Membership Has Its Privileges

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 of Food” at the Museum of Science. The lecture was for museum members, who would also get a sneak preview of the “Innovation in the Art of Food: Chef Ferran Adrià” exhibit, part of the museum’s ongoing mission to enhance food education.

Via his interpreter, Adrià, who understands English but prefers to speak his native Catalonian, described what he has been up to since he closed his legendary elBulli restaurant in 2011 and converted it into elBullifoundation. The foundation has three initiatives: elBulli 1846, a complete cataloging of all of the dishes created at the restaurant (1846 in total, documented in 14,000 pages);  Bullipedia, an attempt to do for food and cooking what Wikipedia has done for general knowledge; and elBulli DNA, a creative think tank for culinary experimentation (and a collaboration with MIT).

We learned that the 14,000 pages of recipe information translated to more than 14 hours of video, but we would only have to sit through a six-minute retrospective. As dishes flashed across the screen, I noticed that I had cooked five of them: spherified peas, mango caviar, parmesan foam, instant cake, and the vegetable panaché.

When the lecture ended, we were invited to try some Adrià-inspired dishes at a reception that also featured demos of some of  the now everyday techniques the chef had invented. The museum director and his assistant successfully spherified pea soup:

Spherified Pea Soup

Of the three dishes offered, the most interesting was this “salad” of melon spheres, panna cotta, lime foam, the spherified peas, and salmon roe:

"Salad"

With the food sampled, and judgement passed by both She Who Must Be Obeyed and He Who Will Not Be Ignored, we made our way through the exhibit. I learned that Adrià and his team used modeling clay to work out the plating of most of the dishes. This one looks good even with the clay:

Plating Test

What surprised me was seeing the prominent placement in the exhibit of the vegetable panaché, both the plating model and a photo of the final dish, which is an arrangement of basil gel, corn mousse, beet foam, tomato sorbet, cauliflower mousse, peach ice, almonds, avocado, and almond sorbet.

Vegetable Panaché

Compare that perfectly plated dish to my first and only attempt:

Panaché Attempt

While we were admiring the photo, Adrià wandered over. I asked his interpreter to “Tell Feran I have cooked this dish.”

Adrià looked at me and asked in English “You made this?”

“Yes, chef. But the timing of the plating is very difficult.”

“You cooked the most important dish in the history of elBulli!”

“It helps to have a biochemistry degree from MIT.”

“You’re from MIT!” He laughed and grabbed my hand.  I was carrying a brochure advertising the soon to be published elBulli 2005-2011, a complete record of every recipe created in those years. He was gracious enough to sign it for me.

Autograph

So yes, next month I’m buying the set of books. And I’m framing the autograph.

Did I mention I shook hands with Ferran Adrià?

ETA, 2/16/14: Here’s an article about the UK version of the exhibit.

Why is the vegetable dish so important? Here’s the description in my cookbook:

The textured vegetable panaché (la menestra de verduras en texturas), which we created in 1994, was a milestone dish for elBulli, not only because of what is on the plate, but also because it came at a pivotal moment in the the development of our cuisine, and opened up a rich seam of creative potential. The interplay of prepared textures and the use of deconstruction as a creative technique make the dish an expression of some of the best-known characteristics of elBulli’s food. Deconstruction is the process by which a dish is inspired by an identifiable external source, but in which every element of that source os modified in the final dish. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, it was probably the first use of deconstruction as a creative method.

The dish was created as an homage to Michel Bras’s iconic dish gargouillou des jeunes légumes, in which thirty different seasonal vegetables are are cooked and seasoned separately and presented together in a perfect expression of their inherent qualities. We wanted to create a vegetable dish at the same level, and at the same time we were developing different textures using liquid bases, such as foams, jellies, savory ice creams, and sorbets, all of which went on to play an important role in future dishes. The textured vegetable panaché was the result, and it opened up a new world of possibilities. Each component is an expression of a vegetable through texture: an almond sorbet, a cauliflower mousse, a tomato puree, beetroot foam, raw avocado, basil jelly, and sweet corn mousse. I still consider it to be one of elBulli’s most symbolic dishes.

