March 2, 2006
Hello, I have been working on menu development and other food projects- they are very exciting and I love talking about them with people, but I feel shy about posting them out on the internet until they “launch” into people’s mouths. Once that’s done, I will open-source the recipes and development notes here in this blog.
Menu development is fun and fantastic and I am going in some supercool stimulating directions that I think will really expand and challenge my aesthetic. Sometimes I look at recipes i’m working on and think: “that’s a ripoff of something from the Fat Duck/Jardiniere/WD-50/El Bulli/blah blah”- that’s the nature of cooking, right? You can’t copyright the important part of a recipe: the list of components. Every technique or dish you learn is reused in some other dish you make. Like knitting patterns, the cooking world should be ideally suited to concepts like “open source” and Creative Commons licensing, having a moral belief system about proprietary knowledge that is complementary to free flow of information. All chefs steal others’ recipes regularly, and they’re blatant about it and okay with it since the personal/team skill is what really makes this incarnation of a dish unique.
I don’t really think about licensing recipes- I just assume everyone can use them no matter what, since there’s no copyright notice. maybe it’s important to have a Creative Commons license to make a statement about how copyright can be used for good, but then the license usually has the requirement of Attribution. Attribution in cooking is polite- paying homage to the innovators of cuisine. Who you stole the recipe from. But at some level, if you are cooking the dish, it’s your dish and attributing it to other people can seem over-necessary or psychotic, especially with classical french stuff where the names of dishes and techniques often don’t even link to the chef, but the object of the chef’s affections (Melba Toast! Bet she loves being remembered for toast.) I’m not a big fan of Attribution for my own stuff, but I will always endeavor to name the sources and inspirations for dishes- that’s part of the enjoyment of someone’s cuisine, knowing the origination.
If you ever use recipes from this development, let me know! Even if you don’t let anyone else know. My cuisine is attempting to communicate with your cuisine- and if we are lucky enough to sample each others’ cooking, our dishes become an ongoing dialogue.
February 8, 2006
Menu development notes from last week’s Aztec Fusion supper club- some original recipes, some ripoffs. “Old Composition” means a flavor composition that I’ve used before, “New Composition” means it’s a new composition.. for me. Same with Techniques, Ingredients.
The name Aztec Fusion comes from me and Ali’s favorite restaurant in Guadalajara: Sacromonte. An amazing menu of challenging dishes using Aztec ingredients like huitlacoche and cajeta- that restaurant alone is worth the trip to GDL. I wanted to jam with some of Sacramonte’s dishes (Rose Petal Quesadillas in Strawberry Sauce) and take advantage of as many fun rarities and staples as I could find a block away, on Mission Street. I was thinking about Mexico while making polenta earlier in the week, and decided to pair polenta against masa. As a result, the menu is pretty corn-heavy. I think our perversion of Latin America’s ubiquitous dessert Pastel de Tres Leches is as good as any of the amazing cakes that Mission Street has to offer.
- Soup: Corn Soup, Cinnamon Oil
- Salad: Mixed Greens, Guayaba, Blue Cheese, Chipotle
- Amuse: Huitlacoche Goat Cheese Polenta Cake
- Veg Main: Orange Blossom Quesadillas, Strawberry Gastrique, Grilled Nopal
- Meat Main: Agave Smoked Paprika Glazed Salmon (Portobello), Almond Cajeta Mole, Cinnamon Fondue, Cumin Candied Kumquats
- Cheese: Panela, Crystallized Picamango
- Dessert: Pastel de Tres Cafes
garlic + onion + corn + corn stock + polenta + milk + sriracha
cucumber seeds + mint + cinnamon oil
Smoked Paparika Agave Caramel Syrup
agave nectar + tequila + smoked paprika
Carmelize garlic, onion. Cook down corn. Make corn stock out of corn cobs. Add polenta made with milk. Thin out with water, boil, simmer. Blend, season, add sri racha. Plate Cucumber seeds, sprig of mint in bowl. Ladle soup on top. Garnish with cinnamon oil, agave tequila smoked paprika caramel syrup.
