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Friday, December 31, 2010

Elements Restaurant

Elements is one of the top dining establishments in New Jersey; it has received a Don't Miss rating from the New York Times, which is the highest possible rating and has been named one of the top 30 restaurants in America by Opinionated about Dining. Executive Chef Scott Anderson uses the freshest produce available and applies modern cookery to excite his diner's palates. Elements caught my attention when they opened in 2008 and I am kind of surprised it took so long for me to dine there. I went for lunch with my dad and sister and had a great time......

Opening the doors and entrancing into Elements the decor immediately catches your attention. There are glass panels that glow within the stone and steel walls, and maple backdrops that make you feel comfortable and warm.

For my first course I ordered the "Local Potato Soup with 48 hour Short Ribs, Chives, and Parmesan". The servers accidentally put the spoon that was intended for me with my sister's plate setting, but fixed the problem before I got my dish. The soup itself was really tasty - it had a perfect mouthfeel and actually tasted like potato. The dish was garnished with the crispiest onion rings that added a much needed distinct texture to the plate. Overall I loved this dish, but looking back it is not a dish that I am going to be crawling back for more. Maybe some frozen sour cream discs made with an anti-griddle would of made this dish exceptional..........

Next I got a "Thai Duck Sandwich with Duck Confit, Local Egg, and Kimchi". This dish was exquisite, but cluttered for the atmosphere. The egg yolk was perfect and bursted all over the sandwich adding a great moistness. Kimchi was strong-flavored and assertive, offsetting the richness from the duck and egg. Could the meat have been chicken or turkey legs? For sure, the presence of the duck flavor was not up front, but that was not the main focus of the dish, so it was fine.

For dessert we shared "Pumpkin Cheesecake with "gingerbread", cranberry, and toasted pumpkin seeds". This was the most ascetic dish of the night and the most "high end" due to the fact that the dessert menu is the same for dinner as it is for lunch. The cheesecake was luxuriously creamy and had a pure flavor of pumpkin. The gingerbread sorbet tasted like the cookie you adored during the holidays. The pumpkin seeds were mega delicious and added a nice textural contrast. I loved this dessert. It was my favorite dish of the night.

It is fair to say that I really did not get to experience the real deal of the savory side of the kitchen because the dinner dishes are definitely more elaborate than the lunch dishes. I am very interested in returning to Elements for dinner.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Seared Loin of Lamb with Rosemary and Orange Lamb Jus, Potato Gnocchi, and Roasted Zucchini

First off, merry Christmas Eve everyone!! Because of my allergies there was no feast of seven fishes or a feast of seven fish heads, but there was lamb and it was REALLY GOOD. I bought a whole rack of lamb and 4 separate lamb chops (for my dad). I Frenched the lamb just for the hell of it using a technique I learned from Marcel Vigneron where you use your knife honer and whack in between the bones. The meat came off extremely easily. After I Frenched the lamb I removed the actual loin from the bones and trimmed off the silver skin.

I seasoned the lamb loin simply with sea salt.

I threw the bones and the trimmings from the lamb in a hot pan to start my sauce. Once the lamb fat started to render it brought about a delicious scent of lamb that filled the house with joy. The only difference of flavor between beef and lamb comes from the lamb's fat. I wanted to get some good color on the lamb so the sauce would have a nice deep roasted flavor.

Once the lamb bones and trimmings were beautifully pan roasted I threw in some sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, salt, and toasted coriander seed. I let this mixture brown some more and then I added red wine vinegar to deglaze. I would let this mixture reduce until there was no liquid and then I would deglaze again. I did this a total of three times. Next, I added fresh squeezed orange juice and some water (I would have rather used a lamb stock, but I did not have). This simmered on the stove gently for roughly 3 hours.

Once the sauce was done cooking I stained it through a fine mesh sieve and whisked in a little nob of butter and a tiny bit of methycellulose (to give the sauce some more structure and body that is retained at high temperatures).

I was planning to use the gnocchi recipe from "The French Laundry Cookbook", but it did not go as planned and I am happy it did not. I first baked off Yukon gold potatoes and ran them through a food mill. There was about 550 grams of potato and I VERY GENTLY mixed it with 3 egg yolks, 2 TB of olive oil, salt, and 1/2 cup of flour in my stand mixer on my lowest speed with my dough hook for about 20 seconds until just combined. If you overwork gnocchi it becomes heavy, dry, and tough. Gnocchi is supposed to be very light.

I rolled the gnocchi dough into balls with my hands. I did not bother rolling the dough on a fork to get the classic shape because it would not affect the flavor or texture and I did not have the time.

Using my new Japanese Mandolin I thinly sliced zucchini and layered it with salt, thyme, onion, garlic, and olive oil.

I let it bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees until the outer layer was golden brown.

Getting ready to start the a la minute cooking. The water is heavily salted, it tastes like the sea. The pans are smoking hot and ready to use.

I love this picture!!! After the lamb was heavily seared on one side I added butter, rosemary, and garlic to the pan to baste the lamb. I love doing this. The fragrance is great and the bubbling butter is just mouth watering. The crackling sound of the herbs is also a highlight.

