So what exactly, is it? There are many interpretations of the term deconstructed food, but one that comes to mind as I understand it, is the analysis of a recipe, separately preparing the major elements of that recipe, then presenting those elements in a creative, unexpected way. (Chefs out there, sorry for the over-simplification!)
As an architect, my approach to deconstructed food is more simply in terms borrowed from the construction industry rather than the delicate culinary arts industry. In preparing food for my friend Margaret, who requires a puree/liquid diet due to her cancer treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of her tongue, I deconstruct vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and other foods to a puree form. I then reconstruct (assemble, rebuild) individual pureed food types to look like the familiar comfort foods that Margaret remembers and loves.
Cooking up veggies, pureeing and pouring a luscious mixture into a soup bowl is food for the soul. A warm (or chilled) pureed soup is wonderfully flavorful and slips smoothly down the throat in such a satisfying way. But what if soup was served two or three times a day, everyday for 10 or more weeks along with supplemental drinks, as Margaret will require? After a few weeks of soup, soup and more soup might she no longer find it satisfying? Will she miss her favorite comfort foods such as beef stew, hamburgers and French fries, pork chops, roasted chicken, nice salads?
These are questions I felt compelled to address as I planned and developed Margaret’s menus. I wanted Margaret to have a feeling of anticipation of her next meal. And I wanted to surprise her with meals whose images triggered her favorite memories of her reliable comfort foods.
Soups still look like soup but….
To puree is to deconstruct. For Margaret’s soups, I deconstruct each vegetable, partner them with other vegetables and garnish and create visual designs of swirls, squiggles and color bursts. The soup bowl is my palette and the veggies are my media. The soups still look like soup but just a little more whimsical and a little more fun to see.
It’s puree, really?
For some of the main entrees, I reconstruct the puree so the comfort food dinners I make visually imply the meals as we know it, with natural colors, 3-dimensional forms and textures.
Take this all-pureed hamburger meal for example: The bun is pureed white bread, spread in a tiny bowl and frozen. More puree was spread on a cookie sheet and after frozen, a cookie cutter the same diameter as the tiny bowl, was used to create the bottom half of the bun. I brushed on a sweet potato puree glaze to give the bun some color.
Similarly with the “French fries”, I pureed boiled potatoes, spread it on a cookie sheet and when frozen, I cut the potatoes into strips then used a sweet potato glaze for color. Ditto for the hamburger, using a cookie cutter to cut out patties from the frozen sheet of cooked ground beef.
“Cheese, lettuce and catsup”? Yep, all pureed veggies. For more detail on this and other meals, see the “Methods and Techniques” page.