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Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)

Modernist Cookbook

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#31 JBailey

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 07:23 PM

Nathan

What a lovely experience you gave your guests. I had read Katy McLaughlin's WSJ articles yesterday and found them most enjoyable to read...almost like being there. I especially enjoyed her run down of each of the 30 courses. When my copy of Modernist Cuisine arrives, I hope to be able to attempt some of the dishes you presented and others like such as those Chris and Nickrey offered in this topic.

A quick question, if I may? I am intrigued by the 'pea butter' and would like to attempt it at some time. I know one of your pieces of equipment is the refrigerated centrifuge. While I am never one to shy from my tendency to overbuy equipment for my kitchen, I do not need to make production scale quantities. In researching other centrifuges besides the Sorvall you have in your kitchen, I find they have what seem to be small vessels, probably not not a good size for preparing something for four to six people. Do you recommend certain specs for such machines or do I need to scale up? Further, I want a machine that is safe and won't disintegrate when spun up. One last question, what is your opinion of hand-held rotor-stator homogenizers? What stator size is most useful?

Edited by JBailey, 12 February 2011 - 07:25 PM.

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#32 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 12:53 PM

I'm doing a few different things today that are influenced in part by the MC book. One is smoking a few things, and bc of the book's discussion of wet-bulb temperatures I've got the hygrometer in there, trying to maintain a humidity around 65%.

The main thing that I'm doing is using a new fresh pasta recipe. For years I have used the recipe in the eGCI course:

400g ‘00’ flour
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
pinch of salt

The fresh pasta recipe in MC (3-381) is designed "to replicate the appealing al dente texture that comes from classic dried Italian pasta." The one I'm using -- at 3x 100% -- is:

100 g '00' flour (100%)
1 g xanthan gum
2.5 g salt
9 g water
56.7 g egg yolk
10.7 g oil

Yes, that's xanthan gum in there, listed in the "best bets" parametric recipe table as a "texturing agent." 170g of egg yolks is about 9 yolks; I used olive oil and an unsalted shrimp & artichoke stock for the water.

I've just taken a break from kneading, as this is a much stiffer dough than I'm used to. More, later, with results.
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#33 lesliec

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 01:00 PM

Intriguing, Chris - looking forward to seeing the results.

Noting your comment on the stiffness; would it work satisfactorily in a mixer with a dough hook, would you think?

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#34 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 03:19 PM

I'm on strict orders not to use the KitchenAid for pasta dough -- the second KitchenAid, that is. The one that makes a screeching noise? That one I can use. :wink:

Seriously, though, I enjoy kneading dough and rarely use the old KA for that task, saving it for the rolling and cutting into fettuccine. I don't know how it'd work.
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#35 LindaK

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:25 PM

Chris, is there any discussion of using different types of flour when making pasta? When I want a firmer pasta, I use durum/semolina flour rather than the '00' flour. The dough is definitely stiffer and is harder to knead. If you've ever used it before, I'd be curious as to whether the use of the xantham gum gives you the same effect--or how it differs.


 


#36 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:26 PM

Flour, salt, and xanthan gum whisked and holding the yolk mixture:

Posted Image

Though the dough was, as I noted above, quite stiff, it was very workable once I started rolling and cutting it -- remarkably easy, in fact. I had planned to make farfalle but decided to cut it into fettuccine instead. The nests didn't clot up at all while sitting in the kitchen for an hour while I finished prep:

Posted Image

One thing I wanted to try was a little trick I saw somewhere for the 65C eggs:

Posted Image

Those went into the Sous Vide Supreme while I got the water boiling and the rest of the ingredients prepared. The finished dish was fettuccine with leftovers, but pretty tasty ones: artichoke hearts, Maine shrimp, asparagus tips, shallot rings, bacon chips, and a simple butter sauce:

Posted Image

Egg was great -- though my daughter thought the white too runny and turned her nose up at it. Not mom and dad, who loved it.

The verdict on the pasta? A qualified hit. When I drained the pasta into the collander, it was truly an excellent texture, as promised much more al dente than my usual fresh pasta recipe, both more toothy and tender and less rubbery. (I will add that a slight rubberiness in egg pasta is appealing to me.) However, by the time we sat down to eat it, it had been sauced in a sauté pan, and that seemed to take away some of the toothiness. I think that next time I'd cut back on the cooking time, which was, I dunno, maybe 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, after a long day of cold-smoking, I have a brisket in the SVS starting an MC-suggested 72h bath at 63C. Eager to see what that's like on Wednesday night.

