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 experimented with the right balance of sodium alginate, sodium citrate and calcium chloride until I had little salmon pearls that held their shape but released a gushing interior when you bite into them. In all honesty, the recipe below is an approximation of the winning batch since the actual measurements were lost in the frustration of my failed trials.
Makes: 1 caviar tin’s worth
Total kitchen time: 30 minutes
- 25g Crystal Hot Sauce
- 15g water
- 3g sodium alginate
- 2g sodium citrate
- 1 liter water
- 9g calcium chloride
- Combine the hot sauce, 15g water, sodium alginate and sodium citrate in a small bowl. Mix until combined and no lumps remain. The mixture should have a consistency thicker than the original hot sauce but thinner than ketchup.
- Combine 1 liter of water and the calcium chloride in a medium bowl. Whisk or blend until all of the calcium chloride has dissolved. Prepare a separate medium bowl of just water.
- Using an eye dropper, drop the hot sauce mixture into the calcium chloride bath one drop at a time. For best results, hold the eye dropper parallel to the counter and about 1” above the surface of the water. Drop 20-30 drops at a time, stirring the water occasionally.
- Remove the spheres using a mesh strainer. Shake off the excess water, then transfer to the plain water bath.