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Save Spots the goldfish and make balsamic pearls – check

Just the average day in the Stuart family, started with a melt down at 6:25 am, went on to broken bathroom lights, filling out kindergarten registration paperwork, making my first gellification and ending with another meltdown followed by the fish floating on his back.

Lets start with the gellification, I’m having some friends over for dinner on Friday and I decided to make a micro green salad with balsamic pearls. Because they can be made ahead I decided to spend the few free minutes I had before taking the kids to gymnastics making balsamic pearls. You start by taking the cheapest olive oil you can find and pouring it in a deep and somewhat narrow container. I used an old square vase I had gotten Mother’s Day flowers in. I got the cheapest utter crap olive oil I could find at Trader Joes. Now put that olive oil in the freezer for 30 minutes. Next heat balsamic with agar powder on the stove till it begins to boil. Now put it in an huge syringe and squirt it into the cold olive oil. Stir it around a bit, fish the stuff out with a strainer and put in water to rinse off the olive oil. Now you can put them in a container in the fridge and use whenever you want. They were fast and easy and made perfect shiny little black balsamic pearls that resemble caviar. Seriously the whole thing including prep took me less than 20 minutes and you can make a bunch and do tons of things with them. I look like such a rock star to my husband and it was so easy!

After my molecular success the day pretty much went downhill. It ended when I came back in the kitchen after putting Miley to bed to find her goldfish spots floating on his back. But much like in The Meaning of Life, spots wasn’t dead yet. Luckily he just had gas. Yes I have come to understand that fish fart and if they eat too much they can get blocked up and not be able to fart. So I gave spots a frozen pea for fiber and put out strick orders that nobody is to feed him for 3 days. Spots has been saved, the balsamic pearls are fantastic and all is well in the world.

Does this foam look familiar?

On Top Chef I would have been sent packing my knives! Tom and Padma would have scoffed that everyone is so over foam and this really brought nothing to the party. On the plus side it took minutes to make and I had to prep the pancake mix for the morning and make a school lunch tonight. So foam it was. My husband is out of town on business so of course I made myself a dinner of peanut butter puff cereal and toast while cleaning the kitchen and preparing a new molecular experiment. Doesn’t everyone? I just got my shipment of Soy Lecithin and had some pineapple juice in the fridge so I got out that immersion blender and in a few minutes had pineapple foam. I toyed with just tossing it on top of the cereal but it wasn’t colorful enough so I put out a little rasberry sorbet from Trader Joes, tossed on some berries and carefully spooned out the pineapple froth. It looks nice on the plate, was insane easy to make and was fairly tasty. No wonder all those top chef contestants do it! Not a bad way to class up a simple fruit desert and look way more talented than you are. I think a more colorful foam would be better though and I think that I had the ratio of lecithin to juice off a bit. It’s suppose to be about .4% I think but I didn’t bother with the math. Of course a lazy molecular gastronomist is probably a bad molecular gastronomist but this time it still turned out OK. I will follow a recipe and properly measure things when I make the beet foam later this week. Now I need to lay out the clothes for the morning, feed the cats and get to bed. I’m hanging up my immersion blender for the night.

Octo-fest!

Sorry i have been taking a mothers day break so I haven’t been writing and this has been sitting in my drafts folder all week.

Tuesday night 4 people devoured an entire 6 lb octopus. The conclusion is that 19 hours in the sous vide at 165 was amazing but next time we will stop some at 12, some at 14 and some at 16 to compare. 19 hours was so tender it was amazing in salads and just eaten cold but it presented problems on the grill. the skin had become so gelatinous it stuck impossibly to,the grill and the meat didn’t have enough left to hold up. We did carpaccio with sriracha and lime but it was so soft we could not get a true think carpacio. the taste was fantastic but presentation was off a bit. We served some cold on arugula salad, with lemon and olive oil. The best was thinly sliced with lime and sriracha rooster and sliced jalapeño peppers. I will be getting another octopus very soon. Sorry for the lack of pictures but we could not start till my four year old went to bed so it was dark and the pictures were not appealing. Fear not we will do this again and I will have better presentation and pictures.

Sous vide success !

The 19 hour sous vide octopus is a smashing success! We took out one of the yummy umami tentacles and simply sliced it over some lemon, sprinkled with paprika and chowed down. It is fantastic. Perfect texture! We also got out our sriracha and dabbed some on top because we thought it could use some heat. We have tons of ideas for this and we are having some friends over tomorrow to try our little experiment. Check out Wednesday for the update.

