Alinea’s Skate

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I almost decided to skip this month’s Daring Cook’s challenge hosted by Sketchy of  Sketchy’s Kitchen. The recipe, taken from the cookbook Alinea by Grant Achatz is representative of  what is called molecular cooking.  I have never heard of molecular cooking let alone understand what it is all about.  Ironically, I own this Alinea cookbook — a present from one of my credit card companies– and have had it for a long time.  I glanced at it once, wondering whether it is a cookbook or a  photo album.  The food photos were interesting, but not enough to make me want to try any of them. So it sat on my kitchen bookshelf.  Until Sketchy posted the recipe for Skate at the Daring Kitchen.

This challenge is an exercise in creativity.  Compared to the other recipes in the Alinea book, this one is “simpler” and probably a good choice as an initiation to the newbie in molecular cooking.  In lieu of skate, I used catfish as that is what I have available in my kitchen.  I also used powdered ingredients of my dish called Lemon Caper Tilapia.  My plan was to recreate the flavors of the lemon-caper fish dish using Achatz techniques.

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For my powdered flavors, I made capers, lemon and spring onions.  I used the beurre monte as poaching liquid and the browned butter as “topping”.  I pretty much followed the rest of the recipes as instructed, and tried to plate as creatively as I could.

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Here is the recipe:

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered – with changes

  • 4 skate wings ( I used 2 catfish fillets)
  • * Beurre monte
  • * 300g fresh green beans
  • sea salt/kosher salt
  • 1 banana
  • 454g butter – 4 sticks
  • 300g lemons
  • 5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet
  • 150g cilantro
  • 150g parsley
  • 100g dried banana chips
  • 300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk)
  • 100g cup minced red onion
  • 200g capers (brined, not oil)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte – 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

Powders – prepare ahead of time
caper / onion
lemon powder
cilantro/parsley powder
‘brown butter’ powder

Powders
once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/morter and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.

citrus powder
300g lemons
1000g simple syrup
5g citric acid/vitamin c tablet

zest 300g of lemons (10.6 oz), remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times. dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray. 130 for 12 hours. pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 8 to 10 minutes at medium powder. Once dried, follow the other instructions.

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cilantro/parsley powder
150g cilantro
150g parsley

blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray. 130 for 12 hours. grind and pass through chinois.

If you do not have a dehydrator, place in microwave for 30 seconds, turn over leaves and microwave for another thirty seconds. They should be dry by now, pulse in coffee grinder, pass through chinois and reserve.

onion powder
100g cup minced red onions

dehydrator – 130 for 12 hours
microwave at medium power for 20 minutes.

pulse in grinder, pass through chinois

Caper powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine.
dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees.
microwave instructions are unclear. Dry them as much a possible with paper towels, the microwave on medium for 1 minute. Check the moisture content and stir them. repeat for 30 second intervals until they are dry. If you use this method, pleas post the time needed to dry the capers.

Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

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Brown Butter powder

100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible – many are coated in honey – the freeze dried ones would be brilliant)
300g spray dried cream powder

If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob’s red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea.

preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. bake for 4 minutes, then remove for heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds.

grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)
* Beurre Monte – 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, 60g water. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break – this is your poaching liquid.

Skate
Prepare the skate – 50G v shaped cuts are recommended
Bring 100g water, 100g beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt

bring 300g water and 300g beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt.

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The resulting dish was surprisingly bursting with flavor. I wasn’t expecting that, especially since the original dish I was re-creating was usually soaked in creamy sauce (which we enjoy).  The same flavors were there, with the brown butter uncanningly tasting similar to the creamy sauce.

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Thanks, Sketcy, for a fascinating challenge.  My Alinea cookbook now sits on my kitchen table instead of the bookshelf.  It still looks very imposing (it is about 6 lbs in weight) with its black and white cover but I know that one day I will be trying the other recipes in them.

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» rose said: { Jul 14, 2009 - 03:07 }

Very nice job! It looks beautiful!

» climbhighak said: { Jul 14, 2009 - 06:07 }

Catfish is an often overlooked fish. Some people just don’t give it the respect it deserves. That can’t be said about you. Wonderful post.

» jenn said: { Jul 14, 2009 - 06:07 }

Nicely done! Looks delicious. Looks like a very elegant dish.

» Ninette said: { Jul 14, 2009 - 08:07 }

Great job. I just finished the challenge this evening … talk about last minute!

» Audax Artifex said: { Jul 15, 2009 - 06:07 }

Beautiful lovely pixs – and the colours of the powders are so bright. Good that the book is going to be used. Wonderous effort and like how you placed the milk powder on the fish and the way you focus the eye’s attention in your photos is visually arresting. Cheers Audax

» Laura Josie said: { Jul 16, 2009 - 10:07 }

Great pictures. The Alinea cookbook has a very pretty cover, actually. Looks like it would be a good coffee table book. :)

You did a very good job for a challenge you almost didn’t do!


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