Adventures In Molecular Gastronomy and a love story

My husband is awesome. We are both addicted to food TV (though he won’t admit it), especially No Reservations and Top Chef. Our favorite this season (Top Chef Allstars) happens to be Richard Blais, and the prospect of molecular gastronomy intrigues us to no end. Since Miami has yet to spring its own version of Alinea, this Christmas my Darling Husband (DH) surprised me with a molecular gastronomy kit. Devoid of the really cool stuff like liquid nitrogen or a sous vide cooker, this kit is perfect for a first-time getting-her-feet-wet gastronomer.

The Way To A Geek's Heart: Cuisine R-ÉVOLUTION by MOLÉCULE-R Molecular Gastronomy Kit

The Kit, Cuisine R-ÉVOLUTION by MOLÉCULE-R comes with 10 packets each of Agar-Agar, Sodium Alginate, Calcium Lactate, Soy Lecithin and Xanthan Gum, a slotted spoon, measuring spoons, pipettes, food grade syringe and silicone tubes, instructional DVD and 50 recipes.

For Valentines day this year, we decided to give the kit a whirl.

The Menu

Arugula Spaghetti with Goat Cheese Ravioli and Balsamic Vinegar Pearls

Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Onions and Port Sauce

Twice-Cooked Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bacon Dust

Frozen Chocolate Wind with Berry Raviolis

The Breakdown

Salad Course

Not much of a salad, but at least it tasted good. Picture all this over a coil of bright green arugula "spaghetti"

The Arugula Spaghetti was a complete and utter mess. A beautiful shade of healthy Swamp-Thing green, I managed to shoot the globby-but-not-globby-enough concoction all over my nice clean kitchen. The recipe called for liquefying arugula, bringing it to a boil with Aga-Agar, and piping it into long tubes to set. I have a sneaky suspicion that where we went wrong is in the measuring. The directions called for 2 cups chopped arugula, but didn’t specify whether this was a packed 2 cups or loose. We used 5 oz., which in hindsight was too much.

Goat Cheese Raviolis were fairly successful. Not as pretty as the picture, but that could come with time. This preparation called for preparing the cheese with calcium lactate and floating delicate globes in a sodium alginate bath. The taste ended up nice, and the experiment was overall successful.

The Balsamic Vinegar Pearls were successful as well. This preparation called for mixing the vinegar with Agar-Agar, bringing it to a boil, and pipetting small spheres into a cold bowl of oil to set. Although we had drama with the directions–I’m fairly certain they were translated from French, and aren’t the most specific when it comes to things like how much oil to put in the freezer and what you’re looking for to tell if anything is ready–the pearls turned out semi-pearl ish.

The Balsamic Vinegar Pearls were to be half of the “dressing” of our first course salad, along with a drizzle of olive oil. Since we had no “salad” to our salad, they ended up being a topper to the goat cheese. Not a well-rounded dish, but not a terrible one either.

Entree

This is not burnt. The beef is deeply caramelized (but still rare), and the onions are in a syrupy reduced balsamic vinegar sauce. Not, I repeat, Not Burnt.

Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin with Balsamic Onions and Port Sauce

This recipe is from one of my favorite food blogs: Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, and is the recipe The Chef made for Gluten Free Girl the night he proposed. When I saw this post last week, it was a no-brainer and I followed it exactly (except for halving the amount of balsamic vinegar used since I didn’t have enough left over from the pearls).

This recipe turned out fantastic and I will definitely have to make the onion sauce again. Pan-seared beef tenderloin has already kind of become our generic holiday staple, and this cooking method is pretty much the method I always use.

Can anything involving bacon dust be bad?

Twice-Cooked Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes with Parmesan Cheese and Bacon Dust

This is one of my DH’s favorite go-to potato recipes. I call it a recipe, but it’s really not too involved or complicated. Take your desired amount and type of scrubbed potatoes, put them in a pot with water and boil until done; drain; smash lightly with a potato masher, meat press, back of a frying pan, or anything else you can use to crush them lightly; sprinkle with your desired type of cheese, minced garlic and bacon if you’d like; broil until the cheese is golden and melted. Easy as pie. Mmm.. pie. The Bacon Dust was made by crisping a few strips of our fresh cured home made bacon and smashing the crap out of it in a plastic bag with something heavy.

