A few weeks back my brother and his wife came to town to visit and invited my girlfriend and me over to make some apple cider. Well, they didn’t invite us in particular;it was my brother’s wife’s brother’s girlfriend who invited us. Got that? Anyway, we boarded a ferry over to the San Juan Islands to her parent’s place to take part in their Autumn family tradition.
Last month I began to cook my way through the upcoming Modernist Cuisine cookbook by using their PDF excerpt they made available for download. Out of the three recipe examples given, only two have enough information to make them in their entirety. First I created their recipe for instant hollandaise. Next up: their selection of recipes for smooth purees. Out of the five fruits and vegetables listed, three are prepared sous vide. I decided to do those first, because any chance to use my vacuum sealer makes it worthwhile for it to take up a huge chunk of my counter space. The saute recipes will be covered in Part II.
The recipe for pureed fruits and vegetables is an example of what they call a parametric recipe. This type of recipe gives a basic concept with several variations in an at-a-glance format. This way you can understand the basic concept and run with it. As they say in the excerpt:
We feel the parametric recipe is a strong concept for an instructional cookbook. Such a recipe does more than merely suggest methods for making one dish the same way again and again— it reveals the pattern and reasoning behind the chosen ingredients and methods, and thus makes it clearer how to apply those lessons in other circumstances. The parametric recipe thus takes the master recipe to a more detailed level, and serves as a launching point that allows you to change ingredients and quantities in a number of ways to produce dozens of variations.
That’s right up my alley – taking these new techniques and understanding the fundamental idea behind them, so they can be applied to whatever I’m cooking. I love this book already, and it’s only a PDF file.
Well, wouldn’t you know it. Artichokes are out of season around here at the moment (the peak season is August through October). But we have a variety of different grocers; there must be someone who has some. Sure enough, Whole Foods had some packaged baby artichokes available. Is one package enough? I eyeballed it and thought it looked OK to me.
The process was simple enough: get the hearts out and thinly slice them, vacuum seal them with vegetable stock and olive oil, and drop them in a sous vide bath. The scaling directions are so great. You set the veggie to 100%, and add the other ingredients in the correct proportion, no matter how big or small the quantity. In my case, these baby artichokes didn’t give up much in the way of meat, but I dutifully went ahead and prepared them.
After sitting in the water bath for 45 minutes, I put them in the blender, and promptly had my first puree fail.
Turns out that you really need more than a few baby artichokes to create the volume necessary for the blender to blend well. I’m just a guy cooking at home and this recipe is aimed at culinary professionals who need to crank out 400 covers a night. The recipe just doesn’t account for single servings. Fair enough. I’ll have to wait until they’re back in season and try it again. It was a decent enough spread and I ate it within a few bites.
Undaunted, I moved ahead to the next one on the list (and conveniently needing the same temperature water bath). Once again, the first part of the directions was simple enough: peel and thinly slice some beets.
The next ingredient was interesting: cooked beet juice. Why cooked beet juice? As the book isn’t published yet, I don’t know. Well, OK then. I juiced a beet and cooked the juice. All this fuschia foam developed and floated on the juice. Should I discard it? Probably. So I skimmed the top, added the juice to the beets with butter (all carefully measured with a digital scale of course) and sealed it up.
After an hour in the sous vide bath, I pulled it out and put it in the blender, where unlike the artichokes, it did its magic well.
I had my first puree of sous vide beets. It definitely had that earthy beet flavor, and an intense bright color , but the texture was a bit…oh, grainy? Maybe sandy is a better word. Somehow I was expecting a texture like pudding – perfectly smooth. Is this the correct texture? Perhaps when the recipe calls for a commercial blender, they mean a Vitamix or Blendtec mixer. Most likely it’s meant as a base for something else, and not meant to be eaten alone. I don’t know for certain, but certainly, it isn’t bad at all – just not what I was expecting. As a matter of fact, I see a borscht in my near future.
So the final recipe that called for sous vide was the apples. These required no other ingredients. Just slow cooked apples. I like the simplicity. I chose a mix of Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples. Peeled and quartered, I sealed them up and put them in.
After they were done I blended them together and…wow. Sous vide apple sauce. So smooth, so creamy. Just ridiculously good.
It’s funny how the texture improved with each progressive recipe. I felt like Goldilocks – “Ahhh, this porridge is just right!” And now, because of the parametric recipe, I know how to apply it to other fruit and vegetables like pears and carrots as well. I am loving this cookbook that isn’t published yet. Awesome.