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Pressure-Cooked Stocks: We Got Schooled.

November 22nd, 2009 · Pressure Cooker

posted by Dave Arnold

For years Nils and I have maintained that pressure cooking stocks and broths is the way to go. We’ve always said that the high temperature in a pressure cooker gives better extraction and meatier flavors than normal cooking. Turns out we were wrong. Sort of.

Conventional stock vs pressure-cooked. Who wins?

While I hate being wrong, this particular error taught us a lot — including:

  • All pressure cookers aren’t created equal. The cooker you use affects flavor.
  • Pressure cooking can be used to modify conventionally cooked stocks.
  • Not all stock ingredients react the same way in the pressure cooker.

So what’s going on? Here is our journey:

I was planning to write a post on the superiority of pressure cooked stock. As a formality, I set up a blind taste test between conventional and pressure-cooked stocks. I had no doubt the pressure cooker would win. I chose white chicken stock because it is simple, doesn’t cook as long as veal, and has fewer variables than a brown stock. We weighed out two identical amounts of chicken, mirepoix, herbs, and water and pressure-cooked one for 45 minutes and let the other one simmer on the stove for 2 hours. We strained both stocks and weighed what was left. The conventional stock had reduced more than the pressure-cooked stock (by 10 percent) so I added enough water to it to equal the volume of the pressure cooked stock. Some of the interns had a problem with this step but it is the only way to compare two stocks properly.

Two batches of identical ingredients

We tasted both stocks blind.

The aroma of the pressure cooked stock was clearly superior. The color was deeper as well (because of this all future tests were done actually blind –with our eyes closed). Unfortunately the conventional stock tasted better. It had a stronger chicken flavor and was better balanced overall.

I was distraught. We tasted again. Same result.

I had the interns make another batch of stock. Same result.

Then we decided to test each individual ingredient separately. We did side by side tests of chicken only, celery only, and onion only (the carrot got 86’ed by accident). The conventional chicken won. Loss. The celeries were both good, just different. The pressure-cooked one tasted more like celery tea and the conventional one tasted more like soup. Testers almost all preferred the conventional celery. Loss again. The pressure-cooked onion clearly won –thank god. Pressure cooked onion had a big, round, sweet flavor. Conventional onion was useless. Win.

The win with the onion broth wasn’t enough to keep Nils and I from being pretty depressed. I lost sleep over the matter. I had one more test up my sleeve.

I took 4 liters of conventional chicken stock from the restaurant and pressure-cooked half while the other half simmered on the stove. This time, I didn’t use the school’s pressure cooker, I used my own. When I compared the two stocks side by side the pressure cooked one was far browner. I hadn’t thought the pressure cooker would change the color of a pre-made stock. When we tasted them the pressure-cooker won! Finally.

I then ran the same test with the school’s pressure cooker and the pressure cooker lost. WTF?

Turns out all pressure cookers aren’t the same. All pressure cookers reach similar temperatures –approximately 250 F (120 C) at 15psi; but the way they regulate pressure is different. The pressure cooker at the school, made by Iwatani, uses what’s called a jiggler to regulate pressure. A weighted jiggle-top sits on top of a tube.  The steam pressure builds up in the tube until it is strong enough to lift up the jiggler and let the excess steam escape.  The valve makes a continuous chu-chu-chu-chu sound as it operates. You want to adjust the heat so it doesn’t chu-chu too fast, but steam is always going to escape. There is no other way to know whether the pot is hot enough. Theoretically, the pressure gauge on the lid should allow you to cook just below the point where the jiggler lets steam out, but in practice the gauge doesn’t work properly.

Iwatani's top. I liked the idea of the gauge but it doesn't work. The steam release valve on the left is nice (it should be standing up when you are cooking). I don't like the jiggler. On the bottom side, however, there is a screen filter to protect the valve which is a nice touch.

Another common pressure regulator on inexpensive pressure cookers uses a rotating switch that allows you to set the pressure at 15 psi, 5 psi, or to release the steam pressure entirely.  This type of regulator also requires escaping steam to indicate proper pressure.

Fagor style pressure cooker. My problem with this style of cooker (other than it allows steam to escape) is that the pressure valve gets clogged easily and is difficult to clean.

My pressure-cooker, made by Kuhn Rikon, uses a different type of regulator.  It has a spring valve that moves up and down; it both regulates and indicates pressure. When the valve stem rises enough to see the first red ring you have 5 psi.  When you see the second red ring you have 15 psi. No steam escapes. If you heat the pot too much it lets steam escape to tell you to turn the flame down.  Once you comply it goes silent again. Nice.

Kuhn Rikon's top.

I have known for a long time that less liquid evaporates in my pressure cooker than in the other types.  This becomes especially apparent when you are cooking for several hours as we sometimes do (for softening spices, etc).  I hadn’t thought that the escaping steam would affect taste as well, but I should have – it makes sense.

We ran one more test. Conventional for 1.5 hours vs. the school’s pressure cooker for 45 minutes vs. my pressure cooker for 45 minutes vs. the school’s pressure cooker for 20 minutes (in case we had just been cooking too long and blasting the flavor away).

Dueling pressure cookers: Iwatani front, Kuhn Rikon back.

The results:

My pressure cooker won, followed by the conventional cooking;  both of the school’s pressure cookers scored lower. I feel a lot better.

But we still need more tests. And more will come.

PS: Many cooks have an intutitive feeling that pressure cooking stocks is a bad idea.  Their reasoning isn’t related to the previous discussion and isn’t born-out by our tests. Here are the reasons they usually give (and my responses):

  1. Pressure cooking will make the stock cloudy. That is incorrect. The boiling in a pressure cooker is no more violent than in a pot, so stocks don’t get any cloudier. We have done many side-by sides to prove this.
  2. Pressure cooking extracts bitter components. No one has detected bitterness in pressure cooked stock we’ve made.
  3. Not being able to skim the stock will introduce off-flavors. We have not noticed this in any of our tests.

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Holiday Cocktail Course

November 19th, 2009 · cocktails

El Baja Panties: Our newest home-friendly cocktail in 1970's era holiday style.

