Monday, April 19, 2010

Fermented coffee

There is an animal in Indonesia that finds the best coffee beans, eats them, and poops them out. People go hunting for their poo because the coffee beans left whole in them yields the best (read most expensive) coffee in the world. Don't believe me? Read here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Asparagus cookery

exhibit a exhibit b

I mentioned how I learned a decent technique for cooking asparagus from Heston Blumenthal's book in previous post. I do it often. My friend loaned me his Nikon D50, in order to get some professional quality photos for the blog/website I'm working on, so I took it out for a spin while cooking dinner.

The technique is simple. Place asparagus in a cold pan big enough to fit it all in one layer. Pour some oil over the asparagus, but only enough to film the bottom of the pan and lightly coat the asparagus. Put the heat on low, cover with a lid, and cook until its the desired doneness (a bit more toothesome than fork tender for me).

The idea is that blanching asparagus in water extracts a lot of that excellent asparagal flavor into the blanching water. Not enough of it stays in the stalk. Also, the pigmentation of asparagus is water soluble, but not oil soluble. Easy fix, cook it low and slow in a little bit of oil. The recipe adds little fat to the asparagus (its not a sponge so it doesn't sop up the oil), and keeps it pretty green. THIS IS THE EASIEST WAY OF MAKING ASPARAGUS SUPER FLAVORFUL!!!! All of the flavor is really in there. Try blanching it in salted water, shocking it in ice water, and reheating it in unsalted water. Then try this method. Leave a comment.

Admittedly, I overcooked the asparagus (exhibit b). I should've took it out when it was just done (exhibit a). I had a bit too much fun w/ the camera and its excellent manual settings.

Monday, April 5, 2010


I took this photo on the corner of 79th and 3rd last night. Strangely, I was tempted to somehow disconnect the line of liquid nitrogen, seal it, and hail a cab. I wouldn't have gotten that far. Apparently, NYC has several random dewars of liquid nitrogen strategically placed around the city to depressurize lines on the power grid.
I still fantasize about being able to make ice cream in less than 20 seconds with Liquid nitrogen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

At the market

Saw some awesome herbage at the market, and thought of buying a few pots for a dinner this thursday w/ fresh garniture. They had super fragrant pineapple sage, french sorrel, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, purple basil.
I'm still not sure if I'm really on for this thursday; my client hasn't gotten back to me after I asked for a deposit. But if I am, I can think of a few dessert ideas with pineapple sage, and chocolate mint. I just think it'd be really cool if I brought in some potted herbage into their kitchen, and while plating, snipping some herbs freshly just like Sean Brock.

A brand new sous-vide hack

I've fantasized of buying an immersion circulator, which is low temperature water oven in which you submerge food in a vacuum sealed bag, and cook it for prolonged periods of time. The point of this is precision and consistency when cooking food. There are tremendous benefits to cooking meats this way: they will practically never overcook, it yields incredibly moist, succulent meat, it cuts service time (because you put it in, cook it through, cool it down, and forget about it until its time to serve, then you sear it to order). The problem is, this equipment can cost more than $1G.
I've thought of a few hacks that I've never tried, such as buying a fryolater and putting water in it since the temperature can be regulated precisely. I read an awesome article this morning by and MIT grad/private chef in Massachussettes who happened to have discovered his own money saving hack. Want a hint? It involves a cooler.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Of risotto, chickenless broth, and ruined stockpots

Risotto has made me very happy the last two days.
I usually have keep chicken stock in my freezer, but had no reason for it so I haven't made any in a while. Shamefully, I went to the supermarket yesterday and bought some chicken base. Except, this chicken base wasn't made with chicken. It said "no chicken base." I checked the ingredients and saw "autolyzed yeast extract," which is codeword for MSG. I'm not against MSG, and I sympathize with those who can't have it, its a powerful vehicle for umami which is why commercialized neighborhood chinese food tastes so good (next time you order, look out for big tubs that say "MSG." I prefer to add umami to a dish by using kombu kelp, miso paste, or a high quality soy sauce.
This base made a broth that was so good I could eat it by itself. However, it's a bit too salty to reduce into a demi glace, unless diluted. It made my risotto for the past two days extra chicken-y, regardless whether my broth had bird in it or not.
I still prefer the process of making my own stock.
I do miss my stockpot. Its been out of commission ever since I sterilized it for lacto-fermentation. I was going to make a vat of sauerkraut for an event in december, and was measuring a plastic plate that fit perfectly into it. The problem was that it fit so perfectly, I couldn't take it out. Ruined stockpot.


My regular client takes issue with the fact that I've made it a new policy to take deposits before events. Now, he's got a pretty expensive palette; food cost for this guy has reached about $700 for 10 people. That's my money being spent, and interest charged to my credit card. We'll see how he responds when I start charging tax.

A friend of mine told me some wise words: when you sell yourself short, your communicating to your clients that they should expect you to be cheap consistently. When you go ahead and change any little thing, expect some kind of resistance if you haven't lost them already. I really hope I didn't lose them!