Project 4: Experimenting in the Shadows of Mount Blumenthal

A6-HESTON-BLUMENTHALs I was going through college, I developed a rapt fascination for a chef by the name of Heston Blumenthal; not many but the most intense foodies in the US know about him, but almost everyone in the UK is familiar with this British celebrity chef, who’s had multiple ‘mini-series’ revolve around him making fantastical dinners or developing new foods and menus to help others. It’s okay if you don’t know about him, but you need to learn; seriously, after reading this, go look him up, do your best to find some episodes of his ‘Feasts’ or something online, and glory in the wonder that is one of the forefront culinary thinkers in the Molecular Gastronomy(though don’t use that term, most chefs hate it)/Extreme Modern cooking. As much as I admire and respect so many chefs throughout the country and world, Heston became my true idol, the one guy that I will always talk about with such intense acclaim and worship, no matter how depressed I get comparing how little I’ve done in my culinary explorations to the intense focus and work people like him have naturally done. But that’s another story and issue altogether.

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In front of the Hinds Head, the bar right across the street and also owned by Heston. Only pic we had all together before heading into dinner!

His restaurant, Fat Duck, has placed within the top 3 restaurants in a row, if not been placed at the top, at least five different times I believe; and of course it’s 3-michelin star. Nowadays other new restaurants that go to these certain ‘extreme’ lengths of service and dish creation have upseated it, but I would still choose Fat Duck any day as the one I’d go to if given the chance. I say ‘would’ because, well… I actually did. As insane as it still feels, I was lucky enough to fall into a certain set of circumstances that allowed me to actually eat a coursed out meal at my Idol’s restaurant, and with five of my precious family members no less. I won’t go into detail, but I can safely say this was an experience and memory that I myself will cherish for the rest of my life. God, me and my cousin still talk about it just between the two of us, not to mention sharing the story with others.

20150813_003825But to get to the reason for my next ‘project,’ I swear I’m not just trying to brag here, there’s a point! For, on top of just being there, we actually ended up going during the same week as my birthday, cuz that’s how it worked out. And unbeknownst of me, making me feel extra guilty but also extra blessed, my mom called the place one day and got a couple ‘surprises’ for me as a gift. One of them was a copy of ‘The Fat Duck Cookbook,’ his penultimate masterpiece with so many intense and detailed recipes along with pages and pages of talk on the science of things and his trip through figuring out many of these dishes. There are actually two copies, the ‘smaller’ one, which I believe is about the size of an encyclopedia, and the ‘Big Fat Duck’ book; I ended up getting the latter. Which made the travel back to the hotel quite laborious… well that and the empty bottles of wine I requested to keep as part of my collection. I was getting souvenirs dammit!! Did I get anything from England? No, of course not… but the restaurant needed all-important mementos!

Sadly, I haven’t actually gotten much of a chance to really TRY making any of the things in here; I mean, most of this isn’t things that one can just ‘bust out’ on a random weekend or weekday night. A lot of this requires special equipment, unique ingredients or chemicals, long and very-specific preparation procedures, or a combination of all that. And that can just be for a COMPONENT of a dish.

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Gotta tease you with a couple pictures at least! For instance, the legendary “Sound of the Sea,” complete w/ headphones inside conch shells that played, well, sounds of the sea

When starting this blog, I HAD toyed with the idea of diving headlong into trying to put together some of these dishes, one at a time and likely with long breaks in between, if I got around to it. Though with how schedule has gone, and again some of the VERY special things needed for some of these, very unlikely. But… a recent search for a certain kind of ice cream recipe brought me back to opening up this book. And I just don’t think I can forgive myself for not at least ATTEMPTING some of the various recipes found in here. So I thought hey, why the hell not? Let’s do it.

Now, will I get through most of the recipes in here? Oh hell no. I don’t think I’ll ever even try to put together one of the ‘complete dishes,’ just don’t have the time and resources to do that accurately. Most of this will likely be me playing around with different ‘components;’ so, making a specific caramel, an ice cream, cooking preparation for fish or lamb, garnishes, etc. I’ll try to do a few different ones in each post.

Will I even make it past the first post I’m already working on? Who knows. Will I at least be doing everything to perfection? Again, hell no, and for once I don’t feel bad about that. I’ll do what I can, but there will be plenty of occasions where I’ll have to develop my own methods, or find decent ingredient substitutions, in order to make something even close to this at home. At the end of the day, I’m still a home cook, and don’t have the money or time to get a lot of these things just to make something ONCE. Besides, I’m not looking for complete reproduction(there are plenty of blogs that have already done that, trust me); for me, it’s more about finding ways and reasons to explore some cool methods and ideas that I normally haven’t done on a frequent basis, a general honoring of this book, this man, my family and the memories they’ve given me.

With that said, let’s see how these specific posts will end up breaking down:

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My personal favorite of the night, “Botrytis Cinerea”

No particular title or focus on the introductory section, for one because I just feel like ‘getting into it’ with these, and secondly since some of these articles will feature a few different component recipes, some which may be related to each other and some which will come from all over the damn book. Like with my Bread Project, gonna take a more casual tone with whatever I feel like talking about before getting into details.

What I’m Doing Wrong

Basically listing and discussing any particular different that I’ll have to undergo, whether it’s having to use a regular apple instead of the listed British variety, rig up my own ‘sous vide’ technique, or if I actually decide to blatantly change up certain flavors/ingredients, likely due to cheapness.

Cool Science-y Stuff

Some of the cool facts that pertain to the particular ingredients and techniques used that Heston discusses in the book; there is no way I am going to list EVERYTHING pertaining to a recipe, or even get into the detail his book likely does, but there are some fun facts that are nice to discuss.

Truthfully, I’m not actually sure how much detail I’ll ever get into with this, or even if I’ll include it with every, or any, post I might do on this project. Right now my brain is heavily debating if I even want to put the effort into trying to write and blog about these specific excursions, or if I just want to enjoy them purely on my own whenever it is I can get to attempting something. We’ll see what ends up happening.

Recipes

Complete with pictures and ingredient lists! My plan is to just write down what I’M making, but I guess I should also include () next to any ingredient, and potentially directions, that I made changes to shouldn’t I?

Results

My reaction, how it actually turned out, how exactly I might adjust things to fix problems or suit my particular tastes in the future, and other things that I may want to ramble on about.

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Only a starting glance at the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party,” an iconic meal originally featured in one of Heston’s most famous Feasts.

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Hah, I’m teasing with the idea of adding a ‘Will Heston be proud of this?’ section, but I’m pretty damn sure I know how they’ll all end up!! No need to push myself further into depression right?

Well, we’ll see how this particular one ends up going about. Maybe I’ll also sneak into stores and steal recipes out of his ‘feast’ books to try too… I feel like some of them might be do-able at home.