Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge for July: Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered

The Daring Cooks' Challenge for July was hosted by Sketchy, of Sketchy's Kitchen. Sketchy apparently has a fascination with molecular gastronomy, or molecular cuisine, and decided to inspire and challenge us with a dish called Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered, by Chef Grant Achatz. The dish can be found in the Alinea cookbook. Alinea is a Chicago restaurant opened by Achatz in 2005, and named by Gourmet as the country's best a year later.

After mastering Shrimp Gyoza for my first Daring Cooks' Challenge, I anxiously awaited the announcement of the next challenge. Once announced, I was a little intimidated, to say the least. However, I looked forward to tasting skate for the first time, and I was very intrigued with the concept of molecular cuisine and creating the powders.

I checked with my local fish markets, but was unable to locate any skate. One referred me to an Asian market and they did have one, very large, skate wing on the day I visited. I stood there looking at it for about 5 minutes, but it really didn't look (or smell) too fresh. I then contemplated ordering it on-line, and found a supplier out of Oregon, but ultimately opted to use large scallops. Sketchy said we could substitute flounder or cod, but the scallops I found were so big and beauteous. I believe the dish would be equally delicious with any mild, white fish, such as halibut, cod or Chilean sea bass. My scallops turned out lovely, and shrimp or lobster may work nicely as well.

The uniqueness, and true challenge of this dish, is getting your feet wet with the concept of molecular cuisine, and creating the flavored powders: Caper/Red Onion, Citrus, Cilantro/Parsley and Brown Butter.

When plating the final dish, the first three powders are spooned on the plate in little mounds and then swirled to depict a hurricane design. The fish is plated beside the powders on a bed of sliced bananas and thinly sliced rounds of green beans and the Brown Butter powder is sprinkled on the top of the fish. Before taking a bite, you simply dip the fish into the powders. The goal is to get a little of the fish, banana, green beans, and powder in your mouth all at once. The flavors are concentrated and phenomenal. Here are the three powders swirled on the plate.

Skate, Traditional Flavors Powdered
(Sketchy provided the following recipe, with his alterations, so I am essentially reprinting his version here). My notes/conversions are italicized.


4 skate wings
* Beurre monte
* 300g fresh green beans (10.5 oz)
sea salt/kosher salt
1 banana
454g butter - 4 sticks
300g lemons (2 lemons)
5g citric acid/vitamin C tablet (about 5 vitamin C tablets)
150g cilantro (5.3 oz - about 1 large bunch)
150g parsley (5.3 oz - about 1 large bunch)
100g dried banana chips (3.5 oz)
300g spray dried cream powder (or powdered milk) (10.5 oz)
100g cup minced red onion (3.5 oz)
200g capers (brined, not oil) (7 oz)

Here's a handy-dandy conversion calculator if you want to recheck my conversions...and I encourage you to do so!

The powders are prepared ahead of time (I prepared them the day before and think it would be too much to try to prepare everything the same day you are serving). Once dried, all powders should be pulsed in a coffee grinder/spice mill/mortar and pestle then passed through a chinois or fine mesh strainer (I used a coffee grinder and chinois).

Citrus Powder:
300g lemons (2 lemons)
1000g simple syrup (about 4.3 cups)
5g citric acid/Vitamin C tablet (about five 250 mg. tablets)

Zest 300g of lemons (2 lemons). Remove the pith from the zest and poach in the simple syrup three times (this was a little confusing, but I divided the simple syrup in 3 batches, and then poached the lemon zest for about 5 minutes in a fresh batch of simple syrup each time). Dry with paper towels and move to a dehydrating tray (130 degrees for 12 hours). Pulse the zest in a coffee grinder, pass through chinois, and mix with citric acid/vitamin C powder (I searched high and low for citric acid, to no avail, and ended up substituting 5 g vitamin C tablets from ascorbic acid).

Cilantro/Parsley Powder
150g cilantro (1 bunch)
150g parsley (1 bunch)

Blanch the parsley in boiling saltwater for 1 second, submerge the leaves in ice water for 3 minutes. Dry on paper towels and place on dehydrator tray (130 degrees for 12 hours). Grind and pass through chinois.

Blanched parsley and cilantro, spread on baking sheet.

Dried parsley and cilantro.

Ground and passed through sieve.

Red Onion Powder
100g minced red onions (3.5 oz)

Dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees. Pulse in grinder and pass through chinois.

Caper Powder
200g capers (get the ones packed in brine/vinegar)

Run the capers under cold water for two minutes to remove some of the brine. Dry on paper towels and dehydrate for 12 hours at 130 degrees. Once dry, pulse and sift the powder. Mix it with the onion powder.

We had the option of using a dehydrator, microwave, or oven for drying the ingredients. I followed the oven drying method described by Carol Blymire of Alinea At Home. Carol's post was extremely helpful in answering many questions I had with the recipe and she has included lots of photos. Carol has cooked her way through the entire Alinea and French Laundry cookbooks! She must be an amazing woman with true patience...and time! (I've made the Mac & Cheese from my French Laundry cookbook, but that's it so far!)
Into the oven for drying.

