Gelling is a wide ranging and very important technique in traditional and modern cooking. It encapsulates everything from the old to the new, from custards to edible gel sheets to spherification. There are many different ingredients that cause gelling including eggs, starches like flour, and hydrocolloids like agar and xanthan gum.
There are a few different ways gelling happens but most of them result in some kind of solid structure that traps liquid in it. The structure is often made of proteins and gives form and body to the gel.
The main purpose of gelling is to provide texture to liquids by turning these into gels through the use of a thickening agent. Many of the gelling agents used do not have any flavor or color, making these ideal food additives since they do not affect flavor. As a matter of fact, certain gelling agents may even enhance the flavor of food in the mouth by causing it to more fully coat the tongue.
You can get more information about gelling from my guide on how to make gels or from the gelling articles below.
For a modern twist on this clam chowder with smoked clams recipe I gel the chowder, cube it, and serve it on a crunchy sourdough crouton with a smoked clam on top. A tasty and talked about party treat!
These mango noodles add a great flavor punch and visual touch to dishes. I like to serve them draped over ice cream or a sundae but they can also be heated and served with jerk pork or as a garnish on an Asian citrus salad.
This crostini recipe moves the traditional deli food of lox and cream cheese on a bagel into fancy modernist bites. The cream cheese is turned into gelled noodles that are served on toasted bagel rounds with pickled red onion. An easy to pick up and deliciously flavorful party food!
For a PB and J dessert worthy of a party, I make a home-made cashew butter to replace the peanut butter and then turn some fresh raspberries into a flavorful fluid gel for the jelly. I serve it with a sliver of dark chocolate for richness and a lemon twist to add brightness. When served open face it better highlights the flavors.
Roasted red peppers are a classic Italian offering and this recipe uses the whipping siphon to aerate them into a light, smooth soup. The amount of agar can be adjusted to
easily control the thickness of the soup. In addition to serving it as a soup, this foam can be used in many
different ways to turn traditional dishes into modern masterpieces.
I really like how the halibut goes with the sweet and tart citrus pudding. This is a simple dish but one that is full of subtle flavors. The orange and lemon help complement the halibut and the basil adds just a hint of spice to it.
Looking to take your guests by surprise visually but still deliver that familiar and well-loved taste of peas and carrots? This recipe tops a roasted carrot plank with pea pudding and some pancetta for added flavor and texture. Zip it up with a modernist twist!
For these fun and flavorful party desserts I make a gelled ravioli from bananas and cream and fill them with Nutella. Just top them off with some shaved chocolate and mint leaves or serve them with ice cream - either way it is a crowd pleaser!
For this dessert I've taken the components from my mom's sweet potato casserole and broken them down into a modernist dessert. I take crispy sweet potato chips and top them with a fresh orange and brown sugar marshmallow. Then I finish it with a drizzle of molasses for extra flavor.
This recipe takes classic homemade marshmallows and covers them in yummy chocolate. Mint and chocolate is a classic pairing and the soft marshmallows are a great way to hold them all together! A definite party favorite!
This recipe produces a thick chocolate foam that is a tasty fun way to top ice cream or brownies. It makes a wonderful smooth dessert when served by itself with just a sprinkle of cinnamon and powdered sugar topping it off!
Bacon and bourbon are two of my favorite foods and this recipe combines them in a smokey, spicy BBQ sauce that is great on wings, pulled pork, brisket, or about anything
else you can think of. The sauce itself is really tasty but the bacon chunks add great bursts of flavor.
Using a marshmallow base turns a rich, decadent chocolate covered cherry into a lighter equally satisfying treat. I add cocoa powder to the marshmallow mixture, resulting in a light chocolate flavor and cherry juice is turned into a marshmallow coating. These addictive snacks have great flavor and are a visually interesting dish that will get your guests talking!
For this recipe I make a foam instead of using the normally thin liquid associated with a dish of mussels. After removing the mussels from their shells, I serve them individually with the curry foam on top. This exceptional mussel bite turns a messy meal into an elegant and easy to eat party food.
The star of most of my parties is meat and this blackberry-peach wrapped sous vided pork offering is no exception! It makes a fun presentation besides the additional sweetness and flavor from roasting the fruit complements the pork perfectly.
