De-construct This! This was the Top Chef episode in Season 6 that sent F and my normally non-cooking mind racing over ideas and the notion of this style of food preparation. The chefs in this episode are given a classic dish which they are meant to successfully de-construct to survive the elimination round where a number fail due to the dish not being de-constructed enough.
So what exactly does “de-construct” mean? It may mean something else to another, but for us it’s when you take a dish, separate the main components of that dish, then plate them together in a way that is unrecognisable from it’s original form. It is only when eaten all together that the diner would (or should?) recognise the dish for what it is. The two examples that normally come to mind are 2 desserts (hehe, are you surprised?): Snickers 2009 from JAAN par André and Diner Style Cherry Ripe from Glebe Point Diner.
So our idea was to disguise the dish so it didn’t look like a hot dog in anyway, but to give the overall flavour of eating an American Hot Dog. Admittedly, we were greeted with more than one blank face and sideways stares when we told a few people about the food experiment. This only seemed to excite F even more to this little venture of ours.
The components from bottom to top and left to right are: thick home-made tomato sauce, caramelised onion puree, ‘spaghetti’ of American Hot Dog smothered in cream cheese sauce, horseradish ice cream with horseradish crisps, then finally flattened and crisped hot dog bun.
F made the horseradish ice cream, as I don’t really have a clue where to start making ice cream, and with the strained out horseradish pieces, in wanting a bit more crunch to the dish, we thought of placing them into the oven to create crisps. I thought the funniest thing was that F decided to make the flattened hot dog bun by needing me to sit on two chopping boards with the bun in-between – I guess it was a good thing I had recently put on a bit of weight, hey? (Damn it)
I’ll admit that even I was a bit unconvinced with the whole experiment, but the results surpassed any expectations we both had.
As you can see, it’s quite de-constructed, but thankfully each part and flavour of this dish played perfectly with one another. Every harmonious mouthful was truly as if you were taking small bites of a grilla dog smothered in cream cheese (which Mobil have sadly stopped serving) and topped off finally with tomato and mustard sauce. We found that the cold ice cream was a perfect contrast with the warm and delectably cheesy spaghetti. I also really enjoyed the crunchy texture from the crisped hot dog bun and horseradish bits, which worked surprisingly well and had a bit of a kick to it.
F and I, however, had a disagreement with the tomato sauce: he liked it to be smoother, but I loved the lumpy texture that made me think more of “relish” than sauce. He ended up straining out and discarding the lumpy bits, which led to me to secretly saving them and on the spur of the moment, decided to plate my own version with them.
Remembering quite vividly my/our disastrously failed plating attempt(s), I think this time we actually did ok.
Getting this personal challenge out of our system has seemed only to whet our interest in doing more of these experiments of transforming the most simple dish into something else. F seems to have something up his sleeve and I just can’t wait to see what we’ll make next!