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Bacon, Butterscotch, Apple, Thyme

By April 26, 2009Cooking

I decided to do what some of my university buds would do for Friday exams on this one and take the Gentleman’s B. I’ve wanted to try making this dish ever since I first heard of Alinea. We didn’t have it when we dined there, so my curiosity was rooted in fascination with both the beauty of this dish as well as what it would actually taste like. I think I set the bar a bit high for myself though; I wanted to make a few batches of this recipe to take into work to share. This dish is temperamental though, and after trying to make it two weekends in a row I finally decided to call it a day after my 6th try at it. For the record, it turned out “very good” but not what I’d called “perfect” (mainly because of the scalability of the whole thing, which I realize is a few steps past just making it successfully).

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I was more curious what dehydrated bacon tastes like. I was cooking a pound of bacon at a time (I did the bacon step two times), so had lots to taste. Fresh out of the dehydrator it tastes warm and not entirely dissimilar to ‘normal’-cooked bacon. As it cools to room temperature, however, its flavor goes towards something between bacon and prosciutto. It’s surprisingly mild, not as salty as I expected, and I suppose Chef Achatz chose this preparation in part to allow the bacon to give room to the other ingredients.

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The bacon, I discovered, has a very short shelf life (or, at least, I couldn’t figure out how to store it). The day after I made it, it went from delicious to slightly-strange, as the fat went rancid. This posed a challenge to my plans to share some of this with friends, and also fueled my curiosity as to how this recipe can be applied in a restaurant (does Alinea dehydrate their bacon daily? They must have a dehydrator room the size of Weta’s machine room).

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The butterscotch was obviously another time sink; I think mainly because I was expecting something notably different from the caramel in my last recipe. I’m convinced that the Alinea recipe is not, though, and after 6 tries decided to just leave this one alone. Some other time I might take up trying some variations on butterscotch, to get something closer to what I imagine. Another problem is that my butterscotch just wasn’t pretty. The cookbook shows a light beige butterscotch that looks rich and delicious, and mine was dark, too thick, caramely and commanded too much attention.

I’m my own worst critic though, and no one likes reading constant self-deprecation. The apple leather was fun and easy to make; the first time it was just plain green apple leather, but today I decided (because I knew I’d have heaps extra) to toss some cinnamon in. The texture is sort of like a fruit rollup on drier and less elastic; the first version was incredibly thin and felt like paper on the tongue. I’d make this again in a second.

And when assembled, the dish tasted fantastic. The ingredients were disparate and identifiable individually, but made sense when I chewed them all together. Texture, too, was nice, with crispy bits, the buttery caramel, and the apple noodles each staying separate but playing nicely together.

Plus I got to use my Bow, for which I’ve wanted to find an excuse for  2 years now.

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Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Iron Suchef says:

    I wonder if some liquid nitrogen could be used to quickly freeze the bacon after drying it to stop moisture from being reintroduced.

  • nice to see someone in new zealand into this kind of food, where are you based? nice pictures,,

  • kathleen says:

    I’m planning to make this soon, so thanks for all the detail! How long in advance do you think I can make the apple leather (i.e. a day?) Thanks!!