Modernist Cuisine introduced the idea of a “constructed cream” – a cream-like sauce that has never passed through a teat [if you’re into vivid imagery].  Dairy creams, including milk, are actually emulsions.  Milk, for example, is composed of tiny droplets of fat suspended in water and stabilized by a protein called casein. So, if milk and cream are emulsions of fat and water, why not emulsify together any arbitrary fat and water to produce a sauce with the thickness and mouthfeel of cream? Boom: constructed creams are born.

That one insight has incredible repercussions, and the Modernist Cuisine at Home recipe for Home Jus Gras is a great example. In a traditional gravy, you start with very flavorful roasting juices or pan drippings.  The problem is that pan drippings are quite thin, so we typically thicken them by adding flour or cornstarch.  This approach has “compromise” written all over it: starches are flavor inhibitors.  The Modernist Cuisine approach is to combine those roasting juices with flavorful liquid fat instead, and to swap flour and cornstarch for xanthan gum, which can be used in extremely small quantities and doesn’t dull the flavor of the finished sauce.

The full recipe – which is amazing! – is in Modernist Cuisine at Home.  However, if you’re short on time, we’ve developed an even simpler version using store-bough fat and stock.  This Simplified Jus Gras recipe is in the Modernist Cuisine recipe library.  I hope that this recipe is also a jumping-off point for you to experiment with your own flavors.  Last year, I used this technique with rendered fat from a pre-Christmas goose and some spiced apple cider to produce a grain-free gravy that jived with my wife’s dietary restrictions.  But, there’s no reason you couldn’t use bacon grease and whiskey, if you were so-inclined.

For the rest of the MDRN KTCHN series, check out CHOW.com.

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I’ve always been fascinated by puffed foods. Maybe it’s because our brains are hardwired to enjoy crunchy snacks… maybe it’s because Snap, Crackle and Pop were sending subliminal messages when I was a kid. In this video, I explain the science of puffing and show you a simple one you can make at home: puffed rice crisps.

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I love pumpkin carving – it’s my favorite part of Halloween.  This year, I decided to do something a little different with my jack-o-lanterns: animate them!  I was inspired by the guys at DigitalDudz, who came up with the very clever idea of brining Halloween t-shirts to live by taping your smartphone or tablet inside the shirt and playing a video that aligns to the image on the front of the shirt.  If it works for a t-shirt, why not a pumpkin?

The process is quite simple. 

  1. Start by picking a video that you want to incorporate into your pumpkin design. There are lots of videos on YouTube that will work, but I really liked the HallowEyes video pack ($6 CAD) from Hallowindow.com
  2. Next, pick the device that you’ll use to play the video.  Any digital device will work: an iPad or iPhone, any other smartphone, a Kindle Fire,  a digital picture frame that supports video playback… even a small monitor or pico projector connected to a laptop.  For extra versatility, consider using more than one device (ex. a smartphone for each eye).
  3. Load the video onto your device.  Then, lay a piece of paper over your device’s screen and trace the outline of the important part of the video.  In my case, I traced the outline of each eyeball.
  4. Pick the side of your pumpkin that you wish to carve.  Transfer the outline from the paper to the pumpkin by poking a series of small holes into the pumpkin around the lines on the paper.  Be sure to pick an area on your pumpkin where the device will fit nicely, remembering that most devices have a bezel that adds extra width.
  5. Cut a hole in the opposite side of the pumpkin, ensuring the hole is large enough to fit your device.  Scrape out the guts. 
  6. Put your video device in a clear plastic bag to protect it from the guts of the pumpkin.  Most touchscreens will still allow you to control them through a thin plastic bag.
  7. Make a small alignment hole where you want the video to appear.  In my case, I made a 1/2” hole in the center of each eyeball.  Insert your device with the video playing and check the alignment against those holes.  Then, working with a small amount of material at a time, scrape out the inside flesh of the pumpkin until your device fits against the inside wall.  Be careful not to scrape too far or you could puncture the inner wall of the pumpkin.
  8. Remove your device from the pumpkin.  Working from the outside face, gradually expand the alignment holes until they reveal the correct part of your screen.
  9. Finally, insert your video device one last time and hold it in place using toothpicks inserted into the inside flesh of the pumpkin.  Play the video (on repeat, if your device supports it).

If you liked this project, check out my primer on carving pumpkins with a laser,

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