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Kindai Tuna Breakdown: How to Cut Up and Serve a Whole (Sustainable) Bluefin

October 20th, 2009 · Kindai Tuna

posted by Dave Arnold with Nastassia Lopez

About a month ago, Chef Toshio Suzuki from Sushi Zen in New York (our ike-jime sensei) and Chef Noriyuki Kobayashi of Megu Midtown came to The FCI to demonstrate cutting a whole Kindai bluefin tuna. The event was sponsored by the Gohan Society and Sona Seafood (the guys who import Kindai).

Bluefin is delicious, but naughty.

As many of our readers know, you aren’t supposed to eat bluefin. The wild stocks have been horribly depleted. So-called ‘farmed’ bluefin are really just wild fish that are caught and fattened up for a couple of months.

But Kindai bluefin tuna are different. Kindai tuna are produced through closed cycle farming. They are raised from eggs hatched in a lab at Kinki University in Japan, and the eggs are obtained from fish grown from eggs hatched in Kinki’s lab. This cycle has been going on for several generations, although the folks at Kinki have been working on the problem for decades. Kinki does take some bluefin from the wild to increase the genetic diversity of their breeding stock, but they claim to release enough hatched juveniles to make up for it (a company representative told me this; I haven’t seen it confirmed in a written paper).

There are some folks who don’t like the idea of Kindai tuna. Some say bluefin shouldn’t be farmed at all because the operations are too resource-intensive—it takes a lot of fish to grow a pound of tuna. But since when is the food only about efficiency? (I once spent 2 days producing a single quart of super-perfect wine reduction.) If the mackerel, sand eel, and squid that are fed to Kindai tuna are in danger of depletion it would be a different story—I don’t think they are. Some also argue that inefficient feeding regimens of large-scale aquaculture pollute the ocean because wasted food sinks to the bottom of the ocean and rots. The Kinki people counter that they feed their tuna only as much as they want to eat, by hand. Lastly, some critics argue that customers who have just stopped eating bluefin are confused when they are given an option they are allowed to eat, spoiling all the effective anti-bluefin education. This argument makes the least sense to me; the only real concern is that wild bluefin could be falsely marketed as Kindai.
If you are going to eat bluefin, Kindai seems like a good bet. Here is how to cut one up and use the parts. Enjoy.

NOTE 1 Some of the pictures are quite small.  If you click on them a new window will open with an 800 pixel wide version without captions. 
NOTE 2 I am no tuna expert.  Let me know if there are errors or omissions.

Chef Suzuki with a whole Kindai Bluefin Tuna. It weighs about 60 kilos and costs about 72 dollars a kilo.

Chef Suzuki with a whole Kindai Bluefin Tuna. It weighs about 60 kilos and costs about 72 dollars a kilo.

Step 1

1) Cut off the tail. 2) Make a cut in gill flap and, 3)feel for the location where the spine meets the head: you’ll be aiming you cut towards this spot.

1) Cut off the tail. 2) Make a cut in gill flap and, 3) Feel for the location where the spine meets the head. You’ll be aiming you cut towards this spot.

Step 2

1) and 2) Grab pectoral fin and cut in a vee to center of the head. 3) and 4) Flip the fish over and repeat.

1) and 2) Grab pectoral fin and cut in a vee to center of the head. 3) and 4) Flip the fish over and repeat.

Step 3

1) Sever the spine and the hard part beneath the jaw. 2) Remove head (Some fish cutters will remove the head at the gill flap and leave the collar area attached till later). 3) Cut off pelvic fin. 4) Open the belly and locate the spine at the head and tail. You will be aiming just below the spine on the next cut.

1) Sever the spine and the hard part beneath the jaw. 2) Remove head (Some fish cutters will remove the head at the gill flap and leave the collar area attached till later). 3) Cut off pelvic fin. 4) Open the belly and locate the spine at the head and tail. You will be aiming just below the spine on the next cut.

Step 4

1) and 2) Make a cut along the side of the fish just below the spine all the way to the center. 3) and 4) Cut from back to front to slice off the lower quarter, called the belly cho (a cho is a quarter of the fish), then remove.

1) and 2) Make a cut along the side of the fish just below the spine all the way to the center. 3) and 4) Cut from back to front to slice off the lower quarter, called the belly cho (a cho is a quarter of the fish), then remove.

Step 5

1) 2) and 3) Cut at an angle over the backbone then slice the top quarter (the back cho) off and remove. Note the blood spots in the meat. This is a result of the Kindai electro-slaughter technique. They should have used clove oil!

1) 2) and 3) Cut at an angle over the backbone then slice the top quarter (the back cho) off and remove. Note the blood spots in the meat. This is a result of the Kindai electro-slaughter technique. They should have used clove oil!

Step 6

1) 2) 3) and 4) Trim the fin areas on the top and bottom. At this point some fish cutters would scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon, but Chef Suzuki plans in using it in a grilled spine dish.

1) 2) 3) and 4) Trim the fin areas on the top and bottom. At this point some fish cutters would scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon, but Chef Suzuki plans on using it in a grilled spine dish.

Step 7

1) and 2) cut the spine free from the second half of the fish. 3) Pat dry and wipe off.

1) and 2) Cut the spine free from the second half of the fish. 3) Pat dry and wipe off.

Step 8

1) and 2) Separate the belly quarter from the top quarter.

1) and 2) Separate the belly quarter from the top quarter.

Step 9

The belly quarter: 1) Cut off the major bloody area in one piece. 2) Finish trimming out the bloodline from the belly quarter. 3) Turn the quarter around. Note the shape of the trimmed area.

The belly quarter: 1) Cut off the major bloody area in one piece. 2) Finish trimming out the bloodline from the belly quarter. 3) Turn the quarter around. Note the shape of the trimmed area.

