This past March, we had to make about 360 omelets to serve during our weeklong launch of Modernist Cuisine in New York City. We made all of them ahead of time at The Cooking Lab, in a single 19-hour day. In six of those hours, we churned out more than 300 omelet “skins.” I’ve never been as delirious as I was then…that’s a lot of omelets!
To be certain the omelets would keep well during the trip, we ran perishability tests in advance on all of the components, and we then used the test results to time our production carefully. You don’t want to be guessing when you’re carrying a whole bunch of vacuum-sealed eggs across the country! We found that the omelets and the scrambled egg foam keep pretty well for two to three days, but they really are best after no more than one day. After four or five days, the eggs start to get sticky. Nobody wants four-day-old eggs.
Needless to say, you need a lot of eggs to make 30 dozen omelets. It’s always fun to see the expressions on store clerks faces when we buy a lot of one thing: in this case, four cases of eggs at Whole Foods. That’s not unusual for us. When we prep for events, we’ll often buy 20 pounds of pig skin or all of the beef fat that the butcher trims in the morning. Restaurants typically use purveyors, who deliver large amounts of various products right to their door. When we show up at suburban supermarkets, they just never know what hit them.
I still have the book of handwritten recipes that my friends and family made me when I moved to America from India. It’s funny, because I never cooked Indian food in India. I was interested in baking, but not cooking. I started cooking Indian food only after I moved to Arizona. And I would always call my mother back in India with questions. That’s also when I decided to go to culinary school.
One day in a meeting, Nathan Myhrvold came up with an idea for a beef jus cooked rare. By cooking the meat sous vide at a low temperature, he reasoned, one ought to be able to create a jus that is just as tasty as traditional brown beef jus, but much brighter and more appetizing in color.
Figuring out the temperature to cook the meat was easy enough: we knew that tough beef comes out nice and rare when cooked to 53 °C / 127 °F. But it took a bit of experimenting to work out the best way to prepare the meat for the water bath. We tried grinding it, pureeing it, and cutting it to various size, but we found that when we cut the beef very finely, too much myosin came out, and the meat actually congealed into a sausage-like texture, at which point it became next to impossible to extract any juice. On the other hand, when we left the meat in large cubes, we couldn’t extract much of the jus from the center of the cubes. The optimal size seems to be cubes about 1 cm on a side.
Grant Crilly, Development Chef
We cook the meat sous vide because this method yields a bright, rare jus, which is delicious. But it occurred to us that we could apply another Modernist method–centrifuging–to refine the recipe even further. We found it works well to transfer the meat and extracted jus from the sous vide bag into centrifuge vials after the cooking is complete. (Divide the weight evenly into at least two vials, so that the rotor is balanced.) Spinning the mixture in the centrifuge for about 1 h at 27,500g enables the fat to congeal, as shown in the video below. If you don’t happen to have a centrifuge in your kitchen, a grape press, fine sieve, or even a strong kitchen towel works well, too. Press the meat and jus and shake the sieve for optimal results. While this won’t yield quite as much jus as using a centrifuge, you should be able to press out most of the jus. Even after you centrifuge, you will still want to strain away any bits of meat and fat.
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