ETA, 4/15/14: The complete talk is now online:

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Goldbird Variations

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 I began there, sealing the legs and wings with duck fat, butter, and sage.

Confit Legs and Wings

The breast was prepared in the style of a porchetta, a recipe developed by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats. I removed the skin in one piece and then layered the butterflied boned breasts on top. After scoring the interior, I rubbed a mixture of sage, garlic, fennel seeds, and red pepper into the cuts.

Seasoning

Utilizing my charcuterie skills, I rolled the meat into the skin and tied it off into a roast. (If I make this again, I will probably dust both sides of the meat with transglutaminase to bind everything together.)

Fit To Be Tied

I vacuum sealed the turchetta and cooked it sous vide for six hours at 60°C.

She Who Must Be Obeyed made our traditional sausage and sage stuffing, but we decided to try another Serious Eats innovation: stuffing waffles. Instead of baking the wet, just-mixed stuffing, she pressed it in our waffle iron.

Stuffing Waffles

When the turchetta was done, I dried it off and deep-fried it for ten minutes, rolling it once to get all of the skin crispy. (Again, for future reference: Use a deeper pot, to prevent a fire hazard from boil-over.)

Fried Turchetta

I boned out the legs, then sliced everything for serving.

Served!

In addition to the non-traditional turkey and stuffing, we had donut stuffing (made from dried chunks of orange-ginger cake donuts from Union Square Donuts), mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans, and gravy made from turkey stock and confit gelatin.

Final Plate

The breast was moist and the seasoning didn’t overpower the taste of the meat – which I don’t think I could say if I had used a store-bought bird. There are assertive flavors at work that require the turkey to taste like turkey. The waffles were crispy and caramelized, and also provided essential gravy containment.

And, of course, we had plenty of leftovers. Tonight’s “breakfast for dinner’ variation was hash with waffles and egg:

"Breakfast"

Turkey: It’s what’s for dinner. And breakfast. And lunch. (But not dessert. Yet.)

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20th Anniversary Dinner

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 at Menton, the flagship of Barbara Lynch’s restaurant empire.

We opted for the tasting menu with wine pairings, and were presented not with a full list of the courses, but instead a list of the ingredients that would be featured that evening. When our server asked “Are you adventurous eaters?” I knew we’d be in good hands. he surprise of not knowing what we’d be presented with was a welcome change. So here’s what we were served, with apologies for the occasionally dodgy nature of the photos.

Canapés:

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East coast halibut wrapped in sesame tuille with royal white sturgeon caviar.

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Carrot macaron with chèvre and rosemary, pickled carrot

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Pumpkin gougére

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Kohlrabi velouté

(Not shown: Vol-au-vent with caramelized onion and pear – very dodgy photo)

The canapés were served with an Aubry Premiere Cru Brut.

Lobster crudo:

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Lobster tail with tea, pickled cucumber, and crispy maitake mushroom. Served with 2011 Cave Caloz Heida-Paein “Les Bernunes.”

Prawn salad:

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Whole prawn with lychee purée, hibiscus, and caviar. Served with 2010 Messner Muskatelelr Feinherb.

Rhode Island fluke:

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The fish preparation mimicked a classic meuniére, accompanied by roasted fin bone and parsley purée. Served with 2010 Qupe Rousanne “Bien Nacido Hillside Estate.

By this point I realized that I didn’t recognize a single wine we had been served so far, no doubt the result of the wine list compiled by Cat Silirie, Lynch’s wine director. I asked the sommelier for more info on each bottle poured, making him our new friend for the rest of the evening.

Smoked bluefish:

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I recognized this preparation instantly, having used the same technique with duck and chicken. The bluefish was rolled in chard leaves, cooked sous vide, and garnished with blackberries and pomegranate seeds. Served with a 2005 Trimbach Pinot Gris “Reserve Pérsonelle.”

Terrine of foie gras:

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Fois gras served two ways: sliced terrine, and in ginger aspic, accompanied by a black pepper brioche that almost overshadowed the rest of the plate – it was that good. Served with a Rare Wine Company Boston Bual Special Reserve Madeira.

