Using the entire vegetable, from root to tip, is a guiding principle at The Chef’s Garden and at the Culinary Vegetable Institute, where Executive Chef Jamie Simpson religiously maintains a rigid no food waste methodology in his kitchen. As part of that endeavor, he creates culinary masterpieces from ingredients many chefs would toss into the trash.
One of his preferred techniques for “butchering” the whole vegetable is to puree. Here, The Chef’s Garden (TCG) asks Jamie Simpson (JS) questions about his philosophy and techniques.
TCG: Why is this method at the top of your list as a professional chef?
JS: It’s a way to balance flavor and texture and the unexpected ingredient (carrot tops, in this case). Say you have a component that is chewy, like meat. And maybe there’s a vegetable that adds crunch. The puree is a bridge to help the flavor evolve in your mouth.
TCG: What is particularly unique or innovative about how/what you choose to puree?
JS: Using the entire vegetable with no waste, generally anything that usually gets thrown away: carrot tops, fava bean stems.
TCG: If you had to compare pureed vegetables to an art medium, how would you describe it?
JS: Oil paint
TCG: How do you make a puree stand out and be noticed as an integral element of dish?
JS: The element of surprise. It’s always understated until you eat it.
TCG: What is your preferred method of puree?
JS: Immersion circulator, blender, chinois, vacuum machine (in that order)
TCG: What does the vacuum machine do?
JS: Removes air, which also maintains color and makes it smooth. Evaporation is flavor lost.
TCG: How is this not just fancy baby food?
Carrot Puree Steps
- Remove carrot tops and set them aside for use later.
- Poach carrots in a circulator along with some kind of fat (oil/butter).
- Blend cooked carrots in a blender.
- Remove the mixture from the blender.
- Pass the mixture through chinois (a cone-shaped fine mesh sieve).
- Remove air in a vacuum machine. This suctions air and compresses the pureed mixture inside a plastic pouch.
- Poach white carrots in the circulator.
- Blanch carrot tops.
- Blend cooked white carrots in blender.
- Add blanched carrot tops to blender, along with white carrots, and blend.
- Pass the mixture through chinois.
- Remove air in the vacuum machine.
If this seems like a lot of process for a carrot puree, well, it is. But the result is absolutely worth it – a glossy, velvety, thick, complex, vibrantly colored and intensely flavored puree.