Saturday, September 17, 2011

Unexpected results

Someone was selling what I thought was rather small bags of popcorn with cheddar and truffle flavor at the market today. Their price seemed a bit steep considering the quantity of product, even though the stuff tasted good enough. Then there was the idea that something covered in cheese that doesn't require refrigeration probably underwent a fair amount of processing.

So, truffle oil. Salt. Cheddar (or whatever cheese I wanted). Popcorn. This should not be too difficult to concoct, and I can always use the truffle oil for something else.

My first idea was to grate the cheese in a food processor. Then, add a bit of salt to lower the moisture content, then drizzle in a few drops of truffle oil. All that would remain would be to mix this with some freshly popped popcorn, and voilà!.

Somehow I'd forgotten what happens when you add salt to proteins. We did this in class to make mousseline, but that was ground up fish, not cheese. Well, guess what? Cheese works exactly like fish. Instead of getting more powdery, the salt caused the cheese proteins to coagulate into a paste, not too different from mousseline. With a bit of truffle oil, this could become an interesting cheese spread. What it could not become, at least not easily, was something that can be sprinkled on popcorn.

So, my cheese and truffle oil popcorn became two recipes. And a lesson in molecular gastronomy.

Truffled cheese popcorn
This is my new, improved process that should allow the ingredients to remain sifty enough to coat the popcorn and give it that desired cheesy-truffly flavor. Remember that you only need a few drops of truffle oil - a little bit goes a long way.
  • Coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)
  • Truffle oil. Black, in this case.
  • Aged cheese. Cheddar, in this case.
  • Popcorn.
  • Oil for popping the corn, if you don't have a fancy air popper.
  1. Drizzle some truffle oil - a few drops will do - into the salt and mix it together well. Salt does not dissolve into oil (at least I remembered some molecular gastronomy!). Set aside. You could also buy truffle salt, but since I don't have any this is my solution.
  2. Grate the cheese.
  3. Make the popcorn.
  4. Toss the cheese and truffle salt into the popcorn.
  5. Eat.

Truffled cheese spread
This is in development, since I just discovered it by accident. Still, it might come in handy for an hors d'œuvre.
  • Aged cheese
  • Truffle oil
  • Kosher or sea salt.
  • Cream, mascarpone...
  1. Roughly chop the cheese, place it in a food processor (or mini-food processor) with a metal blade, add a few drops of truffle oil.
  2. Process down to where it looks more or less grated.
  3. Sprinkle a bit of salt at a time with the machine running. The cheese should form into a pasty ball. Adding something else, like cream (as in mousseline) or maybe mascarpone should transform this into a spread. Unless I forgot some other key principle of molecular gastronomy.

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