Home Cooked

Uni caviar pasta, a prologue

I recently caught a screening of ‘Pierre Gagnaire: Inventing Cuisine’, and while the movie is hardly new, it was the first time I have actually seen Gagnaire cooking.

I am admittedly not entirely familiar with Gagnaires cooking, I have skimmed through one of his cookbooks, although calling it that would be somewhat of a misnomer, the book is filled with nothing but incredibly artistic shots, usually macro, with a few words from the man himself detailing the thought or the inspiration of the dish. While I gained very little actual knowledge about food, it made me look closer at the finer things, how the membranes of a citrus can be beautiful, or the flesh of a pear that is stained by red wine.

As such, I had high expectations for the movie, and I left feeling both disappointed and satisfied. It was satisfying because he is just as artistic and creative as I thought he would be, although he has trouble at times being coherent because his mind is just constantly exploding with ideas. And it was disappointing because this is by far the most disorganized Ive ever seen a 3 star kitchen before. Pierre basically jumps in on the line and starts taking control of things he shouldn’t be doing, in the process using some very questionable food safety practices, you can view the video of this on YouTube. That, combined with the fact that it was shot by the cameraman whose resume must have included films like the Blair witch project, led to a very shaky 10 minute clip of pure mayhem in the kitchen, leaving me incredibly nauseous in the theatre.

But back to the good bits, one of my favorite scenes in the movie was when Pierre visits an art museum. The wise curator/owner of the museum offers what has got to be the best quote of the whole movie, “A craftsman is someone who does well,what they already know. An artist is someone who does things that they do not yet know.”

Okay. I’m feeling inspired. It triggered some thoughts I used to have about art and artforms. I believe all great artists start out with similar thought processes, but they all have different methods of externalizing those thoughts based on their trades. Writers write, singers sing, painters paint, cooks cook. The sources of inspiration are bound only by ones imagination, and often in time, artists inspire other artists and vice versa.

I wanted to do something with my food, the uni caviar dish had already been made, so I wondered if anyone could do anything with It. I eventually sent out a photo of the dish to a friend of mine who writes for leisure, explaining the dish to him. I told him he had no walls whatsoever and he could write whatever he felt like writing, based on what the food(well, technically the picture of the food) was telling him to write. And these are his words

When you’re up eventually you’ll come down, but that’s not always true in reverse. I will overcome, I’m stronger now… hush. Shhh, here she comes. I smelt her perfume. I’m remembering her… no, I mean us; I’m remembering us as a light shining over the ocean, immortal; undying in deep orange-red. The light is warm, but not enough… the light is just right… she gets closer and the light becomes too much. Our eyes meet and I unfold, like an umbrella being tormented by the wind.

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Home Cooked

Homecooked: Uni caviar pasta

Uni has got to be one of my all time favorite premium ingredients, quite possibly my favorite. Caviar is right up there with it, why do the two go together so damn well? The sweet unctuous flavor of the uni, usually coming with a hint of bitterness, combined with the briny and often complex flavor of the caviar, they seem to pair perfectly together. I first saw a combination of the two on one of Anthony bourdains shows, I believe it was the aptly titled ‘Food porn’ episode, Eric Ripert prepared it in his kitchen and it was truly an eye opener. I immediately listed it down as one of the things I have to eat before I die. 

Unfortunately, I did not have the dish when I was at Le Bernardin, I really doubt that I will go back anytime soon, so late last year I set out to recreate the dish at home. It is one of the simplest dishes to make, but the cooking of the pasta and the sauce have to be absolutely spot on. The uni is first blended, then passed through a tamis, then folded into soft butter to basically make a uni compound butter. The butter is that turned into a beurre monte and the pasta is dressed in it. It is basically a uni flavored butter sauce, incredibly rich and heavy. The first time I made it, it looked a little something like this

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I used spaghetti over the linguini that was called for in the recipe, I cant remember if I did this because all I had was spaghetti, but I do remember thinking that the pasta should be thinner: More sauce, more decadence. I also did not manage to get my hands on osetra caviar because I was a pretty poor guy serving the army in Singapore, bringing home $400 a month.

Fast forward to September, I wanted to do the dish again, but do it right this time. This is my second take on the dish

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I went with angel hair this time, I personally think it works better with the dish. The breakdown is as such: Angel hair pasta dressed in an uni beurre monte, topped with osetra caviar, kissed with specks of chive and threads of parmesan, drops of lemon juice, uni-milk foam, and edible gold leaf.

This is the kind of dish I can only afford to make one a year. This is as close to the original Ripert dish as I want to go, I think the uni milk foam is a nice balance to the very heavy sauce, it is lighter, and carries a very calming sweetness to it, contrasting the heavy and very punchy flavor of the uni beurre monte. The gold leaf is there because… well, it is the kind of dish that calls for it.

Home Cooked

Home cooked: Modernist 汤圆 (tang yuan)

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It has been a long long time since I blogged properly, I had to look through some of my older posts because I can’t even remember the format of which I blog in. To those who still read this, I haven’t been dining out in Singapore all that much, but I have been cooking very actively. I spent about 3 months as a stagiare at Guy Savoy in Singapore(only on the weekends), although I wasn’t very involved with the actual cooking of the food, the pace was intense and I learnt a lot of techniques and skills that I am able to bring back into my home cooking. If you want to keep up to date with what I am doing, it is best to follow my on my instagram: Lennardy

Today I’ll be talking about a dish that I came up with. This is a modernist take on Tang yuan, a traditional chinese dessert usually eaten on certain festivals. A peanut/sesame/red bean paste is trapped in a sticky skin made with glutinous rice flour, it has a consistency similar to that of mochi. I personally find the skin to be the least enjoyable part of the dish because it is very heavy and starchy.

