(Video link here.) Although we’ve spent decades improvising in the kitchen (figuring out ways to cure hams in a city apartment and make souffles in iron skillets and teacups) we haven’t embraced molecular gastronomy in our everyday cooking. We enjoy its magical qualities on forays to the restaurants of inventive chefs like Wylie Dufresne and Daniel Humm….and now on YouTube with Alinea’s edible helium-filled balloon. We WOULD love to experience this triumph of fun, imagination and beauty (especially knowing that it started with Alinea chef Grant Achatz asking himself “What if…” and then figuring out how to do it.)
While we find we can go pretty far pushing the limits of ordinary cooking equipment, there is one esoteric tool we have found truly useful: The Smoking Gun. It’s a battery-powered pistol that turns hardwood sawdust like cherry, applewood and hickory into fragrant smoke with which you can infuse all manner of food if you dont have access to a cold smoke rig – and cold smoke means you won’t cook the food, you’ll just smoke it. We’ve tried smoking mashed potatoes and root vegetables, roast chicken, gravlax and other home cured fish, roasted fruit and fruit tarts, chocolate cake, corn bread, tea, coffee and bloody Marys…Because it is a cold smoke, you can even smoke meltable items like butter, ice cream, and cheese. Or just use it to perfume your home with woodsmoke.
There’s tons of videos on YouTube showing ways to use the smoking gun and on the Polyscience website. Poke around there and you’ll find other enticing tools of molecular gastronomy, from rotary evaporators to sous vide baths.
Here’s a reliable review. We disagree slightly: it doesn’t create so much smoke that you need a stove hood or fan…and if you do it right, you can achieve a nice smoky flavor. Things with a good amount of fat seem to work best. It’s totally fun to see what happens if you smoke something unlikely…like blintzes or tequila.
And if you really want to wade into the waters of molecular gastronomy, and understand the science behind how this stuff works, we’ve heard the 5-volume, 36-pound Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking is THE place to start (yeah, it costs $450!!)
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wylie dufresne on failure and experimentation
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