Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Cod, traditional flavors powdered

Last month I joined the group Daring Cooks, one of the groups from the Daring Kitchen which also includes the Daring Bakers. I joined because many of my favorite bloggers also cook and bake along and because I was looking to challenge my ways of cooking a bit more with harder recipes and hopefully new techniques. Well I got more than I bargained for with this first challenge! For my first Daring Cooks challenge, our host Sketchy chose a recipe from Grant Achatz Alinea cookbook. Now for those of you that don't know who Grant Achatz is he is a chef that specializes in molecular gastronomy. Now what is molecular gastronomy? I personally didn't know much about it until a few years ago, so I went to good ole wikipedia for a definition:
Molecular gastronomy is a scientific discipline involving the study of physical and chemical processes that occur in cooking.[3] It pertains to the mechanisms behind the transformation of ingredients in cooking and the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena in general (from a scientific point of view).

On of the more well-known techniques used in molecular gastronomy is spherefication, where something like olive juice is taken and formed into olive like spheres that burst when placed in your mouth. I know these olives are on the menu at the Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in LA, a place I've been wanting to visit on my next trip home.

On to the recipe, my thoughts on making and eating will follow.

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - I used cod as it was a substitution allowed if you could not find skate
from Grant Achatz Alinea Cookbook

  • 4 skate wings
  • * Beurre monte
  • * 300g fresh green beans
  • sea salt/kosher salt
  • 1 banana
  • 454g butter - 4 sticks
  • 300g lemons
  • 5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
  • 150g cilantro
  • 150g parsley
  • 100g dried banana chips
  • 300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
  • 100g cup minced red onion
  • 200g capers (brined, not oil)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Powders - prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
'brown butter' powder

once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.

cilantro/parsley powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass through chinois.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.

onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

dehydrator - 130 for 12 hours
microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.

pulse in grinder, pass through chinois

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.

Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

Brown Butter powder

100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g spray dried cream powder

If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.

grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt

bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.


Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the cilantro parsley-powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

Peel the banana into very thick slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.

My first thought when going through the process of this meal was I now know why restaurants that specialize in molecular cuisine are on pricier end of restaurants. It's very time consuming. Drying everything for the powders in the over was a real test in patience for, someone who always burns bread in the oven. As it was I burned the red onions twice, so I decided to forgoe that powder because it just seemed cursed for me. I generally work best with set cooking times and with the powders there weren't any. That was tough. Making the buerre monte was tougher than I had first anticipated, I felt like I was hand whipping a buttercream icing. But this was a challenge and I love that I was challenged, I loved even more that I felt like I really accomplished something when it was all said and done something I NEVER would have tried before.

This dish is very interesting, the powders really make what is otherwise a very mild flavored fish sing. Both the boy and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I truly had no idea what to expect from this first Daring Cook experience and it's funny I went through a whole range of emotions from the reveal of the recipe to posting about it now. It started with straight up fear and then being so overwhelmed I procrastinated making it until this past weekend to complete and total frustration to exhaustion and finally to accomplishment. I doubt I will cook anything like this anytime soon, but it has made me want to dine at a molecular cuisine restaurant even more. My wish list is ever growing Alinea, The Bazaar, WD-50, The French Laundry and Colborne Lane at the top right now. With Colborne Lane and The Bazaar being the likely ones I'll visit first, since the former is in Toronto and the latter is in LA tow of my home cities.

Please head on over to the The Daring Cooks Blogroll to check out everyone elses attempts. And please please post here to let me know if you have tried any of this cooking, I'd love to hear how it went. Enjoy!


Maria said...

Great job on the challenge!

Paula - bell'alimento said...

Brava! Very impressive! Can't wait to see your next challenge!

Anonymous said...

It looks marvelous! Great job all around!

Audax said...

Love that swirl (coil) of powders you plated and your posting is so interesting especially about your emotional responses to it, from out right fear to deep satifaction. Yes the final dish is so unusual and so tasty it is a real show stopper and conversation starter. Congrats and bravo on your 1st very successful DCs challenge. Cheers from Audax in Australia

Anonymous said...

Lovely finished plate. Way to push through your doubt.

David said...

brilliant job - and what a way to start as a daring cook!


Corry said...

Your swirl is perfect. What a great first challenge. I think it put us all out of our comfort zone. I too procrastinated and wasn't gong to do it. I am so happy now that I did and now I am on the Web looking at other things to do with MC. This is what the challenge does for us all.

Miranda said...

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DJM said...

Beautiful job on your first challenge. You got such a beautiful effect with your powders! I found that the red onions worked in the microwave only on extremely low power for short periods of time.