sous vide confit of nettle-air cupcakes with truffle bacon foam

It took a lot of work, but I’ve finally made the most trendy food possible.  These molecular gastronomy “cupcakes” infuse the idea of local stinging nettles into an airy foam, which is balanced out by bacon cured in a barrel of black truffles, then finished with salt smoked with chipotle peppers in a cave in Nepal.  The whole thing is vacuum bagged with a tablespoon of rendered duck fat, then cooked sous vide for 5 days.  Optionally, you can garnish with a fresh nettle leaf – the gentle sting of which is a reminder of the frailty of life. 

 

[Happy April Fool’s Day]
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Root Beer Spaghetti

There’s been a lot of debate, recently, surrounding molecular gastronomy.  Although a small handful of chefs have been practicing the art science in exclusive restaurants for the past 20 years or so, for whatever reason, this field of food wizardry is just starting to poke it’s head into the mainstream. 

Personally, I find the concept fascinating.  As I’ve written before, “cooking” hasn’t really changed much since Escoffier wrote it all down in a big, French book.  We still bake, boil and braise, truss, fillet and tournée.  But what happens when you give a chef new tools like liquid nitrogen, immersion heaters, lasers, MRI scanners, and god knows what else?  We’re just starting to find out, and I’m ready to start playing with what’s possible.

To that end, I’ve teamed up with two other passionate food geeks, Eric and Jethro, to form the Jet City Gastrophysicist Club.  Our mission is to make advancements in the field of molecular gastronomy (define it how you will).  But first, we’ve got some learning to do.  At our disposal are bags of unfamiliar powders, laser thermometers, syringes, gram scales, blowtorches, stacks of books, and some all of our ingenuity.  For our first meeting, we wanted to get familiar with one basic technique: spherification. By combining a liquid, in this case root beer, with a certain chemical and then dropping it into a solution, we are able to form a membrane around the liquid.  This is a popular process for creating “caviar” or “pearls” out of richly-flavored juices.  The image above shows what happens if you extrude the liquid using a syringe.  The video below is a giant root beer sphere we made, and how it interacts with a knife. 

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olive oil powder copy

Molecular gastronomy, the geekiest incarnation of cooking known to man, has recently piqued my interest.  Foams and spherification and liquid nitrogen and the like aren’t particularly common on Seattle menus, but on a recent trip to Spur Gastropub, my dessert was adorned with a pinch of powdered olive oil.  The powder was a delightful surprise – it tastes just like olive oil, and when the dry granules hit your tongue, they dissolve almost instantly.  When I got home, I looked online for a recipe for olive oil powder, but came up empty handed.  I did, however, find an article that described using tapioca maltodextrin to dehydrate olive oil.  I don’t have any maltodextrin, but I did know where to find some instant tapioca mix.  A few hours of experimentation later, and I had a viable recipe.

Total kitchen time: 5 minutes
Makes: 1/2 cup of powder

Shopping list:

  • 1 3oz. package Jello Cook & Serve Fat Free Tapioca Mix
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  1. Using a sieve or a fine mesh strainer, sift the tapioca to remove the little tapioca balls.  Discard the balls.
  2. Place sifted tapioca powder and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a small food processor and pulse on high until blended.  Add the remaining olive oil, 1/4 tsp. at a time just until it forms a spreadable paste.  You may not need to use all of the olive oil – the paste should feel chalky.
  3. Spread the olive oil mixture in an even layer on a microwavable plate.  Microwave on high for 90 seconds.  Remove and let cool 5 minutes.
  4. Using the tines of a fork, break the cooled paste into small pieces.  Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

This powder is an excellent addition to a bowl of ice cream or other sweet dishes.  Unfortunately, since we’re using off-the-shelf tapioca mix, we do get some of the tapioca flavor.  However, the overwhelming taste is definitely olive oil, and unless you’re ready to start ordering commercial food chemicals, this method ain’t bad for $2.30.

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