New York Culinary Experience Technique-a-thon: Pressure Cooking Eggs, Super Rich Sorbet, N'Stuff

 posted by Nastassia Lopez with some comments by Dave Arnold

Dave and Nils - it's not a demo without a circulator.
Dave and Nils - it's not a demo without a circulator.

This weekend marked the second annual New York Culinary Experience (hosted by The FCI and New York Magazine)—a hands-on event where attendees cook side-by-side with some of the best chefs in the industry. Events started on Saturday morning and ended Sunday night with a reception in L’Ecole. Dave and Nils demo’d at 2pm on Sunday to a sold out room of tech-curious New Yorkers. 

We used some techniques we haven’t fully explained before, so we’ll emphasize them with *stars* and go into excruciating detail.


Nils chilling the glasses with liquid nitrogen while Dave prepares the Cold Buttered Rum
Nils chilling the glasses with liquid nitrogen while Dave prepares the Cold Buttered Rum

Naturally, Nils and Dave bookended their class with cocktails.  They started with a twist on an old winter favorite, Cold Buttered Rum, and ended with (according to Dave) the Best Damn Gin and Tonic they have ever made.  They used Tanqueray gin, clarified lime juice (using stupid simple agar clarification), simple syrup and quinine sulfate (be extremely careful with quinine, see our recipe in the rotary evaporation primer). The mix was chilled with liquid nitrogen till it got syrupy (about -20 C), carbonated at 40 psi, and served in liquid nitrogen chilled champagne flutes. Damn good.

*Egg Toast with Caviar*

We love eggs in every shape, size or animal type.
We love eggs in every shape, size or animal type.

They then unveiled one of their newest creations (and introduced the class to the many wonders of a pressure cooker) with a dish that debuted at last week’s Star Chefs convention, Egg Toast with Caviar (or as we like to call it around here: Egg on Egg on Egg).

We have been pressure cooking whole eggs for a long time.  Pressure cooked eggs undergo Maillard reactions and turn brown.  Eggs undergo Maillard reactions at lower than normal temperatures because egg whites are alkaline.  Alkalinity promotes Maillard reactions.  The whites have a toasted… well… “brown” taste.  The yolks taste like cooked chicken giblets.  We like ’em.  When we tried to cook the whites and yolks separately, we noticed the yolks didn’t have that awesome giblet taste.  We thought that the lack of alkalinity was the culprit so we told one of the interns to put in some baking soda (it’s alkaline). Well, he messed up and put in baking powder instead (I’m calling you out, Ed!).  The results were really cool. What we got was something with the texture of bread that was made entirely of egg yolks.  It even toasts like bread. Gluten-free, baby.

3 large yolks beaten with 2.25 grams of baking powder makes a muffin in the pressure cooker. On left it is sliced and toasted.
3 large yolks beaten with 2.25 grams of baking powder makes a muffin in the pressure cooker. On right it is sliced and toasted.

When we re-ran the experiment with baking soda the results sucked (thanks, Ed!). Varying the amount of powder changes the texture of the egg bread.

Left to right: 1 gram of baking powder per yolk is like a hamburger bun; .75 grams of baking powder per yolk makes a firmer toast (.5 grams is denser still); 1 gram of baking soda per yolk explodes and tastes horrific; .75 grams of baking soda per yolk looks weird and tastes bad.
Left to right: 1 gram of baking powder per yolk is like a hamburger bun; .75 grams of baking powder per yolk makes a firmer toast (.5 grams is denser still); 1 gram of baking soda per yolk explodes and tastes horrific; .75 grams of baking soda per yolk looks weird and tastes bad.

Here is the recipe we made:

Egg Toast with Caviar
Serves 8

6 large egg yolks
4½ g baking powder
Salt, to taste
6 large egg whites
Butter, for sautéing
Italian farm-raised caviar, to taste
Chives, finely cut

Mix together egg yolks, baking powder, and salt. Divide the mixture into two ramekins. Place egg whites and salt in a Ziploc bag, and remove any air. Mix together by squishing the mixture by hand, on the outside of the bag.  If you have a vacuum machine, pack them in a vacuum bag instead and mix them.  If you mix the salt and egg whites normally you’ll incorporate air and the whites will souffle in the pressure cooker. Hold the bag up and allow the air to rise to the top, then cut the bottom and allow air-free whites to flow into two ramekins. Pressure cook the whites and yolks at 15 psi  (second ring) for 40 minutes, and let cool naturally. If you vent the pressure cooker to speed the cooling process the yolks will explode. Slice the yolks into cylindrical discs and sauté in butter on both sides for a toast-like texture and flavor. Finely chop the whites, and place on top of the yolk disc. Pile a hefty spoonful of Italian farm-raised caviar on top and garnish with chives.

Pecan Yōkan

Pecan Yōkan, which has become a staple in the lab, was spun, spread, dehydrated, and tasted all around the room.  The recipe is already on the blog but we’ll include it for completeness and full deliciousness disclosure.

