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Taking Taste Buds To Outer Limits

The New York Times describes chef Homaro Cantu as "a chef in the Buck Rodgers tradition, blazing a trail to a space-age culinary frontier."

Cantu, who's executive chef at Chicago's Moto restaurant, gave Early Show viewers a taste of his take on culinary creations Friday. The leader in "molecular gastronomy" whipped up some of his more innovative dishes.

He's considered one of America's most daring chefs -- pushing the limits of known taste and technique.

The Moto Web site calls Cantu "a scientist at heart," adding that he's "an inventor. Through Cantu Designs, Mr. Cantu has filed numerous patent applications covering diverse fields such as dining items, cookware and edible surfaces."

The site adds, "To dine at Moto is to gain a glimpse of the inner-workings of this culinary prodigy's mind and the future of gastronomy. Offering tasting menus of 5, 10 and 18 courses, Cantu stretches the imagination and takes you on a culinary adventure from the very first bite, which may even be your menu! Homaro prints the evening's offerings on edible paper. These functional and delicious menus assume many final forms on the plate including risotto and alphabet soup."

On The Early Show, Cantu featured:

  • Artichoke Soup with Pea Puree: This dish evokes the flavors of the season while adding a richness and decadence not normally associated with a warming early summer. Chef Cantu tops off his soup with his signature edible menu -- made of vegetable-based film with organic ink.
  • Pizza Soup: Cheeseless, doughless pizza never tasted so good! This vegetarian soup tastes like a pepperoni pizza, but has NO meat.
  • Sushi: A vegan sushi snack made of rice and seaweed served with wasabi mayo sauce.
  • BBQ Pork with Corn Bread/Ketchup Sauce & Briquettes: Butter-tender pork cooked in a smoker for 16 hours, served with a cornbread/ketchup sauce (to look like BBQ sauce) and white bread briquettes (to look like charcoal).
  • Printed Edible Dishes: It's deja vous as Chef Cantu serves up a sampling of the three previous dishes (pizza, sushi, BBQ pork) in edible printed paper -- that are not only a two-dimensional image of each, but also tastes like each dish!
  • Alien Crash Course Dessert: A delicious confection of mint, peanut, chocolate and ice cream -- traditional and universal favorites, topped off with Midori carmel candy.


    Artichoke Soup with Pea Puree

    Artichoke Soup:

    4 artichokes, cleaned and quartered
    2 leeks (whites)
    5 cloves of garlic, crushed
    1/4 lb butter
    1 quart vegetable stock
    3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    Pinch of red chile flake
    5 peppercorns
    Sprig of thyme
    Bay leaf
    Lemon to taste
    Salt to taste

    Clean artichokes and hold them in a bath of cold water and lemon juice (prevents oxidation - browning of artichokes). Sweat garlic, leeks, artichoke for 2 minutes in oil and butter. Cover vegetables with stock and simmer covered until artichokes are fork tender. Puree in a blender until mixture is smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and lemon.

    Pea Puree:
    16oz. English pea legume
    1 quart of water
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup salt

    Boil a small pot of water with sugar and salt for blanching. Blanch and shock peas until tender. Puree peas in a blender and use blanching water for any additional liquid to help your puree roll in the blender.

    Pizza Soup

    6 tomatoes, chopped
    1 large onion, sliced
    1/4 cup crushed garlic
    T fennel seed
    T dry thyme
    T dry oregano
    T red chili flakes
    Olive oil
    T sugar
    Salt to taste
    Lemon to taste
    Balsamic vinegar to taste

    Grease your pot with olive oil. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, pinch of salt and sugar in the pot and let simmer, stirring occasionally. Water will seep out of the vegetables and the soup is done when most of the water has evaporated. Blend until smooth. Season with balsamic, lemon, salt, and maybe a bit more sugar until the soup has attained that familiar pizza flavor.


  • BBQ Pork with Corn Bread/Ketchup Sauce

    Corn Bread:
    3C cornmeal
    1-1/2 C masa
    1/2 C sugar
    1 T salt
    1 tsp baking soda
    2-1/2 C buttermilk
    4 oz. melted butter
    4 eggs
    1 yolk

    Combine all of the dry ingredients. Combine all of the wet ingredients. Combine both mixtures and pour into a greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.


    5 tomatoes, quartered
    5 sprigs of thyme
    5 cloves garlic, crushed
    T onion powder
    T Olive oil
    T garlic powder
    Sugar to taste
    Salt to taste
    White wine vinegar

    Toss olive oil, tomatoes, thyme and garlic in a bowl. Lay out on a rack and pan separating the tomatoes. Roast at 300 degrees in a still oven for about 3 hours. Tomatoes should have a tartness and soft and dry to the touch.

    Finished Sauce: Fill blender with 8oz. water. Combine tomatoes and powders. Add sugar, salt, white wine vinegar to achieve that sweet and tart ketchup flavor. Take your cooled corn bread and start adding small chunks to the mixture to thicken. Sauce should taste like ketchup on a piece of cornbread.

    Briquette (bread):
    Brioche loaf, crusted and cut into 1-1/2 in. cubes
    1 cup water
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 cup of your favorite mustard
    1/2 cup cuttlefish ink

    Combine everything except the bread in an open container. Quickly dip the bread into your black liquid and set on a drying rack. After one hour toss the cubes into 350degree oil. You will want to use a spider to keep the briquettes submerged in the oil so they fry evenly. The ideal briquette is crispy on the outside with a warm soft bread on the inside, about 2 minutes.

    Brisket (in lieu of pork):
    One beef brisket whole, with only the excessive fat trimmed

    1 lb sugar
    1 lb brown sugar
    1 lb salt
    1 cup toasted cumin
    1 cup cayenne powder
    1 cup smoked paprika
    1 cup chili powder
    1 cup hickory smoke powder
    1 lb warmed buttter

    Hickory and mesquite wood chips
    Meat injector

    Take 1/3 your mixed rub and combine it with your butter. Inject brisket with butter in as many different places as you can. Cover the brisket liberally with the rub and cool. Smoke the brisket at 200 degrees for about 13 hours.

    Alien Crash Course Dessert

    Alien Candies:
    8 oz. isomalt
    2 oz. midori
    Silicone alien mold

    Combine isomalt and midori over high heat, constantly stirring. Use a candy thermometer and remove from heat when the liquid has reached 300 degrees. Pour into molds.

    Chocolate & Peanut Soil: 1 part peanut crumb, 3 parts chocolate cake crumb & chiffonade of mint

    Peanut Crumb:
    1 cup peanuts
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup salt
    2 cups water

    Boil peanuts in water, salt and sugar until tender. Drain the liquid from the peanuts and put on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven at 275 degrees stirring every 10 minutes until peanuts are dry-roasted. Chop them to achieve the correct soil consistency.

    Chocolate Cake Crumb:
    Go to the store, pick up a Better Crocker Chocolate cake box and follow the directions. Seriously, Betty makes a great cake! Also, we will be drying this cake out so there is no sense in using expensive ingredients if they are just going to dry out. Take a small portion of the cake crumble it up, and set it aside to dry. Take the rest of they cake, put on the frosting and eat it. I told you Betty mad a good cake. It will feel like dry soil when ready. You may need to chop a bit further to reach soil look.

    Chocolate Ice Cream:
    450g milk chocolate
    50g cocoa butter
    1 liter half and half

    Bring dairy to a simmer and pour over chocolate and cocoa butter. Stir until blended thoroughly. (In place of liquid nitrogen) Use an ice cream maker or an ice cream attachment for a Kitchenaid to spin your ice cream.