Step 10

1) Trim a little bit of the white fatty membrane on the inside of the belly (Suzuki has just done this). 2) Trim the fin area. Suzuki likes this cut of meat. He says it’s like beef. 3) and 4) Trim the rest of the membrane areas on the inside of the belly.  Suzuki likes these pieces, too –more beef.

1) Trim a little bit of the white fatty membrane on the inside of the belly (Suzuki has just done this). 2) Trim the fin area. Suzuki likes this cut of meat. He says it’s like beef. 3) and 4) Trim the rest of the membrane areas on the inside of the belly. Suzuki likes these pieces, too-–more beef.

Step 11

1) The trimmings from the belly and fins. 2) 3) and 4) Cut off the bottom portion of the belly. This will be the fattiest part: the otoro.

1) The trimmings from the belly and fins. 2) 3) and 4) Cut off the bottom portion of the belly. This will be the fattiest part: the otoro.

Step 12

1) and 2) Cut the upper portion of the belly quarter free from the skin. This will be chutoro and akami. 3) Cut the meat in half. 4) Scrape the meat from the skin. This meat is fatty –good for rolls.

1) and 2) Cut the upper portion of the belly quarter free from the skin. This will be chutoro and akami. 3) Cut the meat in half. 4) Scrape the meat from the skin. This meat is fatty-–good for rolls.

Step 13

Cutting Saku blocks. Saku are rectangular pieces of fish from which individual portions are cut. 1) Take the upper portion of the belly quarter that was closest to the head (remember he cut it in half) and put it skin side down. 2) and 3) Cut off the piece shown. It was on the interior of the fish and has the least fat. Reserve it for step 16.

Cutting Saku blocks. Saku are rectangular pieces of fish from which individual portions are cut. 1) Take the upper portion of the belly quarter that was closest to the head (remember he cut it in half) and put it skin side down. 2) and 3) Cut off the piece shown. It was on the interior of the fish and has the least fat. Reserve it for step 16.

Step 14

1) Cut a saku off the portion of the fish that was farthest from the belly. 2) Flip it over and trim (the trim goes into the scrapings pile). 3) Look at the piece. On the bottom it is fatty and on the top it is lean. Suzuki puts it in the medium fat, or chutoro, pile. (Note that between 1) and 2) the main piece of fish has been rotated 180 degrees)

1) Cut a saku off the portion of the fish that was farthest from the belly. 2) Flip it over and trim (the trim goes into the scrapings pile). 3) Look at the piece. On the bottom it is fatty and on the top it is lean. Suzuki puts it in the medium fat, or chutoro, pile. (Note that between 1) and 2) the main piece of fish has been rotated 180 degrees)

Step 15

1) 2) and 3) Continue to cut saku.

1) 2) and 3) Continue to cut saku.

Step 16

1) Take the piece that you reserved in step 13, put the blood-line portion down on your board and trim. 2) and 3) Flip it back over and cut off a saku in where the bloodline was trimmed in step 9. 4) Rotate the meat 180 degrees and cut off another saku.  These piece of meat are lean, aka akami.

1) Take the piece that you reserved in step 13, put the blood-line portion down on your board and trim. 2) and 3) Flip it back over and cut off a saku in where the bloodline was trimmed in step 9. 4) Rotate the meat 180 degrees and cut off another saku. These piece of meat are lean, aka akami.

Step 17

1) and 2) Take the tail-half of the upper part of the belly-cho (from step 12.3), put is skin-side down on your board and slice off the inner piece. 3) and 4) Cut this small piece into two lean akami saku.

1) and 2) Take the tail-half of the upper part of the belly-cho (from step 12.3), put is skin-side down on your board and slice off the inner piece. 3) and 4) Cut this small piece into two lean akami saku.

Step 18

1) 2) and 3) The other portion is cut into 4 saku and put in the medium fatty chutoro pile. It looks very pale because Chef Suzuki flipped it over. You are looking at the skin-side. The skin-side is fattier because the fish stores fat on its outside for insulation.

1) 2) and 3) The other portion is cut into 4 saku and put in the medium fatty chutoro pile. It looks very pale because Chef Suzuki flipped it over. You are looking at the skin-side. The skin-side is fattier because the fish stores fat on its outside for insulation.

Step 19

The super-fatty otoro! Big bad belly badness. 1) Make a small incision in the corner of the belly and 2) remove the small bone. 3) and 4) Cut 2 saku off the short part of the belly (the part closest to the bottom).

The super-fatty otoro! Big bad belly badness. 1) Make a small incision in the corner of the belly and 2) remove the small bone. 3) and 4) Cut 2 saku off the short part of the belly (the part closest to the bottom).

Step 20

1) Cut the rest of the belly in half. 2) 3) and 4) cut the halves into two saku each.

1) Cut the rest of the belly in half. 2) 3) and 4) cut the halves into two saku each.

Step 21

The pieces of the belly cho: 1) The otoro; 2) the akami; 3) the chutoro.

The pieces of the belly cho: 1) The otoro; 2) the akami; 3) the chutoro.

Chefs Suzuki and Kobayashi did not demonstrate cutting the upper quarter (back cho)  into saku.

Step 22

Chef Kobayashi comes in to break some heads! Each head yields two eyes, two cheeks, two collar pieces, and one piece of meat running from in-between the eyes up the forehead. 1) The tuna head. 2) and 3) cut around the eyeball and gouge it out with your hand.

Chef Kobayashi comes in to break some heads! Each head yields two eyes, two cheeks, two collar pieces, and one piece of meat running from in between the eyes up the forehead. 1) The tuna head. 2) and 3) cut around the eyeball and gouge it out with your hand.

