Taste Test: Fluid Gels
The nouvelle cuisine revolution brought intensely flavored broths and coulis’ that replaced the heavier, traditional sauces of classic French cooking. Now, we have fluid gels, which take the bright, clean flavors of nouvelle sauces to a new level. What is a fluid gel?
A fluid gel is a magical little sauce that results from pureeing a gelled liquid. Did I just lose you? OK, so let’s say you’ve got a pan of jello jigglers in the fridge. Now imagine you throw them into the blender and flip it on high. When opening up the blender, you’ll find something that flows like a liquid, but is still quite ‘jiggly.’ The blender has turned those big blocks of jello into billions of little bits of jello so they can flow, be poured or squeezed out from a bottle. But when they hit the plate, they go back to acting like a gel as they hold their shape, don’t run and won’t fall flat.
Disclaimer: If you go home and try that with jello jigglers, it will fail miserably. Jello is set with gelatin and when gelatins warms it goes back to a liquid. The friction of the blender will warm gelatin enough to melt it. Fluid needs to be made with either high ratios of gelatin (not ideal) or a more stable gelling agent, like agar or gellan.
Fluid gels are the secret to one of the most popular little bites that I’ve ever created- but don’t take my word for it, ask Jeremiah Tower (he loved it). It’s a square of southern fried chicken with a faux ‘egg’ piped on top. The ‘egg’ is made from two different fluid gels - buttermilk and egg yolk. Since it’s made with agar, the buttermilk resists melting and hold its shape, even on the warm chicken. Impossible with any other sauce.
Buttermilk Fluid Gel Recipe
- 200 grams of water
- 7 grams agar
- 400 grams buttermilk
- 100 grams heavy cream
- Combine the water and agar in a small pot and whisk until dissolved. Stir in the heavy the cream and bring the mixture to 185˚F.
- Cook two minutes at that temperature. Remove from the heat and whisk in buttermilk. Transfer the mixture to a pan and place in the refrigerator to cool. Set 2-3 hours or until hard.
- Break up the set buttermilk and transfer to a blender, process until smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle and keep cold, up to 3 days.