We started with the front half of a bone-in veal breast. We poured a hodge podge mixture over it, a blend of the sauce from spice-braised short ribs combined with a rich, concentrated, poultry jus. We cooked the veal breast for twenty-six hours in the CVap at 57°C. Then we let it rest for thirty minutes and carved the first slice. The meat was moist. It had absorbed the flavor of the jus. The breast had given its flavor to the sauce as well. It had become a complex sugo that made you want to keep dipping a spoon in for more. We were savoring the most flavorful veal breast we have eaten to date.
In the midst of preparing for a big move it can be hard to find moments of peace in the chaos of everyday life. We have a lot of stuff, some of which we use constantly, and some of which we keep for workshops, or for the library, or "just in case" we might need it someday. It would suck to have to buy something we already owned at one point, then again, sometimes you have to cut down the inventory. Moves are an opportunity to look closely at all of the things that fill your house and decide what's truly important. It's a time to edit.
As we sort through all of the stuff, one of the best parts of the process is the memories. Reminders of happy moments, accomplishments, and things that made us laugh or cry. It's all good looking back because we've come out on the other side. We're not the kind of peaple to look backwards very often, so this is a special time for us, these last few weeks in the very first place that was truly our own.
Someone asked me the other day what I would miss most when we leave PA. The first answer was our house. It's been a great first house and we're sad to be leaving it. There's some comfort in hearing that the people who are buying it seem to love it too. We want to leave it in good hands so that it can continue to be a happy place. The second thing that came to mind was proximity to the people we love here. We'll still see them and talk to them but it won't be as easy or as often. "Anything else? Any stores or places?" Nope, not really, everything else is replaceable." I'll find new stores. Amaya would have been starting a new school anyway. Other stores and services were very good but nothing else feels irreplaceable. It's another reminder of what is important. We're excited for a new adventure, as we take some time to appreciate where we are now. We can only hope that the new house in Bow, New Hampshire will be as lucky and as happy as the one we're leaving.
In our notes is a piece on working with cornflakes and chocolate. I am sorry we didn't get to bring the two together sooner. Today we discovered that Ritter Sport has. It is a smooth milk chocolate with cornflakes inclusions. It eats like a smoother and creamier Nestle Crunch bar. The cornflakes flavor is subtle. The texture is super crunchy. Now we have a starting point. Roasting the cornflakes will up the flavor. And as we dive into the idea, the variables open up. Do we make a cornflakes chocolate bar, starting with cornflakes flour? And if we do this, what about other cereal bars. Francisco Migoya has explored other bar ideas with birthday cake and doughnuts. Seeing and eating an executed idea can be an extreme catalyst for potential growth and exploration. Now we need to bring some of our ideas to life.
May 28, 2005
We created hot dog chili a few years ago when we were exploring a Hot Dog Project. (Who knows, maybe we will revisit this sometime soon.) We decided to revive it for Memorial Day. We started with hot dog chili, a chili made with ground up hot dogs, and we upgraded it by adding ground pepperoni.
We let it slowly simmer on the back of the stove. As evening approached, we slid whole hot dogs into the chili to braise. For dinner we offered grilled dogs (with or without a topping of chili) and hot dogs braised in the hot dog-pepperoni chili. It was a great meal. Both styles dogs where crushed and our hot dog chili hit new levels of savoriness.
May 27, 2006
I am not quite sure why we haven't used Green Goddess dressing on coleslaw before. Thanks to camp and school lunches with her friends, Amaya has become a a ranch dressing aficionado, there's just no avoiding it. So we've taken to making it home so that we know that it's fresh and tasty, just in case we all end up eating it. This Green Goddess version that Aki whipped up today is a result of the flourishing weed patch. Now that it's getting easier to run outside and snip a bit of this and that, our ranch dressing has become more green and flavorful. Thank goodness for that.
May 26, 2010
I am a huge hot dog fanatic. Follow the links for expanded details.
I often make detours for dogs. Today marked the beginning of hot dog season. (OK, I'm not necessarily convinced there is a hot dog season, but the perfect weather and the extraordinary hot dogs we encountered today is reason enough--and they do seem to taste better when eaten outdoors.) Today's chili cheese dogs were consumed at the Mayfair on the boardwalk at Asbury Park. We ordered well, the dogs are possibly the best thing on the menu. We each had one. These were good dogs. They were large in both girth and length, skins browned and splitting, with a creamy, pale pink interior. The crisp skin gave way to a tender, juicy interior, slightly firmer than the one at Nick's Nest. Amaya rolled with a plain dog. Aki and I had chili cheese dogs with raw onions and pickled cherry peppers. I upgraded with yellow mustard. In spite of their generous size, I went back for a second dog. This time with only onions, pickled peppers, ketchup, and mustard. The second one was good, but the messy deliciousness of chili and cheese won my vote for best dog.
