One of the nice things about being back in New York is that there always seems to be something to do. Unexpected invitations come our way and we are usually happy and willing to answer their siren call. One of these summons came Tuesday morning when an email arrived from Jeffrey Steingarten letting us know that there was a demonstration happening that evening at the French Culinary Institute that we might be interested in. Alex called the school to find out if there were seats available and we were off.
It turned out that the demonstration was part of an open house for the school. Most of the audience were people either interested in attending FCI or members of the press. We were the oddballs. It was fine though, we're used to that. There was a short speech by the Vice President of the school which was followed by a presentation by Lee Anne Wong, of Top Chef fame. Although I've worked with cooks who attended FCI I didn't know much about their curriculum. They have some fascinating programs and I was pleasantly surprised and intrigued by the information. There's a lot to learn in Soho and beyond.
The demonstration was given by Dave Arnold and Nils Noren, their Vice President of Culinary Arts. The presentation was on the use of new classic food techniques and ingredients such as transglutaminase, methocel, agar agar, carbon dioxide, and both pressure and low temperature cooking. They created a dish based on the classic Turducken served with Jerusalem artichoke puree, mustard greens, a currant and agar condiment, and a sauce enhanced with a pressure cooked garlic paste. The turducken was created as a roulade with the longest cooking meats (turkey and chicken) on the outside and the meats meant to be less cooked (duck, squab) on the inside. This was so that when the cooking was finished the outer meats would be fully cooked and the inner core a pretty medium to medium rare. The light and dark meats were separated by a stuffing which created the look of a bull's eye when you sliced the finished product. The beverage du jour was a mix of fresh vegetable juices and carbon dioxide to produce happy bubbles for the audience. The presentation itself was informative, especially for the lay-person, and entertaining. The dish was served to the audience towards the end of the presentation and the sparkling juice was served afterwards as people talked to various admissions representatives.
Jeffrey came in partway through the presentation and afterwards we were able to meet him in person for the first time. He introduced us to Dave and we spent some time chatting in the auditorium. Listening to Jeffrey and Dave was like watching a volleyball match as the good-natured comments flew back and forth across a playing field. They were both quite engaging and very erudite about their particular passions. It was great fun spending time with them. We came away from the evening with scores of new ideas to play with and a desire to track down a CO2 tank to make our own carbonated beverages. There's nothing better than being around like-minded people to fan the flames of creativity.
PS: Dave if you're reading this, the drink I was thinking of was Chicha, fermented from maize and sometimes chewed by the maker before fermentation in order to help release the starches.