Leaving tomorrow for the NECI and PCI job fairs. I haven't been to either before so it will at least be a change of scenery. I don't like standing in one spot for 5 hours handing out pieces of paper so I called the schools and asked if I could cook instead. So I'll be doing some passed apps for the NECI students at the table on Monday and have 3 demos back to back at PCI the next day.
Its more work for me but at least I'll have something more to say than "Are you interested in an externship with us?" 100 times in a row. I'll leave that to the human resources people that will be there with me.
There won't be much time to do anything, I have about 3 hours of free time after each job fair before it's back to the airport but it just so happens that the Magic Hat Brewery is only 10 minutes from the Burlington Airport so a quick tasting and tour couldn't be a bad thing. Hopefully after the PCI demos we'll have time to hit Primanti Bros for some ridiculous sandwich that's usually best enjoyed at midnight after some libations but 2pm will have to do.
It's going to be a crazy, quick trip. 6 planes in 3 days, who booked these flights anyway, I don't think HR has ever heard of nonstop. On top of that going from 80 degrees today to 8 degrees tomorrow is not top on my to do list but I get a free trip out of it so I shouldn't complain. I'll try to snap some pictures and let you future culinary students know what I think of the schools.


Nantuckets and Fluke

We received some really great fluke from George at Gary's Seafood, Gary's is the best all around in CFL but what's up with the video when you check their website? Looks like everyone in O-Town likes the balsamic redux 1970's squiggle on the plate. If the video doesn't come up you may have to scroll to the bottom of the homepage and hit replay intro video, but it's worth watching. Not so much for the dishes presented but the facility itself. They actually care about their product and communicate with us everyday all the fish available. Our order is all over the place everyday, it's hard to decide what you want. Almost like standing in the beer isle of a grocery store on the west coast.
Back to the fluke, I sliced it and tossed it with acacia honey, meyer lemon juice, meyer lemon oil, fleur de sel and finger lime cells. The unexpected pop and acidity of the finger lime cells really set the dish off. We rolled the slices up, added some blood orange segments, then garnished with luna lentil from chef's garden, Florida orange air and fluid gel. Nothing more to say than clean and delicious.

We also pumped out some Nantucket bay scallops, "snowball cheddar cauliflower" puree, some of the "purp"(that's kitchen talk for purple cauliflower), sous vide beet, borage, and carrot noodle with a little harissa spice thrown in to cut through all the sweetness of the scallop and beet in the dish.

Former cook George Aviles made an appearance in the dining room with family, good to see him and glad they all enjoyed the meal.


To Brine or Not to Brine, the polyscience question

Christoph at polyscience posed the question to us in response to comments on our recent New Years Eve post that was attached to the polyscience facebook page. The results were surprising after a few tests. Stephen Weiner ask a question of whether or not anyone had any knowledge regarding brining prior to sous vide cooking. I'm not the world's foremost expert on the subject but the question was pushed in my direction by Christoph so here we go. Before we start, everyone does everything differently. These results are not the end all be all but they are precise and through our sous vide technique using the polyscience thermal bath(insert gratuitous promotional plug here) this is what we found.

We used confit chicken thighs as the example. We took several approaches, one being plain chicken thighs bagged with duck fat. One cured in kosher salt for 30min then rinsed, patted dry and bagged with duck fat. The last one was brined for 2 hours, then patted dry and bagged with duck fat as well. The thighs were cooked at 80C for 2 hours, left to cool at room temp for 1 hour, and weighed at all stages of the experiment. Here are our interesting results

plain thigh, overall 24.73% weight loss after cooking
cured thigh, 4.56% weight loss after cured and an overall 41.66% total weight loss after cooking
brined thigh, 5.01% weight loss after brined and an overall 38.5% total weight loss after cooking

In terms of the finished product's taste and texture the plain sous vide thigh was pretty boring in terms of taste. I am a firm believer of season as you go. The texture was good though, still moist, and shredded easily like a traditional confit.

