Compositionally, I find the above photo rather appealing. Sadly, I don’t think most people would realize that the pepper is actually supposed to resemble a flower. In essence, I could use some practice with food sculpture.
Last weekend I learned, among other things, a bit about food sculpture. But more than that I discovered the importance of instruction. Yes, you can read Cook’s Illustrated, Bon Appétit and the like cover to cover each month, taking them to bed for extra review if they’re lying around on an odd night. Yes, you can slowly work your way through your father’s old fish cookbooks, marking most appealing recipes only to remove the post-its and go through again just a year later.
Sure, you can know about the Maillard reaction, about the sulfur compounds produced from overcooked broccoli, about the difference between black garlic and your average white bulbs at the store, about collagen breakdown in slowly-cooked beef, about, well, anything in the kitchen. But, really, what’s the use if you can’t put your knowledge into practice?
I mean honestly, if you’ve seen me chop an onion, you’d realize my knife skills aren’t exactly the world’s best. I’ve been going on for quite some time with technique that could probably have lost me a few fingers. Of course, that assumes that we have sharp knives, which we don’t.
Last weekend I got to cook with Julian Butterlin, who works as a chef in France. My father met his mother through business and she offered to have him give me a cooking lesson. Thus, I went on Sunday afternoon and watched/somewhat helped make the most wonderful poulet forestiere aux champignons, gazpacho, and toasts with prosciutto and parmesan.
And, I learned how to chop an onion. He also showed me how to make the pepper flower above (as you can see he has it down a little better than I do) and how to embellish mushrooms. We discussed the importance of high heat and constant motion for searing chicken. But it wasn’t so much the specific facts of how and why, but just getting to see someone cook as I aspire to be able to. You see the importance of confidence, of practice, very clearly. You see that you too can cook, that any strange barriers to entry are only figments of your imagination.
How to Make a Flower From a Pepper
Cut triangles with a sharp paring knife around the circumference of the pepper (mine in the first photo were too small, see below instead):
Then, cut between the skin and the inside of the pepper on each of the “petals”
Place the pepper, cut-side down, into a bowl of ice water, and place in the fridge. Let sit for about two hours.
Remove from the water. The petals should have separated, the inside pieces turning in, and those on the outside turning out: