Egg Skews Me

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One of the things that attracted me most to molecular cooking is the trickery. The whole point of going through the trouble of breaking something down from it’s original form, just to turn it into a new one, is trickery. The objective is to fool the diner into thinking that they’re about to eat one thing, but serve them another.

I did that recently. And I thought of Ferran Adria’s philosophy of breaking the chains of eating with your eyes the entire time.

Adria’s whole point is to make us think differently about our food, because it can affect your perception of other things if you allow it to. Close your eyes, and eat only with your tongue. Change the way you perceive food, and it might change your outlook on other things. And this could go a lot deeper than just food — how we perceive race, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a deep philosophical hole. Feel free to jump right in anytime.

Anyway, the food.

The image above looks like an egg, doesn’t it? It does to me. In fact, it looks almost like a perfectly cooked egg. Well, it’s not. The egg whites are made of coconut milk, the yolk of pureed fresh mango.

If you recall, I made pea ravioli the week before going to our molecular cooking class. It was simple to make, for the most part. Jo’s directions were clear, and the finished product was just what I expected. And after making that, I thought of all of the other different types of pasta-less ravioli that might be possible.

Being a complete nut for all types of fruit, mango “ravioli” was tops on my list. So I made that not long afterward. It was delicious, bursted in your mouth with flavor. But to be honest, I was bored with it. It looked like a single egg yolk, missing its fluffy white bed. So I vowed that the next time I made this, I’d find a way to turn it into what appeared to be an egg.

Enter coconut milk.

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Contrary to its name, coconut milk contains no actual milk. It’s made from the flesh of the coconut, which is ground down, then squeezed through cheesecloth to extract its juice. This is the foundation of our egg whites – a coconut gelée made of nothing but coconut milk, gelatin, and magic.

To begin making the “egg whites” I placed a 13 ounce can of coconut milk in a sautee pan over medium heat and brought it to a simmer. While that was happening, I placed 2 sheets of gelatin (4 grams total) in a bowl of ice water and allowed them to bloom for 3 minutes. Then, I removed the coconut milk from the heat, removed the gelatin sheets from the ice water and squeezed as much of the water out of them as possible. Into the coconut milk went the gelatin sheets. Stirred that together until it was mixed through, and allowed it to cool.

For the “yolk” it all starts with fresh mangos. 260 grams worth, to be exact.

01_mangos

Peeled, chopped and placed in a blender, I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of them and allowed that to sit while I prepared my alginate.

Alginate you say? Why, yes. It’s not spherification without it, after all.

In a sauce pan, I placed 325 grams of water with 3 grams of sodium alginate, hit that with an immersion blender until fully mixed, then allowed it to settle until most of the air bubbles were gone. Then I placed the pan over medium heat until it came to a low boil. As I’ve said before, you have to stir this stuff constantly while it’s over heat. You DO NOT want this to scald along the bottom of the pan. That will screw the pooch for sure — project aborted.

After taking this off the heat, I allowed it to come down to room temperature. Then I poured this over the peeled mangos in the blender, covered it tightly and blended it on the Liquify setting until it was completely liquified. I let this sit for close to an hour so most (if not all) of the air bubbles got a chance to work their way out. This was a perfect opportunity for me to take a break and drink a beer, which I did.

02_mango_puree

Out come two bowls. In one, I placed clean, cold water. In the other, I measured 750 grams of water, then added 5 grams of calcium chloride. This is my ravioli bowl, better known as the calcic bath.

Around this time, my coconut mixture had come down to room temperature and was ready to be turned into our “egg whites.”

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I poured the mix into circular molds, 5″ in diameter and less than 1/2″ thick. I gently placed the molds in the refrigerator, laying them as flat as possible. These took an hour to fully set. If you try this, leave them in the cooler right up until the time you’re ready to serve. The longer they stay cold, the firmer the “whites” become.

Once the mango puree was ready, I carefully poured some into a tablespoon measure, then gently placed it into the calcic bath and turned it upside down until it released my nice fat ball of mango. Oh, what a beautiful sight it was. I took a gulp of my beer and smiled. This was going to work.

So out come the egg whites. It’s show time, baby.

05_coconut_whites

Since I wasn’t serving this with toast, I wanted the mango “yolks” to hold, not run all over the place. So I made sure to leave the spheres in the calcic bath for 3 full minutes so they were nice and firm. I then gently transferred them into the water bath to rinse for a minute or so. Once I’d pulled them from their bath with my spoon and gently placed the bottom of the spoon on a clean towel to remove any excess water, I placed each mango yolk right in the middle of the coconut gelée.

And on that day, a new egg was born.

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episode 36 :: what is a foodie anyway?

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It’s a good question, actually. And I get it a lot. So I’m going to do my best to answer it. And in this relatively short weekend episode I pose the question to you. Are you a foodie, or are you an eater? Listen and find out just where you stand.

Paula Deen is out to kill anyone who watches her show or follows her recipes. And if you don’t believe me, I have further audio proof. Again, the difference between a foodie and an eater – or a hillbilly for that matter.

And our dearest Padma, cashing in on her celebrity, has really taken a leap off the deep end. Doesn’t make us love her any less, but a collective WTF is in order when you hear what she’s done now.

Listen to episode 36 now and find out exactly what a foodie really is.

Music in this episode by P.O.D. Download their song in the iTunes store.

Short, snarky, and sweet, I extend my thanks to all of you for your continued support of My Life as a Foodie.

