Can’t Talk, Eating

September 16, 2014 · 0 comments

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At the end of this post, I concluded:

I hope this doesn’t escalate into a food war. Who am I kidding? I hope this does escalate into a food war.

I was right, it did escalate into a food war. That dinner became the inaugural entry for Can’t Talk, Eating, our dining club. Four couples convene at four venues four times a year, with each dinner hosted by one couple. It was our turn again this past weekend, and She Who Must Be Obeyed and I had our work cut out for us. We decided to take advantage of the produce that was available at summer’s end at our local farmer’s market, and pair each course with German rieslings we had tasted this past spring at Journeyman. Here’s what we came up with (all photos by Cecilia Tan):

Velvet Shiso

Velvet Shiso

We started with a cocktail made with carbonated riesling, umeshu, shiso leaf, and coconut/lemon/saffron sorbet, accompanied by a passionfruit marshmallow.

Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad

Red, yellow, and green heirloom tomatoes, confited cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, mozzarella ice cream, provencal granola, olive oil, balsamic vinegar.

2012 Karthäuserhof Ruwer Trocken

Corn, Lobster

Corn, Lobster

Sweet corn risotto with butter poached lobster.

2012 Peter Lauer “Untersternberg”



Confit of oyster, elm, chestnut, and bear’s head mushrooms, with a seared king oyster mushroom plank garnished with morel reduction and dried chive blossoms.

This course was a last-miute addition, inspired by my visit the previous weekend to the New Hampshire Mushroom Company growing facility. All of these mushroom were cultivated on-site.

2012 Karthäuserhof “Schieferkristal” Feinherb

Beef Heart

Beef Heart

Brined beef heart cooked sous vide for 24 hours, served with red wine poached cherries, toasted pecans, baby hakurei turnips, mâche salad, and balsmic reduction.

2012 Karthäuserhof Grosses Gewachs



Lincolnshire Poacher, Von Trapp, and Harbison cheeses, with honeyed walnuts, cranberry chutney, and pickled peppers.

2012 Peter Lauer “Stirn”



Peach galette, blackberries, and peach/brown sugar/bourbon ice cream.

2012 Peter Lauer Ayler Kupp Spätlese

This dinner was a deviation for us, in that there were only three days of advance prep, and we waited until that morning to buy the final ingredients from the market. She Who and I have settled into a comfortable rhythm in the kitchen, which made the whole endeavor much more relaxed.

There was stil a mountain of dishes to deal with. If only I could convince He Who Will Not Be Ignored to help out…

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Salep Happy

August 2, 2014 · 2 comments

Konjac Dondourma

Mess around with enough ice cream recipes and you discover the differences in texture created by certain ingredients. My go-to recipe uses egg yolks to make a denser, more custard-like ice cream than Philadelphia-style, which is made without. Adding various hydrocolloids (carageenan, guar or xanthan gums) inhibits ice crystal formation but changes the texture.

I thought I had all of the variations worked out, but then a friend asked “Have you ever tried salep dondourma?” I had not, but a quick search revealed that it is a favorite frozen dessert sold from street carts all over Turkey, as seen in this clip:

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Watch the clip carefully and you’ll note that the contents of the cone don’t melt and appear to be very sticky, which allows the vendor to play around for quite a while before relinquishing the cone to his extraordinarily patient customer. That sticky texture comes from the addition of salep flour, a powder ground from the roots of an orchid that grows in Anatolia. Due to overharvesting, the Turkish government has restricted exports of salep, which made it unavailable to me by the time I heard about it.

Fortunately, I remembered an alternate recipe in The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking, which substitutes konjac flour for salep. Both are glucomanans, long-chain carbohydrate polymers of glucose and mannose sugar molecules. Konjac is commonly available, and is used in Japanese cooking as the base for konnyaku gelatin. It’s common enough that I found it on Amazon, so it was finally time to whip up a batch of dondourma.

I started with my usual 2:1 cream:milk base and added the konjac flour, a mere 8 grams in a quart and a half of base. I let it hydrate for half an hour, by which time the mix had acquired the appearance and texture of library paste.

