What do you get when you cross a lab scientist with a restaurant chef? A molecular gastronomist!
Whilst this may sound like a joke hidden inside a Christmas cracker, the business of molecular gastronomy is far from a light-hearted affair. With Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant – one of the first restaurants to apply molecular gastronomy – having its own in-house laboratory to make chocolate wine complete with a vacuum oven, you know things are getting pretty serious.
Some call it avant-garde cuisine. thers call it modernist, progressive or even experimental. Whichever way you look at it, molecular gastronomy (loosely defined as the physical and chemical transformations that happen during cooking and food preparation) borders on the weird and wonderful for this unconventional style of cooking.
Coined in 1989 by the fathers of molecular gastronomy, Hungarian physicist Nicholas Kurti and French physical chemist Hervé This, the term has since increased in popularity in the last two decades, evolving to newer terms such as molecular cooking. With dishes such as nitro-scrambled egg-and-bacon ice cream – one of the most famous molecular gastronomy dishes known – it is no wonder that this field of science has piqued the interest of chefs and diners from all over the world.
Next time you visit a restaurant, notice the details, like the sauces and accompaniments, around the main dish. The bubbles, foams, powders, edible papers and spherical sauces that you might pick out are all just the tip of the iceberg in the world of molecular gastronomy.
Yet, fancy as it sounds, you too can try out some of these molecular gastronomy techniques right in your own home!
Try these recipes out yourself and wow your guests, with your culinary skills, this Thanksgiving!
- 380 g (13.4 oz) cranberry juice
- 1.5 g egg white powder (or 1 g Versawhip)
- 1 g Xanthan Gum (you can buy Xanthan Gum from most supermarkets in the flour aisle, or try health food stores – it’s a very good gluten substitute!)
- Using immersion blender mix cranberry juice and egg white powder.
- Add the Xanthan gum and mix again with immersion blender until completely dissolved.
- Connect a clean PVC hose to a fish tank air pump and insert the other end in the mix.
- Turn the pump on and let bubbles collect for a few minutes.
Assemble and Serve
- Make your favorite Cosmopolitan cocktail.
- With a slotted spoon collect some cranberry bubbles and place on top.
- Sodium alginate
- Calcium chloride
- Mix 1.5g alginate and 75g water — use a blender if the alginate starts to gel before it’s assimilated.
- Add the 500g of your base liquid (could be gravy, chicken or beef stock, or a sweet liquid like juice, or even a spirit such as cointreau!) and mix thoroughly.
- Allow the solution to rest to let the air bubbles dissipate. Chill.
- Mix the calcium chloride with 500g water.
- Use a syringe or eye-dropper to drop your base liquid into the calcium bath.
- Remove after 1 minute or so.The timing will vary a bit from batch to batch, so test them as you go. The longer the liquid sits in the bath, the more it will gel.
- Rinse and serve.
Assemble and Serve
- Make your favorite Thanksgiving main dish e.g. Turkey
- Collect the prepared droplets with a slotted spoon and serve either on the side or place on top. The semi-solid droplets should be served immediately though, as the shell degrades over a short period of time.
- 1/2 cup (150g) of Plain yogurt
- 1/2 cup (115g) of cream cheese
- 1/5 cup (50mL) of maple syrup
- 2/5 cup (75mL) of water
- 1.5 tablespoons (20g) of sugar
- ~1.5 teaspoons (6g) of Methyl cellulose powder (methocel food gum – SGA150)
- Whisk together the plain yogurt, cream cheese and maple syrup
- Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Turn off the heat, and whisk in the methylcellulose
- Combine the maple-yogurt mix and whisk for about 1 minute. Transfer to another container and refrigerate for at last 2-3 hours.
- Bring water to a simmering temperature, then scoop the ice cream mix into the water. Simmer for about 1-2 minutes.
Assemble and Serve
- Place the scoops of ice cream on a plate
- Add maple syrup on top if you wish!
If you try these recipes out this Thanksgiving, share your photos on our Facebook page!