With hot dog season underway, drop us your favorite hot dog recommendations, combinations, and discoveries. Send us directions to the dogs that make your days better. Best to share via Twitter @ideasinfood and @akikamozawa. Help keep us well fed while we're on a wild dog chase this summer.
May 25, 2005
I have a thing for thermometers. And cake testers. When ThermoWorks created the ThermoPop I was smitten. It took me longer than usual to order the ThermoPop. On one hand, we had a ThermaPen, so what did I need another thermometer for? On the other hand, the small size and small cost made it appealing. In the end the idea of a thermometer the size of a cake tester sucked me in. I liked the idea of being able to insert and go. And since we make a habit of taking the temperature of our baked goods, I knew we had to have these.
So I finally ordered two of them. Why two? Because I've got a thing for thermometers. And cake testers. The ThermoPops arrived today. I unboxed them and laid one out next to a cake tester. Aki happily pointed out that it's not as thin as she was expecting. Still, it is small. It is easy to use. It takes temperatures quickly (in under 5 seconds), at all angles, with a rotating display. If I had one request for future ThemoPops, it would be for a thinner probe and a size even closer to my favorite cake tester. For today, these are pretty darned cool.
When we work with water as an ingredient, it allows us to remove all distractions. We can examine textures. As we observe our minds can wander and play. We make connections we might not have had we been working with a specific flavor. Once we are done playing with textures, we ask what else can be water? We start adding in flavors and then we're off on a new exploration.
May 23, 2005
As we work with different cooking methods and mediums we stumble across ideas. Changing the way we cook forces us to pay attention to all the little details in order to achieve the desired results. Cooking over wood and in charcoal is not better or worse than cooking inside. They are different. These methods offer the challenge of control, in the lack thereof. They teach cooks to be more intuitive and flexible. Outdoor cookery has us question how best to achieve results. As we cook and observe how the heat changes and affects the ingredients, we discover new things. Sure flavors change, but it is the process of paying attention to what and how we are cooking that encourages us to learn, to grow, and to discover.
They say that mint is a weed and I have seen it take over gardens, easily choking out less hardy competitors. That said, an abundance of anything can be an opportunity. Chocolate mint is our favorite for its smooth leaves and intense flavor. While not as chocolatey as the name might imply there is a richness to its flavor, a roundness that can be missing from peppermint or spearmint. It's beautiful and hardy, perfect for sashimi or iced tea. I love that it returns to us year after year with minimal upkeep, a gift from the garden that we share with everyone around us.
We created a dish with eggs, asparagus, and chicken broth. In the creation of that dish we found that we really enjoy the flavor of asparagus paired with a rich, intense chicken broth. The other day when we found some beautiful asparagus I went to the freezer and pulled out a container od roast chicken broth from our growing supply. Amaya is a big fan of broth and soupy noodles. Thankfully our pressure cooker has allowed us to keep up with her appetite.
For the asparagus pictured above, we put the broth in the pan and steamed the asparagus in it until just tender. We served them in a shallow bowl in a puddle of broth so that everyone could enjoy them together. We could have served them with a bowl of mayonnaise (perhaps even schmaltz based) to dip the asparagus in. This would have introduced the egg element from the original dish. Instead we kept things simple. Amaya was thrilled with her dish because it was fun to eat with her fingers, dipping the asparagus pieces in the roasted chicken jus, and because it was so good.
We were working with kimchi juice. We started by tasting it. We vacuum sealed Persian cucumbers in it. We blended some more of the juice with buttermilk. The idea was to make a brine or marinade ro something else. We blended another batch of the juice with molasses, thinking of a glaze. We had the dried and ground kimchi pulp, which could be used as flour for a crust. And then we thought of the buttermilk again, perhaps adding some to the cucumbers infused with kimchi juice to add some creaminess and a soften the tang. The ideas and flavors all lined up. They are connected from start to finish and they work well individually.
We took our lacto-lemons out of hibernation. I was after the juice. Halfway through the juicing process the idea of the fermented lemon pulp took on a life of its own. We could use it in confits. It could be blended with salt for roasting. It could be dried and used as a seasoning for fish and chips. I had an end goal in mind and needed to be reminded that there's more to fruit than just juice..
May 18, 2006
Marian Bechtel talks about the power of embracing your crazy ideas. A talk from TEDx Teen that applies to everyone.
May 17, 2005
If the foundation is not strong, it doesn't matter what you put on top of it.
May 16, 2009
Dry rubs are, well, dry. But they do not have to be limited to what is in your traditional spice cabinet. It dawned on us that we have a pantry full of exciting powdered products from blue cheese to buttermilk and lime pickle to miso. These flavorful ingredients should be the backbone to our rubs and cures adding unexpected flavors to some of our favorite ingredients and ideas.