Step 23

1) Trim the skin from the cheek area. Use your finger to free the cheek from the skin and the bone and 2) rip it out with your hand. 3) Use your fingers to free the meat on the top of the head and carefully remove it with your hand. 4) 1 cheek (the round piece) and one head piece.  Chef Kobayashi says they can be used either for tartar or for grilling like a steak.  They are very tender.

1) Trim the skin from the cheek area. Use your finger to free the cheek from the skin and the bone and 2) Rip it out with your hand. 3) Use your fingers to free the meat on the top of the head and carefully remove it with your hand. 4) 1 cheek (the round piece) and one head piece. Chef Kobayashi says they can be used either for tartare or for grilling like a steak. They are very tender.

Step 24

1) Chef Kobayashi shows where the head meat came from. 2) Cut around the other eyeball. 3) Free it with your hand. 4) Rip out the eye. The eyes can be eaten raw or wrapped in foil and cooked.

1) Chef Kobayashi shows where the head meat came from. 2) Cut around the other eyeball. 3) Free it with your hand. 4) Rip out the eye. The eyes can be eaten raw or wrapped in foil and cooked.

Step 25

1) Trim the skin over the cheek. 2) Use your finger to free the cheek meat. 3) The head meat is on the cutting board.

1) Trim the skin over the cheek. 2) Use your finger to free the cheek meat. 3) The head meat is on the cutting board.

Step 26

1) 2) and3) Cut off the collar of meat behind the gill flaps. This cut is called kama and is good roasted or grilled. 4) Platter with the collar (kama), the two eyes, and the belly trim.

1) 2) and3) Cut off the collar of meat behind the gill flaps. This cut is called kama and is good roasted or grilled. 4) Platter with the collar (kama), the two eyes, and the belly trim.

Step 27

Preparing the spine. 1) 2) and 3) Chef Suzuki cuts the spine into segments between the vertebrae.  Notice the jelly in-between them.  This is the tuna marrow. This can be eaten raw if the fish is fresh or cooked. Chef Suzuki says it’s good for the complexion.

Preparing the spine. 1) 2) and 3) Chef Suzuki cuts the spine into segments between the vertebrae. Notice the jelly in-between them. This is the tuna marrow. This can be eaten raw if the fish is fresh or cooked. Chef Suzuki says it’s good for the complexion.

Step 28

1) Lean Akami; 2) medium fatty chutoro; 3) very fatty otoro; 4) meat scrapings from the skin and fins; 5) meat scrapings from around the spine. I ate them. They were great.

1) Lean Akami; 2) medium fatty chutoro; 3) very fatty otoro; 4) meat scrapings from the skin and fins; 5) meat scrapings from around the spine. I ate them. They were great.

Step 29

1) The cooked belly trimmings; 2) The cooked eyeballs and a piece of cooked tail; 3) the cooked cheeks and head-meat; 4) the cooked collars, or kama.

1) The cooked belly trimmings; 2) The cooked eyeballs and a piece of cooked tail; 3) the cooked cheeks and head-meat; 4) the cooked collars, or kama.

Step 30

1) The roasted spine. 2) If the bloody portion of the fish that was trimmed in step 9.1 is dried for a couple of days it becomes a jerky like you see here.  It is then grilled over a hot flame and served with sake or beer.

1) The roasted spine. 2) If the bloody portion of the fish that was trimmed in step 9.1 is dried for a couple of days it becomes a jerky like you see here. It is then grilled over a hot flame and served with sake or beer.

Step 31

Chef Kobayashi on the left and Chef Suzuki on the right at the end of one sweet demo.

Chef Kobayashi on the left and Chef Suzuki on the right at the end of one sweet demo.

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Harold McGee Lecture Series

October 15th, 2009 · McGee

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

A scientist, a chef, and a food technologist walk into The FCI. What happens next? An emulsion of science, food, and deliciousness. On November 4th, 5th, and 6th Dave and Nils will be joined by Harold McGee, renowned author of On Food and Cooking and one of the world’s most respected authorities on science and food, for their interactive Harold McGee Lecture Series.

They will explore the fundamentals of science and food techniques, covering everything from simple culinary skills (application of heat in cooking) to cutting edge approaches (hydrocolloids, rotary evaporation, ultrasonic homogenization) that are being applied in some of the world’s most progressive kitchens.

Think you know everything about the egg? Think again.

How hot should your grill be when cooking a steak? And for how long? Most likely your tried-and-true method is all wrong—or at least we’ll poke fun at it.

Come to the class to start thinking like a scientist in the kitchen. Or just come to watch a mind-blowing discussion and demo from three of the country’s top food nuts (McGee isn’t so nuts but he is really nice).  Sign up here.

*********We now return to our normally scheduled program.  But seriously, the class is fun. McGee does the science bit and Nils and Dave run around like lunatics doing demos.*******************************

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Ladies Night Skoal, Hosted by Morimoto

October 13th, 2009 · skoal

posted by Dave Arnold and Nastassia Lopez

(Hey, what is this Skål Project anyway?)

It’s Ladies Night!

Presented by:

Morimoto!

Masaharu Morimoto: Intercontinental Iron Chef, Chef of Morimoto, opened Nobu, sketches all the meals he makes because cameras are too new-fangled, strikes fear in the hearts of fish everywhere.

Masaharu Morimoto: Intercontinental Iron Chef, Chef of Morimoto, opened Nobu, sketches all the meals he makes because cameras are too new-fangled, strikes fear in the hearts of fish everywhere.

Ladies…

April Bloomfield: Chef at Spotted Pig and the new Breslin Restaurant.  Eats and cooks from nose to tail.

April Bloomfield: Chef at Spotted Pig and the new Breslin Restaurant. Eats and cooks from nose to tail.

And, buttertastic:

Alex Guarnaschelli: She's like buttah.

