Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Modernist Cuisine | Tomato Spheres with Basil Oil

For my first shot at spherification, I thought I'd try the summery take on familiar Insalata Caprese with Tomato Water with Basil Oil served in mozzarella cups. I originally wanted to try to make balsamic caviar, but decided that would be too ambitious for a first attempt.
No centrifuge at my house. Luckily found a pointer to McMaster-Carr 100 micron filter bags somewhere in the egullet forums a few weeks ago. The output is not clear as in the centrifuged version, but at least I get to try it.

Tomato water made from my BIL's homegrown tomatoes

Basil Oil

The day before  I used Algin and Calcic from the
for the tomato water and bath, and made the basil oil. I planned to use a 2 1/4 tsp. yeast measuring spoon for the spheres (wanted a bit smaller bite than 1 tablespoon), and molded Ciliegine mozzarella cut in half and softened in hot water on the back of it to hold the spheres for service.
Mise   Tomato water, measuring spoon, small syringe for trial with 18g needle containing basil oil, Calcic bath is out of photo to left, and water rinses to right. Slotted spoon is in my hand as I forgot to put it down to take the photo.
I made 4 miserable looking blobs – none decent enough to even try to inject the basil oil -  then quietly gave up and quickly put everything away in the refrigerator. Time to step back and relax. Company expected soon for the 4th, don’t push it.

On vacation this week, quiet day at home, time to try again.
Not very spherical but the basil inclusion is fairly nice and round.

IMG_1000000171Much better, though the basil oil is wonky. I almost like it better this way, doesn't look so much like an eyeball.
I'll practice a bit more when my husband gets home this evening so he can try one.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Modernist Cuisine Mac & Cheese | Make Your Own “Top Shelf” Processed Cheese Block

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I’ve been waiting like a 6 year old for Christmas for my copy of Modernist Cuisine. Thanks to the wonderful Chris Amirault on eGullet, I was able to make the Modernist Cuisine Mac & Cheese while waiting for my copy of the opus (which I’ve finally received the shipping email notification on). The underlying theme of this recipe is to create your own processed cheese that will be “break proof” (you can even boil it and it won’t separate into globs of cheese and fat) but made from high quality cheese rather than unripe scraps, etc. Imagine having a homemade processed block of cheese in your freezer that will melt and be as stable as Velveeta, but made with a fine aged Cheddar and Gouda. You need to have a couple of “chemicals” on hand; but they are ingredients that have been used in certain areas of the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It’s just recently that we have them available in a shelf stable, convenient form. When I did a medical school rotation in Scotland (many years ago), the wonderful 80 year old woman that befriended me made me a traditional island pudding that had been made for centuries from carrageenan in seaweed that she harvested, dried, and processed herself. So, you can’t get away with saying this is made with mad scientist chemicals – it’s actually old school, many Americans just aren’t familiar with the wonderful properties of these ingredients. As Chris Hennes on eGullet so eruditely put it:
“No, this isn't some kind of play on words, or a joke-recipe, or some kind of fascinating modernist creation. It's just macaroni and cheese. This recipe is a clear demonstration that while you can use modernist ingredients to create some really crazy stuff, you can also apply them to simply take a classic dish and make it better. And believe me when I say it: this version of mac and cheese is so vastly, clearly superior to anything I've ever had it is mind boggling.
There are two keys to the dish, both related to problems with the original: the first is that when you make a cheese sauce with a béchamel base, you have to use a LOT of béchamel, and there is a limit to how much cheese you can add before it breaks. This winds up diluting the cheese flavor, and is part of the reason I would never consider making a traditional mac and cheese with a really great cheese: its subtlety would simply be lost, and you'd gain nothing over using a simpler cheese. The second key is that not only does béchamel dilute the cheese flavor purely by volume, it also has poor "flavor release" compared to, say, carrageenan: the book spends a great deal of time talking about this sort of thing, and it's very helpful for understanding why these techniques work as well as they do.
So, the modernist version of the dish does away with the béchamel base: instead, you make a small amount of a solution of beer, water,
sodium citrate (to emulsify the cheese) and carrageenan (the thicken the sauce). You then melt a huge quantity of excellent cheese into it (I used Cabot clothbound cheddar and Roomano Pradera Gouda), in effect making your own processed cheese block. You chill it down until you literally have a block of processed cheese more or less the consistency of Velveeta, and then you shred it. The pasta is cooked in just enough water for it to absorb, and then the shredded cheese product is stirred in. You wind up with a mac and cheese the same texture as if you had used Velveeta: perfectly, flawlessly smooth. Except it tastes incredibly intensely like the best cheeses in the world! Perhaps you have gathered here that I rather liked the stuff. If this is "Modernist" then consider me modernified.”
When I read this, I was hooked! Unfortunately, when I was shopping for the cheese for this recipe, Whole Foods was having a bad cheese day; my result was good, but not transcendent. The Cabot clothbound Cheddar isn’t available until Friday, and I need to search for a good, aged Gouda. Anyway, the results were still phenomenal.

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I found the Sodium Citrate and Iota Carrageenan on Amazon.com. I already had a precision scale for my natural perfume work.

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Uniodized, please.

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These are decent, but could be improved on.

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About 140 g each cheese.

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Wheat beer plus (not shown) 100g water.

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Melted like a dream.

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Looks just like Velveeta, but smells divine.

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Wrapped up to freeze to aid in grating.

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For two servings; cooked for 7 min. in 300 g water and 2.4 g salt. With this “low water” pasta method, you don’t drain the pasta, but the small amount of pasta water left in the pot when the pasta is al dente is used to make the sauce.

