Cooking Issues

The International Culinary Center's Tech 'N Stuff Blog

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Dave and Nils at Star Chefs

September 17th, 2009 · Tech Demo

Art or fish?

Art or fish?

Dave and Nils will be holding a demo chef’s demo next Tuesday, September 22nd at 5:30pm as part of this year’s Star Chefs International Chef’s Congress.

They will Ike Jime a live black sea bass, fuse yellowtail and lamb through Mokume Gane, play around with the centrifuge and rotovap, and Skoal the entire audience.

You better have a good excuse if you’re not there. Buy tickets. Do it now.

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Santo vs. Dave Arnold in El Grande Sacudirse de Coctel

September 16th, 2009 · Insane

posted by Nastassia Lopez

We have our fair share of fans here at Cooking Issues. And then there are our super fans.  It turns out the great masked luchadore El Santo was so enthralled by our Cocktail Science Shake-Off that he stopped by the school last week and challenged Dave to a one-on-one (mano a mano) shake-off.

Naturally they battled in margaritas.

Dave made El Santo cover his muscolos with an FCI jacket because of health regulations, but let him keep the cape on. El Santo shook his margarita with his signature Agita di Muerte while Dave decided to forego the crazy-monkey technique and give his a more traditional shake.

The shake-off. Notice the disparate techniques.

The shake-off. Notice the disparate techniques.

Here are the results:

El Santo's margarita on the right; Dave's on the left.

El Santo's margarita on the left; Dave's on the right.

Dave’s margarita was perfectly acceptable. Nicely iced on top. Good texture.  But one can see El Santo is the clear  margarita champion.   After battling martians (at age 50!), daughters of Frankenstein,vampiras and El Nazi, frozen margaritas are a piece of flan for El Santo.

However, Dave was not defeated.  Before he bid El Santo a safe return to Mexico, he asked him to do a Skoal shot:

There is a little El Santo in all of us.

There is a little El Santo in all of us.

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Ike Jime 4: How-To Pointers

September 16th, 2009 · ike jime

posted by Dave Arnold

Ok. I know the blog has gotten a bit gruesome with all the fish killing. This will  be the last Ike Jime post for a little while; but before we move on I wanted to post some  pointers for those wishing to try the technique.

Ike Jime, for those who don’t know, is a Japanese fish killing technique involving bleeding and spinal cord destruction. You can read about it here, here, and here.

Here is the basic technique taken from one of our earlier posts:

“Ike Jime”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) shove sharpened piano wire down neural canal (where the spinal cord is) to destroy spinal cord; d) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

“Ike Jime”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) shove sharpened piano wire down neural canal (where the spinal cord is) to destroy spinal cord; d) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

Some notes on the initial cuts:

Left: for the initial cut, place the knife underneath the gill flap and push up towards the back of the fish and down towards the board to sever the spinal cord and major blood vessels. In this photo the knife is too close to the head. Aim a little further back. Center: if the fish has large or tough scales, before you cut through the tail quickly scrape the scales off the area to be cut. Right: cut into the tail. Slice into the meat till you hit the spine then give the knife a tap with your palm to go through the spine. Don't cut the tail off. It will be a handle.

Left: for the initial cut, place the knife underneath the gill flap and push up towards the back of the fish and down towards the board to sever the spinal cord and major blood vessels. In this photo the knife is too close to the head. Aim a little further back. Center: if the fish has large or tough scales, before you cut through the tail quickly scrape the scales off the area to be cut. Right: cut into the tail. Slice into the meat till you hit the spine then give the knife a tap with your palm to go through the spine. Don't cut the tail off. It will be a handle.

When you put the knife under the gill flap, try not to aim too far forward on the fish. If you aim forward you will be cutting into the base of the skull, which is easy on small fish but not on big fish. Next, I think it’s a good idea to make a cut into the brain to destroy it (not pictured). It makes the process more humane, but it is tough –  it’s easy for a beginner to miss the brain.  When you cut through the tail, don’t cut all the way through. You’ll use the tail as a handle.

Using the fishes tail as a handle.  This fish is shown with the needle in the neural canal.

Using the fishes tail as a handle. This fish is shown with the needle in the neural canal.

Notes on the needle (how to do spinal cord destruction):
Any stiff, thin wire will do. Bigger fish can take bigger wires. Make sure the wire is long enough to run the entire length of the fish. We sharpen the business end of the wires on a sharpening stone. It is extremely easy to get confused with this procedure because it isn’t readily apparent where you should put the needle. Here are some pictures to erase all doubt:

Labeled cross-section of the front of a striped bass.

Labeled cross-section of the front of a striped bass.

Labeled cross-section of the tail end of a striped bass.

Labeled cross-section of the tail end of a striped bass.

