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Going Molecular with Desire in the Kitchen

Last week there was a free afternoon at work, so I got my sous chef and some other members of the kitchen krew together for a little workshop in Molecular Gastronomy.  Now this sub-genre of cooking is pretty esoteric and there aren't that many applications that we can take advantage of in the cooking we do at the college. I use some of the techniques in my own culinary balleywick of catering, but you're not likely to see any molecular gastronomy in general student dining.  At least any time soon.

There are essentially four areas of technique that are unique to this type of cooking - gelification, emulsification, spherification and dehydration.  This day we were practicing gelification techniques by producing two items - Spinach Spaghetti and Balsamic Pearls.

For me, the inspiration for the interest in this sort of cooking comes from two sources.  the first is the chef who is considered to be the Dean of Molecular Gastronomy, Spain's Ferran Adria.  The chef himself would rather be known as a de-constuctivist, which I guess he is, but his avant-garde cooking style plays right into a more science-centric culinary mind set.  Hence, most of the techniques he applies to his creative process involve chemical manipulation of traditional food stuffs.  His recently closed restaurant, El Bulli was considered to be the world's best restaurant for nearly a decade.  His cooking methods and how he operated his establishment are legendary in the food community. There is a great film that sums up Chef Adria's process and the spirit of El Bulli very well...

The second source of inspiration for me in seeking out new cooking horizons is sushi chef, Jiro Ono who is considered to be the best sushi chef in the world.  He is 85 and is still, in his opinion, learning his craft. Currently there is a documentary out in theaters which depicts Jiro's efforts to pass his legacy onto his sons who, not surprisingly, are finding their father's shoes a little tough to fill.  Every time I see the trailer is gives me shivers and puts a lump in my throat.  Yeah - I get pretty geeked about food, especially when I see transcendent craftsmanship and dedication as illustrated by folks like Ferran Adria and Jiro Ono.

And here is some of the Krew going over the game plan and watching an instructional video before starting the experiments.  The guy manning my laptop is my sous chef, Josh.....

Then the first attempt at making Spinach Noodles works out just okay - too much Agar-Agar in the solution caused the noodles to be too brittle and not supple enough.  It was still a great first try - that's me talking about suggestions for recipes/techniques and such. 

Next we tried making Balsamic Pearls, which are a good deal more complicated as you can see by our process here.... The "pearls" are solidified drops or spheres of balsamic vinegar that taste like balsamic but have the consistency of gummi bears.

We ended the session by playing around with some application for our creations...watermelon with balsamic pearls and strawberries with balsamic pearls.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2012 08:50 am (UTC)
Did you get a chance to see the Jiro movie? I think I texted you that you would love it!
Jul. 12th, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
Nah - it never made it to our neck of the woods (along with Wes Anderson's latest, which is a whole other irritation) but Jiro comes out on DVD next week so I'll just buy it. Sometimes I get the krew together at my house for food movie night. Pizza,beer, etc. The El Bulli and Jiro movie are next on the playbill. Don't really want the krew watching "The Cook, The Thief..." some of the youngster are pretty excitable.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )