Tuesday, April 29, 2008

From June 02, 2006

Wherein originally written for Beggingtodiffer.com. They've since gone to a forum only format and I recovered this using the Wayback machine

...with a couple of small edits.

Cooking with Richard Blais
Posted by Bill
Earlier this week I attended a cooking demonstration at Salud at Harry's Farmer's Market in Alpharetta, GA. The chef was Richard Blais, of ONE.Midtown Kitchen (and the foie gras milkshake). This was observation only, not hands-on. Still, it was lively and entertaining and he did a great job interacting with the class.

During the two-hour course, he served us three dishes, demonstrated foams and bubbles, spoke a little about competing against Mario Batali on a future episode of Iron Chef America, whipped out a tank of liquid nitrogen for some play time and because we were ahead of schedule, made 10-minute ice cream.

Class of seventeen people, which pleased him. Blais said he's tried teaching a "Liquid Nitrogen 101" class before and it usually gets canceled for lack of interest. Yep, I signed up for one of those canceled classes back in December. I'm fascinated by the chemistry lab aspect of molecular gastronomy and would love to see one of its practitioners at work. For this class, Blais kept to a small menu with easy to recreate recipes, but also snuck in a little science to demonstrate what else is possible.

Overall, a fun guy who loves food and loves talking about food. In addition to ICA, he'll appear on an episode of Sugar Rush and he'll be in Food and Wine later this summer. Definately in promotional mode, said he'd love to do more TV. He's very high energy and has a self-deprecating humor that would probably go over great on television. His enthusiasm for food reminded me a lot of the late Jamie Shannon of Commander's Palace and Turner South's Off The Menu.

Another student mentioned she'd be at ONE.Midtown for a friend's birthday and asked if they did anything special. Blais said to call the night before to remind him and he'd do something, maybe make a cake at the table. Asked about the milkshake, he said he loves to make it, just call before you come to make sure he has foie gras in the restaurant. I missed the last ingredient, but it's just foie gras, amaretto, and something else.

Talking about all the modern techinques he uses, he insisted it be used for a purpose. If it doesn't make the food taste better, then what's the point. Also said that "food should taste natural, but don't use that as a crutch to avoid flavor." In a fake French accent he admonished us "it should taste like a zucchini," then switching back to himself, "if that's all you want, just eat a raw zucchini."

For more on his appearance on Iron Chef America, I can't add much more than this interview with Richard Blais at egullet. Couldn't discuss the secret ingredient or who won and the air date is still unknown. Did say he froze enough things that Alton Brown started referring to him as "Doctor Freeze" and they filmed their segment at 6am. And yes, it was only an hour. The night the show airs will be a big party at ONE.Midtown Kitchen and he said we were invited. Now I just need to email the restaurant to make sure I'm on the reservations list.

Here's what we ate:

  • Grilled Shrimp served on watermelon with avocado and a horseradish sauce
  • Zucchini ravioli with lemon and basil
  • Buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry and rhubarb

I'll come back later with a writeup of the recipes, but for now I want to talk about liquid nitrogen. Blais predicts this will be in every kitchen within a few years. I think he's right and I plan on getting would like to get a tank. As a coolant, it has many everyday applications in the kitchen. His first use was for the panna cotta. It needed more time to cool and set, but since there wasn't enough class time for that he set the panna cotta cups in a tray and poured in just a little liquid nitrogen. Done. Also said they use it a lot to cool stocks. I love this idea. I like to make meals and soups ahead of time, but the biggest pain is cooling everything down before you bag and store. And before I can vacuum seal soup I have to first freeze it. Having a tank of liquid nitrogen of hand would take care of this in seconds, or at most, minutes. Another thing Blais likes to do is drop in fresh herbs. The instant freezing enhances their flavor...plus they shatter when dropped--very cool. Not to mention the time a chef's pants were dropped in a bucket of the stuff. Plus cool things like freezing beads of olive oil and the fact that liquid nitrogen allows you to freeze alcohol (tequila popsicles!).

But the most impressive demonstration (though little balls of boiling olive oil streaming across the tables was a close second) was the ten minute ice cream. He took a basic recipe for home use:

1 quart cream
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
3 scraped vanilla beans

...and started the clock. Heated the cream, vanilla, and sugar until the sugar dissolved. Tempered the yolks, mixed the rest in, strained, and added to a KitchenAid. At this point, the clock has been running for six minutes and this where you'd add the mix to an ice cream maker. Instead, with the KitchenAid running he slowly pours in an equal volume of liquid nitrogen. Boom. Done. Nine and a half minutes. And it was the creamiest homemade ice cream I've ever had. Think of that. Ice cream parlors spend a lot of labor and space--not to mention freezers-- to have multiple batches on hand. What if, instead, you have a number of bases and ingredients prepped, then you can make anything in the same amount of time it takes to make a milkshake. Screw 31 flavors, I'll serve 200 flavors. Um, does that qualify as a business plan? Is there a patent on this?

Richard Blais. ONE.Midtown Kitchen. Atlanta. Worth a visit. Call me, you're buying the first drink. I'll get dessert.

? minimize

12:16 PM | Link | Food and Recipes | Comments (5)


Blogger reader_iam said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/01/2008 02:32:00 AM  
Blogger reader_iam said...

Eh, better to wait, and to preview.

5/01/2008 02:52:00 AM  
Blogger bill said...

recipes: http://soquoted.blogspot.com/2006/06/menu.html

3/19/2011 09:13:00 AM  

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