You know that you’ve hit the right spot when the needle goes in easily and the fish’s muscles  contract as the needle destroys the spinal cord. Don’t leave the needle in –it will send more false signals to the muscles. The whole point of  this procedure is to prevent errant muscle contraction. I suspect it’s best to use as big a needle as will easily fit, because it will better destroy the spinal cord and avoid slipping past it. Note:  you want to do this procedure rapidly. The faster you destroy the spinal cord, the better. We think that the reason spinal cord destruction fish tasted better to us than ones that had been killed and immediately filleted is because it took longer to fillet than to destroy the spinal cord.

Notes on bleeding the fish:
After spinal cord destruction, you should place the fish in ice water to bleed out. It is important to make sure the cut blood vessels are open and not covered over (by the tail flapping back into position, for example). This is the part of the process on which we have done the least work. Our future areas of investigation: bleeding in slightly warmer water, bleeding in salt water, etc, etc.

Hope this helps any would-be Ike Jime masters. If you want to see a live demonstration, come to our Star Chefs demo next Tuesday, or click here to see it on video.

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Fish Anesthesiologists

September 15th, 2009 · ike jime

posted by Dave Arnold

We were looking for a good fish anesthetic. We figured that knocking fish out prior to killing could improve taste and texture even more than just using our fancy Japanese Ike Jime techniques alone.

Our assumption is that anesthesia reduces stress in fish. Stressed fish make inferior meat. Stress reduces the energy reserves in living muscles. After death, muscles use up their remaining energy and, as a result, go into rigor mortis. The lower energy reserves of stressed muscles lead to a faster, harder rigor than you get in rested muscles. Hard rigor reduces meat quality by reducing flesh firmness and increasing water loss –the forces of rigor literally tear the delicate muscle fibers apart.

We originally tried two different anesthetics: Carbon Dioxide and Nitrous Oxide (aka laughing gas, the dentist’s favorite). Both knocked out the fish, but neither produced good results. We think the fish became agitated before they lost consciousness, negating any possible benefit. You can read the blow-by-blow here.

We have now found a better alternative: Aqui-S. Aqui-S is a fish anesthetic produced in New Zealand. Its active component is isoeugenol –one of the main compounds in clove oil. Clove oil, you may remember, was the tooth numbing stuff given to Dustin Hoffman by Lawrence Olivier’s Nazi doctor character in the Marathon Man. Isoeugenol has some fantastic properties: it is natural, works in low doses, knocks fish out without killing them, is easy to administer, isn’t toxic to us (it is an approved food additive), and, best of all, doesn’t agitate the fish. It has one bad property: it isn’t approved in the United States.

Fish anesthesia. Left is pre-dose. Fish is normal. On right, 10 minutes after administering 17mg/liter isoeugenol. Fish has lost equilibrium and is knocked out but still breathing on its own.

Fish anesthesia. Left is pre-dose. Fish is normal. On right, 10 minutes after administering 17mg/liter isoeugenol. Fish has lost equilibrium and is knocked out but still breathing on its own.

We can’t buy Aqui-S, but we can buy isoeugenol, so we did.

Aqui-S is 50% isoeugenol. The other 50% is stuff to help it disperse in water –it doesn’t want to dissolve on its own. That dispersing aid is proprietary, so we don’t know what it is. Instead we mixed our isoeugenol with 95% ethyl alcohol, which works fine. We tested both carp and striped bass with 17 mg of isoeugenol per liter of water. It worked beautifully on both types of fish. After a couple of minutes, the fish lost their sense of equilibrium and started floating sideways. After 10 to 12 minutes they seemed completely knocked out but were still breathing. Perfect.

We only had one carp, so we couldn’t taste test – but the texture of stripers knocked out with isoeugenol and then killed with spinal cord destruction (Ike Jime) was better than stripers with Ike Jime alone. We were so excited by the results that we called the Aqui-S Company and pleaded with them to send us some of their product “just to test.” Nils and I plan on using it in our Star Chef’s demo next Tuesday (Yes, we will do Ike Jime).

Why isn’t isoeugenol approved in the US?

Oil of clove has been used an anesthetic and as a food and perfume additive for a long-long time. It contains both eugenol and isoeugenol. Recently, the National Toxicology Program of the NIH has called eugenol (not isoeugenol) an “equivocal carcinogen” (meaning maybe a carcinogen, maybe not). The exhaustive study is here. The evidence seems rather weak. Furthermore, the same group didn’t find isoeugenol to be a carcinogen (see here). Also, the amount of isoeugenol we would consume from eating a knocked out fish is low (see here). Nevertheless, the FDA has been hesitant to approve it. Their current opinion is here.

As a final note, here is a paper on the ins and outs of anesthetizing fish.

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Taylor W. Hubble – The Tech Department's Guardian Angel

September 11th, 2009 · centrifuge, Insane

posted by Nastassia Lopez

The man of mystery himself.

