Why food goes from almost done to overdone so quickly on the grill

BY W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

Ever tried toasting hamburger buns on a grill? It takes uncanny timing to achieve an even medium brown across the buns. Typically, they remain white for what seems like far too long. Then it’s as if time accelerates, and they blow past toasted to burnt in the time it takes to flip the burgers.

Barbeque_Hamburger Cutaway_VQ6B8473 With LAYERS

The same phenomenon is at work when you toast a marshmallow over a campfire: wait and turn, wait and turn… then brown, black and — poof! — it’s aflame. The problem is perhaps most acute when cooking shiny-skinned fish on a grill or under a broiler. Once the skin turns from silver to brown, the heat pours into the fillet, and the window of opportunity for perfect doneness slams shut with amazing speed.

Anytime you cook light-colored food with high heat, inattention is a recipe for disaster. But the physics here is pretty simple, and once you understand it you can use several methods to improve your odds of making that perfectly toasted bun, golden half-melted marshmallow, or juicy grilled fillet.

At high temperatures — about 400 F (200 C) and up — a substantial part of the heat that reaches the food arrives in the form of infrared light waves rather than via hot air or steam. The higher the temperature, the bigger the part that radiant heat plays in cooking. But this form of heat interacts with color in a profound way.

The bottom of a hamburger bun looks white because it reflects most of the visible light that hits it, and the same is true for infrared heat rays. There is a reason that white cars are popular in Phoenix — they stay cooler in the sunshine, which is full of infrared radiation.

A silvery, mirror-like fish skin is even more reflective than a white car. About 90 percent of the radiant heat striking it simply bounces away. Because only around 10 percent of the energy sinks in and warms the fish, cooking initially creeps along slowly but steadily.

That changes rapidly, however, as soon as the food gets hot enough to brown. It’s like changing from a white shirt to a black shirt on a sunny summer day. As the food darkens, that 10 percent of energy absorbed rises by leaps and bounds, and the temperature at the surface of the food soars.

So browning accelerates, which increases heat absorption, which boosts the temperature; it’s a vicious circle. By the time you can get a spatula under the fillet to flip it over, it may be almost black, reflecting just 10 percent of the heat and sucking in 90 percent.

There are at least three ways around this problem. The simplest is to stare, hawk-like, at the food and lower or remove the heat as soon as browning starts. That works fine for marshmallows but is not always practical in the kitchen or backyard barbecue.

In some cases, you can darken the color of the food at the start, for example by slathering it with a dark sauce or searing it in a very hot skillet before putting it on the grill. This is a way to make a fish steak cook more like a beef steak, which is fairly dark even when raw and so doesn’t experience such a dramatic shift in heat absorption. This method generally shortens the cooking time.

Finally, try piling other ingredients, such as sliced onions or zucchini, between the food and the coals or the broiler element to moderate the intensity of the radiant heat. Cooking times will lengthen — and you may end up having to toss out the sacrificial buffer ingredients if they get charred — but that window of opportunity will stay open longer.

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Photo credit: Ryan Matthew Smith / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Modernist Mother’s Day

Mothers are important. Mothers are many people’s gateway to food and cooking. On the Modernist Cuisine team, this is no exception. Nathan’s mother famously let him prepare Thanksgiving dinner when he was only nine years old, kicking off a lifelong love of cooking. Sam Fahey-Burke first began making buckeye cookies with his mother as a child. Johnny Zhu’s mother provided the inspiration for our recipe for Microwaved Tilapia. So, it is perhaps fitting that Mother’s Day has traditionally been a day of cooking and eating. In this light, we assembled a brunch menu with a few favorites from our library.

Because it’s not brunch without eggs:

Striped Omelet
Liquid Center Egg
Scrambled Egg Foam

More than mere toast:

Chorizo French Toast
Garlic Confit on Toast
Barley Salad with Spinach Pesto
Bagels with Sous Vide Salmon
Pressure-Cooked Shrimp and Grits

Remember to eat your vegetables:

Asparagus with hollandaise
Deep-Fried Brussels Sprouts

As sweet as she is:

Frozen Fruit Rolls
Lemon Curd
Popping Buckeyes
Coffee Crème Brûlée

Science helps craft the perfect mac and cheese

BY SCOTT HEIMENDINGER
Associated Press

Imagine your favorite cheese: perhaps an aged, sharp cheddar, or maybe a blue Gorgonzola or a gentle Monterey Jack. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to use those really good cheeses you love on nachos or as a sauce on macaroni or steamed vegetables?

