I was talking with chef about a month ago about tapioca maltodextrin and how cool it was. Take something with a fat content and mix it together and you can create powders! Even something without a fat content can be transformed, it’s amazing! I was selling the idea to him like it was a late night infomercial and he said, “alright, show me”.
So the next day I brought in my tub of maltodextrin into work and proceeded to spin some clarified butter with it and I had him taste it. He grinned and told me, “alright, are you sure you can do this with the chorizo”. I said, “yes, of course”.
I gave him a list of things I needed and when I asked for chorizo I wanted three pounds and he gave me five and said he didn’t want to run out. The event we were planning for was the Seattle Food and Wine Experience. I covered it last year as “media” and this year I would be at the event working behind the scenes (awesome!)….and not only would I be working the event I would also bring Mindy along to help out and unleash my chorizo powder creation on the world!
First run: I sliced the chorizo really thin, about 1/16 of an inch then placed it in the ovens at work but the problem was that the ovens at work can’t be set to the setting I needed them to be….200F minimum. I knew this would be a problem because I would be cooking the hell out of the chorizo. I did it anyway and told chef that I would be able to control the chorizo at a lower temperature with my dehydrator. He wasn’t very happy with the first run but he let me do it anyway after I convinced him I would get it to work.
So why cook it?!!!?!? Well, this idea is pretty much what I like to call Modernist Bacon Bits. Bacon bits are pretty cool but they are so 1990…..we need an update! The thing I like about bacon bits is they are crunchy…..I needed a way to make the chorizo crunchy but without losing a lot of color so off to the meat slicer and off to the dehydrator.
8 hours in the dehydrator and at a certain temperature these little pieces will keep their color and become crunchy! The only problem I had was that I had a four tray dehydrator and I could only fit about 1/4# of chorizo at a time so I spent a few days cycling the chorizo through (ugh…). After the chorizo comes out of the dehydrator it goes to the refrigerator to cool down.
The next step was to send it through the food processor and create bits. I had to do these in batches too and I had to make sure the bits going in were cold. After they came out I started doing small batches again of chorizo bits with maltodextrin. I tasted it and it needed a bump in flavor so I took left over pieces chorizo and rendered them in clarified butter then processed that with the maltodextrin then combined the bits and the clarified butter mixture.
After combining I laid everything out on two sheet pans and refrigerated them for a few more hours then sent them through a tamis to create a smaller powder.
Pack it up and get it ready to take to work now.
When I went into work then I transferred the powder into shakers so that way we could finish off the plates we would be serving up for about 1100-1500 people at the Seattle Food and Wine Experience. No pressure! Chef tried the powder as I was placing it in the shakers and he grinned again and said, “You know, I was a little worried about the outcome but you nailed it”.
So off to the show!
POWDERED CHORIZO!!!! IT’S ON THERE!!!! HOW COOL!!! The fun thing about this dish is that it was pretty elaborate. Two sauces: Piquillo pepper puree and an aji amarillo sauce, rye bread crisp, pickled shallots (says red onion on the card but chef opted for shallots…they’re better for this application), crispy chick peas tossed in a fennel seasoning, fried parsley, and in-house hot smoked Neah Bay black cod. There are days of work into this and the person that walks by and just grabs the dish will just eat it in two seconds and walk to the next booth…..that’s how it works! However, we had people stopping in their tracks and asking about everything on the plate. The sauce, the chickpeas, the cod, the powder, everything! It was a success!
Do that 1100-1500 times…every time!
The best part is that Mindy came along for the day to help out so it was nice to really show her the madness of what I do. She had a great time! She’s also a natural at plating so that helped out tremendously!
(Mindy and Chef Kevin)
During the event chef told me that he wanted to do more stuff like this in the restaurant so I have a green light to bring my crazy ideas into the restaurant now and we’re now brainstorming the Voracious Tasting in April which will be the same kind of atmosphere but more restaurants will be featured. We’ve tossed a few ideas around and in the next week I have to put these ideas in front of him so we can start a first run and do it all again.
I finally had a chance to use my pressure cooker that I bought about a year ago. I purchased it for two reasons: #1 In Heston Blumenthal’s “In Search of Perfection” he suggests using a pressure cooker more often……SOLD! #2 I wanted to do a bunch of canning (never got around to it).
