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"Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 1)


Renn
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Why exactly are some gnocchi leaden and others as light as pillows? Recipes differ notably in the ratio of flour to potato, eggs or not, etc, but I suspect that technique plays as important a role.

I have always assumed it's to do with the gluten in flour. If you mix the gnocchi too much then you're developing the gluten and they get tough. If you try to make gnocchi in an electric mixer (for example) you will end up with little rubber balls! When I make gnocchi I add the flour with the same delicacy & technique I otherwise reserve for meringue, and basically mix it as little as possible. Maybe I'll try making gnocchi with cornstarch, just to see what happens...

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As you saw above, I've substituted to make the recipes already. And they worked extremely well!

My substitute for the centrifugal recipes will be to freeze the lot and then put it into the refrigerator overnight in cheesecloth and let the liquid drip through into another container, leaving behind the residue.

Please don't get lost in the whizz-bangery and lose sight of the fact that there are some incredible recipes and techniques here that will lift our game in cooking substantially.

I've got the electronic preview but cannot wait to get my set of books to free up my use of this incredible resource.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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What is said about letting meat come to room temperature prior to cooking? I have found, for the most part, that only very small steaks and roasts even approach room temperature after an hour out of the refrigerator and it the case of larger cuts of meat one might almost be risking bacterial growth on the surface by the time they would reach room temperature. How important is this step to evenly cooked protein?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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(I haven't seen anything specific about Ms. Waters, so I don't mean this to refer specifically to her, but...)

In the first part of a two-part interview with Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame), Waters said of the modernist movement:

I can’t say that I care a lot about it. I can’t say that . . . It’s a kind of scientific experiment, and I think that there are good scientists and crazy old scientists that can be very amazing. But it’s more like a museum to me. It’s not a kind of way of eating that we need to really live on this planet together.

Wow. Her comments really make no sense. They just show that she has no idea about what the "Modernist" in Modernist Cuisine stands for. Someone like her (ie a prominent food industry figure) should take the time to actually pay attention what these modern cooks are doing.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Rice. Plain and simple rice. Sometimes it works out perfectly and other times it's texture is all wrong and crunchy. I suspect the size of the pot vs. water is the culprit, but would like to know more. Is there anything in there about that? What about different kinds of rice (brown, sticky,...)

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Anna N and FoodMan, I'm at work for the rest of the day and won't be able to break away to check out those things. I'm very sure Anna's question is answered in great depth across a few volumes. Elie, I'm less confident that your question is asked; given the section on rice cookers, I think that Nathan's got the process covered technologically.

Anyone with online access able to answer the questions?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Rice. Plain and simple rice. Sometimes it works out perfectly and other times it's texture is all wrong and crunchy. I suspect the size of the pot vs. water is the culprit, but would like to know more. Is there anything in there about that? What about different kinds of rice (brown, sticky,...)

I'm no expert, but the age of the rice makes a difference.

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(I haven't seen anything specific about Ms. Waters, so I don't mean this to refer specifically to her, but...)

In the first part of a two-part interview with Stephen Dubner (of Freakonomics fame), Waters said of the modernist movement:

I can’t say that I care a lot about it. I can’t say that . . . It’s a kind of scientific experiment, and I think that there are good scientists and crazy old scientists that can be very amazing. But it’s more like a museum to me. It’s not a kind of way of eating that we need to really live on this planet together.

Wow. Her comments really make no sense. They just show that she has no idea about what the "Modernist" in Modernist Cuisine stands for. Someone like her (ie a prominent food industry figure) should take the time to actually pay attention what these modern cooks are doing.

I'll take from Chef Redzepi quoting Schopenhauer: "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

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It's hard to wait another month for this but thanks for answering the questions. For a traditionally cooked meal, take Risotto for example, does it first provide the best method cooking it traditionally and then go on to provide modernist versions explaining how the new techniques improve / simplify etc? Same thing for BBQ for example - are they are always hitting you with the traditional but with a constant eye towards modernist improvements?

rg

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For a traditionally cooked meal, take Risotto for example, does it first provide the best method cooking it traditionally and then go on to provide modernist versions explaining how the new techniques improve / simplify etc? Same thing for BBQ for example - are they are always hitting you with the traditional but with a constant eye towards modernist improvements?