The cured thigh was a disappointment. It didn't carry the salt for some reason as a traditional confit in the oven does. The texture was drier than the plain and more dense. This had the highest weight loss of after the cooking process was complete.

Now this is where it gets interesting. The brined thigh had the highest initial weight loss after brining but a lower percentage of weight loss than the cured thigh after it was cooked. One of the comments left stated that brining prior to sous vide does not improve the flavor and this is where I disagree. You can add so many different flavor components to the brine and they DO carry throughout the cooking process. I used my go to, all purpose brine which consists of molasses, honey, sugar, kosher salt, soy sauce, water, and orange slices. This is great for chicken and pork, the background flavors really come through in the finished product. This brined thigh had the best flavor, the texture was a little bit more dense than the plain but still super moist. You can really see the difference in the appearance.

All the samples were patted dry with c-folds after cooking, then weighed completely intact and shredded. There are variables here, would the results differ if we used a straight up 10% saltwater brine? Probably, but the flavor wouldn't be as good.

We used this same technique with our berkshire pork belly. We brine it for 24 hours in a Tucher Helles Hefeweizen beer brine, smoke it for 4 hours, then sous vide for 10 hours. You can still smell and taste the "yeasty" flavor of the wheat beer that has permeated the pork. Even with the addition of the smoke it still comes through. It's the basis of what we do, layering flavors, complexity in something very simple.

So in terms of brine or not to brine, I say brine. You can manipulate the flavor in so many ways with a good brine to really compliment the rest of your dish. That is if your thinking that far ahead, and you should be.


Eat Local Week for Orlando

Our friends over at Slow Food Orlando have organized an eat local week January 25th to the 31st. Bluezoo will be participating in the event and we are offering a $39 prixe fixe menu


Cape Canaveral White Shrimp…
3 way hammock hollows cauliflower, pickled flambeau radish, meyer lemon vinaigrette
Hammock hollows herb co. cauliflower, radish, and meyer lemon,
Gary's seafood fresh florida shrimp


Rabbit confit…
maitake mushroom, truffle beurre noisette
Seely Farm, Dunnellon, Fl


Rosas Farms Grass Fed ribeye…
hammock hollows glazed turnips, baby sweet potatoes
Rosas farms beef, hammock hollows turnips

Florida black boar…
smoked shoulder, beer braised belly, celery root
Rosas farms boar, Orlando brewery beer

florida citrus pavlova…orange ice cream, citrus filled meringue, grapefruit gel, orange caramel
hammock hollows sunburst tangerines, Chinese honey oranges

We regularly load up on our hammock hollows veg from Charlie, I would've liked to incorporate more of his awesome lettuce varieties but most were recently lost to the freeze here in CFL. It's hard write a menu when you don't know what your going to get from the farm, it just shows up and we take it. We get about 30 or 40 cases of mixed veg every wednesday, it's like christmas around here when we get the delivery.
So even though we don't write menus with 15 word descriptions on them you will have much more on the plate than what is listed above.

Part of Charlies delivery was 2 cases of Gallberry Thomas Honey from some of his friends in Lake City. This stuff is good!

Al Rosas will be providing us with some tasty florida black boar, some of which he raises and some of which he has captured. Other farmers in the area call Al when then have a boar problem and he comes in and traps them adds them to his lot. He will also be hooking us up with some grass fed ribeyes.

Heath Putnam from Wooly Pigs pointed me in the direction of Torm at Pasture Prime Wagyu who is raising grass fed wagyu along with mangalitsa. He's only about an hour down the road but he won't have any product avilable until spring. I can't wait.

There are a lot of local producers out there and I'm sure we will be adding more farms to the list. It's a good thing to be a part of and hopefully we will have enough veg and variety from our own farm next year to sustain ourselves through eat local week.


