The Alinea cookbook contains several “shots,” one of which I’ve already completed. This dry shot is one of two dry shots (the other I will probably be completing around Thanksgiving time). Each of the shots is a condensed and reconstructed version of more usual dishes. Here, I believe the chefs were inspired by pizza, yet perhaps surprisingly, neither tomatoes nor cheese are used in the recipe. It should also be noted that even though we’re reconstructing food into a “dry shot,” you will not find any chemicals or other ingredients that you may assume is a part of the “molecular gastronomy'” style at Alinea.
Instead we have oregano, niçoise olives, garlic, red bell pepper, white bread, and capers. I posted the above picture a few days ago on facebook and the Wonder Bread in particular raised a few eyebrows. But the recipe calls for “white bread” and what is quintessentially white bread if not Wonder Bread? That aside, let’s go through these primary ingredients in turn.
The oregano is this recipe is fried and then dehydrated. This component of the recipe was the most pleasantly surprising. It’s one of the few components which didn’t give me any grief at all, was super easy to complete, and resulted in the most individually delicious piece of food I’ve had so far out of this book. I could snack on these things all day.
Check out that lustrous sheen!
2. Niçoise Olive
My god, these things were a bitch. The recipe instructs you to pit the olives before putting them in the dehydrator for 12 hours. I don’t have an olive pitter and honestly, the olives were so small that I find it hard to believe that one could easily pit these things even with the right tool. I attempted to carve out the pits with a paring knife but the process was so laborious that I quit after about 10 olives (which took me 30 minutes to “pit”) and threw them all into the dehydrator, figuring that it’d be easier to get the pits out once they had been in there for a while. Unfortunately, after 12 hours, the olives had wrinkled up but it was barely any easier to get the pits out. I spent another 30 minutes after dehydrator attacking them with my paring knife and ultimately threw the resulting olive shavings back into the dehydrator for a couple hours. Sadly, they just refused to crisp up and by this point, I was done with every other component of the dish so I wasn’t about to wait another 12 hours for them to get to the point where they could be crushed up into a powder.
As a result, I ended up with less than the book calls for in the dry shot mixture, even though I started out with almost double the amount of olives that I was supposed to put into the dehydrator. Alas.
I don’t have any photos of the garlic element. The recipe calls for elephant garlic but I couldn’t find any so I settled for regular old garlic and I don’t think the dry shot turned out any worse because of that decision. Several heads of garlic were sliced up and boiled in skim milk three separate times and then dehydrator for 3 hours. Once again, this component didn’t crisp up to the point that it probably should have and I also ended up with a little less in the end than I needed, but not drastically so. Alas.
4. Red Bell Pepper
I cored a few red bell peppers and removed the seeds and ribs on the inside. I then cut the peppers into thin slices. It was at this point I noticed an instruction in the recipe to remove the skin before cutting them into thin slices. Too late for that! I tried shaving the skin off several slices but only managed to destroy them so I proceeded to put them in the dehydrator. ONCE AGAIN (are you seeing a theme here?), they didn’t crisp up to the required point and I ended up with severely less than I needed, even though I started out with double the amount the recipe initially calls for.
5. White Bread
Finally, something that went right again.
I removed the crust from several slices of bread, measured it out, and mixed it up with some olive oil, a liberal amount of black pepper, and salt. Then I threw them in the oven for about 45 minutes and ended up with perfectly crisp and non-burnt pieces of bread (doesn’t it need to burn just a little for it to be toast? Discuss.). I then broke up those pieces of bread to create a powder of bread crumbs.
I began by rinsing the capers and patting them dry. Then I fried them in canola oil for a couple minutes.
After frying, the capers were supposed to be crispy enough in their own right to break up into a powder. This wasn’t true. So I put them in the dehydrator for a little while hoping that would solve the problem. In retrospect, maybe a better idea would have been to put them in the oven because oil doesn’t dehydrate and the capers were soaked in them. They didn’t crisp up in the dehydrator, and lest you haven’t been paying attention to the recurring theme here, I ended up with less than I needed.
Each of the Alinea recipes is supposed to serve 8 people, and at this point, with all my components ready, it was time to mix them together in varying quantities. Since I ended up with less than I needed for most of the components, I made an executive decision to quarter the amounts in the book and effectively create a mix appropriate for 2 servings.
The last step was adding 5 oregano leaves to each serving. In the book, this dry shot is served in a vellum envelope. I originally was going to substitute plain white paper but then realized that I didn’t have any on hand. Stemless wine glasses ended up being an adequate substitute.
For the record, despite all the hurdles in the making of this dry shot, it was delicious. And the fact that nearly none of the components broke down into a powder as they were supposed to did not seriously affect the final result.
PS: Since the last post, Alinea Newb got some press in Canada. Check it out!