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Blame it on the Wine!

Last night I had my first big flop in molecular gastronomy. I wanted to make mozzarella spheres but I had a couple of problems. #1 we had gone out to dinner with the kids and had some wine, got my daughter to bed late and got started around 9PM after some wine and cocktails. #2 my scale died. Note to self – never ever attempt molecular gastronomy without a scale. I know it might seem intuitive that just winging it isn’t something you should do with anything starting with the word molecular but I really really wanted to do it and thought it would be a good experiment. Today my husband gave me a crash course in our sous vide supreme and we prepared a sous vide of octopus. I will post about that later. In the mean time I’ve got a little sodium algenate mess to clean up and a fridge full of liquid mozzarella.

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2 creative directors sous vide an octopus

IMG_3506It was Sunday and I had someone take our 4 year old to a carnival so we had several hours to ourselves. Did we watch a movie? Go out to dinner? Take a nap? Take a passionate roll in the sack? No we decided it was the perfect time to experiment with a 6 pound octopus and take pictures of it.

Several months ago we had an amazing octopus carpaccio at a restaurant. They had cooked the octopus in a sous vide and then sliced it very thinly on a plate with some micro greens, lemon and I think paprika. We have been talking about making it ever since.

We ordered a frozen spanish octopus and were expecting to get a 3-4 pounder but what came in the mail was a 6 pound monster that sat in our fridge defrosting for a couple of days.

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We roved the internet for a while to find some videos of people breaking down an octopus. Since our was frozen and not fresh we fortunately didn’t need to “clean” it and take all the ink and yucky inner stuff out of it’s head. Yes if you buy a fresh one from a fish monter you will need to slice open it’s head and pull out all the gunk inside. We pulled out Flavio (I named him of course. Doesn’t everyone name their food?) and put him on a cutting board. Eye side up and then we cut out the beak. This is about as appealing as you might think. That little black thing is an actual beak!

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We then flipped it over and cut out the eyes. Fortunately I’d made us a batch of my yummy blackberrry gin coolers. It’s a squirt of home made blackberry syrup which I did with some Thyme, lime, gin, mint and club soda. They helped me deal with all the gushy octo parts and the intense fish smell.

After that we cut off the head and cut apart all the tentacles. Once broken down we washed it in the sink and dried it off with a clean towel. Now we were ready to put in our food saver bags and get into the sous vide. We added just salt, lemon and olive oil to some, added oregano to the mix for others and finally did some with paprika, olive oil, lemon and oregano.

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We placed them in the sous vide at 165 and checked them in 7 hours and they still were not tender so we left them in overnight! We had intended them to take them out as soon as we got up but our daughter had a melt down and getting her ready for preschool was harder than breaking down the octopus so I completely forgot about it. When I started planning dinner I suddenly remembered we had an octopus that had been in the sous vide for 19 hours and I ran to take it out. It was pink in the bag, nice and tender but amazingly still in tact. The tentacles have shrunk to more than half their size and are now swimming in lots of pink liquid. I popped them in the fridge and later I’ll put some in the freezer for a later date, but that 6 pound octopus looks like it will feed 4-6 for dinner, but as the intended carpaccio it should be enough to make appetizers for 2 to 3 diner parties. We will try some tonight and tomorrow we will make the carpaccio. More pictures coming on my tumbler feed!

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Is that yogurt bursting in my mouth?

    Experiment #1 Spherical Yogurt

20130503-093134.jpgMom always told me not to play with my food. But mom had never seen Wiley Dufresne on top chef! I have long marveled at molecular gastronomy but as a busy ad executive with little experience in the kitchen I left fancy stuff to the real chefs. Now that I’m taking a work break to spend more time with my daughter I’m doing what any suburban mom would do, I’m experimenting in molecular gastronomy.