In nearly every situation, there is a discussion of the standard recipe, a consideration of why it was done that way, an overview of the benefits and flaws, and, nearly always, an attempt to take it one step further in quality. (There's often historical, biographical, and cultural contexts drawn as well.)

For example, there's a discussion of parcooking risotto that references Thomas Keller's use of the technique and then parametric recipe tables for a wide range of ingredients to treat like risotto. Ditto BBQ: indeed, the depth and breadth of the 'cue discussions of both traditional and modern methods is dizzying.

I mean, really, the whole thing gives you the culinary equivalent of Stendhal syndrome.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Wow, this looks like it was a multi-table banquet affair. If they have the ability to serve a meal like this, they should open a restaurant.

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Sorry for the delay -- diving in:

What is said about letting meat come to room temperature prior to cooking? ... How important is this step to evenly cooked protein?

There are several interrelated sections of the book that deal with this question: dry-bulb, wet-bulb, and core temperatures; various forms of heat transfer; delta-T (the difference between the temperature at which your meat cooks and the desired core temperature); the cooking medium (dry air, wet air, water bath); and so on. They complicate this simple question a lot.

For example, if you're going to put a chicken into a high-heat oven to be roasted, bringing it to room temperature is more important than if you're putting a steak into a water bath where you'll bring it to a core temperature that's very close, if not identical, to the water's temp.

So the short answer is: bringing meat ('s core temperature) to room temperature is useful in some situations and less so in others. But the book devotes pages to a longer answer.

Rice. Plain and simple rice. Sometimes it works out perfectly and other times it's texture is all wrong and crunchy. I suspect the size of the pot vs. water is the culprit, but would like to know more. Is there anything in there about that? What about different kinds of rice (brown, sticky,...)

Elie, as I mentioned above, there's a small section on risotto (3:304-6) that discusses various risotto and risotto-style preparations. However, there's no discussion of rice cooking per se -- and references to "rice, cooked" in the ingredient list (2: 176, e.g.) suggest that you know how to do it already.

when you get back to it, could you share what information it contains on raw/semi raw meat preparations?

As I mentioned, there are several pages devoted to tartares and raw meat (3:62-69). It covers the gamut: a "best bets for tartares" chart with beef, lamb, tuna, venison, and more: recipes; textures; seasonings; and notes. There are also more detailed recipes, including a variation of Keller's salmon cornets. And for those of you with liquid nitrogen handy, a page on "cryoshatter for tartare." In short, a treasure trove on tartare.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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So I'll bring this little contest to a close. I hope you can see that, while not literally exhaustive, the book comes pretty close to covering most cooking issues you can imagine. It is interesting to note the omissions -- I was surprised that there's nothing on the particulars of rice, for example. But the fact that the book had detailed information on most topics proposed is a testament to its depth and breadth.

As for the book's overall organization, we're working with the folks at The Cooking Lab to bring you some exclusive content that helps to bring its structure and design into clearer focus than you can see with single-page excerpts or descriptions like those I've written.

So: watch this space.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Yep: it's a spiral bound listing of parametric charts, recipes, and more so that everything's on a single page (or part of a page), on waterproof paper. I'll take a snap of it tonight to give you a sense of it (I left it at home).

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Rice. Plain and simple rice. Sometimes it works out perfectly and other times it's texture is all wrong and crunchy. I suspect the size of the pot vs. water is the culprit, but would like to know more. Is there anything in there about that? What about different kinds of rice (brown, sticky,...)

I'm no expert, but the age of the rice makes a difference.

Agreed with Jenni. Do you find that a single batch of rice has this kind of variability? I've never had my rice come out crunchy unless I put in the wrong amount of water, or let it boil for too long before covering.

I guess this question just goes to show that, although it covers a lot, Modernist Cuisine can't cover literally everything. In this case, I'd bet your answer could be found in McGee... which just goes to show that Modernist Cuisine doesn't obviate that classic work.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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