From the blog December 24, 2010 Max

A Modernist Christmas Feast

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Modernist Cuisine culinary team!

Allow me introduce myself. My name is Maxime Bilet, and I am the head chef of research and development in the culinary lab and one of the co-authors of Modernist Cuisine. It has been a very intense three-year journey of creative endeavors and accomplishments here in the kitchen. The entire Modernist Cuisine team has shared an amazing learning experience that we are excited to soon share with you. Every dish, recipe, and photo in our book tells a story—of our inspirations, the seasonal bounty of the Pacific Northwest, the very unique processes that we learned to refine, and most importantly, a culinary collaboration that we hope will inspire other chefs and bring clarity and awareness to the great insights of Modernist cooking.

For me, Christmas is both a period of sharing and introspection. It can be an observance of gratitude, a celebration of life, and also a time to share with those whom we care deeply for. As chefs, our greatest gift is to create a feast of abundance. Each year, the flavors or the inspiration may change, but the intention is always to express our love for family and friends by feeding them as best we know how.

As a Frenchman, the Yuletide meal for me means goose, foie gras, chestnuts, farce, gratin d’Auphinois, roasted pears, and Bûche de Noël. Since I grew up in New York, most of my holiday meals have been a wonderful combination of American tradition and French flair. This has meant a little herb butter with the turkey, some mustard jus with the baked ham, a gratin d’Auphinois made with yams (c’est sacrilège!), or even having a praline-flavored Bûche de Noël share the table with apple pie and pecan ice cream. I have come to love baked sweet potatoes, sage-scented bread stuffing, and cranberry jelly from a can as much as any other Christmas dish.

A few weeks ago, Anjana, Grant, Johnny, Sam, and I got together and discussed what might be a way to share our Modernist interpretation of a Christmas feast, something that would exemplify our experiences together working on the book, as well as our varied cultural and life experiences. One iconic Christmas image that we all shared was the honey-glazed ham with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. Thus, we decided that we would provide our Modernist take on this cherished dish.

For our version of honey-glazed ham, we cure and slowly cook a pork shank. Then we serve it with bright cherry gelée orbs and shaved fresh pineapple. Johnny’s simple glaze of fresh pineapple juice and honey not only brings balance to the rich and salty pork, but also unifies it with the other components.

As for the rest of the feast, we decided that a cabbage component, a sweet potato dish, and a pumpkin pie would round out our version of a Modernist Christmas meal. So, first, nothing is better than deep-fried Brussels sprouts, period. (Thank you, David Chang!) You can make anyone who hates vegetables eat Brussels sprouts simply by deep-frying them until deeply golden. They will have an incredibly complex and nutty flavor.

Our sweet potato dish consists of confit in butter cooked sous vide and topped with a delicate version of “whipped marshmallow” made by aerating a fried sage infusion. Finally, Grant worked on an elegant rendition of pumpkin pie that turned out beautifully. I’d like to think that it turned out as “Frenchie” as pumpkin pie has ever been, but since Grant is a native of the Pacific Northwest, I’ll have to settle for Modernist.

We really hope you enjoy these recipes. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Maxime.


Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts

Yields: 4-8 portions

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Brussels sprouts 500 g 100% Peel away outer green leaves off from Brussels sprouts and reserve.
Frying oil as needed Cut sprouts in half lengthwise and deep-fry in 190 °C / 375 °F oil for approximately 3-4 min, until deeply caramelized.Drain on paper towels.
Salt to taste Season fried Brussels sprouts to taste and reserve warm.
Brussels sprout leaves, from above as needed Blanch reserved outer leaves in boiling water for 2 min and then shock in ice water.
Unsalted butter 50 g 10% Melt butter in pot and warm blanched leaves.
Salt to taste Season leaves.
Lime juice to taste Garnish the fried sprouts with the sautéed leaves.Season with lime juice.

