Alinea: BEEF, Cucumber, Honeydew, Lime Sugar

I finally found a use to the electric convection oven we have! Let me back out a little here. See, a while back one of my wife’s co-workers was remodeling and had one of those counter top electric convection ovens. It’s kind of like those you see in infomercials only a bit bigger. She asked if Diana wanted this barely used oven and it seemed like a good idea at the time. So, we picked it up and used it maybe 2 times in the last year and half. It’s been collecting dust in the closet. Sure it does work, but it takes up counter space and I’ve never needed to use it for anything that my oven cannot handle. Until now.

This Alinea recipe has been on my “to-do” list since I saw it on the Alinea Mosaic site, before the book was even out. The picture looks beautiful, it seems straight forward relatively speaking and the flavor combination cannot fail. Here we have small domino-like squares of honeydew melon, topped with beef slices, a thin cucumber strip, lime sugar, soy pudding, cilantro and pink peppercorns (I used pieces of red Thai chilies instead).

I made the lime sugar first. I mixed sugar, lime juice, salt, citric acid and egg white together. The recipe specifies adding a few drops of lime oil. That was nowhere to be found though so, I grated the zest of one lime into the mix instead figuring that should give the sugar a good boost of lime flavor. Now, the mixture is supposed to go between pieces of Teflon coated paper and into a dehydrator for 12 hours at 125F. Teflon paper? Don’t have it but I figured parchment paper should work well instead and it did. 125F?? Dehydrator? I don’t have one either. Previously I’ve managed to dry stuff successfully in my oven at about 160 or 170F. The oven does not go as low as 125F. Here’s where the convection oven came into play. It goes as low as 100F, keeps it steady AND it has a convection fan adding air to the equation. I let the mixture dry up for about 16 hours with excellent results. It had good lime flavor, it’s sweet, a bit sour with a great crunch. Lime sugar, done.

The rest of the recipe was pretty straight forward. The soy pudding is made using agar. The beef is cooked sous vide, cut into strips (1x1x4 inches) and seared. At Alinea they use Wagyu (American Kobe) beef cap. I used best quality prime ribeyes instead. I used a peeler to make the thin cucumber strips.

 

This was delicious. The taste was even better than I expected and the textures worked great. The rich beef has very little seasoning, but the salty soy pudding, the heat from the chilies and the sweet sour fragrant crunch of the lime sugar balance that perfectly. This combination is defintily worth making again whether in a fancy preparation like this or in a simpler presentation.

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