The alcohol has been flowing in the lab. The rotovap is working again, master bartender/mixologist/friend Tony Conigliaro is in town, and today we abused ourselves by tasting all of the horribly old liquor in Dave’s liquor cabinet. What we’re hinting at is:

********ANOTHER SHAMELESS PLUG FOR OUR CLASS*************

Wednesday, December 2nd, from 6:30pm-8:30pm Dave and Nils will be giving a holiday cocktail course at the French Culinary Institute. Whether you spin a dreidel, light a kinara, or love Jesus, our Swedish Glögg, hot buttered rum, and cocktails flamed with a Red Hot Poker will complement every politically correct holiday party. You’ll see techniques like rotary evaporation, carbonation, and vacuum infusion, and learn tricks to maximize cocktail taste and texture.

Plus, it’s a great excuse to get hammered before 8pm. Buy tickets here. Check out some of our cool cocktails here, here and here.

******We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming*******

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Dave's Effort to Stop Ruining Thanksgiving

November 18th, 2009 · Turkey

posted by Nastassia Lopez

Dave and his turkey.

Every family has their own Thanksgiving tradition. Mine has an annual football game. Nils leaves the country. Dave tries to find the best way to cook a whole turkey for his family.

So far, Dave’s track record has been pretty tragic. The first year, he ruined Thanksgiving by deep frying it on the back lawn at his mom’s house. He burned a patch of grass with spewing hot oil sending one pissed-off stepfather into his bedroom-lights out and all- for a good part of the night.

Two years later, against better judgement, Dave packed up the deep fryer and brought it to his mom’s yet again. He fried it on the patio this time but spilled oil on the flagstone. You know the rest.

Thanksgiving ruined twice.

The deep-fried birds were good, but not worth the familial drama. Perhaps low-temperature cooking would do the trick.  Last year, Dave ran some low-temperature tests on a turkey he stole from FCI’s annual “Happy Thanksgiving Employee Turkey Giveaway” to determine the bird’s optimum cooking temperature.

Breast, leg and thigh at different times/temps.

The breast meat was best when circulated at 64 C but the leg meat was no good.  It actually tasted OK but looked raw.  Try getting your family to eat raw looking turkey. The leg meat tasted good  at 65 C, which is lucky because by 66 C the breast was bad (dry and stringy).  Dave decided to cook his bird at 65 C.

El pollo vivo.

So Dave went uptown to one of the last remaining pollo vivo shops in Manhattan and bought a live turkey. The choice was between a huge (35 lb) wild turkey, or a regular (read: punier) domestic turkey. Guess which one made it home?

The big guy makes it home.

He gave the bird one day to rest and pass through rigor mortis. Then he had to figure out how to cook it. Vacuum bagging was not an option because bird bones are mostly hollow and filled with a red marrow that, when vacuumed, is sucked out of the bone and into the meat, making it look uncooked (And no matter how much you tell people it’s cooked, they won’t believe you).

Double circulators and a turkey hiding in duck fat and oil.

Instead, he filled a stock pot with duck fat and butter, and  jammed the cavity with herbs. He then used two circulators set at 65 C. A hose was attached to one of the circulator’s spouts and pushed into the cavity of the bird so that hot fat was not only circulated  on the outside of the bird, but also injected into the center. It was circulated for two hours, chilled in a blast freezer, and then packed it up to his mom’s house where it was finished off in an oven (obviously a deep fryer was out of the question. Fool me twice…).

The results were good.   The only complaint he had was that the  inside of the thighs (where the joint attaches to the torso) were too pink and needed more time, so he sliced that meat and finished it in a pan for 20 seconds.

Dave has resolved to do a better job this year.   On Friday we set up a more sophisticated test.  We separated thighs, breasts and legs and cooked them at different times and temperatures as follows:

The optimum breast was cooked at 64 C for one hour.  65 C for an hour was also good, and 66 C for an hour was pushing it, but better than any of the breasts circulated for four hours.

The thigh cooked for an hour at 65 C  was delicious, but for regular people, might be a little undercooked.  All of the four-hour thighs got worse, drier and stringier as the temperature went up.

The leg was perfect at 65 C for an hour where the one cooked for four hours at 65C was horribly dry.

This Thanksgiving, Dave plans on circulating his turkey in the duck fat and oil again (and he’ll be able to finish it off in a deep fryer because  he’ll be at the in-laws’).  The real struggle is trying to find a way to cook the whole 35 lb turkey for an hour if the breast is best at 64 C, and the thigh/leg is best at 65-66 C.  Again, the most important thing is that we serve the whole bird while keeping all of the body parts intact. Because nothing ruins Thanksgiving (or is more un-American) than a table set with an already-carved bird.

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McGee Days Two and Three: Steak, Fish, Burgers and Love

November 13th, 2009 · McGee

posted by Nastassia Lopez

groupshot

Dave, Nils and Harold.

The cool thing about this job is that I get to sit in on the demos that Dave and Nils teach, eat delicious things, laugh a good majority of the time, and learn a hell of a lot about food tech. The second day with McGee was all about heat, the third day we learned new techniques and messed with flavors. There were a lot of awesome demos, but I’m going to highlight some of the cooler nuggets of info that I found interesting and applicable to the things I like to eat/cook.

Flipping Your Meat

First up: cooking steak at home to acheive optimum deliciousness. McGee shared how he cooked four different virtual steaks on his computer (his computer cooks steaks; our printer prints scallop shuttles).  The computer compared the effects of steak flipping intervals (6 min., 3 min., 15 sec., and 60 sec.) on cooking time and each steaks’ relative “doneness.”  Dave recreated the experiment for the class (flipping two different steaks—one every 5 seconds, the other, just once).  The frequent flipping of the steak ensures that the meat cooks more evenly, which makes sense; but counterintuitively, the one that is flipped more will also be done 30% faster than one that is flipped once or twice.   
 steak
This technique works well because neither side has enough time to absorb too much heat when it’s on the fire, nor does it lose too much heat when it’s facing away. You also get less of a “well-doneness” layer on the outside of the steak (indicated by the red line in our electronic steaks) and a more even, gradual spread of “doneness” throughout.
steak

Steak on the left flipped one time in 15 minutes. Steak on the right flipped every 15 seconds.

When the steaks were “done” we ensured they were cooked to the same internal temperature  by putting them in ziplock bags and circulating them for 30 minutes in 56 degree water.  The class tasted. The ones that were flipped more frequently were more consistently even throughout, with a nice well-done crust on the outside.  The ones flipped only once had a larger proportion of overcooked parts and didn’t even have a better crust—surprising.