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Boudin Noir (blood sausage)

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Here’s the truth: It took seven visits to the same European meat market before I finally worked up the nerve to part with the measly five dollar bill it cost me to take it home. And I’ll be the first to say it — it was the word “blood” on the little plastic card in front of the sausages that made the extra six trips necessary.

Looking back, it all seems silly now. Because it was worth every penny, and not just because of how delicious it was. It taught me the importance of old world cooking. These are recipes born out of necessity and, more importantly, out of respect for the animal that gave its life for our table.

Blood sausage has many different names, depending on where you’re from or where you buy it. In America, it’s black pudding. They make Morcilla in Spain, while the Germans make Blutwurst. The English make a variation they call Lancashire pudding. But in France, it’s Boudin Noir.

The French traditionally use pork blood to make their version of this sausage. It’s mixed with a variety of ingredients. A sample recipe might include onions, lard, apples, fatback, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, cream, egg, salt, and pepper. The blood congeals when cooked, but needs something to bind itself to. So the additional ingredients help.

After being stuffed into hog casings, the sausages are poached in water at temperatures of 175 to 185 °F, then air dried in a cool environment. After that, they’re ready to be cooked and eaten.

You can prepare blood sausage just as you would any other type of sausage. I sauteed mine in butter, since that seemed the appropriate method. If I’m cooking something French, and have even a thread of doubt about how to prepare it, I reach for butter.

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I served it with mashed potatoes topped with parsley and drank an incredible beer with it, courtesy of my friend and fellow podcaster Rick from Big Foamy Head.

Brabant is a barrel-aged wild ale from Avery Brewing, and was extremely limited in production (only 624 cases produced). It was brewed using the infamous Brettanomyces yeast, which produces sour flavors in beer. After fermentation was complete, Brabant was aged for 8 months in used Zinfandel barrels. The result was a beer that, while sour, retained a complexity and depth of flavor that required several sips for me to wrap my head around. Deep with flavors of tart currants and unripe cherries, Brabant was the perfect compliment to this dish.

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As for the sausage itself, it tasted nothing like what I was afraid it would. And to be completely forthcoming, I’m not sure what I was afraid it would taste like to begin with. It was lush, creamy, dense, any word I would use to describe something rich with flavor. The onions were something I couldn’t pick out on their own. The spices themselves did not stand out either. As for the blood, I’m not sure what that even tastes like on its own, but it sure works for me here. Together, all of these ingredients were the perfect compliment to one another.

Blood Sausage is not just something I’m glad I had the opportunity to taste. It made me realize that old world dishes like this really matter. Because if they no longer matter, food no longer matters. To use every part of the animal, in any form, with any number of additions to make it more palatable — that’s cooking.

More to the point, an understanding and appreciation of a dish like this is what helps us realize why we are as passionate about food and ingredients as we are. And that, my friends, is what defines us as foodies.

The happiest sandwich on the face of the earth

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One of the most memorable dishes I had when we visited The Bazaar was a small slider-sized fish sandwich stuffed with uni, avocado, and jalapeno. As far as I was concerned, what set this apart from any ordinary fish sandwich wasn’t just what was in it, but the bun itself.

Steamed buns are a Chinese specialty. They’re small balls of bread dough that are steamed in bamboo steamers instead of baked in the oven. Traditionally, they’re stuffed with a wide variety of minced meats, vegetables, seafood, beans, you name it.

But what makes steamed buns addicting is not what’s inside of them. It’s the way they’re cooked that makes them irresistible. Steaming the buns keeps them soft inside and out. It’s literally like biting into a pillow.

The Bazaar offered more than one variety of these sandwiches. There were the uni sliders that we enjoyed, but the menu also contained “crab meat in steamed buns,” prepared in almost the same way. It was, in essence, a deconstructed California roll served in a steamed bun.

It being the weekend (and a chance to try something new), I just had to try to duplicate this little morsel at home for a family Easter function. I can make California rolls – not a problem. Bread dough? Please – cake walk. But steaming the buns instead of baking them? I can’t say that my confidence level was at an all-time high here. I’ve never used anything but an oven to cook bread dough. I’ve grilled pizza dough successfully, but I ‘m convinced that was all luck.

I made a basic bread dough (3 cups of bread flour, 1 cup of filtered water at room temperature, a pinch of salt, and 1 package of bakers yeast) and allowed it to rise as normal. When the dough was ready, I gave it a good punch, rolled it on a bread board covered in flour and allowed to sit for 30 minutes. Then I started making small balls of dough, about 2 inches in diameter.

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I lined my bamboo steamer with parchment paper, then placed the balls of dough inside, covered it and allowed the balls to rise for 2 hours. When they were ready, I placed the steamer over a wok filled with water, and brought it to a boil. I steamed each rack of buns for for 25 minutes. They cooked perfectly. The bun took on no color, was soft all around, and was perfectly cooked on the inside.

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What went inside the buns was, as I said earlier, pretty close to what a California roll is comprised of (minus the nori, of course).

fillings

  • Cooked crab leg meat, mayonnaise, wasabi, green onion, lemon juice
  • Sliced California avocado (courtesy my good friend Mark, who grows them)
  • Slice Jalapeno (seeded, walls removed)
  • Pickled Cucumber slices (sliced English cucumber, rice wine vinegar, water, salt, sugar)
  • many_happy_sandwiches

    Tell me that isn’t the happiest plate of sliders you’ve ever seen. Move over Filet-O-Fish. There’s a new fish sandwich in town, and it’s kicking your ass.

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