I purchased two 3.5# pieces of pork belly that I brined (one in Chinese 5 spice and the other in a smoked paprika/chili oil blend) then braised, then pressed. The process when it comes to preparing pork belly is time consuming but with a few different pieces of equipment I was able to do this in record time….for me anyway.
The brining process took me the same amount of time….about 4 hours. Luckily, Jethro has a vacuum chamber sealer so next time I’ll go that route and save even more time! The cooking time of the pork belly is what really changed things. Normally, a 3.5# piece of pork belly would take about an hour to an hour and a half to braise properly in the oven. I knocked one out in 20 minutes then the other piece in 18 minutes. The pressing and cooling process took another 45 minutes.
The next time around is what I’m excited about. Essentially, I could have a piece of pork belly brined, cooked off, and ready for pressing in under an hour. Time is everything in a kitchen and space is a concern at home.
The great thing is that I was able to dehydrate tapenade ingredients in my oven overnight then cook the pork belly in the pressure cooker. Once all of the tapenade ingredients were ready I placed them in my spice grinder then emulsified them with extra virgin olive oil then slowly worked in tapioca maltodextrin to create that pavement effect you see in the picture above.
After I made the two pork bellies I made a beef stock in the pressure cooker. Traditional French style beef stock with all the bells and whistles in 45 minutes instead of 8-12 hours. The only problem I had was that the stock was cloudy but I cleaned it up by cooking some egg whites in the stock which cleaned it right up. I talked to Jeth and Scott about this and Jeth suggested after I make the stock to use the centrifuge so I will have a super concentrated stock…..genius.
The picture above is the 5 spice pork belly, tapenade “pavement”, and flower. With a few more adjustments and tinkering I think this will turn out to be a world class dish.
15 p.s.i. ’til I die!
A book from the father of molecular gastronomy.
I’ve been kicking around this whole “molecular gastronomy” thing for quite some time. When I first heard about it I was reading about at all the cool presentations, shapes, and textures that were being displayed by chefs at numerous restaurants around the world. I thought, “I want to cook like that one day…..I want to create art through food”. I didn’t realize what these chefs were actually doing. I just thought it was for presentation purposes only. I saw a video on youtube that showed Jose Andres hanging out with Ferran Adria and Chef Adria was explaining his spherification of olive puree, I was amazed.
A few months later I saw Mario Batali and Anthony Bourdain talk in Seattle. Mario Batali called molecular gastronomy fake, I was confused. I respect all these chefs and what they do. I’m so far down the totem pole in this chef world that I’m a random bush that is hanging out across the field from the chef totem pole. What to do?
Looking back at the whole thing I realize one thing. Mario Batali wasn’t talking about molecular gastronomy at all. He was talking about the chefs that turned “molecular gastronomy” into elaborate presentations, shapes, and textures. He had no issue with Ferran Adria but he had a problem with the guys trying to be like Ferran Adria without understanding the science behind what Chef Adria was doing.
Heston Blumenthal set me straight when he had Harold McGee on his show, “Kitchen Chemistry”. Harold McGee wrote a book called:
(I have more information on the book coming shortly….not finished yet)
and Heston Blumenthal said that this book changed cooking for him. It was written in 1984, I have the revised version that was written in 2004. This book answered the why’s, how’s, and debunked all those things you have probably heard growing up, “sear the meat it traps in the juices”……these book say, “no, that’s not true”……the books are correct, you are not (I believed the same thing, I suck…haha). Chef Blumenthal listened, learned, and innovated so did Ferran Adria….look where they’re at now.
I did my research, bought my books, and started to read them (I have a lot more on the way). I began reading Harold McGee’s book and then I started doing more research about how the term “molecular gastronomy” came to be. It was an easy way for Herve This and his science partner to market this science of cooking easily. What you have probably heard from the mainstream is that molecular gastronomy is the crazy presentations, shapes, and textures of food. The mainstream doesn’t get it…..it’s like Elvis when he first came out. The teenager’s loved him and parents immediately thought he was the devil. We often shun the things we do not understand or feel uncomfortable with.
