Archive for December, 2010
Spherification is tricky, not just because of the chemistry involved, but because the technique has become associated with the most farcical extremes of modernist cooking. However, when used with purpose and not simply ‘cause, spherification can still provide an element of surprise and delight to your cooking. Tomorrow, I’m going to cook salmon (sous vide, if you’ve been playing along at home) with mascarpone and greens, an homage to the salmon crostini at Spur. I wanted to top the fish with a spoonful of salmon roe for added saltiness and for their funny, squirm-inducing texture. Unfortunately, roe is expensive. So, I came up with a substitute: spherified hot sauce that looks like salmon roe.
I’m not much of a chocolatier, but I’ve watched my dad temper chocolate and make truffles a dozen times or so. The transformation that takes place during the tempering process is fascinating, and it only becomes more curious with my first attempt to temper using sous vide. Notice the pattern of dark, shiny dots and lines? I didn’t put it there.
Here she is, ladies and gentlemen, in all her 46lb glory! This is the first published image of the Modernist Cuisine books, in their acrylic case. This shot doesn’t show the accompanying kitchen manual, but it is enough to make food geeks everywhere salivate. That March 14th date can’t come soon enough!
I had this grand idea for a “gingerbread” house this year: a scale replica of the Seattle Central Library building – one of the few modern architectural landmarks of our city, and a magnificently example of complicated geometry. I planned on making the whole thing out of sugar, since the library building has an all-glass exterior. And, to top things off, I was going to laser-cut all of the pieces I needed, since the project clearly wasn’t geeky enough to begin with.
Instead, I ended up with this 6” spiral staircase. Let’s review what happened…
This turned out to be one of the more dangerous machines I’ve ever built. The goal was to make a cotton candy machine out of parts I had lying around. The finished product was an aggressive, 1/2 horsepower, 4000°F beast of a machine that lasted long enough to prove itself before dying of awesomeness.
If you want to build a cotton candy machine at home, all you need is:
- A tin can, like a tuna or dog food can
- A drill with a very small drill bit
- A motor (ex, your drill, an old CD player, a blender)
- A heat source, such as a propane torch, a lighter, or the coils from an old toaster
- A bucket to catch the cotton candy, or alternately a sheet of paper to wrap around the assembly
Follow the steps in the video to see just how easy this machine is to build. Oh, and don’t forget… safety first. My favorite part of this project was setting up a blast shield in front of the camera before we turned on the machine.
Special thanks to Victor (@sphing) for filming!
The season of giving is upon us, and that means it’s time to start Christmas shopping for the food geek in your life. Let’s face it: he (or she… but who are we kidding, it’s a he) is hard to shop for. He already owns 4 kinds of microplanes, he’s got more cookbooks than Barnes & Noble, and his spice rack is organized by atomic weight. A waffle iron just isn’t gonna cut it this year.
For just that reason, I’ve rounded up the best and geekiest kitchen gifts of 2010. And, if you’re feeling extra generous, I also threw in a few “luxury items” sure to induce a Christmas morning nerdgasm.
2010 was a great year for cookbooks. In fact, all of the books below are new this year, with the exception of Modernist Cuisine, which is available for preorder but won’t ship until March. At $475, it’s not exactly a stocking stuffer, but you can spread out the joy by wrapping each of the five volumes separately.
- Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet – $475
- Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes by Harold McGee – $19.23
- Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine by René Redzepi – $32.97
- Sous Vide for the Home Cook by Douglas Baldwin – $25.95
- Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter – $20.71
- Modern Gastronomy: A to Z by Ferran Adria – $43.90
Modernist Cooking “Ingredients”
If the food geek on your Christmas list is dying to pull off the latest techniques, he’ll need some ingredients. I’ve found the WillPowder brand to be a great value for the price.
- For spherification (you’ll need all three): Sodium Alginate – $27.69, Calcium Chloride- $15.08, and Sodium Citrate – $13.62
- For gels: AGAR AGAR – $52.35, Methylcellulose F50 – $28.64
- Thickeners: Ultratex 3 – $13.42, Ultratex 8 – $18.12
- For foams: Versawhip 600K – $36.08
- For powders: Tapioca Maltodextrin – $14.13
Essential Kitchen Gear
Who doesn’t like playing with new toys? Over the last year, prices of induction cooktops have plummeted. They are a great way to expand your stovetop capacity, and they’re extremely energy efficient for heating small quantities of food.
- Max Burton 6000 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop – $99.99
- Whip-It! Professional Cream Whipper – $49.99
- Infrared Thermometer – $47.96
- Distilling Apparatus – $55.12
- Bernzomatic Self-Igniting Torch – $20.89 (fuel sold separately)
In My Dreams…
Some guys dream of sports cars, some guys dream of rotor/stater homogenizers. Here is the equipment in the kitchen of my dreams.
- Torbeo Hand-Held Homogenizer – $841.00
For blending sauces into a consistency that is unachievably smooth using a conventional blender
- Ultravac 250 Vacuum Chamber Packaging Machine – $4600.00
Step aside, FoodSaver, this is a vacuum sealer for the big boys.
- Polyscience Sous Vide Professional – $799.95
Hands-down the best sous vide machine I’ve ever tested.
- Vacuum Rotary Evaporator – $9230.00
For distilling and extracting essential oils. No more store-bought vanilla extract!
- PacoJet – $3950.00
Best known for making extraordinarily smooth and creamy desserts.
- Freeze Dryer – $2,000-20,000
DIY astronaut ice cream!
- Centrifuge – $7000
For separating and clarifying stocks and sauces.
- Laser Cutter – $30,000
For making templates, etching and cutting foods