Squab:

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Perfectly cooked squab breast and leg, accompanied by toasted farro, wine-poached seckel pear, beet purée, and roasted split squab head. We were given tiny spoons for scooping out the contents of the head, probably the closest we’ll ever get to eating ortolan.

March farm veal:

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Veal loin with celery root, sweetbreads,and escargot. Served with  a 2011 Domaine Daniel Rion Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Laviéres.”

Desserts:

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Chocolate-bacon cake with cream cheese ice cream and maple pearls. Served with The Rare Wine Company Savannah Verdelho Special.

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Moscato-poached pears with goats’ milk ice cream, cranberry sorbet, and sunflower seeds. Served with a 2011 Kracher Zweigelt Beerenauslese Cuvée. (Apologies for the lousy photo.)

Mignardises:

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Banana whoopie pie, candy apple, and praline crunch.

Purely by coincidence, when we entered we could hear Miles’ “Milestones,” and when we left, it was to Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”  Perfect dinner, perfect evening, perfect partner. Here’s to 20 more years.

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Do As the Singaporeans Do

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 things are dropped into my lap by random chance.

After reading a Hainanese chicken rice recipe in Lucky Peach, I decided to locate a key ingredient: pandan leaves. Rather than brave the crowds at H Mart on a weekend, I visited the Cambodian farm stand at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. If anyone had an exotic vegetable, it would be this family. They didn’t have pandan leaves, but one of the other shoppers heard me asking for them and asked me what I would use them for.

“I need them to make Hainanese chicken rice.”

“You make chicken rice? I’m from Singapore. How did you learn about it?”

“I saw it on a food show and decided to make it myself.”

“From scratch? No one in SIngapore makes it from scratch. We all use mixes.”

I had neve heard of a chicken rice mix, and had a hard time imagining what steps in the recipe could be replaced by something in a box. After a few more minutes of chatting about her favorite chicken rice place, I continued with my shopping while She Who Must Be Obeyed headed off to her hair appointment.

Two hours later (she has special hair) She Who told me about a conversation she had with the woman in the chair next to hers. This person was from Singapore and visiting her daughter. The inevitable question about chicken rice was asked, and once again we learned that Singapore locals use mixes. This woman took our address and offered to send us some samples.

A few weeks later, we received a package from Singapore (still wrapped in gift paper with a bow that survived the trip) containing four boxes:

Mixes

There was also a card with a note:

I hope this “food” parcel finds you and your family in good health. It was good to make your acquaintance … a pleasant  surprise indeed to find someone on the other side of the world talking about Hainanese chicken rice!!  It shows how “small” the world really is this day and age.

I told my husband about you and we’ve decided to get you 3 other Singaporean popular dishes – chili crab, curry chicken, and laksa. I believe it is easy for you to get the required ingredients. Let us know how the dishes turn out and which you like or do not quite fancy.

Perhaps one day you and David will visit our sunny shores and taste these dishes and many more from our good eateries, and enjoy our “Garden City.”

It was time to make chicken rice. The contents of the box resembled MRE pouches (left to right, top to bottom: premix, fragrance oil, sesame soy sauce oil, chili sauce, ginger sauce, and dark soy sauce).

Mix Contents

I added the premix to water, brought it to a boil, and added the chicken, which I simmered for 30 minutes. The premix was probably powdered chicken stock with ginger and garlic, and dried pandan leaves.

Poaching Chicken

I chilled the chicken in ice water and used some of the stock to cook the rice. Unlike my method, which uses a sautée pan with ginger, garlic, and scallion tops, I used a rice cooker and added the fragrance oil, which consisted primarily of roasted garlic paste and more pandan.

Rice Cooker

While the rice cooked I warmed up the soy sauce packet and emptied the garnishes into serving bowls.

Garnishes

Instead of shredding the chicken, I tried the more traditional chopping with a cleaver. I plated the chicken with the rice and some sliced cucumber.

Final Plate

He Who Will Not Be Ignored was skeptical that the dish would match mine, but none of us had an authentic baseline against which we could compare. But this was a fine example of chicken rice, the most noticeable difference being the rice, which had sweet roasted garlic flavor – a huge improvement. I think my version of the chili lime ginger sauce was better then the straight-up chili sauce provided, but I like the idea of having a separate ginger sauce to mix to taste.

