Modernist Eats: Spherified Green Eggs and Ham
Spherification has historically been the gateway drug for many an aspiring at-home modernist cook. It's got Wow factor. I mean, you're turning liquid into a semi-solid spherical state for goodness sakes, and it's edible. It's also not too hard to get your hands on the necessary chemicals, which are naturally-occurring and plant-derivative.
If you're not familiar with the term, "spherification" is essentially the process by which an edible liquid is shaped into a sphere. The end result can vary in size, from the smallest of caviar-like pearls to a golf ball-shaped raviolone. There are two types of spherification: standard and reverse.
These differ because in standard spherification, the liquid to be spherified is mixed with sodium alginate and cured in a bath of calcium chloride, whereas in reverse, calcium chloride is mixed with the liquid and it is cured in a bath of alginate. It is ideal to spherify liquids which have a pH between four and seven, however the addition of a third chemical, sodium citrate, can help regulate pH to make other liquids viable for spherification.
Certain juices lend themselves to spherification better than others and I've found this is not only a result of ideal pH, but also flavor. While the chemical additives that cause the reaction are virtually flavorless, there are still trace elements, so stronger-flavored juices tend to mask that faint, briny and metallic taste.
Good candidates for first-time spherifiers are pea juice, apricot puree, or liquefied blueberries. I'm going to share a recipe using standard spherification of pea puree along with the complete recipe for Green Eggs and Ham. Not only is it an homage to Dr. Seuss, it's also an ideal appetizer to serve to skeptical guests who may be reticent to embrace modernist trends because it incorporates ham and bread, both ultimate comfort foods in their own right.
If you are so inclined to try the recipe, pay careful attention to the amount of time you leave the spheres in the bath of calcium chloride. The longer you leave the spheres, the more solid they will become. While increased solidity is good for stability of the spheres, it has the unfortunate side effect of rendering their texture gummy and tough. The advanced practitioner of spherification will realize that there is a sweet spot of leaving the spheres in the bath for just long enough that an outer membrane forms which is stable enough to hold the juice in without becoming overly solid. On the same note, the longer the spheres sit out, the more solid they become. It is ideal to spherify a la minute so as not to experience unpleasantly-tough spheres.
Green eggs and ham is shockingly easy to make, easy on the eyes, and easy on the ol' pocketbook as well. I guess you could say green eggs and ham is just plain easy, but I wouldn't want you to mix it up with my cousin Suzy, so I'll stop just this side of Texas on that one. It comes together lickety split and the great part is wowing your guests with your mad science skillz in the kitchen.
You see, the eggs are not really eggs at all, but are made from peas. How Seussian! Give me spherified peas, I will eat them on my knees, in a cloud of angry bees. (Alright, I'm done lapsing into Seuss-speak, please forgive me.)
But bright green science spheres alone do not an appetizer make, so we've got to pair, and pair well. Peas are good with prosciutto, and prosciutto is ham, so there you have it. Green eggs and ham. But it's gotta be served on something otherwise it would be a goopy, pea-stained scientific mess. If you're so inclined, roll out with your boule out in the kitchen and get down with your bad, breadmaking self, but if not, any good quality bread you'd turn into French toast will do.
Sourdough slices fresh from my oven served as the perfect shingles for my spheres, but not before I coated them in maple syrup, egg, and cream then fried them to French perfection. Did I mention that I added some sweet and sour shallots to these bundles of brilliance? Yeah, it was a good call.
Get the Recipe
About the author: Linda lives in Seattle, WA where she practices modernist food ninja sorcery and writes about it on her personal blog www.saltyseattle.com. She is a freelance contributor to many local and national publications. If you want her in 140 character snippets, follow her on twitter @saltyseattle.