But if you have ever tried melting high-quality cheeses, you’ve experienced the problem: the cheese separates into a greasy oil slick that no amount of stirring will restore.

One traditional workaround is to make a Mornay sauce, which combines the cheese with a cooked mixture of flour, butter and milk. But a Mornay sauce can end up tasting as much of cooked flour as it does of cheese. The starch in the flour actually masks some of the flavors in the cheese, so the sauce loses its vibrancy.

A clever Canadian-born cheesemaker in Chicago discovered a much better solution around 1912. His name may ring a bell — James L. Kraft.

Kraft found that adding a small amount of sodium phosphate to the cheese as it melted kept it from turning into a clumpy mess of cheese solids swimming in a pool of oil. Kraft patented his invention and used it to make canned, shelf-stable cheese. He sold millions of pounds of the stuff to the American military during World War I. The technique ultimately led to the creation of Velveeta and a whole universe of processed cheese products.

You can apply the very same chemistry, however, to achieve much higher culinary purposes. The chefs in our research kitchen have made mac and cheese with an intense goat gouda and cheddar sauce, for example, and build gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches using cheese slices that melt like the processed stuff, but are made from feta or Stilton.

In place of sodium phosphate, we use sodium citrate, which is easier to find in grocery stores or online. Like sodium phosphate, sodium citrate is an emulsifying salt that helps tie together the two immiscible components of cheese: oil and water.

In solid form, cheese is a stable emulsion. The tiny droplets of dairy fat are suspended in water and held in place by a net of interlinked proteins. When cheese melts, however, that net breaks apart, and the oil and water tend to go their separate ways. Sodium citrate can form attachments to both fat and water molecules, so it holds everything together. The end result is a perfectly smooth, homogeneous sauce. The sauce even can be cut into processed cheese-like slices once it cools.

When making cheese sauce, we add 4 grams of sodium citrate for every 100 grams of finely grated cheese and 93 grams of water or milk. To make cheese slices, we reduce the amount of water to about 30 grams (cold wheat beer works very well, too), pour the melted mixture into a sheet pan, and let it solidify in the refrigerator for about two hours before cutting it into pieces, which then can be wrapped in plastic and frozen.

Because this method of stabilizing melted cheese bypasses all of the flour, butter and milk used in Mornay sauce, the resulting cheese sauce is much richer; a little goes a long way. But the sauce keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats nicely in the microwave, so save any extra and use it to top vegetables, nachos or pasta.

For our Mac and Cheese recipe, click here.

Photo credit: Melissa Lehuta / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Mastering creamy pureed potatoes, no fat required

When made just right, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food: smooth, creamy, warm and filling — not to mention a perfect vehicle for gravy.

But how to get them perfectly smooth and creamy? Too often ridding mashed potatoes of those pesky lumps forces you to overwork the spuds into a gummy, grainy mess. Or you end up adding so much cream and butter that the dairy drowns out the flavor of the potatoes.

If you like your mashed potatoes fluffy, the answer is fairly straightforward. Choose a floury variety of potato, such as Maris Piper or russet, pass the peeled, boiled potatoes through a ricer, then mix in just enough butter and milk or cream to moisten.

But if you’re after a silkier texture — more like what the French call pommes puree — stick with waxy potatoes, such as Yukon gold or fingerlings. You also should try a modernist technique pioneered by food writer Jeffrey Steingarten and refined by the British chef Heston Blumenthal. It adds a step, but it is well worth it.

Steingarten discovered that gently heating the potatoes for a half hour or so in warm water before they are boiled profoundly improves the result. This is because as the potatoes soak in water at about 160 F (70 C), the starch in them gelatinizes, producing a smoother puree on the tongue. The granules that contain the starch also firm up, making it harder to rupture them during mashing.

Recently our research chefs perfected yet another modernist method that yields an amazingly smooth and slightly sweet potato puree, and all without adding any butter, milk or cream. The secret is to deploy a little trick of biochemistry that converts the starch in the potatoes into sugar.

The key to this culinary alchemy is an enzyme known as diastase. Don’t let the fancy name put you off; this ingredient is quite natural (it is derived from malted grain), and you can buy it online or at stores that sell brewing and baking ingredients. The enzyme typically is sold in in a ready-to-use form called diastatic malt powder.

Like other enzymes, diastase is a protein whose complex molecular shape allows it to accelerate chemical transformations with amazing speed and specificity. When you eat a starchy food like bread or potatoes, enzymes in your gut help break down the starch into simpler carbohydrates (such as sugars) that your body can burn or store for energy. By adding diastase to our mashed potatoes, we’re simply getting a jump on the process.

