I threw a big dinner party last weekend. Well, six people total (including our culinary teammate Scott), but seven courses. I totally brought it. But then I was brought down: three of the courses totally sucked. The pea consommé? At the last moment I overdid it with the cinnamon oil – it tasted like a bad scented candle. The Thai beef curry broth was watery and the beef over-tender. The sous vide vegetables were mushy and lifeless. Man, was I embarrassed. But one of the courses did come through: my deep fried chicken feet. Good thing, too – they took the longest to prepare. I don’t know if I was redeemed, but at least I wasn’t damned. In the end, fowl became friend.
I was invited to an Easter brunch yesterday and thought I should bring something along, as is custom. Although a bottle of champagne for mimosas would have been good enough, I wanted to bring a dish as well. Of course, there is Easter ham, but I wanted to do something different. As luck would have it, the crew at Modernist Cuisine put up a riff on traditional Chinese tea eggs to create a special Easter dish. Perfect! I went to the store and went at it in the kitchen.
What do you need to do this? Use vodka or better yet, everclear. Depending on what you choose you can simply weigh it all out, can it cold, and place in the refrigerator for a few days then strain and you got yourself a nice bit of extract for sauces, marinating, baking, or whatever. Some lend themselves better to going sous vide for about three to four hours. So get to work, there are tons of crazy extracts for you to make!
Flavors I made today:
Saffron, Orange Zest, Candied Ginger (slice ginger thin, make some simple syrup and as it’s cooling down throw in the ginger then place in refrigerator for a day, take out ginger, dehydrate for 5 hours then toss in sugar with a little malic acid), Cocoa Nib, Adobo, Chili Flake, Coffee, and Licorice Root.
The possibilities are endless!
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)
I’m beginning to think that the authors of Modernist Cuisine are evil. No, I’m not talking about the whole patent troll brouhaha. I’m talking about the recipes. Surely they are out to kill me. Why would I say such a thing, you might ask? Well, let me ask you: have you ever made their corn bread? No? And how about their bacon jam? I see. Let me try to explain.
TGIF. Thank God It’s Friday. A long week, and now the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend. So, what to do. Camping? Happy hour? For Eric and Jethro, how about some cooking? Scott sadly had another engagement to attend.
There’s no specific agendas to our meet ups anymore. Sometimes we watch food documentaries or go to restaurants. This time, we just wanted to cook something and eat the thing. We bandied about some ideas via text and started thinking about salmon wrapped in pork skin and deep fried. The conversation continued:
“Modernist Cuisine” is not for most home cooks.
– Michael Ruhlman
“[Modernist Cuisine] looks cool and would be fun to flip through,” he said. “But I don’t need to spend six hundred dollars on a cookbook — I already know how to cook.” This led to my next question — in his opinion, were these techniques even appropriate for the home cook? “Sous vide is great for cooking vegetables and meat,” he replied. “But home-cooked meals are home-cooked for a reason. They’re meant for the home.”
– Domestic Divas
The truth is that this stuff is for the pros.
– New Yorker
Man, do these people bore me. How uninspired. How defeatist. How sad, pathetic, and totally lame.
0 To 60 in 90 Days
I started to cook in December 2009 – about 18 months ago. I had no knife skills, didn’t know anything about Anthony Bourdain or Iron Chef, much less Mugaritz. My refrigerator was empty save for old condiments. I didn’t even notice the front right burner on my stove was larger than the others because I had never used it.
But once I started, I got way into it. Within weeks, I had discovered avant-garde food. By February 2010, I had ordered my first ‘molecular gastronomy’ kit and contacted Scott and Eric to form Jet City Gastrophysics. By March, I spherified my first liquids. By August, I made the red cabbage gazpacho from The Fat Duck. And in October, just 10 months later, I began cooking from Modernist Cuisine, which wasn’t to be published for another five months. I used their PDF excerpt.