El Bulli proprietor Ferran Adrià in his kitchen. Photograph: Samuel Aranda/Getty Images
Until now, I never grew up really idolizing anyone.
Of all the types of cooking and cuisine in the world, the style of cooking that excites me most and sends shock waves of serotonin roller-coasting around in my brain is that of molecular gastronomy, or to some Modern Cuisine. It is magical, whimsical, exciting and mysterious. To me, there is the art of cooking, and the cooking of art. Ferran Adria, pictured above, is a founding father of this culinary art form and he prefers to call himself a ‘deconstructivist‘. In every sense of the word, that is, what he is. A man of humble beginnings, Ferran is one of the most respected chef’s in the world.
As an 18-year-old trying to save up enough money to vacation with his friends on the island of Ibiza, Spain, he took a job as a dishwasher. It was here where Ferran was introduced to and trained in French technique and cuisine. In 1983 at the age of 22, he applied for a stage at El Bulli in Roses, Catalonia, Spain. 18 months later he was the head chef.
In the later part of the 80’s Ferran began experimenting with new techniques. In search for something unique and avant garde (afterall, it was the 80’s!), Ferran started playing around with foams, both sweet an savory foams. Naturally when we think of foams, meringue, mousse, or whipped cream might come to mind. Ferran took this a step further with natural flavors (such as fruit juices, infusions of aromatic herbs, etc) and mixed with them with neutrally-flavored gelling or stabilizing agent such as agar or lecithin. Whipping with an immersion blender or extruded through a whipped cream canister equipped with N2O cartridges, foams can be formed without significant substance, and thus allow cooks to integrate new flavors without changing the physical composition of a dish. Some famous food-foams are foamed espresso, foamed mushroom, foam foie gras, foamed beet and foamed coconut. A thermo whip is commonly used to make these foams through the making of a stock, creating a gel and extruding through the N2O canister. Pretty cool.
El Bulli Margarita
A dish called 'Thaw 2005' includes frozen green pine cone powder, wild pine nut milk sorbet and toasted wild pine nut savory praline that has been frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Ferran Adria, is an innovator, a teacher, a perfectionist, and above all, seriously passionate about exploration in the deconstructivist ideal of food. A chef with such finesse, flavor accuracy, and technique might keep the secrets to his success to himself, but in fact he is the exact opposite. He wants to teach people and share his experiments.
Ferran’s techniques have been adopted by some of the most renowned chef’s currently in the business. One of those, Jose Andres, formerly worked for Ferran at El Bulli, is a James Beard award winning chef, and is the owner and innovator of the restaurants within the Think Food Group. I have the pleasure to see both Ferran and Jose, in action, together, this Sunday night at the Harvard Science and Cooking Lecture series finale. For the second year in a row these two will talk about food innovation, ‘deconstructivist’ technique and what is to become of El Bulli, a new culinary think tank? I could not be more excited for this event, this is my ringside seat to the culinary Emmy’s. I’ll be sure to share my experience next week!
View Last year’s lecture here: Science and Cooking: A Dialogue | Lecture 1 (2010)
Want to channel your inner Ferran? Try out this ‘on the easy side’ recipe Slow Cooked Salmon with Roasted Garlic green oil & lemon “air”
- 4 salmon fillets (about 2 oz. each)
- 4 oz. roasted garlic green oil
- 4 tsp. lemon “air”
- chives, finely chopped, for garnish.
Roasted Garlic Green Oil
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 oz. roasted garlic
- 6 oz. spinach
- Salt to taste
Blanch spinach in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge into iced water, squeezing the water completely from the leaves.
In a blender, mix the vegetable oil, spinach and chopped roasted garlic. Puree until smooth. Strain the green oil through cheesecloth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
***If you’d like to take this one step further and introduce spherification into this dish, puree 6oz of spinach, 1/4 cup of water, and 3 oz of roasted garlic. Strain through cheese cloth and mix with .5 gram of agar agar power, bring to a quick boil and remove from heat. Using a kitchen syringe, extract the green water mixture and droplet into a cold cup of olive oil. These little drops will solidify into tiny spheres. Rinse in water and garnish the dish. For more information on spherification technique, click here.
- 2 oz. lemon juice
- 2 oz. water
- 1/ 8 tsp. lecithin
Mix above ingredients in a mixing bowl, then blend with a hand blender until foam forms on the top. Scoop foam off with spoon.
Place salmon on a baking sheet and cook in a 175-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cooked through (the fish should look opaque, but not white). Do not over cook the salmon.
Remove from oven and sprinkle with salt.
Place the salmon in the middle of the plate. Drizzle roasted garlic green oil around the salmon and top with lemon air and chives. Serve immediately.
I hope you have fun making this dish!
Thanks for reading,