Agar, or agar agar, is a gelling agent extracted from red algae and is commonly used to gel liquids and create foams. You can gel almost any flavorful liquid with agar including juices, sauces, and stocks.
Agar can be combined with other ingredients such as gelatin, locust bean gum, or xanthan gum to create gels and foams of varying densities and textures. You can have fun and be creative! Since it is straightforward to work with and easy to find online, agar agar is a great place to start discovering modernist cooking.
You can learn more about agar from my How to Use Agar guide or any of the articles and recipes below.
Mango curries are sweet, fruity and spicy, and they pair wonderfully with roasted meats such as pork loin or chicken breasts. This curry recipe is one of my favorites and I use it on many week day meals, but if I'm having a party or nice dinner I like to fancy it up some by turning it into a hot foam that blows away my friends!
Duck is one of my favorite meats to eat. I love the combination of tender meat with rich, creamy fat. In this recipe I pair it with some grilled asparagus and a blackberry-port pudding made from an agar fluid gel.
I turn the sous vided brisket or chuck roast into shredded beef for flavorful carnitas covered in a sweet and spicy tangerine-chipotle sauce. I serve them with corn tortillas and avocado so they are easy to pick up and eat.
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!
This recipe combines the diverse flavors of poblano pepper, corn and egg into a great looking, go back for more kind of party dish. The poblano peppers are turned into agar pearls to add some interesting texture and mouthfeel to the deviled eggs. The corn contributes crunchy bursts of sweetness.
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!
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!
The combination of apples and pork are a classic pairing in Irish cooking. For this recipe, I roast apples and use the modernist ingredient of agar to turn them into a fun pudding topper for pork. By sous vide cooking the pork, you can consistently serve an extra moist and tender meat entree.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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