So what is made more convenient by using the mix? You still have to poach and chill the chicken and cook the rice in the stock. I always have dark soy in the Belm Utility Research Kitchen, and keep one-meal portions of the chili sauce in the Deep Storage Facility along with quarts of the leftover chicken poaching liquid. It comes down to the roasted garlic paste and pandan leaves, one of which I can prepare and freeze in portions, the other of which will require a trip to H Mart.

Amazon carries many of the products made by Prima Taste, but not the Hainanese chicken rice mix (conformed by another Singaporean native as “the best brand.”) I guess I’l have to rely on reverse engineering until I can work out a trade exchange with Singapore, perhaps maple syrup for chicken rice mix.

Coda

I have recently tested a massaman chicken and potato curry recipe for Cook’s Illustrated that looks a lot like the mix we received. We tried the laksa mix last week, another winner:

Laksa

That leaves the chili crab mix, which could be difficult. The only ingredient I have to supply is a 2.2 kg Sri Lankan crab. Any suggestions?

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Roll Playing

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 which may have been from the belly, but which had very little fat.

Beef Belly

The cut reminded me of braciole, a beef roll that is usually braised in a pot of tomato sauce along with sausage and meatballs. I decided to improvise a variation of the standard braciole stuffing (prosciutto, bread, cheese, pine nuts) and also use a different cooking method.

I layered some bacon over half of the beef, then spread a filling I made from the scraps remaining from trimming the belly into a rectangular shape.

Meat Filling

The last layer was a pesto I made with garlic scapes, toasted pine nuts, and parmesan.

Pesto

After dusting the exposed beef with transglutaminase (seen above), I rolled the whole thing into a tight cylinder.

Rolled and Glued

I vacuum sealed the roll and let it sit overnight to give the meat glue time to work. After that I dumped the bag into a 135 °F water bath and cooked it sous vide for six hours. I finished it on a grill to give the outside a nice char, then served it with green beans, potato salad, and more of the pesto. (What’s the other thing on the plate? Thinly sliced smoked beef heart, a contribution form one of our dinner guests.)

Final Plate

Some fat, some smoke, some bite from the pesto – this was a winning combination. I’d make it again, but I have never seen that particular cut available anywhere. I may have to try butterflying a flank steak to get something long and thin enough to work with. ’cause that’s how I roll.

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Cabbage Batch

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 making Reuben sandwiches with my own beef that I realized that sauerkraut could actually taste like cabbage. When I saw the fermenting crock shown above (the other side says “ferment”), I took it as a cue to try my hand at homemade kraut.

I only needed four components: chopped cabage, salt, the crock, and my copy of The Art of Fermentation. Within a few hours I had a crock full of cabbage and brine.

Brined Cabbage

I weighed down the lid and placed the crock in my cheese fridge, which is set to a constant 55 °F. I wanted a slow ferment, which would produce a less sour kraut. After a week I had evidence of active fermentation: small bubbles forming on the surface of the brine.

cabbage3

I tested out the batch by adding some to reubens made with Montreal smoked meat. The kraut was crunchy and salty, but only had the slightest amount of acidity.

cabbage4

While I waited another week for more fermentation, I brined, cured, and smoked some pork belly and hocks to make bacon and ham.

cabbage5

Shortly after that I read the latest post from Nose to Tail at Home, Bacon Knuckle and Pickled Cabbage. I had been unaware of that recipe, but I’m not nearly the Fergus Henderson expert that Ryan Adams has become. He leads, I follow.

Henderson’s pickled cabbage includes a lot of aromatics I had intentionally omitted from my first attempt, so I added them to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients for a long braise: cabbage, bacon chunks, a whole hock, bay leaves, peppercorns, and a handful of crushed juniper berries.

cabbage6

I covered everything with more cabbage, the entire skin from the bacon slab, and an entire bottle of white wine.

