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Sonicate Your Food 

PolyScience SonicPrep Ultrasonic Homogenizer AKA The Sonicator.

After my experience in our Science of Ice Cream class, Mihir had more tricks up his sleeve: a PolyScience SonicPrep Ultrasonic Homogenizer. (You can buy one for $5K). He was lucky enough to have this wondrous bit of culinary technology gifted to him by a supportive dinner guest/patron.

Sonication applies ultrasonic energy to agitate particles in a sample. A probe touches the liquid (a long metal needle) and the ultrasonic waves have numerous effects on whatever's cooking inside. Some common applications include emulsifications, infusions, de-gassed liquids, intensifed stocks (shrimp based sauces get more red as enzymes are released). You can marinate meat, too.

Our first foray into sonicating was to make a simple oil and vinegar salad dressing. Within seconds, the oil and water were mixed into a pale “milk”, source liquids totally emulsified. The sonicator makes a strange, tinny sound--it literally feels like the sound is just beyond your hearing, but somehow gets into your bones. I'm not sure other people in the class had this reaction, but I suppose this is what they mean by ultrasonic.


sonicating salad dressing. the oil and vinegar will not separate for two weeks. #defygravity

Class is right in the middle of happy hour, right? So we got an early start in sonicating some whiskey. Mihir had me char some oak chips. We dumped them into some Knob Creek whiskey, and let the ultrasonic probe do its magic on the mixture. 

whiskey, charred woodchips, and ultrasonic waves = Barrel Aged. More than a decade in less than two minutes.

Indeed, the mixture was as tasty as you'd expect whiskey to taste after several years sitting in a barrel. Was this the next big thing in the liquor business? You could create whiskey that had all the flavor of a barrel aged bottle, but with none of the wait time of a traditional enterprise. One gentleman pondered, "Maybe we're being conned. Maybe it's all sonicated already."

It was an interesting thought.

After happy hour's dinner, and Mihir had us covered. He'd concoted a watermelon and pork fat glissage, which yes, we sonicated:

Watermelon for the glissage

He basted the halibut steaks with the stuff, and after 10-15 minutes baking in the oven, voilà

Halibut, made with a watermelon and pork fat glissage.

It was quite a delicious way to end the class.

*Cool Wikipedia fact: Sonication is used to extract microfossils from rocks. Whoa!?