Alex Guarnaschelli: She's like buttah.

For sweets:

Melissa Murphy: Back home we'll always run, to Sweet Melissa (Bakery).

Melissa Murphy: Back home we'll always run, to Sweet Melissa (Bakery).

For meats:

Ariane Daguin: Queen of Gavage, plumper of livers - both bird and human, the Master Mind of D'Artagnan.

Ariane Daguin: Queen of Gavage, Mastermind of D'Artagnan, plumper of livers - both bird and human.

And anything in between:

Lee Anne Wong, FCI's own: Top Chef Season 1, Wong Way to Cook, Bravo blogger, TV culinary producer, our buddy.

Lee Anne Wong, FCI's own: Top Chef Season 1, Wong Way to Cook, Bravo blogger, TV culinary producer, our buddy.

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Transglutaminase, (aka: Meat Glue) Primer!

October 8th, 2009 · Transglutaminase

posted by Nastassia Lopez

Activa RM brand Transglutaminase from Ajinomoto aka Meat Glue

Activa RM brand Transglutaminase from Ajinomoto aka Meat Glue

We have a brand new Meat Glue (Transglutminase) Primer up on the Cooking Issue’s Primers page!

Here are some excerpts to get you started:

What is Meat Glue? Transglutaminase (TG or TGase), better known to chefs as “Meat Glue,” has the amazing ability to bond protein-containing foods together. Raw meats bound with TG are often strong enough to be handled as if they were whole uncut muscles. TG is safe, natural, and easy to use. In the kitchen, TG is primarily used to:

• Make uniform portions that cook evenly, look good, and reduce waste

• Bind meat mixtures like sausages without casings

• Make novel meat combinations like lamb and scallops

How to test meat glue: a) Rub a lot of meat glue into a piece of raw chicken; b) if it just smells like chicken your glue is no good; c) If it smells like wet dog you're good to go!

How to test meat glue: a) Rub a lot of meat glue into a piece of raw chicken; b) if it just smells like chicken your glue is no good; c) If it smells like wet dog you're good to go!

Testing Meat Glue: There is a way to test if your meat glue is still working. Get a small scrap of raw meat (we use chicken). Apply a liberal amount of meat glue to the meat and massage it in. Sniff the meat (don’t inhale the powder). If the meat smells like a wet dog or a wet wool sweater, your glue is good. If it doesn’t, your glue is bad. The next time you get a fresh shipment of TG, run the “wet dog” again and get a sense for how strong the smell is. After a while you will be able to tell how good your glue is (how high the enzymatic activity is) by how strong the wet dog smell is. Don’t wait too long to sniff after you massage in the glue because the smell dissipates after a couple of minutes. The wet dog smell is, I believe, caused by the small amount of ammonia released in the TG reaction.

Can’t get enough? Want more on Meat Glue uses, safety, storage and unique protein binding combinations?  Check out the entire Primer!

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New York Culinary Experience Technique-a-thon: Pressure Cooking Eggs, Super Rich Sorbet, N'Stuff

October 6th, 2009 · Tech Demo

 posted by Nastassia Lopez with some comments by Dave Arnold

Dave and Nils - it's not a demo without a circulator.

Dave and Nils - it's not a demo without a circulator.

This weekend marked the second annual New York Culinary Experience (hosted by The FCI and New York Magazine)—a hands-on event where attendees cook side-by-side with some of the best chefs in the industry. Events started on Saturday morning and ended Sunday night with a reception in L’Ecole. Dave and Nils demo’d at 2pm on Sunday to a sold out room of tech-curious New Yorkers. 

We used some techniques we haven’t fully explained before, so we’ll emphasize them with *stars* and go into excruciating detail.

Cocktails

Nils chilling the glasses with liquid nitrogen while Dave prepares the Cold Buttered Rum

Nils chilling the glasses with liquid nitrogen while Dave prepares the Cold Buttered Rum

Naturally, Nils and Dave bookended their class with cocktails.  They started with a twist on an old winter favorite, Cold Buttered Rum, and ended with (according to Dave) the Best Damn Gin and Tonic they have ever made.  They used Tanqueray gin, clarified lime juice (using stupid simple agar clarification), simple syrup and quinine sulfate (be extremely careful with quinine, see our recipe in the rotary evaporation primer). The mix was chilled with liquid nitrogen till it got syrupy (about -20 C), carbonated at 40 psi, and served in liquid nitrogen chilled champagne flutes. Damn good.

*Egg Toast with Caviar*

We love eggs in every shape, size or animal type.

We love eggs in every shape, size or animal type.

They then unveiled one of their newest creations (and introduced the class to the many wonders of a pressure cooker) with a dish that debuted at last week’s Star Chefs convention, Egg Toast with Caviar (or as we like to call it around here: Egg on Egg on Egg).

We have been pressure cooking whole eggs for a long time.  Pressure cooked eggs undergo Maillard reactions and turn brown.  Eggs undergo Maillard reactions at lower than normal temperatures because egg whites are alkaline.  Alkalinity promotes Maillard reactions.  The whites have a toasted… well… “brown” taste.  The yolks taste like cooked chicken giblets.  We like ‘em.  When we tried to cook the whites and yolks separately, we noticed the yolks didn’t have that awesome giblet taste.  We thought that the lack of alkalinity was the culprit so we told one of the interns to put in some baking soda (it’s alkaline). Well, he messed up and put in baking powder instead (I’m calling you out, Ed!).  The results were really cool. What we got was something with the texture of bread that was made entirely of egg yolks.  It even toasts like bread. Gluten-free, baby.

3 large yolks beaten with 2.25 grams of baking powder makes a muffin in the pressure cooker. On left it is sliced and toasted.

