There are so many intriguing dishes with familiar and odd flavor combinations in Mugaritz, the book about the cuisine of Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz. There are interesting techniques and very cool and whimsical dishes. The ideas are bold and they focus on mostly minimalist presentation and straightforward flavors. I knew from the second I started flipping through the book months ago and reading the text and philosophy (there’s a lot of that and it feels a bit heavy-handed at times honestly) that the first recipe I would like to try is Aduriz’s famous “Edible Stones”.
At the restaurant, that is the first thing the diners get, a plate of apparently perfectly nice stones. The diners are not told anything at first and, unless they know, are left to wonder what the hell is going on. Then they are instructed to eat one plain. A nice soft small potato covered with a coating that make sit resemble uncannily a river rock! For the next bite, they are encouraged to dip it in a rich garlic alioli and enjoy the very familiar flavor of a boiled potato dipped in garlic mayonnaise. In a matter of moments the restaurant guests went from a “what the…?!” moment with river rocks to enjoying a perfectly classical and familiar bite of food. Now, that is very cool indeed.
I made the garlic alioli first a couple of days before I cooked the potatoes and kept it in the fridge. I prepared the garlic confit by gently cooking whole garlic cloves in olive oil until very very soft. These then get pureed with an egg yolk using an immersion blender and olive oil is drizzled in while the blender is running. The sauce has a lot of garlic in it, but since it’s cooked gently it has no harsh edge or pungent flavor, just a sweet garlic flavor. The potatoes as first boiled in heavily salted water and then dipped in a mixture of Lactose, kaolin, water and black food dye. Kaolin is a type of clay used in a variety of applications including face cream, pill casings, upset stomach remedy… Allen Hemberger on his -awesome looking with pictures a 150 times better than mine- blog made these a while back and discusses in a bit more detail the many uses of kaolin, check it out here . As far as I can tell the Lactose is there to add a hint of sweetness to the casing of the stones and to help it harden in the oven. The potatoes, after receiving a nice coating of stone-colored kaolin mixture, go in a very low oven to dry up and for the coating to harden. Then they are ready to serve while still warm.
I served these as part of a larger dish (I will post about it soon), but we tasted a few as is, just like they serve them at Mugaritz to get an idea how they taste on their own. As expected the flavor is nothing weird. Potatoes, seasoned nicely and served with a garlicky mayonnaise. The coating has virtually no taste really and very little texture. It’s sole purpose is to create the “stone” illusion and it works perfectly for that. Everyone, from my kids to my in-laws, got a kick out of these cute stones. Next time I’m having a few guests over for dinner I’m going to make sure they start their evening with a bowl of rocks and a side of alioli.