Old Composition: Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Syrup
I have been playing with this composition since Dorkbot- I really like how the sweetness of the agave nectar balances the smoky and spicy flavor of the picante La Chinata smoked paprika. The smokiness of the paprika hooks up the tequila, and the tequila brings out the agave flavor of the agave nectar. This caramel first made its appearance as a crispy tuile at Dorkbot. In this dish it adds its smoky and spicy support to corn- a nice Mexican flavor pairing. The basic recipe is: boil some tequila and add some agave syrup until it gets thick. Bring this to the boil and disperse some smoked paprika once it’s reached the desired consistency. You can also cut it with sugar and water to downplay the agave flavor and add some caramel structure to it (for making a crispy tuile, for example).
Old Technique: Infused Cinnamon Oil
Since my parents’ holiday gift of a Vitamax Super 5000 blender entered my kitchen, we have been taking advantage of its 210mph blade speed to infuse many oils for the past few weeks. The Cinnamon gets cooked and infused, the oil practically boils- after 30 minutes, a very flavorful oil. Make sure to use a neutral oil (not olive) for the best flavor.
Old Technique: Corn Stock
A trick I learned at Jardiniere: after carving the kernels off the corn cobs, simmer the corn cobs for 30-45 minutes and you save that nice corn flavor. I used the corn stock in the polenta course, as well as to enhance the polenta I use for thickening in this corn soup.
Old Composition: Cucumber Seeds, Mint
A few of the soups at Sacromonte have a nice sprig of mint (and cheese usually) at the bottom of the bowl. Since seeing the use of cucumber and tomato seeds in the El Bulli books and in a cocktail at Aziza, I dont throw them away anymore after prepping cucumbers. I started using cucumber seeds and mint together a few weeks ago for the Chilled Cucumber Mint Yogurt Gazpacho. The Fat Duck also hides a surprisingly pleasant brunoise of cucumbers underneath the mustard ice cream for their cabbage gazpacho amuse.
New Composition: Corn, Polenta, Cinnamon
This is a great combination, not sure where it came from, just playing with polenta and being steeped in cinnamon for a while.
New Ingredient: Polenta
Coursely ground corn, without hull.
Guayaba Blue Cheese Salad
guayaba + blue cheese + chipotle + agave + lemon + mixed greens + pomegranate seeds
Chop guayaba, blue cheese. Make vinaigrette with blended chipotle, agave nectar, lemon. Toss greens with vinaigrette. Plate greens, then guayaba, cheese, pomegranate seeds.
Old Technique: Pomegranate Explosions
We have used this a lot lately, a cheap way to add color and surprise moments to a salad- also a great fundamental element of Persian food.
New Composition: Blue Cheese, Chipotle, Guayaba
This is a salad combination at Sacromonte. This particular blue cheese we used pairs well with pears, so we paired it wtih guyaba (yellow strawberry guava).
New Ingredient: Guayaba
Yellow Strawberry Guava, a tropical fruit.
New Ingredient: Chipotle in Adobo
Smoked jalapeno chilis in a vinegar sauce.
Huitlacoche Goat Cheese Polenta Cake
polenta + corn stock + milk + goat cheese + mint + basil + huitlacoche
cucumber + avocado + tomato + habanero + pumpkin seeds
Bring corn stock, milk, water to boil and prepare polenta. Stir 45 minutes, then pour onto sheet tray with parchment to cool, spreading evenly with offset spatula. Cut polenta sheet in half, nestle one half in buttered casserole dish. Mix goat cheese, mint, basil, s+p. Drain huitlacoche. Spread goat cheese evenly over bottom polenta, then huitlacoche. Top with second polenta sheet half and cook for 25 minutes or until brown on top. Cut with ring molds while hot, then garnish with dice of cucumber, avocado, tomato. Sprinkle very small dice of habanero and some pumpkin seeds over the plate.
Old Composition: Goat Cheese, Herbs, Polenta
Working from a recipe for Culinaria, earlier in the week I had made layered goat cheese and polenta cakes. This turned out very well, but needed salt and herbs.
New Composition: Goat Cheese, Huitlacoche, Cucumber, Avocado, Tomato, Pepitos, Habanero
These components are from a salad at Sacromonte- the salad there also contains ash, which is a truly bizarre combo with the Huitlacoche. We use the goat cheese and huitlacoche as the stuffing/layer inside the polenta, and garnish with a dice of the crisp vegetables to offset the creamy, hot, truffle-smelling center. Topping this composition with crispy pumpkin seeds and a brunoise of habanero adds texture and some blatant heat.
