My adventures recreating Alinea Restaurant’s food at home

TRIPOD, Hibiscus

Recipe, page 215.

This is another super simple recipe from the Alinea Restaurant cookbook. The small frozen sphere of intensely flavored tartness is the perfect palate cleanser in between entrees, or as a refreshing end of meal. The only thing that makes this recipe difficult is in the presentation. At Alinea, they use custom metal tripods to display and serve the frozen spheres. As far as I’ve found out, you can’t get them anywhere, so you must rely on your own ingenuity. I made my own.

Alinea Restaurant hibiscus tripod

Here in Southern California we can get dried hibiscus flowers, or jamaica (ha-MIKE-uh), just about anywhere. They’re sold loose, in bulk bins, at nearly every Hispanic market.

I frequent several local supermercados for mine, either Northgate González Market or Pancho Villa Farmer’s Market. At North Park Produce, you can also find Sadaf brand in bags.

Jamaica is part of what I call the “Holy Trinity” of Mexican aguas frescasjamaica, the tart hibiscus drink, tamarindo, made from tamarind seed pods, and horchata, a sweet, cinnamon-rice water drink. You’ll see great glass barrels of the refreshing beverages on ice in many restaurants, markets and local taco stands. We even have vendors at out local Farmer’s Markets.

It’s tart taste, reminiscent of cranberry, makes jamaica perfect in a granita, steeped in a tea, or in margaritas.

More about Hibiscus sabdariffa
Did you know there are many names for hibiscus? Neither did I, until I read about it on The Cooking Diva Blog.

Roselle or rozelle, sorrel, red sorrel, saril, Jamaica sorrel, Indian sorrel, sour-sour, Guinea sorrel, Queensland jelly plant, lemon bush, rosa de Jamaica, flor de Jamaica, Jamaica, quimbombó chino, Florida cranberry, oseille rouge, oseille de Guinée, sereni, agrio de Guinea, viña, viñuela, vinagreira, curudú azédo, quiabeiro azédo, zuring, carcadé, bisap, hibiscus flowers and more!

Hibiscus Tea
Mise en place:
Hibiscus Tea
In a medium saucepan, I brought the water, sugar and salt to a boil, dissolving them thoroughly.

Hibiscus Tea

The recipe calls for 50g (or 3oz) of flowers. Typo. Fifty grams is correct, but don’t use three ounces (that’s 87 grams) to the amount of water specified, or you’ll end up with some super-concentrated juice! Should be “50g (1.8oz)” hibiscus. I added the flowers to the syrup mixture.

Hibiscus Tea

Let steep until room temperature.

Hibiscus Tea

I strained the infusion through a chinois into a non-reactive glass bowl, and discarded the flowers.

Hibiscus Tea

This is where you can get creative. To make spheres, you have to freeze the infused liquid in some kind of spherical molds. There are several on the market. But some are obscenely expensive for the home cook. I found this, used for chocolate ganache. And there was this, but it’s a hemi-sphere. I wanted whole-sphere.

Then I found Huztler ice ball trays, from Gourmac. Plastic, two-piece, 24-sphere ice trays for $4.19 each. A much better deal.

Hibiscus Tea

If you don’t feel like getting these, use your regular ice trays, or get some of these inexpensive novelty silicone ice trays. The “Tripod” doesn’t necessarily have to be spherical. It’s going to kinda look like H.G. Wells’ Martian killing machines from War of the Worlds, no matter what the shape.

I half-filled a plastic ice-ball tray to the “Equater” line, pressing the molds together.

Hibiscus Tea

Hibiscus Tea

Then secured the cover with clamps — I couldn’t find any rubber bands. I don’t know if you have this problem, but it seems anyone I know with kids does. The Scotch tape and rubber bands have a habit of mysteriously disappearing on a frequent basis.

Hibiscus Tea

I put the mold in the freezer overnight, and refrigerated the remainder of the hibiscus juice. The next day, I filled up the rest of the mold with the remaining juice, and froze again.

