It is week two at the online academy of Matthew Kenney, Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine. To recap, week one was mainly exercises in knife skills and flavor balancing, as well as an introduction to lactofermentation. In week two, we progressed onto more complex recipes involving dehydration.
The daily ritual of slicing and dicing was performed. But now more attention was paid to precision to the anal extent of measuring the cuts with a ruler. In learning any new skill the initial stages are the most tiresome, but once you get the hang and feel of it, that skill will become second nature. For example, when a recipe calls for “1/4-inch batons,” you can now easily visualize the thickness of the cut without needing a ruler.
In week one we explored flavor balancing with nut milks and smoothies; in week two this continued with dressings and sauces. In particular I enjoyed the mango tamarind chutney, which includes tamari, ume, miso and tamarind. It was used in temaki hand rolls. While the heavy-handed Thai-style mango chutney may seem out-of-place with delicate Japanese cuisine, it actually pairs well since it is used in place of seasoned rice.
Dehydrating (without a dehydrator)
There were many recipes prepared by dehydration. These took the form of crispy cheese shards, croutons, taco shells, and marinated mushrooms under the guise of anchovies incarnate. I noticed many of the recipes for dehydration used ground flax, perhaps to provide structure to the product less everything dries up to nothingness. We put together the individual components into a Caesar salad. As dehydration concentrates flavors, you can only imagine how the salad was gastronomic utopia! The parmesan of pine nuts, nutritional yeast, shallots and lemon juice was sharp, moreish and savory; rosemary croutons radiated a flowery rosemary aroma; shiitake anchovies could pass off as the real deal with the mushrooms’ sliced shape and umami seasoning of ume, tamari and apple cider providing a mimic to the tiny fish.
I must mention that all the reciped were completed without a dehydrator, relying instead on a conventional oven heated on low and propped open. In case you are wondering whether special equipment is required to take courses at Matthew Kenney online, the answer is no it is not necessary, although recommended.
I went fancy with the pastry brush in plating Tostadas. This is the secret tool that chefs use to make artful strokes with sauces which transforms a dish to something instagram-worthy and marketable. I also learnt never to buy wax paper again because it sticks. I ingested some wax with my tostadas but no harm. I had wanted to shape the tostada into a fluted taco bowl style, but alas, not all experiments turn out right.
Another way of plating sauces: lines and pulls with the back of a spoon. Unfortunately this almond sauce was not heavy enough to stand up to its form. More plating tips at these links: Carolynn’s blog and Good Food.
The raw and vegan ice cream we learnt to make was based on soaked cashews and coconut meat. We could decide on our own flavor and my choice was After Eight, an opportunity to test out peppermint spirits from Herb Pharm. Without an ice cream maker, I had to manually double churn with a food processor to smoothen out the ice crystals. The final outcome was a firm and creamy ice cream that melted slowly over the tongue. As much as I am a banana ice cream fiend, the full-fat kind was a different experience; more full-bodied and sturdy. I am also able to put a name to that lovely shape – quenelle – often practiced by artisan chefs.
So far it has been very intensive balancing work and then wrecking a storm in the kitchen at night but I am enjoying it all! Stay tuned for week 3!