Bean, many garnishes

Making Bean was such a laborious process that I didn’t take too many photos. So instead of describing every step I took to make everything, I’ll just show you what the end result was and tell you what everything is. Plus, I need to share some lessons I’ve learned working through the book in general.

In the center is a white bean puree topped with crisp pancetta and Guinness bubbles. Clockwise from the top center is:

1. Apple sphere cooked in white wine with molasses
2. Lemon marshmellow with lemon zest
3. Vanilla and bay leaf cube
4. Fried almond and green bean salad with almond-lemon vinaigrette
5. Roasted garlic clove with pink peppercorn skins
6. Parsnip chip with parsley
7. Ball of tomato and mango leathers
8. Mung bean sprouts with sesame and “yuzu” vinaigrette

I have to confess, I just couldn’t be bothered to make the “pillow of nutmeg air” that this dish is supposed to rest upon. As much as I like to tell people that the recipes in the Alinea cookbook can be made at home, that’s true only to a certain extent. Don’t get me wrong, I could have bought some pillow cases, some plastic bags, a heat sealer and a Volcano vaporizer and put it all together (I wouldn’t have been the first person to do so), but I have to accept the limitations of my budget and the practicalities of owning a Volcano Vaporizer. I’ve been learning to cut corners when necessary. I’d rather just go ahead and make a dish than spend hours and tons of money seeking out a rare ingredient that isn’t even a highlighted in the dish.

Another example of cutting corners here is with the mung bean sprouts. In the book, I’m supposed to top them with “sea grapes.” Sea grapes are an ingredient that is found in one small region of Japan and for all I can tell, isn’t really for sale in the US. I also wasn’t prepared to spend a lot of money ordering yuzu juice online and decided to make my own. I used equal parts grapefruit juice, lime juice, and mandarin orange juice to approximate the flavor of yuzu juice.

I’ve also learned that I might need some help with these bigger dishes. Near the end, I became overwhelmed with the number of components in front of me, panicked, and began throwing stuff on the plate without any attention to detail. Because of that, the maple sauce I had made didn’t make it onto the plate. For some reason I thought that if I didn’t get everything on the plate right away, something would melt or the kitchen would catch fire. I forget sometimes that Alinea has a huge line of experienced cooks working on these dishes. Next time I make something this big, I’m going to make an event out of it and invite people over to help me.

And ultimately, I’m learning that not everything has to be perfect. An example here is the parsnip chip. In the recipe, the parsnip chips are lightly crumbed up and mixed with parsley dust. Because I couldn’t cut my parsnip chips to 1/16″of an inch, they wouldn’t dry up in the dehydrator to the point where they would crumble. And I don’t have the knife skills to turn a bunch of parsley into “dust.” I feel that despite these imperfections, a suitable substitute was achieved by just topping a dried out whole parsnip chip with a sprig of parsley. Plus, the curve of the chip made it look pretty cool without being crumbled up.

To end, here are some photos I got of the cooking process.

Tomato Leather

The veggies going into the bean puree

Mise-en-place for the Bean Puree (the bottom right cup holds an assortment of herbs)

Lemon Marshmellow gooey-ness

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