Ike Jime Taste Tests

ikejimeraw1

1. just ike jime; 2. western style; 3. anesthetized with clove oil and ike jime

On day one of the class, fish were killed with three different methods to determine the effects of slaughtering on taste and texture:

1. Western Killing: allow to suffocate in air for 30 minutes and whack over the head.

2. Ike-Jime (spinal chord destruction): sever the spinal chord, shove a needle up the spine and bleed out.

3. Anesthesia plus Ike Jime: knock the fish out with clove oil and then do ike-jime (for the full blow-by-blow see  post here).

On days two and three we blind tasted the fish that were killed on day one both raw and cooked.  Dave and Nils were a tad worried about the demo because they had never done ike jime on blackfish, and weren’t sure how long rigor mortis would last.  Most fish shouldn’t be eaten super fresh—you should let them go through rigor mortis.  Different fish go through rigor at different rates so different fish should be stored for different amounts of time before you eat them.   Sure enough, on day two of the class, 20 hours after the fish were killed, they were still in different states of rigor mortis.  The results were going to be weird.

The Western fish was favored by the class in the first raw tasting. It had more of that familiar “fishy” flavor, the pink, unbled color we’re used to, and the texture was good.   The fish that had been ike jimed without clove oil (after an unsuccessful escape from the demo table) was tough, overly-crunchy and had minimal flavor.  The fish that had been anesthesized and then ike jimed was fresh tasting, but had the least pleasant texture. Nils and Dave were dejected. A western-killed fish had never-ever won a taste test before.  The house favorite—ike plus anesthesia, came in last! We hoped that it was just too early to sample the ike jimed and anesthetized blackfish because they were still in rigor. The un-bled Western head-bashed fish was at its prime. Rigor had set in earlier so his muscles softened and became limper faster than his other ike jimed buddies.

For the cooked tasting Dave and Nils cooked the three fish in a circulator at 57 C  for 25 minutes, and no one liked one more than the other.  The class could not make out a real discernible difference between the three.  Nils commented that the Ike Jime and anesthetized fish seized up significantly when they were cooking. Again a disappointment for Dave and Nils.  We hoped to be vindicated on day three.

The third day we ran the same blind tests again 44 hours after the fish had been killed.  The Western fish was still fishy, but lost the fresh flavor from the day before and turned a bit mealy. The ike jimed fish were both firm, but the one that had been anesthetized had more flavor and held the texture much better. WIN!

The real flavor difference came out in the cooked test.  There was no comparison between the Western style and the Ike Jimed.  The Western had become mushy and soft.  The just Ike Jimed fish was good, but the texture was still tough. The anesthesized/Ike Jime fish had good flavor and the texture was firm but nice.  For blackfish, we decided that it needed to rest a little longer than the fluke and sea bass to allow rigor to set in.  We also realized (yet again) that sedating the fish with clove oil and then performing Ike Jime simply makes it taste better. WIN! Dave and Nils were pretty happy.

Ike Jime and clove oil: 1. Western head bashing: 0.  

Distillation, Rotary Evaporation and Apples

rotaryevaporator

Dave distilling the bourbon in the rotary evaporator.

When McGee was talking about distillation we pulled out the rotary evaporator cause its the only way we distill.  Yes, we finally have the rotary evaporator up and running again! (After spending more than $500 in parts we lost at Star Chefs.)  Rotary evaporation is a specialized form of distillation that works gently at low temperatures to preserve flavors.  Read about it here. Dave used it to re-distill bourbon.  When you re-distill bourbon you keep its aroma and flavor but get rid of all the harsh non-volatile oak compounds.  We love those compounds normally, but they would have messed with the cocktail that Dave and Nils were planning to make.

They had juiced and clarified a case of their favorite apples, Ashmead’s Kernel.  Ashmead’s Kernel and re-distilled bourbon is a match made in heaven. You have the crisp and tart flavors of the apple, mixed with the goodness of the bourbon, without the throaty oak. Dave talks about the apple and the drink here. I think it was the most interesting cocktail of the class (and there were many). On day 2 Dave and Nils had made some kick-ass cocktails with two other cool varieties of apples that we love: Wickson and Honeycrisp.  Both were clarified, mixed with gin and slushed out with liquid nitrogen.  Same cocktail, different apples, very different flavors. I hate gin, but I could probably pound those cocktails all night.

Although rotary evaporation is fairly new, McGee pointed out that distillation goes back to 3500 BC. For those of you who don’t have a rotary evaporator at home, try doing it the old-school way.  Cover a pot of your favorite alcohol, bring it to a boil, and collect the beads of condensation that drip off on the inside of  your lid. Easy as 123 and you become a felon (distillation is illegal).  I did it at home with popcorn and water.  The stuff that dripped off the lid tasted a lot like popcorn.  Cool, easy, AND legal.

Corked Wine and Plastic Wrap

Corked wine is any wine that has been contaminated with TCA (2,4,6-Trichloroanisole). This molecule is found in some corks and can be transferred from cork to bottle, making your wine smell like wet dog, moldy towels, or wet cardboard.  Here’s a good trick before you dump the whole bottle:  Pour the wine into bowl or carafe, ball up some plastic wrap, and let it sit for a few minutes.  The TCA molecule is chemically similar to the polyethylene in the plastic wrap, and sticks to the plastic.

We didn’t have any corked wine, so test this, McGee poured some Pernod into two different containers (Pernod and other anise flavored alcohols have flavor compounds chemically similar to TCA).  He put some balled up some plastic wrap in one, waited, and passed both containers around the class.  The Pernod with the plastic wrap had lost most of its TCA-like aroma compounds.

Gymnemic Acid and Miraculan

The third morning started off with a real kick to the mouth.  We tricked everyone’s tastebuds with gymnemic acid (the substance itself tastes like licking the bottom of a rabbit cage; don’t ask us how we know this) and miraculin. Gymnemic is a sweetness killer, miraculin makes sour things taste sweet.  We disgusted everyone first, and then we ruined everyone’s tooth enamel with limes.  Check out Dave’s write-up here.

Delicious Hamburgers

For the past few weeks we’ve been working long and hard to find the way to make the most delicious burgers on the planet.  We’ve almost got it. With a combination of reduced beef jus, butter, a circulator and a deep fryer, we’re almost ready to reveal our secret recipe for the best damn burgers in the city. But you’ll just have to wait .

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How to Make Everything Taste Bad in a Very Instructive Way and How To Eat 20 Limes

November 12th, 2009 · gymnema sylvestre

posted by Dave Arnold

In the 1880’s western scientists figured out that chewing the leaves of the tropical Indian plant gymnema sylvestre completely obliterates your ability to taste sweet.  It was known in India long before then — they called it gurmar, “sugar destroyer.”