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Three hours later we dug into this plate of loveliness (with pretzel bread from a local bakery):

cabbage8

Tender smoky pork, chewy skin, bright salty cabbage – this was a winning combination, heartily endorsed by He Who Will Not Be Ignored as “a keeper.” I still had a lot of braised kraut and bacon left, so I worked up this variation with duck breast and roasted carrots.

cabbage9

How do you improve on a bacon dish? Add duck fat.

I still have about a quarter of the kraut remaining ion the crock. I will continue to sample it until it stops tasting good, then I’ll have an outside date for the fermentation process. Next I’ll try a version with the traditional caraway and juniper. And after that? I see more kimchi in my future.

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Foam, Foam on the Range*

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 with liquid nitrogen, so I dispatched She Who to the lab to fetch 10 liters of the stuff.

The dessert is an assemblage of nine components, all of which could be prepared in advance of service. I spent a few days before the dinner preparing everything. What follows is the component-by-component breakdown.

Caramelized White Chocolate Sorbet

White Chocolate

Making the sorbet was easy. What was different in this recipe was the method for caramelizing the white chocolate. I’ve done it in mason jars in a pressure cooker, which results in a lot of scraping and a jar to clean. Cooking it sous vide at 200° F for three hours produced a darker chocolate with no mess to clean up.

Aerated Chocolate

Aerated Chocolate

I melted dark chocolate and grapeseed oil in a foam canister in an 82° F water bath, charged with NO2, foamed out onto a baking sheet, froze, and broke into chunks.

Dehydrated Milk Foam

Milk Foam

I heated milk and glucose syrup to just under a boil, frothed it with a hand blender, scooped it into a pan and let it dry overnight in a 175° F oven. The result:

Dehydrated Milk Foam

If I do this again I’ll add a stabilizer like VersaWhip to keep the foam from collapsing.

Dehydrated Chocolate Mousse

Chocolate Mousse

Classic mousse recipe spread onto sheet pans and placed in a dehydrator overnight:

Dehydrated Mousse

Again, a stabilizer would keep the mousse from collapsing.

Frozen Chocolate Foam

Chocolate Foam

Not quite a mousse, this chocolate mixture was chocolate, milk, milk powder, sugar, and gelatin. I foamed it into a deep pan and then ladled liquid nitrogen over it to freeze it solid.

Frozen Chocolate

My other foam charger still had some cream in it, so I used the extra LN2 to make frozen whipped cream:

Frozen Whipped Cream

What do you do with extra LN2? Freeze and smash flowers, of course.

Smash!

The three remaining components – browned milk solids, dulce de leche, and whipped crème fraiche – were prepared by the usual methods. Nothing to see here, move along.

Plating

Final assembly was pretty much freeform on chilled plates. I smeared a tablespoon of dulce de leche diagonally, added the whipped crème fraiche, arranged the various chocolate bits, garnished with the brown milk solids and frozen cream, and topped with a quenelle of the white chocolate sorbet.

Final Plate

Five types of milk, four kinds of chocolate, each one a unique texture. This was a fun dessert to eat since it allowed a wide variety of combinations to be created. It also forced people to lick the plate, which I always enjoy seeing.

I still have some of the components left, which will appear as ice cream garnishes throughout the summer until they disappear. And there will be more playing with LN2 now that I have this gift from She Who:

Dewar

* Title courtesy of Graham Sleight.

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Eighth Annual Birthday Dinner

I have been busy as of late due to a new full-time job, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. The cooking has continued, I just haven’t had the time to write about it. When I realized a month had gone by without my posting about the annual birthday dinner for She Who Must Be Obeyed I figured it was time to get back to a semi-regular posting schedule.

This year’s menu wasn’t completely new, but rather an assemblage of dishes I had tried out earlier along with one or two experiments. If some of these seem familiar to regular readers, it’s because they are.

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

A trio of meat from the Cabinet of Doctor Charcuterie: duck prosciutto, lonza, and finocchiona, served with whole grain mustard, olives, pickled garlic scapes, and olive biscuits.

