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

Inside The Lab with the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Team

During promotional events for Modernist Cuisine, we are often asked what exactly we do all day. While one might imagine that our days are filled with whimsical experimentation coupled with high-tech gadgets and mysterious powders, the reality of this project is that a book needs to be written — and that book needs data.

So, the short answer to what we do all day is that we provide data for the 1,000+ recipes and step-by-step procedures contained in the book. This information includes the numbers, percentages, ratios, and recipes for the plethora of formulations and tables that supplement the body text of Modernist Cuisine.

In this three-part article series, I will describe the process by which we developed our recipes, staged the photographs, and tirelessly captured the parametric data for the book. This first installment will discuss our recipe development process.

Inside The Lab with the Modernist Cuisine Kitchen Team: Recipe Development

Over the last three years, we have developed hundreds of recipes in our test kitchen. Most of these recipes have been either adapted from or inspired by various chefs and styles of food. But beyond inspiration, our goal with these recipes has always been to put our own unique Modernist take on them. Whether we improved upon the methods used or completely restructured the dish, we always sought to provide something novel in our approach to every recipe.

The recipe selection and development process evolved over time. Initially, Chris and Max worked together closely with Nathan to assemble an initial plan of recipes that dovetail with the body text to illustrate all the various cooking techniques and ingredients discussed in the book, and that also fit together to form highly appealing plated dishes.

That recipe plan was refined and elaborated extensively as the research kitchen staff grew. In 2009, the recipe development and testing process evolved into its final form. That process usually begins when Maxime, after hours of research and consultation with Nathan, presents the rest of the kitchen team with a dish that inspired us. We are then collectively given the assignment of finding a way to redefine and refine the technique(s) in which the inspired dish is approached.

For example, several months ago, we were asked to make a Modernist ham and cheese omelet. We already knew there were certain components that we wanted treated a certain way. For instance, the omelet’s filling would consist of finely diced ham and cheese, but it would also contain a siphoned scrambled egg with a silky smooth consistency.

After many trials, we finally found the perfect temperature and time for cooking the eggs sous vide, in such a way that the finished eggs were still fluid, but not sticky. From there, we moved on to the omelet’s skin, which we found to be ideally tender when baked in a steam oven at around 82 °C / 179 °F.

In short, we began with a vision of the model traditional omelet (specifically, a fluffy un-caramelized skin with a moist filling) and methodically worked our way towards its Modernist extreme, creating, in our opinion, a remarkable result.

The Modernist kitchen team whiteboard.

Stay tuned for the second installment of this three-part series, in which I will describe our preparations for capturing the images used in the book.

Sneak Peek – First Image of the Modernist Cuisine Set

As described in a recent post, quite a lot of effort went into making Modernist Cuisine a long-lasting and high-quality experience for the reader. From the paper stock and type of binding, to the inks and printing method, the team researched and scrutinized every detail before making final selections for the project.

We are excited to share with you the first image of Modernist Cuisine, which will also include a kitchen manual (not shown).

First image of the Modernist Cuisine set.

Modernist Cuisine’s Printing Process & Quality

A number of people have asked about the kitchen manual, printing quality, paper, and binding of the forthcoming Modernist Cuisine. From the very beginning of this project, the book was to be of the highest possible quality. From the depth of the information and accuracy of the data, to the resolution of the images and the durability of the paper, the Modernist Cuisine team went to great lengths to ensure that the finished product would be of the highest quality. Here are a few examples of what went into the process.


Nathan describes the printing process at IFBC 2010.

The Kitchen Manual

For starters, we realized that it would not be prudent to actually take the volumes into the kitchen with you. The volumes are incapable of withstanding splashes of flour, olive oil, liquid nitrogen, or water, all of which would ruin the stunning photography. The book, however, felt incomplete without something durable enough for the kitchen. Our solution is a highly practical, spiral-bound Kitchen Manual. It is printed on waterproof, tear-resistant synthetic paper. The Manual features easy-to-use, condensed versions of many of the parametric, example, and plated-dish recipes contained in the five volumes.

