This entry is going to be on the short side because the lecture ended a little later than usual, which meant that I got home later than usual.
Tonight’s lecture was Heat Transfer (for the science portion), and The Science of Paella! Only it kind of wasn’t. haha. Paella would take too long to demonstrate in a lecture so Raul Balam Ruscalleda (son of Carme Ruscalleda) of the restaurant Moments and his service manager Jordi gave us a run through of “soupy rice with lobster.” If we were in Barcelona, it would have been soupy rice with prawns. But we’re in New England, so you gotta make like the locals… especially since the Ruscalleda motto is to use local ingredients.
There was also a random side dish demonstrated. The side dish (which I didn’t think to take a picture of) was potato chips-egg white omelet (I’m not even kidding), topped with a raw egg yolk. The egg yolk portion was cool. Raul took an empty cooking syringe, struck the top center of the yolk, and removed the center, being very careful to leave the original spherical yolk surface. Then he took a second syringe, filled it with a caramelized onion cream, and injected into the egg yolk, thereby replacing the center of the egg yolk with onions.
I also learned that eggs in Spain are marked from 0 through 3. A 3 means that the hen was raised in a very tight cage, and a zero means that the hen was allowed to roam freely. 1 through 2 are freer but still mostly caged birds.
Anyway, getting back to the food – their caramelized onions are a labor of love. In the Ruscalleda kitchens, they slow cook onions for four hours to get a deep, dark brown mass. The onions are cooked in water (the picture says mineral water, but they really just mean plain still water) and olive oil to get what they want. I guess it’s like the bacon method in the book Ruhlman’s Twenty. You cook in water because it’s even heat and lets you tenderize your ingredient. And then toward the end, all the water is gone and the ingredient then cooks in the fat. I wrote down 1/2 kilo of onions with 100-150mL water and 50mL olive oil, but that can’t be right because Raul mentioned that you start with enough water to cover the onions by about a finger (it makes me think of cooking rice – I think perhaps he meant enough water to reach the first knuckle?) so I’m very confused.
But the main dish started with chopped lobster heads, seasoned and browned. Meanwhile, a picada was made from olive oil, concentrated tomato, sherry, garlic, parsley, and fresh tomatoes. The picada was added to the lobster heads and browned some more. When everything was very fragrant, boiling water was added to the stockpot, and everything was let to boil for 15 minutes. Then, the picada was strained with a chinois, and set aside the broth.
The lobster bodies were boiled, de-shelled, and then set aside.
For the rice, he started by briefly searing parsley, caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes (also made in-house at 100C for 5 hours with salt and sugar), and garlic. To this, the picada-lobster broth was added. When it was boiling, Vialone rice was added. (If you are not making “soupy” rice, you can toast the rice before adding your liquids.) When the rice was done, season and sear the lobster bodies and put them atop the soupy rice.
That was my inelegant shot of my soupy rice sample. I would have tried harder, but it was late! We had a slow down during the demo when the outlet for the main induction burners stopped working. But Raul was a good sport about it and kept us in good spirits.
And for fun, I’d like to end this post on a silly note. It’s not Grant Achatz’s level of shoe awesomeness but Jordi was sporting a nice pair!