Hydrated Konjac

I heated the mixture to 125 °F and added 410 grams of sugar, at which point the texture changed to that of wallpaper paste.

Sugar Added

I brought the mix to a boil and stirred constantly for 15 minutes, then transferred it to a stand mixer, where I beat it for 30 minutes until it cooled.


Although I could have transferred the cooled mix to an ice cream freezer, I opted to use liquid nitrogen to freeze as rapidly as I could before moving on to the final step.


To develop the final desired stretchy texture, I switched to a dough hook and alternated 2 minutes of beating with 15 minutes in the freezer to prevent melting.


Notice how the final product resembles regular dough. The texture was also doughy, which meant I had to wrestle it off the hook and into a container for freezing. After four hours I scooped some into a bowl to taste, and nearly sprained my wrist in the process. Scooping frozen konjac dondourma is like scooping barely-warmed asphalt – the stuff is thick. Look at the video again: There’s a reason why vendors use long serving paddles, they have to lever the dondourma out of the containers.

This experiment was all about the method, not the flavor, so the taste was unremarkable, resembling a standard sweet cream base. The texture, on the other had, was unlike any other frozen dairy product I had tried. It was very chewy, in fact, chewing was the only way to eat it since it melted so slowly. It also didn’t seem as cold as regular ice ream, which I attribute to ice crystals being completely bound up in the starch matrix.

I’m not sure how often I’d make this as a regular dessert, but I’m thinking about ways to take advantage of its stability at room temperature to make a combined hot-and-cold dessert course.


Ninth Annual Birthday Dinner

May 18, 2014

The date for the 9th annual birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed had been chosen months ago. Two weeks before that date, it was decided that the web site for Secret Internet Project (post to follow, I promise) would go live on May 1. My menu planning up to that point had been no more […]

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Membership Has Its Privileges

February 13, 2014
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One of my regrets about not attending every one of the Harvard lectures that accompanied the Physics of Soft Matter course was that I never got to hear chef Ferran Adrià. Last night I was able to remedy that gap in my culinary education when I attended “Deconstructing the Chef: Ferran Adrià and the Experience […]

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Goldbird Variations

December 5, 2013
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This year we stayed home for Thanksgiving. which gave me an opportunity to try another non-stadard turkey preparation. The key to perfect dark and white meat is to cook the bits separately, giving each the time/temperature treatments necessary to produce juicy meat. I had already figured out the perfect method for confiting the legs, so […]

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20th Anniversary Dinner

November 20, 2013
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She Who Must Be Obeyed and I have been married for twenty years. Or, as  prefer to explain it, She Who has allowed me to live for twenty years. Rather than travel to New York to mark the occasion (as we did for our respective 50th birthday celebrations), we chose to remain in Boston and dine […]

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Do As the Singaporeans Do

October 16, 2013
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In April I started a new job working on a Seekrit Internet Project. Until said SIP launches – at which time I will tell you all about it – I have had precious little time to blog, preferring to spend my non-working hours cooking and occasionally sleeping. I contimue to try new things, but sometimes the new […]

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Roll Playing

August 6, 2013
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The sign on the blackboard at the farmer’s market stall said “beef belly.” Thinking I had an opportunity to make beef bacon (It’s a thing, isn’t it?), I asked to see what I expected would be a thick slab of fatty beef. What I wound up buying was a very long thin piece of beef […]

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Cabbage Batch

July 18, 2013
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Although I grew up just outside of New York city, there are some things I never assimilated. One was the accent, another was the ubiquitous sauerkraut on hot dogs. I always thought it was nasty, foul-smelling and -tasting stuff – at least the kind that came out of a can. It wasn’t until I started […]

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Foam, Foam on the Range*

July 1, 2013
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So many posts to write, so little time. The birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed was completely in my comfort zone, which meant I had to try at least one new thing. The “Chocolate and Milk” dessert in the Eleven Madison Park cookbook looked interesting and would give me the opportunity to mess around […]

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