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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, maybe I was absent the day it arrived, but I keep hearing this buzz-word "deconstructed" in food descriptions, especially on the cooking shows. I would take it mean that the individual components would be arranged separately, rather than combined? However, when I look at the food, I don't see that. If it's a sauce, for instance, it still looks like sauce, salad looks like salad, etc. Can someone help this make sense to me? :confused:
 

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Here's a description I wrote some time ago for another food chat site:
If you're not even more confused now :lol:, deconstructed dishes may take the foods that are normally combined in the dish, change their forms, and then plate them together in a different way. It's not just about taking the dish apart, but putting its elements back together.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies.

When I posted the original question, I was feeling rather inadequate for not knowing what this term was supposed to mean. Now, I've decided it's merely pretentious "chef-speak", invented to elevate the dish to a (higher level?) than it actually needs or even ought to have. Since oyster chowder was used as an example, I'll continue with that. I enjoy traditional chowders, prepared in the traditional way, with the ingredients combined so that they play off one another in subtle harmony. I don't especially want to taste the individual components, so much as I want to enjoy the result of their successful infusion.

If this ignites a firestorm of protests, so be it. It's still my opinion. :look:
 

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>DECONSTRUCTED OYSTER CHOWDER......<

Suzanne, this is absolutely, sublimely perfect!

Do you mind if I share it with the members of anouther group?
 

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Yes it can be pretentious but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes deconstructing a dish can make it easier to prepare. The oyster example I believe is the height of pretention and quite a bad example. Let me give you an example of something I deconstruct that's not so pretentious.

Apple Pie Deconstructed

Filling
-5-6 golden delicious apples cut into 1/2 inch cubes
-1 cinammon stick
-freshly grated nutmeg
-2 tbsp brown sugar
-1/4 cup bailey's irish cream
-1/2 stick butter

Crust
-frozen puff pastry defrostred
-powdered sugar
-powdered cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 400
2. With a rolling pin roll out the puff pastry
3. sprinkle with cinamon and sugar, fold over, and roll again. Repeat this process at least one more time. Cut into single serving triangles or squares.
4. Stick in the oven until puffed.
5. On the stove top combine the filling ingredients and simmer for 1/2 hour or until as gooey as you like.

Plate:
Place one puff on a plate. Top with apple goo. Then top with custard (homemade and warm I hope).

Why do I deconstruct my apple pie? So I can make as much as I like, where as 1 whole apple pie might be too much. So i can top my puff with as much as little apple filling as I like.

I'm willing to bet that you deconstruct a lot of food that you make without even realizing it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Maybe. However, I cannot think of anything offhand. I'm more into enjoying food than playing with it. But even if I do 'deconstruct' something, I wouldn't then call it something it's not. A jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread is not a sandwich.

The traditional definition for pie is "A baked food composed of a shell of pastry that is filled with fruit, meat, cheese, or other ingredients, and usually covered with a pastry crust" Credit: American Heritage Dictionary.

That dessert recipe sounds delicious, and some may call it 'pie' if they want to, but it does not fit the definition.
 

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I have a picutre of a deconstructed sundae we serve at our latin rest. you get the Ingredients brought to you and you put them together in the way you want... if you don't like one item you leave it out...thats what deconstructed means to me.
 

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Thanks for the replies.

When I posted the original question, I was feeling rather inadequate for not knowing what this term was supposed to mean. Now, I've decided it's merely pretentious "chef-speak", invented to elevate the dish to a (higher level?) than it actually needs or even ought to have.
Not just chef-speak - it's used in every field, usually pretentiously. I believe (not sure) that it originates in literary criticism, and is usually incomprehensible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Not just chef-speak - it's used in every field, usually pretentiously. I believe (not sure) that it originates in literary criticism, and is usually incomprehensible.
Thank you for posting this. When I asked the original question, I was feeling sort of inadequate for not knowing or understanding. However, after reading your response, I can now feel superior beccause I no longer need to care. /img/vbsmilies/smilies/lookaround.gif
 

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The problem is that deconstructed started life with a specific meaning, but has been degraded. Far too often, nowadays, it's what many seem to think: that you merely separate the dish into it's component parts.

Technically, that would meet the standard definition of deconstruct. But in culinary terms, deconstruct means to break apart and then reconstruct in a new manner.

Originally, deconstructed could be the epitomy of the chef's art. What it meant was that you took the ingredients, prepared them in a form different from the original, then recombined them again. The look was different, but when you ate the dish you got the same flavor sensation as the original.

For example, I once saw a deconstructed Ceasar salad that used molecular gastronomy techniques to create a totally different look and feel. The dressing, for instance, was turned into a gel disc that flowed apart when you passed your fork through it. Something else had been done to change the form of the Parmesan. Etc.

Visually it was quite striking, and unlike a regular Ceasar salad. But when you bit into it, you knew that Ceasar is what you were eating.

That's a long way from laying out the greens, cheese, oil, vinegar, egg, and anchovy separately. But, unfortunately (and you can blame the TV chefs for this) that's what it's come to mean.
 

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The problem is that deconstructed started life with a specific meaning, but has been degraded. Far too often, nowadays, it's what many seem to think: that you merely separate the dish into it's component parts.

Technically, that would meet the standard definition of deconstruct. But in culinary terms, deconstruct means to break apart and then reconstruct in a new manner.

Originally, deconstructed could be the epitomy of the chef's art. What it meant was that you took the ingredients, prepared them in a form different from the original, then recombined them again. The look was different, but when you ate the dish you got the same flavor sensation as the original.

