Gallery: How To Make The Modernist Cuisine Cheeseburger, Fries, and Shake

  • Patty in the Circulator

    cooking beef in sous-vide style water bath

    The burgers are made with beef that's lightly cured, ground, and collected such that the strands of beef emerging from the grinder are aligned lengthwise. They're then pressed into a long log and sliced into patties before being bagged and cooked at 54°C in a sous-vide style water bath.

    Retrieving a Patty

    burger patties in sous-vide style water bath

    Because of their vertically aligned grain, the patties come out quite tender in one direction (the direction you bite) but with a bit of chew when it actually breaks down in your mouth.

    Cooked

    sous-vide style water bath

    The patty after having been cooked, but not yet ready to eat (appetizing, right?). The beef they use is quite lean, but cooking sous-vide helps ensure that it doesn't overcook, keeping it relatively moist and tender nonetheless.

    Drained

    After coming out of the bag, the beef gets drained on a paper towel to prep it for it's next cooking phase...

    Into the Liquid Nitrogen

    Into the Liquid Nitrogen

    The burger patties are dipped into a liquid nitrogen bath for one minute.

    Chilled and Ready

    The idea is that by freezing just the very outer layers, you prevent the interior from overcooking in the subsequent step...

    Into the Fryer

    cooking burger patty

    A pot of 200°C (about 400°F) oil sits on the stove next to the liquid nitrogen. The cook lifts the patty from the nitrogen bath and transfers it to a spider to slowly lower it into the hot oil.

    Bubble Bubble

    burger patty in hot oil

    The patty bubbles vigorously as it begins to brown on the exterior. It stays in for all of a minute.

    Browned and Ready

    burger patty taken out of hot oil

    It emerges with a relatively even golden-brown crust. Because of the nitrogen freeze, there should be very little overcooked meat underneath that crust. We'll see.

    Cheese Slices

    burger patty with cheese slice

    The cheese of choice here is a slice of constructed cheese made by emulsifying Comté with sodium citrate, allowing it to supposedly melt like an American slice with the help of a blowtorch. In this case, the cheese was soft and slightly melty, but not quite as gooey as a true American would have been.

    The Spread

    tartar sauce-like spread on piece of bread

    The burgers are served Louis Lunch style on toasted bread (theirs is a homemade poppy loaf) with a tartar sauce-like spread made from reduced cream, shallots, and capers.

    Stacked

    beef patty, cheese, and bread

    You can see a bit of the cheese melting problem here. I would have liked it to be draped and dripping.

    Ready to Eat

    beef patty sandwich with cheese

    It's a fine looking sandwich. Burger-like? Not exactly, but a fine looking sandwich nonetheless.

    The Autopsy

    burger patty sandwich

    As you can see, a nice even medium-rare from edge to edge. How did it taste? Well, it tasted... good. Not like a burger by any stretch, but pretty good. In my estimate, a minute spent in hot oil is not enough time or energy to develop the darker, thicker crust I like, and the lean beef doesn't deliver the mouth-coating richness I look for in a great burger, but as a sandwich in its own right, this thing has balanced flavor and interesting textures.

    The Fries

    sous-vide water bath

    The fries start their life with a long, slow cook in a sous-vide water bath (again) in a bag filled with a salt and baking powder brine. The baking powder acts as an abrasive, roughing up the outside of the potato. I'd assume that the higher pH also acts to weaken the pectin that holds potato cells together, preparing the fries for their trip to the ultrasonic water bath that follows.

    The goal of that bath, by the way, is cavitation: the creation of micro-fissures in the surface of the potato that add to its surface area when frying.

    The First Fry

    hot oil for frying

    From here on out, they're cooked like traditional fries, albeit much more delicately (they are very soft from their stay in the sous-vide cooker). The fries are par-cooked at a relatively low temperature, then taken out to cool slightly.

    Resting

    french fries

    After the first fry you can begin to see tiny lines of cavitation, like the fry has a shell that can barely contain it.

    The Second Fry

    french fries taken out of oil

    The fries are re-fried in hot oil, whereupon their exteriors rapidly break apart and puff out, creating a lacy, almost tempura-like finish to the exterior, but with no added starch.

    Saucing it Up.

    french fry and dipping sauce

    The sauce is a mousse-like emulsion made with bone-marrow.

    Going For a Dip

    french fry dipped in sauce

    The sauce comes out foamy, but quickly breaks down when you stir into it with a rich, mayonnaise-like flavor. (I would have secretly preferred mayonnaise).

    Interior

    french fries with crispy crust

    You can see how crisp and lacy that exterior gets. As with the burgers, the final product here is a very interesting bite and quite tasty in its own right, though not particularly french fry-like. The center is ultra-creamy, almost like rich mashed potatoes, while the exterior tastes almost breaded—crumbly, and a little greasy, but very crunchy.

    Starting the Milkshake

    rotary evaporator

    The milkshake begins with a case of bourbon that's been distilled using a rotary evaporator. That is, it's been evaporated at low temperature in order to extract the alcohol and leave behind a concentrated flavored liquid that has not been heated at all.

    Distilled Bourbon

    distilled bourbon

    On its own, the bourbon distillate is intensely aromatic and quite sweet.

    Freezing

    blending milkshake with liquid nitrogen

    The bourbon is combined with vacuum-reduced goat's milk and banana juice, then placed into a blender and spun with liquid nitrogen, which rapidly chills it to the desired consistency and temperature.

    Just Another Dash...

    milkshake with liquid nitrogen

    A bit more liquid nitrogen to adjust...

    Watch the Fumes!

    milkshake with liquid nitrogen

    The nitrogen chills the air rapidly, causing clouds of condensation to come rippling out of the chamber.

    Ready to Serve

    pouring milkshake

    The shake comes out sippably-thick (just how I like it) with a great tangy, creamy, almost caramelized flavor that (thankfully) doesn't taste too strongly of bananas.

    Final Touches

    milkshakes

    Just before serving, pulverized freeze-dried raspberries are dusted on top for a sweet finish. Sweet, caremelly, tangy, intense, and impossibly smooth, this was actually my favorite of the three dishes I tasted.