Sunday, February 1, 2009

Rosie Cooks From Alinea. Kinda.

Some time ago, I made a foray into my Alinea Cookbook and created the Bacon/Butterscotch/Apple Leather/Thyme on a sex swing. And quite a stunning dish it was. One of my favorite bloggers is Carol Blymire of Carol Cooks Keller (The French Laundry) and Alinea At Home blog fame. After reading Carol's latest post about dried tuna, (Oh, here's another wacko doing every dish in the Alinea cookbook.) I decided to do the tuna dish. However, I absolutely refuse to take Sushi-grade tuna and make jerky out of it. Something just screams to me that it is so very wrong on primal levels. So what I'm doing is the marinade, the sesame-chili spice mixture, and the candied grapefruit zest. And I'll be using beautiful tuna fillets, courtesy of Xmaskatie and Mr. Xmaskatie, and sauteeing the fillets for an intimate dinner party last night with Mr. & Mrs. Xmaskatie, and Glowria. (And I just used present, future, and an inferred past tense in that one paragraph. That, my friends, takes talent.)

 I decided to follow the Alinea directions TO.THE.LETTER. (Except of course for drying out the tuna.) Just to measure out the ingredients for the marinade alone took me OVER an hour. Now, I know I'm not a chef. I've had no formal training. The best you could call me is maybe an experienced home cook. But, come on! Crap, this is a recipe for a MARINADE. And it calls for the measurements of the ingredients to be in ounces and TENTHS of ounces. That's just crazy! Thank goodness I had the digital scale. I thought I'd never get done measuring. And you want to know what I think? I think it's absolute bullshit. It's a freakin' MARINADE, for crying out loud. You don't need your measurements to be in TENTHS of an OUNCE! Geeze. Here are all my ingredients, measured out, along with my trusty digital scales.
Let's start at the beginning:
You know I can't give you the exact pounds, ounces, and tenths of ounces of the ingredients, (You can buy the book.) but, as always, I'll give you the ingredients. And you can believe me when I tell you EVERY ingredient is measured to the TENTH of the OUNCE.
 My ingredients: 
x pounds, y ounces, z/10 ounces sugar 
x pounds, y ounces, z/10 ounces water
 y ounces, z/10 ounces soy sauce
 y ounces, z/10 ounces fish sauce
 y ounces, z/10 ounces ginger, peeled and sliced
 z/10 ounces coriander seed
 y ounces, z/10 ounces lemon grass 
y ounces, z/10 ounces Thai Chili 
y ounces, z/10 ounces white wine vinegar  

You know, when I make a marinade, I grab some of this, some of that, a little bit of something else, then keep on going and tasting until I have a marinade. But then, what the hell do I know, since I'm not charging $145 for TWELVE BITES or $225 for TWENTY TWO BITES in a Tasting Menu. 
I've never used lemongrass before, but I remember seeing on one of The Next Food Network Star programs that you were supposed to pound it before using. So I did. I also sliced my chilies before adding to the mix, but the recipe didn't say to do that, or to pound the lemon grass.
I mixed all ingredients,
 brought to a simmer over medium heat,

 removed from heat, then let steep for 30 minutes.

After steeping,
 I added the rest of the ingredients in,
 all of which were precisely measured on my digital scale. 
 I have:
 y ounces, z/10 ounces lime juice
 z/10 ounces lime zest
 y ounces, z/10 ounces ginger juice
 z/10 ounces cilantro 

And the only way to get ginger juice
 is to have the ginger frozen,
 then nuke it for maybe 30 seconds,
 and then you can squeeze the juice out.
 But they don't tell you that.
 I just know that from having frozen ginger all the time. 
Here are the lovely tuna fillets. 
I cooled the marinade and poured into a plastic bag to marinate the tuna for 2 hours. 
Next, I made the Sesame-Chili mixture:
 z/10 ounces white sesame seeds
 z/10 ounces black sesame seeds
 z/10 ounces red chili flakes 
(These were our homegrown, dried, and chopped flakes.) 
I poured the sesame/chili mixture into my hot pan. 
And toasted until the seeds started popping.
Word of caution here:
 Ventilation is a plus here.
 I had just finished toasting this when my guests arrived ...
 choking and coughing as soon as they walked in the front door.
 Next, I prepared my candied grapefruit zest. 
I peeled the grapefruit from top to bottom
 in one continuous spiral strip. (Yeah, right!) 
Let's just say I did the best I could.
I brought y ounces and z/10 ounces of water
 and an equal amount of sugar to a boil, 
stirring to dissolve the sugar, removed from heat,
 and added the grapefruit peels, and let cool.
 I've never particularly cared for grapefruit but this was really, really good. 
Finally, I peeled a 2-inch piece of ginger,
cut in half lengthwise, and sliced as thinly as I could. 
Paper thin slices of fresh ginger. 
The recipe called for 24 pieces of micro lemongrass.
 I was stoked I could even find regular lemongrass down here.
 But micro lemongrass? 
I don't even know what that is.
 I'm thinking it may be the new green growth
 at the top of the lemongrass plant, 
whereas the part I used was from the bulb at the bottom.
 So I just micro sliced what lemongrass I had. 
It's totally inedible.
 I'll just use it for decoration on top of the tuna.
 Then my guests can use it for dental floss after the meal.
 Yeah, that works. 
While the tuna was marinating,
I served some hors d'oeuvres.
 Mr. Hawthorne had made deviled eggs
, I had made more of my seasoned tortillas,
  and I had Mr. Hawthorne's corn salsa,
my creme fraiche with lime juice and zest, green onions, and cilantro,
and Mr. H.'s pickled eggs.
I also served two different nut dishes.
This is one of the best and most perfect combinations
 I've ever come up with.
Simply pecans, raisins, and cheddar cheese.
And this is the spicy, seasoned mixture
of walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.
Next, I started on my roasted carrot dish
 which I shamelessly ripped off from Sara of Sara's Kitchen.
  Thanks again, Sara, for another tasty dish.