New Ingredient: Huitlacoche (Cuitlacoche, Mexican Truffle, Corn Smut)
This black gooey fungus that grows on maize corn is a delicacy in Mexico, a harvest blight in America.
Orange Blossom Quesadillas
orange blossom + queso fresco + crema mexicana + lemon + masa + nopal
strawberry + shallot + banyuls vinegar + star anise + butter
Mix orange blossom, queso fresco, crema mexicana, lemon, s+p for quesadilla filling. Prepare masa dough, rolling into 1 inch balls. Roll out with rolling pin or tortilla press- use two discs to make a dumpling for the quesadilla, stipling the edges with a fork or fingers. Remove spines from nopal, then toss in olive oil, s+p and grill untill light green with grill marks. Blend strawberries into puree. Saute chopped shallot with star anise, deglaze with vinegar. Add strawberry puree and reduce. Remove from heat and whisk in butter, s+p. Fry quesadillas. Plate grilled nopal, some gastrique, two fried quesadillas, then some more gastrique.
Old Technique: Strawberry Gastrique
The shallot and star anise reduction serve as a nice savory and spicy base for this fruit-heavy sauce. The acid bite is kept up with some lemon.
New Composition: Cheese, Strawberry, a Flower
Sacromonte’s transcendental rose petal quesadillas with strawberry sauce is a fried, cheesy, fruity, fragrant comfort dish- I can never eat more than one. We attempted to replicate this fried quesadilla pocket with masa, queso fresco, crema mexicana and some orange flower water. You could definitely taste the fragrance, which provided a nice counterpoint to our strawberry gastrique.
New Technique: Grilled Nopal as Platter
Another trick from Sacromonte.
New Technique: Fried Masa Quesadillas
This was straightforward enough, but we really should have used a tortilla press- would have been much easier. We found a standard recipe online and MASECA instant masa.
New Ingredient: Masa (Instant Masa, MASECA)
Corn cooked in slake lime, ground fine- an ancient method of preparing corn which eases digestion. Used for tamales.
New Ingredient: Nopal Cactus
Green cactus leaf, sometimes sold chopped up or with barbs removed.
New Ingredient: Crema Mexicana
Mexican creme fraiche, but less sour or salty. Very buttery!
New Ingredient: Queso Fresco
Fresh Mexican cheese, crumbly yet melts smoothly.
Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Glazed Salmon
salmon or portobello + cumin + agave nectar + tequila + smoked paprika
Almond Cajeta Mole, Cinnamon Butter, Roast Red Pepper, Cumin Candied Kumquats
garlic + onion + star anise + almond + cacao + cajeta + cinnamon + butter + cumin + caramel + kumquats
Rub salmon or portobello with s+p, toasted ground cumin. For glazing syrup, simmer tequila, agave nectar and smoked paprika until incorporated and tasty (sweet, smoky, agave flavor). . For mole, blend raw almonds and cacao nibs with enough water to make them all float in the blender- resulting mix should be thick and syrupy. Saute garlic, onions, star anise in olive oil. Deglaze with vinegar, add almond cacao and cajeta. Simmer for 15 minutes, then blend. Slice kumquats into rounds and simmer with water, sugar, and toasted cumin to candy consistency- strain and keep warm, separate. Incorporate butter and cinnamon oil in a warm pan. Sear salmon or portobello, then add glaze to pan. Finish glazing and cooking in the oven. Add remaining agave glaze to mole sauce. Plate mole first, drizzle the cinnamon butter, then the salmon or portobello. Garnish with kumquats and roast red pepper petals.
Old Technique: Candied Kumquats
This has been a seafood garnish I’ve liked to use for a few months now, when I can find the kumquats. Spiking the caramel with toasted cumin was a great combination of citrus and savory/musty. This also paired well with the cumin-rubbed salmon.
New Technique: Cacao Mole
Since our new blender works with cacao so well, this is the first time we’ve been able to make a frehs nut mole base using cacao and almonds. This allows for a different range of infusion opportunities.