May 15, 2005
When we dive into or back into an idea we explore several variations. When we were making the bourbon lemonade vinegar we also started canned lychee vinegar. We enjoy the floral sweetness of lychee fruit and wanted to see how it would evolve. Initially we tend think of vinegar as a savory element. But in reality it can be used in all areas of the kitchen and bar. It adds structure to sweet.
Canned Lychee Vinegar
1000 grams canned lychee syrup, drained from canned lychees
500 grams apple cider vinegar
375 grams vodka
Mix the lychee syrup, apple cider vinegar, and vodka and transfer to a wide mouthed jar. Insert an aquarium bubbler, cover the top with cheesecloth, and let it ferment at room temperature for at least two weeks until the pH reaches 3.2 or the flavor appeals to you.
Amaya "Dad, I really like the grilled meat tonight. Especially the brown parts. It's really tasty."
Me "Uh, the steaks are seared Amaya, not grilled."
Amaya "Well, I really like the brown parts. Good job cooking the steaks tonight Dad."
Aki and I enjoy grilled steaks with their aroma of smoke and the flavor of the char. Amaya does not. And though she has repeatedly shared her feelings with us, I was unable to hear her. When I was getting ready to prepare the steaks for dinner last night, Aki informed me that I should sear the beef. I asked why. She reminded me of countless past experiences where we spent a good portion of the the meal carving off the exterior of a beautifully grilled piece of meat. It was Mother's Day and Aki wanted to enjoy her dinner.
Since she had orchestrated a nearly perfect day thus far, I followed directions. I dry seared the steaks in a salted cast iron pan. As the fat rendered, the steaks began to sizzle and brown. I turned them often to ensure even cooking. I smoked out the house, which was fine because all the windows were already open. The steaks developed a stunning crust. After resting we carved the meat and all three of us crushed the steaks. Amaya could not stop eating those brown bits, that perfect crispy, crunchy, salty, meaty exterior. And neither could we. It was a very happy Mother's Day.
May 12, 2005
We started with the idea of making lemonade vinegar. We took lemonade and added the alcohol distilled from bourbon, our Old Wellershine. In hindsight we could have used straight bourbon, but the idea had not fully developed as we began to carry it out. And we had the Wellershine taking up space in the pantry. It acted as a source of alcohol for the acetobactors, not as a flavor base. We didn't think of making bourbon lemonade vinegar until the end.
To make the vinegar we combined the lemonade, distilled bourbon and raw cider vinegar in a stainless steel bowl. We put an aquarium bubbler hose into the mixture and weighed it down so that it would bubble. We thought of using the bubbler stones, but the hose was easier to research and find. We covered the bowl with plastic wrap and let it bubble for 2 weeks, tasting it every few days. It took 14 days to fully develop and acidify. It's final pH was 3.1. We strained the vinegar into bottles. Bourbon bottles. And it dawned on us. We could add our bourbon essence to fortify and flavor the vinegar. Bourbon lemonade vinegar was complete.
Bourbon Lemonade Vinegar
1000 grams lemonade
375 grams distilled bourbon or bourbon
475 grams raw cider vinegar
Then again it might not. Only one way to find out. Test it. Whether it's an idea or a machine. If there is uncertainty then there is opportunity. Afterwards take the label and slap it on someone's back. They too may be broken. And if not, it's worth the laugh.
They call him Ishmael, Co-Chef de Cuisine at Restaurant 42. He made a dent in my culinary universe. Ishmael built the sandwich on potato bread buns and filled them with Anthony Goncalves PFC (Portuguese Fried Chicken) topped with fried eggs and coleslaw. We had never tried fried chicken with an egg. I can't ever imagine them separately again. Forget who came first. The chicken and the egg need to be together because they make each other better. Just to be sure, I crushed two of these sandwiches and wished I had enough room for more.
May 8, 2007
We have explored the gelatinization of rice starch and its hydration in both our 7 minute and 6 minute risottos. These two methods produce excellent risotto with a shortened final cooking time. I spent a lot of time thinking about the gelatinization of rice starches and wondering if we could cook them at a higher temperature. I remembered a story from a chef who worked for Marco Pierre White. She said they used to boil risotto in flavored broth, in her story, squid ink, strain the rice, cool it on sheet pans and reserve the starchy, inky broth to use to reheat the risotto to order.
We had never tried the technique. It was in direct line with my current thinking. So we tested a few things. We took Arborio rice and boiled it in water for 12 minutes. We strained it and shocked the rice in an ice bath to hasten the cooling proces. In my haste I poured the starchy water down the drain. (And in this case it was just fine.)
