Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Chris Amirault

Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)

Recommended Posts

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...

gallery_56799_5925_112393.jpg


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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...


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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?



Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw the emulsified cheese mentioned on a post about the book (I think it was on Pop Sci) and was afraid it would require some sort of high-tech emulsifier. Glad to hear that the technique can be done with typical kitchen equipment.

I love the possibility of making a full-flavored cheese sauce that doesn't break or turn grainy. I've recently been experimenting with the starch + evaporated milk combo used by Kenji Lopez-Alt. I used a tiny bit of Xanthan and it worked like a charm. I'll have to try the Modernist approach to see how it compares.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it would allow you to make fondue with cheeses that don't normally work I guess, like this really aged cheddars and goudas. I also think that you can get better flavor release from some of the modernist thickening agents than you can from the starches typically used in fondue, but I don't have the book handy to check that table. Chris A, does the book mention fondue?


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are some answers to questions posed above.

Fondue is basically starch and alcohol/acid added to melted cheese to help stabilize the emulsion.

You can use emulsifying salts (sodium citrate or a phosphate) to do the same thing with no starch, and the flavor is (in our opinion) much better. Starch can have poor flavor release properties.

We do something similar for cheese sauce - we have a cheeze foam (homemade cheese whiz!) and of course the macaroni and cheese made this way.

You can also use various thickeners and gels to help with this (as discussed above we use a bit of iota carrageenan in our mac and cheese) to help texture. Xanthan certainly works, but it is mostly about thickening and most uses of melted cheese the thickness is not the issue - it is already thick but the problem is the emulsion splitting so it gets greasy.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, and that cheese sauce went great on a potato and chorizo hash this morning, so it's not just for mac and cheese...

Did your cheese sauce ever reach grating consistency? I have kappa carrageenan and one from Xenex that contains kappa and iota - I made a firm block - but wouldn't be able to grate it - crumble it maybe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, though I'm not sure it would crumble, either: it wound up the consistency of clay, even after an overnight rest in the fridge.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, it would allow you to make fondue with cheeses that don't normally work I guess, like this really aged cheddars and goudas. I also think that you can get better flavor release from some of the modernist thickening agents than you can from the starches typically used in fondue, but I don't have the book handy to check that table. Chris A, does the book mention fondue?

Yes, there is a parametric recipe chart on fondue in volume four (223).

This pdf index for the book is very handy, btw. Given the benefits of searching on a text string in a pdf file, it's more useful than the on e at the back of volume five at times.


Edited by Chris Amirault (log)

Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chris Amirault

Chris Hennes

In this thread and others, discussions have been had about buying modernist/special ingredients. Let's start from the beginning. Either in your experience or from Modernist Cuisine, is there a recommmended list of pantry staples, like we already do with sugar, salt, pepper, various spices, et. al.? What are the priorty items, which are most shelf-stable and what are the ones that last longest on a counter or in a freezer? I know the kits are omnibus and probably are a good random selection. Which items do the kits miss that we should be acquiring and what are the unnecessary additions? Are there ingredients we should stock more of and others we could skip until a need arises? Yes, I know those regular spices I stock are based upon my preferences and what I cook, but I guess I am looking for a path through the wilderness.

Finally, are there local places you use if you are missing one item? I looked through Whole Foods and there are bits and pieces, but for the most part they are not a good alternative. Are most of the ingredients best and only available on line?


"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read in a number of places about MC's workaround for not having a proper brick oven to cook pizza, consisting of putting a 1/4 inch-thick steel sheet and using it instead of a stone. Two questions about that: any steel will do it? would it work for baking bread?


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The promised photos. First, a shot of the potatoes in the FoodSaver bags. They were all trimmed square; if I had been thinking, I would have grated the trim for hash browns at lunch. As I mentioned above, no water in the bags:

DSC00006.JPG

A note to the SVS owners: those bags were just barely too big for the SVS, so I had to get two long skewers, poke holes in the top of the bags, and let them sit slightly diagonally from the top. I learned the hard way that big bags lying flat are a nightmare for the temperature controls on the SVS for all obvious reasons.

