People have asked me why there aren’t more modernist cuisine (aka molecular gastronomy) dishes in Food Whore. You know, foams and clouds, things made with aerators and anti-griddles. I find that type of cooking extremely fascinating, but looking back, I must have subconsciously only included dishes I know and understand. I’ve never experimented with sodium alginate or soy lecithin. Never made a consommé with a centrifuge.
But there is one exception -- “potato pearls with black, green, and crimson ‘caviar’ in a cauliflower cream nage”, which pops up in Chapter 14. You can easily make “caviar” using agar-agar, a plant-based gelatin that’s available in health food stores, gourmet shops, and Asian markets. It looks fancy, but it’s not. And the process is so fun.
8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Kalamata olive brine
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 grams powdered agar-agar
1 head of cauliflower (about 1.5 lbs)
1 large white onion
5 cups of water
Fill a tall glass with vegetable oil and place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Briefly boil the balsamic vinegar, olive brine and fish sauce with the agar-agar, until dissolved. Using a pipette, drop the liquid into the cold oil. The drops will immediately solidify and turn into spheres. (If yours don’t, try chilling your oil longer or using a taller glass. The droplets need to cool and congeal by the time they reach the bottom of the glass). Refrigerate until ready to use.
In a large pot, heat olive oil and sweat chopped shallots and onion on low for about 15 minutes. They should be translucent and not brown (you want the soup to be as white as possible so the “caviar” will visually pop).
Add diced cauliflower and water and boil on medium-high for 20 minutes, until cauliflower is very soft but not sulfurous (as overcooked cauliflower is prone to be). Add one tablespoon of butter and blend on the highest setting your blender has. You want the soup very, very smooth.
Let the soup cool for 10 minutes, so the “caviar” doesn’t melt. Spoon the “caviar” on top. Serves 4-6.