One of the challenges facing molecular gastronomy is knowing where to draw the line between innovation and tradition.
Some dishes have become classic for good reason – they taste really good just the way they are. As such, alterations can be seen as pointless frippery. Experimentation for the sake of change.
Why ‘deconstruct’ a guacamole when regular guacamole is pretty close to perfection?
For culinary innovation to be successful, the resultant dish must maintain the integrity of the inspiration, or else the point has been missed and all that remains on the plate, and on the palate, is the bitter taste of disappointment and a hunger for the original.
Even Ferran Adria et al accept that not all dishes are a success. Granted, he scores more hits than misses but I’m sure his team have an awful lot of fun along the way.
And much of what this is about is having fun.
Eating (and cooking) is one of only two pan-sensory activities in which we, as humans, engage. Why shouldn’t it delight, amuse, surprise, tease or even arouse rather than just fuel?
Balancing these twin objectives – integrity and amusement against innovation and satisfaction – is a real challenge. But one that is enormously satisfying when it works. This was my first effort
Cauliflower cheese is one of those big classics. Done right it is like being wrapped in a warm duvet and watching a Frank Capra film. Bite-sized florets of cauliflower, still carrying some bite, covered in a cheesey white sauce and topped with even more melty cheese, just turning that slightly crispy/chewy shade of brown. Give me the dish and a fork. No plates or napkins necessary.
Stripped down it has three main elements – the sauce, the cheese and the cauliflower. It also has three textures – soft, chewy and slightly crunchy. Finally, there are three flavours – saltiness from the cheese, caulifloweryness from the cauliflower and a slight bitterness from the topping.
The challenge was to keep all these fundamentals in place without compromising the flavour or satisfying nature of the inspiration.
After much head scratching, musing and mulling, this is what I came up with:
Mozzarella spheres with deep-fried cauliflower and bitter chocolate and a cauliflower and Parmesan puree with Parmesan crisps.
I think it ticks all the boxes. And you’re going to want the recipe aren’t you? I shall make it so…
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