When the rice was cold we drained it from the ice bath and patted it dry. We sauteed some garlic and onion in butter. Then we added the rice, an English pea puree and a touch of Parmigiano Reggiano stock. We brought the mixture to a simmer and cooked everything for one minute. We emulsified the risotto with a knob of butter, some more Parmigiano Regiano, Espelette pepper, and a spoonful of creme fraiche. Then we finished it with a healthy drizzle of mint oil.
This took a few attempts to perfect. The boiled rice was cooked al dente. But it did not need much time on the heat to finish cooking. Since we discarded the starch water we had to look to other thickeners. In our first few tests I added straight broth. The rice overcooked and didn't become creamy and thick. Even the first runs with the pea puree overcooked because we were used to cooking the rice hot and hard. We didn't need to do that here, we just needed to warm it through and let the center hydrate. It's a quick process that requires a touch of finesse.
And once the technique is mastered, we can start thinking about flavor. We have the opportunity to capture the starch in a seasoned liquid and reintroduce it to the rice. Kenji, over at Serious Eats, explored risotto in great detail and does a washed rice risotto, which is very clever. If we remember to reserve the broth we will need less of a puree and will get the body from the natural starch leaving us lots of room to play.
May 7, 2006
May 6, 2010
Our cold smoked fried chicken has been a staple in our kitchen for years. We normally eat it on its own. Sometimes to gild the lilly I douse it with Snake Oil from Woodberry Kitchen. We have explored other sweet and spicy condiments, but thus far nothing touched the straight acidic heat from the Snake Oil. Until we popped open a jar of Luchito Honey. The Mexican honey is blended with Gran Luchito Hot Sauce. The blend of smoked chilies, balanced acidity and toasted alliums harmonize with the sweet floral honey. Dragging the smoky, crispy, juicy chicken through the Luchito Honey was revelatory. Now two jars will be on the table whenever we serve our smoked fried chicken and we can happily alternate condiments according to our mood.
For a moment we can revel in happiness. Then back to work. There's always room for improvement.
We had extra smoked beet water on hand. It had me thinking about bread. It also had me thinking about red velvet cake. So we smashed the ideas together. And since we were being non-traditional and impulsive we decided that the microwave was the fastest way to bring the idea to the table.
Red Velvet Pumpernickel
200 grams smoked beet water
4 large eggs
100 grams cane syrup or molasses
100 grams sugar
15 grams caraway seeds
3 grams salt
75 grams AP flour
35 grams powdered egg whites
25 grams cocoa powder
113 grams melted butter
Put the smoked beet water, eggs, cane syrup, sugar, caraway seeds and salt in a blender and turn on to medium speed. Puree the mixture until it is smooth, about 15 seconds. Turn the blender off and dump in the flour, powdered egg whites, and cocoa powder. Increase the speed to high and puree for 15 seconds until the mixture is smooth. Turn the blender down to medium high and pour in the melted butter. Puree for 15 seconds. Turn the blender off and pour half of the batter into an iSi canister. Charge the canister with 2 nitrous charges, shaking vigorously after each. Use a pairing knife to poke a hole in the bottom of a paper cup and three evenly spaced holes around the circumference of the cup. Dispense the batter, about 1/2 of the way to the top of the cup, and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the cup from the microwave and invert onto a tray and let cool. Repeat until you have used up all of the batter. Once the bread is cool, run a paring knife around the inside circumference of each cup to loosen them and gently shake them out of the cups. Serve immediately.
*The cooked red velvet pumpernickel may be covered and kept overnight in the refrigerator but it's best to cook all of the batter at once. If you are planning to serve the pumpernickel later, cover the tops and leave them in their cups until you are ready to serve.
We first started working with rare beef jus as a sauce for fish. This time we took the juices from a first cut chuck shoulder and thickened them with 0.15% xanthan gum. At the last second we balanced the warm jus with touch of maple-balsamic vinegar. Then we strained it and poured the sauce around our latest version of the 13 minute egg. We topped the egg with the rich, briny flavor of puffed kombu. The dish brought together the many different explorative components of one workshop into a flavorful dish.
May 2, 2005
Pie starts with a great crust. Aki made a batch of pie crust from Maximum Flavor: Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook. We par-baked the crust and let it cool and then we lined it with strawberry quarters. We blended milk and cream with 15% sugar and then thickened it with 0.3% iota carrageenan and 0.1% kappa carrageenan. While the mixture was still warm we poured it over the strawberries. The carrageenan custard filled the hollows in between the berries and then set around it as it chilled in the refrigerator. The pie sliced cleanly and the texture was smooth and creamy. Blending ideas gave a simple combination of ingredients the power to deliver a dynamic dessert.
May 1, 2006