Edited by Chris Amirault, 13 February 2011 - 06:28 PM.

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#37 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:36 PM

Chris, is there any discussion of using different types of flour when making pasta? When I want a firmer pasta, I use durum/semolina flour rather than the '00' flour. The dough is definitely stiffer and is harder to knead. If you've ever used it before, I'd be curious as to whether the use of the xantham gum gives you the same effect--or how it differs.


First, yes, the parametric tables for pasta feature other flours, including '00', semolina, buckwheat, rice flour, alkaline ramen, and cocoa tajarin.

Second, I've made semolina before and this dough is similarly tough at first. But when I was folding and rolling and cutting, it became both smoother and firmer than the usual '00' dough, meaning that it was remarkably easy to cut and pile into nests. No need to hang, that is -- a real plus in my book. For that reason, I think it may become my go-to long pasta recipe.
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#38 edsel

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:50 PM

I see that the Xanthan is only 1 % of the flour mixture, so I'm surprised it makes a difference. Your piles of pasta pre-cooking look like they stayed separated beautifully. I'll have to try this.

#39 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 06:53 PM

Yeah, it's a small percentage, but that stuff is some crazy gum powder. I've been using gum arabic for a while (a crucial cocktail syrup ingredient) but just cracked into the Bob's Red Mill xanthan package recently. Little goes a very long way....
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#40 mkayahara

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 07:00 PM

This is so true about xanthan. I misplaced a decimal once, and ended up thickening a sauce with 1% xanthan rather than 0.1%. The resulting texture is not one I would care to experience again.
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#41 Chris Amirault

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 07:28 PM

As opposed to gum arabic, which you can adjust with a splash of water or two.
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#42 Paul Kierstead

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 08:54 PM

I'm on strict orders not to use the KitchenAid for pasta dough -- the second KitchenAid, that is. The one that makes a screeching noise? That one I can use. :wink:


I popped a KA with Pasta dough with semolina (about 25%). Killed it dead. Had it repaired. A few flour only pastas later, I damaged a gear .. it mostly works now, but does tend to screech as you say. Now I make pasta down in the FP, which works much better.

For the money, the KA could be much better made. Or maybe it is for a little more money; I dunno, but I do know I am disappointed in the robustness of it.

#43 JBailey

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 09:44 PM

Have you tried the Hobart N50? It is a geared transmission with three speeds. To change speeds you shut off the motor and then switch into the next desired gear. Very, very heavy duty. The KA was a spin-off from Hobart.

Also, you may want to research MagicMill. They are very good for large quantities of bread dough, but I have not used it for pasta. Again, a durable machine.
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#44 mkayahara

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:14 PM

One item from Modernist Cuisine that really stuck with me was the famous finding that duck confit doesn't need to be cooked fully submerged in fat. I've been dying to see the recipe for confit that ended up being published, and when I got access to the online review copy, it was one of the first things I looked up.

Essentially, it's a basic sous vide confit, but since I've never done duck confit sous vide before, I thought it would be a good place to start. (Until recently, I couldn't get duck legs unless I bought the rest of the duck, too. I still have four frozen duck carcasses to turn into stock from the last time I made confit. I'm thinking they'll end up in the pressure cooker, once it arrives.)

Anyway, I started off by mixing up the cure:
Cure for Poultry.jpg

I made only a small batch - enough for the four duck legs I had. Some of the spices are in such small quantities, though, that I had to use my precision scale to measure them out. I'm not sure all the flavours came through in the end, but they were competing with a lot, as you'll see.

Next, the duck legs get vacuum sealed with the cure for 10 hours.
Duck in Cure.jpg

Then they're unsealed, rinsed and patted dry. Because I misread the recipe, this happened at night. I thought the next step was to cook them for 12 hours, but it turned out to be only 8, so instead of staying up late or getting up early, I just let them hang out in the fridge overnight, then sealed them with duck fat and put them in the water bath the next morning.

After 8 hours at 82 degrees, followed by a quick dip in an ice bath, they looked more or less like this:
Sous vide duck confit.jpg

That jelly you can see in the bag? That stuff has the texture of a superball.

The recipe calls for the legs to be reheated in a water bath, then crisped in a frying pan and served with potatoes that are also cooked in a water bath with duck fat, but I had bigger and better plans. I'm not sure how "authentic" my cassoulet was, but it was darn tasty!

