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Texturas - Review

Molecular Cuisine in the Home Kitchen

Ferran Adrià's Spherification Kit
Ferran Adrià's Spherification Kit

Liquid nitrogen ice cream, sodium alginate pearls, goose liver whipped cream…these are the results of molecular cuisine, which also teaches how to produce 6.34 gallons of mayonnaise with only one egg yolk. Indeed, the term molecular cuisine is meaningless except to a small elite who are familiar with the chemistry, synthetic products and latest technology necessary to create this avant-garde cuisine. More generally speaking, it's a cuisine free from the usual recipes, an approach without roots or references. However, this "way of cooking" claims an artistic dimension and a position among the conceptual arts.

Would anyone save for a few "aficionados" who've made the pilgrimage to elBulli in Spain, where Catalan chef Ferran Adrià presides over his magical, chemical kingdom, ever consider creating this molecular cuisine at home? The innovative chef recently released a range of products under the label Texturas. It offers the usual suspects: Spherification (sferificación), jelly agents and emulsifiers. So, at least in theory, it's possible to make such a cuisine at home; however you have to start at the very beginning.

Exhibit A: Melon Cantaloupe Caviar
Exhibit A: Melon Cantaloupe Caviar

In order to understand the principles of molecular cuisine, one must first perform a basic experiment such as the creation of an emulsion: Start by preparing a regular mayonnaise, then beat some oil into it and add more water. Use an average of one small cup of water for each cup of oil. The only problem with making 6.34 gallons of mayonnaise (with only one egg yolk) is to having an adequate recipient! Also, avoid using liquid nitrogen at home.

The spherification technique is of Japanese origin and has been used at El Bulli since 2003. It enables you to produce jellied, perfumed balls of a caviar-like appearance. Begin by adding drops or spoonfuls of a cold jelly elaborated with alginate and flavored with mango or green olive to calcium chloride-containing water.

Adrià claims today that he is in no way related to molecular cuisine. He says his will is to "rewrite objectively the history of cuisine from 1970 until the present," and he says that he is annoyed by imitators of all kinds.

For his part, Thierry Marx, a decorated chef from the Château Cordeillan-Bages in Médoc, and the inventor of the "Trompe-l'œil" sausage and liquid quiche Lorraine, shows a more guarded position. In a recently published book, Marx expresses his position on molecular cuisine insomuch as he "only keeps a recipe intact in its original flavor after having mastered the mystery of the minimal techniques adequate to its restitution." Now, try that in your kitchen.

Molecular or not, the quarrel of casseroles is still simmering.

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Learn more about Ferran Adrià
More About Molecular Gastronomy

(Updated: 05/20/11 BH)

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