Harvard SEAS lecture, 11/01/10, Carme Ruscalleda

This week’s lecture with Carme Ruscalleda (Sant Pau, Sant Pau de Tòquio) was about complex chemistry – browning reactions and beyond. (Specifically, the talk was mostly on caramelization and the Maillard reaction.)

Recipe of the week? Shrimp noodles and salty caramels.

At this point, I feel the need to reinterate “Why weren’t my lab classes so interesting back in the day?!” *cough*

Mike started off the lecture and we learned that the Maillard reaction gives us hundreds of byproducts (color compounds and flavor compounds) and it occurs above 120C/250F. So, if given a graph of time versus oven temperature, there is a reason why we might choose one set of numbers over another set of numbers right off the bat.  That’s great and all, but we’re there for the food portion.  Or at least, I am.  ^_~

Things I learned about Carme Ruscalleda? She wanted to go to art school originally but was sent to culinary school by her parents. Carme’s husband, son, and daughter are part of the Sant Pau business, of which there are three locations: Sant Pau (where she works out of), Barcelona, and… Tokyo? Yes, there is a location in the Nihonbashi area.

Carme started off in charcuterie, and it shows in her work. She’s also a supporter of ‘Kilometer Zero’- the idea that food should be local, fresh, seasonal, leaving a lighter or zero carbon footprint on the world. She’ll cook with wild asparagus and non-GMO tomatoes because “we are what we eat.”

The first recipe she showed us was a tuna dish. Meat from a fatty, tender young tuna is seasoned and oiled before it is browned in the oven at 160C. After the browning, it is stirred into a stock pot so that the meat breaks up. Onion confit, tomato confit, and sake are added to the pot as the aromatics. Spring water is added, and the whole mixture is braised slowly for 24 hours. Strain and reduce the liquid until it is a nice thick sauce. Cool, de-fat, and the final tuna sauce is served with seared young tuna.

The second recipe was for fricandó, a Catalan dish. Veal is trimmed of fat while the “gelatin” (I think it is the connective tissue) is left on and scored (so that the meat retains its shape during cooking and doesn’t shrink in weird ways). The veal is cut into smaller pieces and then cooked in some oil to sear the meat. The meat is removed. To the fond (or sucs) in the pan, onion confit, raw tomato, and sweet sherry are used to deglaze the pan and create our glaze/sauce. Mushrooms are added before the meat is returned to the pan, where is slow cooks, covered, for about 60 minutes. Some garlic and nuts are ground in a little bit of water, and this is added to the pan. It cooks for another 10 minutes. Wine vinegar is drizzled to finish the dish.

The third recipe was grilled blood sausages served with grilled veggies and sardines (served with romesco sauce, a Catalan sauce of tomatoes, onions, dried chillies, almonds and toasted hazelnuts) while the fourth recipe was for a country bread.

The fifth recipe was Crema Catalana, which is a Catalan version of crème brulée. Lemon peel and cinnamon are simmered in milk. To the flavored milk, you eventually add sugar and flour, and then egg yolks. The whole thing is cooked to 80C before it is removed from heat and plated. When the mixture cools, a thin skin will form on the surface. Sugar is sprinkled on top and caramelized with a salamander (looks like a branding tool… not the reptile kind).

Carme showed us an interesting Catalan dish that’s a sweet sausage. One kilo of ground meat is mixed with 600g sugar, cinnamon, and lemon peel. This is in turn piped into sausage casings. The sausage is poked several times and then boiled in water. The water is cooked to evaporate, and we are left with a sausage that is oozing caramel. It is served like tapas, with some apples or toast.

The second to last recipe was for quince! This I want to try so badly, but I don’t have any quince (I want so much to raid the quince tree at Asano-mama’s family house). Quince is peeled, cored and cut. The quince meat is purposely left to oxidize for 30 minutes, before being boiled in water for at least 15 minutes. After boiling, the quince meat is separated from the cooking water. The quince meat is put into a food mill, and that gets mixed with sugar. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring constantly. When complete, this quince paste is put into a mold and left to solidify. Meanwhile, the cooking water from the quince is used again to boil the leftover quince peels and cores. It cooks for 15 minutes, before the peels/cores are strained out. To the quince liquid, 50% sugar is added, and this is boiled for 25 minutes. The final product is jarred and cooled, and we have quince jelly.

The last dish is a poster child for Spain, paella! Carme doesn’t use the traditional paella dish. She prefers to use a stainless steel pan with straight sides. She prefers her paella unadulterated by other flavors. She doesn’t use broth for this – spring water only. The ingredients are shrimp, mussels, squid, sausage, pork ribs, bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, rice, water and olive oil. First, she take an onion confit, making sure that the onions get very caramelized. In a clean pan, she sears shrimp with some salt and oil. when the searing is done, the shrimp is removed from the pan. Then, the same process of searing and removing happens in the following order:
squid
pork ribs
sausages
mushrooms
bell peppers

At the point, the onion confit is added to the pan to started deglazing the pretty fond that has accumulated. To this, the raw tomato is added. The bell peppers are returned first to the pan, along with some sweet sherry. Sausages, squid, and pork ribs are returned to the pan, spring water added and brought to a boil. Rice is added and cooked for 6 minutes. In a separate pan, heat up the mussels to open (dry heat is enough). Some aromatics are mixed in a mortar and pestle. Shrimp/mussels/aromatic are added to the main pan, which is finally left to finish cooking in the oven.

Sounds yummy, right?

Overall, it was a very different lecture from Jose Andres’ lecture. Carme is less about the visual swankiness and more about pure flavor and freshness, and Catalan cuisine. Her lecture might have been all pictures and no video but I left wanting to eat all the same.  ^_~

[I was surprised at the size of the lecture that night. There were a few empty seats that remained empty. This was the first time that I had ever seen empty seats. Then again, Halloween was the night before so perhaps too many people were hung over? Either way, I suspect next week will be well attended. My friend R* has attended the last three lectures with me. I don’t know if she’ll make it to the next lecture since she’s out of state for a bit. If she is, then my evening will probably be crazier. Attending the lectures without a buddy system is quite tiresome.]

~Mikan

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