Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh
Specialty Equipment: pressure cooker, thermomix, water bath, vacuum machine, freeze-drier, rotary evaporator, dehydrator, royale moulds
Specialty Ingredients: gelatine 170 Bloom, gellan LT100, gellan F, sheets of edible gold leaves, golden frankincense tears, twig of myhhr
Dish as in The Fat Duck (can’t find any photos of the dish as served in The Fat Duck):
Finishing and eating this recipe felt like a blast from the past. I made all the components four months ago, but couldn’t finish it due to a lack of fresh sea urchins. To save me from cooking everything again I chucked the whole lot in the freezer, hoping it would keep until my fishmonger could get his hands on the little sea buggers. In the end everything retained its flavor, but the texture of some things was affected. Nothing serious though. It’s a good thing, cause looking back at the recipe I have to say it’s one of those ‘crazy ass’ ones. Multiple stocks, a royale (jellied stock), pickles and more.
Since the making of the recipe dates back a couple of months it took some time to decipher all the photos on my computer and order them. I think it went something like this – ‘four months earlier…’
Trying out the Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh recipe is like turning your kitchen in a stock-making factory. You need to make no less than five of them. To save time I chopped all the vegetables for every stock from the get-go.
One stock, the white langoustine stock, stands more or less apart from the other four, and is used for the royale mix. The recipe instructs to remove the gills, which appear when you separate the body from the head.
Stock number #1, the white langoustine one cooking in the pressure cooker.
The stock is then mixed with cream, gelatine, gellan f, gellan LT100 and salt, just like the one from the Roast Turbot dish. It is topped by a tomato and saffron gel, made from tomatoes, vegetables, chicken bouillon, saffron, sherry vinegar and gellan F. With the tomato gel, and also the langoustine gel, I had to be swift with filling the mould, because the gellan sets extremely fast and didn’t give me a few minutes as described in the recipe. In a number of other recipes I had the same problem, so I wonder how they go about this in The Fat Duck.
Next up were the other stocks: dark langoustine, onion and a vegetable & vermouth one (technically a reduction). The first three followed the same principle of sweating the ingredients in oil and finishing it in a pressure cooker. With the vermouth reduction there was no need to sweat the vegetables.
The dark langoustine stock.
The onion stock.
The Vermouth reduction.
The vegetable stock required some additional steps: incorporating a lot of beurre noisette in the stock, chilling it overnight and clarifying it with egg whites. I think the brown butter is used to boost the meatiness of the stock.
After making all the bouillons you blend them together, add gelatine and use ice filtration (freeze-thaw) to give a crystal clear consommé. I wonder why you have to clarify the vegetable stock with egg whites before you put the stocks through an ice filtration process, because ice filtration would also clarify the vegetable stock. Why the extra step? At the Fat Duck the consommé is put through a freeze-drier to extract moisture before setting the stock with gelatine. I skipped the freeze-drier and just reduced the stock with heat and hoped all the proportions would work out. I also left out the edible gold leaf to wrap the stock bars in to spare my bank account. No 3 stars to uphold in my home.
I made one gelatine-set stock bar from part of the stock. The rest I left ‘untouched’.
A second garnish next to the royale is a langoustine roulade. It consists of langoustines glued together with transglutaminase. With the roulade it is important to remove the intestinal tract when you peel the langoustines to prevent having to slice open the back of the langoustines, which would give the roulade a rough surface.
The final garnish is a saffron yolk, which involves cooking eggs at 64˚C for 1 hour. An egg cooked on a low temperature is one the most famous examples of low temperature/sous vide cooking. The ‘slow cooked egg’. This was my first time and I must say at 64˚C the yolk attains an incredible dough like texture, somewhere between a soft and hard cooked egg, but also completely different. Sometimes I really wonder why ‘modern cooking’ and, for instance a slow cooked egg, gets so much stick. Sure, it may be overused, but why is it not accepted as another cooking technique like boiled, scrambles and poached eggs. I defy anyone who tastes a 64˚C yolk to say it sucks.
Finishing the yolk with saffron.
The plate is finished with pickled onions and pistachios.
Only the centre of the onion is used.
For the pistachios you need polished ones and cook them of in white soy sauce and cardamom. I did the polishing myself, although I’m not sure if I ended up with store bought polished ones. As for the white soy sauce, I mentioned it before, I can’t find it! I’ve been to every Japanese grocery store in Amsterdam (and every other Oriental produce store) and only one sold it, but in 3 litre containers. The same store said they sold the stuff to restaurant Yamazoto, a Michelin starred Japanese restaurant located inside the Okura Hotel, and I even went there, but could not seduce them sell some of their limited supply. See the pictures below where I, some silly guy keeping up a blog, asked a manager of the hotel if I could score some soy sauce. I substituted white soy sauce for a mix if sushi vinegar and light soy sauce.
To finish everything, four months later, ahum, with fresh sea urchins, I pulled everything from the freezer, removed a number of tongues from sea urchins, heated some water for the stock cube, added a few drops of frankincense essential oil to the water (instead of extracting essential oil from golden frankincense tears with a rotary evaporator) and cooked the roulade. It was my first time preparing sea urchins, but found out it is not that hard. I cut a circle from the bottom, around the mouth, and picked up the tongues with a small spoon. Plating was a bit difficult, because my plate was too small for all the components, so a bit more space would’ve been welcome.
I really didn’t know what to expect from the dish. I first saw it on the Christmas special of In Search of Perfection, which invoked feelings of ’what the hell is that on the plate’ and ‘that is one thing I know I will never make in my life’. Turns out not to be true, so I started eating and let me tell you it is freaking delicious. It’s incomparable, nothing like I’ve ever eaten. Sea urchins, langoustines, egg yolk, cardamom and pistachios go hand in hand, delivering a coherence of flavors. The sea urchins tasted like a slightly bitter, concentrated shellfish stock, so it went beautifully with the roulade and langoustine consommé. The freezer did affect the texture of the royale and the egg yolk, especially the last one, turning it a bit grainy and dry (so had to add water, which affected color and flavor). I’m really glad I made this recipe, a unique experience. The downside? Just look at the list of specialty equipment and ingredients. Yikes.