My old band mate was telling me about this guy he knew who is really into the same kind of cooking I’m into and that I should get in contact with him. I was caught up in other things and forgot about it. Last month, this guy, who we will now call Chris, contacted me and suggested we meet and talk food. It turned out that indeed, Seattle had yet another home cook passionate about Modernist Cuisine. He has a centrifuge, a liquid nitrogen dewar, immersion circulators, chamber vacuum sealers, the works. Plus, something I don’t have: a rotary evaporator. A chance for distillation? Yes, let’s do this.
Meeting Five happened in August. Scott was slammed this time around and couldn’t make it, so I went over to Eric and Mindy’s, ISI ThermoWhip in hand, ready for our latest experiments.
A week earlier, Dave Arnold over at Cooking Issues had posted an article on a great little concept: instant liquor infusion by adding liquor to a cream whipper with whatever you wish to infuse it with, charging the whipper with N2O, releasing the gas, then simply filtering the liquor out. Done. Bam. That easy. We decided we should try it as well.
We did vodka with basil, whiskey with Lapsang Souchong tea, and gin with dragonfruit. Eric wrote up a summary of our results on his blog.
Dave Arnold didn’t know what he had uncovered, but a commenter pointed it out:
Well done! You’ve rediscovered nitrogen cavitation and put it to novel use. Cavitation is used in cell biology labs to gently disrupt cells in a vessel ominously called a “nitrogen bomb” (as the gas here is nitrogen). The usual explanation is close to what you surmised: under pressure, gas penetrates the cells, then forms bubbles to disrupt the cells when the pressure is suddenly released. Your use of the technique looks a lot more interesting than my experiences with it in a lab.
They were right – it is fast and game changing. I love the idea of making to-order infused drinks for a dinner party. She’ll have a basil vodka, and he, a tea infused whiskey. The possibilities are endless.
Thoroughly satisfied, we combed over the stunning photographs of the dishes from El Bulli in Comer Arte by food photographer Francesc Guillamet. We came across a picture of a dish that looked like clouds on sticks. There was no accompanying recipe, but we used it as an inspirational starting point and gave it go.
The result was tasty, though there is work to do before it can be a prime time stunner. Meanwhile, while you’re waiting for us to perfect it, can I interest you in a lemongrass and Vietnamese mint infused vodka? I bet I can.