3 large yolks beaten with 2.25 grams of baking powder makes a muffin in the pressure cooker. On right it is sliced and toasted.

When we re-ran the experiment with baking soda the results sucked (thanks, Ed!). Varying the amount of powder changes the texture of the egg bread.

Left to right: 1 gram of baking powder per yolk is like a hamburger bun; .75 grams of baking powder per yolk makes a firmer toast (.5 grams is denser still); 1 gram of baking soda per yolk explodes and tastes horrific; .75 grams of baking soda per yolk looks weird and tastes bad.

Left to right: 1 gram of baking powder per yolk is like a hamburger bun; .75 grams of baking powder per yolk makes a firmer toast (.5 grams is denser still); 1 gram of baking soda per yolk explodes and tastes horrific; .75 grams of baking soda per yolk looks weird and tastes bad.

Here is the recipe we made:

Egg Toast with Caviar
Serves 8

Ingredients
6 large egg yolks
4½ g baking powder
Salt, to taste
6 large egg whites
Butter, for sautéing
Italian farm-raised caviar, to taste
Chives, finely cut

Mix together egg yolks, baking powder, and salt. Divide the mixture into two ramekins. Place egg whites and salt in a Ziploc bag, and remove any air. Mix together by squishing the mixture by hand, on the outside of the bag.  If you have a vacuum machine, pack them in a vacuum bag instead and mix them.  If you mix the salt and egg whites normally you’ll incorporate air and the whites will souffle in the pressure cooker. Hold the bag up and allow the air to rise to the top, then cut the bottom and allow air-free whites to flow into two ramekins. Pressure cook the whites and yolks at 15 psi  (second ring) for 40 minutes, and let cool naturally. If you vent the pressure cooker to speed the cooling process the yolks will explode. Slice the yolks into cylindrical discs and sauté in butter on both sides for a toast-like texture and flavor. Finely chop the whites, and place on top of the yolk disc. Pile a hefty spoonful of Italian farm-raised caviar on top and garnish with chives.

Pecan Yōkan

Pecan Yōkan, which has become a staple in the lab, was spun, spread, dehydrated, and tasted all around the room.  The recipe is already on the blog but we’ll include it for completeness and full deliciousness disclosure.

Pecan Yōkan
Yield: Approximately 2 lb

Ingredients
5 g agar agar
300 g water
200 g sugar
340 g pecan butter

Procedure
Disperse/whisk agar into cold water, then bring mixture to a boil and continue boiling until agar is fully dissolved. Whisk in sugar and heat to dissolve. Remove sugar, agar, and water mixture from heat and quickly whisk in pecan butter until fully incorporated. Either pour yōkan mixture into plastic wrap-lined mold or spread thin on Silpat/dehydrator sheets to cut noodles or create crisps. For noodles, place thinly spread yōkan mixture in fridge to set. Hand cut noodles and gently lift them away from Silpat.To create yōkan crisps, place thinly spread yōkan mixture in dehydrator at 135°F for 1 to 3 hours. If left too long in the dehydrator, the fat from the pecan butter will start to create little bubbles, so keep an eye on it while it’s drying.

Scallop Tartare

The delicious scallops.

The delicious scallops.

Then came Scallop Tartare with Smoked Potato Cream, Mustard Seed, and Vacuum Infused/Flash pickled apples, a dish many remembered from Nils’ showdown on Top Chef Masters.

*Scallop with Smoked Potato Cream, Mustard Seeds, and Curried Apples*
Serves 12

Ingredients
For the Curried Apples
2 apples, diced
1 qt curry oil


For the Mustard Seeds
½ c yellow mustard seeds
1 qt apple cider vinegar

3 T simple syrup


For the Potato Cream
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes
2 ½ oz shallots, sliced
1 oz butter

½ c white wine

1 sprig tarragon
½ qt chicken stock

9 oz crème fraîche

Smoke powder, to taste


For the Scallops
Extra virgin olive oil

10 scallops, diced
Finely cut chives

Procedure
*For the Curried Apples*
To make curry oil heat your favorite curry powder with grapeseed oil  till the desired taste and color are reached, then strain the oil through a coffee filter (a tedious, tedious job). Place diced apples in a container with the curry oil. Put in a vacuum machine. When it reaches full vacuum plus 30 seconds, turn off the machine with the power switch (not the stop button). This will maintain a vacuum in the machine.  The apples will still be bubbling because air will still be coming out of them. Let them sit till they stop bubbling. Turn machine back on to let the air back in and force the oil into the apples. Run one more complete vacuum cycle to accentuate the infusion and infuse any stragglers, then strain the oil, and reserve the apples.  The apples will have taken on a great color and will be flavored by the curry oil without tasting greasy.  We think of it as a self-contained vinaigrette (with the apples providing the acidity).

*For the Mustard Seeds*
Blanch mustard seeds in three changes of boiling water.  This will remove the bitter, dirty taste that mustard seeds have. Then, place mustard seeds in a pressure cooker with the vinegar. Make sure you add enough vinegar.  You should add as much vinegar as you would add water to cook rice. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 psi (second ring). Strain, reserve mustard seeds and add simple syrup to taste, season with salt. Don’t add the sugar before you pressure cook. It will scorch.
The pressure cooking removes the pungency of the mustard seeds and gives them a great texture.  They pop like caviar.

*For the Potato Cream*
This technique takes advantage of a classic no-no.  We all know that overworking mashed potatoes makes them goopy and bad.  What if you add extra liquid and really blend them to create a gluey texture on purpose? This awesome stuff happens: Peel and cut potatoes into slices. Sauté shallots in the butter.
 Deglaze with white wine and reduce by two thirds. Add potatoes, tarragon, and chicken stock. Cook until the potatoes are soft (really cook them, undercooked potatoes for purée are one of Nils’ pet peeves). Strain potatoes, reserve liquid, and remove tarragon. Put potatoes in a blender, add crème fraîche and some of the liquid from the potato mixture, and blend until they reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and smoke powder.   We use smoke powder because we like it and it is easier and more consistent than conventionally smoking potatoes. Allow potato cream to cool. Put some in the bottom of a small bowl.

