This blog originally started as a way for me to document my experiences cooking through the Eleven Madison Park: The Next Chapter cookbook. I had cooked through dozens of recipes from the restaurant’s first book, and for the most part they were very rewarding. I had the same excitement for this new edition, but I realized there were only about 20 recipes that I was truly excited to cook. So, I decided to nix the idea of taking on the entire book, and, instead, decided to make this blog about cooking through various recipes from many different cookbooks. I often look for such guidance on the internet when I’m about to tackle a challenging professional recipe, so I thought I could be of use for other people trying to create these concoctions at home.
Although I decided to blog about many different books, that shiny new EMP tome was burning a hole on my dresser, and I knew I had to try something from it soon. As the warm summer air transitioned to the cool, crisp days of autumn, the brook trout with with celery root and apples was calling me. I conferred with my fish monger, Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, and they confirmed that Brook Trout was in season and, indeed, looking good. I actually had the next two days off from work, so I decided to make this dish my mission.
The problem (or benefit, depending on your perspective) with any given EMP recipe is that they are so damn time consuming, consisting of many different subrecipes. Some of the dishes, for example, have so many components that you could easily cook a 5-7 course meal in as much time as it takes you to make one EMP course. This dish was no exception.
From my experience with the first EMP book, the trick to conquering any dish while maintaining your sanity is knowing when you can safely omit certain components without affecting the final outcome. For example, this dish calls for a tiny piece of cured pork. I don’t eat pork, but you can tell it’s really just a minor accouterment here, and that I would be missing little by leaving it off. Additionally, the little sandwiches of dried celery root and celery root puree seemed unnecessary and not worth the extra time. Additionally, the celery root chips are crazy labor intensive, and with there already being several other subrecipes I was NOT omitting, I had to pick my battles. I decided that if I make this dish without those components and it blows me away, I will take the time to do it properly at a later date, while having guests over for a dinner party.
So, what WAS I keeping? It was no short list. The pink apple puree, apple condiment, roasted celery root, apple cider nage, and, of course, the fish, were all to be prepared.
My first stop on this adventure? The aforementioned Lobster Place. It’s really the top fish market in NYC. And, the best part? My wife works in the building, so she could stop by and say hi while I was picking up my fish. She was probably not as excited as I was, considering she hates the sights and smells of fish markets. Little did she know what I had in store for her.
In addition to getting the brook trout, I was picking up 5 pounds of fish bones for the fumet (basically, fish stock). I had ordered these ahead of time, but we (i.e. my wife) had to stand and watch as they chopped up the bloody carcasses and put them in a bag. She couldn’t wait to get out of there. 🙂
When I came home and started unloading fish corpses into my huge stock pot, my Caribbean nanny, who takes care of my kids while my wife and I are at work, was probably thinking “what the hell is this dude doing?” I laughed to myself and started simmering the bones with vegetables. The good part of making fumet vs a meat stock, is that you only need to simmer the mixture for 30 minutes, as opposed to six hours. That’s obviously much more manageable.
On my way home from Chelsea Market, I stopped by the farmer’s market at Borough Hall in Brooklyn. It’s not the biggest Greenmarket in NYC— obviously the Union Square one is much more massive, with lots of random produce that’s hard to find elsewhere— but for your standard -in-season fare, Borough Hall is just fine. And, it just so happens to be right down the street from my apartment. Today, I picked up the apples for the various
accouterments to this dish.First up was the pink apple puree. This is simply unsweetened apple sauce, made with cooked apples and butter. For some reason, I could not get it to appear as pink as the photo in the book, but it still tasted good.
On to the apple condiment. I don’t have a chamber vacuum (they are thousands of dollars), but was considering using my regular vacuum sealer. However, I suddenly remembered that I have this FoodSaver attachment that allows for quick marinades. I hadn’t used it in years, but it felt like something that could be used to infuse these diced granny smith apples with the marinade. I dusted it off and put it to work.
The condiment also called for the use of pickled mustard seeds. Now, I love pickled mustard seeds, and always have a container full of them in my fridge. So, fortunately I got to skip a step in this recipe. The condiment turned out tasty, although I may have been too judicious with my use of the seeds. One helpful hint for this subrecipe is to not omit the citric acid, as this preserves the apples’ beautiful green hue.
Now, it was on curing the fish. This step calls for a lot of Maldon salt, which is expensive. Lucky I had a full box I had recently bought at Kalustyans (my favorite store in NYC). This used to be a relatively hard ingredient to find, but now you might be able to find it at any specialty grocer.
With the fish sufficiently cured, it was time to smoke. I broke out my Polyscience Smoking Gun, warned my nanny and kids, and opened the windows. It was weird working with these whole fishes with heads still intact; I felt like they were staring at me. As I learned from other EMP dishes, the smoking time Chef Humm states can be excessive. So, rather than smoking for the stated amount of time, I cut it down to about 5 minutes. I was happy with the results.
After browning some butter (brown butter is one of my all-time favorite ingredients) for finishing, I moved on to the roasted celery root. Chef Humm’s preparation seemed far too tedious and unnecessary, so I used a basic Martha Stewart recipe for the same thing. I’ve actually found her recipes a much less complicated a way of achieving the same results in certain circumstances. For example, when making the Strawberry Foie Gras on Black Pepper Sable from the first EMP book, I couldn’t get Chef Humm’s sables to hold together. So, I found Martha’s sable recipe and simply added black pepper. Worked like a charm.
The apple cider nage was simple enough. I followed the recipe to the T, but felt it lacked acidity, so I added more apple cider vinegar than was called for, which also amped up the autumn-like feel of the sauce. Then to froth it, I used a trick I learned from O-Ya chef Tim Cushman at a Degustibus NYC class: a hand-held cappuccino milk foamer. This little device is far superior for foaming than a hand blender, especially when working with at-home quantitates.
Now, the hard part: cooking the fish, The recipe calls for using a steam oven and baking for two minutes. Now, I don’t have a steam oven, don’t plan on buying a steam oven, and don’t see how two minutes is enough to even warm the fish, let alone semi-cook it (the chef refers to this preparation “mi-cuit,” which means half-cooked in French). So, I simply set my regular oven for the same temperature called for in the recipe, and kept a close eye on it, waiting for the very first signs of any sort of opaqueness. I ended up taking it took it out after about 6 minutes.
Overall, the dish was pretty and interesting, but wasn’t exactly delicious. I probably would not make this for a dinner party. Granted, I may have oversalted the fish when curing (it felt dried out), and I didn’t use a steam oven, so who knows how it was supposed to turn out. But, I felt I got close to the intended results. Overall it was a fun project, and I’m looking forward to more dishes in this wonderful book!