Ever wondered to yourself, “WTF is Modernist cuisine?” Here’s our answer. If you’re curious to learn more about the history of the movement, the reason that Modernist chefs don’t like the term “molecular gastronomy” or the difference between Modernist cuisine and Nouvelle cuisine, there’s no better resource than volume 1 of Modernist Cuisine.
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 Homerecipe 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.
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.