The main role played by thickening in the realm of cooking, whether modern or classic, is to increase viscosity in fluids. As a result of this thickened state liquids are given a different appearance as well as texture. One of the biggest changes in appearance that thickened fluids may have is body.
Another major role played by thickeners in cuisine is that of a binder. Specific ingredients may not bind freely together and become stable. Thickeners also work to improve the dining experience through taste, texture and appearance.
There are several common thickeners, such as, carrageenan, mono & diglycerides, tapioca maltodextrin, Ultra-Sperse, Ultra-Tex and xanthan gum. In addition, there are many different ingredients used for thickening agents, such as, starches (flour, corn, potato), natural gums, pectins, proteins (eggs).
You can get more information about thickening from my guide on how to make thickening or from the thickening articles below.
These Mexican inspired salmon bites pack a lot of flavor in a little package. The acidity from the tomatillos compliments the salmon perfectly and the crunch from the fried tortillas adds great texture.
Not all dishes that use modernist ingredients have to be super fancy in-your-face dishes that look like they came from Alinea. This red pepper pesto crustini is a great example. It is a simple, hearty snack that is great when served as an appetizer or set out as hors d'oeuvres.
Thickening is a modernist technique which actually dates back in history and plays a significant role in the creation of sauces and various dishes. The earliest form of thickening was achieved through reduction. Later on the use of food additives was employed. Today, in modern cuisine a number of thickening agents are used in order to achieve this.
One of the easiest molecular gastronomy recipes to try is by creating "pearls". Most pearls are solid jelly balls that can be used to garnish dishes or as an amuse-bouche.
Here we use sweet-sour balsamic vinegar to make pearls that are a great way to add a hit of flavor to many different dishes. The process of making them is even pretty easy.
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