Mozzarella Balloons: A Molecular Masterpiece
*The recipe and production of making mozzarella balloons embodies the spirit of the Food Ninja, which is why I’m including it here as a launching inspiration for opening day of the contest! Starting today, for the next two weeks (until Oct 24), submit your Food Ninja Entries to FOODNINJA@saltyseattle.com in the following categories:
- Ninja Recipe
- Ninja Photo
- Ninja Video
- Ninja Blog Post
- Ninja Wildcard (This can be ANYTHING- go crazy!)
No blog necessary to enter, just email. Here is a partial list of ninja prizes (which we hand-selected and asked each company if they would graciously provide):
- Ninja Chef’s Knife from Ergo
- Ninja Rice Cooker from Zojirushi
- Ninja Spicy Sampler from Marx Foods
- Mark Bittman’s awesome new food ninja book Food Matters
- 10″ Frying Pan from Mans Pans
Remember- you’ll vote on winners and every participant gets to choose an awesome Food Ninja badge from any of the below colors. What are you waiting for?(If you missed the rules of the contest, go check out this detailed post by Fuji Ninja, and follow @bellalimento @fujimama and @saltyseattle on twitter for breaking updates. Food ninja tweets found via hashtag #foodninja.
Now on to the mozzarella balloons:
Can I just say that these babies take mozzarella balls to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL? I mean really, Blowing up mozzarella curd with nitrous oxide is pretty much the greatest thing I’ve done with cheese in my kitchen in months. I say months because there will always be a special place in my heart for burrata, which I make fairly regularly. In fact there are curious similarities between mozzarella balloons and burrata. Both are made with hot mozzarella curd. Both are filled with an unctuous surprise that bursts in your mouth and can’t help but make you smile. Both elevate humble mozzarella to a rarified level of unbridled sizzle. The interesting thing is that one technique is deep-rooted, traditional, and practiced mainly in a very small region of a relatively tiny country in the world whereas the other technique is hyper-modern and falls under a category of cuisine that has been inexplicably banned by said country’s Ministry of Health.
In this case, I say screw the Ministry of Health and let me eat mozzarella balloons with miniscule amounts of a certain party drug inside because they transcend the worst orgasm you’ve ever had and come close to equaling the best. Lots of mad molecular geniuses make these fun bags, but I chose Sensei Achatz as my guru extraordinario. I did, however, change his Alinea recipe enough that I feel ok reprinting it here in my own words, just be aware it is an adaptation and I cannot take any responsibility for invention of this spectacular technique. Here’s what you’ll need:
*with this recipe you could make 20 balloons if you made every one of them perfectly with no casualties.
- Roughly 4 lbs tomatoes
- 1 oz basil leaves
- 2 tbsp Diamond Crystal Kosher salt
- 3 sheets of leaf gelatin
- Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt
- 400 grams (14.1 oz) mozzarella curd (this is regularly available from DeLaurenti if you live in Seattle. Outside Seattle you should be able to order cheese curd from any good cheese shop)
- Pea vines, spinach, arugula, or a bed of whatever you want to serve these babies on
For the tomato basil juice that fills the balloons:
- Juice 1 lb of tomatoes with the basil. Reserve.
- Blend remaining tomatoes with 2 tbsp salt. Put into a cheesecloth-lined strainer and gather the cheesecloth to make a straining satchel. Suspend the satchel over a bowl in the refrigerator and allow to drain overnight.
- Mix the resulting tomato water with the reserved tomato basil juice and pour through a sieve. Measure 500 grams (17.6 oz) and save the rest for another use.
- Immerse gelatin sheets in cold water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile bring tomato mixture to a very low simmer and remove from heat immediately. Stir in the gelatin sheets (squeezed of excess water) until dissolved. Strain this again so that there are no potentially-clogging particles. Transfer this mixture to a siphon canister (whipped cream whipper), and charge with an NO2 cartridge. Rest the canister in a bowl of ice water and shake frequently (every five minutes).
For the balloons themselves:
- Heat (and maintain) a medium saucepan of salted water to 160° F. The level of salt you put in the water will result in the saltiness of the mozzarella balloons and is, therefore, subjective. Personally, I like my water to taste just like the sea. Don’t even think of not adding salt- your guests would hate you for ruining the balloons.
- Cut your mozzarella curd into individual 20 gram pieces. Add one piece at a time to the water. Once the curd is pliable (about one minute), remove it from the hot water and knead it with your hands to remove all lumps. You want to work very quickly during this process as the curd needs to be the correct temperature and texture to accept the tomato filling without bursting.
- When your curd is soft and manageable, roll it into a little circle. Form a ring with your thumb and forefinger and place the circle in it. Gently place the tip of the siphon canister in the mozzarella and pinch the sides of the curd tightly around the tip. Inflate the balloon by releasing the tomato foam slowly into the curd. Once your balloon is roughly 2” in diameter pinch it off as though it were a balloon and make sure the seams seal together tightly. Allow balloons to rest and drain of excess water on paper towels while you make the remaining balloons in the same manner.
- Serve these with anything you like, but I prefer a bed of greens for color.