The man of mystery himself.

This May, Dave’s wish for a centrifuge came true when Unilever donated their old Sorvall RC2-B to the school’s Tech department.  The ‘fuge has a permanent home in Dave’s lair, and though it’s built like a bomb shelter, and not the most elegant instrument, this big guy is refrigerated and can do up to 48,000 g’s at 20,000 rpm on a good day.  It also continues to serve the department very well, despite all of the maniacal conditions Dave has made it endure.  A centrifuge can be a damningly dangerous thing but Dave credits his ‘fuge’s resiliance (and mercy) to one man—Taylor W. Hubble—whose business card came with the machine.

Taylor was this ‘fuge’s service rep—but for us, he is more than that: he’s become our saving grace; the Sorvall Guardian Angel.  Dave won’t let anyone mess with Hubble’s card lest it mess with the karma/feng shui of the whole machine. So last week, on a whim, Dave and I decided to call the service number on Taylor’s card.  It had turned into a hotline.

We were not to be defeated.  We called DuPont directly. While on hold, Dave and I created a fantasy life for Taylor W. Hubble—retired and living on a river in Florida with his wife and a personal centrifuge in his basement.  And then the voice on the other side of the phone came: “This is Taylor Hubble.”  Holy Crap! He existed! And he still worked for DuPont!  We were speechless.

I told Taylor that we were honored to speak to him, and explained the venerable role he played with our centrifuge (I’m certain he thought we’d been playing with too many chemicals at this point; especially when I mentioned that Dave wouldn’t  let anyone remove his card so as not to upset the machine’s balance).  I scheduled an interview with him the following week, which Nils and I conducted via speaker phone (Dave had just left for Italy).

The Call with Taylor W. Hubble

The whole purpose of the Taylor Hubble call was to get some background information on the centrifuge: to find out where it had been, what it was used for, if he did any major services on it, etc. (in addition to just meeting the man himself).  Unfortunately Taylor didn’t have any of the original service history on our centrifuge because the instrument itself is obsolete.  Taylor could only remember installing a device on the lid so that one cannot open it while it is spinning (which comes in handy when spinning at such high rpm).

Then things got even weirder for Taylor when Nils asked him for a recent photo.  After a long silence he said that he had none and that he looked pretty much the same as the old photo on his card except with less hair and more freckles on his head. He also warned us several times that he could not do any service on the machine. We assured him several times that it was truly not the reason we were calling.  He didn’t sound convinced. 

We thanked him on behalf of Dave for the metaphysical presence he had on the machine, and let him know that the next time he’s in New York City he could spin some liquids for old times sake, and do a skoal shot.

Thanks, Taylor W. Hubble!

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September 8th, 2009 · Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

Dave and Nils are in Italy this week and will respond to your comments when they return.  Thanks for your feedback!

-Nastassia Lopez

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Pressed Duck: A Photo Diary

September 2nd, 2009 · Pressed Duck

 posted by Nastassia Lopez

Dave, the duck press, and the ducks.

Dave, the duck press, and the ducks.

In the library of The FCI there lives an ancient, rarely utilized duck press.  It sits on a block of wood—trophy style—and as Chef Jeremiah pointed out, “There are only two things missing on it: a basketball and a name plate.”

Traditionally, pressed duck is prepared like this: The duck is strangled so as to retain as much blood as possible. The legs are cut from the rest of the body, and thinly sliced pieces of the breast are cooked in a sauce of reduced Madeira, butter, and cognac. The rest of the carcass is partially cooked for 25-30 minutes and placed in a duck press, and the waiter screws the metal disc down to extract the liquids and marrow from the duck, onto the cooked breasts.

Dave had successfully pressed duck before but found it a tad too overcooked. He decided to give it another try, but this time using a modern technique—specifically low temperature cooking—that would give him more control over the temperature of the meat. Thus began the Great Duck Pressing Adventure.

The Pressed Duck Recipe we used from The New LaRousse Gastronomique. It's in French. None of us speak French.

The pressed duck recipe we used from The Larousse Gastronomique. It's in French. None of us speak French.

We put our heads together and did our best to translate the recipe which we’re pretty confident said this:

Roast two beautiful ducks (that have been suffocated) on high heat for 25-30 minutes. Reduce Madeira, cognac, and lemon in a pan. When the duck is finished, disassemble and crush the carcass in a duck press to extract blood and other juices.  Over high heat, reduce duck blood, foie gras, and butter. Add in the Madeira reduction.  Grill the duck breasts to desired doneness and dress with the finished sauce.

The ducks; plucked and ready to be squeezed.

The beautiful ducks; plucked, cleaned and waiting to be cooked and squeezed.

Chef Mark carved off the breasts on each duck before putting the rest of their carcasses in the oven.

