Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blue Eye With Powders - My Adventures in Molecular Gastronomy

Apologies for the sporadic holiday posting! I am writing this in advance of us heading off for a week or so, but I couldn't bear to miss the Daring Kitchen deadline for this month's amazing challange.

Molecular gastronomy has had a somewhat murky reputation in Sydney built on non-descript foams and flosses and excesses. Only a couple of places here do it with any degree of success, and even those don't get it right all the time (a couple of hideaous courses in otherwise good meals spring to mind). But in its conception, molecular gastronomy is about using science, and unorthodox kitchen methods to harness and present flavours. I read with awe and amazement about some of the top international restaurants cooking in this way, and I am fascinated (if you are interested check out the fantastic Alinea At Home blog). So when Sketchy from Sketchy's Kitchen set this month's Daring Kitchen challenge to be a molecular gastronomy choice from The Alinea cookbook by Grant Achatz, I was very excited to give it a go. Although when I mentioned to friends they might like to come and try it, some said they would rather stick forks in their eyes... so I made this for my more adventurous family.

I cooked the meal pretty much as per Sketchy's modified recipe below, although I substituted Blue Eye Cod (which is actually a trevalla) for the skate. The first step is to create the powders. I do not have a dehydrating machine, and I initially tried using the microwave, but I found my best option was my oven which drops to about 75C. The microwave seemed to make my ingredients sweaty, while the oven left everything feeling crisp and crumbly like an autumn leaf. I did all six powders in the recipe in three batches (lemon, capers and onion were in the oven together), then the dried milk powder and then the herbs. The lemon, capers and onion took the longest (probably about three or so hours), while the milk powder was pretty quick (about half an hour). Then each powder was ground in my coffee grinder, bottled up and put aside until needed.

Making the beurre monte emulsion for poaching was a new technique for me, but one I will definitely use again. The fish emerged incredibly moist and tender, and the beans were lovely and tasty. I also went with the banana fan under the beans and fish, despite being a little skeptical, and bizarrely it works very well. Because there is so much going on taste-wise from the powders, the banana was more a textural presence and a sweet note rather than being distinctly "banana-y". My favourite powders were the capers and the onions, as well as the burnt butter powder on the fish.

As a dish, I really loved this and will definitely cook it again (I have enough of the powders left to have another go without too much work). I loved playing with the pretty powders on the plate and the interplay of the flavours. And if clean plates are an indication of a meal enjoyed, it was a succes for my guests / guinea pigs as well.

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - with changes
from the Alinea Cookbook by Grant Achatz

4 skate wings (or other white fish fillets)
* Beurre monte
* 300g fresh green beans
sea salt/kosher salt
1 banana
454g butter - 4 sticks
300g lemons
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet (I didn't use)
150g coriander
150g parsley
100g dried banana chips
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
100g cup minced red onion
200g capers (brined, not oil)
* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Powders - prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
'brown butter' powder

Powders
Once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/cspice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

Citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

Zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. Dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. Pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.

Cilantro (coriander)/parsley powder
150g cilantro (coriander)
150g parsley

Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. Grind and pass through chinois.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.

Onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

dehydrator - 130 for 12 hours
microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.

Pulse in grinder, pass through chinois

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

Run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
Dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
Microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.

Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

Brown Butter powder
100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g spray dried cream powder

If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. Bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.
Grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois or fine mesh strainer and reserve.

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* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte - 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Skate
Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt

Bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.

Plating
Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion-caper powder, and the cilantro parsley-powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

Peel the remaining banana into very think slices (3mm) fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.

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Substitutions
The Skate can be replaced with flounder or cod.
If you can get skate that is not 'prepared' IE - Skinned- get the fish monger to prepare it for you.

The powdered cream can be omitted completely, just replace it with more banana powder, or pineapple powder. Possibly non dairy creamer, but I have NO idea what would happen if you tried to brown it.

The poaching liquid is pretty much butter - it could be replaced with other poaching methods. Water, wine, bay leaf, garlic clove, pepper, etc. Try to go easy on the salt in the liquid if you use a replacement.

3 comments:

Debinhawaii said...

Wow! I am impressed with the whole dish and all the work you went to. Beautiful plating too! I can't believe your friends turned down a chance to have this meal--it looks and sounds amazing!

Barbara said...

Thank you for the lovley message you left on winos and foodies. I hope you had a lovely holiday.

Lauren said...

Beautiful job with your fish - it looks divine!! Have a great holiday =D.