Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jul 14: Daring Cooks Go Molecular (Sort of)

This month's Daring Cooks' Challenge is hosted by Sketchy's Kitchen.
The Challenge is Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered)
This is a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 230.

First, thank you Sketchy for hosting this month's challenge and providing a different angle on a way to cook.

I deviated from the challenge by substituting skate with sea scallop and lingcod.

Two primary reasons:
Skate isn't readily available on the West Coast and, more importantly, skate is on the Seafood Watch List as overfished. [Ref:
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch]

Researching the internet, I found that skate was used as a sea scallop substitute (a substitute carried out by shady fish mongers) so using real sea scallops was a logical substitution. I, also, picked lingcod to try out a neutral tasting fish.

The challenge can be viewed as three parts - making the flavorful powders, poaching the seafood and plating/assembling the finished dish.

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered - with changes
4 skate wings
Beurre monte
300g fresh green beans
sea salt/kosher salt
1 banana
454g butter - 4 sticks
300g lemons
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
150g cilantro
150g parsley
100g dried banana chips
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
100g cup minced red onion
200g capers (brined, not oil)

Making the Powders
Four powders are used for this dish
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
'brown butter' powder

In lieu of a dehydrator or the microwave, I used my oven set on WARM which is about 150 degrees. The items were placed on parchment paper and allowed to dry overnight... about 5 to 6 hours.

Citrus Powder
The zest from 300g of lemons (Not 300 g of zest... that's a lot of lemons!)
1000g simple syrup (I used a 1 to 1 ratio of water to sugar)
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet (Ironically, I tossed some citrus acid I used when I went through a cheese making phase. I went out and purchased some more... lol.)

zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest (I found my trusty potato peeler did the job really well) 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.

I'm not sure what poached 3 times meant... so I poached in the same liquid for about 5 minutes each time, but I rinsed the zest strips between the first and second poaching.

On the left, the triple poached strips of zest. Weight before drying about 39 g.
On the right, oven dried zest. Weight was around 20 g.

Cilantro/Parsley powder
150g cilantro (I used only 75 g which was about 1.5 C loosely packed)
150g parsley (I used only 75 g which was about 1.5 C loosely packed)

I wasn't sure if we wanted leaves only or full stems and leaves were okay. I ended up trying to use leaves only.

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.

On the left, the blanched parsley and cilantro leaves.
On the right, the dried leaves
No weight was takes since the leaves where water logged after blanching.

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

On the left, 100 g of minced red onions.
On the right, 12 g remained after drying.
NOTE: Be sure to ventilate the house really well. The fumes from the onion had us coughing.

Caper powder
200g capers (packed in brine/vinegar) [I only had 100 g of capers]

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.

On the left, 108 of rinsed capers.
On the right, dried capers weighing 16 g

Caper/Onion Powder
Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix the caper and onion powder together.
Since I only had 100 g of capers, I only added 50 g of 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 [I had no luck finding spray dried cream or any form of dried cream powder. Instead of non fat milk powder, I used instant whole milk 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 and reserve.
For this challenge, the seafood is poached in oil, more exactly and butter emulsion known as a Beurre Monte.

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.

Finishing the beurre monte. Uuuuuh! Creamy and buttery looking... Pass the popcorn! :)

Green Beans:
Slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
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

Cooking the green beans. When the water evaporated, it sounded like beans were deep frying.

Poaching Seafood
The beauty of poaching is that food is cooked and can be held for long periods without drying. Poaching is done at temperatures below boiling. With boiling, you have evaporation. Evaporation in foods means drying and toughness.

Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
(I used Lingcod and Sea Scallops - the lingcod was cut into individual serving size filets)

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.

The seafood taking a dip in the butter filled jacuzzi.

Alternative Poaching Method:
When I think of molecular cuisine/gastronomy, I think of sous vide.
Sous vide is a method of cooking proteins in a vacuum sealed bag at low temperatures (under 140F) for a very long time (12 hours to 24 hours or even days).

Well... I don't have a vacuum bagging system or a fancy immersion circulator so I opted to just poach in bag (PIB). My pseudo-sous vide (PSV). lol.

Scallops were placed in a ziploc bag with about 1 T of beurre monte. I used a straw to suck out the air, which kind of-sort of worked. The main point is to remove the air so the bag doesn't float and the butter stays in contact with the scallops.

The same was done with the lingcod filet. About 2 T of beurre monte was used and a larger ziploc bag.

The bags were submerged in 170F water. The fork was used to weigh down the lingcod bag.
Cooking time was about 40 minutes (actually should have been ready after 5 to 10 minutes, but I lost track of the time). However, the end result was still a very moist tender fish and scallop.
Another advantage of poaching is a bag is that you don't need the massive amount of butter as used in the traditional method, above. Using the bag, you use less than a stick of butter.

Plating/Finishing off the Dish
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.

The plated sea scallop dish.

The Lingcod plate


The scallop and lingcod were moist and I enjoyed the bold flavors of the caper/onion power and the tartness of the lemon powder. The powder added flavor, but maybe not in a manner that I'm used to. My palate may not be sophisticated enough to fully enjoy this dish. I missed the flavors resulting from searing the scallop and the filet.

The reasons I joined the Daring Cooks' is that I try something new, push the envelop and try to learn something while having fun!

That's why we call ourselves, "Daring Cooks!"


Care said...

Wow, love your poaching method! That's genius! Great job on this challenge.

Lisa said...

John, that's so awesome that you thought of using the sous vide method to poach the cod! It looks awesome. However, the scallops are pulling me in, as I was thinking of using scallops myself, and now that I see your gorgeous/mouth watering result in using them, I wish I had! Great platings too :)

Audax said...

John you always amaze me on how you do your posting always so informative and it always shows the recipe so clearly and your vacuum bag method is very very interesting will try it soon. Good plating love the spectrum effect. Bravo on a great challenge result. Cheers

Trissa said...

Next time I am going to try the poaching method too!

Luna said...

So informative. Thank you! I love finding great directions. Good tip on the onions too!

Sweet Kitchen said...

Great photos - they really show the process step by step. Also, kudos on your poaching. My fish fell apart and I wish I been as creative!

Angela/Isolated Foodie said...

I love the idea of using scallops. I think they'd be wonderful in this application. Your home-made sous vide is great, too, and so appropriate for the rest of the challenge!

Anonymous said...

Great sous vide version. It is such a versatile cooking method. I have done duck confit the same way.

There is a great video on Youtube of a guy doing an entire Thanksgiving dinner sous vide.

Anita said...

Your powders look very nice on the plate. They work well together without looking too "rigidly placed". Nice job!

art and lemons said...

Great detailed post and poaching method! Fabulous job.

Lauren said...

Wow! Beautiful fish =D. I love your poaching method, it sounds wonderfully simple and delicious!!