Monday, January 5, 2015
Momofuku's Cereal Milk Panna Cotta
I got several cookbooks for Christmas, one of them being Momofuku by David Chang. There are a few reasons why I'd get excited about this book. One, I got the chance to eat at one of his Momofuku restaurants when I made a trip out to Toronto & New York last year, and enjoyed some really delicious steamed pork buns that still leave a lasting delightful memory for me. Their cereal milk soft serve ice cream that we had for dessert brought me right back to childhood with its distinct sugary milk flavour. I have to admit that the first taste was a little weird, as it's not a usual flavour you'd get with the cereal making it a tad salty along with the sweet. But after a few more bites, it totally grows on you.
Second, I watched a whole lot of "Masterchef Australia" in the past year. This show seems to have some brainwashing powers with me in that it's totally got me sucked in and suddenly loving and appreciate food so much more. So much so that it's ridiculous. So much so that I find myself googling every celebrity chef that appears on the show and all those known to everyone in the culinary world, and getting myself completely engulfed in reading about their lives, their culinary journey, and their successes. Every different cooking technique or classic dish names are for some reason so fascinating. I mean, I'm not crazy. Food is a happy thing. It's a science. It's an art. And when you eat something super tasty, to the point where you find yourself closing your eyes to savour that moment, feeling like you've died and gone to heaven... now that is magical. (And if you've never had that kind of experience with food... well, I'm sorry but you're totally missing out on something amazing!). Anyway, David Chang was a guest judge on the show, and so therefore, one of the (many) chefs I've learned about.
Then, there was "The Mind of A Chef" - David Chang's own food show. Which basically shows him cooking almost every recipe in the book and how he came to such developing such recipes. So, now that I know a little about the chef, watched him in action, and tasted some of his food... why not cook it too?
All these recipes from "michelin star" chefs may seem intimidating at first, but that too makes a cookbook even more fascinating. What makes a good cookbook? Its gorgeous, eye-catching photos? Its stories behind each recipe? How it is sectioned and how many varieties? In the end, I think it's all about how reproducible its content is. Ultimately, you'd want a cookbook that teaches you how to make good food. Plain and simple.
So, I started on a mission to test these cookbooks on my bookshelf to see how "good" of a cookbook they really are. And since there's been a bit of Momofuku in my life, that's where I started. Just from flipping through the book, I can almost hear the sound the hustling and bustling from his kitchen. The photos of his staff in action. The colourful pictures of the food. There are many, if not all, recipes that I definitely want to try out. One of course, his steamed pork buns. But, let's start somewhere simpler. Something that won't take me a day and a half to complete. So, I tested... the cereal milk panna cotta.
The recipe makes 8 (or more depending on what container you set the panna cotta in). And I've eaten four. Four days in a row.
I. love. it.
Definitely reminiscent of the cereal milk soft serve I had at the restaurant. The recipe was easy. There may be quite a few steps, and quite a few waiting games to play, but in the end, it's worth it. It isn't too sweet, and has a strong, almost caramel flavour, of cereal milk. I was hesitant in certain steps (like how 2 sheets of gelatin could set that much liquid so I made two batches with one having 2 sheets of gelatin and the other having more than double), but what I learned is... always follow the recipe. This recipe taught me how to use a new thing I have used before - sheet gelatin. It's so easy (to apply and to dissolve) that I now understand why fancy chefs use only sheet gelatin and not the powder.
I didn't make the "chocolate-hazelnut thing" the recipe called for.. I just wasn't interested in making chocolate anything, so I cheated and crushed up a hazelnut chocolate bar. (Yep, that is what it is in the picture). But everything else is to the recipe. I was skeptical about the pairing of cereal milk with avocado, but surprisingly, I think the avocado lightens the flavour of the cereal milk, and creates a complimentary complexity that only your tastebuds can understand. I think the chocolate bit was meant to be eaten intermittingly with the panna cotta because together, the chocolate overpowers it all. But when eaten separate, it seems to give a different explosion of flavours in your mouth each time.
This sounds like crazy food talk, and it is. But when you find great excitement in the smallest things, you'll likely realize why.
So far, this book/recipe : 5/5