Here is the plated dish (the lamb was rested for a good five minutes before being sliced on a bias). The lamb was cooked absolutely perfectly and the sauce was plate licking good. The gnocchi were surprisingly light and delicious because of the fact I did not use a recipe or ratio to make them. The zucchini was also great and fresh. 


Well now it's passed midnight.......Happy Christmas!!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Aerated "Cheese Cake" with Orange, Burnt Sugar, Dill

Today in the mail I got my Nitrous Oxide canisters for my ISI Creative Whip. I was really excited to use them, so I looked in my fridge to see what I had to work with. I did not want to make plain whipped cream..... I saw cream cheese, so that led me to make an aerated cheese cake. I mixed 8 oz cream cheese with a half cup of milk, some sugar, salt, vanilla, and a little bit of cinnamon. I blended this together with my hand blender and then put that in my ISI Creative Whip. I charged it with nitrous oxide and shook it up and let it chill in the fridge for a couple hours. For the "burnt sugar" I caramelized some sugar in a pan then added Orange juice, salt, and a little butter. I poured the hot mixture on some parchment and let it cool down and crisp up. I simply supremed oranges, and picked very little threads of dill. Lots of herbs have been used in desserts, but I have never seen dill used before and I don't know why not. Yes, if you add too much dill it will completely ruin a dish, but a few little threads will add a nice freshness and herbaceousness to a dish. Dill also contains some lemon volatiles, which complements most desserts. There are so many herbs that have yet to set their voyage toward the sweet world. When I used one of the tips for my Creative Whip the foam came out looking like a star, which was kind of cool.   I really loved this dish and the ISI Creative Whip. I cannot wait to have some more fun with it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I got from The Bocuse D'or

Back when I went to the Bocuse D'or I bought the book "Knifes At Dawn" and got it signed by some of idols. These are the people that signed my book: Grant Achatz, Paul Bartolotta, David Chang, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Daniel Humm, James Kent, Michael Ciramusti, Traci Des Jardins, Timothy Hollingsworth, Gavin Kaysen, Paul Liebrandt, Eric Ziepold, Georges Perrier, Jerome Bocuse, and Andre Soltner. I treasure this book and believe that is a one of a kind. There is SO MUCH culinary talent that has touched that book. It is awesome!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thank You TIC Gums

TIC Gums just set me a sample of some of their Gums. I got 8 oz each of Agar, Carrageenan, Locust Bean Gum, Xantham Gum, Guar Gum, alginate, methycellulose, and Pectin. I am going to have a ton of fun cooking with these. Any ideas? Thanks so Much!!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Grant Achatz on Texture and Flavor

I watched a couple of the food science lectures on the Harvard youtube channel. For me the video that was most interesting and inspirational was Grant Achatz's video by far. The main things Chef Achatz went over on flavor was that smell is the main influence of flavor. Your tongue can detect 5 basic flavors while your nose can detect between 800-900 different flavors. To me that was mind blowing. Achatz is one of only few chefs who incorporates aroma into his dishes. Also, if a dish brings you back to a good memory it will taste much better. For instance, Chef Achatz lived in Michigan and one of his fond memories was the burning of leaves. Since this emotion has greatly impacted Chef Acfatz he serves smoldering leaves as a service wear with squab, shallot, and apple cider. By the way that dish is tempura fried! Chef Achatz also stresses that color influences the perception of a dish. For example when you see yellow you think lemon. Another point expressed is that textures should surprise you. One dish at Alinea is pineapple "glass" wrapped around bacon fat that is dried with tapioca maltodextrin. The crisp pineapple and creamy bacon surprise the palate. Probably, Achatz's most renowned dish is his black truffle explosion. This dish is a simple pasta dough wrapped around a black truffle stock. The stock is gelled and then put inside an agnolotti. When heated the gel turns into liquid and explodes in your mouth. That is what I call a surprise. Chef Achatz recommends having contrasting temperatures in a dish. In his hot potato, cold potato dish he serves a cold black truffle and potato soup with hot, fried potato balls, truffle, butter, Parmesan, and chive. The two different temperatures in the mouth produce an experience that Chef Achatz considers sublime.

I highly recommend watching the video. It was so inspirational and I learned a lot from it. I need to go to Chicago and eat and maybe stage at Alinea. Chef Achatz and his team are geniuses.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jen Carroll

Lets take a journey back to Season 6. Remember when Jen always thought her food was not "good"? She never was satisfied with her dishes, but then always did well. This season Jen was extremely cocky about her food. She thought that there was no way that she would not make it to the finale, so she let her guard down. This is where she suffered. Now, magical elves could have spinned what actually happened, so I could be wrong, but this is what I saw from the show.
When Jen freaked out after she was eliminated I was very surprised. None of her bad side ever came out in Season 6.
Jen is obviously an extremely accomplished chef and if I had to bet money on it I believe that Magical elves tweaked the story to make it more extreme than it actually was. And they did a great job at it.
This episode completely shocked me. I cannot wait to read Tom's blog.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Habanero Pepper

Habanero peppers are REALLY HOT. They are over 100 times hotter than a jalapeno, which many people consider to be very spicy. Jabanero peppers actually have extremely great flavor, but it is masked by their dominant heat that hides the delicious flavor like a mother bear hiding their cubs from predators. Dave Arnold, the director of Culinary Technologies at the French Culinary Institute, distills habanero peppers in a rotary evaporator to extract the fruity flavor and leave the heat behind. A rotary evaporator allows things to be distilled at much lower temperatures than normal. To learn more about a rotary evaporator check out Dave's site here.

