Separating Aromas

This property could be put to more systematic use in cooking. Why not wrap cheeses in aromatic plants, for example, so that the aromatic molecules slowly dissolve in the fatty matter of the cheese? We would also do well to recall the underlying principle of a famous recipe for sage butter, recommended in Italy as an accompaniment for pasta: When one cooks the leaves of this herb in butter, the heat causes their cells to burst and release aromatic molecules, which are then dissolved in the melted butter.

Not all aromatic molecules are fat soluble, however. One way to dissolve them is to use a separating funnel, long familiar to chemists as a useful device for separating mixtures. Put oil and water in the funnel, and then add chopped or ground pieces of an aromatic food such as cepe mushrooms. When the funnel is shaken, the hydrophobic aromatic molecules are dissolved in the oil while the hydrophilic aromatic molecules are dissolved in the water.

In this way two flavors are created out of one because the aromatic molecules are different in the two solvents. If you don't have a separating funnel, simply use a jar that can be hermetically sealed. Put oil and water in it, add an aromatic food, and when the aromatic molecules have been dissolved, slowly drain off the upper oily phase into another container, reserving the watery solution at the bottom.

How can these fragrant solutions be put to good use? If you were to prepare the cepe-scented water using egg whites instead of water, you could incorporate the cepe-scented oil by whisking it into the egg mixture. The egg proteins will then be tensioactive molecules, which will give you a cepe emulsion.

In Praise of Fats | 293

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