"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Journey to the Center of Steve's Evil Kitchen

I know there's only a handful of people who bother reading my food posts. I'm okay with that.

It took a long time, but I discovered that Steve's Evil Kitchen has a philosophy of sorts. Somewhere between molecular gastronomy a la Jose Andres (neglecting diacritics again) and the basic food chemistry of Alton Brown or America's Test Kitchen and the food chemists of giant snackfood manufacturers, there's my kitchen, where I make things that are immediately recognizable, very flavorful and only seemingly easy, but in actuality unbelievably difficult.

As an example, I once had to entertain a professional chef and I made Jello; only the chef caught on to the "trick" and asked me how I did it. There are things you can't put into Jello, such as papaya and raw pineapple, as these have enzymes that break down the gelatin and these are listed on packages of gelatin. There are some things that don't get listed, because no one would try them. I made kiwi and ginger gelatin... supposedly impossible (and a third ingredient is necessary to make that flavor combination work). I found a way to do it and I'm not telling how it's done - mostly because it wasn't all that great. I like to think that somewhere, there's a chef with many piles of kiwi and ginger goop, trying to find out how it's done.

Cherry Fudge

I just nailed the cherry fudge recipe. You can buy "cherry fudge," but it's awful. It's made by making a flavorless fudge and adding flavoring (usually artificial) in the last step. Or they add maraschino cherries, which might appeal to those who think Cherry Coke is real cherry flavor. I wanted to make a real cherry fudge. It's amazingly hard to do.

First, one can't add fresh cherries to fudge, for a number of reasons, the main being moisture content. Dried cherries work, but the texture's wrong. One can add candied cherries, however.

Second problem: candied cherries are made from sweet cherries, chosen because of their color, not flavor. What is best are wild, tart cherries (only in season half-way 'round the world right now). So one has to candy one's own cherries, which is a bother.

Third problem: candying cherries causes all the flavorful juices to run out of the cherries during the process. The solution to this is to reuse the liquid in the fudgemaking.

Fourth problem: Candying cherries uses a large amount of corn syrup. Large amounts of corn syrup keep fudge from setting and you end up with glop. Tasty glop, but glop nonetheless.

I haven't even gotten to the fudgemaking and already there's 4 barriers! There were a dozen hurdles in all, solved by making fondant and marshmallow cream frappe and using pressure extractions and ... well, you get the idea. The entire process takes three days and there are four separate cooking stages and it costs a fortune.

All that for something that most people would find "pleasant."


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Wow, the centers of most things gastronomic contain something gooey and sweet. But here at the center of Steve's Evil Kitchen we find a Hard Kernel of Self-Congratulations! Hahahahaha! Congrats on solving the seemingly unsolvable problem of splitting the Cherry Atom!

Hey, and the least you and RBR could do after virtually doing each other in the comment section of my blog is mop up!

I'd make an off-color comment here about some other kind of cherry but:

1) I'm too Classy

2) RBR? Still ... ahem ... "with her original packaging intact"? AS IF!1!


Joe said...

I hoping I can try a piece at Superior.

shannon said...

All your favorite movies begin with the letter Z? :) Today I am resting and checking out running blogs. For the past 4 months I have been training for a marathon, and tomorrow is the day. I would love to try trail running. I've heard the Superior trail is beautiful.

wildknits said...

Sounds like it will be interesting, guess I should line up for a sample at Superior ;->

So - knowing how foodies are, how trashed is your kitchen after all of that?!?

I live with a rather constant state of kitchen disrepair, though only complain a little (sometimes more that a little) as I am fed very well out of that kitchen ;->

PiccolaPineCone said...

cherries - good.
fudge - really, really good.
spending more than 30 minutes cooking - unthinkable!

SteveQ said...

Shannon: you missed that my favorite music is all named for baked goods!

Helen said...

I admit I skim the food ones... BUT I saw the cherry fudge worked out! sweet - see ya Saturday!

BTW - I AM rethiniking my goal time - I got to thinking I ran the marathon hard and was in decent shape albeit with shin pain the whole way - and that took me 4:11 so how can I do ~4.5 miles more in 35 minutes in way worse shape??? I can't! Though I expect the 50K is a slightly easier course? Ah, I guess we'll see...

RBR said...

solved by making fondant and marshmallow cream frappe and using pressure extractions and ... well, you get the idea.

Err... no, I have no freaking idea what you are talking about, and do not "get the idea."

Unreadable booklists, unbeatable run times, and now frappes and pressure extractions (which both sound a smidge painful to me, but what do I know?)

It is no wonder I am infatuated

@G: we can't all be virgins 'til we were 30. I know, I know it was a "lifestyle choice" *wink*