1. THE SECRET A liquid nitrogen tank
THE DISH Lamb brain tiramisu
THE CHEF Rob Bragagnolo (Marben)
Inspired by modern Spanish cooking, executive chef Bragagnolo broke out his liquid nitrogen tank to create his take on tiramisu, or, as he describes it, a tiramisu semifreddo that looks like a lamb's brain on the plate. He combined egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and coffee in an iSi canister (a kitchen gadget that essentially makes whipped cream), then dispensed the cream into a vat of liquid nitrogen to freeze it. The resulting tiramisu is crisp and brittle on the outside like meringue, but gooey and melty like coffee ice cream on the inside. Bonus: this cool treat also turns you into a fire-breathing dragon as puffs of liquid nitrogen escape your mouth and nostrils when you bite into it.
2. THE SECRET Quinoa
THE DISH Chocolate cake
THE CHEF Ashley Jacot de Boinod (Glory Hole Doughnuts)
Pastry chef de Boinod is best known for her doughnuts, but for this project she created a decadent, dense bittersweet chocolate cake using cooked quinoa rather than flour. Aside from hitting the gluten-free mark, quinoa gives a surprisingly pleasant chewier, spongier texture to the dessert, and since she used potent dark chocolate, the quinoa's grainy taste is undetectable. "It has a dense, moussey, ganache texture that's almost like cornmeal," she says. "Quinoa is quite versatile in baking applications. You can use it cooked this way or you can grind it up and use it as a flour."
3. THE SECRET Scallops
THE DISH Pasta with capers, anchovies, basil cress, oven-dried tomatoes
THE CHEF Michael Wilson (Luma)
At first sight it looks like chef de cuisine Wilson has made a very pretty, vibrant bowl of puttanesca (pasta à la whore, in Italian), but one bite in and you realize something is different. Wilson puréed scallops and cream into a mousse, mixed in gelatin, baked it and then cut the sheet into long, delicate ribbons. The gelatin gives them elasticity, and the scallops' flavour goes brilliantly with the summery taste of capers, anchovies, basil cress and oven-dried tomatoes.
4. THE SECRET Tomato and chilies
THE DISH Jellied tortilla soup
THE CHEF Howard Dubrovsky (Fonda Lola)
This Mexican restaurant does things a little differently since chef Dubrovsky, ex of the molecular College spot L.A.B., helms the kitchen. Here, he put his spin on traditional tortilla soup by giving it a vegetarian base made of tomatoes and chilies. (The soup usually calls for chicken.) "At the restaurant, if it's not specifically stated that there's a meat protein in it, it's vegetarian," says the chef, who himself doesn't eat meat. He then turned the soup into a gel using agar-agar, a gelatinous additive derived from seaweed, for an unexpected texture, and garnished it with crèma (Mexican sour cream), micro-cilantro, radishes, lime zest and tortilla dust.
5. THE SECRET Canned delights
THE DISH Scout Canning
THE CHEF Charlotte Langley (Groundwork Food)
Imagine showing up at a dinner party and plopping a couple of cans of food on the table for everyone to share. That's what former Catch chef Langley is hoping people will do with her new line of canned goods, Scout Canning, slated to launch later this year. But she's not just canning the usual jams and beans. You'll find tasty BC albacore tuna conserva with lemon, hot-smoked Lake Erie walleye in olive oil, pickled carrots with basil and dill, ricotta with raw garlic, and pickled beets with sumac. Open a can, break out a bottle of wine, and voilà: Friday night.
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