Gymnema Sylvestre capsules and low-quality varietal grape juice

Gymnema Sylvestre capsules and low-quality varietal grape juice

The active ingredients in the plant are gymnemic acids.  They don’t mask sweetness — they actually block the ability of sweet receptors to sense sweet compounds, including artificial sweeteners like splenda and saccharine.  Gymnemic acid makes sugar taste like sand, fruit taste like an acid bomb, and dessert chocolate taste like baking chocolate.  You have to taste it to believe it.  We first used gymnemic acid in a demo with Harold McGee three years ago, and we’ve been demo’ing it ever since.  The results  are as unpleasant as they are instructive, a rare opportunity to knock out one of your tastes while leaving the rest intact. You can experience how sweetness interacts with acid, salt, umami, and bitter in common foods that we take for granted. I understand a lot more about fruit, ice cream, and Coca Cola  now that I’ve tried them on gymnemic acid. 

One possible real-world application of sweet destruction is figuring out how foods will taste after they ferment. Fermentation gets rid of sugar.  Although fermentation produces many flavors unrelated to sugar loss, I think gymnemic acid could provide useful insight into the acid/bitter balance in juices and ciders BEFORE they ferment.  I don’t know of anyone doing this. I tested my hypothesis at the most recent Harold McGee class by including  Ashmead’s Kernel apple (which is sometimes used in cider) and pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon grape juice in our tasting. Unfortunately our grape juice was not of high enough quality to really get a feel for what the varietals taste like without sugar. The apple slice compared well with my memory of Ashmead’s Kernel cider. Qualified success.

Would you ever use this stuff in cooking? Hell no. It tastes terrible and the effects last a long time (like half an hour).  Should everyone try it once? Hell yes. Here’s how:

First, buy yourself some Gymnema Sylvestre.  It’s pretty easy to get — it is used in Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine to control blood sugar and appetite. Ours, a green powder loaded into vegetarian gel capsules, comes from Tattva’s herbs.  We break each capsule and divide the powder into two servings –more than enough.  Next, arrange yourself a tasting plate –here is ours:

gymnemic

Gymnemic acid tasting plate: Top row: strawberries and blueberries, gymnema sylvestre powder, bad pinot-noir juice; Middle row: Ashmead's kernel apple, honey, bad cabernet juice; Bottom row: brown and white sugar, bread (palate cleanser), 60% chocolate, marshmallows, and pecan cookies.

Taste some of the stuff before you take the gymnemic acid.  Get a feel for the acidity of the fruit, the taste of the chocolate, etc.  Now put the gymnema powder on your tongue.  I’m not going to lie to you, it is unpleasant.  Just do it.  You’re shooting for enlightenment.  Keep the stuff on your tongue and swirl it around your mouth.  Don’t swallow it right away.  Did I mention it tastes bad? Stop complaining.  Try to keep that stuff in your mouth as long as you can.  It takes about a minute for the effect to kick in. Afterwards, take a small sip of water and chew some bread to cleanse your palate.  Start tasting stuff. Don’t worry, the effect will eventually wear off; but don’t do it on your way to a 4 star restaurant. Most people start getting their sweet back in about 20 minutes, and are fully back within an hour.

On the Fun Side:

No one is having Gymnemic acid parties – it’s interesting, but I can’t say  it’s fun. Miraculin, on the other hand…

 Miraculin makes sour things taste sweet, while still remaining sour — it causes your sweet receptors to respond to acid. It comes from the miracle fruit, from the West African plant Synsepalum dulcificum.  It is truly cool stuff.  The best I’ve ever had is the freeze-dried kind that we were given as a gift by our buddy Katsuya Fukushima.  Unfortunately it’s hard to get.  You can buy the fruit fresh or forzen, but it’s expensive and goes bad quickly.  The stuff I get now is called Miracle Frooties. I buy it on eBay from LadyKingel. She gives some of the profit to charity and ships instantly.  Whenever I do miraculin I get stupid and eat twenty limes. 

 In case you were wondering, gymnemic acid ruins miraculin too. 

miraculum

Lemons, limes, vinegar, and a compressed miracle berry tab.

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Harold McGee Lecture Series, Day One: Eggs, Lobsters, Sorbet and Champagne

November 6th, 2009 · McGee

posted by Nastassia Lopez
mcgee1

The man himself.

For those of you on who live on the other side of the world or for those who just couldn’t make it down to the FCI for the McGee lecture series, here’s a quick recap of the stuff that went down on Day 1.

Eggs

We started off the morning with one of McGee’s favorite subjects: eggs.

Whipping: the French have been using copper bowls to make egg foams since the 16th century.  McGee taught the class that other metals also have the capacity to form extremely tight bonds with reactive sulfur groups.  Whether you whip egg whites in a copper, silver , or in a glass bowl with a pinch of powered copper, the foams stay glossy and never develop a grainy texture.  Non-metallic alternatives like cream of tarter or lemon juice (acids) have similar effects on sulfur bonding and create equally beautiful peaks. An iron bowl does not stabilize the egg foam for long, but does give the it a really cool silverish color.

eggsssss

Hamine egg on the left; pressure cooked egg on the right; delicious homemade mayonaisse in the middle.

Pressure Cooked Hamine Egg: this egg is cooked in a pressure cooker at 15 psi for one hour.  A Maillard reation occurs, the egg whites take on a brown color and the yolk has a creamy consistency. The flavor is  “brown”  –  in the toasty, chicken giblets kind of way.

More Traditional Hamine Egg: we compared the pressure cooked egg to an egg that had been cooking for 18 hours at 70 degrees celsius.  The whites of the 70 degree egg were light brown to off-white. The yellow was still very yellow, and there was a slight jade ring around the yolk.  This egg started to develop some of the brown flavors of the pressure cooked egg, but not as much as they would have if they had cooked longer or at a higher temperature. The cool thing about these eggs is the structure of the yolk was clearly visible.  The yolk in an egg is deposited layer by layer  day by day as the egg is developing.  You can see those rings in this egg.

1000yroldegg

Two bratwursts crushing a quail egg.