New Composition: Almond, Cacao, Cajeta, Cinnamon, Agave, Smoked Paprika
These flavors worked so well together- the candyish cajeta lending the cacao the sweetness it needs to offset its bitterness, the cinnamon oil giving a mexican hot chocolate twist to the whole dish. The smoked paprika lends a nice spicy/smoky counterpoint to the chocolate mess- the agavea nectar playing the same part it did in the soup.
New Ingredient: Cajeta
Goat milk caramel. We found this all the time on the side of the road, often bruleed in little wooden cigar-shaped boxes.
Panela Cheese with Crystallized Picamango
panela + mango + lime + salt + chili pepper + sugar
New Composition: Cheese and Picamango
Continuing our trend to use dried fruits with a cheese course, this spicy mango provided a sort of “spicy pre-dessert”, continuing the meal’s theme. The panela’s creaminess acted as a switch, turning on and off the mango’s spiciness.
New Ingredient: Panela
Fresh, mild peasant cheese.
New Ingredient: Crystallized Picamango
Mango cured in chili-lime salt, dried, coated in sugar.
Pastel de Tres Cafes
cake + cream + evaporated milk + condense milk + kahlua + espresso
espresso chocolate + whipped cream + bananas
Make a cake. Incorporate cream, milks, kahlua, espresso. Pour half of mixture over cake, then top with whipped cream. Pour remaining half over whipped cream. Garnish with banana slices, espresso chocolate buttons.
New Composition: Tres Cafes
This classic Latin American cake bleeds sweet milky goodness everywhere- switching this up with some coffee, and garnishing with chocolate and bananas was perhaps a bad idea considering how late it was by the time we got to dessert. Some opted to get this massive caffeine fix as a take-home package for the next morning. Very delicious, and I am not a fan of coffee.
New Ingredient: Espresso
Finely ground coffee, brewed under pressure with very little contact time.
January 31, 2006
Here are the menu development notes from the January 25th Dorkbot Food Hacking presentation.
For this Dorkbot demo, I really wanted to blow everyone away with some freaky shit. This was an opportunity to show off all of the molecular gastronomy stuff I had been exposed to at The Fat Duck. Also it was a chance to cook for a lot of my friends in one fell swoop, and maybe turn them on to thinking about food the same way they think about other kinds of hacking + art. We ended up making a five component dessert. We prepped a lot of these components in the kitchen, then finished them in front of the Dorkbot audience. While we plated, we described the food hacking concepts behind each component- its flavors, the techniques used, and earlier dishes that pioneered the concepts from the big fancy molecular gastronomy restaurants. Thanks to David Calkins, we got a liquid nitrogen hookup. I wanted the dessert to be completely vegan, but ended up tossing in a gratutious yogurt component- I still got to say at the end of the presentation “by the way, this dessert is basically vegan, so ha ha! suckers!”
- Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
- Almond Armagnac Cardamom Foam with Frankincense
- Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
- Pomegranate Seeds
- Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt
Nitro Pumpkin Seed Pie Horchata Foam
pumpkin seeds + water + cinnamon + vanilla + allspice + ginger + nutmeg + soy lecithin
Blend pumpkin seeds, water until horchata consistency. Strain and chill. Make caramel syrup of cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, ginger, nutmeg. Blend horchata and syrup. Add soy lecithin (dried soy milk). Disperse well. Load into 1 quart Nitrous Oxide dispenser- filling halfway. Charge wtih 3 N2O cannisters 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 nitrogen bath when the foam is hard on the outside, plate immediately.
Technique: Nitro freezing foam
This is the signature palate cleanser of The Fat Duck. The foam is “poached” in liquid nitrogen tableside and presented on a spoon. This is an amazing dish- the foam tastes of green tea, vodka and lime.
With our new Vitamix Super 5000 Blender, we can make horchatas. Put a couple of handfuls of any nut or seed (cashew, almond, pumpkin seed, tiger nut) and add enough water so that the nuts are freely floating. Blend for 20 minutes.
Composition: Pumpkin Seed Pie
The spicy caramel syrup adds the sweetness and flavor of pumpkin pie to the thick pumpkin seed foam.
Ingredient: Pumpkin Seeds
Shelled pumpkin seeds are used in Mexican cuisine- they are called pepitos, often served as a savory garnish.
