Xanthan is foul.
Xanthan is foul.
I don't use hydrocolloids to simulate a reduction, that's stupid. The point of a reduction is to evaporate water to intensify flavor. I do however use them to stabilize or enhance products. Beet puree for example. I use ultratex 8 and xanthan gum to prevent seepage or bleeding on the plate. I can make beautiful vibrant spinach purees in this manner as well. You simply can not match the velvety luscious texture otherwise either. Traditional techniques just can not produce the same results. Roux and slurry both change the color and flavor of the final product.
Carrot juice is another great example. Try and reduce carrot juice then whisk in butter like a "carrot beurre blanc", can't happen. The carrot juice separates into a watery and fibrous mess and loses all of its beautiful color. Take that same carrot juice, multiply the volume by .0015 and sheer in that much xanthan. It's a miniscule amount. It will stabilize the juice to a demi glace consistency. Now you can heat the juice and whisk in a little butter, honey, ginger juice and season, then strain. What you have now is a vibrantly colored intensely flavored carrot sauce that works great with a spring chicken or fish entree. As a side note, because you only use a little butter instead of the traditional beurre blanc method you do two things, cut cost and make it healthier.
Speaking of healthier, I can use xanthan gum to make entirely fat free vinaigrettes like raspberry or watermelon etc.
They allow you to do things that simply aren't possible using classic methods. Used properly you can create new and exciting things or improve existing ideas. I feel hydrocolloids do have a place in todays kitchen. Fact is we've been eating them for decades now anyway and just didn't realize what "modified food starch, xanthan gum, agar agar, citric acid, gum arabic" etc were. Go ahead, look in your fridge. I promise you will see these things on ingredient lists from now on.
Do we need them? No, but we don't NEED butter or saffron or or any other ingredient you can think of. It's just another tool in my bag so to say.
Thanks for this! Great info, even for us lowly kitchen cooks!