The Printing Quality

We are fortunate to partner with iocolor (Seattle, WA) and the Shenzhen Artron Color Printing Company (Shenzhen, China), which are both known for their high standards of quality control, innovative printing procedures, and track record for producing high-quality printing for museums, artists, and photographers. Since the photography is such a key aspect of Modernist Cuisine, it was understood right from the beginning that only the highest resolution and widest gamut available for reproducing the spectacular photographs would be acceptable.

Stochastic screening is a difficult printing process that reproduces images in much the way that traditional film grain does. In standard book printing, a halftone dot is used to simulate changes in tone. (A printing press can only print or not.) This trompe l’oeil uses dots that range from small in the highlights to large in the shadows; they are lined up in rows with 175-200 dots per linear inch. This technique was first attributed to William Fox Talbot in the 1850s and by the turn of the century, it was in regular use. Because the surface areas of individual dots control the spread of the ink, the process tends to vary around the middle tones, causing issues with color balance.

For Modernist Cuisine, it was decided that stochastic screening would be used, a process that has become feasible on a commercial scale with the advent of computer-to-plate (CTP) systems that image printing plates directly, skipping the step of creating film. In stochastic screening, all of the dots are the same size, and the frequency of the dots creates the variation in tone. It was determined that a dot of 15 microns in size would be used to maximize the subtle detail in Modernist Cuisine. This FM (Frequency Modulated) approach is more stable on press, but even so, every Komori LS40 press utilizes scanning spectrophotometers to ensure consistent quality across the entire book.

The efforts at creating superfine details are also supplanted by the use of ChromaCentric inks. This new ink set has much less color contamination in the cyan, magenta, and yellow scheme, resulting in purer hues with which to work. This trait is especially noticeable in the ink’s ability to convert the full range of color from the RGB files captured by the digital camera used in the photography. The results are truer, more lifelike colors that traditional printing inks would leave dull and out of gamut.

The Paper

Once the printing process was determined, the next task was finding the absolute best paper available for Modernist Cuisine. It’s one thing to look at paper samples in a book and pick one that you think will work, but for Modernist Cuisine, we submitted all of the likely candidates to actual printing tests. In order to achieve exact color reproduction on the tested papers, we first churned out test forms on the presses with each of the candidate papers to determine optimum printing conditions and gathered colormetric data on each contender.

Once the test sheets were analyzed, profiles for RGB to CMYK conversion were created, plate setter curves were set, and ink tolerances were entered into the on-press spectrophotometers. It was now time to convert the digital camera files for the printing conditions of each paper and then print the test papers with a sampling of pages to be used in the book. Papers were judged by how well the ink sat on the coated surface, the amount of show-through between neighboring pages, overall look and feel, and finally, resistance to scuffing. The matte-coated paper actually has a surface that is quite rough, so it was determined early on that a protective varnish would be applied, not just to make the images “pop,” but to ensure that the massive nature of these tomes would be able to withstand use for many years.

Once the 128 gsm weight of paper was chosen — it was a tough choice because anything heavier would have resulted in books that would require an assistant to read — OJI paper from Japan was chosen over all of the samples, and our testing proceeded to figuring out the type of varnish that would be applied to the paper. We produced samples that ranged from dead matte to super glossy; a mix of varnishes was chosen to showcase the fantastic images.

The Binding

First-stage dummy books on the chosen paper were created, while we knew full well that the later additions of ink and varnish would add weight and thickness (about 8-10 mm) to the volumes. Producing the dummy books also allowed us to determine what kind of reinforcement would be needed for the special round-backed binding used on these volumes.

Second-stage bindings are now being created from actual printed and vanished sheets to obtain accurate measurements for the finished products before actual production continues. Even with the special round-backed binding, we recommend that you remove a book from the case by grabbing the middle of its spine, and not pulling on the top of the spine.

The result of this fanatical focus on quality will be a beautifully detailed set of volumes that should remain stunning for a lifetime or more.

Coffee and Cream

To keep your coffee hot for as long as possible, should you add cream right away or wait until just before you drink it? Will the addition of cream make coffee cool faster or slower?

The Modernist Cuisine team sought to answer these important questions. It turns out that coffee with cream added actually cools about 20% more slowly than plain black coffee, so it is best to add the cream immediately. But why is this?