Almond Armagnac Cardamom Foam with Frankincense
almonds + water + agave nectar + armagnac + cardamom + xantham gum + frankincense
Blend almonds, water until horchata consistency. Strain and chill. Flavor horchata with agave nectar, armagnac, cardamom. Use a blender to disperse xantham gum into mixture. Blend until foam consistency is reached. Plate foam, grating frankincense over the dollop.
Technique: Xantham gelling
Xantham gum is a natural gum produced by the fermentation of a bacteria. It is commonly used as a gluten replacement- it thickens and stabilizes across a wide range of temperatures. Xantham gum gives this almond horchata the body it needs to rest nicely on the plate.
Composition: Almonds, Armagnac, Cardamom, Frankincense
Going for a nutty and spicy counterpoint to the other seed/nut component in the dish (pumpkin seeds), the frankincense and cardamom give a semi-spicy medieval body to the foam. The armagnac’s alcohol helps to cut the richness of the foam.
“Frank incense” is the resin from a tree’s bark, and is actually used as incense. The essential oil, olibanum oil, is soluble in alcohol and brings out the medieval quality of the armagnac, cardamom and almonds.
Smoked Paprika Agave Caramel Tuile
smoked paprika + agave nectar + tequila + sugar
Disperse smoked paprika in tequila. Boil water, sugar, agave nectar. Once syrup goes clear, keep boiling to a dark gold. Remove from heat, disperse the smoked paprika-infused tequila quickly with a whisk. Pour onto silicone mat. Squeegee with a palette knife (offset spatula) to a thin layer. Allow to solidify, then store in a dry place for plating.
Technique: Caramel Tuile
A caramel tuile adds an element of sweetness and texture to a dish- a jagged shard sticking upwards sets off the creamy texture of the foam components.
Composition: Smoked Paprika, Agave Nectar, Tequila
This sweet and spicy combination allows the agave nectar’s sweetness to offset the spicy smoked paprika. The smokiness of the paprika brings out the smokiness of the tequila, and the agave flavor in the tequila highlights the agave nectar’s agave-ness (which can sometimes be too subtle to notice).
Ingredient: Agave Nectar
Agave nectar is a vegan sweetener that is way sweet- 75% fructose. As a replacement for honey, it is appropriate for diabetics. You can also get agave nectar raw. It is obtained from the blue agave plant, the same plant used for distillation of tequila.
Ingredient: Smoked Paprika
Smoked paprika (La Chinata brand) adds a smoky spiciness that instantly adds a flavor of Mexico or Spain to most dishes.
Sprinkling pomegranate seeds on this dessert adds some color, a little tartness, and a nice surprise. Tiny explosions of flavor break up the monotony of a dish, and the natural purity of “just” pomegranate seeds is a nice counterpoint to the rest of the somewhat manufactured components.
Powdered Orange Blossom Yogurt
yogurt + orange blossom water + tapioca starch
Thorougly mix yogurt and orange blossom water. Stir in tapioca starch. Mix until thoroughly incorporated and a powder consistency is reached.
Technique: Tapioca Powdering
Adding a tapioca starch to a liquid causes the absorption of the liquid, turning the liquid into a powder. WD-50 uses this concept to make a powdered olive oil, and Alinea uses a similar method for their powdered salt caramel dessert. Specialized starches- tapioca maltodextrins- are used in such places. You can also use tapioca starch from the grocery store, although the tapioca flavor can be chalky and overpowering. Once the powder goes into your mouth, the original liquid feeling is achieved. Olive oil powder turns into olive oil, yogurt powder turns into yogurt.
Composition: Yogurt, Orange Blossom
To overcome the chalkiness of the tapioca starch, a vanilla yogurt is used. Upon reconstitution of the powder, the sourness and sweetness of the yogurt is what helps us to identify it as yogurt. The orange blossom water adds a strong fragrance that will also withstand the “stress” of being converted to a powder and back.
Ingredient: Orange Blossom Water
Neroli oil, the essential oil of the orange blossom, has a fragrance reminiscent of Morocco or Spain. At Goood Frikin Chicken, they pour orange blossom water over their rice pudding dessert (topped with cinnamon and pistachios).