Harvard SEAS lecture, 10/24/11, Wylie Dufresne

I don’t have much to say about tonight’s lecture, because I really feel that my notes from last year cover the bulk of it.

The only “recipe” additions this year were: peanut sheets and radish sheets. The peanut sheets sound like they might be easy to make at home: peanut butter, peanut oil, a little bit of water, and some Activa RM and Activa Ti (two different kinds of transglutaminase… there are five types total produced, and the one you use depends on your application). Once the sheet is set, you can do things like cut it up for peanut noodles.

The radish sheet is more time consuming and you’ll need to use a vacuum, but the end product is absolutely gorgeous. For transglutaminase (aka meat glue) to work, the substance being bonded must have Lysine and Glutamine amino acids in it. Radishes do not. However, meat glue bonds really well to gelatin. So, the Dufresne team mixed thinly sliced radishes into a solution of water and gelatin. This was put into a vacuum, which infused gelatin into the radish slices. The excess liquid was drained, and some powdered Activa Ti and Activa Rm (in a 1:1 ratio) was added over the radishes, and mixed. Onto a sheet of plastic wrap, the Dufresne team carefully lay the radishes in a single layer (but  each radish slice should slightly overlap with the surrounding radish slices so that there is something to bond to). Dust over some more Ti/Rm powder and brush off excess powder. Cover with the top with some plastic wrap, and weigh a sheet pan over the whole thing. The next day, you’ll have a gorgeous white and pink sheet of radishes. It’s a bit flexible too so you could use this for some seriously crazy garnishing.

In general, if you want to experiment with meat glue, you only need about 3/4 to 1% by weight of transglutaminase to the meat/substance being bonded.  So far, Wylie has been unable to use transglutaminase with a vegetarian substance instead of gelatin:  Either the texture is affected, or the vegetarian gelling agent is incapable of being heated.

If you’ve never seen Dufresne give a lecture, it’s fun.  The man’s got a sense of humor:

  • “There’s no right way to electrocute a bunny.”
  • “Whoever knows the most when they die wins.”
  • “I’m not trying to make a jackaloupe.”
  • “You should bring Heston Blumenthal here… you tried? Oh… well now you’re stuck with me.”
  • “Fried chicken with caviar, or ‘having fun with leftovers.'”

And in closing, yes you can buy meat glue from Amazon.  (Someone asked tonight during the Q&A.  I must admit that searching for it on Amazon was the first thing I did after hear Wylie speak last year.  I don’t know what this says about.  Hey!  It’s not like I bought it…)

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