Pecan Yōkan
Yield: Approximately 2 lb

5 g agar agar
300 g water
200 g sugar
340 g pecan butter

Disperse/whisk agar into cold water, then bring mixture to a boil and continue boiling until agar is fully dissolved. Whisk in sugar and heat to dissolve. Remove sugar, agar, and water mixture from heat and quickly whisk in pecan butter until fully incorporated. Either pour yōkan mixture into plastic wrap-lined mold or spread thin on Silpat/dehydrator sheets to cut noodles or create crisps. For noodles, place thinly spread yōkan mixture in fridge to set. Hand cut noodles and gently lift them away from Silpat.To create yōkan crisps, place thinly spread yōkan mixture in dehydrator at 135°F for 1 to 3 hours. If left too long in the dehydrator, the fat from the pecan butter will start to create little bubbles, so keep an eye on it while it’s drying.

Scallop Tartare

The delicious scallops.
The delicious scallops.

Then came Scallop Tartare with Smoked Potato Cream, Mustard Seed, and Vacuum Infused/Flash pickled apples, a dish many remembered from Nils’ showdown on Top Chef Masters.

*Scallop with Smoked Potato Cream, Mustard Seeds, and Curried Apples*
Serves 12

For the Curried Apples
2 apples, diced
1 qt curry oil

For the Mustard Seeds
½ c yellow mustard seeds
1 qt apple cider vinegar

3 T simple syrup

For the Potato Cream
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes
2 ½ oz shallots, sliced
1 oz butter

½ c white wine

1 sprig tarragon
½ qt chicken stock

9 oz crème fraîche

Smoke powder, to taste

For the Scallops
Extra virgin olive oil

10 scallops, diced
Finely cut chives

*For the Curried Apples*
To make curry oil heat your favorite curry powder with grapeseed oil  till the desired taste and color are reached, then strain the oil through a coffee filter (a tedious, tedious job). Place diced apples in a container with the curry oil. Put in a vacuum machine. When it reaches full vacuum plus 30 seconds, turn off the machine with the power switch (not the stop button). This will maintain a vacuum in the machine.  The apples will still be bubbling because air will still be coming out of them. Let them sit till they stop bubbling. Turn machine back on to let the air back in and force the oil into the apples. Run one more complete vacuum cycle to accentuate the infusion and infuse any stragglers, then strain the oil, and reserve the apples.  The apples will have taken on a great color and will be flavored by the curry oil without tasting greasy.  We think of it as a self-contained vinaigrette (with the apples providing the acidity).

*For the Mustard Seeds*
Blanch mustard seeds in three changes of boiling water.  This will remove the bitter, dirty taste that mustard seeds have. Then, place mustard seeds in a pressure cooker with the vinegar. Make sure you add enough vinegar.  You should add as much vinegar as you would add water to cook rice. Cook for 20 minutes at 15 psi (second ring). Strain, reserve mustard seeds and add simple syrup to taste, season with salt. Don’t add the sugar before you pressure cook. It will scorch.
The pressure cooking removes the pungency of the mustard seeds and gives them a great texture.  They pop like caviar.

*For the Potato Cream*
This technique takes advantage of a classic no-no.  We all know that overworking mashed potatoes makes them goopy and bad.  What if you add extra liquid and really blend them to create a gluey texture on purpose? This awesome stuff happens: Peel and cut potatoes into slices. Sauté shallots in the butter.
 Deglaze with white wine and reduce by two thirds. Add potatoes, tarragon, and chicken stock. Cook until the potatoes are soft (really cook them, undercooked potatoes for purée are one of Nils’ pet peeves). Strain potatoes, reserve liquid, and remove tarragon. Put potatoes in a blender, add crème fraîche and some of the liquid from the potato mixture, and blend until they reach a smooth and creamy consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and smoke powder.   We use smoke powder because we like it and it is easier and more consistent than conventionally smoking potatoes. Allow potato cream to cool. Put some in the bottom of a small bowl.

For the Scallops
Mix scallops with the mustard seeds, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on top of potato cream. Place the apples on top of the scallops and sprinkle with chives.

Butter and Bacon Poached Lobster with Napa Cabbage, Chorizo and Broccoli Purée

Dave. Lobster-whispering.
Dave. Lobster-whispering.

The main event: Cooking live lobsters. Each pair of students got their own lobster which was par-cooked in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes and immediately placed in an ice water bath for 10 minutes. When the lobster meat was de-shelled, it was placed in a Ziploc bag with clarified bacon-infused butter, and circulated in a water bath for 10 minutes at 65 degrees C (you could do it in a pot). Each tail was served with sides of puréed broccoli, cabbage, and chorizo. No real tech here, just good food.  The class was, after all, aimed at home cooks (actually, there was some pretty freaking cool tech but we are saving it for a future post. Heh heh).

It's not all butter, bacon, lobster and chorizo! We threw in some veggies (cabbage and broccoli) for good measure.
It's not all butter, bacon, lobster and chorizo! We threw in some veggies (cabbage and broccoli) for good measure.