Cassoulet.jpg

Anyway, this is now officially my go-to recipe for duck confit. It was far and away the best I've ever made or eaten. The texture was perfect, and the flavour (despite having to compete with all the other flavours in the dish) was great. And honestly, aside from mixing the cure, which can be done in bulk, I found this process considerably easier and less messy than a traditional confit.
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#45 Chris Amirault

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:20 PM

Looks terrif. How did you prepare the cassoulet, Matt?
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#46 mkayahara

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:29 PM

Uh... I hacked it together? Basically, I made the confit, made some garlic sausage patties, cooked the beans with some unsmoked bacon (the savory cure from Charcuterie) and aromatics, then layered it all in a pot, along with some onions and some roasted, previously frozen Roma tomatoes, and topped with bread crumbs. That's pretty much all cassoulet is, right? The cooking liquid at the final stage was the drained cooking liquid from the beans along with that wonderful jelly from the confit, plus a little bit of white wine that I reduced first.

Actually, about that wine. For some reason, I decided to go out on a limb and buy a locally produced Aligoté. I've had Aligoté maybe once before in my life, but it was among the better wine matches I've ever served. It just made all the flavours pop. Home run.
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#47 ScottyBoy

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:33 PM

One of many delicious things I expect in this thread especially when the book arrives.
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#48 gfweb

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Posted 14 February 2011 - 06:53 PM

Out of curiosity, I googled "DIY centrifuge" to see what came up. I had visions of sticking a cordless drill into the middle of a lazy susan...

A number of links came up, but most interesting was the "Dremelfuge", which can apparently go up to 33,000 RPM for about $50. I already have a dremel, and I've been fascinated by the concept of "pea butter" which was on one of the videos on the Modernist Cuisine website, and $50 doesn't sound like that much...

Other DIY centrifuges that Google found included one that used to be a hand-cranked cream-seperator, one made from a salad spinner (total cost - $30!), and one that used to be a washing machine... the salad-spinner one looks very simple and relatively safe, not to mention cheap.

Anyway, food for thought...


Tempting, but be careful. It would take a machinist to make a centrifuge that wouldn't self-destruct at 30K rpm. Balance is everything.

#49 thayes1c

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 11:35 AM

I cribbed the pasta recipe from Chris's post for my Valentines day feast and it was awesome. I took the advice on cooking time and only boiled for two minutes. The noodles are amazing. They don't stick together at all and have a wonderful bite. And thats making them with bread flour instead of 00 semolina, too. I did have a little trouble with the first roll out, though. I used the instructions from Marcella and rolled, folded into thirds and rolled again, but when I tried to roll after the second folding, the dough wouldn't go through. In fact, it tore as I pushed it into the rollers. I learned my lesson after this happened on two of the six balls of dough, and I was able to salvage the two folded ones, but it was a curious incident. Do the instructions for rolling pasta in MC differ from typical recipes much?

Also, are there any tips on making pesto? I find that pesto made in the mortar has a much more satisfying flavor (delicious herb paste) than the food processor (chopped up bits of leaf), but I don't always want the arm workout that pounding basil provides. Is there a new, whiz-bang way of making pesto in the book?

#50 lesliec

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:06 PM

Tried the pasta myself last night, in rather a hurry and based only on the list of ingredients Chris published above. I didn't do anything special; just mixed everything, gave it a good kneading then into the fridge for half an hour or so, until I needed it. Because I was rushed I didn't even roll it out before feeding it into the pasta machine - just squashed it between my hands. By about the third thickness setting it was starting to look very nice and smooth, and reached perfection on the last two. I rolled it in three batches and was delighted to find the sheets I'd already done didn't stick to each other while I did the others.

When cooked, it was delicate in the mouth but pretty robust when being manhandled out of the pot. Very good mouth feel, as others have commented. This one goes onto the 'worth doing again' list.

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#51 Chris Hennes

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 06:45 PM

Mac and Cheese (p. 3-387)

No, this isn't some kind of play on words, or a joke-recipe, or some kind of fascinating modernist creation. It's just macaroni and cheese. This recipe is a clear demonstration that while you can use modernist ingredients to create some really crazy stuff, you can also apply them to simply take a classic dish and make it better. And believe me when I say it: this version of mac and cheese is so vastly, clearly superior to anything I've ever had it is mind boggling.

