Wednesday, March 08, 2006

While you were sleeping......

While we Cachaguan’s languish in mid-winter produce doldrums…….Fun with root vegetables, brought to you by the Moscow Farmer’s Market at MPC……..

Here is an update from the “Real World” of cuisine.

While you were lunching on your Chinese Chicken Salad at the Rio Grill, the best chefs in the world galloped away. They are young, intensely disciplined, intensely technical and intensely skilled. And they are bored. They know how to denature proteins. They know how to peroxidize lipids. They can poach your eggs. Their study of molecular gastronomy tells them that unripe mangoes and pine are cousins….as are white chocolate and oysters…….

Just so’s ya know: El Bulli is almost passé. Foams are like My Sharona….selling real estate in Encino. The melon caviar…..not a bad effort for an old fart, Adria. Chefs in New York will blindfold you and make you bob for foie gras. Wylie Dufresne served crushed candy canes on his Christmas lamb rack dish. This guy in Chicago wraps pork in edible paper printed with cartoons in meat inks……and is perfecting the helium filled chocolate balloon that hovers over the plate. I have experienced old-school dishes (like, so last year……) that involved sound, vision and smell….not so much taste.

The Fat Duck ( is the best restaurant in the world, by all reasonable measure…..and has been for five years. All great restaurants now have concept/lab guys working in a studio/lab outside of the main kitchen. Come check out Andoni’s “Clorofila” or Xaby Gutiérrez’ “Asfalto Culinaro” at The Store……..

So, I give you the dorkbots. A worldwide group of computer geeks ( “Having fun with electricity”) that has branched out from computer hacking to food hacking. Mark Powell, ten years ago voted number one computer hacker by the Bay Guardian, went on to apprentice at the Fat Duck…..and is hacking food at the world’s first computer/food hacker Bed and Breakfast in Bernal Heights in The City (Unicorn Precinct XIII on Eddy). His kitchen sports the Periodic Table of Elements…….in Thai. He has centrifuges, liquid nitrogren baths, nitrous oxide foamers……..just like Wilhelm-Sonoma, mensch....

Here are some posts from Mark and dorkbots:

Dorkbots, in a promo for their January 26 meeting:

What happens when the world's leading hacker chefs skill up on organic chemistry and buy centrifuges for their kitchens? Is your palate ready for "meat glue", "cooking" with liquid nitrogen, and "liquid noodles"? This talk looks at the growing role of science in fine dining kitchens with examples from the restaurants that are inventing the exciting field of molecular gastronomy.Molecular gastronomy is a culinary aesthetic of a growing number of chefs worldwide who wish to cross-pollinate their culinary skills with the trade secrets of chemists, physicists, researchers, perfumers and industrial food manufacturers.

Typically, only the most high end restaurants have the budgets to stock their kitchens with steam baths, centrifuges, and microscopes. Spurred on by the friendly competition rife in the food industry, these restaurants work to develop new culinary techniques, improve (and disprove) accepted kitchen wisdom, and deploy their food to the customer in crazy new futuristic ways.

This talk looks at the growing role of science in fine dining kitchens. Examining the history of molecular gastronomy, we will visit some of the latest techniques and predict where the cutting edges might lead. Can we bring food into the future without seriously freaking out the fickle palate of the public? Are you ready for liquid nitrogen-cooled food, steak-flavored cellophane and bacon & egg ice cream?

Mark Powell, after the meeting:

In the interests of open-source food hacking, here are the recipes for the dessert we made.

First the components:

Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
Almond Armagnac Cardamom Frankincense Foam
Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
Pomegranate Seeds
Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt

Now the instructions- remember, your mileage may vary:

Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
Blend 2 cups raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitos), 4 cups water for 20 minutes or until horchata consistency. Strain and chill.
Boil 2 cups water, 1 ceylon cinnamon stick (crushed), 1 vanilla pod, 2 allspice seeds (crushed), 1/2 thumb of grated ginger, 1/4 nutmeg seed (grated) for 20 minutes to infuse flavors. Strain water, add 2 cups sugar and bring to boil again to dissolve sugar. Chill.
Blend horchata and syrup, adjusting flavoring as needed. Add 2 tsp soy lecithin or dried soy milk- disperse well.
Load 1 quart Nitrous Oxide Dispenser (whipped cream cannister, N2O siphon) halfway with horchata and syrup mix. Charge with 3 N2O cannisters (android turds) and chill.
Over a liquid nitrogen bath, dispense some foam into a spoon. Drop the foam into the nitrogen bath and agitate with a spoon to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom. Remove from the nitrogen bath when it is hard on the outside and plate.

Almond Armagnac Cardamom Frankincense Foam
Blend 2 cups raw almonds, 4 cups water for 20 minutes or until horchata consistency. Strain and chill.
Flavor almond horchata with 1/2 cup agave nectar, 1/2 cup armagnac, 1 Tbsp cardamom. Pour mixture into a blender and add 2 Tbsp Xantham gum. Disperse with the blender- keep blending until foam consistency is reached.
Plate foam, grating frankincense over foam dollop.

Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
Disperse 1 tsp La Chinata smoked paprika (spicy) in 1 Tbsp Cazadores tequila.
Boil 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup agave nectar. Once the syrup goes clear, keep boiling until it starts during a dark gold. Remove from heat, disperse the smoked paprika/tequila quickly with a whisk, and pour out onto silicone mat. Squeegee with a palette knife (offset spatula) to a thin layer. Allow to solidify, then remove and store dry for plating.

Pomegranate Seeds Just get the seeds out and plate them nicely. These provide a nice tangy burst of flavor.

Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt
Thoroughly mix 1/2 cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 Tbsp of orange blossom water. Add 1 cup of tapioca maltodextrin (or tapioca starch or tapioca flour if you can’t find tapioca maltodextrin). Mix with a fork until thoroughly incorporated and a powder consistency is reached. You might need more or less tapioca powder.

How about those Android Turds? Heirloom carrots, anyone?


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