Tuna, Hibiscus, Soy

Tuna, Hibiscus, Soy

This is the same first course I served a month previously, repeated at the request of She Who. Single bites of English cucumber and tuna belly were topped with a hibiscus/ginger/lime sphere, soy pudding (solidified soy), radish, and daikon sprout. Accompanied by a Rihaku Niguri “Dreamy Clouds” Tokubetsu Junmai sake.

Potato, Caviar

Créme fraiche, chive

Potato, caviar

Whipped créme fraiche with lime, roasted potato ice cream, caviar, potato chip, and chive batons. This recipe from Eleven Madison Park (EMP) exactly mimics the flavors of a traditional caviar service. Served with a Billecart-Salmon brut reserve.

Asparagus

Egg, miso butter

Asparagus

Asparagus served over shiro miso butter, topped with a slow-poached egg and brioche croutons. Served with a 2004 Jakob Jung Riesling trocken.

 Chicken

Peas, bacon emulsion

Chicken

Similar to the duck roulade I’ve served before, this was chicken breast wrapped in swiss chard and cooked sous vide. The bacon emulsion is bacon fat, veal stock, sherry vinegar, and a bit of xanthan gum to prevent it from splitting. The peas – a preparation I had tried at Hungry Mother just a week previously – are pea puree topped with sautéed peas, shallots, and pea shoots.

Cheese

Cheese

A trio of local cheeses (left to right): Nettle Meadow Kunik (mold-ripened goat’s milk), Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue (sheep’s milk Roquefort), and Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain (raw cow’s milk). Accompanied by brioche toast and cranberry chutney.

Chocolate, Milk

Dulce de leche, sorbet

Chocolate, Milk

Another EMP recipe, this dessert showcases different preparations of chocolate (dehydrated chocolate mousse, frozen chocolate foam, aerated chocolate, caramelized white chocolate sorbet) and milk (dehydrated milk foam, browned milk solids, dulce de leche, créme fraiche, frozen whipped cream). Served with a Graham 20 year port.

Despite its apparent complexity, this menu was the least stressful dinner I’ve cooked in a while. With the exception of the peas, which had to be cooked a la minute, all of the components were prepared ahead of time. I still had to plate each course, but I spent significantly less time in the kitchen during the actual dinner. Not every meal will work out that way, but I will be considering a balance of do-ahead and immediate when I plan future menus.

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You’re Fired!

I knew something odd had happened when more than a few friends asked me if I had consulted with Penn Jillette on his new ice cream flavor. I know a bit about ice cream, and I’ve known Penn for decades, but this particular intersection on the Venn diagram was completely unexpected. When I realized that it had something to do with All Star Celebrity Apprentice it began to make sense.

I have never watched the show. I refused to legitimize Donald Trump’s birther/racist/lunatic ravings by watching him pontificate about being the consummate businessman, where “consummate” means “so heavily leveraged that they keep giving me money so I don’t collapse.” Penn, on the other hand, had the best of motives for appearing on the show: He was raising money for his favorite charity, Opportunity Village, and also drumming up more ticket sales for Penn & Teller at the Rio casino.

So what does ice cream have to do with “venal people clawing at stupid, soulless shit in front of the modern-day Scrooge McDuck”? The final two contestants, Penn and country singer Trace Adkins (I had to look that up), had to create and market an original ice cream flavor for the Walgreens Good & Delish product line. Whoever sold the most ice cream would win the challenge. That was something I could get behind – buying ice cream to support a charity and help a friend win.

She Who Must Be Obeyed and I located the nearest Walgreens (there are only two in our city) and proceeded to buy out their entire stock of Penn’s flavor. In order to make a fair comparison, we also bought a pint of Adkins’ flavor. Penn created Magic Swirtle, a sweet cream base with a salted chocolate swirl and miniature caramel-filled chocolate turtles. (“Swirtle” – swirl + turtle –  was coined by teammate LaToya Jackson, making her one lasting contribution to American culture.)

Magic Swirtle

It’s a nicely balanced scoop with no one flavor overpowering another. The label says the base is vanilla, but it’s faint enough that it tastes more like a sweet cream. There are plenty of turtle bits included, and you can see the detail on the shell and feet. I’m not at all concerned that we have eight more pints of the stuff; it’s been very popular at Chez Belm.

