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Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine" (Part 1)


Chris Amirault
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Kerry, I'd be more concerned about the consistency when heated than at fridge temps: does it melt to an appropriately gooey texture?

Melted beautifully - rug rat took Molecular Mac and Cheese for lunch today at school!

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I have shied away from this genre with the elitist attitude that it was not "natural". Seeing the mac and cheese and how it was done pus Chris A's comment about other "chemicals" we routinely use has forced a mindset shift. I am going to delve into this. Thank you all.

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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?

Although I don't have access to the book anymore, I read that section with interest. Let's see how good my recall is...

The reason that ovens retain heat is because the sides of the oven heat up. The air in the oven is mainly incidental and will heat up fairly rapidly when the door is shut. Hence opening and closing the door causes less damage than most would think (eg. in the questions about basting).

Using a sheet of metal means that you add another source that effectively absorbs and radiates heat, thus making the heat sources in the oven more stable. So in answer to your specific questions: any steel should do as long as it can store and release heat. Secondly, it should be good for bread because of its contribution to the overall heat profile within the oven.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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How much and what sort of discussion is there of garlic?

Several recipes, including parametric recipes for preserving and cooking sous vide.

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?

Although I don't have access to the book anymore, I read that section with interest. Let's see how good my recall is...

The reason that ovens retain heat is because the sides of the oven heat up. The air in the oven is mainly incidental and will heat up fairly rapidly when the door is shut. Hence opening and closing the door causes less damage than most would think (eg. in the questions about basting).

Using a sheet of metal means that you add another source that effectively absorbs and radiates heat, thus making the heat sources in the oven more stable. So in answer to your specific questions: any steel should do as long as it can store and release heat. Secondly, it should be good for bread because of its contribution to the overall heat profile within the oven.

Nick's memory is excellent. :wink:

They recommend a piece of steel or aluminum (the latter is much lighter, of course) that is 2 cm -- that is to say, 3/4 in, not 1/4 in -- thick.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Save for the Pichet Ong gougeres I served as an appetizer, all elements of dinner last night followed MC yet were quite simple: meat and two veg, in fact, all prepared sous vide.

The meat was the 72h 65C brisket that I had smoked and frozen last weekend; I brought it back to temperature in the Sous Vide Supreme and served it sliced with some of the mushroom ketchup I made a few weeks ago.

The potatoes were baby reds, purples, and golds that I cooked at 85C for about an hour with copious amounts of butter, let cool, and then finished with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary in a hot oven. Then we had leeks that I also cooked at 85C: I sliced the green parts into thin ribbons that I tossed with hazelnut oil, and I served the white parts with an excellent sherry vinegar and demerara sugar gastrique to which I added some of the liquid from the brisket bag.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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How much and what sort of discussion is there of garlic?

Several recipes, including parametric recipes for preserving and cooking sous vide.

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?

Although I don't have access to the book anymore, I read that section with interest. Let's see how good my recall is...

The reason that ovens retain heat is because the sides of the oven heat up. The air in the oven is mainly incidental and will heat up fairly rapidly when the door is shut. Hence opening and closing the door causes less damage than most would think (eg. in the questions about basting).

Using a sheet of metal means that you add another source that effectively absorbs and radiates heat, thus making the heat sources in the oven more stable. So in answer to your specific questions: any steel should do as long as it can store and release heat. Secondly, it should be good for bread because of its contribution to the overall heat profile within the oven.

Nick's memory is excellent. :wink:

They recommend a piece of steel or aluminum (the latter is much lighter, of course) that is 2 cm -- that is to say, 3/4 in, not 1/4 in -- thick.

Has anyone who has high-temperature pizza cooking experience tried this? I use a 2Stone on my grill and it gets up to 800F in about 35 minutes and produces incredible pizzas in a couple of minutes but if this is comparable then it would be quite convenient

rg

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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.

I failed to see where you said it was the best steak that you or any of your guests have ever eaten. I wonder how cold smoking and cooking something sous vide could perform such amazing results as I believe the smoke would not penetrate much of the steak at such a low temp. But, all I can do is take your word for it. But cold smoking, lightly heating and finishing on a home kitchen range? are all things to mimick a properly cooked steak over a wood fire.

I just wonder how much people are in love with the process of playing scientist. It seems cool to add a bunch of chemicals to mac and cheese but, I wonder about the actual results.

I have been all around the world and all over this country (as a guest here) and there are very few people who have been able to use this modern cooking with decent results. And the handfull of ones that have, are pretty much world famous because of it.

Edited by basquecook (log)

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

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Naturally, the only way to convince yourself is to try it: the Mac and Cheese is a good place to start because it is something so familiar. And this mac and cheese isn't just a little bit better, it is head and shoulders superior in all ways I can enumerate. It's also very easy and relatively inexpensive to make: I spent far more on the cheese than on the "chemicals"!

