The ability to design a service piece is something we have always wanted to attempt and not really known how to do. During my recent trip to San Francisco I had many wonderful and enlightening conversations. One of which, with James, was about setting an ingredient in a gellan block and then cooking it. This led to our plate making endeavors. Now James’ idea was not to simply coat a piece of fish or vegetable in gellan and serve it. Rather his thought was to really encase the ingredient in a thick shell like a salt crust, cook it, and then break the hot casing tableside to serve it.
The idea stuck and my mental wheels started spinning. I really liked the idea and wanted to put it into play. Unfortunately we did not have anything worthy of cooking in gel block on hand. Instead, I leapt forward into the idea of using gellan to create a beautiful vessel on or in which to serve food. A large percentage of gellan makes a gel that is not only heat stable but can also absorb and transfer aromatics quite well. Furthermore, the use of hot liquid gellan allows us to create shapes and sizes of any kind. A bit of refinement is needed to bring this approach into practical application, but it is certainly one which will allow us to create unique serving vessels, spiked with aroma and with an incredible tactile sensation.
As for using these dense aromatic blocks as a cooking medium, that too needs to be explored further because gellan is incredibly heat stable. This technique may lend itself to some amazing variations of cooking “en vessie” or salt roasting or for recreating the ever trendy technique of cooking in hay. Imagine a piece of fish, or even sweetbreads, cast in a hay or pine needle infused block, suspended like Han Solo and then brought to the table. The aroma would permeate the sweetbreads as well as the dining room and the visual presentation would be both startling and unique.