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I struggled for years to make consistently great pork cracklings. When they turned out fluffy and chunchy, it was pure luck. Years ago when cooking at The Chef’s Garden my co-chef Michael Clampffer, made the most perfect cracklings I had ever seen.
When I tell these things were good… they were so delicate and crisp, we dusted them with cinnamon and powdered sugar and served with dessert. Well blame it on the bourbon that was flowing that night- neither of us can remember how he did it.
After more test batches than I care to remember, I figured it out. And they’re are simple as 1,2,3.
1. Vacuum seal pork skins, and cook at 72˚C for 12 hours.
2. Scrape the fat from the cooked skins and dry on a rack in the oven at 250˚F until brittle and deep brown.
3. Deep fry at 350˚F.
The James Beard Foundation has an amazing new book out called ‘The Best of the Best’ it’s a gorgeous book featuring recipes and stories from former Outstanding Chef Award winners. Along with some of my fellow chefs at ICE, we were invited to cook for an intimate party at the James Beard House celebrating the release of the book. We knew early on that the list of attendees would include some pretty big VIPs from the world of food, so coming up with an appropriately impressive was an intimidating task. And since we were also celebrating the Beard Foundation’s 25th Anniversary, the menu had to be inspired by the man himself, James Beard. So all we had to do was turn James Beard’s classic recipes into something you’d be proud to serve to the country’s top chefs. It was an awesome opportunity show the innovation that has been happening at ICE lately. Not to mention the chance to spend an evening in the kitchen with legends like Thomas Keller, Jeremiah Tower and Patrick O’Connell.
photo by Geoff Mottram
The ICE crew at the Beard House with Thomas Keller, Patrick O’Connell, Jeremiah Tower and Alfred Portale
Well, it finally happened. After nearly a year of being a skeptical observer Chef Chris Gesualdi dragged me kicking and screaming into the big, scary world of Hydrocolloids. After poking and prodding around for a bit I realized something — it turns out it’s not so scary after all.
Hydrocolloids need a better publicist or an image consultant at the very least. They don’t have a flashy name or a description that rolls off the tongue. But those are things better left for someone smarter than me. There is a lot of necessary fear around “chemicals,” especially when it comes to food. So what are hydrocolloids, and why does everyone call them chemicals with a hint of terror in their voice?
No updates on the blog lately but there’s been plenty of work going on in the kitchen. So here’s a quick run down of of what I’ve been up to in the kitchen recently: working with a lot exciting new (to me) things that are opening up a world of possibilites.
Transglutaminase aka Meat Glue
Guinea Hen, Pheasant, and Duck Terrine with Foie Gras- pretty nice results but the ‘meat glue’ doesn’t like fat so the foie gras didn’t hold in as well as the other meats. All meats we first cooked separately sous vide, then bonded with the transglutaminase.
I’ve been working a lot on reverse sphereification. The basic idea of reverse spehereification is that calcium in a mixture reacts with sodium alginate in a bath to form a skin. So I’ve been focusing on foods that naturally high in calcium and forming them in flavored alginate solutions (like carrot juice). Above is a spiced yogurt with a carrot skin.
Fluid Gel (Agar)
Long story short: a discussion broke out via twitter over who could do the best reinterpretation of ‘Ants On a Log’. This was my effort- celery cooked sous vide in coconut milk and red curry, dried grape (aka raisin) fluid gel, and peanut brittle made with fish sauce.
Finally, sometimes you’ve got to put all the fancy up in the cabinet and throw it down old school style. So for a recent staff meal-
Slow Roasted Pork Belly with Roasted Tomato, Scallion and Molasses Vinaigrette over Creamy Grits
Sorry, it’s true.
You can make the most perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned food in the world, but if it looks like a big steaming pile of mess on the plate I’m not interested. Ever heard the saying ‘You taste with your eyes’? Well, it’s absurd; but it’s true. The first impression food makes is through it’s appearance. So any good cook has to know how to make thing s look good on the plate.
Of course, on the other side of things you create art on the plate, but if it doesn’t taste good you’re not going very far. Check out my latest post on the ICE Blog about how to cook sous vide and making it look good- right here.
The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…
… right? But I’m here to tell you fellas, that street goes both ways. There isn’t any better way to impress a lady than to whip up an amazing meal. But those meals– whether they’re intended to get you a second date, or something more– don’t have to be complicated, day-long projects.
Here’s your goal: Cook a dinner that makes you feel like a man and helps you get (or keep) the girl. It’s meat & potatoes food without being a meathead. You’ve just gotta have skills… And that’s what I’m here for.
Learn how to make the meal and get the girl here:
Earlier this week, ICE Chef Instructor James Briscione led a half demo, half hands-on class, to give ICE students a general introduction to the uses of sous-vide and low-temperature cooking applications. It was the first of ICE’s dedicated modernistcooking classes teaching innovative techniques and how to use cutting-edge technology to our students.
Continue reading here.
There have been only two things worth discussing over the past week:
How is Rob Gronkowski’s ankle?
And what kind of chicken wings should we cook Sunday?
If only my wife had as much influence over high ankle sprains as she does on what comes out of our kitchen patriots fans would be feeling pretty good right now. I’ve been playing with buffalo wing recipes in preparation of the big game. Check out the links below for two takes on the classic.
Sous Vide Buffalo Wings- http://blog.iceculinary.com/2012/02/01/sous-vide-buffalo-wings/
Ultimate Make-at-Home Buffalo Wings- http://justmarriedandcooking.com/2012/01/the-ultimate-make-at-home-chicken-wings/