Marcel's Quantum KitchenGlossary

Molecular Gastronomy, also known as post-modern cooking or avant-garde cooking, is widely considered the new chapter of the ever-progressing culinary movement. Marcel Vigneron is one of the youngest chefs today to embrace these techniques, while actively promoting awareness and understanding of new ways at looking at food. Chef Marcel uses innovative cooking techniques to both elicit the comfort of familiarity and evoke surprise of the completely unexpected.

Despite the ultra-modern equipment and uniquely presented food, the goal is not to completely alter the concept of cooking, but rather to find an advanced way of expanding on a foundation that has thrived for centuries.

PROCESSES

Some processes now used in modern-wave cooking already legitimately exist in the food industry. It takes a commitment to avant-garde cooking to bring the progression from the Quantum Kitchen to the curious cook.

Here are a few of the more widely used methods:

Confit
Food slowly cooked while submerged in fat, i.e. duck confit

Dehydrating
Drying foods not only changes texture, pulling out moisture and rendering the ingredient stiff, but also in the process concentrates and intensifies flavor. Dehydrators are a beloved appliance for vegan and raw food enthusiasts but also create a stable drying environment for food, flowers, and herbs.

Flash-freezing
A process of blast chilling food by either pouring Liquid Nitrogen over it or by placing the ingredient onto an Anti-Griddle.

Fluid Gel
A fluid gel lies somewhere between a gel, a purée, and a sauce. In fact, it is all three of these things. It is made by combining a flavored base with a shear-thinning (the ability to break down to a fluid state by vigorous agitation, as in a blender, and remain fluid) hydrocolloid such as Agar Agar and allowing it to solidify. The solid gel is then whipped in a blender into a creamy, fluid state, and remains that way. Using Agar Agar also allows the gel to be reheated up to 185F/ 85C before it remelts.  The greatest advantage of this technique is that it allows chefs to take a thin, highly flavored liquid such as orange juice, and lend it body and viscosity without the use of flavor-diluting starches

Frothing, Foaming, Espuma, and Liquid Air
All of these terms basically mean the same thing. Where a liquid is mixed with gelatin or Agar Agar and then either propelled through a siphon or aerated manually by an immersion (stick) blender, milk frother, or wire whisk. Espuma or Foam has been used in many forms in everyday cooking—for example, whipped cream, meringue, and mousse are all foams. In all cases, the incorporation of air or another gas creates a distinctively light texture and different mouth feel.

Purée
Defined as cooked food, usually vegetables or legumes that have been ground, pressed, blended, and/or sieved to the consistency of a soft creamy paste or thick liquid.

Sous vide, or Cryovacking
Sous vide is translated as “cooking under pressure.” Essentially defined as, “boil-in-bag,” sous vide means vacuum-packing foods and cooking them at precise, relatively low temperatures for long periods; this process has been mainstream in frozen foods for some time. Food is vacuum-sealed in plastic using a Cryovac, and then cooked in warm, temperature-controlled water using an Immersion Circulator. In the Quantum Kitchen, this is an important technique that allows unparalleled control over how ingredients are heated and what flavors and textures result.

Spherification
The process means exactly what it sounds like it means—spherification is the process of shaping a liquid into spherical/round shapes. A sphere looks and feels like caviar, with a thin delicate skin that pops in your mouth when you press your tongue against it, releasing the liquid center. The skin is a gelled form of the liquid; the technique relies on a simple gelling reaction achieved by mixing liquid with Sodium Alginate, then dunking it in a bath of Calcium Chloride.

INGREDIENTS

Activa RM a.k.a Meat glue.
One of the greatest hits of the modern food movement has been the use of Transglutaminase, or meat glue, the magic substance that binds different proteins together and is more familiarly used in mass-produced foods like chicken nuggets.

