This morning when I woke up, I tried to tally hours logged on this one so far. Not counting planning or shopping, I think I’m at around 14 raw hours in the kitchen. I think Rachel Ray’s head would explode if she tried making something from this book.
(My friend Joe laughed when he came over last night and saw my post-it scheduling notes all over my book; specifically the Lavender Pudding one, which says “Done. CBB”. “CBB” is a shot status at Weta that stands for “Could be better”. Basically it means “try to make it more awesome if we have time after everything else is done.”)
I think I’m doing ok though; I’ve found that some things I’ve gotten good at doing fairly quickly (juicing, separating, and preserving rhubarb is something done I think 4 different times in the recipe), and I’ve gotten fast at scanning for refrigeration steps. It’s a little like playing the those auto-scrolling levels in the old-school Mario Brothers games, where all you care about is making the very next little jump without regard for what might be coming after it. There’s a hint of that feeling going on here.
Last night I completed the Rhubarb Gelee, the Fennel Candy (this stuff is a bit wild), and made the base for the Rhubarb Sorbet. This sorbet has to eventually be smeared atop the oatmeal streusel, so my plan tonight is to make the streusel while the sorbet is mixing in my ice cream maker, so that they’re both the proper consistency when it’s time to put them together.
As I was waiting for some sous vide rhubarb to finish last night, I decided to try to learn some things. I notice that most of the rhubarb I’ve bought is more green than red, which I thought might indicate it’s not ripe or something (though it tastes nice, and is yielding plenty of juice even after separation). I read a bit about rhubarb on The Everything Bible, and noted that it mentions “…The colour results from the presence of anthocyanins, and varies according to both rhubarb variety and production technique. The colour is not related to its suitability for cooking: The green-stalked rhubarb is more robust and has a higher yield, but the red-coloured stalks are much more popular with consumers”. So I’m left to assume, then, that my rhubarb is perfectly fine if not cosmetically beautiful. There is clearly a heavy visual component to this entire dish though, that features the crimson color that most people think of when they imagine rhubarb. So, I think I’m going to cheat a bit and employ some food coloring in a few components in an effort to get that effect. My sorbet came out a pale greenish color rather than the bright pink in the book, so a few drop of red color should fix that, and the actual whole rhubarb that I’ll eventually compress with gin needs to also be red, so I think I can include a few drops of color in there as well.
The second thing I did was pull down my copy of the Flavor Bible, which is a totally awesome book that I’ve taken to flipping through when trying to see how far off the beaten path a given set of flavors is. This recipe pairs rhubarb with:
–oatmeal streusel ? (I’m going to classify this as a ‘brown sugar’ flavor profile)
Of these, the following are listed in the Bible:
–brown sugar (this is one of the most traditional pairings, according to the book)
I find this pretty fascinating; I don’t know if it makes me more excited to eat the matched pairings or the unmatched ones. I also wonder if the guys who wrote this book consulted Alinea in writing it (I don’t think so).
Oh, also, a few weeks back, in anticipation of this dish (actually, every move I’ve made since January in terms of planning out kitchen gear and service ware has revolved around this dish), I found some small “Monocle”-like service pieces at a, um, ‘glassist’ (?) in Berkeley. I went to them to have them make me some small glass sleeves, which will be used in an upcoming dish, but while I was there I asked them about these concave glass pieces. They’re called “Watch glasses”, and cost me a buck apiece. They’re fine for what I want, though not perfect by any stretch; they have a Pyrex logo on them, and some warping from their manufacturing process. They’re originally used to place atop hot beakers, to keep water from evaporating and also to keep it from collecting on the covered surface (the water runs down the concave glass and drips off the pole of it). They’re made of Borosilicate, which means they’ll sustain extreme temperatures just fine, and are more difficult to break. I’m not sure whether Alinea’s Monocle pieces are of similar make (they probably are; soda ash glass is much more delicate and breaks more easily, so it wouldn’t be very dishwasher friendly).
So, tonight, Oatmeal Streusel and the sorbet completion, and hopefully I’ll start on the Dried Rhubarb.
Today’s moment of Zen: a few days back I watched a totally adorable video about a guy who owns a soda pop shop. When buying some gin for this recipe yesterday at a liquor store, I noticed they had a wall of odd sodas. Inspired both by the video and the fact that I like contemporaneous comparisons, I bought a bunch. These are sitting here on my desk at work. So far I’ve had the Birch Beer, which is pretty root-beer-y, though very light in color. It was also a bit sweeter than I would have liked. Still, pretty cool.