After about 3 hours: dried capers and red onions

Capers and red onion powders, going through the chinois, to be mixed together.

Brown Butter Powder

100g Dried banana chips (unsweetened if possible - many are coated in honey - the freeze dried ones would be brilliant) (3.5 oz)
300g spray dried cream powder (10.5 oz)

If you cannot find the cream powder, you can substitute Bob's red mill non fat dry milk powder, or even carnation instant milk powder. The substitutions will alter the flavor a little, but you will still get the general idea (I used Organic Valley's Organic Nonfat Dry Milk, with great results).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, sift the cream powder into a fine layer on a silpat or on parchment. Bake for 4 minutes, then remove from heat. If it bakes for too long, it will burn. Be very cautious with all powders in the oven. They all go from browned to burnt in a few seconds (Mine took a little longer than 4 minutes).

Grind the banana chips in a coffee grinder and mix with the toasted cream powder. Pass this through a chinois and reserve.

Prepared powders, reserved

The next day, I finished the dish and served my guests (who were extremely patient while John and I fussed with plating and photographing)

* For green beans, slice each beans into very thin rounds (2 mm)

* Beurre Monte: 454g butter (4 sticks, 1 pound) cubed and cold, and 60g water (2 oz).

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time. This should from an emulsion. Keep this heated, but under 195 degrees. The emulsion will not break - this is your poaching liquid.

Prepare the Green Beans and Skate

Prepare the skate - 50G v shaped cuts are recommended.

Green Beans: Bring 100g water (7 tbsp), 100g (7 tbsp) beurre monte, and green bean rounds to a boil over high heat. Cook until the water has evaporated (about 3 minutes), when the pan is almost dry, remove it from heat and season with 3g salt.

Skate, or other fish: Bring 300g (10.5 oz) water and 300g (10.5 oz) beurre monte to simmer over medium heat, add skate wings and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and flip the wing over and let rest in pan for two more minutes. Transfer to warming tray lined with parchment and season with 5 grams of fine sea salt. The timing was about the same for scallops.


Take the tip of a small spoon and make a small mound of the citrus powder, the onion/caper powder, and the cilantro/parsley powder. Swirl these around in a hurricane type pattern. I found that it is easier, and you get finer lines if you lightly shake the plate to flatten out the mounds, then swirl the spoon through it to get the pattern.

Peel the banana into very think slices (3mm). Fan three slices on the plate, place green beans on top and place skate wing portion on top. On the tall edge, sprinkle the brown butter powder.

I asked John to make my powders into three little skates, swimming across the plate, to make up for my substitution of scallops. What artistry!

Thank you, Sketchy, for hosting an exciting challenge. I am so happy to be a member of The Daring Kitchen, founded by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice. I recently joined the Daring Bakers, and am gearing up for my first challenge with that group, to revealed later this month.

Be sure to see what the other Daring Cooks have created, by visiting the blogroll here.


Audax said...

I just your posting on the DCs forums and your reveal posting is even better. That last pix is so stunning that skate shaped powder is WOW. And the other pix of the swirls is goreous also - you have a real flair for this work. Wonderous work on this challenge. Yes the flavors are concentrated and phenomenal. This was an interestin ..no... intriguing (and intially scary) recipe great to see you were so so so successful. Cheers from Audax. Again love that skate plate top-notch. A

Anonymous said...

Your powders look really good on the plate. I love both the swirl and the three little ladles. Great job!

Lisa said...

From the moment I first saw your photo at the DK, I was in love with your dish! Love the scallops (I was going to use those initially myself) and the plating with the little skates in powder form are just adorable and lovely! Beautiful job!

Kai said...

Yum! Thanks for sharing your leftover powders, I will try them out tonight.

Margie said...

Excellent idea to use scallops. You (and your husband) definitely have a flair for presentation. The photos looks great and love the powdery shout-out to skate.

Sweet Kitchen said...

Your presentation is incredible! Both the skates and the swirls are awesome.

Anonymous said...

The presentation of your powders are my favorite of all the posts I have seen so far. Love the little skates.

I am also thinking that scallops were a great sub for skate. Better in my opinion than cod or flounder.

Lindsay Kae said...

I just love your presentation! Your pictures look fantastic too!

Anonymous said...

Your presentation is faboosh! I love the little skates... David deserves a pat on the back!

Laura said...

I love the little skates! What a great idea! Great job, and beautiful pictures!

Lauren said...

Beautiful job on this challenge!! I love your plating of the powders - so adorable =D.

Angela said...

Great post! I love the skate-powders -- they are too cute! I think scallops might be the best seafood sub for the skate. I used cod, but I think the flavor of scallops would be more suitable.

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++MIRA++ said...

i'm digging the colors.