Christian Haas, Unleashed

Published on .

While I was growing up in Brazil, summer weekends meant two things: boiling hot temperatures and borscht—the Russian cold beet soup. Every Sunday, my grandmother would prepare a fresh pot. Even though I was not a fan of beets (I believe no kid is), over time I learned that the actual broth wasn't so bad after all. Week after week I'd carefully submerge the ladle into the soup to skim only the liquid, no beets. Any errant vegetable was promptly discarded. Twenty years later, I can't say beets grew on me but I have fond memories of the borscht weekends. So I decided to revisit my grandmother's recipe, the way I like to remember it.

The concept is based on deconstructing the soup using molecular gastronomy. It starts with a fresh batch of borscht, adapted from the original recipe, with added aromatics. Strained through a fine mesh chinois, it comes down to a beautiful bright colored broth, no beets included. From here, it's all science.

I borrowed this technique (something creative directors never do) from Ferran Adrià, the chef and alchemist behind El Bulli in Spain. It's called spherification (the controlled gelification of a liquid which, submerged in a bath, forms spheres). The result is a liquid bubble encapsulated by a thin membrane, like an egg yolk. The process is simple, but extremely precise–any variation on PH level, calcium or fat content can throw things off.

To create the amuse-bouche, I mix the beet broth with algin, a refined powder extracted from brown algae. The liquid is then submerged, drop by drop, into a calcium bath with the use of a syringe. Thirty seconds later, just like magic, there it is: homemade borscht caviar. Instead of adding heavy cream to the soup (as called for in the original recipe), the spheres are placed over red onion creme fraiche. And as this is caviar we're talking about, I thought of serving it over a blini, in this case, made from golden beet chips. Although my grandmother may say it doesn't look anything like her signature soup, it sure brings me back to those summer Sundays. But thanks to the fog, it's never boiling hot in San Francisco.

Christian Haas is a group creative director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. For recipe and reviews, go to Haas' food blog:
nosaladasameal.com

In this article:
Most Popular