Chef Nick carved off the breasts on each duck before putting the rest of their carcasses in the oven.

Dave vacuum sealed the duck breasts in bags.

Dave vacuum sealed the duck breasts in bags. We were all still smiling at this point.

He placed the breasts in a water bath for 30 minutes at 67 C.

He placed the breasts in a water bath for 30 minutes at 57 C.

The Madeira and cognac, reducing.

The Madeira and cognac, reducing.

In the middle of everything, Dave decided to see what happens when you boil broccoli for an hour. This is where the night really began.

In the middle of everything, Dave decided to see if broccoli would still be green if you boil it for an hour. This is when the night really began.

The cooked duck carcasses.

The cooked duck carcasses.

We filled pieces of duck into the container.  It was gory.

We cut the duck and filled the pieces in the press's container. It was gory.

I pressed first. Note the laughing and smiling still going on.

I pressed first. Note the laughing and smiling still going on.

But my pressing was too whimpy for Dave, so he got in there and really pressed.

But my pressing was too wimpy for Dave, so he got in there and really pressed.

And when Dave was too tired, Nils got in there and gave the press the old Viking Death Grip.

And when Dave was too tired, Nils would give the press the old Viking Death Grip.

Check out all of the liquid we were able to extract.

Check out all of the liquid we were able to extract.

Now, in the middle of all the pressing, we noticed that a piece of the press’s metal had started to contract on one of the legs, while the large screw, which ratchets the disc down into the container, had slightly bent the lower disc. 

I think it went something like this: "But Dave, it's breaking." Dave: "Just put more duck in."

I think this scene went something like this: "But Dave, it's breaking." Dave: "Just put more duck in."

Eventually we stopped, and Dave surveyed the damage.

Eventually we stopped, and Dave surveyed the damage.

We started to cook the breasts, and reduce the blood with the butter and foie gras.

We started to sear the breasts, and combine the extracted duck juices, butter and foie gras with the Madeira/Cognac reduction...

While Dave started to deconstruct the duck press and bend the metal back.

...while Dave started to deconstruct the duck press and bend the metal back into place.

When the breasts were finished, Nils carved them.

When the breasts were finished, Nils carved them.

Nils tasted the duck. Not a happy look.

Nils tasted the duck. Not a happy look.

Nils ran.

Nils ran.

Nils spit.

Nils spit.

The duck wasn’t good.  We all agreed that the sauce was very flavorful though.

Dave kept working on fixing the press...

Dave kept working on fixing the press...

...until he got it right back to its old, magnificent state.

...until he got it right back to its old, magnificent state.

What happened to the broccoli you ask?  After boiling for the entire hour we spent crushing, reducing, carving and fixing things, we drained the little floret and set it in ice water.  It was still green.

Still green.

Still green.

But why was our fowl so foul? We know that Dave has successfully pressed duck in the traditional manner, however, we have two theories on why this duck was a flop. 

1. We think there may have been too much stress on the ducks when they died, and/or they were slaughtered improperly, somehow damaging the meat,and ultimately making it tough.

2.  Perhaps pressed duck is simply supposed  to be overcooked and that low temp cooking is not the way to go on a very traditional French dish.

And sometimes you just can’t mess with tradition.

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Skåls of the Week, 9.1.2009

September 1st, 2009 · skoal

posted by Dave Arnold and Nastassia Lopez

(Hey, what is this Skål Project anyway?)

Cooking Issues has a new member. Please welcome:

Nastassia Lopez. We poached her from Cesare.  Half Spanish, half Ukranian.  Don't ask to taste her drink.
Nastassia Lopez. We poached her from Cesare. Half Spanish, half Ukranian. Don’t ask to taste her drink.

And now…. Meat:

Mark Pastore. Heads up Pat La Frieda Wholesale Meat. Loves all types of meat.
Mark Pastore. Heads up Pat La Frieda Wholesale Meat. Loves all types of meat.

Fish:

Toshio Suzuki. Chef at Sushi Zen. Fish master. Our Ike Jime Sensei. Incredibly gracious man.
Toshio Suzuki. Chef at Sushi Zen. Fish master. Our Ike Jime Sensei. Incredibly gracious man.

And Dairy:

Sean Marcus.  Runs Marcus Dairy.  Crap on milk, got skoal?
Sean Marcus. Runs Marcus Dairy. Crap on milk, got skoal?

On newspapers, TV and radio:

Bob Lape. Writes for Crain's Business where his business is food. On the original Eywitness news team. Definitely OG.

Bob Lape. Writes for Crain's Business where his business is food. On the original Eywitness news team. Definitely OG.

For books:

Eric Schlosser. Author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness. Besides a Filet-O-Fish and some dope he likes caraway liqueur.
Eric Schlosser. Author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness. Besides a Filet-O-Fish and some dope he likes caraway liqueur.