This didn’t end well, as bubbles inside the spherical mold distorted the shapes. So I started over, and this time forced the liquid into each hole (on top of the mold) with a small squeeze bottle. I was determined to get perfect spheres!

Hibiscus Tea

You have to put the tripods, toothpicks, or something, into the hole in each sphere while the top half freezes. You’ll take them out when disassembling the molds, but for now, they “path the way” for inserting the tripods later. Kinda like a lollipop. For the first batch I made, I didn’t do this step. When I tried to insert the metal pins into the frozen balls, they sheared and crumbled.

Making the Tripod Serving Pieces
I used some of the Heuck “No-Sew” stainless turkey lacer pinsI had left over from MANGO, Bonito, Soy, Sesame.

I cut off the right angles (tried to bend them, but they just snapped off). Then bent each pin at a slight, but consistent, angle. You’ll need a set of three “legs” for each tripod.

You’ll also need something to hold the “legs” in each hole, and have them remain in a stable upright position as they freeze. What more perfect job for a bunch of wine corks sitting around in the kitchen?

I save my wine corks. Dunno why. I just do. And these are from two whole years, so don’t worry about my liver.

I sawed some corks into smaller pieces and used these as holders for the metal tripod legs.

Place them atop the (now fully loaded) mold and re-froze.

This time, it worked!

To Assemble and Serve
I took the mold out of the freezer, removed the pins and took it apart. To clean up the spheres, run under tap water. This gets rid of the hard edges where the mold pieces connected. I inserted the tripods into each and splayed the legs to balance them out. When I took them out of the freezer they looked a little glossy or wet, but their surfaces re-froze after I let them alone.

Serve on a tripod. I used a small Fiesta dish under each — because the juice is so concentrated, it will stain any fabric.

Alinea Restaurant hibiscus tripod

C&H cane sugar
Diamond Crystal kosher salt
Dried hibiscus flowers, from Pancho Villa Farmer’s Market

Measuring cups
Medium saucepan
Wire whisk
Non-reactive glass bowl
Hunztler ice ball trays, from Gourmac
Clamps or rubber bands
Small funnel
Small squeeze bottle
Needle-nosed pliers and wire cutter
Wine corks
Small hacksaw or knife

Heuck “No-Sew” stainless turkey lacer pins
Small Fiestaware dishes, from Macy’s

Yields: 14 Servings

Holy Trinity Aguas Frescas

Use Hibiscus recipe above.

Pull stems and runners from pods. Peel off any shells. Add tamarind pods and sugar to water, and bring to a boil for about a minute. Pour into a glass bowl and let stand. When the pods have absorbed a lot of water, they’ll soften up. Break up some more to free up the pulp and seeds inside. This will help to release the most flavor possible. Let stand a couple of hours. Strain through a chinois, pressing out as much juice as possible.

Fill ice ball trays, freeze, and finish as above.

600g Water
60g C&H cane sugar
225g (about eight) Dried tamarind pods

Pulverize rice in a spice grinder or blender. Add rice, almonds, lime zest and cinnamon stick to a medium pan and fill with 600g water. Cover and let stand overnight.

Blend mixture until it smooth (it should not feel very gritty), adding 500g more water total. Strain through a chinois. Or if you don’t like the sediment in your horchata, strain though several layers of cheesecloth. Wring out to get all liquids.

Add more water or sugar to taste if needed. Fill ice ball trays, freeze, and finish as above.

1250g Water
200g C&H cane sugar
100g Rice
100g Blanched almonds
3 Strips lime zest, 2 inches long by 0.75 inches wide
1 Cinnamon stick

To Assemble and Serve:
Place one sphere each of the jamaica, horchata and tamarindo, lined up on an oblong serving dish. Enjoy!

Next, IDIAZABAL, Blis Maple Syrup, Smoked Salt

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