The trickiest part about using diastatic malt powder is measuring the right amount. It’s potent stuff, so you really should measure ingredients by weight. After you have peeled and cubed the potatoes, weigh them. For every 100 grams of potatoes, measure out 1 gram of diastatic malt powder. So 1,100 grams of peeled, cubed potatoes calls for 11 grams of malt powder.

Now fill a pot with water and add 2 grams of sugar and 3 grams of salt for every 100 milliliters of water. Simmer the potato cubes until they are tender, 30 to 40 minutes, then drain. Stir the diastatic malt powder into the potatoes, then pass the mixture through a ricer.

The riced potatoes next get sealed in a zip-close plastic bag, which is set in a pot of hot tap water (about 125 F) for a half hour. The warmth activates the enzyme and starts it gobbling up the potato starch. When the 30 minutes is up, empty the bag into a pot, then heat the puree to at least 167 F (75 C) to halt the enzymatic activity.

That’s it. Even with no butter or cream, the result is sweet and amazingly smooth. If you are avoiding dairy or limiting your intake of fats, this technique may just renew your love affair with the potato.

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Click here for our Dairy-Free Potato Puree recipe made with diastatic malt powder.

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Photo credit: Nathan Myhrvold / Modernist Cuisine, LLC.

A shocking (and hot!) tip for preserving produce

By W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

Nothing is more frustrating than finding the perfect cucumber or head of lettuce at the farmers market, paying top-dollar for it, and then… tossing it out a week later when it has gone moldy or slimy in the refrigerator.

No doubt one reason so many of us eat too many convenience foods and too few fruits and vegetables is that it can be hard to get our busy schedules in sync with the produce we bring home with the best of intentions.

Food scientists, however, have discovered a remarkably effective way to extend the life of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables by days or even a week. It doesn’t involve the chlorine solutions, irradiation or peroxide baths sometimes used by produce packagers. And it’s easily done in any home by anyone.

This method, called heat-shocking, is 100 percent organic and uses just one ingredient that every cook has handy – hot water.

You may already be familiar with a related technique called blanching, a cooking method in which food is briefly dunked in boiling or very hot water. Blanching can extend the shelf life of broccoli and other plant foods, and it effectively reduces contamination by germs on the surface of the food. But blanching usually ruptures the cell walls of plants, causing color and nutrients to leach out. It also robs delicate produce of its raw taste.

Heat-shocking works differently. When the water is warm but not scalding – temperatures ranging from 105 ˚F to 140 ˚F (about 40 C to 60 C) work well for most fruits and vegetables – a brief plunge won’t rupture the cells. Rather, the right amount of heat alters the biochemistry of the tissue in ways that, for many kinds of produce, firm the flesh, delay browning and fading, slow wilting, and increase mold resistance.

A long list of scientific studies published during the past 15 years report success using heat-shocking to firm potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and strawberries; to preserve the color of asparagus, broccoli, green beans, kiwi fruits, celery, and lettuce; to fend off overripe flavors in cantaloupe and other melons; and to generally add to the longevity of grapes, plums, bean sprouts and peaches, among others.

The optimum time and temperature combination for the quick dip seems to depend on many factors, but the procedure is quite simple. Just let the water run from your tap until it gets hot, then fill a large pot of water about two-thirds full, and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. It will probably be between 105 ˚F and 140 ˚F; if not, a few minutes on the stove should do the trick. Submerge the produce and hold it there for several minutes (the hotter the water, the less time is needed), then drain, dry and refrigerate as you normally would.

Researchers still are working out the details of how heat-shocking works, but it appears to change the food in several ways at once. Many of the fruits and vegetables you bring home from the store are still alive and respiring; the quick heat treatment tends to slow the rate at which they respire and produce ethylene, a gas that plays a crucial role in the ripening of many kinds of produce. In leafy greens, the shock of the hot water also seems to turn down production of enzymes that cause browning around wounded leaves, and to turn up the production of heat-shock proteins, which can have preservative effects.

For the home cook, the inner workings don’t really matter. The bottom line is that soaking your produce in hot water for a few minutes after you unpack it makes it cheaper and more nutritious because more fruits and veggies will end up in your family rather than in the trash.

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HEAT-SHOCKING GUIDELINES

The optimal time and temperature for heat-shocking fruits and vegetables varies in response to many factors – in particular, whether they were already treated before purchase. Use these as general guidelines.