Taco Quest

Check out Aaron Christian's Year of the Taco blog on all things taco. Follow him on his 2010 taco quest for the best taco finds in Central Florida and wherever his travels take him. I'm sure we will be having a lot more taco based family meals in the restaurant with Aaron on the great taco hunt. Try to keep track of his tpd(tacos per day) intake as he has put himself down for a 1.5 tpd average. He's off to a good start. I'll be keeping track of all the off the beaten path places he finds around Orlando serving the best tacos to be had. I'm always up for a taco.

Methocel Cannelloni

What do you get when you order cannelloni? You know at one point the pasta was wrapped around some hopefully delicious filling usually containing ricotta, covered in red or white sauce, cheese, then baked in those cheesy oval dishes. And 9 times out of 10, 40-60% of the filling becomes part of the sauce when it oozes out of the pasta. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with grandma's home style cannelloni but when we serve it we need to refine it a bit and bring it up to date. I really wanted to produce a nontraditional cannelloni, no ricotta, not drowned in red sauce, and a filling that actually holds so it looks decent on the plate. I started with some braised wagyu shortrib scrap that was cooked down with chive, shallot, and braising liquid. I could have easily made ravioli and called it a day but was focused on cannelloni for some reason. I took some shallot and garlic, sweat that, add thyme, add truffle juice and reduce, add chicken jus and reduce, then cream
and reduce again. The truffle cream was pureed and passed then I proceeded to add the methocel

16g SGA 7M methocel
205g water
1000g truffle cream

after hydrating the methocel in the water and adding it to the truffle cream I cooled it in an ice bath. You can see the consistency below.

I folded the cooled truffle cream into the braised short rib.

Rolled it out in plastic wrap then put it in the freezer for 20 minutes so I could slice portions.

I rolled out pasta, blanched and oiled long sheets, then laid them out on the table. I cut them the same width of the shortrib filling, brushed them with a little egg yolk, then cut the pasta and rolled up the filling.

Instead of drowning the pasta in sauce we put a ladle full of chicken stock on a sizzle platter then microplaned alot of tarentaise cheese over the top and baked them, pulling the cannelloni out midway to baste with the stock. Here is the result. Just enough methocel to hold the filling, a rich dish but the texture was light and complimented the pasta nicely. I ended up double rolling the cannelloni with pasta for a higher pasta to filling ratio that I thought was necessary.

Here is a close up of the sous vide scallop and cannelloni that completed the dish.

In the end it was
wagyu shortrib cannelloni...scallop, parsnip, tarentaise, foraged mushroom viniagrette, blue tuscan kale

It doesn't get much colder than it is right now in Orlando so this dish was designed to be hearty, filling, and comfort food with a twist.


Next 2010 Trend, finger limes

Bryce from Sid Wainer stopped by about two weeks ago with some finger limes for us to check out. I have seen them popping up on menus all over and some big chefs adding them to their daily mise en place. I first saw Curtis Duffy of Avenues using them and Sean had them on a recent post for his geoduck dish from NYE. They have been around for a while but I think we will see more chefs picking them up in 2010. They range in color from light green to almost black-brown and the spherical cells from a light green to pink. Not cheap at around $37 for a half pint but a cool product.

One of the main draws are the spherical cells, basically instant lime caviar. They have a good pop and acidity. So put the lime juice, the alginate, xanthan gum, and the calcium away and go natural with Australian finger limes.


It's over, now do it all over again

Service was awesome last night. I can say that it was the best NYE service we have ever had and the best I have ever seen out of all the kitchens I've worked in. We prepped like mad for days and it paid off. We were crushing it, knocking down full rails of tickets in no time, turning the room, no issues on tables, servers actually running food, and clean plates coming back. Even stewards were on the ball, polishing copper pots nonstop, running plates, pots, pans, silver and never getting behind. With the last table hitting the window at the stroke of midnight we were done. The last report I saw was 578 covers and raking in $42,000. I wish I had stopped and snapped a couple pictures but all I had time for was a quick shot of John Dory to tweet so look for it on twitter to catch a glimpse if you like.

All in all it was a good way to end the year, now time to focus on this yearand what we are going to do better.