Bring on the 4- Star Pastry Peoples:

Johnny Iuzzini. One of our bestest buddies. 4 star pastry chef of Jean Georges. Motorcycle nut.  If you are the person who stole his KTM bike don't let him find you.
Johnny Iuzzini. One of our bestest buddies. 4 star pastry chef of Jean Georges. Motorcycle nut. If you are the person who stole his KTM bike don’t let him find you.
Michael Laiskonis. 4-star pastry chef at Le Bernardin. Sweetheart. Fellow blogger. When's your wife Heather coming in for a skoal?
Michael Laiskonis. 4-star pastry chef at Le Bernardin. Sweetheart. Fellow blogger. When’s your wife Heather coming in for a skoal?

For our random skoal category:
The woman who published the Anarchist Cookbook:

Carole Stuart, head of Barricade Books (which published the Anarchist Cookbook in 1970).

Carole Stuart, head of Barricade Books (which published the Anarchist Cookbook in 1970).

and the woman who brings the anarchy:

Anne Burrell. Food Network superstar, chef, woman about town, berserker skoaler.
Anne Burrell. Food Network superstar, chef, woman about town, berserker skoaler.

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Lapsang, Kurisawa, Agar, and Chives

August 28th, 2009 · Tech Demo

 

posted by Nastassia Lopez

nilsanddaveDave and I met 6 months back on a 3-hour van ride with Cesare Casella, Mark Ladner, Alex Pilas and a salty bag of chicharrones pig skins from a Sunoco gas station in Jersey. Since then, I have watched his apartment oven preheat to 800 degrees while the rest of the house lights flickered and died, helped to pit his two sons against each other over the mechanical dissection of a bubblegum machine filled with numeric bouncy balls, and learned that there is only one way to chill glasses meant for alcoholic beverages – liquid nitrogen.

So when Dave asked if I might be interested in helping to write Cooking Issues, the only answer was yes.

I spent my first week with Nils and Dave measuring ABV, clarifying juice from upstate apples, learning how to defeather an entire chicken in one go, and breaking down an ancient duck press and putting it back together again

Yesterday, due to public demand, Nils gave a full demonstration of the three dishes he made on the July 15th episode of Top Chef Masters for FCI students: a Scallop Tartare with Smoke Potatoes Curried Apples and Chives; Slow Cooked Salmon with Napa Cabbage, Pureed Broccoli and Chorizo; and a Chocolate and Goat Cheese Ganache (the dessert that caused his tragic loss to Michael Chiarello).

Meanwhile Dave gave a plug to farmer’s market apples and got the audience buzzed with his Apple Saki and Rum carbonated cocktail.

Nils started first with the scallop tartare dish.  He deglazed potatoes in white wine and chicken stock, blended it, added a spoonful of crème fraiche and two or three teaspoons of hickory smoked powder and blended again.

Dave and Nils vacuuming apples.

Dave and Nils vacuuming apples.

He then moved on to vacuum infuse/flash pickle the apples, which you can read about here.  The vacuum essentially boils the liquids without any heat and sucks all the air out of the apples and uses the pressure of the returning air to inject the oil into the voids left by the vacated air. Like a million tiny syringes.  The apples started off floating on top of the oil.  But the vacuum injection of oil caused them to sink to the bottom of the container by the end of the cycle.

Nils then sliced the scallops, and gave everyone a lesson on chives: Nils hates going to a restaurant and being served a full chive thread. As with garlic, the chive’s essence develops when it is cut.

Nils plating the scallops.

Nils plating the scallops.

The scallops were mixed with the chives, which were served on top of the potatoes and garnished with the apples.

The scallops took on the smoky flavor of the potatoes, and the slippery texture was nicely contrasted with the crunch of the pickled apples.

Scallops plated in shells on top of mounds of sea salt mixed with water.

Scallops plated in shells on top of mounds of sea salt mixed with water.

We then moved on to pressure cooking – a great technique for extracting flavor that is especially useful for making stocks and sauces. And because the boiling point is higher due to increased pressure, higher heat is generated inside the food, which breaks down any smelly compounds into less smelly ones. To which Dave made the joke “So if your girlfriend from Malaysia likes to cook her durian, you can get her a pressure cooker and you won’t have to deal with the stink anymore.”

Nils infused milk with fennel and thyme and added the shaved florets and stem of broccoli.  After boiling, he blended the mix straightaway, and spread it over a hotel pan to cool.

The stem of the Napa cabbage leaf was cut it into thin slices, and marinated with sugar, salt and vinegar.  Once the fat was cooked out of the fresh chorizo the cabbage was added to the skillet.

Nils sprinkling the meat glue onto the salmon.

Nils sprinkling the meat glue onto the salmon.