Christmas Ham Hock with Pineapple and Cherries

Yields: 4-8 portions

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Ham hock, fresh, with skin on and bone in 900 g 100% Set hock aside, combine all other components for liquid cure and dissolve.
Water 2 kg 222% Submerge hock with cure and vacuum seal.
Salt 200 g 22% Cure hock refrigerated for 3 d.
Brown sugar 80 g 8.8% Remove hock from brine, rinse and vacuum seal.
Sodium nitrate, optional (for color) 20 g 2.2% Refrigerate vacuum-sealed hock for 24 h.
Black peppercorns 10 g 1.1% Cook sous vide at 65 °C / 149 °F for 48 h.
Coriander seeds 10 g 1.1% Remove hock from bag and clean away any excess gelatin.
Cloves 4 g 0.4% Pat dry and reserve.
Pineapple juice, fresh 320 g 35% Combine juice and honey in pot.
Clear liquid honey 80 g 8.8% Reduce over medium high heat until syrupy, about 10 min.Reserve warm.

Deep-fry cooked pork shank in 200 °C / 390 °F oil until golden brown and slightly puffed, about 3 min.

Brush with glaze and slice to desired thickness off of bone.

Fresh pineapple, peeled 50 g 5.5% Slice 3 mm / ? in thick and punch out coins with 4 cm / 1½ in diameter ring mold.
Black cherry juice (from bottled) 100 g 100% Season cherry juice as desired. It will be a seasoning for the pork, so be generous about acidity and sweetness.
Fructose to taste Blend in calcium gluconolactate and xanthan gum to fully disperse.
Malic acid to taste
Calcium gluconolactate 1 g 1% Vacuum seal and refrigerate for 1 h to hydrate.
Xanthan gum 0.15 g 0.15% Pour into silicone hemisphere molds and freeze.
Water 500 g 100% Combine and heat to dissolve to make setting bath for cherry spheres.
Sodium alginate 2.5 g 0.5% Heat bath to a simmer and remove from heat.Drop frozen cherry spheres into hot sodium alginate bath.

Allow spheres to set in bath until the center of each sphere is no longer frozen, about 3 min.

Rinse spheres in hot water three times and reserve in fresh warm water until ready to serve.

Arrange thinly sliced pork with cherry spheres and pineapple. Serve with Brussels sprouts and sweet potato confit on side.

Garnet Yam Fondant with Sage Foam

Yields: 4-8 portions

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Red garnet yam, peeled 175 g 175% Peel and use ring cutter to cut out tubes measuring 4 cm / 1½ in. in diameter and 6 cm / 2¼ in thick.
Water 125 g 125% Combine all and vacuum seal.
Unsalted clarified butter 27.5 g 27.5% Cook sous vide at 90 °C / 194 °F for 1 h 20 min.
Salt 4.5 g 4.5% Drain and remove from bag. Cool or serve immediately.
For yam chip:
Red garnet yam as needed Slice into 1 mm / 1?16  in sheets on mandolin.
Punch out disks that are 3 cm / 1¼ in. in diameter and reserve.
Isomalt 100 g 100% Combine all and bring to a boil to make syrup.
Sugar 100 g 100% Blanch yam disks in the syrup for about 15 s.
Water 100 g 100% Lay on nonstick tray and dehydrate at 62 °C / 145 °F for 12 h.
Maple syrup (Grade B) 40 g 40%
For sage foam:
Frying oil as needed Fry sage in 190 °C / 375 °F oil for about 10 s.
Sage 40 g 40% Drain on absorbent paper towels.
Water 300 g 300% Combine with fried sage leaves and vacuum seal.Cook sous vide at 90 °C / 194 °F for 30 min.

Strain and cool sage infusion.

Sugar 100 g 100% Add and dissolve into sage infusion.
Versawhip 3 g 3% Whip with electric whisk to form stiff peaks.
Xanthan gum 0.45 g 0.45% Spoon over sweet potatoes and garnish with yam chips.

