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Chris Hennes

"Modernist Cuisine at Home" by Myhrvold and Bilet

290 posts in this topic

And now some more positive words about amazon.ca - contacted them last night (Australian time) about the issue, they responded inside an hour and arranged to send a replacement copy, with me to return the orginal once the new one arrives. Hopefully the new one comes in a box!

So, hopefully a happy outcome!

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Update on Amazon.ca; responded to my complaint quickly, offered to either replace or 20% discount on a new. Haven't decided yet I'm waiting to find out what the 20% is on. Is it the current list price or the price I got it at. However the Amazon response was quick and acceptable.

This must be so disappointing for the MC team. I feel terrible for them all this hard work ruined by a bit of scrimping by Amamzon.ca I wonder if they'll learn from this balls up.

VOl

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I wanted to add aside from the courier issues the book looks fantastic. I flicked through it quickly last night and I want to try everything which is not always the case with a cookbook. And my partner was vocal in appreciating the dishes(this is a huge compliment I've not seen her respond to a recipes like that before) I also believe it will help adjusting, understanding and playing with the recipes from MC.Now to start cooking from it this week. Excited!


Edited by Volition (log)

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I received my re-order today! I had selected the gift option and what do you know, it came in the custom MCaH box. :)

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Amazon.co.uk have told me twice it will never be carried by them again, just return and look elsewhere.

So when miraculously it came back into stock today I emailed them and asked for my duplicate copy.

To which they replied that if they sent out another it'd just get beaten up again, so they aren't going to bother sending me one!!!!

the missive ended "Did I solve your problem?" I let forth a frail bark of mirth.


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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wow thats as dumb as it gets. no wait ....

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pocket scale: pp 7

where might I get one of these? I did look in the back, and found A & D scales but they wanted me to request a quote.

Id like to get one of these smaller scales as I have the larger one.

cheers and thanks.

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Amazon.ca also sent me an unprotected book. The replacement just arrived in an MC-branded box, so there's hope for anyone else who is still waiting.

I'm just amazed that Amazon.ca could screw things up so much. The last time I ordered something from them was MC itself and they managed to send only the kitchen manual (this was eventually resolved, but only after a bit of back-and-forth and help from the MC team). I thought maybe they'd have things under control this time, but apparently not.

- Sharif

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I gather if one doesn't have a Sous Vide set-up then it's pointless getting MC at Home?

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Maybe not 100% pointless (you'd probably be worse-off without a pressure cooker), but there are a LOT of recipes that use it.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I gather if one doesn't have a Sous Vide set-up then it's pointless getting MC at Home?

I don't have a sous vide setup and have enjoyed quite a few recipes out of the book :)

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They actually make it a point to explain how you can do a lot of the low temp stuff without an immersion circulator. It's definitely a super nice bit of kit to have, but not necessary for the majority of the recipes and techniques in the book.

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pocket scale: pp 7

where might I get one of these? I did look in the back, and found A & D scales but they wanted me to request a quote.

Id like to get one of these smaller scales as I have the larger one.

cheers and thanks.

I got mine from Amazon a couple years ago. About $20.00

LINK

HTH

Larry


Edited by heidih (log)

Larry Lofthouse

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I gather if one doesn't have a Sous Vide set-up then it's pointless getting MC at Home?

I have just finished reading it and... yes. If at least you don't plan to have a SV rig in the future, you will not get so much value out of the high price tag of the book, as many recipes require either SV or pressure-cooking.

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So I've finished reading the book cover to cover.

For an enthusiast like me, who has been trying to adapt MC to home cooking since its publication, this is a wonderful book. It tackles the same task but with the knowledge and capabilities of the MC team, so we get many new recipes or adaptations of existing ones, and the distillation of what they consider to be the tools, techniques and ingredients most applicable to home cooking. As expected, nothing new in terms of theory, mostly recipes and the selection of the appropiate subset of MC. Even having read the 5 volumes of MC cover-to-cover almost twice I have found a number of new nice tricks (maybe they were also in MC and I did not realize!) such as using diastatic malt for Vichyssoise, vacuum-packing meat with fish sauce to get a "rapid aging" type of result, of blanching chicken for roasting as a way to improve the skin.

For people who already own the original volume set I would recommend the new one only if you're an "enthusiast" and/or the price tag doesn't make you blink.