Maple Macadamia Mashup

I wish I could say the same about Adkins’ Maple Macadamia Mashup, maple ice cream with dry roasted macadamia nuts. (The name was suggested by Gary Busey, the living reminder of the need for helmet laws.)

Maple Macadamia Mashup

The ice cream doesn’t just look monochromatic, it tastes that way as well. While I give Adkins credit for using real maple syrup, it has a burnt aftertaste. Dry roasting the macadamias gives them more bite, but they still lack the snap of walnuts that are traditionally paired with maple. Consumers, at least here in New England, agree: There are still pints of this left in the Walgreens freezers.

Did Penn win? No, he did not. He had to sit across from and act respectful to a man with hair described as looking “like cotton candy made of piss.” Trump tipped his hand when he mentioned that Penn had said “some bad things” about him (some quoted above), which revealed him to be as petty and vindictive as expected. Opportunity Village received the most money, but Adkins got the win. Penn emerged with his dignity intact and a bump in ticket sales. We all got to eat some decent ice cream. So who’s the real winner?

Trying to explain to Donal Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money is like trying to explain to Donal Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money.

– Penn Jilette, Every Day is an Atheist Holiday

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Foodie Friends Friday

There’s nothing like a dinner party to force me to dust off the cobwebs and start cooking creatively. We had attended a wonderful gathering in January – probably the best non-restaurant dinner we had enjoyed in years – so I felt it was time to reciprocate. And the bar had been raised. So here’s what I served to She Who Must Be Obeyed and six guests last Friday:

Charcuterie

Charcuterie

Finocchionalonza, duck prosciutto, pâté, membrillo, pickled scapes, olives, whole grain mustard.

Tuna with Hibiscus Tea and Soy Pudding

Tuna w/Hibiscus & Soy Pudding

These were single bites of English cucumber and tuna belly topped with a hibiscus/ginger/lime sphere, soy pudding (solidified soy), radish, and daikon sprout. (Recipe thanks to Tony Cascino)

Niku-Uni

Niku-Uni

A shameless lift from Takashi in New York. Shiso leaf, toasted nori, beef tenderloin with a smear of soy pudding, and fresh uni courtesy of Journeyman (who also supplied the pâté). These first two courses were served with Tokubetsu Junmai Nigori “Dreamy Clouds” sake.

 Panache of Vegetables

Panache of VegetablesClockwise from 12 o’clock position: basil gelatin, sweet corn mousse, beet foam, tomato purée, cauliflower mousse, peach granita, sliced avocado topped with almond sorbet. This is a Ferran Adriá recipe published in an obscure cookbook, a test of my ability to blend, strain, and gelatinize disparate vegetables, and a display of my awful quenelle forming skills. Served with prosecco.

Duck Breast Roulade with Corn and Morels

Duck Breast RouladeDuck breast glued into a cylinder with transglutaminase, wrapped in savoy cabbage, and cooked sous vide to medium rare, served over reduced duck stock and creamed sweet corn, topped with fresh morel mushrooms. Accompanied by a Ravenswood 2007 Big River Zinfandel.

Orange and Beet Jellies

Orang & Beet JelliesI’ve made this before, but not for this group.

Foie Gras, Strawberry, Balsamic, Pepper

Foie Gras, Strawberry, Balsamic, PepperFoie gras ice cream sandwiches made with fresh ginger snaps, strawberry, pepper, and a dot of balsamic glaze. Served with Eden ice cider.

Chocolate, Raspberry, Vanilla, Scotch

Chocolate, Raspberry, Vanilla, ScotchFlourless chocolate cake, gianduja bark, chocolate crumb, vanilla/single malt scotch ice cream, and raspberry sauce. Served with Graham’s 20 year old tawny port.

The entire group agreed that we should continue the dinners by hosting at our respective homes. I hope this doesn’t escalate into a food war. Who am I kidding? I hope this does escalate into a food war.

Postscript

I received this email the next day:

one of my social media followers saw the photos I was posting of the meal last night and guessed we were eating at Journeyman. 🙂 “No, no, about a block and a half from there…”

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