molecular gastronomy: fragmentary ideas

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We all have projects nagging at the edges of our lives, just out of reach. Getting into the magical world of molecular gastronomy is my niggling assignment. I’m easing myself into it. No rush. There was a great article in Chronogram lately about it, which gave me yet another tug in that direction.

[It is very difficult for me to write anything coherent right now, because two boys in my house are watching that new Wilco movie and I can’t stop making snarky comments interspersed with, “Oh, yay, a song from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot!”

In between my rantings, Jacob is saying things like “Man, they have some great wedges,” and “Hmm, he’s got flatwounds on his bass.” “How can you tell?” our friend Than asks. “They’re shiny.”

Meanwhile, Than is, as ever, sighing over the drumming with comments like “He’s got ridiculous feel. Ri-dic-ulous.”]

Anyway!! Notes on molecular gastronomy. Nothing special, just a half-step up from a messy journal entry, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about you might have to do some reading to figure it out. Hopefully it will provide you with interesting ideas, even if it doesn’t inspire you to rush out and buy an anti-griddle.

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  • The big takeaway here is that molecular gastronomy should be embraced a lot more (or, at all) by the cooking vegan community. It has the potential to make dishes creamy, melty, and otherwise “non-vegan” tasting.
  • On the other hand, many old-news vegan ingredients and techniques are being embraced by MoGa practitioners: agar-agar, xanthan gum, starches, flax seeds, lecithin, etc.
  • One reason many of us healthy-leaning cooks are a little freaked out by it is its reliance on industrial chemicals and sometimes extremely processed products that are decidedly not “natural.” On the other hand, many of the techniques and some of the ingredients are not made in laboratories and are at least partially unrefined—those are the ones I’m interested in.
  • Sous-vide cooking: I’d love to get into it, but am super freaked out by the possibility of leaching plasticky chemicals into my food. I wonder if anyone’s studied this?
  • Flour made from everything and anything. Anything you can dehydrate and pulverize in a spice grinder can be flour.
  • Methocel–everyone seems to be all about it. It’s made by Dow and super freaks me out. Forget it.
  • Agar for clarifying!! From the Chronogram article:

By using a much weaker proportion of agar than one would to gel the soup, freezing it, and then slowly thawing it in the fridge over a colander, the agar holds the solids and pigments together but allows the highly flavored water to drip out, a process called syneresis. This technique works with just about anything imaginable, and in this case yielded a crystal clear liquid that looked like light apple juice and tasted intensely of peas….
Whisk in 1g agar per 1000ml of puree. Bring to a boil. Let cool and freeze. Set frozen block in a cheesecloth-lined colander and allow to drain in fridge for 2 days. Reserve liquid, and discard the solids in the colander.

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Resources:

willpowder – stuff to buy

ideas in food – daily mind-blowing

chadzilla – inspiration, ideas

playingwithfireandwater.com – the Martha Stewart of MoGo, with a garden focus. I could get lost here for days, dazed and happy–except for the tortured murdered animals, of course.

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