Until this months challenge I had never heard of molecular cuisine (sort of the science of cooking) but I am now fascinated by it, the science geek in me wants to know more plus gluten free baking has a healthy dose of chemistry to learn if you want to get your head round mixing your own flour mixes. Over the winter when there is less growing of vegs going on, and indeed less weeds to keep in check, I may well check out some of the forums on the subject.
Anyway on to the challenge. Sketchy, from Sketchy's Kitchen set us a challenge to recreate a dish from Grant Achatz, found in the Alinea cookbook - page 230. This dish looks very obscure and strange to start with and before this the only chef I'd really come across doing such things was Heston Blumenthal who has recently done a couple of wonderful and very mad programs on british TV.
The dish is basically fish pouched in butter served on beans and slices of banana. Sounds pretty basic so far doesn't it ! However then you add multiple powders, dried and ground up ingredients, things that would normally be put in a sauce to go with the fish. Many people were very thrown by this part but taking a deep breath I looked at it and realised that while there was a bunch of prep none of it was hard in and of itself. As it happened I had just started experimenting with drying and indeed grinding things to powder just a few days earlier and had just done some lemon peal which turned out to be one fo the ingredients.
In the end I did 5 powders and used four of them. We were given various ways to do the drying. A dehydrator - something I'd love to own but don't. Microwave - quick but less good flavour wise on the couple I tried or the oven on a very low heat which is what I opted for on most for mine. They they were crushed in a mortar and pestle and sieved though a fine sieve.
The powders I did were
Parsley -(bottom left) Oven was slightly better than microwave but fundamentally both taste like dried grass which is pretty much the same as shop bought dried parsley
Oregano - quite bitter tasting and I didn't use it in the end, again oven better than microwave.
Lemon peel - (bottom right) just plain peel dried, the recipe called for candied peel but I had already done the plain so that is what I used. Smelt divine and tasted like sherbet.
Red Onion - (top right) Fantastic flavour, lovely pink colour. I very tempted to do more for flavouring things
Capers - (top left) Ones in vinegar, washed and dried. Another very flavoursome one.
To make up the dish the powders were piled on the plate and then swirled. The green beans were cooked in a Beurre Monte, which is basically butter emulsified with water first. The fish was also cooked the same way. The recipe stated skate but I used Pouting which is a nice and fairly cheap white fish.
Some slices of banana were placed on the plate then green beans and finally fish. It was topped with ground dried banana flakes.
So what was it like?? Funny dry powders? Actually it was amazing. Not at all dry, partly due to the butter things were cooked in. The powders exploded flavour, well part from the parsley but even that added colour. All together the flavours worked fabulously and it got a very good reception from Tom, once he got over the fish bone he is jinked to find however hard I try!!
I really recommend trying this it is worth the faff of making the powders and they in themselves are an interesting experiment.