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I failed to see where you said it was the best steak that you or any of your guests have ever eaten. I wonder how cold smoking and cooking something sous vide could perform such amazing results as I believe the smoke would not penetrate much of the steak at such a low temp. But, all I can do is take your word for it. But cold smoking, lightly heating and finishing on a home kitchen range? are all things to mimick a properly cooked steak over a wood fire.

I just wonder how much people are in love with the process of playing scientist. It seems cool to add a bunch of chemicals to mac and cheese but, I wonder about the actual results.

I have been all around the world and all over this country (as a guest here) and there are very few people who have been able to use this modern cooking with decent results. And the handfull of ones that have, are pretty much world famous because of it.

I said it here.

We'll have to agree to disagree. It's certainly my experience -- and that of thousands of others -- that cold smoking, cooking steak SV, retrograde starch techniques for potatoes et al are all pretty straightforward techniques. Most of the things I did aren't even "modernist" per se, and I've no desire to play scientist. I want to make and eat good food.

As for your skepticism about the results, I guess you'll have to try it out to find out for yourself!

Edited by Chris Amirault
Adding clarifying quotation -- CA (log)

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I just wonder how much people are in love with the process of playing scientist. It seems cool to add a bunch of chemicals to mac and cheese but, I wonder about the actual results.

I have been all around the world and all over this country (as a guest here) and there are very few people who have been able to use this modern cooking with decent results. And the handfull of ones that have, are pretty much world famous because of it.

Some of us are scientists as well as avid cooks. One thing about scientists is that they are very cynical of claims that have to be taken on faith. The authors of this book have taken a very rigorous approach to finding out and expaining why things work as they do. They are bringing the cooking processes that have made some people famous within the reach of interested cooks.

As you will know, no amount of philosophical debate can convey the experience of a well executed dish. Unless you try it you will only be limited to phrases such as "I wonder" "I can't see how" and the like, which really are personal statements backed with nothing but restricted exposure.

Sure you may have tasted others using the approach but they, like us all, have been without a definitive reference work until the publication of this book. And in some cases the technique is more important to these people than the outcome. That is definitely not the case with the authors of this book and the outstanding exponents of the technique you referred to above.

There also may have been times where you ate cuisine prepared in a modernist manner and registered that it was very well executed and flavorsome but were unaware of its provenance. The authors would see this as a good thing because the technique has been used to improve the eating experience rather than for it's own sake.

I'd love to continue the discussion but how about we do it after you've tried some of the techniques for yourself? That brings it in to the realm of opinions based on experience rather than theory, which is a much more solid foundation for a dialogue.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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For years professional chefs with solid foundations kept telling us that "searing the meat seals in the juices." The FDA continues to tell us that we should cook poultry to 165°F, and the American Heart Association insists that eating cholesterol will kill you. All respected individuals with tons of experience. But experience is no replacement for knowledge, and that knowledge tends to come from books like this one.

I should add that later this week I will be using Activa RM to glue leeks to a sous vide pork tenderloin. In the name of science.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Thanks for getting us back to cooking with Modernist Cuisine, Chris. I'm making shrimp & grits but, lacking the liquid nitrogen they use to freeze and shatter corn, I'm sticking to meal that Bob ground in his red mill. :wink:

I am following the modernist instructions for the grits in the book, however: "cook over medium heat for about 40 minutes; stir constantly until mixture softens and forms grits."

Got intrigued by the bacon powder recipe in the book, but it seems a bit too refined for this dish so I used the grease to cook the shrimp. Has anyone made bacon powder?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks for getting us back to cooking with Modernist Cuisine, Chris.

Apologies for the drift from topic. I sometimes get defensive when I hear "my way is the best way because I've been doing it longer than you/I went to this school/I've worked here and here" type statements but I'll refrain from jumping in on that one from here on out.

Got intrigued by the bacon powder recipe in the book, but it seems a bit too refined for this dish so I used the grease to cook the shrimp. Has anyone made bacon powder?

I've made bacon powder in the past using Linda's process from the Playing with Fire and Water blog. Her post was actually on chicken powder but I modified it to bacon for the specific use I had in mind. She actually billed hers as as a chicken croquant so it may be quite different from the process you're looking at. Since Modernist Cuisine isn't in the budget at this time, I can't compare the processes.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I just parcooked a batch of risotto to go along with that pork tenderloin. I'm not sure I can source the Angelica root or bitter orange zest the brine for the pork calls for. Anyone have any thoughts on subs, or just leave them out?

Edited by Chris Hennes
Clarified that the brine was for the pork, not the risotto! (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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