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The Science of Trick And Treat
What kind of cooking does he do at home?
"Normally I'm not at home. If I must cook at home, I like simple things, like grilled fish and vegetables."
But he did offer a little consolation: "It is true that some of my findings can be used at home; for example the siphons for making foams and sodas. But the real important thing is the philosophy that it is always better with a good sardine than a bad lobster."
So rather than copy the most-advanced techniques, I tried to use the El Bulli approach: to make food that challenges my perceptions; to gently tweak the way I cook, rather than to revolutionize. I abandoned the chemist-in-the-kitchen approach for something simpler, more sardinelike.
Using a combination of gelatin or agar-agar and frozen canola oil, you can make small, caviar-like droplets flavored by anything you like. I am not sure how useful or groundbreaking the technique is, but it is surely simple, and it is no doubt a different way to serve soy sauce and lemon on a piece of gently poached salmon.
And, remembering a small pre-dessert I got at Les Ambassadeurs in Paris, made with the El Bulli range of unusual textures, I made a chocolate dessert with popping candy. (I used Pop Rocks.) You don't have to be a child to appreciate the way the crunchy dessert explodes in your mouth, but it helps to remember having been one once.
Playing with a cream whipper, in my case a $45 Isi Mini Whip with a carbon dioxide charger, I could turn almost everything into foam. And when I got tired of that, I tried a technique suggested by blogger Martin Lersch on his Web site http:/
It is not exactly like having chef Adrià in the kitchen, but it gives you that feeling of making and tasting something that you never knew existed, a glimpse into a wonderland that exists outside the limits of normal everyday cooking. Proudly I put on my El Bulli shirt and said what Adrià had told me, as if they were my own words: "One of the most important things when cooking is having a bit of fun."
Andreas Viestad, author of "Where Flavor Was Born" and co-host of the upcoming public television series "Perfect Day," can be reached at http:/