Friday, April 27, 2012

Cereal Milk Custard(Momofuku)

So we were studying Chef David Chang in school last week. He's my new favorite Chef(sorry Alice Waters). I love him so much I have Momofuku on my phone now so I can read it during long flights or waits at the DMV or on my downtime at work. It doesn't look like I'm doing anything suspicious...just like I'm dicking around on my phone. Don't you love that phrase, "dicking around"? I do.

Anyway, I'm actually sitting at the airport right now, and my flight has been delayed twice. I figured that now is a good a time as any to talk about my new favorite Chef. (Also, TSA made me throw away my Vitamin Water. So now I'm all hopped up on over-priced Starbucks. Time to work off that energy!)

David Chang didn't start out as a Chef or as anybody actually interested in the Culinary field. In fact, he majored in Religion. But he spent many years working in restaurants and worked for another Chef I have great respect for - a certain Chef Daniel Boulud - in his restaurant in NYC. Do you know why David Chang is awesome in my eyes? He soon found the fine dining scene pretentious, unapproachable, and overall unsatisfying. So he did his own thing! How awesome is that? Another thing I love is that his book, Momofuku, is hilarious - he actually writes like he's talking to you. I mean, really talking to you. Like you and he are sitting outside a noodle bar having a cigarette and he's just bullshitting with you. I admire that.

Anyway, I don't want to go on and on and on(okay, I kind of do) about how awesome he is. I want to talk about a dish of his that I find to be - quite frankly - fucking ingenious: Cereal Milk Custard.

Okay, what? Cereal milk?

Hey, hey - hear me out!

You know how you wake up on a lazy morning and you pour yourself a BIG FUCKIN' bowl of cereal and watch tv? Enjoy the coffee, watch the birds fly and chirp around outside, look at the sun...the best part about that bowl of cereal is the sugary-sweet milk at the end of it. Slurping that up, wiping it off your chin with the sleeve of your bathrobe...it's just an awesome moment. It's a little moment too taken for granted.

So what did David Chang do? He made it into a dessert - he added gelatin to it and made a freakin' custard dessert out of that shit. And here's what it looks like:

untiss untiss untiss
(Sorry for the picture quality. My hand was shaking with excitement. )

So what you see pictured is the Cereal Milk custard, accompanied by - no joke, this is what he calls it - chocolate-hazelnut thing, avocado puree, and caramelized cornflakes. The cereal milk custard is amazingly smooth and tasty; the chocolate-hazelnut thing(which is basically a bark) is seriously like crack(he even mentions in the book to not make it til you absolutely need it, otherwise you'll eat it all before it gets to the plate), the caramelized cornflakes which add a pleasant crunch, and the avocado puree...tangy and smooth and citrus-y(from the citric acid you add to keep it freshly green) which add an interesting contrast to the dish.

Here's how you make it:

Cereal Milk Custard
6 cups cornflakes
3 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
Generous 1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 sheets(8 grams) gelatin(I doubled the amount of gelatin because the original amount doesn't work)

Heat an oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the cornflakes on a sheet pan and toast for about 10-15 minutes, or until crispy-er. You just want to cook them enough to where you can smell them. Let them cool a little to about room temperature, and then combine them with the milk and heavy cream in a big bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep for about 45 minutes. Resist the urge to slice up a banana and get a big spoon.

After it's steeped, strain out the liquid and press out as MUCH OF THE MOISTURE AS YOU CAN into a large saucepot. You'll be shocked at how little liquid comes out as compared to before, but trust me, it's all good. Once you have strained it all out, add in your sugar and bring to a low boil, stirring near-constantly, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with your whisk. Turn off the heat once the sugar has totally dissolved - which shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

There's nothing wrong with creatively marking your goods
Meanwhile, bloom your gelatin in some cold water until it gets to a "jellyfish-like" consistency. Wring out any excess water and - while the milk is still hot - add in the gelatin. Whisk vigorously to ensure that the gelatin is dispersed evenly throughout the hot mixture. Pour/divide into whatever molds you like(we used silicone molds for panna cotta) and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before transferring it into the freezer for holding. It can be an hour or so, but it's best to let it chill overnight if you have the option.

To serve, simply take the custard out of the freezer and pop them out of the mold while still frozen and defrost them in the refrigerator on a sheet tray lined with either plastic wrap or parchment paper - NOT wax paper! They need to defrost anywhere from 30 mins to an hour, depending on the size you froze them in. And be mindful that these are delicate - so when you plate them, don't mess around with them. Let them fall where they fall and plate around it.

For the garnishes, this is MY version of the chocolate-hazelnut thing and avocado puree. Keep in mind that I put a large amount for the chocolate-hazelnut thing FOR A REASON. You'll want to eat it all before you get it on the plate...this is called a preemptive strike, folks. Anyway:

Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing
1/2 cup good, dark chocolate(65%-70% is fine), chopped
1/4 cup Nutella
1 tsp light corn syrup
1 generous pinch of kosher salt
a few handfuls of Cornflakes, toasted and cooled

Prepare a parchment-lined sheet pan. And a muzzle for yourself.

Melt everything but the cornflakes over a bain-marie(waterbath/double-boiler) on a LOW-LOW-LOOOOOWWWW simmer. Be gentle. Coddle it. Tell it dirty things. Spread the mixture fairly thin(about a quarter-inch thick) on the parchment using an offset spatula and then sprinkle the cornflakes throughout, creating a bark.  Let it chill in the freezer. Wrapped. Under lock and key.

Avocado Puree
(don't make this til the LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE)
1 avocado, chilled thoroughly
a dash of sugar
a dash of salt
a squeeze of lemon juice

Mash everything together. Pass it through a tamis if you have it.

Serve everything all together on a chilled plate. Enjoy. Sprinkle caramelized cornflakes on top if you like. It's easy enough to make - just toast it in the oven til it's shiny!