Thursday, October 6, 2011

Espuma Sauces Pair Well with Sous Vide!

In my continuing quest to improve my culinary skills, I have come across an interesting method for creating a unique texture for sauces... Espuma.  Espuma is Spanish for "foam".  Using a pressurized gas canister, you can infuse a sauce with a gas (in this case Nitrous Oxide - N2O) and turn it from a solid liquid into an airy foam.  I fund this texture goes well with sous vide since part of sous vide is all about unique and alternative textures to food.

Investigating the pressurized canisters, reveals that they have been used for years in the dessert side of the business.  You and I both know it well.... whipped cream topping!  Yes that is a form of espuma, cream espuma.  Thus, the canisters are pretty much known as "cream whippers", even though they whip much more than cream these days.

Which one is right for you?  Well, let's start with size.  There are small ones starting at 1/2 pint all the way up to 1 L or 2 pint sizes.  I think the 1 pint size whippers are perfect for home chef use.  Of course, the actual volume of the canister is larger (almost double) the stated size since there must be enough volume for the charged gas.  Next, you need to make sure the whipper you select can do BOTH cold and hot liquids.  Some of the whipped cream only models can only handle cold liquids.  Finally the ruggedness of the whipper should be considered.  The highest end models are all stainless steel and can be put in the dishwasher.  Of course, they are also the most expensive.  The lower end models have some plastic pieces and may or may not be dishwasher safe.  A lot depends on how often you plan on making espuma sauces.  The high end models are made for more commercial usage. 

Finally, in addition to the whipper, you will need disposable N2O charge cartridges.  Do NOT get the CO2 cartridges.  The cartridges are all pretty standard so get whichever one you like.

As for which one did I end up with, well, I wanted a pint sized canister to start with that could do both hot and cold liquids.  I didn't think I was going to use it as much as commercial use so I opted for a more low end model with some plastic pieces.  The body was spun aluminum instead of stainless steel too.  Again, aluminum will stand up to home use, no problem.  It came with a little cleaning brush so I could clean it easily.  The higher end iSi models cost upwards of $80-130, but I got my WhipRite model for only $30!  I've used it several times so far with great success.  You need to make sure you strain your liquid carefully since any food particles will clog the nozzle.

Here is a Soy Ginger Espuma Sauce with Scallops

Here is a Chicken and Mushroom Roulade with a Mushroom Espuma Sauce

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