how good it tastes is impossible.  The beef melts in your mouth and is, quite honestly, one of the best things I've ever eaten in my whole life.  I know the cooking process and professional expertise plays into how it tastes, but when you start with beef this good, it can only get better with great cooking.

So, a few weeks ago, I called Kim Glineski at Snake River to see if I could order the Wagyu beef cap I needed for this dish.  They were willing to work with me on it, but I had to buy 4 of them, and the price per pound meant I'd have had to shell out in the low four figures... something I knew I couldn't and didn't want to do.  Yes, I have friends who love food, but none who, right now, would've wanted to spend that much money on meat.

So, I pouted for about 3.8 seconds and thanked Kim for trying to make it work.  Before we hung up, she suggested I speak to their distributor in my region -- Seafoods.com -- to see if they might be able to find one of their clients for me to share a shipment with, and thus split the cost.  Sadly, we weren't able to make it happen, but they were able to get me some Mishima Ranch Wagyu instead:

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But we'll get to the meat-cooking portion of our program in just a few minutes.

The first thing I set out to make was the lime sugar -- something I thought would be really quite easy.  And you know what happens when I think something's gonna be easy: fail-o-rama.

I needed Teflon-coated paper for this, and it was on my ingredient planning and procurement list; unfortunately, it got lost in the shuffle of a thousand different post-flu work projects I had to scramble to get done, and I didn't realize that I hadn't bought them until I cracked open the book to start pulling together my mise en place.  Dangit.  So, I sucked it up and used Silpat instead, which I thought might just possibly maybe perhaps work (while knowing deep-down inside it wouldn't), but I forged ahead anyway, because hell, it's only lime and sugar.  Not like if it doesn't work, I'm out nine frajillion dollars or hours of sweaty labor, right?

No, I'm just out a heaping helping of 12 hours of gas usage from my oven running overnight with a side order of maybe-I-should-just-get-an-effing-dehydrator-already.

To start, I whisked together sugar, egg whites, salt, citric acid, lime juice, and lime oil:


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I put this mixture in between two layers of Silpat on a baking sheet.  The book says you should flatten it into 5" disk-ish shapes.  Not sure why.  I tried to do it in small bits, but when I rolled it to flatten it, it just T-1000'd itself into one giant blob.


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I put it in a very low oven (about 120-125 degrees F) and went to bed. 

This is what greeted me the following day:

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The more white-ish edges kind of resembled what it was supposed to look like, but the rest of it?  Not so much.

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It was bendy and taffy-like, so I just let it sit uncovered in the warm oven, with the oven door cracked open, to see if it would dry out.

It didn't.  It just got darker and even more bendy and twisty, so peace out, lime sugar.  It was nice knowin' ya.

No time for whining, though.  Life's too short.  Onward and upward: time to finish the soy pudding!

Just as I started the lime sugar the day before, I also started the soy pudding a day ahead of time.  I mixed the tamari soy sauce and agar agar in a medium saucepan and combined it with my immersion blender:


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I brought it to a boil, whisking all the while, and let it cook for a minute or so:

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I stirred in more soy sauce and strained the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a plastic deli container.

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It sat in the fridge overnight (at the same time the lime sugar kerflonked itself in the oven), and when I went to finish it the next morning, it came out of the container all in one piece, and it was beautiful:

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The natural sunlight on it kind of makes it look like a metal canister or something, doesn't it?

I put it in the blender, along with a little bit of soy sauce (probably about 2T) to help it along, until it was the texture of mayonnaise.

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I poured it into a squeeze bottle and put it back in the fridge until it was time to plate.

Then, I got working on the beef.

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Look at this gorgeous cross-section:

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I trimmed away the silverskin and visible pieces of fat on the outside, squared off the tapered end, and cut the beef into two pieces, which went into separate plastic ziploc bags.  I squeezed out the air as best I could (please, oh lord in heaven, magical tonka bean witches, and Oprah's The Secret, send me a Cryovac), and put both bags in a 59-degree Celsius water bath, courtesy of my immersion circulator.

