March 2008

Compressed Fruit
Chef Mark Hopper of Bouchon – Las Vegas, NV
Adapted by StarChefs

Why “compress”? Color, texture, and (sometimes) flavor: these three essential attributes are intensified by a quick trip in the vacuum sealer. Ingredients with looser cell structures and high water content (like fruits) are compacted under pressure – air is pushed out of the space between cells, and the resulting slice of apricot, for example, emerges with a softer, denser, “cooked” texture that usually only results from exposure to heat. Flavor comes into play when a liquid is vacuum-sealed with the fruit. The liquid is pushed into the space once occupied by air, and voilà – the fruit is instantly infused with flavor. In this case, apricots get a gentle flavor boost from simple syrup; but that syrup could be infused with chilies or herbs, or replaced with Brandy…the possibilities are endless. Plus, there’s an extra technique within this technique: check out Hopper’s method for thin, delicate, sweet-spicy almond brittle in the recipe below.

Step 1: Slice fruit. Trim peel if desired (leaving peel will not drastically effect the technique).

Step 2: Place fruit in a single layer in a vacuum bag and add infusing liquid.

Step 3: Vacuum seal bag and liquid on high.

Salad of Compressed Apricots with Almond Brittle and Arugula
Chef Mark Hopper of Bouchon Las Vegas, NV
Adapted by

Yield: 20 salads, 300 portions almond brittle


    Salad of Compressed Apricots with Almond Brittle and Arugula by Chef Mark Hopper of Bouchon – Las Vegas, NV on StarChefs.comApricots:
  • 20 apricots
  • 1 cup simple syrup

    Almond Brittle:
  • 22 grams butter
  • 1800 grams corn syrup
  • 2700 grams sugar
  • 1350 grams water
  • 30 grams salt
  • 24 grams baking soda
  • .33% gram cayenne pepper (by % of total weight of caramel powder)
  • 1% gram paprika (by % of total weight of caramel powder)
  • 2000 grams almond slices

    To Assemble and Serve:
  • 3 pounds wild arugula
  • Apricot trimmings (from above)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 5 lemons
  • Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shallots
  • 1 cup heavy syrup (hot)

For the Compressed Apricots:
Slice apricots into thin rounds, and reserve trim. Arrange apricot slices in one even layer in a Cryovac® bag, add enough simple syrup to barely cover, and vacuum on high.

Note: Depending on the natural sugar and acid levels of the apricots, other marinades may be appropriate – Champagne vinegar, honey, etc. Completely ripe fruit may not need to be marinated at all, but compressed as is.

For the Almond Brittle:
Combine water, sugar and corn syrup and heat to 235ºC. Add butter and continue cooking until 285°C, then remove from heat and add baking soda and salt. Spread caramel onto four silpats and cool. Break into small pieces and grind in a spice mill. Scale caramel powder and add paprika and cayenne according to weight. On a silpat or gastroflex sheet, arrange ring molds or stencils in desired positions and, using a fine sifter, dust the space inside each mold with the sugar mixture. Sprinkle evenly with toasted almond slices and dust again. Remove molds and place baking tray in a 325ºF oven for approximately 3-5 minutes or until brittle is clear. Remove from oven and cool until pliable yet warm, and transfer to parchment paper. The finished product should be clear and glass like, no thicker than the height of a slivered almond. Brittle will hold for approximately two days, depending on the humidity.

To Assemble and Serve:
Pick and wash arugula. Small dice the apricot trimmings, pour hot heavy syrup to cover, and let rest. On pick up, toss arugula with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, shallots, and apricot trimmings. Shingle Compressed Apricots in a circular pattern on the plate, and garnish with Almond Brittle and arugula salad.

  by Heather Sperling
March 2008