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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Molecular Gastronomy

I'm subscribed to this channel on YouTube called MoleculRFlavors. I would watch their videos and be amused about them. I always thought it was cool, but a lot of work for egg nog or chocolate or whatever. I actually used to think it was kind of pretentious and stupid...until I tried it for myself.

Honestly, I've never been so blown away by food in my life.
Insert picture caption here.

The picture on the right is a peekytoe crab summer roll with avocado puree, soy air, cilantro leaves, and a yuzu vinaigrette. Aside from the soy air(soy sauce + soy lecithin + immersion blender), what else is unusual about this dish?

Well, the rice paper it is wrapped in, for one, is not your average rice paper. It's made by using the water from washing and cooking rice(all white and starch-filled) combined with agar agar and a few other tasty things to make it gel in sheets. We used a big circle cutter to create the 'paper' sheets, which were basically super-thin rice gelatin discs. Fill, roll, serve...that was it. The texture was really amazingly delicious, and it was nice and cool. It also didn't get greasy or slimy like normal rice paper might have when absorbing the fatty goodness from the spicy crab aioli that was binding the crab meat together.

Here's the cool thing about molecular gastronomy: it's not the pretentious crap you thought it was.

I actually would used to think that it's a lot of work for nothing really that special...in fact, I used to think it was a lot of work for something that was just plain weird. But it's not. It's 100%, totally, absolutely not! It's actually a handful of really cool techniques that create something totally new...i.e., cooking.

Being a Chef is all about mastering a bunch of techniques that can be applied to any and every ingredient known to man to create something new. It's about combining flavors and textures, making a new experience. That, in short, is molecular gastronomy. It's techniques plus ingredients plus flavor combinations. It's cooking, at its very base.

Picture caption. Not all of these can be witty, guys.
 Take this dish to the left, for example. Do you know what it is?

No? C'mon, take a guess before I tell you! That's the fun of it!

Still no? Okay, it's a root beer float.

What? No it's not, you crazy ho.

No, seriously! It is! That's vanilla ice cream with root beer pearls. Or root beer caviar. Same difference.

It's a classic dish/snack/night cap that's presented with a new technique in a new way. It's not in a glass with a red and white striped straw or topped with a cherry(though it could be), or is it served with a burger(though it could be). But it has root beer and vanilla ice cream...so it's got the same flavors of a root beer float!

It's made with a technique called 'spherification.' Wanna see what it looks like? Check this video out!

This is a version of what we did. This is obviously with mint and not root beer, but you get the idea. The entire channel has actually a REALLY cool bunch of stuff you can watch.


Anyway, the neat thing about molecular gastronomy is how much you can do with it. Encapsulating, spherification, aeration, foams, gellification... It's the new saute, braise, chill, and bake. (Kinda.)
 This is a Turtle Bite. It has flavors of caramel, chocolate, and pecans. The caramel is powdered by making caramel sauce then pulsing it in a food processor with a CRAPTON of maltodextrin, which turns anything you want into a powdery sand. It basically saps out all the fat and liquid out of stuff and makes everything dry...yet keeps the flavors and color. The chocolate is made into a 'jelly cube' which, to be honest, I didn't love. It had such an amazing chocolate flavor, but none of that tasty snap-and-melt quality that is my favorite thing about chocolate...but hey, this technique is awesome! 

Oh, and the pecan is a laquered nut with a beautiful maple sugar kind of syrup thingy. It's tasty and delicious and deep. I think it was salted, but I can't remember, since I only ate six of these things.

I'll find a better graham cracker recipe for you later. This recipe sucked.
And these little guys? Okay, they're s'mores. But how many times can you say you've made your own marshmallow and graham cracker and chocolate jelly before?

Ole'  Space Yeller? How is that a thing???
These dudes are encapsualted pears with grated Chinese Long Pepper and olive oil in eucalyptus gel...accompanied by Nergentoff's notebook. (Her name isn't ACTUALLY Nergentoff, by the way...it's just what she's saved as under my phone's contact list.) This was my favorite dish of the day, because of both technique and flavor profile.

The crunch of the pair could be replaced with a nice crisp apple, and the lemony-tastiness of the eucalyptus gel could be replaced with ginger, or lemongrass, or something else. Instead of olive oil you could use sriracha. You could do anything! And the best part about this kind of thing is that it's really cheap and easy to do...but looks amazing and expensive. It's a neat way to wow guests at a party, or get those picky, awful children of yours to eat vegetables without them thinking they're eating vegetables! Just lie and say they're space food, from the movie "Ole' Space Yeller." (They're kids. To a certain point, they'll believe anything you tell them.)