This recipe infuses milk with the great flavor of maple and pecan then turns it into a tender panna cotta dessert. The common modernist gelling ingredients of iota carrageean and kappa carrageenan are used to make the panna cotta portion; an immersion blender and a whipping siphon are both modernist equipment used to make this delicate ending to your meal.
This modernist dessert is a take off of an old fashioned sweet potato, brown sugar and marshmallow casserole. Here I take crispy sweet potato chips, top them with a fresh orange and brown sugar marshmallow and finish it with a drizzle of molasses for extra flavor. This treat is a hit at every party!
This dip recipe combines the spicy heat of habanero peppers with the sweet taste of fresh ripe peaches. The resulting tangy dip is great on vegetables or even meat. By altering the amount of peppers used, you can raise or lower the heat to suit your guests.
Tequila has a bad reputation as a party drink but you can tame it if you replace the shots with this sophisticated cocktail. The paloma is a traditional Mexican cocktail and is much more common than a margarita south of the border. It is usually made with tequila and a grapefruit soda, such as squirt, served over ice, and is both easy to make and delicious.
These cocktail cubes are a fun way to entertain your guests. They are rum infused strawberries encased in a daiquiri cube. When you bite into them the cube starts off with a sweet and tart flavor followed up by the kick of the rum-infused strawberries.
One of my favorite spring dishes is shortcakes with fresh fruits or berries. The other day I decided to take advantage of some great looking berries and made a variety of shortcakes. To make them more modern, and to work on some recipes for my upcoming book, I used some whipping siphon foams and agar agar fruit gels.
These Mexican inspired salmon bites pack a lot of flavor in a little package. The acidity from the tomatillos compliments the salmon perfectly and the crunch from the fried tortillas adds great texture.
These instant noodles make for an awesome presentation. They are created in the bowl of soup in front of the diner, or the diner can even make the noodles themselves. They are based off of Wylie Dufresne's instant tofu noodles.
One interesting use of modernist gelling is to create pliable gel sheets. These gel sheets are made by adding a combination of agar agar and gelatin to a flavored liquid and letting it set. The agar and gelatin add both elasticity for strength and a nice brittleness for flavor release. The ratio of the two ingredient will determine the final characteristic of the gel sheets.
Marshmallows are a favorite food of children everywhere. These homemade ones are so much better than store bought that there is really no comparison. Whether you want to eat these on smores, in hot cocoa or just plain they will amaze you and your friends.
Agar, or agar agar, is a gelling agent extracted from red algae. It is commonly used to stabilize foams and to thicken or gel liquids. It is relatively easy to work with and a good starting point for modernist cooking.
My wife's relatives in Florida love their Bloody Marys and this is her modernist take on them, focusing on the celery garnish and turning it into the serving vessel a la the traditional "ants on a log" children's snack.
One of the fun things about modernist cooking is changing the textures of common dishes while keeping the flavors the same. This creates almost a confusion in the palate when it's being eaten and the brain recognizes the flavors but not the textures. This recipe creates a solid Bloody Mary gel with agar agar that has applications in various dishes.
These agar gel cubes are a great way to add a unique visual style to a dish, as well as creating little bursts of papaya. You could use a similar agar recipe to gel many different liquids, depending on the dish you are creating.
Although you can now buy lemon curd in most supermarkets, it is extremely simple to make in your water oven, and the homemade version doesn't contain any preservatives or artificial flavors. Traditional recipes require cooking the lemon-egg mixture in a double boiler until the curd thickens. This can be tricky, as one or two degrees can make the difference between success and disaster. With the sous vide technique, the curd cooks itself without any stress or stirring.
Gels are a very common technique in modernist cooking. This modernist recipe uses the gelling properties of agar agar to make papaya noodles. These agar agar noodles are a great addition to a several different dishes and are an easy way to add a touch of flair.
One of the easiest molecular gastronomy recipes to try is by creating "pearls". Most pearls are solid jelly balls that can be used to garnish dishes or as an amuse-bouche. Here we use sweet-sour balsamic vinegar to make pearls that are a great way to add a hit of flavor to many different dishes. The process of making them is even pretty easy.
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