Clear Pumpkin Pie Mixes Seasonal Comfort With Molecular Gastronomy
Some home cooks can’t tweak their Thanksgiving pumpkin pie recipe without their family members accusing them of sacrilege. But at Alinea in Chicago, chefs are nixing the dessert’s distinctive orange filling altogether. As Vogue reports, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant is serving up a version of the fall staple that’s perfectly clear.
The miniature slice of see-through pumpkin pie shares a few similarities with the traditional dish. It’s built on a pie crust foundation and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. But the content of the pie itself, which would normally be a rich orange-brown color, is a made from transparent gelatin. The true magic of the dish comes when you taste it: The course evokes that same warm, nostalgic experience as a slice of pumpkin pie that grandma would make.
That’s because the bite actually has pumpkin in it, even if you can’t see it. To create the dish, Alinea executive chef Mike Bagale and chef de cuisine Simon Davies prepare a “pumpkin pie stock” by making a conventional pumpkin filling, mixing it with water, and distilling the liquid in a rotary evaporator. This process gives them condensation that’s “basically pure aroma,” Bagale told Vogue. After seasoning the concentrated liquid and setting it in clear gelatin, the chefs have a bizarre-looking dessert that is, in essence, pumpkin pie.
Presenting familiar flavors in innovative packages is nothing out of the ordinary for Alinea. Opened by chef Grant Achatz in 2005, the restaurant has included on its menu helium balloons, interactive potato soup, and edible works of art painted directly on diners’ tables. To try the newest viral creation to come out of the kitchen, you must be willing to shell out a couple hundred bucks for the full tasting menu. Suddenly your family’s pumpkin pie recipe may not sound so boring after all.