For example, I once saw a deconstructed Ceasar salad that used molecular gastronomy techniques to create a totally different look and feel. The dressing, for instance, was turned into a gel disc that flowed apart when you passed your fork through it. Something else had been done to change the form of the Parmesan. Etc.

Visually it was quite striking, and unlike a regular Ceasar salad. But when you bit into it, you knew that Ceasar is what you were eating.

That's a long way from laying out the greens, cheese, oil, vinegar, egg, and anchovy separately. But, unfortunately (and you can blame the TV chefs for this) that's what it's come to mean.
only when done poorly, which I think is a mark of a chef outreaching themselves. Its like like trying to say that a flat bit of cream that has been whipped, is whipped cream. No, it's not...it's a failed or bad attempt at whipped cream. take that loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter reference, that is not a deconstructed dish, those are component ingredients and as KYH said if they were say, a small cube of bread surrounded by jelly with a peanut butter ganache encapsulating it all. Something about the size of a Lindt truffle, that would be a "deconstruction" IF when you popped it into your mouth you were reminded of a pb&j from childhood.

A deconstruction should be able to instantly remind of the original as far as flavor, I believe some different texture is unavoidable in most instances.
 

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>I believe some different texture is unavoidable in most instances.<

I don't think it can be avoided, Gunnar. Nor is it a bad thing.

The whole point, to use your example, is that when you bite into it you feel that you're eating a PB&J sandwich.

only when done poorly, which I think is a mark of a chef outreaching themselves.

Sadly, it's done poorly more often than not. Some of it is over reaching, as you suggest. But much more of it is cooks and chefs who don't really understand the concept trying to ride a trend.

It's like ChefRaz's example above. To me, that isn't a deconstruction, it's a do-it-yourself sundae.
 

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Suzanne>>>Great definition 
 

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Like much of literary criticism I think the deconstructed caesar salad KY describes is a lot of smoke and little roast (one italian expression that comes to mind, or to take another, fried air - since anything, even hot air, tastes better when fried).

So you spend hours and lots of fancy equipment to make a disk of dressing that will melt when your fork touches it, but in the end it tastes like a regular caesar salad.  Is that all that much different from "fun food" like ice cream that looks like spaghetti and sauce? (squeeze vanilla ice cream through a potato ricer, put strawberry sauce and shredded coconut on top.)  Yes, spaghetti ice cream is very low-brow and can be looked down on, and molecular gastronomy is very high-brow and can be aspired to, but in the end you've done some kind of fun food for very rich people.  What's the difference between this molecular caesar salad and a regular one?  Illusion?  fun?  I bet it is fun to cut a disk and it turns magically into dressing, but beyond that?  Is it really worth the incredible amount of labor and money and equipment it takes to make it? 

Personally, i like food to look like food.  I don't like food that looks like colored erasers kids would use in middle school (some japanese dishes) or like disks or tiny globules like some crazy homeopathic medicine.  Personal taste, i guess.  But i like the texture and roughness and realness of real food. 

I enjoy it nicely presented.  But not at the cost of having a huge dish with a thumbsized portion of something very tasty but that's going to leave me starving, however beautiful it's made to look (and having to pay as if it were a huge portion). 
 

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All you say may be true, Siduri. But the question was, "what is deconstructed." That was the most graphic way I could describe it.

Whether or not you'd like such culinary endeavers is a different subject altogether. In fact, every point you made could apply to all culinary trends and conceits.

One difference between deconstructed and fun food is that deconstructed does, indeed, "look like food." If I served that Ceasar salad to you, or Gunnar PB&J, but in each case called it something else, you wouldn't think twice about sampling it. Of course, once you tasted it, you'd probably say, "Know what? This X salad tastes just like Ceasar."
 

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Sorry KY, i know you were just explaining the concept.  I can see the appeal for a chef to do these sorts of experiments, and maybe even for people to enjoy them, but still, a disk that turns into salad dressing?  May be fun, but does it really enhance the eating experience?  It would give me the creeps.  If i want a salad, i would rather have rough leaves coated nicely in a dressing. 

Anyway, i got interrupted as i was writing the post above and hit submit before i had really finished and edited.  I didn';t mean to undermine your description.
 

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We're getting pretty far from what "deconstruction" means. I guess that's only appropriate though because it seems like a great many of the TV cooks (often reality show "cheftestants") don't know either.

"Deconstruction," is a kind of philosophical way of looking at the world, but mostly literature, first defined by the contemporary French philosopher, Jacques Derrida.

The basic idea is that in order to understand things (literary works for instance) which are composed of a number of disparate elements, you must separate them into those elements and understand each of them, as well as the synergy which results from their combination.

At a certain level of refinement, cooking can comment on these sorts of things and that's what "deconstructed" food does. When a deconstructed dish works, it's a witty play on modern intellectual life as well a wonderfully surprising way of understanding a dish we ordinarly take for granted.

In addition to understanding those parts of a given dish which are irreducible (cannot be broken into their own components without losing meaning), the cook must also understand how those things work together. For instance, an amuse bouche that's a napoleon of well cooked smoked and chilled beet slices, ultra-thin slices of persian cucumbers and a tarragon creme-fraiche might be a very nice deconstructed borscht; but a plate of grilled steak, roast potatoes and peas and carrots is not a deconstructed stew.

I don't mean to critique anyone else's take on "deconstruction" with this information. Very few Americans take academic philosophy or academic literary criticism seriously enough to have much of a sense of what Derrida was really after. But (a) we probably shouldn't, and (b) I'm not sure that it makes much difference. The idea of deconstruction of breaking down a dish into its most basic elements, then preparing and serving them in a way which highlights their individuality while illuminating the way they work together is pretty inuitive.

BDL
 
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