We always love this preparation, and aside from being a bit dry since we had to re-heat them, the potatoes were lovely as always.
Dessert Course

Picture these globules on a bed of wispy chocolate foam

The Frozen Chocolate Wind was a total flop. Although we followed the directions to a T, foam was just not to be had. The only thing I can think we did wrong was to use electric beaters instead of an immersion blender. The directions said to use a hand blender or eggbeater to produce the foam, and we figured electric beaters are what we use to beat eggs, so they would work. Maybe in France they’re talking about something else. Yet another reason I should break down and purchase an immersion blender.

To go with our Chocolate Wind was a Berry Ravioli. Like the goat cheese raviolis, these turned out well. A full dessert they did not make, and I still feel a little gypped, but they tasted good.

The Verdict

We may have bitten off more than we could chew, but at least we spent two hours doing something together we both love. And no one (namely my long-suffering DH) lost a limb. Or got thrown out of the kitchen. 🙂 And after all, isn’t some QT with a loved or liked one what Valentine’s Day (or the day after in our case) is all about?

Now on to the love story.

A recipe was not all I read in Gluten Girl and the Chef’s post about the beef tenderloin. In her eloquent way, she shared her tender and life-affirming story of love, and encouraged readers from all walks of life to share similar stories. If you haven’t seen the post already, do. Go! The stories are hilarious, sad, and heartwarming. Just the thing for mid-February.

Inspired by Gluten Free Girl, here is the story of how I met my Darling, Dearest Husband.

I met my now husband on an Internet dating site. Yahoo, to be exact. He was in Bahrain on a minesweeper looking for a penpal back home (Raleigh, NC) and I didn’t have anything better to do that day.

I still don’t know what made me answer his initial e-mail. He broke all my “rules”–he hadn’t posted a picture *and* he was in the military. All I can say, is I was bored that day and in a pique of ‘doing my patriotic duty’ I answered the “not so drunk sailor” back. And boy am I ever glad I did. He sent a picture in short order, and he was h-o-t.

In the following months, I told him all about my adventures becoming someone who went on dates; about going out with friends, what movies I’d watched, what bands I’d seen, what books I was reading; about all the little details in life you share when you don’t really expect to ever see the person on the other end of the line. He told me about everything he liked, everything he was and what he got to do during the small amount of free time he was allowed to spend off the ship.

We got to know each other. He had a girlfriend and I was trying to be a dater, so a friendship blossomed. I created a chat space on my website so I could rush home from work and we could talk without him getting in trouble; he rearranged his schedule to be at the computer when I got off of work each day. We chatted. We griped. We both held on and looked forward to our time together more and more each day. He even managed to call a time or two. Then he told me he was coming back home.

And we lost touch for a few months while he adjusted to life back in the States.

Thankfully, one of his sisters intervened and got him to call me. I still thought about him, but in a ‘that was a nice chapter, let’s see what kind of drama I can get into instead’ way and had thought that ship had crashed and burned before it even left the dock.

And then he called and my heart skipped a beat. We had our first date on December 26, 2004, and the bottom fell out. He picked me up (which was a rarity–I never gave out my home address to strangers) and we went to see The Aviator. During the movie, he reached over and just barely held my hand and I wanted to jump out of my skin. After dinner (at my favorite Italian restaurant at that time), he kissed me in the car and I thought I was going to die. It was all over from there. We ended up talking (literally–not a euphemism, ok, there was some kissing and a lot of snuggling but that’s all) all night and I got maybe half an hour of sleep before work the next day. He came back the next weekend (he was stationed in Florida), and the next, and the next, until it was clear that I needed to move to be with him. I remember thinking that this was the thing I was waiting for all through high school, all through college, in order to feel like I could really start my life.

We’ve been married coming up on five years in April, I couldn’t be happier about my decision to be with him and can’t wait to tell him so when we renew our vows in Vegas this year.

3 thoughts on “Adventures In Molecular Gastronomy and a love story

  1. Awhs! I love you guys… and I’m so glad we attacked Chris-toe-pher into taking you out finally since you’re prolly the best sister-in-law ever.

    Like

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