The Thousand Year Old Egg: this technique of preserving duck eggs has been done in Chinese cultures for the past 500 years.   Traditionally, they are preserved in mud and ashes for 1-6 months, and last for a year.  Alkalinity is the key player here. Raising the pH of the egg denatures and breaks down the flavorless proteins and the fats into stinky, tasty things. Thousand year old egg whites become a hard, transparent brown jelly, and the yolks become a semisolid with jade coloring.  The flavor is earthy and eggy with overwhelming notes of sulfur and ammonia. Some eggs can develop beautiful crystals on the surface known by the Chinese as “pine flowers.”  To make a quicker, less stinky version, we stored quail eggs in lye for just five days in a Cambro.   The whites became transparent (not brown), and the yolks sank to the bottom of the egg and turned a dark yellow.  We like them a lot; but, alas, no pine flowers.

pine floweregg

Pine flower crystals on the surface of the 1000 year old egg

Egg Toast With Caviar: For those of you who attended our Star Chefs or New York Culinary Experience Demos, you’ll know that we’re quite fond of this egg trick. Click here for a refresher!

eggoneggonegg

Our new favorite: egg on egg on egg.

Ike Jime and Lobsters

tank

Making friends between the black fish and the lobsters in our do-it-yourself fish tank.

Ike Jime: After lunch, we went straight into our Ike Jime demo. Eight live black fish and eight live lobsters were delivered in the morning, and we kept them swimming with the help of a chiller that kept the water at 50F, bubblers that provided oxygen, a tank filter duct-taped to the side that continuously cleaned the water, and a few water-filled cambros and jugs that raised the water level.We: 1) Ike Jime’d two fish that had not been anesthesized (which proved a little chaotic when one of the very live fish wriggled out of Dave’s hands and slapped itself onto the laps of a few of the guests in the first row), 2) Ike Jime’d three after they had been anesthesized in Aqui-S for 15 minutes, and, 3) killed two the “Western way”- partial suffocation, and then knocked out by being bludgeoned in the head. One escaped notice until late that evening.  It was still sleeping in the tank.  It got the full ike-jime treatment. Ike Jime is mentioned a lot on our blog – we know. But this is the first Ike Jime post with an actual video! Check it out by clicking on the video below.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YofCpoXkx2Q]

Lobsters: The lobsters were the next to go.  Unfortunately we still can’t tell you the really cool tech behind this demo for a few weeks.  What we can tell you, is that soon enough you’ll be able to make a damn delicious lobster.

Frozen Desserts

We were exploring ice creams and sorbets with non-traditional textures.  Why should an ice creeam need to be smooth and creamy?

Super Gummy Locust Bean Gum Sorbet: locust bean gum is known for its thickening properties and has been used for centuries. The ancient Egyptians used the paste to glue bandages on mummies. We used it to make raspeberry sorbet (not to be confused with Prince’s Raspberry Beret).  We took a raspeberry puree and added simple syrup to taste, with 1 1/2% locust bean gum (a ridiculously large amount).  After it simmered, we cooled it, tammied it, and realized the acidity and sugar was not right. We added more sugar, froze it while mixing with liquid nitrogen until it became nearly solid, and served.  A lot of the raspberry flavor had been stripped, but it had a cool snappy texture that gummed in your mouth like a Fruit Roll Up.  Slight locust bean taste, but hey, this was a texture test.  What happens when you go beyond too gummy to way too gummy? Does it get good again?

McGee’s Crunchy Ice Cream: McGee (sometimes) likes his ice cream crunchy. He brought some of his homemade uncreamed ice cream which was equal parts heavy cream and milk, a tablespoon per cup of sugar, a dash of salt and vanilla extract. He threw it in a hotel pan, placed it in the freezer and when it started to freeze, he folded the ice cream over (not to upset the larger ice crystals) and served it up. We had a crunchy, delicious vanilla ice cream.  This is a riff on an old French recipe. In French it’s called “pin cheese.” The bigger the crystals, the better the job you’ve done.  The exact opposite of modern ice cream.

Tiny Bubbles in the Wine

McGee recounted an experiment he conducted a number of years ago dispelling the myth of the spoon in the champagne bottle.  Hint: it involved drinking lots of wine.

Spoon in the Champagne Bottle: French folklore insists that placing a silver spoon (handle down) into the neck of an open champagne bottle will keep the bottle fresh and bubbly overnight.  McGee put this to the test.  A panel of six tasters blind tested an American sparkler and a French champagne with five different treatments ( just opened, left uncorked in the refrigerator for 18 hours, recorked, with a silver spoon placed in the neck 18 hours, and one with a plastic spoon in the neck for 18 hours in case the silver part was important).

The results were interesting.  The sparkling wine tasted better when left uncorked overnight and actually improved the flavors. It also lost a fair amount of its carbonation, which turned out to be a good thing because the freshly opened bottle of sparkling wine seemed to have excess bubbly (see below). The bottles with spoons were the same as the uncorked bottle.

The champagne results were completely different. The uncorked, refrigerated bottles absorbed the flavors of the fridge. Gross.  Like the sparkling wine, the champagne lost some carbonation, but in this case, the change was bad –it was flat. McGee explained that carbonation levels in the champagnes were lower. The open bottles tasted like the fridge because they didn’t have enough exiting CO2 to push out the stinky odors. The spoon in the bottle trick was also insignificant. Sorry, France. sparklingwineDoes Carbonation Affect Flavor: Overcarbonated wine tastes bad.  The oak comes out too much and the fruit is shot to crap.  On the other hand, sparklers that have their bubbles removed entirely taste acidic and bad as well.  To test this effect Dave used the vacuum machine to suck out the carbonation out of an American sparkler,Gruet , and a French champagne, Gosset.  We poured ourselves a taste of the fresh, bubbly bottles first, and then we tried the deflated one.  Both the uncarbonated Gruet and Gosset were high in acidity and tasted like cheap, highly-alcoholic sauvignon blanc. Dave recarbonated the Gruet, but over-amped the PSI. As predicted, awful. We realized that to reach the ideal amount of bubbles, the volume of carbonation needs to match the alcohol content of the beverage.  For example, champagne carbonates at around 30-35 psi (psi= pounds per square inch – with the common unit of measure being pressure)  at 0C. We do our mixed drinks around 40 psi.  Wines with a 10-13% abv get an average 30-35 psi, and sake gets about 5 psi higher than white wines (it’s got more booze in it).

In the next two days McGee and crew will be tricking everyone’s tastebuds, taste-testing french fries, hamburgers and pretzels, yadda, yadda.

