Well, I promised you folks (both of you!) a delayed live blog, so here goes. Let’s see how good you are with delayed gratification, because you’re about to see a lot of fairly snore-some sub-recipes. But I promise you, over the next 2 days, shit WILL get real, and you want to be ready. M’kay?
At the start, for the sake of context, I might as well admit that we’re not just doing 4 dishes from Noma… we’re also tackling three from Alinea, Grant Achatz’s Chicago temple of molecular gastronomy. To spice things up, I’m going to give you the daily steps from the sub-recipes that make up the Alinea dishes, without naming the dishes. (Hey, HEY, calm down in front. If this is too much excitement, I’ll turn this blog around and go home right now.)
Let’s start with a cranberry goop I made. I took cranberries, sugar, and raspberry vinegar (of all the things to run out of, I was out of red wine vinegar, duh.)
Cooked it until it was almost dry…
Threw it in the blender…
…and the blender laughed and laughed and laughed, and asked “What do you mean, giving me this paltry amount of ingredient, you pathetic…” And then I shut the blender off and made a second batch of the cranberry stuff. The blender, sated, proceeded to make goop out of the berry mixture.
Next, I took some raw barley, cooked it in much more water and for much longer than Chef Achatz said would be necessary – is this fossil barley? – and spread it on aluminum foil when I shoulda used a Silpat sheet…
…which I threw in the fancy-pants oven-with-a-dehydrate-setting for a few hours. After scraping it off of the aluminum foil and (mostly) separating it into individual kernels, it ended up looking…
…pretty much as it did when I started. But don’t be too disappointed: the barley sub-plot will get all “Who shot J.R.?” before we’re done.
Okay, let’s head over to Iron Chef Redzepi and see what’s cooking at Noma. “Looks like some pork ribs have been browned in the oven, Alton.”
Except I really hate Iron Chef, so enough of that voice. Ahem. We’re making pork stock that will become a reduction that will become a component in a sauce on the Noma pickled vegetable dish. The pork ribs (back ribs, because nobody in the entire weekday St. Lawrence Market could scare up some of the more flavourful side ribs… so much for the market being different from the grocery store…) were covered with water. Accompanied with a couple of sprigs of thyme and a few chopped shallots, they went back into a very low oven overnight.
Dramatic Aside: 7:35am the next day is when I discovered that my oven shuts off after 12 hours if you don’t set a timer. Thankfully, the thermometer showed that the rib stock was at 160’F, not in the danger zone for bacterial growth.
Is it time for a pointless process shot? I think so.
Mmmmm. I could’ve had a breakfast shake of that stuff. Instead, I strained it, skimmed it, reduced it, and into the freezer it went. The rib meat wasn’t wasted… far from it. The meat-to-water ratio was so meat-heavy, and the ribs (Berkshire snob-pork) were so good, that even 12 hours in the oven hadn’t rendered them into flavourless pork sawdust. Warm, on a bun, with a little salt and pepper and some dijon… that’s dinner right there, folks.
Gosh, it’s been, what, seconds since I’ve made a stock reduction. What say I make the mussel juice for the Noma razor clam dish. It starts with 2 kilos of insanely fresh mussels (it pays to visit a really good fish shop on the morning of Dec. 27th, when they’ve been closed for 2 days and haven’t even unpacked the new shipment yet).
Right. So, that’s 2 kilos of mussels, some thyme and shallots, and 2 cups of really good pink champagne.
Oh, stop it. This is what really happened:
And even that is better than the boxed plonk I drink on a daily basis. Lucky mussels. Or not lucky, because hey! Mussels + 45 minutes of gentle steaming = dead mussels. Obviously, under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t cook mussels for 45 minutes. More like 7. So I was really (seriously) surprised to find that these guys were still edible… enjoyable, even. Gentle steaming is the way to go, apparently. Into a lemon/oil mixture they went, to find a third life as marinated mussels. The jus from the moules marinieres was reduced and frozen – the process of clarifying it starts with freezing it.
Yawn. Are you still with me? Hell, I’m barely still with me. Okay, just a few more sub-recipes to go today. (Full disclosure, this was actually done over 2 days and one night.)
Back in Chicago, we’re going all Al Capone, dehydrating some pitted olives. Some small Nicoises, and some larger oil-cured low-salt Greek species that appeared magically at the local market. Here they are going into the oven:
And if you’ll picture them smaller and more shrivelled, you’ll have an excellent idea of what they looked like after 12 hours.
Truthfully, they’re not done yet. Their sojourn in the oven has been interrupted by another sub-recipe: the edible soil for Noma’s “Radishes in a Pot”.
Here’s the dry mix: dark malt powder (available from a home-brew retailer), all-purpose flour, sugar, and hazelnut flour (which is not just ground hazelnuts, but rather, the ground form of the cake that’s left over after hazelnuts are pressed for oil).
Not quite sure how that’s going to come out looking any darker than beach sand, but… we’ll see. Nervous about the lack of colour, I swapped out the lager that Redzepi had called for, and subbed in some Guinness. Then, I screwed up. After the required 3 pulses in the food processor, I decided…”Meh – should be grainier.” Two more pulses, and it ended up coming around like a perfect bread dough…
…or a macro shot of a dog park after spring thaw. So, I made another batch, did it as I was instructed to do, and was rewarded with this, which went into the oven to dry:
Just one more sub-recipe to go, people. The base for the horseradish-buttermilk ice that garnishes the razor clam dish. Only one photo for this one, mercifully:
The process in brief: boil up a tiny bit of milk-cornstarch ooze, whisk in some buttermilk, and chunk in a whole bunch of freshly-grated horseradish. Let steep for 12 hours.
That’s it for today, kids.