Affordable is a relative term when you're talking about cookbooks by Nathan Myhrvold, the former Microsoft technology executive behind Modernist Cuisine, and his test kitchen/lab director Maxime Bilet. But at $140, Modernist Cuisine at Home reads like a bargain compared to its $625 predecessor. At least if you're a techie geek.
This book isn't for the everyday home cook interested in the The Science of Good Cooking, but for the niche kitchen crowd intrigued by the idea of making an "ultrafrothy" milk shake made with raw milk, albumin powder and whey protein isolate for a frothy "shake that tastes like milk itself." We're not exactly sure what that means in soda shop terms, either.
But if making sous vide tuna confit is your idea of fun, this is the book for you. Regardless, the cookbook is a fascinating flip-through in a over-sized format -- just the sort of book you might leave out on the coffee table to spark sous vide hollandaise debates when the dinner party conversation wanes. Or so you can make a "modernist meatloaf sandwich." Get more after the jump.
Modernist Cuisine at Home is actually a boxed set, as the book is encased in a white box with a spiral-bound kitchen manual tucked inside. The kitchen manual is filled with 22 chapters promising recipes like pressure-cooked vegetable soups, sous vide lamb skewers (nitrous oxide is involved) and making hamburger patties in their original square form (We'd love to hear what the first diner cooks would say about that multi-step process).
To be expected, the book is recipe, technique and photo-heavy -- the latter being the primary coffee table draw with its comparisons of ingredients, dishes, and appliances like everyday ice cream makers versus PacoJets. More accessible kitchen tools are here, too, like paintbrushes for applying sauces and tweezers for garnishing dishes. Definitely weekend warrior-type fare. Our favorite tip:
Believe it or not, if you like your fish lightly cooked (as we do), then a hot tub can do the trick. The water in most hot tubs is set to 39 - 40 degrees C / 100 - 104 degrees F. Try it at your next party!
Still, it's hard not to get drawn into the pages on impromptu sous vide set ups using simply an Igloo cooler, on the stove top, or in the kitchen sink or bathtub. Something about using your grandmother's old Igloo makes that "modernist meatloaf sandwich" recipe that requires salting cubed pork shoulder and beef chuck overnight before grinding it, then cooking individual patties of the meat (seasoned with ketchup, fish sauce, mustard, Worcestershire and Parmesan) sous vide -- all before coating them in bread crumbs and deep-frying them -- seem just a touch more accessible.
But for modernist cuisine purists, there are plenty of inspiring recipes for dishes like "refried bean foam," sous vide braised snails and "French-style" scrambled eggs. In the latter, we are promised a beautiful custard-like texture that is derived by whipping the eggs with an immersion blender, cooking them sous vide and aerating them in a whipping siphon to "make them foamy and light."
Let us know how that goes. We'll be sticking to the whole black cod with scallions and ginger (photo above) and beef jerky, as the only equipment required is a microwave.
More fun with good books:
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