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Daring Cooks: Molecular Cuisine

Daring Cooks ... the Challenge ... Molecular Cuisine.

Daring Cooks ... the Challenge ... Molecular Cuisine.

The Challenge: Skate, traditional flavors powdered (slightly altered)

A message from our Host:  Hello!  Sketchy here, from Sketchy’s Kitchen with your July challenge, but first – if you’ve read my blog before -I have a minor obsession with molecular cuisine. I hopped between a MC dish and a classic rustic Italian dish (I know – two completely different worlds).  I opted to skip the 400 year old dish in favor of something that would be new and daring for most of you.  

This is a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook , page 230. I picked a recipe that could be completed without having to order a bunch of specialized chemicals or powders. Just a little work and you can make this, the techniques are not very hard and only require a few tools.

*  *  *  *  *

My first thought was  … What the heck is Molecular Cuisine?  I found out it can be described as  a movement in cooking  that recontextualizes and deconstructs traditional cuisine through the application of hypertechnological techniques, creating an experience that is not simply eating, but instead is about eating.  (Fab Food Tech Lore Sjoberg)  Molecular cuisine is the end product of molecular gastronomy.  Molecular gastronomy is much more than just the combining of unlikely foods, it is also very closely tied to the human body and its five senses.  Using Molecular gastronomy, chefs are able to do the seemingly unthinkable … create non-sweet sugar, substitute sauces with foam, turn a meat and potato dish into foam and shape like packing peanuts or produce leathery sheets of milk.  It is not uncommon to drink your dessert and eat your beverage.  A dish may be served with a scented fork that you are able to sniff while you eat.  How about a boiled egg where the yolk is on the outside , with a round center of egg white?

Our “Molecular Gastronomy” challenge involved making powders from traditional foods, to be served with a poached fish main course over green beans and bananas.  I am not a banana with my fish kind of gal, so I substituted yukon gold potato slices that I sauteed in the butter poaching liquid.   When choosing the “powder flavors” I wanted to serve with my dish,  I decided they would center around a “taste of the Southwest” theme.

Powders - Southwest Flavors

Powders - Southwest Flavors

Clockwise from top:    Cilantro with Lime
                                          Tomato – soaked in vinegar roasted w/brown sugar
                                          Plain tomato
                        Center:    Blackberry

Loaded and ready to dry!

Loaded and ready to dry!

Loaded and ready to dry!

Loaded and ready to dry!

Sliced garlic ready to dry!

Sliced garlic ready to dry!

My new food dehydrator ... works great!

My new food dehydrator ... works great!

Daring Cooks Challenge

Daring Cooks Challenge

The powders on the left side of the plate were combined to form a “salsa”. 
I used tomato, onion, garlic, cilantro-lime and jalapeno.

Daring Cooks Challenge!

Daring Cooks Challenge!

The powders in the middle are blackberry and jalapeno.   

On the right, I tried to recreate “ketchup”.  

( I must have ketchup with potatoes.)  To get the “right taste” I soaked the tomato slices in apple cider vinegar, then roasted them with brown sugar prior to dehydrating.  I mixed this powder with onion and garlic.  It was quite tasty and came close to the ketchup taste. (Maybe it helped that I closed my eyes and kept repeating  … it tastes like ketchup … it tastes like ketchup.)

I made this dish with cod.

I made this dish with cod.

Ready to serve!

Ready to serve!

The recipe:

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powderedwith changes

  • 4 skate wings      (I used cod.)
  • * Beurre monte
  • * 300g fresh green beans
  • sea salt/kosher salt
  • 1 banana       (I substituted gold potatoes.)
  • 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)

Powders – prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
‘brown butter’ powder

once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.     (My new Mr. Coffee grinder is now a spice grinder!)

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/parsley powder
150g cilantro
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 and reserve.

* For green beans, slice each bean 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.

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.

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.  (I mounded my powders, shook the plate slightly to settle them out a bit and then ran my finger thru them to create the design.)

Peel the remaining banana (I used yukon gold potatoes.)  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 Skate can be replaced with flounder or cod.  (I used cod.)
If you can get skate that is not ‘prepared’ (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.

 There is a generous serving of “whimsical trickery” in molecular gastronomy.
Peter Rowe from his article Quantum Cuisine.




12 Responses

  1. That is very involved but so very cool!

  2. Your plating looks really beautiful! I love how the powders look too. Beautiful and sharp colors. Well done, indeed!

  3. Your presentation is like one huge rainbow..it’s gorgeous, and your flavored powders sound mouth watering! Not to mention, your fish looks perfectly cooked and wonderful. Phenomenal job!

    BTW – my sister lent me that same dehydrator, it works really wel!

  4. Just love your post and the colour and flavour combos look and sounds amazing. Try cleaning out you ‘spice’ grinder with a piece of bread (this is a tip that was in the forums) it greatly reduces the ‘spice’ and you could use it as a coffee grinder again. Wonder colours and I like how you did a ;western’ flavour theme yum yum even yummmmmmmy to taste would be heavenly I bet. Bravo on you success. Cheers from Audax in Australia

  5. Wow, your powders look amazing. I gotta get me a dehydrator it seems, if only to make my own ketchup powder. What a great idea!

  6. I recently made pico de gallo and am now dying to try a dried version. Great blend of spices, many kudos to you.

  7. Oh my gosh, how interesting!

    Thank you for the informative write-up, I now know 100% more than I did about MC before reading this.

  8. I love the dishes that you put your powders on. So cool. I’m impressed with the number of different powders that you came up with. Great job!

  9. That is so very interesting and PRETTY! I loved all the colors.

    bravo to you!

  10. WoW! This looks so pretty…I’ve been following Carol over at Alinea at home so know how tricky Grant’s cooking is. But then, he’s my favorite chef for a reason 🙂

  11. I’m jealous of that dehydrator — what a beauty! Your finished dish is gorgeous; I love how your cod fanned out so beautifully.

  12. Bow to you, o great DC. That was fabulous work. I bowed out of the challenge as I got rather intimidated. You’ve done an outstanding job!

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