Butter and Bacon Poached Lobster, with Napa Cabbage, Chorizo, and Broccoli Purée

Serves 8
 For the Lobster
1 t butter, per tail
1 t bacon fat, per tail
8 lobster tails

For the Napa Cabbage and Chorizo
1 head Napa cabbage
50 g (1¾ oz) sugar
12 g (½ oz) salt
265 mL (9 oz) apple cider vinegar
2 pieces chorizo, skin off and diced into 1/3-in cubes

For the Broccoli Purée
2 L (2 qt) milk
1 T thyme
25 g (¾ oz) fennel seeds
3 heads broccoli
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste


For the Lobster
Place the butter, bacon fat, and lobster tail in a Ziploc bag. Exclude air from the bag by immersing it in water while squeezing out the air (don’t let water into the bag). Cook at 65°C for 12 minutes or till done.

For the Napa Cabbage and Chorizo
Cut the heart of the cabbage (white stem) into noodle shapes and place in a bowl. Add sugar, salt, and vinegar to the cabbage, and mix well. Press the mixture for several hours or overnight. Sauté the chorizo in a pan until it begins to brown. Add the cabbage and sauté for an additional two minutes. Good stuff.

*For the Broccoli Purée*
Broccoli purée is often bad.  The color is for crap.  What’s funny is that the classic mistake happens not in the cooking but in the cooling.  After the purée is cooked and blended, it must be cooled down instantly to maintain the color. We use a high powered Vita-Prep to blend our puree.  The Vita-Prep is so powerful, in fact, that the purée doesn’t cool at all—it continues to heat. If you blend slowly or use a weak blender you may have problems with your purée losing its vibrant green color before you can cool it. Here at the school we cool our purée by spreading it in a thin layer in a hotel pan set on ice.  We stir it like the Dickens to chill it really fast.  At home this would quickly exhaust your ice supply.  You can put the purée in a Ziploc and knead the bag under ice water. 

Here is our technique: Place milk into a pot, add thyme and fennel seeds, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer in order to infuse the milk. Strain and reserve. Separate the broccoli florets from the stems.  They cook at different rates.  Slice the stems thinly and chop florets into tiny pieces. Bring infused milk back to a boil and add the sliced broccoli stems. Cook a while and add the florets. Cook till tender. Remove broccoli from milk and immediately purée until very smooth in a blender, season to taste, and cool it fast like your life depended on it.

*Pistachio Sorbet*

Dave helping out on the pistachio mixing.
Dave helping out on the pistachio mixing.

This was the very best (and simplest!) dessert of the day.  Pistachios were placed in a centrifuge, which separates the oils from the paste. The thick Kermit-the-Frog-green pistachio paste was mixed with sugar and water and placed in a mixer. While spinning, liquid nitrogen was added to produce a dense, creamy, no dairy sorbet. I’d be willing to bet you’ve never has as rich a sorbet.  Milk or cream would simply muddy the flavor of the pistachio.  To finish we garnished the sorbet with emerald-green pistachio oil.  Here’s the recipe:

Pistachio Sorbet
1 Kilo Water
640 grams Pistachio paste
12 egg yolks
249 g simple syrup
Mix and freeze with LN2, Paco Jet or ice cream machine of your choosing.

At the reception, Dave and Nils mixed their final drink, a Honeycrisp Apple and Tequila Cocktail, made of clarified, greenmarket Honeycrisps and 901 Tequila that was carbonated with 50% CO2 and 50% N2O.

Thanks for those who stopped by, and for those who didn’t,  see you next year!

10 thoughts on “New York Culinary Experience Technique-a-thon: Pressure Cooking Eggs, Super Rich Sorbet, N'Stuff

  1. longest. post. ever.
    Thanks for the idea! i.e. cooking souffle in the pressure cooker
    Keep up the cool shit peoples

  2. Hi there, i really loved the idea of preassure cooked egg-buns, but i don’t quite get it, do you use a preassure cooker and you steam the buns?
    i think i’m missing something

    1. All you do is mix the baking powder and egg yolks together with a fork (also add some salt), put them in ramekins, and pressure cook them. The pressure cooker does the steaming. You should put a trivet in the bottom of your pressure cooker to lift the ramekins above the water line so boiling water doesn’t spit into them. The only problems we have had are when people release the pressure on the cooker instaead of leeting it come down naturally (the yolks expand then deflate), or when the pressure cooker was started with hot water (same thing happened but we aren’t sure why, could be a fluke, we are checking today), or when the yolks have too much air incorporated (like when blended with a vita-prep). We are running more tests to see what can go wrong. I’ll post them to comments.

  3. Just tried the pressure-cooked eggs. Unbelievable, and so simple.

    I actually put them inside a parchment muffin case inside the ramekin, as they are easier to release.

    I tried them with topped with a fried quail’s egg, and a few grains of maldon sea salt, and a tomato concasse.

    I was wondering if the quail’s egg would be killed by the flavour of the “bread”, but instead it seems to enhance the richness of the whole thing.

    They seem to keep better in the fridge, under clingwrap (i.e. they are egg-like not bread like in that sense).

  4. Oh, I also beat the first batch too much, and they puffed up and deflated, even though cooled slowly. The second batch I just blended gently with a fork, trying not to get too much air in, and they worked just fine.

    1. Something one of the interns figured out: If you don’t salt the yolks enough, they deflate. The salt must be helping out the protein structure.

Comments are closed.