Here we drizzled beautiful artichokes with olive oil, seasoned them with salt and wrapped them in foil. We grilled these foil packed artichokes until the outside was charred and they were tender on the inside. The aroma of the grilling permeated the flesh and they had a wonderful nutty flavor to them. For our first preparation we pressed the entire artichoke through a tammis to produce a charred artichoke puree.
We were fortunate to find some enormous green asparagus. Asparagus is a vegetable that lends itself to peeling, paring down and trimming. Some of this is done to improve eat-ability, some for aesthetic effect. Over the years we have turned to less full on peeling of asparagus and more to trimming the leaflets on the asparagus stalks which cover and protect new growth. These triangular pieces are tough and feathery and just not fun to to eat. The trimmed vegetables look wonderful, the sharp clean edge and the exposed white interior contrasting with the bright green stalk.
Years ago we cut troughs in large asparagus and filled them with wild char roe. Eventually we tired of this and moved on. Since we happened to have some beautiful eggs on hand when the asparagus turned up, we began playing with that combination. Instead of peeling the stalks we opted to hollow out the bases and trim the beautiful tip ends. We used a stainless steel cylinder to punch out the core of these thick stalks. Once the stems were hollowed we set about stuffing them with slow cooked egg yolks seasoned with salt, cayenne and walnut oil. To serve the asparagus we enjoy the char of the grill, but the grilling process is not always gentle enough for our purposes. In this case we warmed the asparagus in a low oven and then used a torch to generate the char we were looking for. (as an afterthought, a brushing of smoked oil or smoked chicken fat would have been an excellent finishing touch.) We served the asparagus with a roasted chicken vinaigrette and pieces of charred garlic chives. The dish captures the essence of spring from growth to grill in a delicate preparation.
Since lamb shoulders became my current fetish I have not left them alone. This time we looked at shoulder chops, more as a function of availability than choice, but this obstacle presented a new opportunity. We seasoned the chops with Garam Masala and salt and then cooked them for 24 hours at 57°C like we did the whole shoulder. The results again were amazing and in this case the chops were more manageable. We were able to dissect and take the meat apart with ease to use for a pasta ragout and the chops themselves were excellent served individually, lightly breaded and sauteed in the style of veal shoulder chops. I am looking forward to cutting our own chops or at least having a butcher cut them twice as thick, so that we end up with bigger nuggets and chunks of shoulder meat that we can then use as the base for a dish.
We pressure cook snap peas, kombu, water and 0.5% salt for three minutes. The result is a full bodied broth, I guess it could technically be a stock, which makes an incredible backbone to a pea soup and shows promise in a bright spring repertoire. Interestingly my first thought was that it was pea dashi and that a spoonful of white miso would turn it into something rich and satisfying all by itself.
To make this creme fraiche we used a technique from our book Ideas in Food: Great Recipes and Why They Work. It is one of many ideas which is woven within the text of the essays rather than presented as a step by step recipe. We blend buttermilk and creme fraiche together to culture the cream. The twist in this version is the addition of whole coffee beans. The cold or room temperature infusion of the beans into the cream is one we have used over the years to make white coffee ice cream. The result is a tangy rich cream, thick and spreadable with the aromatic notes of roasted coffee. In its current form it is great on toast, enriching risotto or as a liason in sweet pea soup. Tomorrow it may end up as ice cream or perhaps churned into our coffee butter. What we have learned in our technique extrapolation is that we have another form with which to add flavor to food.
The lamb shoulder is cooked for 24 hours at 57°C in smoked lamb fat. This may be the tastiest lamb shoulder we have cooked to date. The meat is tender and juicy, with a rich, smoked flavor that permeates the entire shoulder. While the the visual appeal of cooking a whole shoulder is not as beautiful as some other cuts, the taste results far surpass the the need for something that is just pretty.
Taking a bit of refinement to our egg white steak we cooked seasoned egg whites in timbale molds. We cooked the whites for an hour at 75°C. The result is a super tender, slice-able egg white. Our next steps are other molds and blocks. The possibilities for the often overlooked egg white have increased dramatically.