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During the 30 minutes the meat was in the water bath, I prepped the cucumber strips.  I sliced an English cucumber lengthwise and sliced it along my mandoline, making 1/16"-thick strips.  I laid the strips on a damp paper towel-covered tray and covered them with another damp paper towel and stored them in the fridge.

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That whole process took all of 3 minutes, so for the remaining 27 minutes of the beef's cooking time, I putzed around, nibbling on Cheetos and prosciutto and an overripe peach, drinking Pellegrino, and getting nostalgic about my cassette Walkman and the Depeche Mode tapes I played over and over again (you'll understand why when you see the "Music to Cook By" below).

I took the bags of beef out of the warm water, and put them into a bowl of ice water for 15 minutes to stop the cooking.

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Now, here's where I diverged a wee bit from the book's instructions.  I knew I was going to serve this as an entree.  And, I knew the people I was serving it to wouldn't really love the idea of the meat being so red on the inside (even though it was cooked -- it's that when you do beef sous vide, medium-rare looks like rare).  So, I cut the meat into thin strips that I'd sear later on just before plating.

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I also ate two of those strips, and moaned with pleasure as I chewed.  Lawdy, lawdy...

The last thing I needed to do was prep the honeydew melon.

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Gosh, is there any better smell than honeydew?  I mean, I know there is.... but on a summer afternoon, when it's hot outside, and you just want something cool and clean and sweet and crisp and so fresh-smelling?  I'll take honeydew over cantaloupe or any other melon or fruit any day.

The book had very specific slicing instructions on the honeydew.  I took one look at them and decided that since I wasn't plating it on a rectangular dish as they did in the book (the photo of which is so beautiful, by the way), I'd just slice it however I felt like.

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I heated my grill pan and seared the pieces of Wagyu ever so slightly:


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And then, I plated.


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Again, another dish I wish I could've had you all over to try.  Succulent, eye-closing, deep breath-inducing beef with the fresh, clean, cool crispness of the melon and the cucumber... a slight zing from the crushed pink peppercorns... the saltiness of the soy pudding.... AMAZING.  Yes, the lime sugar would've rocketed this off into the stratosphere, for sure.  And, looking back, if I'd had a few extra limes, I would've drizzled a wee bit of fresh-squeezed lime juice on this; but even without it the dish was outstanding.  You'll see there's cilantro on this portion -- my portion did not include cilantro, but my friends who ate it loved that extra bit of green to round out the flavors.

I'd make this again in a heartbeat.  In fact, I've been thinking about it as a salad: mache (or maybe even pea shoots), strips of seared gorgeous beef, cucumber, melon, and a lavender honey-lime-soy vinagrette.  I think this might be just the thing for a Sunday night dinner with friends.

Up Next: Huckleberry, soda, five flavors gelled

Resources: Mishima ribeye cap from Seafoods.com; honeydew from Whole Foods; English cucumber, cilantro, and limes from HMart; Domino sugar; eggs from Smith Meadows Farm; citric acid and agar agar from L'Epicerie; lime oil from TPSS Co-op; San-J gluten-free tamari soy sauce.

Music to Cook By: Depeche Mode; Catching Up With Depeche Mode.  I don't know how to describe my love for Depeche Mode.  They were the one band in high school who, along with Phil Collins and Journey, wrote and sang the songs that made me think man, they totally GET me.  They know how hard my LIFE is, and stuff.  Sigh....  I defy you not to dance around your kitchen to "Flexible."  Seriously, you can't NOT move to that.  Everything else? Just, LOVE.  Transports me to high school and college, and then makes me think about New Order, INXS, XTC, and OMD.  And Roxy Music.  And, seriously. Stop me, now.  Please.

Read My Previous Post: Oyster cream, lychee, horseradish, chervil


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