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Cocktail Science V: Ideal Dilution Through %ABV Blind Testing

October 29th, 2009 · cocktails

posted by Nastassia Lopez

Cocktail recipes specify ingredients and chilling technique, but they typically don’t tell you squat about the ideal amount of water added when you stir or shake with ice. Do drinks have an ideal dilution? We figured with the right people in the room we could probably find some consensus. We were wrong.

But let’s back up:

Dave decided to test dilution values of two drinks – the Sidecar and the Pegu– by doing blind tastings spanning a range of 15-30% ABV (alcohol by volume). Dave and I served 32 consecutive shot-sized glasses of each drink, and got some of NYC’s bartending gods completely sloshed at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. The panel included: Kenta Goto, of Pegu Club; Don Lee, PDT, Momofuku Ssam; Chad Solomon, Milk and Honey, Pegu, Flatiron Lounge, Little Branch; Christy Pope of Cuff and Buttons; Scott Teague of Pegu Club and Meehan, and Eben Klemm, head of beverage for the B. R. Guest Restaurant Empire, and head of the Tales of The Cocktail Shaking Seminar.

group2

The tasting panel: (clockwise from left): Don Lee, Chad Solomon, Eben Klemm, Scott Teague, Christy Pope, and Kenta Goto.

First up, the Sidecar: cognac, cointreau and lemon.

We did five sets of four dilutions, in random order at the same temperature (a fairly tepid 0°C.) The mix came in at 30.8%ABV. We acheived our range of ABV’s with a water dilution like this:

Sidecar Mix

Set One: 15, 16, 17 and 18% ABV.  15%  rated  first or second with the majority of the tasters, and18% followed as most everyone’s second choice. 16 and 17%  rated lower; half the panel noted that they were too sour and acidic. Weird.

Set Two:   higher ABV’s: 23, 24, 25 and a whopping 31%. The 24 and 25% tied as favorites for the round, and the panel agreed that 31% was too boozy, 23% too light.

Set Three: 19, 20, 21 and 22%. Results were all over the board.  One bartender said 19% was too acidic and rated it lowest; another said it was the ideal sour and rated it tops. Two thought 20% was well-balanced, and three thought it was far too overdiluted. Most everyone agreed that 21% was the sweetest and was headed in the right direction.

groupdavemeasuring

Dave playing bartender to the bartenders. Measuring.

Set Four: 16, 19, 20 and 22%. No clear winner. 16, 19 and 22% got two top votes each.  20% was rated either second or third by everyone.  No one thought 16% was overly acidic (as they did in Set One.)

Set Five: 16, 17, 21 and 22%.  21% was voted  first or second favorite by all. 16% was surprisingly still a favorite by half  the group. 17% ranked third across the board, and 24% was agreed to be too boozy and dark.

What did we learn about perfecting the Sidecar? Not much.  We learned that you can’t isolate alcohol dilution like we thought we could; the variables of acidity and sugar balance really complicate things.  We also saw that tasters’ impressions of a drink are significantly affected by the other drinks they are tasting next to it.

Would we fare any better with the Pegu? The recipe: gin, Cointreau, lime, Angostura, Orange bitters.  The straight mix came in at 35 abv.  Here is the dilution table:

pegu desired abv

Set One:  15, 16, 17 and 18%. 15% was tops with four of the six bartenders, “well balanced” and “strong”  (strong in quality, not liquor).  16% was first pick of the remaining two. The losers were 17%, deemed “soft” and “light,” and 18% — “sour,” “sharp” and “weak.”

Set Two:  16, 18, 19 and 20%.   19% was picked first or second favorite by the group, “nice sugar,” “softest” and “best diluted.”  20% was second runner-up.  18% was least favored, “sharp” and “bittery.”

bartenders

Pretty fatigued at this point.

Set Three: Everyone was pretty sauced, but we pushed ahead with an even stronger set of 22, 23, and 24%.  No clear favorite.

Set Four: thankfully, our last. 15, 16 an 17%.  Kenta bowed out to go to work, so we were down to five bartenders.  The outcome seemed random;  everyone had a different opinion.  Two said 15% was far too strong, one said it was the most balanced.  One said 17% was the lightest while two claimed it was the most acceptable. 16% was evenly split, too strong for some, and too diluted for others.

After all this: no clear answer on our panel’s preferred dilution. We were shocked by the utter lack of consensus. Each set determined the limits of  perceived dilution and liquor and/or acid balance.  We must have structured the tasting poorly;  arguments erupted over whether the inclusion of bitters had mucked everything up, whether the drink choices had been appropriate, whether we could taste accurately at 0°C.  Hard to tell from the raw data, but we suspect that acid and alcohol can come in and out of balance at different dilutions.  We vowed to re-convene and taste two drinks with lime and sugar, one rum, one gin, then taste straight gin dilutions and straight limeade dilutions to try and figure out what the hell’s going on.

This is the fifth Cocktail Science shaking post. The previous are:

1: Thermodynamics of chilling: why drinks get so cold

2: Temperature, Dilution, and Ice.

3: Why do my shaker cans get stuck together?

4: Testing Shaking Differences Between Bartenders Qualitatively

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Puffed Snacks 1: Wherefore the Puff?

October 27th, 2009 · Puffed Snack

posted by Dave Arnold

I love puffed snacks. Everyone loves puffed snacks. I thought it was time we posted on them.

Love

Why do things puff?

In the snack food industry, most puffed snacks are made from starch passed through an extruder.  A screw inside a long barrel mixes, compresses and cooks via friction all at the same time (sometimes extra heat is added, but often friction alone does the trick).  By the time the screw reaches the die at the end of the barrel the product mixture is very hot (well over 100°C) and under high pressure. When the product is extruded through the die at the end of the barrel this pressure is released and water boils off very rapidly –  puffing and drying at the same time. We don’t have an extruder at school, but that doesn’t keep us from making puffed treats.

The products we puff in the kitchen are technically glasses: amorphous (non crystalline) homogenous solids that are stable and rigid.  They also contain water (ideally about 12%).  All glasses have what’s called a glass transition temperature at which they go from rigid to rubbery.  This temperature is usually a good bit (like 100°C) lower than the melting point where they’d become a liquid. For foods destined to be puffed snacks, the glass transition temperature is ALWAYS higher than the boiling point of water –here’s why: When you heat the glassy pre-snack rapidly above 100°C the water inside wants to boil but can’t because it is trapped inside a glass.  When the snack reaches the glass transition temp it suddenly becomes rubbery.  The water is  able to start boiling and expanding,  which it does rapidly.  After the water boils away the product sets (because there’s no more water to keep it plastic and flexible) and becomes crunchy.

