One of the coolest things about our office is that PR reps practically break down our door with new stuff they want to send to us.
Like, molecular gastronomy kits, for example.
The kit, called, Molecular CUISINE R-Evolution arrived and we thought to ourselves, "let's give it a shot." We tried three recipes that came with the kit (which didn't work) and one that we pulled off willy nilly.
First of all, the kit (which retails for $58.95) takes you back to high school chemistry class all over again.
We called a friend who we knew diddled with this very kit in the past. "It's not really anything too advanced, it's pretty basic," Giovanny Gutierrez, co-founder of Chat Chow TV, said. "I haven't done a whole dish using all of the techniques," he told us, but reiterated that the kit was neat and worth a try.
Gutierrez was successful in accomplishing balsamic caviar, foams, mojito shots, edible "sheets," and a few others. "What I tried to do was the arugula spaghetti. They make it look so easy in the video but it was really hard to do," he said. [Mental note: try out what he said was the most difficult thing in the kit.]
We tried the honey caviar first. The idea is to come out with little balls (like those of caviar or small tapioca) made of a honey, water, and agar-agar mixture. After the basic cooking process, you spoon the honey mixture into chilled oil, stir a bit, and then the balls are supposed to separate from the oil after going through a rinse bath of plain water. Sounded easy enough. Looked even easier in the video, but it didn't work for us. This is what resulted.
Left: Chilled oil; Top middle: Rinsing bath; Right: Honey agar-agar mixture; Bottom: "Honey Caviar" or "mess"
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We then tried our hand at fruit spaghetti. Remember, Gutierrez said the spaghetti was the one that didn't work for him. Surprisingly, this worked for us. You're supposed to use the syringe to push the fruit and agar-agar mixture into plastic tubes, chill them, and then push them back out with air. It took a while to get the hang of it but conceptually, it worked. Let's not dive into aesthetics until we're pros, eh?
The "Surprise Bubbles" were, to no surprise, a miserable failure. The only thing we didn't follow from the DVD recipe was that we used differently shaped water-lemon juice ice. The chef on the screen uses halved circles of ice. We used old fashion ice cube trays. After about two hours of freeze time for the calcium lactate, lemon, and water mixture, we dropped the cubes into a bath of sodium alginate. The cubes are supposed to become slightly gelatinous, ultimately having a solid coating, and liquid interior. This is what happened.
This is what was supposed to happen.
Frustrated with the whole project, we began to clean up. But not before we noticed how the left-over honey and agar-agar mixture reacted to time. This got us thinking to try something off the recipe DVD. The honey mixture became very gelatinous with just a few hours of sitting around - it took the shape of the bowl it was in. We re-boiled it, and poured it into a strawberry-shaped silicon ice mold we had lying around. After letting it sit for a while, we were pleased to see it worked. Behold strawberry shaped honey:
Perhaps this molecular gastronomy kit is not the most practical of kitchen additions, but it's definitely an interesting way to spice up a Sunday afternoon. Is it worth the price tag? Let's just say you'll probably be more content if it's given to you as a gift. Father's Day is around the corner - he'll probably get a kick out of it.