The times, they are a changing. New and not-so-new kitchen gadgets are accelerating the culinary creativity we all have the pleasure to experience today. “If you want new emotions and really big emotions, you need new techniques,” says Ferran Adria of elbulli restaurant in Spain. Chefs the world over are looking to top restaurants for ideas on how to distinguish themselves and add a touch of worldly mystique to their creations. And there’s a host of equipment being used to create techniques that result in superior texture, taste, mouth feel and appearance. A few of my favourites are too special to keep a secret:
Anti-Griddle – Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago inspired the creation of the “Anti-Griddle,” a counter top grill that’s at −34°C and produces a semi-frozen culinary treat for the senses. This is a traditional cooktop, yet with an amazing twist: the device quickly freezes sauces, purées and even foams to develop a semi-frozen item with a crunchy surface and a cool, creamy centre.
Clarimax – The ultimate clarifying device. Forget about slowly heating a cold stock enriched with ground meat and egg whites. The Clarimax has made this much simpler by using a microscopic algae and controlled pressure. The stock passes through a pressed tablet of diatom algae that clarifies the stock in seconds. The tablets have the power to degrease and clarify, and what remains can then be removed without any effect on the taste of the stock. The liquid can be clarified at any temperature.
Dehydrator – Unique dishes can be created with that interesting bite you get from an item that’s been carefully dehydrated. Professional dehydrators quickly and easily extract moisture from all kinds of foods. Albert and Ferran Adria recently launched the Croquanter, a kit including round non-stock sheets and stencils to create eight different shapes and sizes. They’ve also introduced some interesting products to help create different-flavoured crisps. Yopol is one such ingredient, a yogurt powder that is used in a recipe with glucose and yogurt to make crisp yogurt wafers in a dehydrator.
Gourmet Whip Siphons – It’s now quite common for restaurants to create whipped sweet and savoury creations using Gourmet Whip Siphons. You can buy a siphon for cold application and they also make one for hot applications, and the Thermo Whip has an added insulation and can be held hot in a bain-marie. This Thermo Whip makes a great whipped topping for soup by charging the unit with cream cartridge (N20, nitrous oxide) and using 50 per cent of a puréed soup and 50 per cent cream (35 per cent). The same units can also produce carbonated fruit by filling three-quarters with fruit such as strawberries or mango and charging it with a soda cartridge (CO2, carbon dioxide) and leaving it for two hours.