Points to remember if you want to do your own puffing:

  • The product you start with must be amorphous.  Crystals won’t puff.  As you will see, that is an important point to remember.
  • The water content must be correct.  Too little water results in burning and less puffing because 1) the temperature of the item will get too high before the glass transition is reached; 2) there is insufficient water to puff adequately; 3) without enough water the snack won’t be flexible enough to expand.  In the biz they say water acts as a plasticizer.
  • Other substances can also act as plasticizers – such as salt (which also helps taste and might help with heat conduction) and  maltodextrin — any relatively small molecule that will decrease the viscosity of your product.
  • Heat quickly and evenly.  I like frying, but air popping, heat guns and microwaves work too.
  • Don’t add things to the snack that will burn before the item is fully puffed –like sugar.
  • Don’t add things that will compete with the water in the snack and prevent puffing –like sugar.

Things that will puff fall into two main categories (that I know of): connective tissue and starches.

Connective tissue has lots of collagen.  When you cook collagen you break it into to gelatin, which is soft and easy to puff. When you dehydrate the broken-down connective tissue it turns into a glass, which you can heat and puff — a la pork rinds.  Wylie Dufresne works similar wonders with beef tendon and cod swim bladders.

Starches are made up of two main molecules: amylopectin and amylose, usually with more of the former.  Industrial puffing people care a lot about the amylose to amylopectin ratio.  In extrusion applications, about 50/50 gives the highest expansion.  The main structure comes from Amylopectin, while the amylose helps to increase the fluidity of the mix and increase expansion. The ratio  isn’t so important to us. What is important is that the starch gets cooked thoroughly. Native starch is partially crystalline and won’t puff.  The starch granules need to be fully cooked to ensure that the crystal nature is disrupted and the starch can become nice and amorphous.  Some chefs (like Wylie) use pre-gelatinized starch to get around this problem.  Mix with liquid, dehydrate, and you’re done.  If you want to go this rought use Ultra-Sperse from the National Starch Corporation. Don’t bother with Ultra-Tex – it’s hard to hydrate properly.

Almost anything that is mostly starch will puff: rice, corn, pasta, doughs made from tapioca starch (nice and bland), wheat starch, corn starch, yadda yadda.

How do you make a puffed snack?

Making puffs is as simple as: over-cook, dehydrate, and fry.

First: Over-cook your item.  In the case of starch this ensures that the starch granules are  fully gelatinized and at their lowest viscosity.  In connective tissue like pork rinds, overcooking ensures that all the connective tissue is broken down and soft.  Cook  pork rinds in very salty water for 60-70 minutes, pasta in heavily salted water for 45 minutes.

Second: Dehydrate. If the moisture content of your item is above 15% you won’t get much puffing.  If it is below about 10% you won’t get much puffing.  Most people don’t have the ability to test moisture content (If you are anal and you know your moisture level is close you can get it just right by sealing your stuff in a container with a saturated solution of ammonium nitrate or sodium nitrite in water.  That will maintain 65% relative humidity which will give a moisture content of 12%). In practice determining the moisture content isn’t usually a problem.  When the product goes from being flexible to being plastic-y and shrinky-dink like — you’re done.  Try puffing a couple and see what happens.  Over-dried stuff doesn’t bubble much when fried and burns without puffing. Under-dried stuff starts to puff and boils a lot but has a hard center that doesn’t puff.  You’ll quickly get the hang of it.  I recommend putting your product in the dehydrator at 135°F for a couple hours and then turning the dehydrator off and leaving the product overnight. In our kitchen this usually works.  If you live in a very humid or very dry place your results may vary (sorry Louisiana and Arizona). If you don’t have a dehydrator turn your oven on low and crack the door.

Here are pictures of some stuff puffing in a microwave ( thus the blurry pictures).

PorkRinds1

Pork Rinds puffing in a microwave

PuffStarch

Ultra-Sperse M and chicken stock puffing in a microwave

PuffPasta1

Pasta puffing in a microwave

Here is the technique for puffing pasta.  No, you can’t just puff dried pasta, you have to cook the heck out of it and then dry it.  I built a rack to hold the pasta while it was cooking and dehydrating because it was so fragile it wouldn’t hold its shape.  The pasta  almost breaks under its own weight it’s so soft.  You don’t need the rack if you don’t want to keep the holes in the pasta intact. After dehydration the pasta should have almost the texture it had before it was first cooked –just a little more flexible.

PastaMontage1

Put pasta on the special rack, salt the hell out of some water, boil the hell out of the pasta (like 40 minutes), load the rack into the dehydrator.

PastaMontage2

When the pasta has taken on the texture of a shrinky-dink, you fry it.

Here is the recipe for pork rinds:

Take pork skin and boil it in heavily salted water for 60-75 minutes. Carefully drain and cool in the fridge. After cold it is sturdy enough to handle.  Scrape the fat off the fat side; more scraping = better puffing.  Cut the pork rinds into pieces and dehydrate until they feel like plastic.  Fry in very hot oil.

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Scotch and Peanuts in the Centrifuge = Some Funky Stuff.

October 23rd, 2009 · centrifuge

posted by Dave Arnold

The weather’s getting chilly again, so L’Ecole (The FCI’s restaurant) asked me to start thinking about this year’s crop of Red Hot Poker drinks. (If you don’t know about the poker and our modern take on 18th century drinks, look here.) I  brainstormed with Alexis Kahn, who, along with many other duties,  runs L’Ecole’s beverage program. She suggested making a poker drink using our rotovapped scotch and dry-roasted peanuts (the recipe is in our Rotovap Primer). Great idea—but making all that peanut scotch would be a pain in the petoot. I wanted to try something faster.

I thought about doing some fat-washing—a technique to flavor alcohol with fats that a lot of my buddies use—but it wouldn’t be quick enough. I had a lot of scotch to make and not much time.  I wanted to work REALLY FAST. So I had my guys blend Dewars and peanuts in the Vita-prep and spin it in the centrifuge at 4000 g’s for 20 minutes.

If you don’t know about centrifuges, they separate mixtures based on density. You can read our posts on them here, here, and here.