According to Nils, nature can sometimes be an unfortunate thing when it comes to certain preparation. For example, the annoying decrease in size from the head of the fish to the tail, which creates the quandary of how to pump out 100 fish portions that are of equal size.  Thank God (or – science) there is meat glue.  Meat glue, or transglutaminase, is a natural enzyme that binds proteins together.  It sprinkles on like powdered sugar.  (Dave’s number one safety rule for meat glue, you ask? “Don’t SNORT IT!”)  Nils sprinkled the salmon with the meat glue and laid the other on top of it, head to tail.

Rolling the "glued" salmon tightly in plastic wrap.

Rolling the "glued" salmon tightly in plastic wrap.

He then rolled it extremely tightly in plastic wrap until it looked like a big salmon bat, and refrigerated it for 4 hours (the normal time it takes for fish to bind).

Nils' salmon sword.

Nils' salmon sword.

The salmon was then cut into medallions, placed on a small tray, and floated in a water bath set at 60 C for about 5 minutes.

Salmon boat in the water bath.

Salmon boat in the water bath.

Finally, the reduced Madeira that Dave distilled in his rotovap yesterday (turning it syrupy, and punchy without the “cooked” flavor) was spooned on the side of the salmon, providing an aesthetically beautiful contrast in colors from the fleshy oranges in the fish to the bright green of the broccoli puree.

Final product. Look at the contrast in colors!

Final product. Look at the contrast in colors!

Ultimately, the final result was a perfectly cooked salmon -slightly darker on the bottom, and rare and fleshy on top- with the cabbage and chorizo both balancing and complimenting the other.

Finally we moved on to the crux of Nils competition: the chocolate and goat cheese ganache.  Goat cheese was combined with honey, cream and salt and the chocolate was melted in. The ganache was then spread and cooled on a sheet pan. It was delicious.

For the whipped cream, Nils had combined Lapsang tea and cold heavy cream in a vacuum bag and packaged it at full vacuum. He then let it infuse for 3 hours, strained it, added salt, and then whipped it, while adding simple syrup.

Dave asked the class what they thought of the cream. At first no one spoke up.  Then Dave started yelling, and some brave souls meekly responded that they weren’t that crazy about it. But the room held mixed reviews.  I liked the smoky flavors. Had I not known those flavors were coming from Lapsang, I may have liked it more – I felt like I was looking for it in every spoonful.

At this point, Nils had to make a quick exit. The Health Department was in the house.

Dave then took to the stage, in war protest style with, “Why should we care about apples?  Because we live in the ass kicking apple center of the world!”  There should have been an uproar of support right then, but the students simply waited quietly for Dave to start mixing booze.

Dave preaching about apples.

Dave preaching about apples.

Dave had clarified juice from Pristine and Tydeman varietals of apples the day before (see enzyme clarification here) that he bought from two New York farmer’s markets.  The clarification result of the Pristine was a softer green color, with a lighter more neutral taste. The Tydeman had a pinker hue and a sweeter taste.  Either way, they were both brilliant.

Carbonating the clarified apples, rum and sake.

Carbonating the clarified apples, rum and sake.

They were both mixed with 10 Cane Rum and Kurosawa Sake, then carbonated.  The apples and the sweetness of the rum blended insanely well, while the sake balanced the drink out – so that it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet.  We still have until the end of November to keep juicing and clarifying the more than 1,000 varieties of apples that grow in New York State, so this cocktail has lots of room to metamorphosize.

After all of the fish and scallops and chocolate and apples that had been vacuumed and pressed, we were far from finished.  When the room cleared (and the apple cocktail was finished off) Dave asked for his ducks. “Ducks? Now?” someone asked. “Yes, yes! Ducks now! Do it now!” Dave shouted in his fake Austrian accent.

And thus began my night with two chefs, two ducks and a deconstruction of a library duck press from the 1800’s, which I’ll save for next time.

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Ike Jime 3: Fish Killing 7 Ways

August 26th, 2009 · ike jime

posted by Dave Arnold

Ike-Jime aka Spinal Cord Destruction (SCD): a Japanese fish killing technique where the spinal cord and blood vessels are severed at the head and tail, a needle is threaded through the spinal column to destroy the spinal cord, and the fish is placed in water to bleed out.

Bass in a bucket awaiting their fate

Bass in a bucket awaiting their fate

It’s unsettling but effective, as we have seen in our previous posts (here and here). The theory is that even after the brain is destroyed, the spinal cord itself sends messages to the muscles to contract. The more these messages get sent, the faster and harder rigor mortis sets in, damaging texture. If you disable the spinal cord, you stop the messages. The muscles don’t contract as much or as hard. Rigor mortis happens slower and more gently, which allows a good firm texture in the fish when served. See the bottom of this post for links to scientific journals if you’re itching for more.

