From the blog March 23, 2011 Matt

We Don’t Scream Over Ice Cream

Nathan and the Modernist Cuisine team are in the middle of a whirlwind tour of New York showcasing the book and the recipes therein. From small samples prepared on live television to large multi-course meals served to 350 renowned chefs and food critics, the Modernist meals on wheels tour has been a massive logistical undertaking with no margin for error.

Of all the people and perishables that had to arrive at each venue on time and in top form, it was one of the least delicate dishes that almost fell victim to the inevitable complication.

Pistachio ice cream isn’t really ice cream at all. Rather, it is a constructed cream made from pistachios and emulsifiers. It contains no egg or dairy products and thus can be made well in advance, stored, and shipped at room temperature. It does, however, need to be churned and chilled before serving, which turned out to be a big, last minute problem.

Back in Seattle, the team made 12 liters of pistachio ice cream well ahead of the New York events. After a series of plane, train, and automobile rides, the pistachio ice cream mixture arrived at the venue a few hours before it was to be served to 350 people.

As planned, the team loaded the mixture into the ice cream machines where it was to be churned and chilled into what can only be described as an intense yet pure tasting pistachio gelato. After a few hours of slow churning in the machine, it develops a texture that is indistinguishable from the soft serve ice cream that usually comes out of an ice cream machine. In this case, however, one of the machines refused to cooperate, breaking down before the first batch could be made.

Fortunately, the facility had two ice cream machines and the team calculated that they could still serve all 350 guests cold pistachio ice cream on time using a single machine. They set out to do just that until the second machine failed.

Panic ensued.

Guests would be arriving in a few hours expecting their meals to conclude with the pistachio ice cream, which has become one of the most iconic recipes in the book. The team quickly hatched a new plan: One of them would rent a car to take the warm mixture and a cooler of dry ice to the nearest ice cream machine.

Rental car? Check. Cooler of dry ice? Check. A working but currently idle ice cream machine owned by someone willing to let us use it? Not so fast! In a city where you can supposedly get anything you want in a hurry, an ice cream machine turned out to be remarkably hard to find.

Ultimately though, New York and the culinary community came through. Across town, legendary chef Johny Iuzzini was just finishing his desert service at Jean Georges. He graciously agreed to let the Modernist Cuisine team use his ice cream machine.

After being whisked across Manhattan and chilled, one liter at a time, in the kitchen at Jean Georges, the pistachio ice cream hit the tables at just the right time and temperature. It was such a big hit that some of the guests formed a mob and cornered Nathan, demanding the recipe.

The day’s crisis averted, the team packed up and got ready for another challenging day of blowing their culinary colleagues’ minds with Modernist masterpieces. For the Modernist Cuisine team, it was just another day at the Cooking Lab.

Discussion

  1. Jocelyn m March 24, 2011 Reply

    I’m surprised you didn’t use the liquid nitrogen application in this case. Was that because of scale issues?

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