Last night I surprised my husband with a fantastic meal of fennel crusted ahi and a spherical yogurt experiment. Luckily my husband is way more of the chef than I am so he’s really into the experiments. Here’s how my day went…

In the afternoon while entertaining kids on a play date at our house I pulled out my agitate bath from the fridge (previously the bubbly snot). 20130502-184542.jpgNow totally smooth it was ready to make spheres. I got out my shitty imperfect scale and made the yogurt mix I found on molecular recipes . I followed the recipe to a t this time but I will riff on it next time, using this as a base. It makes enough yogurt mix for approximately 50 yogurt balls which was really overkill for a Thursday night family dinner. Next time I will half it and still have too much. After my yogurt mix was made I followed the instructions placing small spoonfuls of the yogurt into the bath. At first I thought I had done it wrong because they sort of hung on the surface but eventually they sunk into the agitate to form balls.  20130503-133218.jpg I set my timer for 2 minutes and gingerly fished them out. This is trickier than I had anticipated. I had a 3″ fine mesh strainer but the mesh was so fine the agitate (again, think consistency of snot) barely went through and took a long time. I was also getting lots of agitate in the water bath and I found fishing them out of a square bowl challenging because the strainer was too big for the corners. I tried a slotted spoon I had but the slots were big enough the spheres slipped right through like magic. They are slippery little suckers! I will be making a trek to William Sonoma tomorrow for the perfect slotted spoon. Once in the water bath I gently stirred a bit and fished the first one out. It was far from a perfect sphere in the bath but once I got it on the spoon you couldn’t tell. I tried it with some key lime syrup and it was yummy. The yogurt is tangy and sweet and the texture is perfect. A little pillow that bursts in your mouth. The experience is sensual. I can really see building a meal around this for parties.

20130501-174740.jpgMaking these was really a small time investment once i had all the right tools. the agitate bath took maybe 15 minutes to make the night before, the yogurt mix came together in a few minutes and making the spheres took about 5 minutes. there was maybe 10 minutes of prep time getting all the tools lined up and the water bath prepared. its also fairly efficient and would be easy to do for a party. I was able to make about 10 at a time in my 5″ x 7″ container. The depth of the bath is important. Mine was about 4″ deep and that seemed perfect. I would not go less than 3″ in depth or your balls aren’t going to drop properly. Ok that probably sounds wrong but you get the picture.

Now that i had been ignoring the kids for 15 minutes (after explaining that private parts are to remain private), I thought I’d surprise the them with a treat. It’s sweet, it’s yogurt, it’s cool. Kids should love this right? No. They took one look at the shiny little white balls sitting in pale green syrup and said ‘no’! I should have colored them blue and called them dinosaur eggs. What was I thinking? I was once a great advertising exec, have I forgotten already? Oh well, I loved it. More importantly I saw the possibilities that this blank canvas presents. Suddenly I’m ready to open up my restaurant. I’ll call it chez play dough.

That night when my husband got home I had the first trial waiting. Before dinner I started us with a cocktail of lemoncelo yogurt spheres on cute little spoons I got at restaurant supply. We thought it was ok but the strong vodka taste really overpowered the yogurt. Our search for a perfect pairing continued. After dinner I made a bunch more yogurt spheres and brought the water bath over to the table with the spheres rinsing inside. Then I place sliced fruit, mint, syrups and liquors on the table for us to try mixing. They key lime syrup with tiny mint leaves was a hit but our favorite pairing was putting it in a spoon with a few drops of something called liquid love by Tobin James. It’s essentially chocolate flavored desert wine. The mix tested a bit like an ice cream Sunday. We also tried it with ice wine which was not great and Bailey’s which was surprisingly bad. Then we tried it with star fruit which was good and kiwi which was better. I think it might be best with mango I was just too tired to slices a mango. We also experimented with previously made balls and ones made ala minute. I had read that even after you stop the process in the water bath the gel continues to form so you need to serve them right away. We found that after several hours in the fridge in a water bath they were ok but a bit more firm. They lacked a little of that pillowy texture that was so sensual. They could hang out in the bath for 15-30 minutes without too much loss in quality but beyond that was definitely a compromise.

By the end of dinner we were talking about ways to turn this savory by eliminating the sugar and putting in some herbs or pairing with spice. I saved the bath so that we could see if it can be used twice and tonight I want to do some non sweet versions and maybe the mozzarella spheres. This weekend I think my husband will be showing me how to sous vide so that I can make sous vide octopus.

 

 

Molecular gastonomy? Why not?

I’m not a chef. I’m not even a particularly good cook, and I am as far from a scientist as someone can get. I’m a former ad executive and a suburban mom. But last week I found myself web surfing molecular gastronomy for some unknown reason and then purchased a package of Sodium Alginate from amazon. Oh no what have I done? I’m half way to sperification!

So I’m starting a blog to tell the world about my crazy experiments in food as I, artist and suburban mom, attempt to recreate some of the most mind blowing modern cuisine by today’s hot chefs. Wish me luck but most importantly wish my family luck! Next step yogurt balls.