Meanewhile, here are the steaks getting ready for the smoker along with some other items:

DSC00003.JPG

Post-cold smoke (~2h of apple smoke; never got about 50F in the smoker) and trimmed. I am seriously looking forward to using that smoked fat somehow:

DSC00007.JPG

I was working quickly -- the steaks were a bit warmer than I'd like -- and I got them into their bags with some black pepper, Aleppo pepper, kosher salt, and a knob of rendered beef fat:

DSC00012.JPG

Into my high-tech, super-expensive ice bath:

DSC00015.JPG

As I mentioned above, I SVed them at 56C, which was a bit warmer than I'd have liked for the steaks, but I was thinking about our guests. Here they are getting their last marks on a screaming hot grill that I'd sprayed with high-heat Pam:

DSC00018.JPG

All of this seems like a lot of fooling around just to cook a steak. Also, if you are going outside to use the smoker, why wouldnt you continue the outside cooking with a grill. it has to get hotter than your home range. Do you think all of this is worth repeating?


Edited by basquecook (log)

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted" JK

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I've been cooking steaks for over 30 years, and my guests have been eating a lot of them. We all agreed that it was the best steak they'd ever had, so I'm going with, "Yeah, it was worth it."

Does that mean that a grill is a bad way to cook steak? Not at all -- and the MC book details how to think about that issue. But when it's 10F outside, it'd be hard to beat this method.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, though I'm not sure it would crumble, either: it wound up the consistency of clay, even after an overnight rest in the fridge.

So my mixed kappa and iota gave me about that same consistency. Means I don't have to order yet another molecular ingredient!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

  • Similar Content

    • By Porthos
      I picked up enough boneless short ribs to make 3 meals for my Sweetie and me. One meal will be pan-braised tonight. One has been vacuum-sealed and is in the freezer. My question is about seasoning, sealing, freezing, then defrosting and cooking at a later date. I'd like to season and seal the 3rd meal's worth. Can I use a dry rub on the meat, then seal, freeze, and cook at a later date? Does anyone else do this?
    • By newchef
      So I've now found myself at the water's edge of Modernist Cuisine.  Specifically, using sodium citrate for emulsifying all kinds of cheeses.  What I'm after is making an emulsified Parmesan sauce as well as another emulsified cheese sauce (most likely using Cheddar or Colby) that I can freeze and use later.  I'm a single guy and am no stranger of tweaking recipes for freezing but I haven't done it for modernist stuff yet.  I'd love to make a big batch of cheese sauce, freeze it into ice cubes for up to 3 months or so, and then take a few cubes out to thaw on a weeknight and toss with pasta, drizzle over veggies, etc.
       
      I looked at the modernist cuisine FAQ and saw this specific post about the cheese sauce that is "probably" freeze-able because it uses something called carageenan.  Has anyone been able to freeze sauce and keep it frozen for, say, a few months?  And not have to use carageenan?
       
      Thanks!
    • By Burmese Days
      Hello everyone,
       
      This is my first post, so please tell me if I've made any mistakes. I'd like to learn the ropes as soon as possible. 
       
      I first learned of this cookbook from The Mala Market, easily the best online source of high-quality Chinese ingredients in the west. In the About Us page, Taylor Holiday (the founder of Mala Market) talks about the cookbooks that inspired her.
      This piqued my interest and sent me down a long rabbit hole. I'm attempting to categorically share everything I've found about this book so far.
       
      Reading it online
      Early in my search, I found an online preview (Adobe Flash required). It shows you the first 29 pages. I've found people reference an online version you can pay for on the Chinese side of the internet. But to my skills, it's been unattainable.
       