There are two keys to the dish, both related to problems with the original: the first is that when you make a cheese sauce with a bechamel base, you have to use a LOT of bechamel, and there is a limit to how much cheese you can add before it breaks. This winds up diluting the cheese flavor, and is part of the reason I would never consider making a traditional mac and cheese with a really great cheese: its subtlety would simply be lost, and you'd gain nothing over using a simpler cheese. The second key is that not only does bechamel dilute the cheese flavor purely by volume, it also has poor "flavor release" compared to, say, carageenan: the book spends a great deal of time talking about this sort of thing, and it's very helpful for understanding why these techniques work as well as they do.

So, the modernist version of the dish does away with the bechamel base: instead, you make a small amount of a solution of beer, water, sodium citrate (to emulsify the cheese) and carrageenan (the thicken the sauce). You then melt a huge quantity of excellent cheese into it (I used Cabot clothbound cheddar and Roomano Pradera Gouda), in effect making your own processed cheese block. You chill it down until you literally have a block of processed cheese more or less the consistency of Velveeta, and then you shred it. The pasta is cooked in just enough water for it to absorb, and then the shredded cheese product is stirred in. You wind up with a mac and cheese the same texture as if you had used Velveeta: perfectly, flawlessly smooth. Except it tastes incredibly intensely like the best cheeses in the world! Perhaps you have gathered here that I rather liked the stuff. If this is "Modernist" then consider me modernified. Sort of. I did serve it with dry-fried chicken and steamed broccoli...

Posted Image

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#52 runwestierun

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:07 PM

Chris, about how long did it take start to finish? How long does the cheese block chill?

#53 Chris Hennes

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:10 PM

It took about ten or fifteen minutes to make the cheese block. I chilled it for maybe half hour at room temp, and another half hour in the fridge. It was still not quite solidifed when I went to shred it, so I wound up with "cheese spaetzle" rather than "cheese shreds" but it didn't really matter. So call it 20 minutes of cooking total? Plus the chilling time? Faster than the bechamel method...

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#54 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:12 PM

OK, that's on this weekend's menu. I just did the 72h 63C smoked brisket for the meat. Now I need two vegetables.
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#55 Chris Amirault

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:28 PM

I wanted to add a thought: I think that one of the keys to explaining the power of Modernist Cuisine is historical context. There are many "chemical" ingredients that we use all the time -- salt, baking powder, gelatin -- to make food better. Chris's post explains why these newer ingredients can do the same.
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#56 LindaK

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:43 PM

I wanted to add a thought: I think that one of the keys to explaining the power of Modernist Cuisine is historical context. There are many "chemical" ingredients that we use all the time -- salt, baking powder, gelatin -- to make food better. Chris's post explains why these newer ingredients can do the same.


This a challenging and exciting way of thinking about what "modernist cuisine" means. I will probably be the last member of the eG volunteer team to buy a Sous Vide Supreme, but this makes intuitive sense to me and totally bursts the intimidation bubble.

Who knew that a homemade block of velveeta would be the key?


 


#57 karlos

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Posted 16 February 2011 - 07:53 PM

That mac and cheese looks amazing. I can't wait to start playing with these recipes.

#58 Chris Amirault

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 04:20 AM

Chris, which carrageenan did you use? I don't have the proper one. Can you sub one for the other ?
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#59 pedro

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 05:35 AM

It seems we don't have Velveeta here in Spain --which I assume is good--, Chris, would you please describe the desired texture? Thanks!
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#60 Chris Hennes

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Posted 17 February 2011 - 08:15 AM

Chris, which carrageenan did you use? I don't have the proper one. Can you sub one for the other ?

Chris, this recipe calls for the iota carrageenan, and as I discovered writing the WIkiGullet article on the stuff, they are definitely not interchangeable.

It seems we don't have Velveeta here in Spain --which I assume is good--, Chris, would you please describe the desired texture? Thanks!

Yeah, you're not missing anything lacking Velveeta :smile: ... at refrigerated temperatures Velveeta has a very odd texture, squishy and rubbery, but the key is when you heat it its mouthfeel is perfectly smooth, and it doesn't break even at very high temperatures. The combined emulsification of the carrageenan and sodium citrate is pretty powerful. I took two quite grainy cheeses, and once melted and emulsified they were completely smooth, with no detectable grain, even heated to a near boil.

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