21 May 2012

Experiments with "Modernist" Cuisine; Momofuku-Inspired Green Beans

E had been soliciting me, somewhat, for gift ideas. One of which was delivered to me on Friday night, and a good gift it was - a kit from Modernist Pantry for doing all sorts of chemical things to food. I can now make foams, turn anything into a gel, and generally try cooking some crazier things. And, amazingly, Diablo III hasn't completely drained the life from me, coating my fingers in Cheeto dust and my veins into rivers of Mountain Dew. I actually haven't had any of those things in recent memory (except Diablo III, which I've had quite a bit of). We cooked a decidedly non-modernist dinner with a few  flourishes of weird using the other part of the food present - a trip to Sur La Table to pick up stuff that would be useful, but not necessary, in my kitchen.
The kitchenware trip got me a hand blender (for beating things, mostly) and a bamboo steamer (for making steamed things, of course). Given that and the chemicals, we settled on "grain and beans" for the main, steamed artichoke, green beans, salad with solid vinaigrette dressing, and a dessert that read like something between ice cream and whipped cream. The things I was in charge of (namely, the chemical cooking) were interesting. On the other hand, the things E was in charge of (all the other food but the green beans) were actually delicious, an important quality for food. She definitely won the award that night. 
Now, the chemicals: the vinaigrette was, roughly, your normal vinaigrette with agar agar added. Agar agar is crazy - like gelatin you would find in, say, Jello, but vegetarian and capable of holding up even under moderate heat. The texture worked - I made a sheet of vinaigrette that we could then cut and scatter on salad. E disagreed with the texture; I couldn't see the point other than Science! so it was deemed a failure. The dessert was similar - interesting texture, not much else going on. Perhaps I need better recipes aimed at a novice.
The rest of the meal is not quite befitting of a recipe - spinach pasta with black beans, seasoned lightly. Delicious steamed artichoke with mayonnaise. Green beans cooked in a bit of browned butter in a cast iron, tossed with a pinch of salt and freshly-grated horseradish, liberally adapted from a similar recipe in Momofuku, devoured before the rest of the meal was ready.


  1. Interesting idea, the vinaigrette + agar. I'm sad to hear it wasn't more tasty! I agree with you guys so far on the texture/failure of agar... novel, but far from tasty. The only thing approaching good that I've made so far was blended fruit + juice + agar, poured into tiny molds, then served on a tiny banana cross-section with a pinch of malic acid for kick... but that was probably only good because malic acid is awesome.

    Could you offer an improvement/suggestion to better the vinaigrette? Because I really want to try that

    Also! No photo of the dessert! Boo!

  2. The dessert was made after the sun set, and it was white. Cell phone camera + indoor lighting + white food is a recipe for bad photos. It also wasn't very good.

    For bettering the vinaigrette, use more of it? Also, use a lot of vinegar. Instead of the usual 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, maybe go for equal parts, or go the full reversal 3 parts vinegar, 1 part oil. It lacked kick, mostly.

    I tried the Versawhip 600k from the kit this morning in some Greek yogurt - more to my liking. I was lazy and only "whipped" it with a spoon for a minute, but it started to form peaks at that point and stiffen. I can imagine adding this to yogurt or banana+hemp milk, whipping it, and chilling for a nice dessert.