Midnight Snack Video: Neal Stephenson Sabering a Champagne Bottle


Time for our annual video: Neal Stephenson shows off his sword skills, performing saberage on a bottle of Champagne in front of a Phantom Flex. Filmed 5200 FPS in 720p HD. Happy New Year from the team at ChefSteps!

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Credit and thanks to Neal Stephenson and everyone else involved in the making of this video.

A DIY Christmas Spectacular | We Built a Gaggle Roaster

So we occasionally get up to some elaborate DIY exploits that involve cooking, fire, and metal fabrication. We’ve staged some pretty large exploits in the last couple of years (we’ll be sharing some photos from those events soon), but I thought some of you might be interested in the relatively small one we threw together for a holiday celebration last Saturday night.

The Construction Phase
We dubbed the device “The Gaggle Roaster.” It’s a rotisserie spit that can carry half a dozen geese, each one dangling by its legs. We did this so the weight of the bird would stretch the skin taut, and so that we would get radiant heat shining over the entire surface of the bird. This ensured evenly cooked birds with really crispy skin, which was a major goal. Each bird rotated at about 2 rpm. We geared it so the birds would counter-rotate, which means that each bird rotated in the opposite direction of the one next to it—there was no good reason for this other than it looked cool.

I sketched out the idea for this about  a week prior to the party. Our group of makers — including several of our friends at Furlong Fortnight Bureau — gathered to rapidly build and test the device at our friend Rusty Oliver’s shop (The Hazardfactory) between the hours of 5 pm and 3 am.

Our constructors included Neal Stephenson, myself (Chris Young), Rusty Oliver, Nathan Pegram, Daniel MacDonald, and Larry Felser.

We also fabricated a giant roasting pan, complete with our own custom gas manifolds to roast some vegetables to go with our geese. On full blast, this is probably something like a 500,000 BTU/hr stove top.

Here’s a view of Rusty Oliver (left), Daniel MacDonald (center), and Nathan Pegram (right) working on final assembly:
Rusty-Oliver Kevin-MacDonald Nathan-Pegram
Here’s Nathan tensioning the very long bike chain that drives the gearing:
Our careful engineering efforts involved load testing with about a 4X geese-overloading factor:

The Party Phase
Here are some photos from the actual gaggle-roast. No sous vide was involved, we went old-school — like 16th century British old-school.

Basic Cooking Method:

  1. Build a linear chain-driven, counter-rotating rotisserie spit that will suspend half a flock of birds.
  2. Build a large hearth with high emissivity material (firebrick is ideal)
  3. Build a very large fire that is at least 25% longer than the length of the spit, so that the ends of the spit see as much glowing infrared energy as the center.
  4. Once firebrick is warmed up, suspend birds and begin roasting. Surface temperature of birds should settle around 160 °F / 71 °C until core temperature of bird reaches something like 140 °F / 60 °C.
  5. For the final sear, move the geese closer to the fire and turn up the intensity of the radiant heat by blasting large volumes of air at the fire. A leaf blower or Shop-Vac blown in reverse will do nicely.
  6. Once the surface temperature of the birds reaches something like 270 °F / 132 °C, remove the birds and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Carve and serve with a giant pan filled with choucroute and new potatoes.

Here are some photos that Ryan grabbed during the event:

Plumes of Combustion
Geese in Silhouette
 A Gaggle of Roasting Geese
 Turning Up The Heat!
Glowing White Hot

Forging Crispy Skin

And, yes, this was really delicious.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday — Chris, Grant, Ryan and the rest of the ChefSteps team.

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
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The ChefSteps Team Slows It Down With High Speed Video

We Run A Clean Kitchen, But Our High Speed Video Studio Was A Hot Mess!

Last week, the ChefSteps team and some of their friends (Neal Stephenson, Pablos Holman, Kevin Finke, and Rusty Oliver to name a few) made a mess. Not a little mess — an epic high speed video mess.

Grant Crilly demonstrates how to make applesauce with a mallet.

As of Monday morning, every cleaning tool had been put to good use to restore ChefSteps to its pre-shoot condition and the room was abuzz with snippets of conversation about the best things that had happened over the weekend. We’ll be rolling out some of those best things in time, but meanwhile, here’s a photo sampler from the weekend for your enjoyment.

Ryan Matthew Smith disappears into a floury cloud.

Neal Stephenson sneaks up on a cantaloupe
with his longsword by Angus Trim.

 Grant Crilly loads up a satsuma for the ride of its life.

From L-R: Ryan Matthew Smith, Nathan Pegram, Hans’ cousin, Greg Mattson, and Hans Twite look on in amazement. What are they looking at?

ChefSteps is Chris Young, Grant Crilly and Ryan Matthew Smith.
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