Essentially, it involves applying scientific techniques and methodologies to the cooking process. One of the interesting results is found in the use of common substances to control the texture of foods, often in surprising ways.
You don't need a chemistry lab to pull off such effects. Jump on board the Molecular Gastronomy train by making up some carrot caviar in your own kitchen.
Here's a quick video of me making Carrot Caviar at Maker Faire 2008:
Step 1: Assemble Your Tools and Ingrediants
Round up a few bowls and a strainer in your kitchen. In addition, you need some more unusual gadgets:
A Very Accurate Scale
I chose this one. My criteria were 1) It is accurate to 0.1 grams, and 2) It looked more like a kitchen scale than a drug scale. It also had a bunch of nice features (counting, for instance) that I may never use.
Immersion Blender (optional)
You can use a regular blender, but the immersion version is nice because you get less air whipped into your solution.
I got these the same place I got the chemicals (below). I have also heard of people using traditional squirt bottles, like the red and yellow ones that are traditional for ketchup and mustard. The syringe makes me feel more like a real chemist.
For ingredients, you will need:
250 g Carrot Juice ( some nice Odwalla Juice from the local store)
500 g Water (from my local tap)
2.0 g Sodium Alginate
2.5 g Calcium Cloride
These last two are both a bit unusual. I ordered from Le Sanctuaire, which is based in San Francisco. There are other suppliers, like Texturas (Europe), L'Epicerie (in the US). L'Epicerie has a fabulous looking pipette for making cavier on an industrial scale.
Step 2: Mix the Carrot Juice and Sodium Alginate
This step calls for :
250 g carrot juice
2.0 g sodium alginate
Measure out 100 g of carrot juice (I used a plastic measuring cup on the scale). Mix in the sodium alginate and blend. Then mix in the rest of the carrot juice and set aside. Any air bubbles you've added my mixing will take a while to dissipate.
Step 3: Mix the Calcium Chloride and Water
This step calls for :
500 g water
2.5 g calcium chloride
Dissolve the calcium chloride in the water. I used room temperature water.
Step 4: Let Stand
I waited about 10 minutes at this point to let the air escape from the carrot solution, and to let everything chill out. I'm not sure if this is really necessary.
Step 5: Drop Carrot Juice Into Water
Slowly squirt drops of the carrot mixture into the strainer in the bowl. You can control the size of the drops by the amount of pressure you put on the plunger. I was trying to make the drops about the size of salmon eggs.
Here's a nice YouTube video of someone doing this with blueberry syrup and a very fine syringe.
Step 6: Set
Watch this video while you wait:
Step 7: Rinse
Move the strainer with the caviar from the calcium cloride solution into a bath of regular water.
Step 8: Enjoy
I made this interesting Martini, but the sky's the limit. I'm thinking of making a sushi-style preparation, with various caviars in place of real fish eggs.
There are other shapes being made with the same formulation. A "skinless ravioli" can be made with a tablespoon of solution and a noodle shape is also possible with the syringe.
Apparently, this caviar is heat resistant, so you could drop it into hot soup, for instance.
Ideally, this dish should be made en minute. After a night in the refrigerator, my caviar become solid-ish all the way through. While that was perfectly edible, and tasty, the texture wasn't nearly as engaging as when it was fresh.
A bunch of similar recipes can be found in:
The Hydrocolloid Recipe Collection
I like this DVD called "Decoding Ferran Adria."