I may have committed Alinea blasphemy with this plating. You see, the relationship between Grant Achatz and Charlie Trotter is shaky at best. Grant worked at Charlie Trotter’s for a few months before moving to California to work with Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. If you read the chapter regarding his time at Trotter’s in Life on the Line, you can tell that Grant was not a fan and ultimately quit. Trotter’s parting words to him were “[i]f you do not stay at this restaurant for a full year, you will simply not exist to me. Period. That means don’t ever call me. Don’t use me as a reference. Don’t put Charlie Trotter’s on your résumé.” Charlie Trotter has lived up to his word; Grant has stated recently that he has never visited Alinea and they haven’t spoken since.
So what does this all this have to do with my plating here? You see, the plate I used is from Charlie Trotter’s. After Charlie Trotter’s closed last year, everything in the restaurant was put up for auction. I ended up buying a set of 6 of these plates for under $20. Aaron and I were lucky enough to dine at Trotter’s about a year ago and I remembered eating off these plates back then. We were served Lobster with a beet infused spaetzle, fermented black garlic, and horseradish vinaigrette on them.
I thought the design was pretty cool. Basically, it’s an off-set large shallow bowl standing on a small pedestal. I’m hoping the design will work well in presenting some future Alinea dishes.
Anyway, onto the yolk drops. What we have here are yolk drops mixed with asparagus buds in a lemon vinaigrette with a lemon puree and asaparagus foam on the side.
I started with the lemon vinaigrette and puree. Please note that the recipe calls specifically for the sweeter and more cook-friendly meyer lemons. I couldn’t find any meyer lemons yesterday, so I decided to sweeten each of these elements with simple syrup, which cut down on the sour and bitterness excellently. The vinaigrette was exceptionally easy to prepare; I just mixed some lemon juice with grapeseed oil, salt, and simple syrup.
The lemon puree was a little more interesting. I literally quartered 3 lemons and threw them in a blender with simple syrup. I was worried that this would not turn into a puree, or that if it did, it would be disgusting. Thankfully, I was wrong. It took some time, but eventually those lemons turned into a liquid that was later strained through my chinois.
Next, I worked on the asparagus. I started by cutting the bud off from each stalk and then cutting the stalks into roughly one inch pieces. I then broke up the buds to make a nicer presentation. I blanched the stalks and buds separately and let them sit in ice water both to quickly end the cooking process and preserve the bright green color.
I juiced the asparagus stalk and added some soy lecithin so that it would foam up when I dipped my immersion blender into the juice.
Lastly, I worked on the eggs. Could we all take a moment to appreciate how I separated the yolk from the white of a dozen eggs without fucking up any of them? I’ve learned that the best method of separating egg whites and yolk is by cracking the eggs whole into a bowl and gently pulling out the yolks with your hands. Messy and gooey, but it gets the job done.
To turn the yolks into yolk drops, I first had to make some clarified butter. Once that was done, I whisked the yolks with some salt and funneled the mixture into a squeeze bottle. I then squeezed single drops of egg into the heated clarified butter and scooped them own when they began to float. For the record, this took way longer than I initially imagined and my first few attempts to make “drops” were more like blobs, but I improved. Before plating, I drained the butter off the eggs.
Finally, plating. I mixed the drained yolk drops with the asparagus buds, lemon vinaigrette, and black pepper. The recipe does not actually mention black pepper except in the title, but where else would it go? I then added some lemon puree to one side and asparagus foam on the other.
Turned out pretty well. The lemon vinaigrette got a little lost in the mix, but the puree made up for it. I would probably make this again, maybe for brunch.