If I told you that it was possible to totally puree oysters then reform them would you believe me?
Well last week I found a technique to do just that! I am not sure if it is a technique which has been done before but it is something that actually happened by accident and only through an observation. It is pure oyster and when exposed to a certain very low temperature it reforms and makes the texture of a baked custard or creme brulee. But it is the mouth feel and flavor that is so much affected. Every person to taste it so far has commented on the full mouth flavor of oyster with more obvious flavors of Zinc (which oysters are high in). The flavor lingers in every part of your mouth for about 5 minutes after you have eaten it.
I put cucumber as it has a very distinct iodine flavor which perfectly pairs with the oyster, I decided to do it in the form of a natural (additive free) Air as this will lift the aroma into your nose first so it doesn’t get lost behind the oyster. Then I have taken a bit of a Japanese angle; Japanese Pepper leaf, Pink pickled ginger, Mirin, Fried peanuts (to also give texture), Yuzu, szechuan pepper oil and black pepper.
So the Famous sandwich was finished this week.
It holds a great deal of sentiment as it represents a chapter in my life when I was living in London, plus it has taken 3 years to get to a stage where I could serve it in the restaurant. I had a pain in the ass stalker attack me about this dish about 2 months ago and it is with pride that I say that it has been served to the top Gourmet of Spain (and friend to most of the best Chefs in the world) and also a very tough critic and they both gave it outstanding reviews.
It is very honest and using very basic techniques, the trick is in the balance, proportion and execution. I wanted it to bring back memories of the worlds best Sandwich……… Bacon, Tomato, Avocado and mayonnaise! The objective has been achieved.
The bread crisps are only 1.5mm thick but 10x4cm is size, this is a very delicate job to coat with the best Spanish Extra virgin olive oil and sea salt then baked until golden and crispy between 2 heavy baking trays. The avocado is seasoned with Jamón Iberico (La Pata Negra) fat and points of Tomato reduction. The trick of this dish is in the heavy flavors but light presentation (using vienetta ice cream as the inspiration), so something that seems big is actually very little in weight. To top it off I made a “Hellmans” mayonnaise sorbet and a green tomato pulp (as the acid will cut through all the heavy fats) but unfortunately for this photo I could not get any green tomatoes:-(
There you have it……… My homage to the Sandwich I ate on the way to work every morning for a year and a half when I was living in London!
Figurative progressive cuisine is still one of my favorite forms of cooking (one of the best Chefs in the world for this style of cuisine is a friend of mine named Paul Pairet). It can show a great sense of humor in a dish from the moment it is put in front of the guest. It also gives you a pre-conceived notion of what it’s going to taste like, and this is generally where the biggest surprises come from…………. When you are anticipating one thing and you get another.
So today I finished the ‘Watermelon “Tuna Sashimi”‘, which is basically as figurative as you can get, it is the classic stereotypical slice of watermelon you would imagine every time you think of watermelon. But what you see and what you taste are light years apart! It has been vacuum infused with many products normally associated with tuna and/or Sashimi in general. As it has had all the air removed it is dense and flexible like raw tuna and even the exact same color. So before you even put it in your mouth you are totally confused as your eyes are telling you it is watermelon but your common sense is telling you it must be tuna as watermelon will break if you bend it. The moment you put it between your teeth you realize it is watermelon for sure as it has that characteristic crunch, but still you are confused as it now tastes like tuna and even has the background flavor of Wasabi…………….. But you don’t eat watermelon with wasabi! The fake seeds are basically a soy fluid gel and the Peel is a combination of nori seaweed and wasabi mixed with Koopi mayonnaise. To highlight the tuna flavors some points of sesame oil and maldon sea salt have been used.
So the humble watermelon is not so humble after all
Sometimes you can search for a new technique in food for what seems like forever, other times you can be lucky enough to discover something by pure accident. When I say accident I take a little bit of the process away, it mostly happens from observing ever possible element and process.
