Anyone who’s watched chef Marcel Vigneron on the last season of “Top Chef” knows that molecular gastronomy (also known as “the science of deliciousness,” according to author Harold McGee) is enjoying some favorable press. Even Wired magazine has embraced Vigneron, featuring three of his molecularly influenced dishes (including the Cyber Egg) in a recent issue.
Simply put, molecular gastronomy is the practice of applying science, especially chemistry techniques, to culinary practices. (The Christian Science Monitor neatly summed it up in a 2004 article.) But wait, you protest; don’t I rely on chemistry every time I boil a pot of water or sear a steak?
Fear not; the glam factor in molecular gastronomy comes from chefs using it to concoct not just the unfamiliar but the improbable. As the Monitor explained:
As a result of this crossover between science and cooking, outstanding restaurants around the world are serving unusual dishes such as tobacco-flavored ice cream made with liquid nitrogen and sardines on sorbet toast. Utensils such as blowtorches, pH meters, and refractometers, which were previously relegated to science laboratories, are now creeping into the kitchen.
If this concept still sounds vague, check out the YouTube video of Ben Roche, the pastry chef at the Chicago restaurant Moto, trying his hand at a molecular gastronomy-inspired carrot cake at the taste3 conference. Check out, also, his sweet version of nachos.
Eager to play molecular chef? Bone up first on Martin Lersch’s 10 Tips for Practical Molecular Gastronomy. Or check out the blog Hungry in Hogtown, which presents fun molecular-cooking experiments as well as an introduction to the genre.
A highlight of the Hogtown blog is its recipe for deep-fried Oreos. See, even the least ambitious kitchen can have its moment in the Top Chef spotlight.
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