Nov 24 2010

Thanksgiving Plans

November 24th, 2010 at 3:41 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

As Americans who live outside the U.S.A., the day of American Thanksgiving holiday (which is tomorrow) has special significance. It’s the day we gather with a few close friends who are half-American (one member of each couple is American, the other is Dutch) and their multi-cultural children, share food everyone has prepared and brought with them, and generally have a wonderful, relaxed day.

Of course, the day involves lots of eating, lots of shooting the breeze (an American euphemism for spouting off, er, random intellectual discussions), and utilizing each other as culinary guinea pigs. (Oh, I wasn’t supposed to say that out loud?)

My contribution to tomorrow’s feasting are the following items:

  • A turkey injected with and brined with a savory sour orange marinade, from a recipe provided by La Caja China – it’s the mojo criollo marinade, and then roast in my Weber grill.
  • Two turkey drumstrucks, dry-brined.
  • A cranberry cinnamon rum ice cream, with rum included because it will keep the cream soft in the freezer (since I use Splenda instead of sugar, and that produces a very solid cream otherwise), and, of course, because rum tastes good.
  • A cranberry compote ice cream for those who don’t like rum (with guar gum to keep it soft).
  • Orange juice caviar (small spheres of alginate filled with orange juice – just because I had leftover orange juice from the marinade described above).
  • Cranberry relish pearls (larger alginate spheres using a cranberry orange relish puree that Linda made yesterday) – should be a nice topping for turkey and other treats tomorrow
  • Cranberry powder – I first had this at Mark’s American Cuisine (great restaurant, by the way) in Houston a few weeks ago with a foie gras dish, and decided I needed my own tart dusting powder. Required my dehydrator, cranberries, and an awful lot of patience.
  • Garlic mashed cauliflower – made with lots of butter and cream and a touch of white pepper, and virtually no carbohydrates

Linda is making a peanut butter pie and a pumpkin pie, Krystyana is making a garlic parmesan mayonnaise vegetable casserole, our friends Caren & Frans are providing more veggies and Dutch apple cake, and our friend Dan is bringing a turkey smoked in his Big Green Egg.

All in all, it should be an interesting experiment meal tomorrow!

Photos to follow, I hope.


Nov 17 2010

Inspired by elBulli – Modernist Cuisine at Home

November 17th, 2010 at 3:49 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Yesterday morning a sense of anticipation was pervasive in our home. I had made a date with our favorite chef on Bonaire, Andrea, to experiment on creating some interesting molecular gastronomy (now being called, more appropriately, modernist cuisine) items so Andrea could see how the process worked.

Getting ready for modernist cuisine experimentation in my kitchen

Getting ready for modernist cuisine experimentation in my kitchen

The menu was a bit haphazard as we wanted inspiration and creativity to guide us. The only thing that was certain was that we wanted to try making olive spheres, a la Ferran Adria (whom I had the pleasure to meet in Spain in early October at his world famous elBulli restaurant – but that will be the subject of another post here soon). A version of that recipe and discussion of spherification is here.

My daughter Krysytana joined Andrea in the kitchen, and we were off, trying to figure out the best way to create olive spheres. I had already made up the olive juice blended with calcium chloride and Xanthan gum a day before, as well as the sodium alginate bath, so the real trick we were trying to perform was make the olives look round as we submerged a spoon of the treated olive juice in the alginate bath. It’s a lot more difficult than it looks, but at the end Andrea had perfect a technique which involved submerging the spoon with the olive juice in the bath and then slowly turning it over to let gravity pull the juice out of the spoon. The rolling action created minimal tearing and both Krystyana and I were able to duplicate his results (Krystyana better than I). After a few minutes in the bath we took out the olives, rinsed them in water and added them to seasoned olive oil (garlic, fresh rosemary, peppercorns, lemon zest).

Here’s the result:

Our collection of olive spheres

Our collection of olive spheres

The thought had come across at some point to make a Caprese (tomato, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, basil, and mozzarella) salad, so I worked on creating mixtures to make balsamic vinegar spheres, also referred to as caviar due to the small size. The first attempt was to try to make them via reverse spherification, like the olive spheres, but that failed miserably. So I went the other way and made a balsamic alginate solution and then created spheres by dripping the alginate into a bath of water and calcium chloride. Much better results. Again, after about a minute we rinsed them in fresh water, and voila, balsamic vinegar caviar.

Caviar of balsamic vinegar, made using spherification

Caviar of balsamic vinegar, made using spherification

Next we needed to reconstruct mozzarella somehow. Thanks to some suggestions in the wonderful book “Cooking for Geeks” by Jeff Potter, we managed to create a decent mozzarella liquid (we had to strain the solids out first though), and using reverse spherification, created mozzarella spheres.

We were almost there. We were going to use fresh tomato and basil, but still wanted to provide some sort of treatment of pure olive oil. Attempts to create olive oil spheres failed as well, so I decided to create an olive oil foam using my nitrous oxide injected iSi pressurized creamer. In order to get the olive oil to foam, however, I needed to add an emulsifier, which I did in the form of glycerol monostearate (8% by weight) into heated olive oil so it would dissolve. After putting it into the creamer and pressurizing it with the nitrous oxide I managed to create olive oil foam – intensely flavored. Interestingly, if it sat long enough, it turned into an olive oil butter, which created nice contrasting textures.

With this last ingredient in place we witnessed Andrea’s culinary creativity as he created three different approaches to a Caprese salad with modernist influences. For the last one I also experimented with creating an air/foam using balsamic vinegar and soy lecithin which Andrea then used to creative a piece of edible art.

Caprese salad - revised first version, close up

Caprese salad - revised first version, close up

Caprese salad - second version

Caprese salad - second version

Caprese salad - third version, using Balsamic air, close up

Caprese salad - third version, using Balsamic air, close up

We were all very pleased with the results, and learned a lot from each other and our experimental successes and failures.

Jake - food scientist, Andrea - chef and creative talent, in front of our combined handiwork (Photo by Krystyana Richter, our other important contributor)

Jake - food scientist, Andrea - chef and creative talent, in front of our combined handiwork (Photo by Krystyana Richter, our other important contributor)

In fact I felt so inspired that I attempted to make an olive gel (failed) and a tomato gel (success) using agar agar after Andrea left. You can see images of that result along with more photos of the day on Flickr.


Aug 27 2010

Sneak Peak: Hazelnut Caviar and Pearls

August 27th, 2010 at 11:12 am (AST) by Jake Richter

This morning’s kitchen science experiment was making hazelnut caviar. More specifically, caviar using hazelnut syrup (sugar free, of course). It involves using sodium alginate and calcium chloride, but I will save the details for later.

For now, let me tease you with a photo:

Hazelnut caviar and pearls

Hazelnut caviar and pearls

Why, you might ask, is the caviar green? The short story is that we weren’t sure the process was working because our hazelnut syrup, water, and sodium alginate mixture was almost the same color as the aqueous calcium chloride bath, so we wanted to add some color to make the process more visible. Green food coloring was the closest food color at hand.

Suffice to say that the above pictured caviar and pearls release a rich sweet hazelnut flavor when you chew them.

More details later next week hopefully.