Final Exams

2007.Jun.30 Saturday · 0 comments

in Food & Recipes, Life

 The test and the use of man’s education is that he finds pleasure in the exercise of his mind”

– Jacques Barzun, French educator

Buenos Aires – I think I did well, really. It was the last day of class, and I guess back on day one they’d said something about a final exam, though it just seems sort of odd to have a final exam for a class where all you did was sit there and watch someone prepare food and then taste it, but, I guess, looking back over my posts on the classes, they gave us a fair amount of information as well. But, they’d said that the exam was only for those who wanted continuing ed credit at the school for people who are in the long term professional chef program there – for the rest of us, it was unnecessary… then on the day of the test, they gave it to all of us “as an exercise”. So I was pleased that I was actually able to read and understand the exam – a dozen questions or so – and, I think, give relatively competent answers – I’m sure some of my spelling and grammar was off, but I think I got the concepts across. Following the exam, the instructors threw together a final menu, using a bit of all the techniques (other than liquid nitrogen – apparently no one wanted to deal with that again) just to show how one might put together a whole meal out of this stuff. We didn’t get any recipes, just a menu, so I’m doing this all from memory…

Cheese hors d’oeuvres
Two different “cheese snacks” – on the right, nubes de queso, which were a yogurt thickened with xanthan gum and gelatin and then put into a siphon, chilled, and piped as a foam into little logs, then when firmed up, coated with grated cheese; on the left, little crisps of melted cheese wrapped around puffed macaroni (cooked, dried, and then dropped in hot oil, much like the puffed rice dish a couple of weeks ago), and then the macaroni filled with an herbed ricotta. The former just odd, the latter quite good, if a bit crunchy – puffed macaroni don’t quite get the same texture that puffed rice does…

Burrata tapas
I have mentioned a couple of times one of my favorite cheeses, the burrata – a ball of freshly made mozzarella, sort of, with the inside left runny and creamy and buttery – an ethereal experience, bluntly. This isn’t it… it’s a pureed mixture of mozzarella, cream, and milk, that’s then scooped into a sodium alginate bath to form a gel around it – remember those olive juice fake olives? Interesting in some ways, but truly tasting nothing like a burrata. A travesty, at best.

Sopa Thai
The sopa thai was interesting – essentially a clear broth made from all sorts of good thai herbs and spices – lemongrass, kaffir lime, cilantro, ginger being the most prominent – then strained, and with cubes of a gelled coconut milk and some segments of pink grapefruit. See, I kind of like that – it was really all made via much more classic techniques, with just the touch of the gelled coconut milk filling in for tofu cubes giving it an interesting twist.

2 meter spaghetti
Although referred to as dos metros de spaghetti, it wasn’t two meters long – of course, one would have had to have tubing that was two meters long to do that… but it was probably a meter long – and used that technique of gelling a liquid inside a coiled piece of tubing – only this time, thankfully, not freezing it – the “spaghetti” made of a gelled butter flavored liquid, and then drizzled with more butter and cheese – the idea is just one strand, hanging off the end of the bowl, and you slurp it up without using a fork… A little much to do that – especially if it had really been two meters long…

A nice interpretation of an osso buco – the meat cooked, boneless, via that vacuum packed and then slow cooked sous vide method so that it was tender, falling apart, and still more or less just medium rather than well done. Some red cabbage cooked down to a puree – nothing molecularly gastronomic about it – seasoned with a dab of mustard, and then little “lentils” – made of gelled prosciutto broth that was dripped out the end of a syringe onto a marble slab to form little rubbery droplets – flavorful, but texturally a little odd.

Omelette surprise
Though referred to as an omelette surprise, other than shape, there’s nothing omelette about it. You might have seen yuba, or bean curd skin, used in things like dim sum, it’s a skin made by heating soy milk and skimming off the… skin… that forms on top… this is the same idea, but done with regular whole milk. So these are very fine layers of curdled milk essentially, wrapped around a slightly gelled yogurt (I think it was yogurt) filling. Honestly not very interesting – might have been had they used some sort of truly interesting filling – since this was more or less the dessert – why not wrapping it around some fruits, or chocolate, or something sweet?

And thus ends an eight session visit into the basics of molecular gastronomy and what it’s all about. Interesting stuff, as you’ve seen, and some of it gives me ideas for various things to add touches to our dinners. We shall see where stuff pops up.


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