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Local chef heads to White House to teach

January 29, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Steven Weiss injects carrot juice in a bowl of water and calcium chloride to make carrot caviar. The idea is for the caviar to hold together and pop in your mouth.
Photo by Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

INWOOD, W.Va. — Steven Weiss is about to blow the culinary minds of White House military chefs.

"This is made out of carrots," he said, cupping in his hand what actually looked like small beads of caviar.

He'll be doing such magic tricks in the kitchen when he trains military chefs at the White House. The one-day workshop will have Weiss teaching the chefs molecular gastronomy.

"What molecular gastronomy is is the science of cooking, but it's this really great, new, exciting cuisine style that is done with hydrocolloids. And hydrocolloids are gelatins," Weiss said, while standing in the kitchen at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College's Academy of Hospitality and Culinary Arts Campus in Inwood, where he is coordinator. Weiss is also host to "What's the dish? with Chef Steve" on HMTV6. "What we do is create spheres, caviar and ravioli out of anything."

One example is making "caviar" out of carrots.

This is Weiss' second time teaching at the White House. He said he was invited the first time after some White House chefs found out about the classes he periodically teaches at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. At the Navy Yard, Weiss would train chefs who are working for admirals.

"They said, 'would you like to do this at the White House,'" Weiss recalls. "And I said, 'Yeah, sure we would.' And that's how this all started."

 His first White House memories were about the security levels he had to pass to even gain access to the kitchen. Before he even got to the gate, he had to pass a background check.

"You didn't have to go through one security guard, you have to go through two or three," Weiss said. "And even then, you had to meet someone at a front desk as soon as you walked into the lower quarters of the White Wing. And then you were escorted back through multiple areas of the White House in order to get to the kitchen area."

But once he was in the kitchen, he was allowed free roam of the area, he said.

Weiss said last year he taught about 30 chefs, and expects about the same number this year.

"For the most part, we're going to be do some training of those individuals who feed the masses at the White House," he said.

The classes will be taught in one of the two White House kitchens.

"There are two separate kitchens. There's a residence kitchen that primarily caters to the president," he said. "Then there are alternative kitchens, and this particular kitchen is the commissary in the West Wing. It is definitely part of the White House. We have to go through tons and tons of security to get there."

In addition to the carrot "caviar," Weiss will show the chefs how to make carrot jellies, which are almost like a carrot Jell-O; candied carrots and carrot foam, which includes some orange juice. Weiss said carrot foam tastes like an orange creamsicle.

"We're going to do multiple things with carrots that day that you normally wouldn't do," he said.

The days of military chefs getting a bad rap for what they serve is over, Weiss said.

"The food quality has gone up exponentially," Weiss said. "They use good quality products. When I went there the last time, the food looked and smelled amazing. They are very disciplined. They do very well and are very appreciative of any knowledge they can get."

Weiss said he's excited about the training of the chefs.

"We're going to do some really neat things for the military chefs, and they deserve it," he said.



Carrot jellies

5 (1/4 oz.) packets unflavored gelatin or 1 1/2 ounces of bulk

1 1/2 cup strained fresh carrot juice

1/4 cup orange juice

1/2  cup granulated sugar

Additional sugar for coating


Pour 1 cup carrot juice into a bowl. Stir in gelatin and let soften for 5 minutes.

In a saucepan over medium, heat remaining juices and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add softened gelatin and stir until melted. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let stand at room temperature or refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Unmold jelly slab onto a work surface and cut into 1-inch pieces with a large, sharp knife and roll jellies in more sugar just before serving.


Carrot air

2 cups carrot juice

19 ounces orange juice

1/2 teaspoon Lecite (lecithin) powder (see cook's note)


Combine carrot and orange juices and Lecite. Blend with emersion blender for one minute. Collect foam that is on top and place into container.

Cook's note: Calcium chloride can be found online at www.modernistpantry.com.





Carrot Caviar

8.8 ounces carrot juice  (see cook's note)

1 teaspoon sodium alginate (see cook's note)

10 cups of cool tap water

3 teaspoons calcium chloride (see cook's note)

Syringe or squirt bottle



In a small bowl, mix 3.53 ounces carrot juice and alginate. Blend well, then add the remaining juice and blend. Wait until (degassing) bubbles settle for 10 minutes.

In another small bowl, place 5 cups water. Stir in calcium chloride until dissolved.

Fill a third bowl with 5 cups of water.

Using a syringe, suck up a bunch of carrot juice mixture into your syringe. Put a strainer in the bowl with the calcium chloride solution, so that it is mostly submerged. Slowly squirt drops of the carrot mixture into the strainer in the bowl. The size of the drops can be controlled by the amount of pressure placed on the syringe. The drops will form little balls.

Let the caviar set for 20 to 25 seconds. The amount of time you wait determines the thickness of the skin. Ideally, you want caviar that holds together, but "pops" in your mouth.

Cook's notes:  Any vegetable or fruit juice, or any puree, can be replaced for carrot. Sodium alginate is a food thickener/emulsifier with no discernible flavor. Calcium chloride is a drying agent or preservative. It is a common salt that is used as a food additive and firming agent. Calcium chloride can be found online at www.modernistpantry.com.



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