For the Scallops
Mix scallops with the mustard seeds, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on top of potato cream. Place the apples on top of the scallops and sprinkle with chives.

Butter and Bacon Poached Lobster with Napa Cabbage, Chorizo and Broccoli Purée

Dave. Lobster-whispering.

Dave. Lobster-whispering.

The main event: Cooking live lobsters. Each pair of students got their own lobster which was par-cooked in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes and immediately placed in an ice water bath for 10 minutes. When the lobster meat was de-shelled, it was placed in a Ziploc bag with clarified bacon-infused butter, and circulated in a water bath for 10 minutes at 65 degrees C (you could do it in a pot). Each tail was served with sides of puréed broccoli, cabbage, and chorizo. No real tech here, just good food.  The class was, after all, aimed at home cooks (actually, there was some pretty freaking cool tech but we are saving it for a future post. Heh heh).

It's not all butter, bacon, lobster and chorizo! We threw in some veggies (cabbage and broccoli) for good measure.

It's not all butter, bacon, lobster and chorizo! We threw in some veggies (cabbage and broccoli) for good measure.

Butter and Bacon Poached Lobster, with Napa Cabbage, Chorizo, and Broccoli Purée

Serves 8
 For the Lobster
1 t butter, per tail
1 t bacon fat, per tail
8 lobster tails

For the Napa Cabbage and Chorizo
1 head Napa cabbage
50 g (1¾ oz) sugar
12 g (½ oz) salt
265 mL (9 oz) apple cider vinegar
2 pieces chorizo, skin off and diced into 1/3-in cubes

For the Broccoli Purée
2 L (2 qt) milk
1 T thyme
25 g (¾ oz) fennel seeds
3 heads broccoli
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Procedure

For the Lobster
Place the butter, bacon fat, and lobster tail in a Ziploc bag. Exclude air from the bag by immersing it in water while squeezing out the air (don’t let water into the bag). Cook at 65°C for 12 minutes or till done.

For the Napa Cabbage and Chorizo
Cut the heart of the cabbage (white stem) into noodle shapes and place in a bowl. Add sugar, salt, and vinegar to the cabbage, and mix well. Press the mixture for several hours or overnight. Sauté the chorizo in a pan until it begins to brown. Add the cabbage and sauté for an additional two minutes. Good stuff.

*For the Broccoli Purée*
Broccoli purée is often bad.  The color is for crap.  What’s funny is that the classic mistake happens not in the cooking but in the cooling.  After the purée is cooked and blended, it must be cooled down instantly to maintain the color. We use a high powered Vita-Prep to blend our puree.  The Vita-Prep is so powerful, in fact, that the purée doesn’t cool at all—it continues to heat. If you blend slowly or use a weak blender you may have problems with your purée losing its vibrant green color before you can cool it. Here at the school we cool our purée by spreading it in a thin layer in a hotel pan set on ice.  We stir it like the Dickens to chill it really fast.  At home this would quickly exhaust your ice supply.  You can put the purée in a Ziploc and knead the bag under ice water. 

Here is our technique: Place milk into a pot, add thyme and fennel seeds, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer in order to infuse the milk. Strain and reserve. Separate the broccoli florets from the stems.  They cook at different rates.  Slice the stems thinly and chop florets into tiny pieces. Bring infused milk back to a boil and add the sliced broccoli stems. Cook a while and add the florets. Cook till tender. Remove broccoli from milk and immediately purée until very smooth in a blender, season to taste, and cool it fast like your life depended on it.

*Pistachio Sorbet*

Dave helping out on the pistachio mixing.

Dave helping out on the pistachio mixing.

This was the very best (and simplest!) dessert of the day.  Pistachios were placed in a centrifuge, which separates the oils from the paste. The thick Kermit-the-Frog-green pistachio paste was mixed with sugar and water and placed in a mixer. While spinning, liquid nitrogen was added to produce a dense, creamy, no dairy sorbet. I’d be willing to bet you’ve never has as rich a sorbet.  Milk or cream would simply muddy the flavor of the pistachio.  To finish we garnished the sorbet with emerald-green pistachio oil.  Here’s the recipe:

 
Pistachio Sorbet
 
Ingredients:
1 Kilo Water
640 grams Pistachio paste
12 egg yolks
249 g simple syrup
 
Mix and freeze with LN2, Paco Jet or ice cream machine of your choosing.
 

At the reception, Dave and Nils mixed their final drink, a Honeycrisp Apple and Tequila Cocktail, made of clarified, greenmarket Honeycrisps and 901 Tequila that was carbonated with 50% CO2 and 50% N2O.

Thanks for those who stopped by, and for those who didn’t,  see you next year!

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Tuna Spinal Jelly

October 2nd, 2009 · Tuna Spine

posted by Dave Arnold

We have a new ingredient that we really like—raw tuna spinal jelly. We were introduced to it by our Ike Jime sensai, Chef Toshio Suzuki of Sushi Zen, when he was breaking down a whole Kindai Tuna (post on that soon). When fresh, the raw jelly tastes like fresh sea water.  Its incredibly refreshing.  We’ve heard it’s like sea urchin—god awful when not fresh. We ordered some tuna spines from True World Foods in New Jersey and they were also pretty cheap.  We got two big spines for 20 bucks.  Frankly, I think the spines were free and we were being charged for delivery. The spines were big and messy.

