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Foam at Home

June 27, 2011

By Pat Tanner

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed cooking instructions blindly and slavishly, but that’s just what I found myself doing when I delved for the first time into the mysterious world of what is commonly called molecular gastronomy.

Thankfully, I was able to practice this art in the privacy of my home kitchen, having received as a Christmas gift the Cuisine R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit. Made in Canada, it consists of a slick, stylish DVD demonstrating (wordlessly) how to make more than fifty recipes using five different texturing agents—packets of which are included in the kit—along with such tools-of-the-trade as a syringe and plastic tubing.

The kit’s naturally-derived seaweeds and texturing agents include: soy lecithin for emulsifying (including making foams); agar-agar, a gelling compound for turning liquids into Jell-O-ish or custard-like solids, often without benefit of heat; sodium alginate and calcium lactate for encapsulating liquids in translucent spheres ranging in size from small beads to ping-pong balls; and xanthan gum for thickening, again without the use of a stove. I decided to build an entire dinner party around them. Here is the menu:

 

Aperitif: Crunchy Bloody Mary

Salad: Arugula Spaghetti with Tomato and Balsamic Caviar

First Course: Goat Cheese Ravioli

Main Course: Sauteed Shrimp with Curry Wind

Dessert: Coconut Fondant with Almond Spheres

 

As with any sleight-of-hand, little of the above was what it seemed. Neither the arugula spaghetti nor the goat cheese ravioli contained flour, for example.

The dinner was a smash hit and a lot of fun. (The only exception was the curry wind – curry foam, really – which had a bitter taste. Perhaps my curry powder was too old?) My favorite dish was arugula spaghetti. The “spaghetti” is nothing more than fresh arugula pureed with water and brought to a boil along with agar-agar. The resulting green liquid goes into a fat plastic syringe, which you squirt into flexible plastic tubes. After you allow the contents to solidify in cold water for a few minutes, you blow out the strands using the syringe. Their texture is identical to al dente spaghetti! The dish – which is really a salad – is finished off with a tomato half topped with a heaping tablespoon of balsamic vinegar “caviar,” the recipe for which is also provided.

I’m currently plotting my next adventures in emulsification, gelification, and spherification. Anyone for Molecular Eggs, made without eggs?

Cuisine R-Evolution – and Cocktail R-Evolution – kits are available at amazon.com and molecule-r.com.

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