Friday, June 13, 2014

Faux Apples - Waldorf

Waldorf Salad: Apples, Celery, Walnuts, Grapes in
a mayonnaise/whipped cream based dressing.  Kind of gross, right?  I'm not sure why I keep going back to it (besides my love for celery, maybe).  Well, we had a cool idea for a walnut/apple based technique and my mind went to Waldorf, I guess.

We make our own walnut "butter" (like peanut butter" in the blender with water, toasted walnuts, sugar and salt.  Once the butter is smooth, add more toasted walnuts, like chunky peanut butter.  Depending on the texture, you can form balls by hand or use a mold which is what we do.  Once the butter is rounded, put a stick in it and freeze it.  This is to make the center hard and easy to work with.

Once the centers are firm, we take an ounce of goat's cheese, form a thin disk by hand, like PlayDoh and wrap the center in it.

After the walnut centers are wrapped in goat's cheese, freeze them again, for ease of dipping. (Make sure you kind of shape the goat's cheese like an apple, which is harder than you might expect...apples are not very round)

We make our dipping gelee out of apple juice and freeze dried raspberries for color (easy to find at most Whole Foods)  The recipe is:

1.5 cups Apple Juice
1 tablespoon FD Raspberries (powdered)
2 tablespoons Sugar
5 sheets Gelatin.

We superfreeze the exterior of the goat's cheese with liquid nitrogen, but you could put it in a box with dry ice as well, it would just be slower.  This is what the process looks like:

money shot
The finished apples look a bit like this ->
It takes 5 dips to fully glaze them.
Afterwards, they have to be refrigerated 
until fully thawed, then the skewer
 can be removed and replaced 
with an herb sprig or leaf.

Convincing, aren't they?

At that point, we serve them with a relatively standard waldorf salad.  Our only additional flourishes include candied walnuts and a house made mayonnaise dressing.

Cool beans

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Something you can do with your carrots

Its been awhile since I've posted.  I've got something to share, but the "production value" may not equal some of the work I've done previously.  This project has kept me busy for a month, however and I am quite proud.  The idea started as a potential way to highlight rawness and the liveliness of very fresh produce.  Well, what could be more raw and lively than a backdrop of living carrots.

The top inch of carrots in a half inch of water sprouts really awesomely after only a week!

Figuring out how to drill a hole in glass was easy, after the first few casualties.  The carrots are more than willing to grow through the tiny hole.

 A little bit of wire, moss and a picture frame shadow box....

We serve a baby carrot crudite with bell peppers, broccoli and celery against the backdrop of the live carrot mini "tree"

Our ranch dressing is made with carrot tops to complete the picture.  Here's the recipe:

1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped carrot tops
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or to taste

Mix all ingredients with a whisk and store under refrigeration until needed.


Cool beans

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ceviche Mixto - Frozen Coconut Shell

At Palo Alto Grill, we put a fun and interesting twist on Ceviche.  We use liquid nitrogen to freeze a dome of coconut milk, which we fill with the lime marinated seafood, allowing the diner to crack their way in.  The "Mixto" which we use in our ceviche is a combination of tilapia, shrimp, scallops and squid, because I enjoy the way all the different textures combine and contrast.

1/2 pound tilapia, cubed 3/4"
1/2 pound baby shrimp, raw
1/2 pound squid, cleaned and quickly sauteed
1/2 pound bay scallops
1 ea red onion, fine dice
3 ea jalapenos, fine dice
1 bunch basil, chopped
1 Tbs garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
Salt, TT

(note, the squid must be pre-sauteed or it becomes very rubbery in ceviche)
- Simply combine all the seafood and chopped aromatics with citrus juice in a bowl.
- Place plastic wrap directly on top to completely submerge and allow to marinate, refrigerated until shrimp turn pink and fish turns opaque.

Translucent fish before
Opaque fish after

Translucent blue shrimp before
Opaque pink shrimp after

The mix that we use for coconut sorbet is coconut milk, sweetened to taste.  If you would like to try this recipe, but are unable to obtain liquid nitrogen, feel free to drizzle this mix over your ceviche, freeze in a mold and scrape like a granite or freeze into sorbet and top with a scoop, it would be delicious in any of these applications.

The liquid nitrogen gets the ladle very cold 
(don't lick it)

Allow the condensation in the air to form a thin layer of frost, then dip it into the coconut milk, allowing it a few seconds to build up thickness.

After the coconut shell has frozen, apply gentle but constant pressure to the base of the dome until it releases from the ladle.  It should be surprisingly easy.  If not, clean the ladle and try again.

We serve our ceviche tucked inside its coconut shell, topped with lemongrass and accompanied by taro chips.

Really cool beans.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Char-Grilled Octopus

This blog was originally put together as a way to answer the question "how do they do that?"  One of the most common instances of this question for me here at Palo Alto Grill is the Char-Grilled Octopus.  Most people are familiar with octopus in a sushi context.  It is rubbery, flavorless, and mostly enjoyable in a novelty context.

Our octopus is prepared in a more Mediterranean style.  It is cooked a total of 3 times over several hours in order to give it its delicate barely spongy texture.

 I often say that octopus is one of those things that when its cooked perfectly its a real delicacy, but when its cooked almost perfectly...its garbage.  Thus, it must be prepared just so.

When we receive our octopus, it comes tentacles only.  We find the tentacles cook more evenly and the skin tears and falls away less often.  From the picture it looks as though the tentacles are still squirming.  However, while some restaurants receive (and even serve) octopus still wriggling, they arrive at Palo Alto Grill fresh, but fortunately dead.

The first step in preparing our octopus is to blanch them in boiling water.  Octopus muscles are full of collagen and they release a lot of gelatin, which if not drawn out from the muscles can leave the octopus rubbery and gelatinous.  Use more water than you need to draw out as much of the excess gelatin as possible.

We are going to be confitting the octopus in olive oil, which creates a very concentrated water-soluble context.  If we don't remove this gelatin now, then after the cook in oil, the octopus will be tightly bound in a dense layer of purple goo.

As the octopus enters the water, the tentacles curl up right away, which can be kind of fun.  Cook them in the water until they float.

Remove the octopus from the water and discard.
You should be able to see how much thicker, purple and gelatinous the water has become.

At this point, simmer the Octopus in olive oil over very very low heat.  This process can be done on the stove or in the oven.  If done on the stove, set flame to lowest setting; if done in the oven, set at 325F.  Make sure to use enough olive oil to cover.  (Note: this uses a lot of olive oil.  After, you may want to save the oil for something specific, but it should be refrigerated and will have a slight octopus flavor.)

Confit octopus for about 3 hours.  It may shrink considerably during cooking.  To test for doneness, slice off a piece and see how chewy it is, or use a small knife and see if it goes in and out of the octopus easily.

If you will be serving the octopus at a later time, store it in the oil under refrigeration until ready to serve.

At this point, the skin on the octopus will be loose, and the best way to turn this gooey stickiness into delicious crispiness is to char it on the grill.  Don't be afraid to allow the octopus to blacken rather heavily, the crispy exterior will contrast nicely with the very slightly chewy interior.

The texture of octopus contrasts brilliantly with sauteed potatoes, its a match made in heaven like peanut butter and jelly.  We add a bit of chopped garlic and sliced preserved lemon.  The preserved lemon skin adds a nice salty acidic kick.

The dish is finished with chopped basil and basil oil

Most people are very surprised at the texture.  It is almost crisp on the outside and very tender throughout.  The flavor of octopus is barely ocean-y, quite ham-like.  An easy try for people who aren't big seafood eaters.

Cool beans