Left to right: the blended scotch and peanut goop before spinning; the very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with almost no scotch taste; the not-so-alcoholic, strange tasting, very peanutty scotch liquid; awesome, awesome, scotch flavored peanut oil

Left to Right: The blended scotch and peanut goop before spinning; The very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with almost no scotch taste; The not-so-alcoholic, strange tasting, very peanutty scotch liquid; Awesome, awesome, scotch flavored peanut oil

I thought we’d get a layer of peanut butter on the bottom (the densest stuff), a layer of peanut flavored scotch (middle density), and a layer of peanut oil on top (the lightest stuff).  We did get that—but in a weird way.  There was a lot of very, very smooth, highly alcoholic peanut butter with very little scotch taste on the bottom.  In the middle was a small layer of scotch and peanut flavored liquid with a low alcohol content and a strange flavor balance.  The real surprise was the peanut oil on top.  We had a very high yield of very good peanut oil with an incredibly pleasing scotch taste.  The oil was a real winner.

Why did this happen?  I know from our experiments centrifuging nut oils and butters that adding a small amount of simple syrup to ground nuts before they are spun increases the yield of oil and makes denser pucks of nut butter.  The high-yield oil you get by adding simple syrup isn’t as flavorful as the smaller quantity you get by spinning the nuts without adding simple syrup.  Strangely, even though we add water in the form of simple syrup, there is no middle water layer in these preparations. All the water gets absorbed in the nut-paste layer.  Shinderhannes, a reader, commented on this simple syrup phenomenon, and pointed out that alcohol should work the same way. We never tried it till now.

What blew my mind was that the peanut butter absorbed so much alcohol but so little flavor from the scotch. Strange.  Also, unlike the simple syrup technique, the high-yield oil from the alcohol trick is full flavored (plus has the extra yummy flavor from the scotch).  Next up: Bourbon flavored pecan oil (America in nut-oil form). And a different idea for the red-hot poker drink.

Side note for anyone who enjoys stupid troubleshooting stories: Some of you may remember that our new centrifuge, the Jouan C412, was acting up on us.  All of a sudden, the motor went from a 4000+ rpm max speed to 3200 rpm.  The good folks over at Ozark Biomedical who service Jouans spent hours trying to help me.  We checked the resistance of the motor windings, we adjusted the current of the driver circuit, we looked at the tach circuit, we checked and replaced the brushes. In an attempt to check the FET’s on the driver board during operation I dropped my test lead and fried one of the drivers. Now it was really broken.  I found a replacement FET and got back to work. As a last effort, I ordered replacement bearings for the motor even though the ones we had felt smooth. When I took the motor apart to replace the bearings I noticed that one of 4 magnets on the rotor that signal the tach had come loose and flown off.  The tach was only sensing 3 magnets, not 4. The damn thing had been working fine the whole time, just reading 25% low.  I bought an optical tach and verified that the machine was reading low.  What a waste of time! I feel even dumber because a reader named Paul A. suggested I use a tach right off the bat.  Kudos to you, Paul. I wish you had been the troubleshooter.

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We've Got a 3-D Printer: We Need Applications

October 20th, 2009 · 3-D Printer

posted by Nastassia Lopez

The Jetson's Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle. Very similar to our Fab At Home.

The Jetson's Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle. Very similar to our Fab At Home.

Last week the Tech Department was (permanently) loaned a Fab@Home 3-D printer by Dan Cohen and Jeffrey Lipton from Cornell University.   The Fab@Home universal fabrication machine or, “fabber” (not to be confused with our intern “Fabulous“) can build three-dimensional objects by depositing materials (epoxy, cement, scallop goop) via two 10 mL syringes, line by line, layer by layer.  Just hook it up to the computer and give it a drawing that corresponds to the machine’s x, y, and z axes.  The syringes move along and squirt out the paste in the corresponding form. It’s almost as easy as the Jetson’s Food-a-Rac-a-Cycle that makes prime rib at the push of a button.

Our see-through acrylic 3-D printing machine: Fab@Home!

Our see-through acrylic 3-D printing machine: Fab@Home!

The Fab@Home crew hopes that every home will someday have a fabber. They brought us one in the hopes of finding applications that will get people’s juices flowing.  And what better to get juices flowing than food? 

First we filled the syringes with scallop paste that had been mixed with meat glue, printed out a few scallop space shuttles (that’s the drawing the fabber showed up with) and cubes, heat set them, and attached them to a charm bracelet for Dave.

We tried an emulsified turkey and bacon fat mixture that had been blended with more meat glue (Activa RM), but by the time starting printing the paste had set for too long and was too gloppy as it left the syringe.

We tried a celery fluid gel. It worked okay, but wasn’t smooth enough to extrude nicely.

Finally we mixed up another turkey/bacon mix and printed a celery puree filled meat cube. Meatballs hard –meat cubes easy.  It worked pretty well.

Here is our problem:

We need legit food applications.

We’re trying to come up with some awesome, non-gimmicky, and—most importantly—delicious applications for this fab fabber. We need some suggestions.  Here are the guidelines:

1. The material needs to be able to squirt out of a very small tube.  This is the main problem.  Mixtures must be almost completely homogeneous.

2. The final product can’t be any bigger than a pound of butter (plus remember, we are currently squirting out of 10ml tubes).

3. It must be delicious.

4. It must have a point. We don’t need a printer to make scallop space shuttles.

A Note From Dave:

I love this machine.  I plan on using it to print out parts for my rotovap. The guys at Cornell even said  it is possible to print stainless steel (via inert-gas kiln-sintering a stainless powder-impregnated agar gel).  Stainless steel! 

In order to keep the machine we need to find good food applications.  I want an application that can’t be done any other way—an application that makes everyone want a fabber.  I’m currently thinking about new textures we can create. The main limitation is that the mixtures we use must be homogeneous so they can make it out of a standard luer lock fitting.  Emulsified meat, yes. Ground meat, no (passing turkey forcemeat through a tamis turns out to be a pain in the butt).  Dan says this is something we might be able to overcome in the future (after all the machine is basically a positioning system.  The deposition tool can be anything we want).

Here’s  a long-time dream I probably shouldn’t share: I’d like to make little food creatures that move under their own power.  I know it goes against what I preach about  technology in food but I just want to do it.  It goes back to everything I thought about in my sculpture days.  I want to make beautiful little delicious things that move around on your plate and look like edible jewelry.  There. I said it.  I just can’t think of a way to power them.  Acid/base reactions are unpredictable, provide spotty power, and don’t taste good.  Pressure is difficult to control.  I’m convinced, however, that having a Fabber is bringing me closer to my goal. 

In any event the pastry department here is going to have a field day making centerpieces.

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