Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Construct a meal; for fun, deconstruct it

Assemble a list of ingredients and give to each of a half-dozen good cooks, and you will get a half-dozen different results. Each will use a different approach, different cooking techniques and different presentations.

Assemble a list of ingredients for one cook and ask for a specific, traditional preparation. Then, ask for a new preparation using the same fundamental ingredients but prepared, cooked and presented differently.

That's called deconstruction, and it is used as an exercise for cooks and chefs to instill thinking along with the creativity that they ought to bring to the prep table. In Culinary Foundations II, we must do a hypothetical deconstruction -- that is, write a paper on how we would do it -- in a project that Chef Dan Fluharty calls "The Plate." The project deadline is Friday.

I have selected a classic dish from my cultural heritage for presentation and then deconstruction -- red chile tamales. It's a propitious time, because they are traditionally made at the holidays in Mexican and Mexican-American homes. My mom and my tias made them by the tens of dozens for Christmas and New Year's Day, and I plan to do the same this year.

How will I deconstruct them? Doing so requires going back to the basic ingredients that make up a tamal. Starting with the basics, I will build a new menu. The results will be posted here by the end of the week, so please come back to take a look.

(Photo credit:

1 comment:

  1. Good luck! This sounds very challenging, but we're sure you are the man for this job!

    Michael, we've really enjoyed these posts. I'd fallen behind on reading them, but am thrilled to be caught up. If aspiring chefs could know about your blog, I know you'd have lots of devoted readers. This is great stuff, well written, and very enjoyable. Suspenseful, too! I'm at the edge of my seat, wondering what will come next!

    Looking forward to reading about Fry-day!