A sidebar in Modernist Cuisine reveals the three major principles of physics that determine why coffee with cream cools more slowly. Check out the high-speed videos below and see if you can guess these three factors!

Meet the Kitchen Team

Sam Fahey-Burke

Sam Fahey-Burke: Chef

Mr. Fahey-Burke grew up in Athens, Ohio and attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) immediately after high school. After completing his internship at Aureole in New York and graduating from culinary school, he enrolled in a six-month fellowship program at the CIA, which he spent at the Italian restaurant on campus.

Mr. Fahey-Burke then moved to Bray, U.K., where he worked at The Fat Duck for two years. He also held positions at COI in San Francisco and FiftyThree in Singapore before joining the Modernist Cuisine team as sous chef of the culinary lab.

Anjana Shanker

Anjana Shanker: Chef

Ms. Shanker was born and raised in Coorg, Southern India. Her interest in food can be traced to her childhood spent on a cardamom, coffee, and orange plantation, where there was an emphasis on local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Ms. Shanker inherited a love of cooking from her mother, who enjoyed sharing the family’s culinary secrets as they prepared elaborate meals together.

While growing up, Ms. Shanker dreamt of opening a café to feature her homegrown coffee and spices. She eventually left Coorg to attend college in Chennai, but her agrarian upbringing continues to influence her cooking. Ms. Shanker applies modern techniques to the flavors from her past and remains committed to using local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients.

After attaining a BA in economics and history, Ms. Shanker worked for Nestlé and Singapore Airlines. She later moved to the U.S. to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale, Arizona where she graduated with honors. This training broadened her gastronomic education and exposed her to different culinary traditions. Ms. Shanker’s culinary training continued at Mary Elaine’s in Scottsdale, and Lampreia in Seattle.

Ms. Shanker is inspired by chefs Alain Passard and Michel Bras’s vision and approach to cooking. She is constantly honing her skills and knowledge in their path. Preserving the essence and flavor of ingredients has become a passion for Ms. Shanker, as is her work with the Hunger Intervention Program, a Seattle charity where she has volunteered for the last three years.

Johnny Zhu

Johnny Zhu: Chef

Originally from Shanghai, Mr. Zhu grew up in Seattle. His roots and upbringing helped shape his passion for food, as he grew up in a family that loved to eat, travel, and share their culinary adventures. Experiences such as eating his way through Singapore for his 30th birthday helped Mr. Zhu realize his love for intense flavors.

Mr. Zhu honed his love of food into a career. A graduate of Reed College and the Western Culinary Institute, he has worked for such notable restaurants as Alinea, Jean-Georges, and Spice Market. Mr. Zhu was chef de cuisine for Veil in Seattle and then head chef for Eric Bahn’s Monsoon restaurants before joining the Modernist Cuisine team.

A Modernist Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving holds a special place in most U.S. kitchens because, of all the holidays, it is certainly the most food-focused. Indeed, while we have much for which to give thanks from the passing year, on a more visceral level, we celebrate the abundance of deliciousness that graces our tables on this particular day.

Now, much has been written about that centerpiece of Thanksgiving deliciousness: the turkey. Whether one is bemoaning the painful experience of eating a dry chewy bird, or analyzing the best way to remedy that failing, cookbooks both old and new are bursting with opinions on how to master a succulent and tender roast turkey. Rather than mastering the classic interpretation, the recipe in Modernist Cuisine flips it on its head by focusing on refining the flavors of a roasted bird and applying Modernist techniques.

In this case, we have chosen the turkey wing to be the primary vessel of Thanksgiving flavor. Specifically, we take the radius and ulna of the turkey wing (the middle portion with two bones running through it), cure it, and then cook it sous vide for the most tender result.

First, after chopping off the joints to expose the two bones inside the wing, we cure the turkey wing segments in a dry rub of salt and sugar for 24 hours.

The turkey wing as it cures in the sous vide bag.

After a day of curing, we rinse the cure off of the wing and vacuum seal it with a bit of clarified butter. Then we cook it sous vide at 58 °C / 136 °F for 12 hours. Immediately after pulling the wing out of the bath, we pull the bones out of the wing while its flesh is still warm. If the wing has been properly cooked, the bones should just slide right out. Once the segments have cooled, they are ready to be dusted in potato starch and panfried.

