Week 11 of the 52 Weeks of Cooking challenge was probably my favorite so far. The theme was molecular. The idea being to use modern gastronomy to create a dish. Obviously, as a home cook I also needed to keep it cheap and simple. So after hours (literally) of research on different molecular techniques, I decided to make balsamic pearls.
This is actually a lot simpler than it sounds. Using a chemical called agar agar, I was able to transform liquid balsamic vinegar into gorgeous little pearls. You bring your liquid, in my case the vinegar to a simmer, then introduce the agar agar, cook it for several minutes, and then using a squeeze bottle, spray the balsamic into an olive oil bath, where they magically turn into little balls, or pearls. Really cool stuff.
Here are the directions that I worked off of from Modernist Cooking Made Easy. There is even a quick video that takes you through the process. I invited my parents over to watch the show and we were all really impressed with the results. It would definitely take a couple more rounds to get the size of the pearls consistent and perfect, but for a first try, I was pretty pleased. And it was a really fun experiment.
By the way… If any of you are curious as to why I skipped week 10 of the challenge… It’s because I didn’t love the end result. The theme was Australian, and I made a super boring meat pie topped with puff pastry. Not my greatest culinary moment!