Pumpkin Pie: Butternut Squash Custard

Yields: 600 g

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Butternut squash, peeled and cubed 550 g 110% Place all ingredients in pressure cooker and cook at full pressure (15 psi) for 20 min.
Unsalted butter 110 g 22% Remove lid and reduce until the bottom of the pan is barely wet. Remove spices.
Water 100 g 20% Puree squash mixture, and pass through fine sieve.
Maple syrup (Grade B) 50 g 10% Measure 500 g of puree for recipe.
Salt 2 g 0.40%
Cinnamon stick 0.8 g 0.16%
Clove 0.25 g 0.05%
Mace 0.25 g 0.05%
Squash puree, from above 500 g 100% Place all in Thermomix and blend for 1 min.
Heavy cream 90 g 18% Turn on heat and continue blending until 90 °C / 194 °F is reached.
Maple syrup (Grade B) 40 g 8% Cast onto pastry table with bars at a thickness of 1.5 cm / ½ in until firmly set.
Salt 2 g 0.4% Refrigerate until use.
Toasted walnut oil 10 g 2%
Iota carregeenan 1.48 g 0.3%
Kappa carregeenan 1.48 g 0.3%

Pumpkin Pie: Ginger Cream

Yields: 250 g

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Heavy cream 200 g 100% Whip all to medium peaks.
Sugar 40 g 20% Pipe 1 cm / ? in tip into cylinders with sides touching to make sheets.
Ginger juice, raw and fresh 15 g 7.5% Freeze completely.
Toasted walnut oil 7 g 3.5%
Xanthan gum 0.25 g 0.125%

Pumpkin Pie: Caramelized Crust

Yields: 600 g

Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Pastry flour 350 g 140% Blend in food processor and reserve.
Unsalted butter 250 g 100%
Ice water 105 g 42% Dissolve sugar and salt into water.
Sugar 15 g 6% In large bowl, pour flour and butter mixture over the liquid mixture.
Salt 10 g 4% Mix until just incorporated.Place on silicone mat and press into layer about 2.5 cm / 1 in thick.

Place in refrigerator and let rest for 1 h.

Remove and roll out 3 mm / ? in thick.

Rest in refrigerator for 1 h.

Bake in 160 °C / 320 °F oven until golden, about 18 min.

Maple syrup (Grade B) 100 g 40% Heat in pot until just melted and whisk to emulsify.
Unsalted butter 50 g 20% Brush all over the pastry crust and bake in 190 °C / 375 °F oven until dry, about 10 min.
Salt 2 g 0.8%
Pumpkin Pie: AssemblyYields: 4 portions
Ingredient Quantity Scaling Procedure
Butternut squash custard square 4 squares Cut crusts to desired dimensions.Cut custard to fit on top of crust, with crust evenly exposed on edges.

Cut frozen ginger cream into the same dimensions as the custard. Be sure to place cream on top while still frozen.

Transfer to serving dish.

Garnish with orange zest, grated walnut, and walnut oil.

Ginger cream 4 pieces
Caramelized crust 4 crusts
Orange zest, finely grated 4 shavings
Toasted walnuts, finely grated 16 walnuts
Walnut oil as needed

Discussion

  1. sara December 26, 2010 Reply

    Wow-ee, everything looks amazing! I’m particularly enchanted by those deep fried brussels sprouts…I love brussels sprouts and I can just imagine how amazing they would be prepared like that! Gorgeous photos too. :)

  2. Scott December 27, 2010 Reply

    Max, thanks for posting this – it looks like quite a feast!

    Tomorrow, I’m going to try the sage foam recipe. However, I’m a little confused by the procedure. Can you clarify when to add the sugar, versawhip and Xanthan gum?

    Also, how stable is this foam relative to temperature? Will it break like whipped cream if I put it on a hot dessert?

    Thanks again!
    Scott

  3. Scott December 28, 2010 Reply

    Tonight I made the brussels sprouts and a variation of the foam to accompany sous vide salmon with mascarpone, a challah crisp and spherified hot sauce. For my foam, I used watercress instead of sage. The foam was delightfully sweet, though the subtle flavor of the watercress didn’t quite carry through as strongly as the sage may have.

    Thanks again for posting this!

  4. alain parrain January 2, 2011 Reply

    ohohoh max
    that’s amazing

    so happy to read this and…the recipes!

    on t’attend à Lyon

    parrain

  5. Brandon Frohne February 18, 2011 Reply

    I love the innovativeness in recreatiing these dishes. Welcome to modern day cuisine!

  6. Downs1000 December 11, 2012 Reply

    How do i turn this into a sandwich the following day for watching football???

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