Harvard SEAS lecture 12/4/11 – Ferran Adrià

I don’t have a ton of things to say about the lecture.  So, here’s a quick summary:

  • Translator? José Andrés .
  • Other guests spotted in the audience? Carles Tejedor, David Chang, Najat Kaanache, Harold McGee, and I think Pere Planagumà.
  • José Andrés is the most awesome Spanish translator. Even though he’s translating for his good friend, he can’t stop himself from putting his own spin on the dialogue. Early on, Ferran caught him for adding his own words to the translation, and Jose’s reaction was “I’m going to be fired.”
  • The lecture was about El Bulli as a restaurant, and the reinvention of El Bulli as a foundation. I think he said that the new building will start construction in 2014. There will be research materials, and it sounded like the 1,845 recipes in the El Bulli archives will be made available. At the moment, the foundation will be in three buildings. The research library, the meeting/conference/presentation room, and the kitchen. All the buildings will be environmentally friendly.
  • We saw videos of 1) making a hollow coconut milk ball with the aid of a balloon and some liquid nitrogen, 2) spaghetti where the it’s made from cheese instead of wheat, 3) spun threads of caramel, and 4) pressed flowers in not paper but cotton candy paper.
  • Ferran spent some time talking about the book “Natura” by Albert Adrià. It’s a book on desserts, but the food presentation is very organic and inspired by nature.

And that’s it! The semester of lectures is over.  (^_^)

is it for the scientist or for the cook in me?

I’m being bad and looking at upcoming cookbooks on Amazon.com.

More cookbooks aren’t exactly what I need right now. Shoes and boots are more important than cookbooks. I’m not nearly as bad as Stealth-eater, and I try really hard to be very discerning, but every once in a while, there will be a cookbook that I just want to read out of curiosity.

Right now, I’m eyeing two books that I had no idea were being published until this afternoon, and I think the former science student in me is thrilled. (fyi, I have my bachelor degree in Chemistry from a college which was known for their science programs above all else… not that I remember any of it.)

The first book is Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide by Thomas Keller. It is being published by Artisan and set for release on November 3, 2008. Sous vide? What is that? I have never heard of the term before.

Googling came up with a very helpful and interesting article from the NYTimes. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/magazine/14CRYOVAC.html) I was immediately hooked. To take from the article:

For decades, food was poached in sturdy plastic bags at traditional temperatures, simmering or boiling. Goussault discovered that keeping the temperature as low as possible and later cooling the food in several stages yielded a wildly different — and tastier — result. A piece of fish, for instance, can be cooked at about 130 degrees — a hot bath, essentially — for 30 minutes, then cooled, successively, at room temperature, in cold water, then in ice water, before being reheated and served. Cooking in bags at such low temperatures was long considered a recipe for botulism, but Goussault has debunked this fear, proving that the long cooking times followed by proper cooling kill bacteria with the same effectiveness as higher temperatures, also stabilizing the food so it can be stored longer before serving.

Doesn’t that catch your attention? I wonder how the process is still food safe. I’m sure more googling could demystify the whole process of sous vide, but I’m on my lunch hour right now. Sous vide seems to be a very exact process. Times and temperatures are key. So, I’m oh-so-curious about what Keller has come up with and written. And I wonder how well this book would work for home use. The Amazon description leaves too much to the imagination. I want to know what recipes are in it, dammit.

The other book I want to read is A Day at elBulli by Ferran Adrià, set to be published by Phaidon Press Inc and released on October 1, 2008. Anyone one who has any interest in molecular gastronomy should immediately recognize the title. For those who aren’t familiar with el Bulli, I give you the spiel as listed on the Amazon page.

Situated on a remote beach on the northeast coast of Spain, elBulli is famous for being the ultimate pilgrimage site for foodies, and a reservation that is nearly impossible to obtain. Each year elBulli is open for just six months, and receives more than 2 million requests for only 8,000 seats. Renowned for his spectacular ever-changing 30-course tasting menu, Adria ‘s pioneering culinary techniques have been applauded – and imitated – by top chefs around the globe for the past decade, and he was named one of Time magazine s 100 most influential people of our time.

If I had the money and time, I’d want to jet off to Spain immediately for an affair with a restaurant. Alas, I lack the money. I can only read about the experience through people who are wonderful enough to post descriptions and pictures on their blogs. A book with professional photos and words from the chef himself seems like it’d be an even better option.

Sure, I could be crazy enough to do things like spherification at home. Other people have. But, really, I can’t be bothered to go about buying some sodiam alginate and calcium lactate gluconate. At least with sous vide, I can get away with using Foodsaver bags (which I don’t currently have but would like to one day). I think I would just need invest in some sort of thermal circulator (which is probably not cheap but definitely the oddest thing for my mouth to say today).

Of course, I would also like to read The Heirloom Tomato: From Garden to Table: Recipes, Portraits, and History of the World’s Most Beautiful Fruit by Amy Goldman, but there’s nothing about it that screams “mad scientist”. XD

~ Mikan

(aside, I’m in the middle of writing up a review of Tremont 647. Hopefully, I’ll finish it today but no promises.)