The cured and dusted wing prior to being panfried.

The finished pan fried wing.

Once we have a deliciously crispy and tender piece of turkey, it’s time for the gravy. There is only one primary Modernist twist to our turkey gravy, but it is crucial to the overall flavor concentration of the sauce.

A traditional gravy requires quite a bit of roux to thicken a flavorful poultry broth to the right consistency. Instead of roux, our gravy has a small percentage of Ultra-Sperse, a pre-hydrated starch from National Starch. The Ultra-Sperse is whisked in to thicken our broth. The advantage here is in flavor concentration: Because Ultra-Sperse is more efficient than fat and flour in thickening liquid, we use significantly less of it, so the concentration of turkey flavor in our gravy is not diluted, as is what happens when roux is used.

Finished with a bit of diced cranberry and picked sage, our small bite of Thanksgiving turkey bursts with flavor.

The sauced and garnished wing.

How would you refine Thanksgiving turkey? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Modernist Eye Candy: From High-Speed to Eye-Speed

Modernist Cuisine is packed with hard-earned food science facts and beautiful photographs that illustrate the data. This unique combination of art and science sets Modernist Cuisine apart from other culinary books.

But, as striking as the pages of Modernist Cuisine are, print sometimes doesn’t do the subject or the science justice. Written explanations and static illustrations of why a popcorn kernel pops, why oil flare-ups are instrumental to the flavor of barbecue, or how surface tension affects fluid dynamics, can be interesting and informative. Sometimes, though, nothing tells the story better than a few seconds of high-speed, high-definition video of the science in action. Here is an example:


Oil ignites on hot charcoal.

In a previous post, photographer Ryan Matthew Smith described the equipment and processes that he and the kitchen team used to capture this amazing footage. The resulting video is truly gripping and should capture the attention of foodies, artists, and geeks alike. But Ryan and the kitchen team aren’t ready to put the camera away just yet. They will continue to shoot high-speed, high-definition videos to be posted here in the coming months, but they need your help.

What fast-paced, food-related action or activity would you like to see slowed down to naked-eye speed? Leave a comment and let the team know!

A Chip Off The Old…Watermelon?

The joy of breaking into a fresh bag of potato chips is universal. It’s hard to resist losing yourself to bite after bite of salty, crunchy fried starch. In most grocery stores, novel alternatives such as beet, yam, and cassava chips have become commonplace. But until now, the common denominator in all of these variations has been a high starch content.

As the starchy main ingredient is deep-fried, the gelatinization of the starch gives structure and crunch to the resulting chips. However, that same inherently high starch content produces a much less exciting side effect — namely, all of these chips tend to taste bland before seasoning. Sweet, tart, and naturally moist vegetation tends to burn, shrink, or fall apart when deep-fried naked. But what if you were able to impart the structural advantages of high starch content to plant foods that possess zippier flavor profiles? Can chips made from less starchy plants be stabilized enough to withstand the deep-frying process? If so, which plants yield the best results?

To see how far we could take this premise, we tested a variety of fruits and vegetables with typically high water contents. Ultimately, we found that watermelon produced the most striking results. The method we chose to impregnate the starch into the watermelon is the same technique used in many Modernist kitchens to impregnate or concentrate intense flavors: vacuum compression.

Johnny slices and vacuum seals a sliver of watermelon dipped in the slurry.

We started by slicing watermelon to a thickness of about one millimeter using a meat slicer. Then we brushed on a slurry made of starch and water, vacuum sealed the slices, and let them rest for about 30 minutes.

Max demonstrates the vacuum compression process.

After the watermelon slices were given sufficient time to be impregnated with the starch, they were patted dry and deep-fried.

Johnny and Max deep-fry and enjoy an entirely new type of chip.

The result was amazing: A light, crispy chip loaded with the concentrated flavor of watermelon. Apple, jalapeño, and dill pickle were some of the other successful results we achieved with this method.

What would you like to see made into a chip? Leave a comment and let us know!