Our reading on slaughtering practices across animal species makes one fact clear: what is least traumatic to the animal is best for the meat.  Improving meat quality  makes good business sense, especially when it doesn’t increase costs. So industry has adopted some techniques to reduce stress at slaughter. In fish this includes anesthesia: carbon dioxide, extremely cold water, or chemicals (one brand-name is Aqui-S – even merchants of death can have a sense of humor).

We tested carbon dioxide anesthesia on farm-raised eels purchased at Hong Kong supermarket here in Chinatown. It worked well:

A very lively eel (even in ice water) is quickly knocked-out with CO2

A very lively eel (even in ice water) is quickly knocked-out with CO2

The eel stayed knocked-out

The eel stayed knocked-out

We iced the eels’  water to slow them down, and then bubbled in CO2. They stopped swimming  and went totally relaxed, and stayed relaxed when we handled and slaughtered them. We considered this experiment a great success. Unfortunately, the eel tasted like crap. It wasn’t the C02’s fault. The eel we killed normally also tasted like crap, with a bitter, poison-like aftertaste — maybe the eel-feces water they had been living in at the store was to blame.

I did some more reading on CO2. Turns out most fish don’t act like our eel. Most fish freak out a little before the anesthesia kicks in, which would most likely ruin our result. We decided to test it.

We also have N2O (laughing gas). It wouldn’t be feasible to use it industrially, but we figured it might be the best way to make the fish mellow and happy before being dispatched. We decided to test that, too.

In our previous  Ike Jime test with Chef Suzuki, we had a tough time getting the needle through the spinal column of the small fish. We had an idea – instead of using the needle, why not fillet the fish right away? If we cut off the fillet instantly it would no longer receive messages from the spinal cord. Nils and I had also read some papers that indicated it might be a good idea to fillet salmon pre-rigor. When the fish muscles go into rigor on a whole fish, the bone structure strongly resists contraction. This force can damage muscle tissue and lead to softer meat with more drip loss and gaps between the fibers. Fillets cut off the bone before rigor-mortis aren’t restricted. They contract more than their whole-fish counterparts, but keep a nice firm texture with no gaping and less drip loss. On fish, unlike steak, firmer is better. OK, something else to test.

Two other problems with our Suzuki experiment:  we didn’t wait long enough before we ate the fish, so rigor hadn’t resolved, and we didn’t test cooked meat- just raw. More tests!

The Test of Seven Fishes:

We went back to Hong Kong Supermarket with two buckets, filled them with bass-tank water, and bought seven small live farmed stripers. They looked pretty good – the guy said they had come in that morning.

We came back to the FCI and prepared them 7 ways:

1: Stressed. In our Suzuki test the fish was really, really stressed. This one was a little less so- instead of hitting it in the head with a mallet we killed it instantly by slicing into its brain- more humane.

Fish 1 “Stressed”: a) remove from water for 30 minutes; b) kill by putting knife in brain; c) do not bleed. Wait 30 minutes then remove head and gut

Fish 1 “Stressed”: a) remove from water for 30 minutes; b) kill by putting knife in brain; c) do not bleed. Wait 30 minutes then remove head and gut

2: Japanese-bled

Fish 2 “Japanese Bled”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

Fish 2 “Japanese Bled”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

3: Ike Jime (Spinal Cord Destruction). Note: I noticed that one of the fillets on this fish had a soft spot even while it was alive –like someone had gripped it hard with their thumb. The rest of the fish seemed fine.

Fish 3 “Ike Jime”: a and b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) shove sharpened piano wire down neural canal (where the spinal cord is) to destroy spinal cord; e) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

Fish 3 “Ike Jime”: a and b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) shove sharpened piano wire down neural canal (where the spinal cord is) to destroy spinal cord; e) bleed in ice water then remove head and gut

4: Japanese-bled then immediately filleted.

Fish 4 “Japanese Bled Then Filleted”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) bleed in ice water; d) gut; e) immediately fillet

Fish 4 “Japanese Bled Then Filleted”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) cut spine and vessels at tail; c) bleed in ice water; d) gut; e) immediately fillet

5: No bleeding, immediate filleting

Fish 5 “Immediate Fillet”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) remove head and gut; c) immediately fillet then rinse fillet in ice water

Fish 5 “Immediate Fillet”: a) cut spine and vessels at head; b) remove head and gut; c) immediately fillet then rinse fillet in ice water

6: CO2 and iced sea-water anesthesia followed by Japanese-bleeding and immediate filleting. This fish, unlike the eel, thrashed around a lot when the CO2 was bubbling in the water. After about three minutes it was knocked out and stayed knocked out.

