Introduction: Blinis With Molecular Techniques
I think that Michelin restaurant dishes are very intriguing and beautiful. I have never had the chance to eat at a Michelin restaurant, but since I both like being creative and exploring the science and secrets behind cooking, I thought I could make my own Michelin side dish.
For these blinis we are going to play with the following molecular techniques:
- foaming (citrus foam)
- gelification (soy kaviar)
- smoking (smoked melon)
Even though I like to play with special ingredients, I know not everyone may want to go out and invest a lot of money in agar agar, lecithin, and so on, so therefore I have provided suggestions for substitutions that everyone have at home (I haven't tried the substitutions myself, though, but have used recipes and information on the internet to find substitutions).
As a bonus, everything in this menu is vegan, but the substitutions may not be.
Step 1: Ingredients and Tools
1/4 honeydew, Galia or cantaloupe melon
1/4 dl soy sauce
1/2 dl. water
1-2 tsp. chilli sauce, optional
1-2 tsp. molasses or a little brown sugar
1/4 tsp. agar powder
1 dl. all purpose flour (70 g.)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1 dl. milk (I used soymilk)
1 Tbsp. oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
oil for frying
juice from 1 lemon
juice from 1 orange
1/2 tsp. lecithin granules
1 1/2 avocado, sliced into 16 slices
a handful of baby lettuce, preferably with some red lettuce mixed in
a handful of wood chips for smoking (I used a mixture of fruit tree chips)
a pot with lid
a steamer insert or strainer
some aluminum foil
a frying pan
an immersion blender or stand blender
Step 2: Smoke Melon
I used this method to smoke the melon at home in my own kitchen. I took the chance to smoke some tofu at the same time as well, which can be seen in the pictures.
For the smoked melon you will need:
- 1/4 honeydew, Galia, or cantaloupe melon
- a handful of wood chips for smoking (I used a mixture of fruit tree chips)
- a pot with lid, a steamer insert or strainer, and some aluminum foil
Cut the melon into wedges, remove the flesh, cut the wedge in half, and slice it into thin slices. Place the slices in a steamer insert or strainer, making sure they do not overlap.
Let the wood chips soak in warm water for half an hour.
Put a piece of aluminium foil in the bottom of the pot (it is a good idea to use an old pot you do not use very much, as the bottom may get stained, and the pot will smell of smoke for the next few uses). Put the drained wood chips on top of the foil and cover with another piece of foil to prevent drippings from hitting the woodchips. Insert the steamer/strainer, cover with the lid, and wrap more foil around the lid to prevent as much smoke as possible from escaping. (It will still smell of barbecue in the whole kitchen, though!)
Place the pot on the stovetop on medium-high heat. The pot should be filled with smoke as the chips ignite from the heat. Smoke the melon for 3-5 minutes. Take the pot outside, remove the lid, and allow the smoke to escape for 20 minutes before bringing the pot inside again. The steamer with the melon can be brought inside immediately.
Store the melon in the fridge until using. It can be smoked one or two days before for ease of preparation.
SUBSTITUTIONS for special techniques:
If you don't want to smoke the melon (even though it is lots of fun! :D), try to brush it with a little liquid smoke, and allow the flavours to mingle in an airtight container till the next day. Or use something else, f.ex. smoked fish (if you are not vegan).
Step 3: Make Soy Kaviar
For enough soy kaviar for 16 blinis, you will need:
- 1/4 dl soy sauce
- 1/2 dl. water
- 1-2 tsp. chilli sauce, optional
- 1-2 tsp. molasses or a little brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. agar powder
Whisk together all the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer for 30 seconds. Remove it from the heat, and let it cool till it is no longer steaming.
Meanwhile, pour some cold oil into a tall glass. When the soy mixture has cooled, suck it up into a syringe and drip it into the cold oil. It will form small pearls, as water cannot mix with oil, and the pearls will firm up as they cool in the cold oil. I find it is easiest to get the drops to fall one by one if you hold the syringe horizontally.
Do not drip too fast, as the drops will then not have time to harden and will stick together at the bottom of the glass (I'm speaking from experience :). When you have made a little caviar, strain it through a sieve, and rinse the kaviar under cold water to remove the oil. Pour the oil back into the glass, and continue with the remaining soy mixture. Again, if you make too much kaviar at once, it may stick together at the bottom of the glass.
SUBSTITUTIONS for special ingredients and equipment:
According to this recipe, you can use 2 (1/4 oz.) packages or 4 tsp. of powdered gelatin for 1 1/2 dl. (1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp.) total liquid. For the amount of liquid in this soy kaviar, you will need to use 1 package or 2 tsp. powdered gelatin instead of the 1/4 tsp. agar powder. Check out the link for how the author blooms the gelatin and uses an ice bath for the oil to make sure the drops firm up quickly.
If you don't have a syringe, you can also use a squeeze bottle with a small tip or possibly just a teaspoon (if you are very good at controlling the drops).
Step 4: Make Blinis
For about 16 blinis (small pancakes) you will need:
- 1 dl. all purpose flour (70 g.)
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 dl. milk (I used soymilk)
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
Whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the milk and oil and whisk until smooth. Finally, add the lemon juice and whisk shortly.
Heat some oil (i used coconut oil) in a frying pan on medium heat, and pour the batter on by the tablespoon, making 7-8 small pancakes. Fry until the edges have set and the bottom is golden. Flip and fry until the other side is golden a well.
Repeat until all the batter is used up.
If not using the blinis immediately, cover them with aluminium foil and keep them warm in the oven at 70-100 degrees Celsius.
Step 5: Make Citrus Foam
For the citrus foam, you will need (makes plenty):
- juice from 1 lemon
- juice from 1 orange
- 1/2 tsp. lecithin granules
Mix the juice and lecithin with an immersion blender or in a stand blender, dissolving the lecithin and trying to incorporate air to make a foam. The foam will not last so long, so it should be made just before serving.
SUBSTITUTIONS for special ingredients:
If you don't have lecithin, you can try making a foam using aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas). Just whip the aquafaba with a hand mixer and flavor it with lemon juice. This foam will not last long either, so it should be used immediately.
Step 6: Assemble
Ok, so now we should have the following elements ready:
- 16 slices of smoked melon
- the soy kaviar
- 16 blinis
- the citrus foam
You will also need:
- 1 1/2 avocado, sliced into 16 slices
- a handful of baby lettuce, preferably with some red lettuce mixed in
To build the blinis, put a few leaves of lettuce on each blini, place 1 slice of melon and 1 slice of avocado on top, and finish off with a little caviar and a spoonful of citrus foam.
Second Prize in the
Side Dishes Challenge