OK, you can blame this post on Alice Lau, Girl in a Food Frenzy and her post “Time to take a bath…a water bath that is…” as she really piqued my interest into Sous Vide and Modernist Cuisine. Now while this isn’t your typical sous vide dish, it is definitely “Under Pressure.”
Now for those of you who do not know, sous vide is French for under pressure. It’s a culinary art technique of placing food in a vacuum and sealing it thus placing the food under pressure. It’s been around since the 70s but established itself as a generally accepted technique in the 90s. Also, while most foods placed under a vacuum are then cooked in a water bath with an immersion circulator, like this appetizer, it doesn’t have to be cooked at all.
I love playing with my food. It’s just downright fun. While I love the time tested, traditional cooking techniques that I was taught and learned how to cook, I have been fascinated by the new approach to food. The foams, air, veggie caviars and the like all due to technical advances in food and science. Now most of my friends don’t know that when I began college I was a chemistry major. Mom had a Master of Science in Textile Chemistry and I had taken 3 years of chemistry in High School. I loved chemistry and math. I just found out that wasn’t what I wanted to do for a career. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever figure I would use chemistry in my own kitchen. Of course, when I was cooking professionally, no one really discussed cooking as a science and “food science” had yet to be coined as a term. After all, it’s called Culinary Arts, not Culinary Science. You simply cooked and the science really made no difference. That the browning of meat was caused by the Mallard effect was immaterial. The more important question was whether you could grill a beautiful piece of meat with a nice brown crust on the outside with a soft juicy center. You just figured it out or you found another source of income.
During this period of time, the Candy and Snack Industry started becoming more and more competitive. As a result, food science became increasingly important in what and how we ate. Somehow, someway, years later some innovative chef took notice. As a result, beginning in the 90s a new breed of culinary creativeness came into being, a lot based upon the advances in the Candy and Snack Industry. Chef Ferran Adrià and his infamous restaurant, El Bulli, was one of the first to venture into the world of molecular gastronomy and he has been said to be the most imaginative generator of haute cuisine on the planet. It is he who is responsible for the culinary art concepts and techniques of spherification, emulsification, and gelification using ingredients commonly associated in the Candy and Snack Industries, i.e. xanthum gum and algin, among others.
The whole process of molecular gastronomy fascinated me and being the inquisitive person I am, I had to try it out. I began to buy books, i.e. Heston Blumenthal, The Fat Duck Cookbook; Thomas Keller, Under Pressure, etc.The photos were glorious and the technique mind warping. But I had to try it. It looked so good and I wasn’t worried about serving customers. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work and Baby Lady, Quickstep and I would simply go out to eat. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. This was my first foray into the field of sperification and it was quite unique. If you’re curious and don’t mind conducting science experiments in your kitchen this is a neat thing to try but you have to have the right equipment. With this, a chamber vacuum sealer is an absolute must, as well as a scale that measure 0.4 grams! Even with the right equipment this aint easy but it’s also not overly complex. For the first try, this didn’t turn out too bad. In fact, it was quite flavorful but I need to work on the mango yolk.
From Thomas Keller, Under Pressure
For the Compressed Watermelon
- 1/4 watermelon, ripe, seedless, rind removed
- Kosher Salt
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
For the Mango Yolk
- 250 grams mango juice
- 1.6 grams Kelcogel F
- 0.4 grams Sodiumhexametaphosphate
- 30 grams Calcium gluconate
- 0.4 grams asorbic acid
- 75 grams granulated sugar
- 1/2 lime
- fresh black pepper
For the Watermelon
Place watermelon in vacuum bag and vacuum seal at 28 lbs. This is really neat because it compresses the watermelon to give it a meaty texture.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. After 3 hours, remove watermelon from refrigerator. Dice into small dice to resemble tartare.
Drain in a chinois or a fine mesh sieve.
Toss watermelon with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
For the Mango Yolk
Put mango juice in a Vitamix or powerful blender. Place Kelcogel F and Sodiumheametaphosphate in a small ramekin. Hold it above the Vitamix, and with the machine running at low speed, slowly tap in the powders in steady small amounts until they are all incorporated.
Turn to high speed for 2 – 3 seconds. Turn off and strain mixture through a chinois or a fine mesh sieve.
Pour 500 grams of water into a deep bowl. Whisk calcium gluconate, asorbic acid, and sugar to dissolve.
Put another deep bowl of cold water next to it. Drop a teaspoon full of mango mixture (keeping it as close to a ball as possible) into calcium gluconate mixture.
Let it sit for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl of cold water. Repeat with the remaining mixture and use only the best yolks.
Spread 1/4 of watermelon into a ring mold on a plate. Remove the ring mold and top with a mango yolk. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and a grind of black pepper. Enjoy.
NOTE: 1/4 seedless watermelon yields 120 grams of tartare serving 4. You will have more yolks than you need but it is best not to work with less mango juice. Discard any left over mango juice.