Perhaps the one tool that can give you an edge when presenting certain dishes and drinks. But this tool is almost never found anymore. The most common place used to be the bar, but since the new generation of Franchise Eatery barkeeps has come along, they all reach for the soda gun! While I understand the grind out the drinks mentality, I am surprised to see a lack of younger bar keeps picking up the traits involved in serving a proper drink. Order a scotch with a splash of soda, the gun, the gun, the gun! What happen to pride in the craft? But enough on Barkeeps that is an entirely different blog, we are here to speak to the use of the soda siphon in the kitchen.
I have spoke to the need to set yourself apart when cooking in the past, It is no real great display of skill to serve great tasting foie gras, foie gras is a very excellent product to start with, it should not be consider a great culinary achievement to make a great tasting Truffle sauce, truffles are by nature a very good product. I will grant you that serving the truffle properly has its method, we eat them for the texture, to ruin the texture is to step on your crank! But for the most part all expensive ingredients are excellent in there own right! IMACO the real chef, the drive that makes a chef real to me, is the ability to take an ordinary item or course and make it special. By special I don't mean adding in a long list of ingredients, I mean making the dish so the persons eating it sit up and say "wow that is neat!" This was the thinking behind my creation of the special mushroom soup almost five years ago. I was asked to create a Mushroom Soup, that has been voted up to number 5 by many many people, that the wineries owner would eat, even though she hated mushroom soup, period! This is where you get to making it different. When she saw cream mushroom soup on the menu, she did not want it, when she saw it presented to the guests at the table she tried it because it was so different, and ordered it for five or six events over the next few years on $75 (her cost) per plate dinners.
You have the idea of what I mean by cheffing to make it special. The soda siphon has a lot of cool twists it can perform to help you really make it special. Both from a culinary taste aspect and (since I am in catering) from a wow presentation stand point! Flair, it is called in bartending, flair is also necessary in catering, if you want to be successful and remembered you flair, so you get recommended!
First the equipment, I use the ISI units for my toolbox.
And of course you need the CO2 chargers.
This thing does wonerful things to water, adds in the fizz, and when you make it and splash it into certain alcohols it makes for a great drink. But our concern today is how to use this tool to make people go "wow what is this?"
So lets take an easy one from a few years back. Serving tomato soup. Now we make a great tomato soup. But if we take our soda siphons and load them with a decent Pinot Grigio and charge them to sparkling, then serve the soup closer to luke warm and finish it table side by diluting it with the newly sparkling Pinot Grigio we have taken a soup that everyone had as a kid and thinks it well soup and we have made it into SOUP WOW! People just are not used to soup that effervesces! (Now a word on prep, heat the wine and drive some of the alcohol off, then cool it, then into the siphon and charge it. I found you need to be below 8 percent alcohol to take that throat stab out of the dish)
Same with a nice breakfast treat like the mimosa, sure anyone can do it with a sparkling wine, but if you are serving guest of a winery, take the winery's riesling or sweet white and pour it into the siphon, charge her up and you now have a product the guests will remember! A two for one, they remember you and they remember the winery! And that is your job if the winery hired you! Top of mind.
Finishing sauces for meats can sparkle nicely. Doing my normal Cabernet Sauvignon reduction for my lamb finishing sauce. I thinned it out just a little and did the siphon trick, lamb with a table side finish of sparkling lamb stock, cabernet reduction won't be forgotten any time soon!
And you can go on and on with the ideas. If it is a faily thin liquid, you can infuse it. Abate you must mind the temperature, the warmer the liquid the less CO2 it will retain, so prepare dishes to be served using a sparkling method that can take warm serve temperatures, not require hot.
I took one of the Cantalope cold soups Jean sent to me and finished it with a honey sauce I sparkled up in the siphon, basically taking a mead and reducing it then adding the effervescents. Hopefully you get the idea and will start to play around with the soda siphon in your cooking. It is a great tool and can do many many things to add that "wow" change to a dish. And from what I can tell it will be up to the chefs to save this device as I don't see this next generation of bartenders interested in the flair of the "old" tools gaining ground anytime soon! I will blog soon on the table side tiramisu, piping live tableside, with an Isi whipped cream whipper!
Til we talk again, stop in the kitchen store and pick up a siphon, if nothing else the flavored syrup Italian sodas you can make justify the investment in the siphon! And for professional use with water it can shoot a stream across the kitchen into the back of the head of a prep that desperately needs it!