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Roughly 1/2 the block of processed cheese grated. Even though I pretreated my box grater with Pam (perish the thought), I still made a streaky mess. I think next time (as I read on the forum topic), I’ll just cube the cheese. I like a cheese wire for soft cheese such as this, and I think it will work well. The processed cheese melts so beautifully, you could almost throw a huge chunk in there and have it turn out well.

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I served this with the wheat beer used to make the sauce in a frosted mug. Once your processed cheese in made, this mac & cheese is nearly as convenient as the blue box. By the time you boil the water and cook your pasta (maybe 10 min. total depending on your cooktop); you can have your cheese grated or cubed, and your plates warmed. I’ve lain awake at night thinking of all the ways to use this “break proof” processed cheese: nearly instant cheese sauce for vegetables, fool-proof fondue, bow-down-and-worship-me Rotel cheese dip! (When I was growing up, my mother always cooked from scratch. I’ve never tasted boxed mac & cheese, Hamburger Helper, etc. I never thought Velveeta would cross my lips until an old grade school friend from Louisiana made me try Velveeta-Rotel dip on a visit during my college days) I can’t wait to bring this to a party and see the stunned reaction.
Whole Foods is supposed to carry Cabot clothbound cheddar on Friday, I imagine I’ll be there the minute they open. I may even add a soupçon of dry mustard and cayenne to my next batch. I have a premonition that my signature processed cheese will be a staple in my freezer for the rest of my days.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bacon Jam and Sous Vide Egg Yolk Sandwich

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I love egg yolks on toast, but find rubbery egg whites a crime against nature. I used to make Eggs Mollet in my Chef’s Choice egg cooker and carefully (and frequently unsuccessfully)  try peel off the whites for a spreadable egg yolk “curd” for my bacon and egg sandwich.


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Since I bought my Sous Vide Supreme, I have learned to cook eggs at 64C for 1 hour to produce eggs that can be denuded of the (nasty, jiggly) white; leaving a yolk that is the consistency of lemon curd that can be spread on a slice of toast to make the perfect bacon and egg yolk sandwich.  I usually make this with strips of my home-cured bacon, but I was very pleased with the bacon jam version.


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I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how wonderful this was with fresh ground pepper, Maldon sea salt and Lurpak butter on white toast.

Oooh-Mommy :) Bacon Jam thanks to Foodie with Family

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Through many convoluted steps, I found this recipe for Bacon Jam on Foodie with Family’s site (via Ruhlman.com, The Perfect Pantry.com…)
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The recipe started with 3 pounds of bacon; as my husband says “any recipe that starts with a pound of bacon must be good”, I thought this must be extra special.

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First you cut the bacon into bits and crisp it.

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One could almost stop right here and be happy.

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Then caramelize a bunch of onions in the bacon fat.

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Add garlic cloves, smashed and peeled; cider vinegar; packed brown sugar (light or dark; I prefer light); pure maple syrup; and brewed strong coffee.

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Reduce to a spreadable mixture with an immersion blender and store in a sterilized quart Mason jar.
Umami (Oooh-Mommy) Jam!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cookbook addiction | mild severity


I finally have enough bookshelf space to get all my cookbooks in one place, near the kitchen.  I’ve seen others whose addiction required three times the space I have, so I don’t feel too guilty.  And, there’s a bit more space for new acquisitions!  I’m eagerly anticipating the arrival of my copy of .

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Roasted Beef Bone Marrow


I’ve been wanting to try beef marrow, especially since I read about them in this cookbook - .  As I was shopping in Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, these frozen marrow bones literally jumped into my consciousness from my peripheral vision.


One is supposed to soak the bones in changes of salted water for 12-24 hours to leach out the blood. I thought they looked good at 12 hours and was anxious to try them; but, as you can see, there was still a bit of blood in them. At least it flaked off easily before we ate them on crostini.



Having no marrow spoons, we used the handle of some narrow spoons to spread the marrow on the crostini. We served them with a nice red wine and some pesto (for a “green vegetable” angle to the meal). It was like eating beef butter on toast – very unctuous; rich, fatty, and delicious.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sous Vide Supreme

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I convinced my husband that if I got a Sous Vide Supreme for Christmas, it would be a great excuse to use our blowtorch more often.



First, I made creamy scrambled eggs with thyme cooked at 158 F for 1 hour. Served with my bacon.



Then, beef short ribs at 135 F for 48 hours.


My husband torching the short ribs.



Served with cauliflower pureed with horseradish and cheddar cheese. As I’ve learned from further reading, large bits of fat might not render out at this low temperature. The ribs were fork tender, but a bit “blubbery”.  I’ll try a higher temperature next time.



Next up, chicken breasts with herb sachets: sage, thyme, and oregano.  Cooked at 140 F for 3 hours.



In   it is recommended to wrap herbs in plastic wrap to make sachets so the herbs don’t come in direct contact with the food and create sites of overpowering flavor. The juices from the meat seep in the cut ends of the plastic wrap and steep the herbs to extract the flavor.



I quick-chilled 4 of them to freeze for later.



Rather than sear the two chicken breasts with oregano that I was serving for dinner, I made a sauce with sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, lemon juice, garlic and basil.



Very tender, juicy, and tasty (except for too much lemon juice in the sauce).  I wish I had thought to take a photo of a cut surface of the chicken breast.



Prime rib eye steaks.



After cooking 4 hours at 135 F.  I had planned to take them out after 2 hours but my husband had to work late unexpectedly – not a problem with Sous Vide.



Seared in an enameled cast-iron skillet.



I think we might have seared them a touch too long.  Almost have a grey ring at the very edge, but not too bad.  Certainly not a regular bull's-eye you’d get from grilling. Nearly perfect medium-rare throughout.