One of the things that attracted me most to molecular cooking is the trickery. The whole point of going through the trouble of breaking something down from it’s original form, just to turn it into a new one, is trickery. The objective is to fool the diner into thinking that they’re about to eat one thing, but serve them another.
I did that recently. And I thought of Ferran Adria’s philosophy of breaking the chains of eating with your eyes the entire time.
Adria’s whole point is to make us think differently about our food, because it can affect your perception of other things if you allow it to. Close your eyes, and eat only with your tongue. Change the way you perceive food, and it might change your outlook on other things. And this could go a lot deeper than just food — how we perceive race, sexual orientation, etc. It’s a deep philosophical hole. Feel free to jump right in anytime.
Anyway, the food.
The image above looks like an egg, doesn’t it? It does to me. In fact, it looks almost like a perfectly cooked egg. Well, it’s not. The egg whites are made of coconut milk, the yolk of pureed fresh mango.
If you recall, I made pea ravioli the week before going to our molecular cooking class. It was simple to make, for the most part. Jo’s directions were clear, and the finished product was just what I expected. And after making that, I thought of all of the other different types of pasta-less ravioli that might be possible.
Being a complete nut for all types of fruit, mango “ravioli” was tops on my list. So I made that not long afterward. It was delicious, bursted in your mouth with flavor. But to be honest, I was bored with it. It looked like a single egg yolk, missing its fluffy white bed. So I vowed that the next time I made this, I’d find a way to turn it into what appeared to be an egg.
Enter coconut milk.
Contrary to its name, coconut milk contains no actual milk. It’s made from the flesh of the coconut, which is ground down, then squeezed through cheesecloth to extract its juice. This is the foundation of our egg whites – a coconut gelée made of nothing but coconut milk, gelatin, and magic.
To begin making the “egg whites” I placed a 13 ounce can of coconut milk in a sautee pan over medium heat and brought it to a simmer. While that was happening, I placed 2 sheets of gelatin (4 grams total) in a bowl of ice water and allowed them to bloom for 3 minutes. Then, I removed the coconut milk from the heat, removed the gelatin sheets from the ice water and squeezed as much of the water out of them as possible. Into the coconut milk went the gelatin sheets. Stirred that together until it was mixed through, and allowed it to cool.
For the “yolk” it all starts with fresh mangos. 260 grams worth, to be exact.
Peeled, chopped and placed in a blender, I sprinkled 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of them and allowed that to sit while I prepared my alginate.
Alginate you say? Why, yes. It’s not spherification without it, after all.
In a sauce pan, I placed 325 grams of water with 3 grams of sodium alginate, hit that with an immersion blender until fully mixed, then allowed it to settle until most of the air bubbles were gone. Then I placed the pan over medium heat until it came to a low boil. As I’ve said before, you have to stir this stuff constantly while it’s over heat. You DO NOT want this to scald along the bottom of the pan. That will screw the pooch for sure — project aborted.
After taking this off the heat, I allowed it to come down to room temperature. Then I poured this over the peeled mangos in the blender, covered it tightly and blended it on the Liquify setting until it was completely liquified. I let this sit for close to an hour so most (if not all) of the air bubbles got a chance to work their way out. This was a perfect opportunity for me to take a break and drink a beer, which I did.
Out come two bowls. In one, I placed clean, cold water. In the other, I measured 750 grams of water, then added 5 grams of calcium chloride. This is my ravioli bowl, better known as the calcic bath.
Around this time, my coconut mixture had come down to room temperature and was ready to be turned into our “egg whites.”
I poured the mix into circular molds, 5″ in diameter and less than 1/2″ thick. I gently placed the molds in the refrigerator, laying them as flat as possible. These took an hour to fully set. If you try this, leave them in the cooler right up until the time you’re ready to serve. The longer they stay cold, the firmer the “whites” become.
Once the mango puree was ready, I carefully poured some into a tablespoon measure, then gently placed it into the calcic bath and turned it upside down until it released my nice fat ball of mango. Oh, what a beautiful sight it was. I took a gulp of my beer and smiled. This was going to work.
So out come the egg whites. It’s show time, baby.
Since I wasn’t serving this with toast, I wanted the mango “yolks” to hold, not run all over the place. So I made sure to leave the spheres in the calcic bath for 3 full minutes so they were nice and firm. I then gently transferred them into the water bath to rinse for a minute or so. Once I’d pulled them from their bath with my spoon and gently placed the bottom of the spoon on a clean towel to remove any excess water, I placed each mango yolk right in the middle of the coconut gelée.
And on that day, a new egg was born.