Tuna spinal jelly in the spine

Tuna spinal jelly in the spine

Here is how to to prepare them:

Scrape all the meat off the spine with a spoon. The meat is strong smelling and bloody.  Scrub the spine under running water with a stainless steel scrubby.  It should look like the picture below.

 

Tuna spine instructions

Tuna spine instructions

Cut off the stiff membrane between the vertebrae, then break the bony sections at the top and bottom with a heavy knife or bone saw. Finally, slice through the spine with a sharp knife.

The spine broken open. Be careful to keep the jelly clean.

The spine broken open. Be careful to keep the jelly clean.

Be careful not to contaminate the jelly with bloody meat. 

The texture of the jelly

The texture of the jelly

Reserve the jelly in quart containers.

What we really like is that the leftover bones make great presentation cups.  Boil the bones in a concentrated Oxyclean solution for about 40 minutes. Then scrape off the meat with a spoon.  There are cavities on the top and bottom of the spine (one is the neural cavity where we would normally do spinal cord destruction, the other is a blood vessel cavity). Make sure you get the gunk out of them with a skewer.  Then boil the bones in a fresh Oxyclean solution for about half an hour and let dry.  Oxyclean forms hydrogen peroxide when added to water.  It is the hydrogen peroxide which does the actual whitening.

How to clean the bones.

How to clean the bones.

Here they are when finished.

Clean tuna bones

Clean tuna bones

Here is a dish using the spinal jelly and the bones.  You can read about the dish here.

Finishing a dish with bones and spinal jelly

Finishing a dish with bones and spinal jelly

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Heirloom Tomatoes: WTF?

September 30th, 2009 · Heirloom Tomatoes

posted by Dave Arnold

Don’t get mad. Everyone I know makes an heirloom tomato salad; but heirloom tomato salad irritates me. A tomato isn’t delicious because it is an old variety or because it comes from a farmer’s market. A tomato is delicious if it tastes good. Many heirloom varieties aren’t very good.

An heirloom worth looking for: Aunt Ruby's German Green. Perfectly ripe. Still Green.  Look for the blush on the bottom.

An heirloom worth looking for: Aunt Ruby's German Green. Perfectly ripe. Still Green. Look for the blush on the bottom.

It is true that most supermarket tomatoes are awful, but there are some supermarket grape and cherry tomatoes that are shipped from afar and taste great all year long—much better than many in-season heirlooms. Are bad local tomatoes better than good shipped ones ?

As a category, what do heirlooms have going for them?  They are old varieties.   Hey, I have a vintage car; it’s a Ford Pinto. No thanks.

Some heirloom tomatoes are absolutely fantastic when grown at the right farm by the right people.  My all-time favorite tomato is Aunt Ruby’s German Green as grown at Stokes Farm in Old Tappan, New Jersey.  I wait for it every year.  This year I wept bitter tears because I was in Italy during the first week of its season.  The Aunt Rubies I’ve had from other farms in the area rate from good to so-so. If legal means of acquisition were not available I’d be willing to go to jail to get my hands on Stokes’. It is important to know both the variety and the farmer.

Aunt Ruby German Green Tomato sliced. See quarter for size reference.

Aunt Ruby German Green Tomato sliced. See quarter for size reference.

Aunt Ruby was an actual person, Ruby Arnold (no relation). She lived in Tennessee and died in 1997 at the age of 82 after passing on her wonderful tomato (and several other good tomatoes, including, some claim, the German Stripe ).  We should all have such a legacy.

Her German green tomatoes are green when ripe with a pinkish red blush on the bottom.  They are large—sometimes over a pound.  They come by their heirloom status honestly.  They are fragile—even slight squeezes and bumps damage them.  They have strange shapes.  They will often go rotten in the field. They also have an intense tomato flavor with an irresistible tartness.  The first time you eat one you can’t believe you’ve got a green tomato. At the market I spend at least half an hour hemming and hawing trying to find ideal specimens at the greenmarket.  Make sure the bottom has the blush—no blush, no sale.  For God’s sake, don’t squeeze the tomato.  The guys at Stoke’s have numerous signs saying that softness is not an indicator of ripeness.  The only indicator of ripeness, they say, is the color—especially the color around the stem end of the tomato, which ripens last.  Instinctively, I don’t believe them.  I check for color AND texture, but not by squeezing.  I get a feeling for texture just by lifting the tomato, ostensibly to check the color on the other side.

Here is my favorite recipe:

As many Aunt Ruby German Green tomatoes from Stokes Farm as you can afford at $4.75 a pound.

Slice
Salt
Eat
Repeat.

Recently Nils and I  used the Aunt Ruby’s German green to make a liquor shot at a Star Chefs workshop.  We blended 35 dollars worth of Aunt Rubies with a couple of pounds of roasted beef and 2 liters of vodka.  We took the pulpy mess and ran it through our rotary evaporator to obtain clear beef and tomato hooch.  I’d be lying if I said people liked it.  But those people had no vision. Nils and I had faith, and knew what to do.  The liquor didn’t taste right because the sugars, acids, and salts needed to balance it hadn’t distilled—they weren’t volatile.  Once we added those back to the liquor it was, to our taste, pretty cool.  I wouldn’t serve it as a sipping drink or in mixed cocktails, but it served admirably as a short-shot accompaniment to our vacuum infused tuna sinew cooked a la plancha. Oh yeah.

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Skoals of the Week 9.28

September 29th, 2009 · skoal

posted by Dave Arnold and Nastassia Lopez

(Hey, what is this Skål Project anyway?)

This week we had our biggest Skoal ever: the audience at our Star Chef’s Demo.

SkoalStarChefs

Star Chef's Audience: How many chefs/culinary gurus can you spot?

