The Seattle-based team behind Modernist Cuisine, the monster 5-volume cookbook that came out a couple years ago, hasn't been resting on its laurels since the release of the celebrated tome. Last year, they came up with Modernist Cuisine at Home, a slimmed down version with friendlier recipes aimed at adventurous home cooks. Now, they've released The Photography of Modernist Cuisine, a collection of 145 of the most stunning images captured during photo sessions for the Modernist Cuisine collection.
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Sous-vide cooking may be experiencing a rise in popularity, but the problem for home cooks spans familiarity, price, convenience, and design quality. Now, Scott Heimendinger, the Director of Applied Research behind Modernist Cuisine, thinks he might have the solution: The Sansaire, a new all-in-one sous-vide solution that is designed to work in any container and retails at just $199. Is it worth the dough? We got our hands on the first working prototype to test it out. We cooked everything from steaks to eggs to slow-braised short ribs to put it through its paces.
A couple years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the very first public dinner held at The Cooking Lab, the test kitchen/laboratory where the recipes and techniques for Modernist Cuisine, the official heaviest-cookbook-ever-written were all tested and developed. It was a stunner of a meal, 30 courses long, with textures, flavors, and techniques that boggled the mind in their creativity and focus.
I revisited the Cooking Lab on a recent trip out to Seattle and got a quick step-by-step walkthrough of their patty melt, cavitated french fries, and liquid nitrogen banana shake recipes. The processes are interesting, to say the least.
You know the Baking Steel? The one that Kenji combined with The KettlePizza for the ultimate home pizza setup earlier this week? Engendering this dumb retort from Slate, followed by a rebuttal of epic proportions? Yeah. That baking steel. Well, things just got a little more interesting...
It's no surprise that this year's James Beard Journalism Award for Cookbook of the Year went to Modernist Cuisine, the 2,400 page tome that catalogued and codified many of the techniques that chefs and food scientists have developed over the last few decades. Last year we were fortunate enough to get a look behind the scenes at the labs where a team of cooks, researchers, writers, and photographers worked for years to produce the book. Now seems like a good time to dust off that old slideshow which offers a unique look at some of the food and techniques that went it it.
Have yourself a a modernist merry Christmas.
Do you have an aspiring modernist cook on your shopping list this year? Here are some items that will pay themselves off in spades if you think about all of the exciting food they'll (hopefully) feed you as a result. Starter kits, books, grown-up Pop Rocks, and more.
Modernist cooking may be all the rage today, but back in 2004 it was just getting started, with few resources and even less press. That's when the husband and wife team H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa began their blog Ideas in Food, a digital notebook that chronicled their experiments with hydrocolloids and sous vide machines, and propelled them to the forefront of a whole new world of cooking. Today their work is some of the most authoritative writing on modernist cuisine for professionals and home cooks alike. They shared two recipes with us: macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding.
These brilliant gems are the perfect antidote to a sickly-saccharine Halloween because the pumpkinseed oil helps them toe the line of savory/sweet. If you're grown up and fancy, you might try serving them as a mignardise during a swank Halloween soiree.
Hydrocolloids. Reverse spherification. Sous vide. The terminology alone could turn you off. Then there's the tech: low-temperature ovens, iSi whippers, vacuum sealers. Stuff that sounds like it belongs more in a lab than a kitchen, and way outside your price range. Intimidated yet? I am. But whether you like it or not, modernist cuisine (better, though less accurately, known as molecular gastronomy) is here to stay. Truth is, it's a lot less intimidating and weird than you think. And there's nothing stopping you from bringing it to the home kitchen.
Sweet dessert soups are common in East and South East Asia. I'm partial to those made with coconut milk, which make a silky base for inclusions of fruit, red bean, tapioca pearls, and jellies. Spherified fruit juices combine the best of these add-ins: intense fruit flavor with a dynamic, juicy texture. I used guava juice, but use whatever flavors (perhaps in combination) you like. You can even dilute flavored syrups (like ginger or cinnamon) in water for your fruit juice. Just stay away from acidic ones like lime juice, which in my experience do not set as well.
Herb sauces are great stuff: they let the flavor of an herb come through proud and clear while lightly cloaking food. But they are prone to breaking—let an herb purée sit for five minutes and the solids will clump together and leave an ugly pool of green water on the plate. A small pinch of xanthan gum will hold the sauce together and provide a velvety texture to what may otherwise be too thin.
Tapioca maltodextrin is a slightly sweet modified starch that will thicken and stabilize liquids high in fat. Since it can absorb more than its weight in liquid, it can transform fat into a powdery substance that melts on the tongue. Use olive oil powder in dishes for an extremely rich feel in the mouth, such as on lobster. You can replace the olive oil in this recipe with any flavored oil; nut oils like hazelnut and pistachio come to mind.
Here's a quick, fun read from yesterday's New York Times science section, on the science of burgers, though as usual, I feel like it misses the point. Namely, that none of these "science-y" recipe developers or hoity-toity chefs have...
File this under mesmerizing. Nathan Myhrvold and his Modernist Cuisine team, who published a 2,400-page, six-volume cookbook earlier this year, filmed Jell-O bouncing at 6,200 frames per second. If Jell-O had a backyard trampoline and jumped in super slo-mo, this is probably about what it'd look like.
Nathan Myhrvold of Modernist Cuisine stopped by the Colbert Report yesterday to chat with Steven and make 72-hour pastrami and 100% pistachio ice cream. Check out Colbert's reactions to Myhrvold's book. Here are some highlights: "God ordained that things should be boiled, or baked, or fried. Those are the missionary positions of cuisine—you're getting freaky here." "Am I going to die from eating this?... That's just like leaving a piece of beef out in August for three days, and now you want me to eat it."
Where were Martha Stewart, Padma Lakshmi, Daniel Boulud, Ruth Reichl, Andre Soltner, Tim and Nina Zagat, Wylie Dufresne, Michael Lomanoco, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Johnny Iuzzini (plus myself and Kenji) at 9 this morning? Eating breakfast at Jean-Georges and listening to Modernist Cuisine's Nathan Myhrvold—in town for a week-long whirlwind PR blitz that's drawing attention from the best culinary and scientific minds in the city.
If you've already had a chance to look at the photos insane dinner I had at the Modernist Cuisine Cooking Lab in Seattle a couple weeks back, you may be interested in knowing what goes into preparing all that food, and the book. Before the meal, we took an extensive tour of the massive warehouse space that houses the Cooking Lab. Ever seen a microwave cut in half?
The awesome wok shot was made by cutting a wok completely in half and cooking in it. This shot, on the other hand, was an even simpler one: only the lid was cut in half in order to demonstrate inefficiencies when a pot gets heated.