Fish 6 “CO2”: a) ice water and gas with CO2; b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) bleed in ice water; e) fillet immediately; f) finished fillet

Fish 6 “CO2”: a) ice water and gas with CO2; b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) bleed in ice water; e) fillet immediately; f) finished fillet

7: N2O (laughing gas) and iced sea-water anesthesia followed by Japanese-bleeding and immediate filleting. This fish thrashed less than the CO2 fish, but woke up quickly when it was removed from the bucket. We used the N2O three times. The process wasn’t as trauma-free as we had hoped.

Fish 7 “N2O”: a) ice water and gas with N20; b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) bleed in ice water; e) fillet immediately

Fish 7 “N2O”: a) ice water and gas with N20; b) cut spine and vessels at head; c) cut spine and vessels at tail; d) bleed in ice water; e) fillet immediately

We put the fish in the fridge and tasted them raw and cooked at 24 hours and 48 hours post-mortem.

Taste test

Taste test

Each fish yielded two fillets. On both days, one fillet from each fish was divided into two pieces. One piece was sliced for sashimi. The other piece was placed in a zip-lock freezer bag with a cap-full of grape-seed oil and cooked in an immersion circulator for 25 minutes at 57C (135F).

24 Hours. Left Raw: 1) Japanese Bled; 2) CO2; 3) Ike Jime; 4) Japanese Bled Filleted; 5) Immediate Fillet; 6) Stressed; 7) N2O. Right Cooked: 1) Japanese Bled Filleted; 2) Ike Jime; 3) Immediate Fillet; 4) Japanese Bled; 5) Stressed; 6) CO2; 7) N2O

24 Hours. Left Raw: 1) Japanese Bled; 2) CO2; 3) Ike Jime; 4) Japanese Bled Filleted; 5) Immediate Fillet; 6) Stressed; 7) N2O. Right Cooked: 1) Japanese Bled Filleted; 2) Ike Jime; 3) Immediate Fillet; 4) Japanese Bled; 5) Stressed; 6) CO2; 7) N2O

48 Hours. Left Raw: 1) Ike Jime; 2) Japanese Bled Filleted; 3) Japanese Bled; 4) CO2; 5) N2O; 6) Immediate Fillet; 7) Stressed.  Right Cooked: 1) N20; 2) Immediate Fillet; 3) CO2; 4) Japanese Bled; 5) Stressed; 6) Japanese Bled Filleted; 7) Ike Jime

48 Hours. Left Raw: 1) Ike Jime; 2) Japanese Bled Filleted; 3) Japanese Bled; 4) CO2; 5) N2O; 6) Immediate Fillet; 7) Stressed. Right Cooked: 1) N20; 2) Immediate Fillet; 3) CO2; 4) Japanese Bled; 5) Stressed; 6) Japanese Bled Filleted; 7) Ike Jime

Results:

Chef Jeremie Tomczak, Nils, and I tasted the fish blind. Here are the averaged results. Ratings are from 1 to 7, 7 being worst:

Results3

In General:

There was less difference between the fish when they were cooked versus raw but there was still a noticeable difference, especially on day 1. The differences between the fish were greater on day 1 than on day 2. We had a really tough time picking out differences on day 2 cooked.

In Particular:

We all hated the taste and texture of stressed fish, every time. What does this tell us? Almost anything you can do to reduce the pre-slaughter stress on a fish is a good idea.

On day 1 Ike Jime clearly won. On day 2 it was middle of the pack. I suspect that the bruised fillet might have had something to do with this. The performance on day 1 really surprised us. We thought the immediate fillets would win or at least tie with Ike Jime, but Ike Jime had us beat. The Japanese bled fillet did well, but not well enough. Perhaps speed is the key –it is faster to do Ike Jime than to fillet. However, on small fish where Ike Jime is difficult, I think we could recommend Japanese bleed followed by immediate filleting.

The anesthesia failed. The N2O was particularly bad on day 1. Perhaps the thrashing about during anesthesia destroyed any positive effect we would have gotten. Perhaps the ice was a bad idea. We were unhappy this didn’t give a better result. We can’t recommend it for striped bass.

Science Papers:

Big shout-out to Esteban and Dave for finding this! The articles in English on Spinal Cord Destruction (Ike Jime) from the Japanese Fisheries Science Journal are available free online.

Trials for keep the fish muscle quality during chilled storage, MASASHI ANDO,et al, 2002

Influence on Post-mortem Rigor of Fish Body and Muscular ATP Consumption by the Destruction of Spinal Cord in Several Fishes, Masashi Ando et al, 1996

Observation of Characteristic Muscle Structure Related to Delay in Red Sea-Bream Rigor Mortis by Spinal Cord Destruction, Teruo Nakayama, et al, 1996

Influence of storage temperatures and killing procedures on post-mortem changes in the muscle of horse mackerel caught near Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, Toshio Mishima, et al, 2005 (Preview only, sorry)

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