So a couple days ago I was with my friends and one of them thought that they could handle any type of spicy food. I was lucky enough to have a habanero pepper at my disposal. I cut a very little strip (I did not want to kill my friend) and let him have a taste. His mouth and nose burned for hours. He drank glasses and glasses of milk to try and numb the pain, but nothing worked. I should have felt bad, but it was too funny.  He admitted that the habanero was to hot for him and by far the hottest thing he has ever tasted. And by the way there were no seeds or ribs in the slice that I gave him and the ribs are the hottest part of the pepper.

Dinner Party for 14

Last Saturday I had a dinner party that I cooked for. I served the meal family style for 14 people. Here are the things I made:
1. Red Wine and Dr. Pepper(Yes, I said Dr. Pepper) Braised Brisket
Seared the seasoned brisket, caramelized onions + garlic + carrot, deglazed with red wine and Dr. pepper. Braised the brisket for 5 hours at 300 degrees and then shredded it. Reduced the sauce and added salt, rosemary, BONE MARROW, and lemon and orange juice and zest. Tossed brisket with sauce and kept warm. Insanely Delicious!
On a side note.....Bone Marrow is extremely under used. Roasted Bone Marrow spread on toasted bread with a little Fleur De sel is one of the best tasting things ever. Anthony Bourdain's favorite dish is Fergus Henderson's Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley and Caper Salad at St. John Restaurant. Also, it is very, very cheap. I understand that some people might be a little squeamish, but once you try it you will be hooked. Go try Bone Marrow now!
2. Pan Roasted Chicken Breasts with Chicken Jus
Brined the chicken breast and then dried them fully. (Brining meats lets the meat soak up flavorful liquid so it stays very moist and is seasoned throughout the whole cut.)Next I seasoned chicken with a delicate hand with thyme, salt, pepper, and lemon and orange zest. Seared in chicken fat, then roasted to 160 degrees. The sauce was reduced chicken stock with lemon, caramelized onion, butter, and fresh thyme. The chicken was extremely moist and  super flavorful.
3. Potato Pancakes with Orange Scented Whipped Sour Cream
I grated the potatoes and added salt and lemon and then wrapped it in cheesecloth and squeezed out as much water as I could. You remove the water so that the pancakes could crisp up easier and faster. Then I mixed potatoes with some eggs and flour. The pancakes were fried in olive oil and then seasoned with salt and paprika. For the sauce I whipped cream cheese with salt, orange zest, orange juice, thyme, and pepper. Best Potato Pancakes I ever had. Crispy, salty pancake contrasted beautifully with the cool rich cream cheese.
4. Parsnip and Potato Puree
Roasted the Parsnips and Potatoes (I do this to lower the moisture in the potatoes so they could absorb more fat. When you cook potatoes in water they soak up a lot of water and cannot hold as much fat without separating), and then passed through a food mill. Mixed with butter, salt, thyme, lemon zest, parmesian cheese, and caramelized onions. By far best mashed potato I ever had. They were luxuriously rich with great flavor and freshness (from the lemon zest and thyme).
5. Spinach with Parmesian and Lemon
 First I caramelized onions and garlic and added the spinach with lemon, butter, orange, and paramesian cheese. I cooked them down until they were wilted, but still bright green and fresh.
6. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
To prepare this dish I slice Brussels sprouts in half and remove the stem and outer leaves. I save the really green leaves for a salad. Next I roasted the sprouts with salt, butter, bacon, orange, lemon, garlic, caramelized onion, sage, and pepper.
7. Roasted Beets with Parsnip Chips and Citrus Vinaigrette
I started off by roasting the beets and parsnips in salt. Then I removed them and peeled them. I sliced the beets in a round shape and cut the parsnips into matchsticks. I then put the put parsnips back in the oven to crisp up. I took the Brussels sprout leaves from the Brussels sprout dish and blanched and shocked them. I diced up and apple as well. For the dressing I mixed together jabanero, olive oil, lemon and orange juice, lemon and orange zest, thyme, garlic, shallot, and salt. I strained the dressing and tossed the salad (The beets I tossed separately because the beets turned the all the vegetables red). The salad was earthy, had nice textures, and had an awesome dressing.

10 Onions were sliced and ready for caramelizing

Roasted and peeled parsnips

Seared Brisket and Bone Marrow

The clients were really happy with the food. They loved everything so much that I was offered another job by one of the diners. The dinner party was very successful!