Snail butter made and setting. Ears chlorophyll-stained and braising. Made several colors of modeling chocolate, as well as some rock-appearance fudge to cut into tombstones.
The snail butter may have to be redone. It looks like I may have overheated the emulsifying mixture and caused the agar to go into full gel mode. We'll see. At least of all the various bits and pieces, that's extremely simple and inexpensive to re-do.
Thank you all for the praise. It was a lot of work, and it panned out more or less. I appreciate the support and encouragement you've all given me along the way.
The worms melted, I don't know why. Looking into it.
The mussels: I think it's something about the white wine reacting badly with the spherification ingredients, because I had this problem before. I think I may have skipped a clarification that was not for looks but for flavor. I don't own Modernist Cuisine, though--I use it at the library--so I won't know until I sit down and read that.
The ears: why boring? I don't know. I think they needed a cleaner, sharper taste. It was kind of muddy, thick. But the flavor was good -- just not clean or pure. I've read that this is a common problem with Dongpo-rou, actually, prepared the traditional way (braise and steam). But it's worth working on.
Not only have I written down my ideas, I have complete recipes for every bit of this. Otherwise I couldn't possibly experiment!
1. Zombie bacon
The mozzarella was a little "eh," which I suspect was the product itself. The tomato water was very intense, much more so than expected; it's got to be balanced more effectively. The basil was good, but didn't have that bright, fresh flavor that wakes up and excites tomato. One problem there was simply a question of scale: you can't make gels like this in very small quantities, because the physical space required in a pan creates a bottom limit. I think with the basil in particular, it ended up too cooked, because of the process. Result: try this again for a big party or something in late summer, and make a great deal. On the mozzarella, it might be worth (on that scale) making it from raw milk, so its purity wouldn't be compromised. I also need to figure out what went so wrong with the olive oil gel.
2. Snail eyeballs
The butter in the version I've currently got ends up being too thick. I need to look at my recipe and think seriously about how much thickening is really necessary pre-spherification, given that the balls will be spherified while frozen solid. That might give me a softer, more elegant texture. I have found another process that might create a butter that would fully melt and turn transparent after spherification. An interesting and unexpected result was that the snails are much bigger than I realized, and don't sit nicely in the hemispheres.
As I say, I think I may have skipped a clarification step that I thought was for color (from yellow to water-clear) and actually has a major effect on flavor.
4. Troll ears
The long braise is so intense that I think I need a much lighter braise. I also need more heat. Thinking back, some kind of acid to cut the heavy, sweet braise would be helpful, but such things act very vigorously while sous-vide braised.
5. Witch noses
I had intended to make a little duck-neck sausage, but ingredients were against me. I think this would have balanced the amuse nicely.
What's to say? It would have been better with the little bits of braised tripe in it, but classic Russian borscht, made well, is pretty wonderful all by itself. I think more vinegar would have been a good idea, but I'm not convinced my daughter would have liked it.
1. Goblin arm
I was surprised that the chicken didn't stain much after 24 hours in beet water, but the look wasn't bad. It was a bit dry, but that's an effect of only having one good probe thermometer and too many things to do at once. The stuffing was a little wet, because I didn't let the mushrooms dry out fully. Oh well. The gravy was good, but it would have been a lot better if I could have found a golden beet to roast and purée in. No biggie.
2. Ogre blood bread
Basic hearth bread, use 50% beet water instead of regular water. What can go wrong?
3. Alien worms
I have several theories about this. My current dominant theory is that the sous vide rig pulsed the water so much that the gels were shaken until they sheared. The bag should have been dropped into 150F water in a pot and ignored for 10 minutes, then strained gently and served. (These are fluid gels, like ketchup, so when they undergo physical stress they liquefy--that's why ketchup only pours when you bang the bottle.) But I could be wrong.
I thought the cake was an ugly mound of crap, but that's how the girls decided to do it. It was certainly delicious. In future, I'd make a much thicker genoise layer, though. The puréed strawberry with raspberry jam coulis inside rocked, and the weird chocolate buttercream I got from the Bernachon brothers (it uses pastry cream as a base!) was delicious and very durable.