      The Title
      Because this book was never sold in the west, the cover, and thus title, were never translated to English. Because of this, when you search for this book, it'll have several different names. These are just some versions I've found online - typos included.
      Sichuan (China) Cuisine in Both Chinese and English Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (In English & Chinese) China Sichuan Cuisine (in Chinese and English) Chengdu China: Si Chuan Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (Chinese and English bilingual) 中国川菜:中英文标准对照版 For the sake of convenience, I'll be referring to the cookbook as Sichuan Cuisine from now on.

       
      Versions
      There are two versions of Sichuan Cuisine. The first came out in 2010 and the second in 2014. In an interview from Flavor & Fortune, a (now defunct) Chinese cooking
      magazine, the author clarifies the differences.
      That is all of the information I could find on the differences. Nothing besides that offhanded remark. The 2014 edition seems to be harder to source and, when available, more expensive.
       
      Author(s)

      In the last section, I mentioned an interview with the author. That was somewhat incorrect. There are two authors!
      Lu Yi (卢一) President of Sichuan Tourism College, Vice Chairman of Sichuan Nutrition Society, Chairman of Sichuan Food Fermentation Society, Chairman of Sichuan Leisure Sports Management Society Du Li (杜莉) Master of Arts, Professor of Sichuan Institute of Tourism, Director of Sichuan Cultural Development Research Center, Sichuan Humanities and Social Sciences Key Research Base, Sichuan Provincial Department of Education, and member of the International Food Culture Research Association of the World Chinese Culinary Federation Along with the principal authors, two famous chefs checked the English translations.
      Fuchsia Dunlop - of Land of Plenty fame Professor Shirley Cheng - of Hyde Park New York's Culinary Institute of America Fuchsia Dunlop was actually the first (and to my knowledge, only) Western graduate from the school that produced the book.
       

      Recipes
      Here are screenshots of the table of contents.  It has some recipes I'm a big fan of.
       
      ISBN
      ISBN 10: 7536469640   ISBN 13: 9787536469648 As far as I can tell, the first and second edition have the same ISBN #'s. I'm no librarian, so if anyone knows more about how ISBN #'s relate to re-releases and editions, feel free to chime in.
       
      Publisher
      Sichuan Science and Technology Press 四川科学技术出版社  
      Cover
      Okay... so this book has a lot of covers.
      The common cover A red cover A white cover A white version of the common cover An ornate and shiny cover  There may or may not be a "Box set." At first, I thought this was a difference in book editions, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As far as covers go, I'm at a loss. If anybody has more info, I'm all ears.
       
      Buying the book
      Alright, so I've hunted down many sites that used to sell it and a few who still have it in stock. Most of them are priced exorbitantly.
       
      AbeBooks.com ($160 + $15 shipping) Ebay.com - used ($140 + $4 shipping) PurpleCulture.net ($50 + $22 shipping) Amazon.com ($300 + $5 shipping + $19 tax) A few other sites in Chinese  
      I bought a copy off of PurpleCuture.net on April 14th. When I purchased Sichuan Cuisine, it said there was only one copy left. That seems to be a lie to create false urgency for the buyer. My order never updated past processing, but after emailing them, I was given a tracking code. It has since landed in America and is in customs. I'll try to update this thread when (if) it is delivered.
       
      Closing thoughts
      This book is probably not worth all the effort that I've put into finding it. But what is worth effort, is preserving knowledge. It turns my gut to think that this book will never be accessible to chefs that have a passion for learning real Sichuan food. As we get inundated with awful recipes from Simple and quick blogs, it becomes vital to keep these authentic sources available. As the internet chugs along, more and more recipes like these will be lost. 
       
      You'd expect the internet to keep information alive, but in many ways, it does the opposite. In societies search for quick and easy recipes, a type of evolutionary pressure is forming. It's a pressure that mutates recipes to simpler and simpler versions of themselves. They warp and change under consumer pressure till they're a bastardized copy of the original that anyone can cook in 15 minutes. The worse part is that these new, worse recipes wear the same name as the original recipe. Before long, it becomes harder to find the original recipe than the new one. 
       
      In this sense, the internet hides information. 
       
    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...