Francois Vatel is known as the great French chef who killed himself on the morning of the 24th of April 1671 at Chantilly, France over a fish delivery that went wrong. The invention of Chantilly whipped cream, the most famous culinary foam is often attributed him when he worked in the kitchens of the Château de Chantilly. He was commissioned to organize a party for the Duc de Condé, owner of Chantilly, and his cousin the king Louis XIV. The party lasted from 23 to 25 April, sumptuous meals were served, illuminations, hunting and lavish entertainment was organized. There were problems with supplies; legend has it that one of the problems was the non-delivery of cream for the dishes Vatel had planned. In order to give volume to the cream supplies he had, Vatel created a foam of cream and sugar, Chantilly cream his immortal invention, but for the famed Vatel however, things did not go so well. Unable to bear the indignity of failure when all the fish supplies spoiled, Vatel committed suicide before the party was over.
However the use of foam in cuisine has been used in many forms in the history of cooking. For example, meringue, mousse, cappuccino and ice cream are all foams. In these cases, the incorporation of air, steam or another gas creates a lighter texture and/or different mouth feel. More recently, foams have become a part of molecular gastronomy technique. In these cases, natural flavors (such as fruit juices, infusions of aromatic herbs, etc.) are mixed with a neutrally-flavored gelling or stabilizing agent such as agar or lecithin, and either whipped with a hand-held immersion blender or extruded through a whipped cream canister equipped with nitrous oxide cartridges. Such foams add flavor without significant substance, and thus allow cooks to integrate new flavors without changing the physical composition of a dish. Some famous food-foams are foamed espresso, foamed mushroom, foamed beet and foamed coconut. An espuma or thermo whip is commonly used to make these foams through the making of a stock, creating a gel and extruding through the nitrous oxide canister.
Foam-making seems to have been raised to an art form by modern chefs at the cutting edge of cuisine, and for all I know, the skill to produce foam of a particular stability, texture, colour, fragrance, or flavour may be a requirement for graduation from some culinary schools. The concept of foamy-textured food is not new however.
Today I give you some old ideas to help you introduce a little more lightness into your food life.
Foaming Sauce [a pudding sauce]
Beat 1 cup sugar and ½ cup butter together. Add the yelks of 2 eggs and the grated rind and juice of a lemon. Beat the two whites stiff and mix all together. Just before serving, stir in quickly 1 cup boiling water
Breakfast, Dinner and Supper (1887), Battle Creek Co. Michigan.
Foamy Eggs [a pudding sauce]
1 egg, ½ cup maple sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla, ½ cup whipped cream.
Beat egg white until stiff, beat in gradually the maple sugar powdered; when smooth and light, add vanilla and well-beaten yolks. Stir in whipped cream, serve at once.
"Win the War" Cook Book (1918) published by St. Louis county unit,
Woman's committee, Council of National Defense.
Beat the yolks of two eggs till they are thick and light; add half teaspoon of pepper and two tablespoons of milk, then the whites beaten stiff. Spread on a hot buttered omelette pan. Run a knife along the edges, and occasionally underneath, to prevent burning. Let it cook till well browned underneath. Fold carefully, and serve at once.
Queensland Figaro, (Brisbane, Qld) May 19, 1928