– Asparagus: 2 to 3 minutes at 131 ˚F (55 ˚C)

– Broccoli: 7 to 8 minutes at 117 ˚F (47 ˚C)

– Cantaloupe (whole): 60 minutes at 122 ˚F (50 ˚C)

– Celery: 90 seconds at 122 ˚F (50 ˚C)

– Grapes: 8 minutes at 113 ˚F (45 ˚C)

– Kiwi fruit: 15 to 20 minutes at 104 ˚F (40 ˚C)

– Lettuce: 1 to 2 minutes at 122 ˚F (50 ˚C)

– Oranges (whole): 40 to 45 minutes at 113 ˚F (45 ˚C)

– Peaches (whole): 40 minutes at 104 ˚F (40 ˚C)

– Strawberries: 15 seconds at 140 ˚F (60 ˚C)

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Photo credit: AP Photo/Modernist Cuisine, LLC, Chris Hoover

Five Additional Uses for Your Baking Steel

In our quest to create the perfect baking steel for mimicking the results obtained by a traditional wood-fired oven, ultimately achieving pizza bliss, we also tested other uses for such a device. We examined several possibilities, including hot and cold preparations. Because the baking steel is 22 lb of highly conductive thermal mass, it can stably hold both high and low temperatures. Below, you will find a few of our favorite options. If you have a new idea for its use, let us know in the comments section.

1. Antigriddle: Steel has high heat capacity and great conductivity, which is why it works so well for pizza. But it also works in opposite extremes, efficiently freezing foods through conduction. We experimented with a PolyScience antigriddle while writing Modernist Cuisine and found that by freezing the baking steel, we could achieve similar results. After watching street vendors in Thailand make “ice-cream pad” (rolled-up ice cream) on YouTube, we were hooked and didn’t stop until we were able to replicate this charming treat by chilling our steel to ?15 to ?9.5 °C / 5 to 15 °F. Check back next week when we share how to make “ice-cream pad” using the baking steel.

2. Griddle: Naturally, the baking steel also makes a great griddle. Place your baking steel on your stove or induction cooktop to fashion a griddle. Because it is larger than your typical skillet (the baking steel is 41 cm by 36 cm by 1 cm / 16 in by 14 in by ? in), you have more room for your eggs and pancakes.

on induction burner with fried eggs

3. Flat Tandoor Oven: A pizza without sauce or toppings looks an awful lot like naan, which inspired us to use the steel as a makeshift, open tandoor oven. Heat the baking steel on a stovetop or induction burner on high and slap on your naan dough. In moments, your naan will have a blistered surface not normally obtainable in a home oven.

4. Cold Plate: Your baking steel will also keep food cool without freezing it—a perfect solution for a platter of sushi. Chill the baking steel in the freezer for a few hours. Depending on how cold you want your food to be, the time will vary. This is a great way to keep sensitive food cold without dealing with piles of ice and the inevitable clean up. Keeping your food cool will also extend the amount of time it can sit outside of the refrigerator before entering the danger zone.

5. Teppan: Teppanyaki, the Japanese style of cuisine popularized by restaurants in the U.S., uses an iron plate called a teppan. This metal griddle quickly cooks food to the delight of onlookers. We can’t guarantee that you’ll nail down the flaming onion on your first try, but it’s a good place to start, as well as a fun idea for dinner parties.

Build the Perfect Pizza in 12 Steps

You can build a great pizza if you master three crucial elements: making the dough, creating the toppings, and baking the pizza. Stretching out pizza dough is a delicate art that rewards patience and practice. Topping a pizza is all about balancing an ideal ratio of dough to toppings that allows the pizza to cook quickly and evenly, producing a combination of crispy, chewy textures. Baking a pizza well requires the right tools: a very hot and stable oven and baking surface, a pizza peel of the right size, and a keen sense of timing. We designed our baking steel to deliver heat quickly and consistently to a pizza.

Follow these steps from start to finish to create pizza perfection.

1. Remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator. Cover it and let it warm up to room temperature for an hour. If the dough was frozen, first defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. Covering the dough keeps the surface from drying out and forming a crust.

2. While the dough is warming, set the oven temperature as high as it will go (260 °C / 500 °F is a minimum), and prepare a baking surface. In dozens of experiments involving more than 100 pizzas, we explored a wide range of materials and methods for cooking pizza at home. Our goal was to find the cooking surface that best transfers heat to raw pizza dough. Every surface will cool to some degree when the pizza goes in, but the dip in temperature should be as shallow and brief as possible. Our conclusion: a dark steel plate just ? in thick is the best option.steel on white

3. Stretch and flatten the dough on a floured work surface by using your fingers to press the middle of the dough flat, and then work the dough outward. Leave a narrow ridge along the perimeter of the dough.

