March 16, 2012

Brassicas

The Brassicas dish was one of the first things I developed for the lab dinner tasting menus. Max had already had a concept in mind. That’s often how it happens. Max will come in and describe something that he’s thinking about. He’ll give a number of components to build the dish with, and Max is great about giving a lot of suggestions. So it’s very organic in that sense. We’ll develop a dish and taste it; see what it needs quite a few times before Nathan gets his hands on it.

So we started off with the idea of brassicas–the family of cabbages–and we constructed many of the elements for the dish. We then wanted a cheese sauce. One of the first things I wanted to try was to centrifuge the cheese sauce that is in MC, which we already use for a number of other applications. I centrifuged that, and it separated into a fat layer, a water layer, and also a bunch of solids that pretty much tasted like nothing. I then reintroduced the fat, which still had a lot of flavor, back into the liquid. We essentially separated it and put it back together without all the undesirable stuff. We presented this first iteration to Nathan, and he loved it! That was my first real tasting with him, and there were about eight or so different things that he was tasting as potential dishes to incorporate into our dinner menu. The Brassicas recipe was his favorite dish that day, so it was a great moment for me.

Something Max has been working on, too, is a cabbage-juice dish. For the recipe below, it was a great idea to change up the cheese sauce because the whole broth-stew aspect plays more into St. Patrick’s Day, which is what we were going for this time. In terms of classical or Irish dishes, it brings the elements together well.

–Aaron Verzosa, The Cooking Lab

Recipe Tags

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Brassicas_rev

cabbages_farmersmarket

We have used several different varieties of brassicas with this dish. Last November, we picked up these bok choy and savoy cabbages at the University District Farmers’ Market for a lab dinner.

Brassicas, frying

For more on naked frying, see Modernist Cuisine, page 3·320.

broth

Use a handheld blender to mix the cheese broth until it froths.

Brassicas, assembly

Aaron Verzosa uses tweezers to perfectly arrange each component on the plate.

brassicas_final

This may not be the same cabbage stew your grandmother used to make, but add a slice of soda bread and your favorite stout beer and you will be sure to have a new March 17th tradition in your house.

Tips and Substitutions

For the broccoli puree
  • Adding baking soda to the broccoli in the pressure cooker is essential for forming an environment conducive to caramelization.
  • Make sure the butter is completely melted and coating the broccoli florets before bringing the pressure cooker up to pressure.
  • Pour cold water over the rim of the lid, not the pressure valve, so that water doesn't leak in. You can also set the cooker in a bath of cold water to quickly depressurize.
For the blanched cabbages
  • You can use any kind of cabbages for this recipe, such as savoy cabbages. We usually use whichever varieties we can find fresh at the grocery store or farmers' market.
  • Blanching the cabbages releases gasses (carbon dioxide, oxygen, and other vapors) in the plants' tissues, allowing their bright green hue to come through. (For more on this phenomena, see MC page 2•66.)
  • Blanching also saves time during service. Because you have cooked the cabbages until just tender, you only have to reheat them, making it easier to sauté them in butter before plating. If time is not of the essence, however, you could just sauté them until tender and not blanch them at all, though they may not be as bright a green.
For the fried brassicas
  • If you do not have a deep fryer, you can do this with a pan of oil on your stove. But be very careful! Use a thermometer (not a glass one!) to check the temperature of the oil.
  • Not all of the leaves of the Brussels sprouts will turn dark, which is fine. In fact, we like the texture and color contrasts a few green leaves provide. Just make sure that they are cooked through.
  • Fried Brussels sprouts are great on their own. We've served them simply with butter, salt, and lime juice, or with a spicy dressing using bird's eye chilies and vinegar (see MC page 3·321).
  • Cauliflower doesn't burn readily because it contains low amounts of natural sugars. It is important to fry the cauliflower for the full time recommended. Because we use very small pieces of cauliflower in this recipe, we fry them for 3-4 minutes. In our plated dish, crispy cauliflower (see MC page 5•281), we recommend frying up to five minutes for the florets and up to eight minutes for the stalks, at a temperature of 195 °C / 385 °F because we use bigger, thicker pieces.
  • We use canola oil to fry our Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, but any neutral oil will do.
For the cabbage-cheese broth
  • Use a handheld blender to mix the cheese broth until it froths.
  • This is not a stable foam, so it's best to serve this dish as soon as the broth has been added to the plate.
  • To create a stable foam, add liquid soy lecithin. You could also use a whipping siphon, but you would have to add agar along with the soy lecithin to thicken it. Otherwise, it would be too thin for the siphon.
For the pickled grapes
  • Don't let the grapes pickle for more than 24 hours or they will have too much of a vinegar flavor.
  • This is an example of "flash" pickling.
  • Grapes and cabbages go surprisingly well together!

For the buerre fondu

  • Reheat the cabbages in the beurre fondu just before plating. If you leave them too long after taking them off the heat, they will begin to wilt and the butter will congeal.
For the assembly
  • Use tweezers to arrange each component where you want it.
  • Instead of pouring the broth over the plate, use a spoon to add the broth in different areas of the plate. This will leave the foam more intact and ensure it goes where you want it.
  • Because the broth is not a stable foam, it is best to serve this dish as soon as the broth has been spooned onto the plate.

Discussion

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