I drizzled some olive oil over my peeled and sliced carrots. 
Then some sourwood honey went over top. 
And I baked until they were nice, tender, and caramelized. 
I sprinkled Kosher salt over top,
 placed in a complementary cobalt blue bowl
, covered, and kept warm until dinner was served. 
After two hours, I pulled the tuna steaks out of the marinade. 
Mr. Xmaskatie shaved off a small piece from the raw tuna
, tasted it, and confirmed that the marinade, had indeed, been absorbed. 
Next, I poured my marinade through a cheesecloth-lined colander into my pan.
I set the pan over medium heat, brought it to a simmer,
 and reduced the marinade until it was a nice syrup. 

I sauteed my steaks for maybe three minutes each side. 

I poured the reduced marinade over top of the tuna. 
And here's my plated dinner. 
The tuna on the left has the reduced marinade drizzled over top,
 then the sprinkled sesame-chili mix,
 the candied grapefruit peel, and the paper thin ginger slices.
 Oh yeah. Don't forget the lemongrass dental floss.
 The roasted honeyed carrots are at the bottom right. 
And at top right is a blend of brown rices,
 with onions and celery added to it. 
I loved the tuna.
The marinade/reduction was extremely flavorful-
 you had the lime, the soy, the cilantro,
the ginger flavors all going on.
 You had the heat of the sesame-chili mixture.
And the sweetness of the candied grapefruit peel.
The carrots were so sweet and intensely flavorful.
And the rice was a nice neutral background 
to everything else.
 The onions and celery gave a nice added crunch.
I would absolutely do this again,
but I ain't measuring out ounces and tenths of ounces fer cryin' out loud.
Now, I'm just wondering.
Do these fancy-dancy chefs really do this
 in their restaurant kitchens?
Measure to the TENTH of an ounce?
 Chef Achatz, are you messing with me?  
Now, back to my intimate little dinner party last night. 
Here is the first video of a guest's unsolicited reaction to his meal.
 And now, the second video of a guest's spontaneous reaction to her meal.
 Finally, the third video of my last guest's welcomed comments.
Xmaskatie stopped at Soundfeet Shoes
before coming here yesterday. 
She called me from the shoe store 
and told me I needed a pair of UGGs. 
She described the different colors, 
and I said, "OK, bring me the brown."
 Little did I know I would be paying more
 for one pair of boots than I had paid 
cumulatively for all the shoes in my life. 
Curses! I'm not worthy of this.
 But the boots are very comfortable, 
and as you can see, you can wear them
 with the cuff in or out, or both, as I prefer.
 And here's yet another video, this time,
 about my UGG boots. 
Sorry the music was so loud, but we were having a partay.


Ken said...

I love that in respecting your guests' anonymity, you ended up with videos of the chestal areas of two women with voice overs about how good the food was. It really did look good and I'm glad you didn't dry the tuna ;-)

Marilyn said...

You give good parties. And the tuna looks good, but I'm definitely with you about the absurd measurements.

Hairball T. Hairball said...

I think if you really have to measure to that level of accuracy, then you need some kitchen minions to help you with the grunt work.

Sara said...

Everything looks delicious, so impressed that you're cooking from the Alinea book. Glad you liked the carrots!

Anonymous said...

Can I be your agent? I know Ugg will be contacting you soon to become their new spokesperson. And they were on sale, and will last for many years, so consider them an investment. You deserve them Rosie! And your toes will be toasty next time you go to the Lucky 12.

Anonymous said...

Chef Achatz, are you messing with me?

I can understand exact measurements for baking or some new-fangled type of cooking, but for a marinade? Naw, I think they were playing with you. Can't you just see them sitting around, thinking, "I wonder how many people will actually spend an hour to measure all this?"
Thanks again for a wonderful party.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Rosie wasn't kidding about needing ventilation when toasting chilis. We walked in the door, and after one breath involuntarily started coughing. It gets you right in the back of your throat. Didn't bother my eyes or nose, just the throat.