Step 3a Pressing outward

4. Dust a pizza peel or baking sheet with a light, even dusting of flour. Tap the side of the peel on the countertop to knock off any excess flour. If the cooked pizza crust tastes like burnt flour, the peel was overfloured. If the pizza crust sticks, you probably used too little flour.

5. Drape the dough over the back of your hand, and then rotate it slowly. The weight of the dough should gently stretch it to a circular shape and even thickness, 30–35 cm / 12–14 in. in diameter. Small blisters and bubbles should form in the dough. These are good!

Step 3b resting

6. Place the dough onto a pizza peel. Jerk the peel sharply back and forth; this prevents the dough from sticking to the peel.

7. Spread the sauce evenly over the dough, but leave the outermost 2.5 cm / 1 in of the perimeter dry.

8. Sprinkle grated cheese evenly over the sauce.

Step 6 cheese

9. To avoid losing heat from the oven, slide the pizza from the peel onto the baking steel as quickly as possible.

10. Cook the pizza until the crust turns brown and blisters, 2–4 minutes. Some of the larger bubbles should look almost burnt. A well-cooked pizza has scorched blisters on the bottom of the crust—although, pizza can also be delicious without a blistered crust. If you don’t see any blisters, your cooking surface is not hot enough. This is another reason why we recommend using our baking steel.

MCAH_PIZZA_Bake_Step10

11. Remove the pizza from the oven by using the pizza peel or baking sheet, and slide it onto a cooling rack. This keeps the crust crisp.

12. Season the pie with fresh basil, chili flakes, salt, and olive oil. Don’t forget to season the very edge of the crust, and give it a little drizzle of oil, too. Serve the pizza immediately.

–Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Introducing the Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel

We love Neapolitan-style pizza. With its bubbly crust cooked to perfection, it is held to high esteem in the pizza world for good reason. The trouble is that home ovens don’t reach the scorching 800 °F used to create a blistering crust in a wood-fired oven. We researched this problem and in Modernist Cuisine shared how a steel plate can help give home ovens a needed boost to create Neapolitan-style pizza.

We partnered with Baking Steel and are happy to announce that we’ve created the Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel to consistently deliver perfect Neapolitan-style pizzas in a home oven. We performed rigorous tests to find the perfect balance between steel thickness, performance, and weight. Retailing for $99, it’s sold exclusively through Bakingsteel.com and is available today with free shipping!

Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing pizza recipes and other great uses of a baking steel. You can learn more about it here. Please let us know what you think.

 

Modernist Cuisine Special Edition Baking Steel with cheese and basil pizza

Six Steps for Deep-Frying Without a Deep Fryer

We’re big fans of deep-frying as a finishing technique after cooking sous vide. You don’t need to own a dedicated fryer. You just need a deep pot and the proper tools to insert and retrieve the food from a safe distance: long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket. Follow the steps below for deep-frying success.

  1. Choose an appropriate frying oil, one that has a higher smoke point than the desired cooking temperature. Peanut, soybean, and sunflower oils are our favorites for frying at high temperatures. For a list of smoke and flash points of different oils, see page xxii of Modernist Cuisine at Home or 2·126 of Modernist Cuisine.
  2. Add the oil to a deep pot, but fill it no more than half full. Generally the walls of the pot should rise at least 10 cm / 4 in above the oil so that there are no spillovers. This also helps contain splattering and makes cleanup easier. Use enough oil so that you can submerge a small batch of food completely.
  3. Preheat the oil to the cooking temperature. Use a probe thermometer held upright in the center of the pan of oil to check the temperature (see the picture below). Our recipes call for frying at temperatures between 190 °C / 375 °F and 225 °C / 440 °F. That’s hot! Make sure your thermometer can display temperatures up to 260 °C / 500 °F. Frying, candy, and thermocouple thermometers usually have this much range. For consistent results, cook in small batches to minimize the cooling that occurs when you add food, and warm the food to room temperature before frying it. Allow the oil temperature to recover between batches.
  4. Pat food dry with paper towels before frying. The presence of external moisture on foods can cause oil to splatter violently. Don’t get too close to the oil. Use long tongs, a slotted deep-fry spoon, or a frying basket to insert and remove foods gently. Never use water, flour, or sugar to put out a grease fire. And do not try to carry a flaming pot outdoors. To suffocate a fire, use baking soda, a damp towel, or a fire extinguisher specifically designed for grease fires.
  5. Once food enters the hot oil, things happen fast. Just 30 seconds may be enough when you don’t want to cook the interior of the food further (for example, when deep-frying food after cooking it sous vide). Smaller pieces of food will cook faster and more evenly than larger pieces. For more on why size matters when deep-frying, see page 2·117 of Modernist Cuisine.
  6. Drain the cooked food on paper towels. Absorbing excess oil removes much of the fat associated with deep-frying. Most of the fat does not penetrate the food very far, coating only the surface. Simply blotting deep-fried food as soon as it emerges from the fryer will make it a lot less greasy. But take care that you don’t remove all of the oily coating. Oil is, after all, the source of much of the flavor, texture, and mouthfeel of deep-fried food.