This case is no exception, I was processing raw purple cabbage when I discovered a very starchy texture. Upon investigation I discovered how to extract this and utilize it as I would any other starch. So far I have achieved a paper thin galletta (biscuit) which has a lace like pattern, a Turkish delight with Coca Cola and the purple cabbage starch and a way to thicken sauces at low temperature. As I have not finished perfecting this technique I am not going to give away the “How” yet, Sorry!
For me this is one of the most rewarding things to be taken from our profession, when you truly understand the natural elements of food and how to best use or extract them, which is another strong point of Highlighting the strengths and overcoming the weaknesses of every ingredient.
One of the biggest mistakes made by Chefs is in the cookery of Fish. For example when I was working in Dubai the first time I asked the Chefs of my new kitchen “How do you know when fish is cooked?” They simply responded with “when the white stuff starts coming out”!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anyone who knows anything about fish knows that when the white protein starts leaking out it means basically you need to start again as it is overcooked. When eating out I very rarely order fish as I find 9 times out of 10 it is brutally overcooked. But what takes the cake is an opinion I heard just recently…………….. “Don’t you love it when you cook the fish and it twists, it’s amazing”.
With everything in cooking we are only just really starting to understand the differences in temperatures which different types of ingredients need. Gone are the days where a Chef would boil all vegetables just because they are “Vegetables” or cook all fish the same as they are all “Fish”. Basically to get a perfectly cooked piece of fish without breaking any of the cells or loosing excessive amounts of juices, it is best to cook it sous vide until the desired temperature then pan sear it from cold to activate the Maillard reaction and give the correct flavor. What core temperature do you need to achieve and how hot should the water bath be? This will greatly vary depending on the type and even the region the fish has come from as the density of the flesh will change with the temperature of the water it has come from. Pictured above is how I am cooking the fish here in Madrid, obviously I am doing this in my Lab but for the restaurant I am setting a time and a temperature based on an average of all of the testing I have conducted on each type of fish. Even when we talk about the searing of fish, this has to be done with love and careful attention as well. Here there are many variables that have to be taken into consideration; the temperature of the pan (Too hot will scorch the fish and make it dry on the surface, too cold will make it stew and loose too much moisture), which kind of fat to use, how much fat to use (too much will fry the fish whereas too little will give an uneven heat transfer), etc, etc. It is a big topic to cover in 500 words but the moral of the story is: Imagine different items of food are like people, you can’t treat them all the same and expect to get the best out of each one.
Good cooking is about consistancy, I laugh when I hear Chefs say “I will never use Sous Vide or exact recipes, I cook with feeling and instinct and these things take the personality out of cooking”. In actual fact the only persons feelings and instinct people pay to taste is the Chef of the restaurant who has his name on the front door, it is up to him to perfect his recipes to the level that every Chef in the kitchen can replicate it the same every time.
A product very rarely used in Australia is the wood from Grape vines, in fact we do not have much of a food smoking culture in general. Working with European Chefs in my more junior cooking years gave me a basic understanding of the smoking techniques, but it wasn’t until I left Australia 8 years ago that I really built on this knowledge.
For every product you want to smoke you need to choose the most suitable smoking medium. The choices are endless!!! 2 Of my personnel favorites are eucalyptus leaves for smoking Kangaroo and Monte Cristo #4 cigars for smoking aged venison loins. But as a general all round smoke nothing beats grape vine, any grape vine will do but we choose to use the vines from Rioja which are much stronger in flavor. In the south of France, Italy and most regions of Spain this is a strong part of the food culture when cooking outdoors.
For the best results put the piece of wood in the oven at about 250 degrees celcius for 30 minutes. Remove, then immediately flame with a blow torch until on fire. Extinguish by placing into a gastronom and cover to remove oxygen, place your item of food inside and leave for desired amount of time.
Something you should try is smoking low temperature eggs (64.5 degrees) through the shell then infusing an olive oil with the same burnt wood for 24 hours.