A New Ingredient: Xanthan Gum!

5 Dec

I thought that on my first endeavor into The Modernist Cuisine at Home  I would keep it simple.  I decided to start out with a new ingredient instead of going whole hog and buying a sous vide machine, though that thought did cross my mind…just a bit.  Anyway, I will admit that it was a little difficult finding a recipe I could make without buying a new piece of equipment, but when all was said and done, I found three!  This week I’ll be reviewing Tomato Confit and Pistachio Pesto, which uses our new ingredient, Xanthan Gum, as an emulsifier, from the Basics chapter.  I’ll be using those recipes as ingredients in the third recipe, a very yummy sounding grilled cheese sandwhich called the Goat Cheese on Baguette with Tomato Confit and Basil.

So what is Xanthan Gum?  The Modernist Cuisine defines it as a “naturally occurring carbohydrate” which I thought was a little vague, so I did a little more research.  It is more specifically a polysaccharide, created from fermenting corn, wheat, or soy with a bacteria, Xanthomonas campestris.  That’s the bacteria that turns your broccoli and cauliflower black and slimy.  The fermented bacteria is then dried and turned into a powdery substance.  Commercially, its commonly used as both a thickening agent and emulsifier in many everyday products including salad dressings, sauces, and even toothpaste!  In home cooking, it’s usually used in gluten free baking.  It helps to give the dough that naturally sticky feel.

The book suggests that you can buy Xanthan Gum at your grocery store and states that it should cost around $15 for 450 g.  That may be true for some people, but not for me.  I found it, not at my normal grocery store but at a higher end store, and for twice the price!  $15 for 226 g.  Don’t fret.  It’s not the end of the world!  The great thing about this ingredient is how little of it you have to use, usually no more than 0.2% of the weight of the dish.  However, I will say, when I start running low I will be buying my Xanthan Gum online.  It’s way cheaper there!  What can I say?  I’m frugal!

So that’s Xanthan Gum in a nutshell.  It’s a very cool, very modern ingredient, and I’m very glad to add it to my pantry.

Until next time…

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Part One: Stocking the Modernist Kitchen

30 Nov

Glancing through the contents page for Part One, I couldn’t help wonder how I was going to get all this stuff in my kitchen!  My kitchen isn’t all that big, and space is at a premium for what I currently own.  As I read through the section though, I figured out that I already have a lot of the countertop gear (things like a blender, food processor, mixer, and ice cream maker) and the major elements of the conventional cooking gear come standard in most kitchens.  I mean, who doesn’t have a stove?  And most everyone has a microwave!  Most of the other suggested gear are things that I either have owned before and for some reason no longer do or want.  The few things I’m not familiar with don’t have to be overly expensive and don’t look hard to use.

Owning some of the fancier equipment in this section is more or less a pipe dream for anyone in my income bracket (I’m looking at you combi oven!), but I’m hoping I can pull some strings at work to be able to cook a few recipes using commercial equipment.  Hopefully being a Foodservice Consultant will have it’s advantages here!

And let me just say that cooking sous vide may be the best idea for busy moms I’ve ever heard!  All the steps are pretty simple and the method offers lot of time saving opportunities for busy families.  It seems like it would be a great solution for singles as well too as individual servings of dishes can be refrigerated or frozen for later.  Even better, cooking this way doesn’t require fancy equipment.  For those of you turned off by the idea of cooking fish in your sink though, many options are readily available for upgrading your sous vide setup.  I’ll go through sous vide and all the rest of the gear as I cook in the course of this experiment.  I want to see see how each piece fits into the modernist style of cooking, test each technique, and figure out how practical each method is for an average modern family.  I’m sure there will be triumphs and failures but especially after reading through the entire first part, I’m very hopeful for more successes than disappointments.

The last section of Part One deals with ingredients.  While I agree that the freshest ingredients will yield the freshest food, the practice is not one I’ve adhered to in my personal life as much as I’d like to.  I’m going to take this opportunity to make going to the farmer’s market more of a regular event and finally check out some of the ethnic grocery stores I’ve seen sprinkled around Charlotte.  I’m definitely excited to try some new things!

That’s all of Part One!  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to get cooking!  I think it’s only appropriate to start off with something from the Basics chapter, so next week’s recipe will be pulled from there.  I thank you for reading, and hope you come back to see what’s cooking!

Bon appetit!

Well Hello There!

28 Nov

I love food!  And why shouldn’t I?  Everyone has to eat.  We should enjoy it!

I turned 30 last Friday.  I know…I know.  Hold your applause!  Please, it was nothing!  Anyway, as a present from my husband, I received a copy of The Modernist Cuisine at Home.  I’ve looked through the books and they are nothing short of amazing!  The thought and talent that went into creating it makes it probably the most revolutionary cookbook I’ve ever picked up.  It looks at food in an entirely new way, or at least ways that I’ve never thought of cooking it!

So I’ve challenged myself to explore this book to see what it’s all about.  My goal is to cook all the recipes in the book, try the techniques, and ultimately see if the “modernist” way of cooking really is the revolutionary next step in home cuisine.