Ready to try deep-frying? Check out our recipes for Starch-Infused Fries, Chicken Wings, and Cheese Puffs. And check back next week when we add another deep-fried recipe to our library.

—Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home and Modernist Cuisine

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5 Tips for Culinary Deception

What better time to trot out our favorite deceptive culinary tricks than April Fool’s Day? We devoted a section of Modernist Cuisine to trompe l’oeil because it is particularly suited to the Modernist movement. Though it has a long history, dating back to dishes such as mock turtle soup in the 19th century, culinary deception has been embraced in recent years by chefs such as Wylie Dufresne, Andoni Luis Aduriz, and René Redzepi.

The key in each of the tips below is to both surprise and delight the senses. There are no malicious tricks here. These tips serve to enhance the senses, present food in creative ways, and keep guests living in the moment. It wouldn’t serve our purposes to develop recipes that don’t taste good!

  1. Raw “Eggs”: One of our favorite culinary tricks to play on visitors to our lab is to convince them that we are serving them a raw quail egg. Anjana Shanker, development chef, who usually whips up this recipe, has gone so far as to make up a story that we discovered a nest of quails on the roof, and started domesticating them for their eggs. In reality, we serve spherified passion fruit and lemongrass in a real quail egg shell. Watch the video above to see what happened when the guys from Tested.com dropped by. Anjana’s technique is included in the video as well.
  2. Mystery Meat: Trompe l’oeil dishes have a long history of substituting one food for another. Besides being just for fun, this is often due to economic reasons (such as mock turtle soup or surimi) or dietary restrictions (as in veggie patties). Sometimes, it can be both! This April Fool’s Day, enlist a vegetarian friend to help play a trick on party guests by casually eating what appears to be meat. Our favorite and most convincing dish is to creating bulgogi out of watermelon, originally designed by Andoni Luis Aduriz at Mugaritz. Cut 2.5 cm / 1 in “steaks” out of seedless watermelon (leave a little bit of the white part of the rind in as a fat cap). Soak the watermelon in a brine (20% water and 1% salt) for two hours. Pat the watermelon dry and dehydrate the slices at 55 °C / 130 °F until dry and leather-like, about 8–12 hours.
  3. Eat Dirt: In the video below, we use chocolate cookies to make fake dirt to go along with our fishing-lure-molded gummy worms. This is the fastest and easiest way to make fake dirt, but in Modernist Cuisine we have a savory version using black bread, chicory root, mushroom powder, and a few other ingredients. We’ve also made fake coals out of cassava roots, simmered with fish stock and squid ink (another recipe inspired by Aduriz).
  4. Impregnated Fruit: Sometimes it’s not the eyes that play tricks, but preconceived notions. When your guest bites into an apple, they expect it to taste like an apple, but by using Modernist techniques, you can impregnate said apple with flavors, such as curry, for a delightful surprise. Vacuum seal a peeled and cored apple with apple juice and spices for 12 hours. Then place the bowl in a chamber vacuum sealer and pull the vacuum three times, holding for 15 minutes the final time. If you don’t have a chamber vacuum sealer, you can also achieve this effect with a whipping siphon. One favorite combination is to infuse celery with apple juice. Place the celery in the siphon, and cover it with apple juice. Then charge with two cartridges of nitrous oxide. Chill it for two hours before serving.
  5. Healthier Substitutes: Sometimes a bit of culinary deception can improve your health. At El Bulli, Feran Adrìa once served grated cauliflower in lieu of couscous. Use a microplane to grate the cauliflower until it is the size of grains. This surprise is especially effective after serving your family real couscous three nights in a row.

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