I haven’t tackled a big recipe in a while, so it was time to consult The Work and give it a shot. I was having guests over and thought the Hungarian Beef Goulash from Volume Five would do the trick. And as usual, it was a lot of work and all sorts of unseen problems presented themselves. From procuring ingredients to equipment breakdowns, timing issues and even a poorly focused camera (as you’ll see – sorry about that), this one barely made it through. But made it through it did.
I’m reading (and cooking) through that massive tome that is Modernist Cuisine, and am currently at Book Two: Techniques And Equipment, Chapter Eight: Cooking In Modern Ovens, Section One: Cooking With Moist Air. It is here they put their first sentence that is entirely in italics: “Humidity governs the temperature at which food actually cooks“. This is an important point, and helps understand why things are cooking the way they are, down to your particular oven and location. This is covered in Book One on the physics of heat and water. The basic takeaway is that transferring heat from air into food is more even and efficient when water vapor is condensing onto cooler food. For example, onto a roast chicken. Let’s observe.
Last week, Next Restaurant released its first in what I assume will be an endless series of digital cookbooks featuring the recipes of all the courses of each incarnation of the restaurant. They are currently in the midst of their third iteration of the menu, called ‘Childhood’. Prior to that was a ‘Tour of Thailand’. And before that, the opening salvo to their concept, ‘Paris, 1906’.
Why Paris in 1906? Kinda random, right? No, not for these guys. As they state in the opening of their iCookbook:
Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier opened the Ritz Hotel in 1906. A new upper class thrived; visiting the Ritz, along with restaurants such as Maxim’s, became something more than just dinner. Part fashion show and part social scene, the restaurant was now the entertainment.
Paris, 1906 — Escoffier at the Ritz was an easy choice as our opening menu at Next.
Ah, Escoffier. As Heston Blumenthal said, “We eat how we eat because of Auguste”. They decided to go boldly into the future by acknowledging the past. I, too, have a fondness for what I jokingly refer to as Industrialist Cuisine. And there is one dish on their menu in particular that exemplifies the restaurant as entertainment theme circa 1906: Caneton Rouennais à la Presse. Why? Because they used a big old brass contraption to press an entire duck to get at its juices. Entertainment, indeed.
Chioggia Beet – gel and pickled
Parsnip – centers sous vide and fried strands
Cocoa Nib – cooked in sherry vinegar
Russian Blue Potato – steamed
Swiss Chard – pickled
Rutabaga – powdered
Rosemary – fried in potato starch
Turkey Consomme (poured over once presented)
The title of this dish is misleading. I mean, how easy is it to steam broccoli in a combi oven? Set the settings, put it in, wait a few minutes. No, that would not be satisfactory in the least. We’re trying to do something different here. And certainly, so are the authors of Modernist Cuisine. Turns out it is better to call it Broccoli Three Ways. Or The Broccoli Trinity. Power Broc Triple Threat, perhaps. With our humble plant from the cabbage family, we are going to not just steam it, but fry it and pickle it as well. And throw some cured fatback on top for good measure. OK, now we’re talking.