The soup it is served in varies, some serve in a sweetened soup with ginger, some serve in a sweetened soup with pandan, my family serves it with a canned peanut soup. I wanted to recreate this flavor without the chewy/starchy element.

I took the same peanut soup from the tang yuan I am familiar with, added some glutinous rice flour and cooked that down. Then dehydrated it and fried it into a crisp. For the Tang yuan, I reverse-spherified and intense black sesame liquid, before finishing the dish with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds.

 

 

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Home Cooked

Home Cooked: A tale of two salads

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The first, a robust one. Greens dressed with a sesame vinaigrette, emulsified with liquid lecithin. Oranges bruleed to provide acidity and sweetness, bringing the salad to life. A ramen egg gives body and richness to the dish.

The second- light, crisp flavors. Asparagus cooked in butter with pear slices, finished with a sauce made from butter and lemon juice, and shaved white button mushrooms

 

Home Cooked

Homemade: Earl grey tea sorbet

 

 

 

I browse through groupon everyday like a housewife in search of great deals. They have some pretty surprising items that are worth buying at times, case in point, I found them selling a cuisinart ice cream maker for S$200. I pounced on it.

This was my first creation, one of the best sorbets, and possibly best sorbet Ive ever had in my life was the earl grey tea sorbet at Guy Savoy, which I first tasted at Guy Savoy paris. There arent many things as refreshing and versatile as it, as a palate cleanser, at the end of a heavy meal, it is delicious either way. When I eventually ended up staging at Guy savoy Singapore a few months back, I used to pray that the dessert station would have extras, but alas, the only ice cream I got to try during my time there was a strawberry ice cream. Nevertheless, I wanted to attempt to replicate the sorbet at home, and the moment the Cuisinart was delivered, I knew this would be my first creation.

The sorbet failed on my first attempt, it wouldn’t set up and didn’t even get to a slushy point. I started troubleshooting and concluded that my freezer wasn’t cold enough. I reattempted the sorbet a couple of days later, churning the ice cream in my air conditioned bedroom(Singapore is incredibly hot). It worked, the question was what to serve it with.

The make up of the sorbet is simple- earl grey tea, sugar, lemon juice(I added a little leftover yuzu as well), pinch of salt. Serving it with a lemon curd seemed glaringly obvious, the curd providing a creamy mouthfeel that the sorbet would quickly wash away, as well as reinforcing the lemon flavor. It was perhaps a fortunate coincidence that just a week ago, I attempted to make Christina Tosi’s(of Momofuku) arnold palmer cake, and one of the components of the cake was an almond tea crunch(feuilletine, almond butter, powdered sugar, iced lemon tea powder, toasted almond slivers), it was truly one of the most delicious things Ive ever put in my mouth. I could spoon that tea crunch directly into my mouth over and over until I reel over from the amount of sugar. This was another obvious addition, crunchy, nutty, and backing up the tea-lemon flavor, a winning combination.

The final dish: Almond tea crunch, lemon curd, earl grey tea sorbet, toasted almonds, microwave fried mint, black pepper

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Home Cooked

Homemade: Seared threadfish

Seared threadfish, cooked on a saute pan till an internal temperature of 50C.

Potato cut outs cooked in duck fat, constant basting

Thyme

Ratatouille(baked)

I recently had the tasting menu at Pollen, one of the mains was a beef dish, it had three sauces on the plate- a pesto, a jus, and a parmesan cream. There was no major flaws with the dish, and it tasted well, but it got to a point where it was confusing as to how the dish was meant to be eaten, do I mix the pesto with the condiments, and eat the beef with the jus and parmesan cream? Or does it work the other way around. There were too many permutations. It made me re-evaluate the food I cook, if the diner cannot see the vision and message of the dish in 1-2 bites, then perhaps the dish is too noisy.

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Home Cooked

Homemade: Scallop Garden

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Paste: Roasted walnuts – Anchovies – Fish sauce – Water – Sugar – Mascarpone cheese

This is a variation off of David Chang’s variation, I added mascarpone cheese to tone down the ‘fishiness’ of the paste, also to give it a more creamy, melt in your mouth kind of mouthfeel. The paste binds the dish together

Edible ‘Soil’ : Dehydrated black olives

Idea was that tapenade is one of the first condiments I think of when I think of eating scallops, just borrowing flavors that I think work well together

Radishes

Fresh radishes, refreshed in ice water. Brings a freshness and textural crunch to the dish

Scallop carpaccio infused with yuzu vinaigrette

Yuzu vinaigrette is made from yuzu juice, yuzu powder, yuzu gel concentrate, ginger, splash of sesame oil. Scallops are sliced fairly thick, about half a centimeter so that they do not get lost in the midst of all the components. They are tossed in the vinaigrette and put into a iSi whipping cream canister, charged with N2O, this is basically nitrogen cavitation, marinating the scallops in a matter of seconds

Miso Tuille

Sweet, salty, umami bomb. This is just downright fucking delicious. Works with fish, shellfish, chicken, on its own etc…

Chive Oil

Olive oil blended with blended chives, strained

Ham&Bacon Gelee

The idea to use this is based on a very classic appetizer, bacon wrapped in scallops. I am simply borrowing flavors from dishes that already exist. Ham and bacon pieces put into a pot, covered with water and boiled till you get a ham&bacon stock, set in gelatine

Spring onion ‘grass’

Spring onions sliced lengthwise, refreshed in ice water