Saturday, 19 September 2009

Sous Vide cooking using Mr Keller's recipes

Above is a photograph of a fillet steak with spinach risotto, spring onions and white asparagus. The asparagus was vacuum packed with milk and cream, sugar and salt. We added cream to the asparagus for several reasons; firstly it has great flavour, secondly the addition of cream stops the milk from curdling. This picture is from last night's alumni dinner for 90 covers; we wouldn't have had time to clean the asparagus if we'd only used milk. The recipe for this is described in Under Pressure. The fillet steaks (90!) were sealed first with sea salt and cracked black pepper. We next added thyme and rosemary sachets to the bags and vacuum packed the steaks, six per bag. As we had to cook ninety we were unable to use our water bath,instead we cooked the steak in our Hobart Combi oven using full steam and setting the temp at 57C. The steaks were cooked for 1 hour and then flash sealed in our Bratt pan; the result...awesome, tasted fantastic and looked great!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Our second attempt

Degustion des Pommes
Genoise aux pommes, candied apples, ginger custard, milk jam, apple sorbet and apple chips

There is a stunning sweet pictured on page 233 that really caught my eye when first leafing through Under Pressure. The beautiful apple chip sitting atop a quenelle of apple sorbet is beautifully presented and obviously a challenge to prepare. This dish was chosen by our Development Director to serve at an Alumni dinner the college is hosting this evening. We don't need to replicate the recipe once....we need to replicate it ninety times! I tasked my Sous Chef Ioana with preparing this dish three days ago, the recipe is quite complex and require several days to finish. We started with the Genoise aux Pommes (apple cake) which was quite simple.

We needed four trays to get 90+ cake rounds. The apple sorbet was next and this gave me an excuse to use my new magi-mix juicer. The magi-mix is great and has been used to juice, carrots, beetroot and now apples. We take the leftover pulp from inside the juicer and dry it overnight in our Excalibur 9-Tray Dehydrator. In the morning we powder the fruit/veg in a vita prep and then vacuum pack for later....but I'm digressing. The sorbet gets it nice colour from adding a few leaves of spinach with the apples whilst juicing, this didn't affect the taste which was terrific!

The apple chips were the most difficult part. The recipe calls for slicing the apples and warming them gently in syrup for one and a half, to two hours. You then dry them in an oven for one hour to finish them-and finish them it did, they looked horrid! I ended up dipping them into the syrup and then drying them in the dehydrator overnight. I also added a little citrus powder to the syrup as the apples were turning brown quite quickly.

The candied apples were fun as we needed a little over 700 balls. After scooping the apple balls they are vacuum packed in poaching liquid (an even mix of sugar, water and white wine cooked as for syrup) and cooked at 75 degrees C for 3 hours. Again I would recommend adding a little citrus powder to help the apples retain their colour. We use Citrus from the El Bulli range of powders. The apples turn out nice, but look different then in the cookbook photo!

The custard did not set as firm as in the picture so we will more than likely pipe it onto the plate with a squeeze bottle, and the apple jam turned out perfect. As you can see below, we garnished our plate with an edible flower, I will change the presentation of the sauces when we plate this later tonight...more pictures to follow!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

My name is David Harwood and I am currently the Catering Manager at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge in England. I was born in England but spend much of my youth and early twenties living in Oregon, USA.
I starting cooking at the age of 16 whilst working part-time in high school. I had taken a job as a kitchen porter (dishwasher in the US) in a small restaurant in Lake Oswego called the walrus and Carpenter. It was here that my love of cooking began with the constant smell of steaks, seafood and french fries!
Many years later, and now 42 years old, I have semi-retired from the kitchen. During the past two decades I have worked my way from Oregon to Florida, London, Madrid, Cyprus, the French Alps, and finally to Cambridge England where I met my Spanish Wife Mildred (I know, not a very Spanish sounding name!).
I recently learned about sous vide and the perfect results you can obtain by low temperature cooking. I rushed out and purchased the following:
Clifton water bath
Multivac chamber vacuum packing machine
various sizes of plastic bags designed specifically for vacuum packing
needle thin temperature probe
Under Pressure by Thomas Keller
Sous Vide by Joan Roca and Salvador Brugues
I then convinced Nick, my Head Chef ,to embrace this new style of cooking. I told him we could use this method for any size dinner, big or small, and his life would be so much easier! I then showed his Mr Keller's book. It would be rude to print what he said next, but suffice to say he needed more convincing. Two months on and we are re-creating dishes from Under Pressure for up to 150 covers, even the team at The French Laundry would be impressed!
Hence the Blog, we want to share what we have learned and what we are still learning. Below I have posted a picture of the compressed melon dish from page 234. We changed the cucumber sorbet to strawberry, but otherwise I think we did a damn good job. Nothing quite prepares you to the sight of watermelon as it's vacuum packed, the change in colour is simply amazing to watch!

English Strawberry Sorbet with compressed melons, yogurt cream, and olive oil biscuit

English Strawberry Sorbet with compressed melons, yogurt cream, and olive oil biscuit
This has to be one of my favourite dishes from Under Pressure. The process of vacuum packing melon produces truly great results, watermelon especially benefits from this process. The melons become firmer and take on a deeper colour, the watermelon looks like raw sushi grade tuna (there is a play on fruit sushi to be developed here)! The original recipe calls for cucumber sorbet, but as we were in strawberry season (and I don't really like cucumber) we altered the dish slightly. We used small square and round cutters for most of the shapes, although some need to be done by hand to save on waste (we used our off-cuts for a melon sorbet). Watermelon is easily cut into rectangles that then yields nice even shapes, the honeydew and cantaloupe melon were slightly more difficult to shape.

The melons change colour as soon as the air is removed during the vacuuming process, I watched the watermelon being compressed through the glass panel of our chamber vacuum machine, incredible!
The black syrup is a mix of balsamic and glucose reduced, the olive oil cake is nice and light and the yogurt is blended with creme fraiche. We plated the sweet as seen below; the only change we made was to quenelle the sorbet. Sir Richard Dearlove, Master of Pembroke College was very impressed with this! We are using this sweet twice next week, once for 25 covers and the second time for 50.