Quantcast
Latest Stories

Haute cuisine goes science-tastic



What is transglutaminase and sodium citrate doing in many home cooks’ grocery list?

Too many cooks spoil the broth but two or more novel ingredients in your food cart with the customary milk, eggs, cheese and tomatoes will introduce you to modernist cooking—a science-tastic take on haute cuisine.

Modernist cooking has more home cooks adding laboratory-worthy ingredients and gizmos to their shopping. That, of course, has spawned a mini-niche of online companies selling everything you need to play culinary alchemist at home.

At least a half-dozen companies now sell once-elusive ingredients like sodium citrate to emulsify cheeses into creamy sauces, “popping sugar” that explodes in your mouth and “meat glue”—transglutaminase—to create dishes like tilapia spaghetti (that is, “spaghetti” made from tilapia).

Alongside traditional equipment like cookie sheets and hand mixers, you can purchase pipettes to create “caviar” from various liquids or smoke torches that infuse smoke flavor into dishes without heating them up.

Precision cooking

Even big retailers are getting in on the action. Williams-Sonoma carries machines known as “sous vide,” which cook using a warm water bath. Amazon offers ingredients such as agar agar (to make gelatins) and xanthan gum (to thicken sauces), as well as whipping siphons to create foams and digital scales that allow the home chef to weigh down to the hundredth of a gram. How’s that for precision cooking?

Some of these sites exist solely to service your inner Ferran Adria, the Spanish chef hailed as the father of modernist cooking. Chris Anderson, a software developer by trade, launched Modernist Pantry with his wife two years ago when he couldn’t find the ingredients needed for his culinary dabbling.

Today, Modernist Pantry carries more than 300 ingredients in quantities tailored to the home kitchen, as well as equipment. The site draws 60 percent of its business from home cooks, Anderson says, and sales have increased 10 times since launching.

“We sort of just did it initially thinking it was not going to be a full-time business, just a little thing on the side,” he says from the company’s base in York, Maine. “But within two months we were getting more business than we anticipated. We were doubling our sales every month.” He went full time a year ago, and today employs three people.

 

Do-it-yourself kits

Montreal-based Molecule-R offers do-it-yourself kits for the modernist weekend warrior. Each of the company’s three kits contains recipes, premeasured sachets of the required additives and the equipment to create the recipes. The first kit hit the market in 2009, says business development executive Jennifer MacDonald, and sales since then have at least doubled. Roughly 80 percent of the customers are home cooks, she says, and they range from children to seniors.

“We get families, no joke,” she says. “We get a lot of people writing us and saying they did the arugula spaghetti with their kids. It ranges from children with their parents to people in their 60s doing it.”

 

Molecular gastronomy

Experimenting with modernist cuisine, sometimes called molecular gastronomy, is the next step in the country’s love affair with cooking. In the same way that home cooks emulate what they see on the Food Network, many want to replicate the gels and foams they taste at elite restaurants like Chicago’s Alinea and New York’s WD-50. Aided by cookbooks such as “Modernist Cuisine at Home,” the definitive guide that was published last year, many accomplished home cooks have gained the confidence and incentive to kick their basic skills up a notch.

“It’s just taking a lot of really good basics and creating something different with them,” says Paul Edward, cofounder of the online culinary retailer Chef Rubber, whose modernist offerings account for 30 percent of business. “You can take a really nice stock that you’ve made, and you can make a soup with it. Or you can make caviar or gelify it. You can do something really different. But at the end of the day it’s just a stock and it has to be a really good one.”

Barriers to entry are relatively low. Molecule-R kits cost between $60 and $120. Chef Rubber customers spend from $75 to $150 per visit, Edward says.

“It really depends on what you want to do,” says Anderson, whose average customer spends $60 to $75 per visit. “The major investment is in your time, not in ingredients. But once you get into sous vide you do need a circulator, so there’s an entry cost. But most of the techniques don’t require that much.”

 

Modernist techniques

Many mainstream professional chefs have appropriated methods from their modernist brethren. For instance, sous vide has been widely adopted as an excellent and nearly foolproof way to cook meat. And while many if not most of these techniques will remain too esoteric for the average home cook, certain practical elements—using the microwave to steam fish, using additives to emulsify the sauce in macaroni and cheese—may filter into home kitchens. But probably not any time soon.

“There are things like that that are modernist cuisine techniques,” says Susan Edgerley, dining editor at The New York Times. “Some of those are applicable and easy and practical and some of them aren’t. There’s an intersection of modernist cuisine and the home cook. I just don’t know how big it is.”


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Cooking , Ferran Adria , Food , Haute Cuisine , molecular gastronomy



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  2. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  6. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  7. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  8. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  9. Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  10. The truffled mac ‘n’ cheese, eggs benedict, chicken leg confit are excellent
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  6. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  7. France makes work beyond 6 p.m. illegal
  8. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  9. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • US urges Myanmar to ease tensions
  • Little known jihadist group vows new Egypt attacks
  • Chelsea Clinton pregnancy
  • Call for sanctions against N. Korea over abuses
  • Pope washes feet of disabled, including elderly Muslim
  • Sports

  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • LeBron still No. 1 with NBA’s most popular jersey
  • Pacquiao back in PH, heads home to wife, kids
  • Vietnam pulls out of hosting Asian Games due to lack of funds
  • Lifestyle

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Entertainment

  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • Business

  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • US stocks end mostly higher after earnings deluge
  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
    Marketplace