Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wednesday Test Kitchen - April 15, 2009

I was able to get things back on the railroad and back on schedule last night with Wednesday Test Kitchen. The main ingredient, seeing as we are in fact in the Spring season, was strawberry. I didn't want to overly complicated things, so I just focused on playing with some chemicals and making strawberry caviar. I also wanted to try to make strawberry into a savory almost comfort item by making it into a gazpacho of sorts - the inspiration of which really comes a basic idea that strawberry has a very inert savoriness in its flavor (umami for some) and that can often be a focal point in a dish. A gazpacho was poetic because it is the same frame of reference when you are talking about tomatoes. When we focus on tomato (a fruit), we tend to find it's delightfulness in being a savory item, but forget to explore the inherent sweetness it can offer.

Onto the menu:

Strawberry "Gazpacho"
-spring onion, vadouvan, smoked mirasol chile

Strawberry Caviar (reverse spherification)
-strawberry juice, gluconolactat, sodium alginate

I need a damn electric scale, my ratio's were way bloody off last night. Glargh. Oddly, I think I'm not comfortable enough with the alginate that I was able to eye the bath to the proper viscosity for spherification. Eat that chemical science. I'm still clueless sometimes when it comes to proper % with the gluconolactat, but the caviar came out only slightly thicker gel then what I wanted, so I'm not bitching.

FYI, I'm not a big chemicals guy in the kitchen and in all honesty, this stuff is far from new at this point. If you're a student of the art of food, you should at least be somewhat familiar with the processes or techniques. I'm a fan of knowing how to get things into the structure and texture that is best for a dish (when it is needed, which is rarely). I'm definitely not an expert and do not want/pretend to be, but this stuff is actually very simple and straight-forward - it basically requires a scale and some inquisitive willingness to put it together into getting the final product that you desire. If you took middle school chemistry, it's like that, except you can eat it. There are limitless resources about it, so anyone can do it really IF they put in the effort - unless you're an idiot and failed middle school chemistry. At that point, there is no one who can help you.

Chefs, e.g. Achatz, Andres, Adria, are not great because they are industry leaders in applying chemistry, they are simply great because they are innovators of their style of cuisine. They think of a great dish and a world of flavors well before they think of suitable and perfectly accompanying method. In other words, they can embarrass most people creating classical cuisine as well. Let's start to demistify this crazy concept of labeling their food in the ridiculous "molecular gastronomy" category.

Off the soapbox, onto the pics:

Monsieur, Mis En Place.

Caviar, sadly not Beluga.

Strawberries Stewing With Aromatics

Chinois, Don't Have A Kitchen Without It.


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