We blended coconut milk with fresh ricotta and seasoned it with 0.5% salt. Once it was a smooth puree we loaded it into the centrifuge and let it spin for 40 minutes. The results were a dense coconut fat, coconut whey and a rich coconut ricotta. What we have found extremely exciting about using the centrifuge is the various textures that emerge after spinning. The coconut whey will be incredible for making our 10 minute grits served with our strawberry Bolognese while the coconut fat will be great for cooking everything from cabbage leaves to fish. The ricotta will work in both simple and complex preparations from cheesecake to a filling for ravioli.
It all began with a batch of risotto made in the pressure cooker. We cooked the rice for 3 minutes and then let the pressure dissipate naturally. The result was slightly overcooked risotto, perfect for making crisps. We spread some of the warm rice out on an acetate sheet and covered it with another. We rolled the rice grains out into a thin, uniform layer of smashed rice grains, that still retained some of their individual shape. Once the rice was cool, we removed the top layer of acetate and let the rice sheet air dry. When the rice pulled away from the acetate we put the sheets into our dehydrator to finish drying out completely. Once the sheets were crisp and brittle, we removed them from the the dehydrator and fried them in 400°F oil for ten seconds. Out came these bronze crunchy crisps. There taste and texture provide a wonderful contrast to raw fish and vegetable preparations and act as a fun and delicious garnish for a bowl of more traditional risotto. Next time we will explore different seasonings to garnish the fried risotto to see if we can take these delicacies even further.
We're happy to announce that we are finally doing a few local classes, at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. They will be on Monday, May 2, 2011. The two classes will be 2.5 hours in length. The first class will be an Introduction to Hydrocolloids. It's a good opportunity to learn how to work with this incredibly versatile family of thickeners so you can implement them into your culinary aresenal. The second class will be an introduction to Activa (transglutaminase), our favorite culinary enzyme that does a lot more than glue bacon to filet mginon. Join us to explore the possibilities. The morning hydrocolloid class runs from 10:00am-12:30pm and the afternoon Activa class is from 1:30-4:00 pm. Each class is $100 per person and spaces may be reserved through Le Bec Fin (215) 567-1000. Cash, Check and Credit Card accepted when you arrive.
On Tuesday, May 3rd we will be cooking a 9-ish course dinner at Le Bec Fin. Seats for the dinner are $95 per person for the dinner only, taxes, tips and beverages not included. The dinner and classes open to the public and we look forward to cooking in this incredible culinary landmark.
In my newest obsession I am looking to integrate the flavors of marinated meat into a burger. For our first explorations we are marinating short ribs in a blend of red wine, soy sauce and Crystal hot sauce. We have added crushed garlic and dried onions to the marinade for the flavors of the alliums and their wonderful aromatics. In this slightly skewed representation of beef bourgignon we are marinating the ribs for two days. When they are done we will grind and mix them in the style of our butter burgers. The wine marinade will be boiled and used to make red wine ketchup. The theories are good, now it's time to put them to the taste test.
We learned to cook squid sous vide at 59°C when we were at Atelier in Canada. The cooking time and temperature we picked up produce squid which is meaty, juicy and rich in texture. Here we marinated the squid with mango pickle and then cooked them for three hours at 59°C. Then we cooled them down in an ice bath. Once cooled, we were able to score them and then sear them in olive oil. When the squid was good and brown we added butter to the pan, let it foam, and basted the squid. Then we removed the squid from the pan and added cabbage leaves to saute them in the juices. When the cabbage was blistered we dressed the squid and cabbage with fresh lemon juice. To bring the dish together we added a few spoonfuls of grilled yogurt. (Even though this batch of grilled yogurt was lamb infused it worked quite well with the squid. Though in the future we may make grilled fennel yogurt.)
After grilled fish bone oil, other grilled condiments were soon to follow. For this preparation we grilled lamb bones and then vacuum sealed them with yogurt. The grilled lamb flavor and fragments of char seasoned the yogurt and created a natural accompaniment to our roasted and pressure cooked lamb. The flavor is rich and light at the same time, in the style of springtime, as we celebrate bright, earthy flavors in our food. The permutations on this idea are endless, the initial step forward is an essential building block as we focus on making our food taste better by utilizing every aspect of our ingredients. The less we waste, the more we gain.
If you are looking for who is up and coming in the world of picture taking specifically for books, cookbooks and chef books take a look at what Ed is doing. (Heck, I could be behind the times and everyone already knows what he is up to. If not, we are thrilled to spread the incredible word.) We have been fortunate to work with him recently and are now drinking his Kool Aid.
(not Ed's picture, one of ours, not bad if we say so ourselves taken while apple picking with Amaya)
We have made a slew of shapes and flavors with our Arcobaleno pasta machine and continue to look at what is possible. On the other hand sometimes restraint is the utmost in creativity. To make our linguine we blend 2000 grams of semolina with 620 grams of water and 10 grams of salt. While hydration levels vary we have consistently found 31% hydration to be near perfect for a straight semolina noodle. The dough takes a bit longer to hydrate and the die needs to warm up a bit more in the extruding process. The end result is worth the extra bit of time, and we are not talking hours, closer to 45 minutes for a 2600 gram batch of noodles. As the last of the noodles are extruded we always put a pot of water on to taste our results. We used to put the water on earlier so that we could taste the initial noodle before they were all extruded. Now our patience allows us to eat a fresh bowl of hot noodles with butter and cheese, the ultimate in comfort food, as we clean and break down the machine. The cook's reward. And then of course we have these beautiful noodles to act as the perfect foil to almost any sauce or accompaniment we can think of. Simple can be creative.
One thing we had yet to do was brown butter mayonnaise. It was hiding in plain sight. We have explored many uses for brown butter and its amped up cousin made with the addition of toasted milk solids. We used the toasted milk solids by themselves to add richness and depth to dishes. We've now made brown butter stock, ice cream, puree, cavatelli and olive oil. Yes, brown butter olive oil. This was the catalyst. When we were teaching at Madrona Manor we toasted milk solids in olive oil instead of butter. The result was a toasted, nutty, buttery olive oil with a side of milk solids. The two parts were delicious, although we weren't able to utilize them on that trip. In Canada, specifically in Ottawa, brown butter is commonplace, especially as a component of bread service in restaurants. Knowing this made me wary of utilizing brown butter in a familiar form for the dinner, but I was unable to resist weaving it somewhere into the menu. Then I remembered the brown butter olive oil. Instead of using 100% olive oil we combined two parts olive oil to two parts butter to 1 part milk solids. The result of this experiment produced incredible milk solids and an incredible flavored fat that was fluid at both room and refrigerated temperatures. Think of that commercial for spreadable butter with canola oil in it, only a thousand times better. The next step was making mayonnaise. We took four 13-minute eggs and pureed them in the blender. We added lemon juice, salt, Tabasco and the toasted milk solids. When the mixture was smooth we emulsified in the brown butter-olive oil. When it was done we had the most decadent mayonnaise I have ever tasted. After that the question was: what can we spread this on?
When we are done zesting and juicing lemons we often throw the used pith into the trash. When I was in Canada we decided to try something different. We roasted the spent lemons in a 400°F oven until they became charcoal. The process perfumed the kitchen with the aroma of both char and bright, fruity citrus, reminiscent of the scent of grilling cut lemons. When the fruit was completely blackened and dry we pulled them from the oven. Amazingly enough they still had an incredible lemony perfume. We took the lemon charcoal and put it into the vita-prep and let it rip. The result was a light and free flowing lemon charcoal powder. The flavor was bitter and floral with the aroma of those burnt lemons. This was certainly a new and useful ingredient for our pantry. We put the lemon charcoal to immediate use in a meringue to accompany our Meyer lemon ice cream and whitefish roe. The lemons were first used to make the ice cream so using the charcoal in the accompaniment was a no brainer. And the fact that we could could call it burnt lemon meringue even better.
Now that we are back in our kitchen we have a number of ideas to put to the test with the lemon charcoal, in addition to experimenting with what other fruits will produce.
When I was in Canada, Marc brought in a bunch of duck tongues to work with. To prepare them we soaked them in a 3% salt brine for 12 hours to clean them up and leach out any blood, then we rinsed them off and seasoned them with 0.5% salt. We braised the tongues, in the style of a classic confit with a little twist, we used a blended fat bath: duck fat, olive oil, and sesame oil, for extra flavor. The tongues took about 2 hours to cook. When they were tender we all donned gloves and delicately removed the cartilage from inside. Once these delicate little morsels were cleaned, we let them cool. Some of them were deep fried and served with our lime-jalapeno seasoned sea urchin for the Ideas in Food dinner. The remainder were destined for a dish or two at atelier.