My ignorance lead me to this world of molecular gastronomy………OH PRETTY COLORS!!!! My curiosity has lead me to understand and respect it. Herve This’s book, “Building a Meal from Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism” has broken down all of these things into plain English for me. Call it stupid, call it ridiculous, call it what you want. There is a science behind cooking. The days of me looking at something and saying, ‘it’s done”, are over. The days of believing someone simply because they have been doing it that way forever are over…..if they can’t tell me WHY then I will question them…..woo hooo I’m 4 years old all over again!
Herve This labeled it molecular gastronomy to make it easy to understand and market but he has also debunked over 25,000 culinary beliefs since he has started his research. This book shows how to boil an egg to perfection, you might say, “well you just boil it for 10 minutes with a soft boil/hard boil/or whatever technique I’ve been using for years”. Do you want to perfect this process? I do, so I listen. Chefs have listened to the words of Herve This and they have become extremely successful in the culinary world, I want the same.
Full speed ahead, let’s build a meal “molecularly”!
BUY THIS BOOK…………..now!
A little over a year ago I did a post on knives after Bob Tate came to my culinary school to do a talk (here is the original post…click). My friend, Jethro (click), knows Bob Tate and offered to get our little group of gastronauts together to go see the art of knife sharpening up close and personal.
I still use Bob’s tips to this day and it was really amazing to be invited into his home where he does the knife sharpening and has honed his own skills. He trained under Bob Kramer who has his own signature series for Shun so it was honor just to be around Mr. Tate to at least get a glimpse into the mastery that is knife sharpening.
We each brought a knife for Bob to sharpen for us…… Seriously Jethro…..a pink knife?!?!?! Uh….. Anyway, Scott brought his shiny Shun knife (middle) and I brought my money maker Mercer knife (right) for a little honing and sharpening action.
Bob showed us a few new projects he was up to and how he can create serrated knives and even sharpen them. It was amazing to watch him take a $2 knife and turn it into something usable and extremely sharp…..Eric “likes” the degree of sharpness.
I have a really weird attachment to my knife. It’s not expensive or special but it’s been along for the ride while I’ve moved through and cut thousands of things with it. When I first started using it I had no idea what I was doing…..it was too big……it was heavy…..it wasn’t my 7 inch santoku that I was used to using. I stuck with it and now I treat it like a really great friend of mine. I sharpen it myself because I don’t trust anyone else to even touch it but when I was in the home of Bob Tate I let him have it……I guess it’s kind of like dropping your kid off at a baby sitter…..weird stuff.
Bob sharpened up the pink knife and while I saw him doing it I noticed how he moved the knife over the belt gently. He asked me not to film his finishing process and not really talk about it since it was something he had learned from Bob Kramer and it really is the difference from him doing something amazing or just entrusting your knife to that random clerk at that one store with the French name downtown.
He finishes and tests every knife by doing the newspaper test.
That folks, is the sharpest pink knife in the world!!!! He finished Scott’s knife and my knife and it was like picking up your dog from the groomer….looks new….smells nice (what?)……knife is all excited to cut stuff……
Look at that shiny new edge.
No matter where I go, where I cook, or what knife I buy, Bob Tate is my knife sharpening guy.
A friend of mine told me about Pure Cote B-790 and the work that Alinea was doing with it. I looked at this link (click) and my mind started racing with ideas of the things I could do with this.
I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner and I made a cranberry puree and had the skins and the other spice residues (tonka bean, black pepper, other things) left-over from the puree that I decided to dehydrate in order to work it into the pure cote b-790.
After I dehydrated it completely then I turned the cranberry into a powder then mixed. I weighed everything then tried an 11% use per weight ratio of pure cote. I heated the isomalt, glucose, cranberry, and pure cote to 160F then poured it over the silpat, let it dry overnight and then checked it out the next morning.
Success! There are a couple things I want to do to clean it up a little bit (strain mixture before pouring, use acetate to make thinner sheets, etc…) and maybe increase the rigidity of the final product but that can be addressed with the Ultra-Tex as recommended in the link or maybe I’ll shoot for something else when I get some time.
The goal is to create very thin sheets of this so I can make something that resembles stained glass. I also have an idea for a sheet of ice and see through ravioli (as seen in the link but with a different filling).
We’ll see what happens!