Click on the photo caption for a bigger version.  Check out the errors our panorama program created.  There are some doubles, some ghosts, a dude wiping his own face off. Etc.

And the photographer behind it (and the awesome shots from the demo):

 

A doctor, pro-photographer, and lover of silk shirts.

John Sconzo, anesthetizes people (not fish), pro-photographer, blogger, and silk-shirt rocker.

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Skoal to Spinal Chords, Ike Jime and Mokume-Gane: the Star Chefs Demo

September 25th, 2009 · skoal, Tech Demo, Tuna Spine

posted by Nastassia Lopez (photos courtesy of John M. Sconzo)

Dave, Nils and Fish at Star Chefs.

Dave, Nils and Fish at Star Chefs.

Dave and Nils brought down the Star Chef’s house with the final demo of the International Chef’s Conference: High-Tech Delicious.
 
The Mokume-Gane Dish

They started the demo off with a mokume-gane of lamb and yellowfin tuna. After molding together the two proteins with meat glue, Dave and Nils par-froze the block  and sliced the result paper-thin on a Hobart 3000 Slicer.

The creation of the beautiful mokume gane wood grain effect.

The creation of the beautiful mokume gane wood grain effect.

They dressed each corner of the mokume-gane  slice with a different, delicious condiment. First, the “Egg-on-Egg-on-Egg.” Step one, pressure cook egg yolks with baking  powder at 15 psi for 40 minutes, slice into cylindrical discs and saute in butter for a toast-like texture and flavor. Step two, pressure cook egg whites (to  get brown, Maillard-reaction flavors), finely chop and place  on top of the yolk disc. Finally, pile a hefty spoonful of Italian caviar on top and garnish with chives. We’ll post more on this technique later.

The egg-on-egg-on-egg trick.

The egg-on-egg-on-egg trick.

Next the team vacuumed-infused shaved Honeycrisp apples with centrifuged pistachio oil, and cucumbers with chorizo oil,  and placed mounds  in opposite corners. Finally, Nils rolled a savory spoonful of pumpernickel ice cream ( milk, sour cream, glucose syrup, salt and fresh pumpernickel bread blended and tammied) onto the plate. Pistachio and chorizo oils dressed the center to finish.

Lamb and yellowtail mokume gane.

Lamb and yellowtail mokume gane.

 

The Ike Jime Black Sea Bass Dish

On to the main event: Ike Jime-ing a live black sea bass. At noon,  True World Foods delivered a truckload of 6 happy sea bass and dumped them into a large black tub. A chiller kept the water at 50F, bubblers provided oxygen, and and a tank filter duct-taped to the side continuously cleaned the water.

The arrival of the sea bass.

The arrival of the sea bass.

At 5:30pm Mindy and the interns rolled the bass onto the stage.

Mindy and interns rolling sea bass.

Mindy and interns rolling sea bass.

Dave and Nils poured 85 mL of Aqui-S fish anesthetic into the tub to sedate the fish (the flesh of sedated fish is better and the killing is more humane – see the Aqui-S link).  In 15 minutes the  fish were knocked out, and Dave and Nils worked faster than clowns-on-fire to ike-jime the bass in 20 seconds flat.

Ike Jime live!

Ike Jime live!

Nils filleted the fish as Dave showed how to make some unorthodox serving plates — cut,  boiled and oxy-cleaned tuna vertebrae.  The tuna spine provided more than just plates:  inside the spinal column was fresh spinal jelly, a key component of the dish that tastes like sea water gelee. They mixed it with diced celery and put it back into the cleaned vertebrae.

Tuna spinal cord turned into a  plate; and spinal jelly.

Tuna spinal cord turned into a plate; and spinal jelly.

Nils added the fresh, crunchy, ike-jime bass and finished the dish with pecan oil, yuzu kosho, squares of pecan yokan and rotovapped hyper-reduced Sansa apple syrup.

Final plating of the Ike Jimed bass inside tuna spine.

Final plating of the Ike Jimed bass inside tuna spine.

Dave used a twitch-tester to shock fish muscle that had been killed with ike jime five hours earlier to show that the ike-jime fish tissue was still contracting --still full of life.

Dave used a twitch-tester to shock fish muscle that had been killed with ike jime five hours earlier to show that the ike-jime fish tissue was still contracting --still full of life.

The Finale

A fitting end: Dave and Nils passed around test tubes of our own house aquavit and Skoaled the audience.

And then they skoaled each other.

And then they skoaled each other.

If the remaining fish in the tub had opposable thumbs, they would have skoaled too. Instead, folks hung around after the demo and got a hands-on lesson in Ike Jime.

Thanks,  Star Chefs!

Thank you, John.

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Star Chef's Workshop

September 21st, 2009 · Tech Demo

Dave and Nils workshopping

Dave and Nils workshopping

Yesterday, foodies and culinary buffs alike spent their Sunday morning worshipping the artistry and capabilities of the rotovap, the centrifuge and the vacuum at Dave and Nils’ Star Chefs Workshop. 

In lieu of coffee they started the audience off with a shot of Beef and Heirloom Tomato Vodka that Dave distilled the day before.  Nils seared  Tuna Sinew that had been vacuumed in soy, mirin and yuzu, and served with kosho and shiso leaves.

Their next dish was sous vide Kombu-wraped duck breast served with Sliced Kombu on Frisee Salad, Rotovapped Port Reduction, and Fried Eggplant (in breakcrumbs).
They used a centrifuge to extract pistachio paste and oil for a Pistachio Sorbet that was served with corn that had been rehydrated in clarified orange juice, and a butter-seared fig.
The workshop was bookended with their final cocktail – a Yuzu Gin and Tonic.
If you missed yesterday’s workshop, there is still space at tomorrow’s demo High-Tech Delicious on the Main Stage at 5:30pm!

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