Agar Agar
The gelling agent is a hydrocollid (hydro=water, collid=gel). Derived from red algae, agar is used to thicken liquids, to make Fluid Gels, hot jellies and “noodles.” The great benefit is that gels made with agar agar can withstand higher temperatures without melting in a sticky mess.

Calcium Chloride
Used in conjunction with Sodium Alginate when making Spheres, calcium chloride is used to set sodium alginate solutions resulting in spheres that gel on the outside and remain liquid in the center. It is an ideal reactant for its high water solubility and high calcium content.

Lecithin
Derived from soybeans, lecithin is widely sold as a nutritional supplement due to its potential health benefits. From a cooking standpoint, soy lecithin is a terrific emulsifier, ideal for converting liquids into Espuma and Liquid Air.  Commercially, lecithin is often the natural emulsifier that keeps chocolate and cocoa butter in a candy bar from separating. In the Quantum Kitchen, lecithin is the magic powder that stabilizes food foams, keeping them aerated with tiny bubbles for several minutes. It’s possible to still froth the liquid without the lecithin, but the foam won’t hold as long. Lecithin is available in powder, liquid or pellet-like granules, and all are suitable in this application.

Liquid Nitrogen
Made from pressurized Nitrogen Gas, liquid nitrogen is used as a freezing agent that is cold enough to exist in liquid form. In the Quantum Kitchen, “Nitro” is used to freeze foods almost instantly. It enables sorbets and ice creams to be prepared on the spot or frozen ingredients, such as citrus, become cold and brittle that often shatter is smashed or pressured. As liquid nitrogen is exposed to the air, it warms up and we can see its transition from a liquid to a gas, hence the “smoke”.

Safety Note: Liquid nitrogen is cold enough to cause severe frostbite upon contact with living tissue. Wear proper safety gear when handling liquid nitrogen to prevent contact or inhalation of extremely cold vapor. Make sure exposed skin surfaces are covered and preferably insulated.

Sodium Alginate
The organic salt is derived from algae, prized as a natural thickener and stabilizer. The powder is frequently used to create self-encapsulated spheres of liquids; known as Spheres. For gelling, sodium alginate treated food must be dipped in calcium salts to react.


Tapioca Maltodextrin (a.k.a Malto)
A carbohydrate obtained from corn starch, when mixed with fatty liquids this food starch turns them into an ethereal powder. Common examples of malto ingredient components are peanut butter powder and brown butter powder.    

EQUIPMENT

The equipment used in the Quantum Kitchen and this new-style of cooking is an interesting mix of scientific laboratory tools and state-of-the-art kitchen appliances.

Anti-Griddle
Exactly what its name implies. A reverse cook top that instantaneously, at minus 30 degrees, transforms liquids to frozen solids. which is a space-age appliance that instantly freezes food placed on its super-cooled stainless steel surface

Cryovac
The process of hermetically sealing food in plastic bags is referred to as “Cryovac-ing” and helps retain natural juices and aroma during cooking. Used to Sous Vide, the process in which food is sealed in airtight bags and then cooked in a water bath for an extended period of time at extremely low temperatures, the cryovac is a vacuum sealer. Air is completely sucked out of the bag

CO2 dispenser
Converts practically any liquid into an ethereal froth or foam

Gas torch
Fueled with butane or propane, the hand-held torch is used to caramelize sugars and brown meats

Immersion Circulator
In keeping with even, low-temperature Sous Vide cooking, chefs often use immersion circulators for accuracy. This device is secured in a water bath bin and serves as a type of thermostat, evenly circulating and heating the water to the desired consistent temperature.

Smoking Gun
The Smoking Gun applies natural cool smoke to food without adding heat—this is particularly useful if without an outdoor smoker. The portable food smoker, or gun, uses flavored sawdust, such as hickory and applewood, to impart deep aroma and flavors to foods without changing the DNA by applying heat.

Rotary Evaporator
The machine is used for distilling liquids without heating them, thereby retaining the delicate aromas that are lost when aromatic liquids are subject to heat

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