We’re going on a little vacation from our journey this week so that I can share with you the amazing experience I just had cooking with IBM Chef Watson. You might remember that Watson kicked some major trivia booty on Jeopardy. Since then, he’s ventured to many other areas – you know – working to cure cancer with the New York Geonome center and creating amazing dishes via a partnership with Bon Appetite – to name a few. Who would think that such a busy guy would have time to stop by the kitchen of the Traveling Taste Bud?
Technically, Chef Watson joined me from the Cloud. Bon Appetite posted an opportunity to participate in the Chef Watson beta, and I signed up as quickly as humanly possible. Tech marketing is my real-life career, so combining food and technology is pretty much perfect in my books. Almost immediately, my mind was blown.
Chef Watson is a creative little bugger. My recipe search started with thinking of what is currently in season, which landed me on peaches and butternut squash. Chef Watson asks what you want to include / exclude, then asks for the kind of food, and the style of food. The options are a bit “creative.” I’m still a bit confused on what style could be considered Amagansett. Undeterred, I thew on an Apple iTunes Genius mix based on Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancake to ensure I was fully engulfed in the summer vibe. (Side note – this was pre IBM and Apple announcing a partnership. Who knows, maybe Watson will add in complementary iTunes music selections in the future. A girl can hope!)
First course – Asian butternut squash soup – I opted for butternut squash, soup, and Asian. I mean who doesn’t like an Asian butternut squash soup? Chef Watson came back with the typical ingredients plus red curry paste and tangerine juice. Interesting. The end result was a surprising combination of fresh with the tiniest bit of heat and depth from the curry paste.
Second course – Salmon tacos – I opted for salmon and tacos (you can skip style). Chef Watson dreamed up some really interesting ingredients – mustard seed, Japanese cucumbers, snow peas, fennel, chili, and blackberries. Yes, I put blackberries on salmon tacos. Fennel in most commonly found in sausage, so this was a surprising seafood accompaniment. The result tasted fresh and light with just a hint of heat. Perfect.
Third course – Peach ginger and bourbon ice cream – Here come the peaches! Chef Watson was a bit confused on this one. I wanted to make actual peach ice cream, but he would only let me make a peach topping over vanilla ice cream. Ok, fine. You’re a beta. When you are not beta, Chef Watson, I want a homemade ice cream recipe. He fully exceeded expectations with a combination of peach, ginger (including ginger ale), bourbon, and pecans. The flavors came together and showed a lot of depth in flavors and textures. I nearly had to stage an intervention to keep myself from eating the topping with a spoon. Holy goodness!
The end result of my first escapade with Chef Watson was a spectacular menu that lit my taste buds on fire. The directions were a good start, but not easily usable by a non-experienced cook. One of the goals of the beta is to help the Watson team create better instructions. I’ve written my own directions and adjusted to my taste below.
Here are the Chef Watson recipes with my adaptations. I hope you enjoy making your own version!
- Olive oil
- ½ teaspoon lemon peel, minced
- 1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds discarded
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup red onion, diced
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup half and half
- 2 - 4 tablespoons red curry paste
- ½ - ½ cup tangerine juice
- 3 tablespoons butter
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425F
- Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then add the halved butternut squash cut side up
- Brush with 1 tablespoon of butter, plus salt and pepper Bake on the top rack for 45 minutes, then remove, cover with aluminum foil and let sit for 15 minutes. Scoop out squash and put into a large stock pot
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet, add lemon peel and heat until fragrant. Add onion and cook for 6 minutes until translucent
- Add cooked onions, potatoes, and chicken broth to butternut squash. Cook on medium high for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Let cool briefly, then puree in a blender and return to the stock pot
- Stir in 4 tablespoons of half and half, ¼ cup of tangerine juice, and 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Adjust tangerine juice, half and half, butter, salt, and pepper to taste