For those without MC, this is an excellent volume that I recommend without hesitation. Nevertheless I found a number of things that, to me, make the book not to be the "absolutly highest standard of excellence" for modernist home cooking. Which in fact I expected it to be.

First, a minor "packaging" issue. I don't quite get the point of the box to keep the main text and the kitchen manual together (which did have a clear function in the original volume set). I would expect the kitchen manual to live in the kitchen and the main text to live in the library in another room, so why increase the price with something that in most cases will not be used? Also, the original acrilic box left some free space between the books to allow easy retrieval of the volumes, but in the new box there's no space at all around the main volume, and retrieving it, well, it's not that easy.

I loved the first three chapters on tools and SV, although there are things I could not understand, like a full page devoted to the PacoJet, an out-of-reach tool for home cooks. The fourth chapter about ingredients... well, I consider it pretty poor, really not to the quality level of the MC team. Mainly pictures with cursory explanations of the set of selected modernist ingredients, or telling where to buy exotic ones (a two page spread to tell that Mirin should be bought in japanese shops and fish sauce in asian shops?, come on!)

The rest of the book (most of it) is then devoted to the recipes. As several others have said, it is mostly a cookbook, so this is the most interesting part and where the new content is to be found. There are many new recipes and variations of MC recipes, and they look wonderful, as the "Cooking with MCaH" shows, I cannot wait to try most of them.

The recipe format from MC has been extended to include volume as well as weight measurements (very useful!) and then enlarged with a repetition of each of the steps in a more visually-appealing format, sometimes with more details about the step, and ilustrating some of them with nice pictures. While I found the "pictured" steps useful in many cases, showing what should be the texture to achieve or how to perform some specific steps, I also found that many pictures where not really needed (the n-th picture of a container with vacuum-sealed food and the Polyscience circulator does not add much value, does it?) and many of the steps where just repeated without additional info. Which means that many recipes take more space that I think they required, taking pages that could have been devoted to more useful things (though maybe this is not a real trade-off as once you take some place in the page you must devote the full page given the way the book is conceived, and the edition work is really terrific).

What are the real shortcomings to me? First, even for an "at home" set, I think it's a bit too cursory on the science explanations. Knowing the "whys" is a main tenet of modernism, and while the book contains a lot of "whys" sidebars, they're scattered here and there on the different chapters and recipes and I think it's not so easy to get the big picture if this is your main or only "modernist" title. For an example, I think "Heston Blumenthal at Home" dealt with this much better, with brief "theory" introductions to each chapter that are really excellent. In fact I would recommend everyone wanting to do this type of "modernist" cooking at home to get both books, MCaH and HBaH.

Especially bad in my opinion is that the book contains NO TIME-TO-CORE TABLES FOR SOUS-VIDE, and also very short discussion of the food safety issues involved. This means that the home cook who only has this volume does not have all the tools he needs to fully define his SV cooking strategy. While I understand the book has a very practical focus to make it more palatable to home cookers, this is IMO too much of a dumbing down of sous-vide. So each recipe gives one or several time/size recommended combinations and then instructs the cook who happens to have a piece with a different width... to use a probe! Sorry? Are they asking home cooks to use an hypodermic probe and foam tape to get the SV times right? Is this a joke? Is that home cooking anymore?

Finally, I think there are a few things that could have had a place in this volume and are not included. The following come to mind: clarification techniques such as gelatin and freeze-thaw, or using agar (one of the modernist ingredientes included), both are dead-simple and consommés have their place at homes; dry ice for ice creams, fast-freezing and other usages; of french fries (there's no recipe for fries! Leaving out the ultrasonic version is understandable, but why not the basic triple-cooked?).

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Especially bad in my opinion is that the book contains NO TIME-TO-CORE TABLES FOR SOUS-VIDE

It's funny you mention this as that is the first thing I looked for when I opened the book and was also disappointed not to find it. I don't have a SV setup yet but I am gifting the book to someone who is about to get a SV.

I also share your confusion on the full page spread on the PacoJet. It is about as useful to a home cook as a full page spread of Jamie Oliver smiling at a handful of beans (no offense Jamie if you are reading this).

I am loving the book however and do think that the pages on SV equipment will be worth it to the person I am giving the book to.

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It's funny you mention this as that is the first thing I looked for when I opened the book and was also disappointed not to find it. I don't have a SV setup yet but I am gifting the book to someone who is about to get a SV.

In fact I also think one of the very few shortcomings of the original sets was that the time-to-core tables were included in the main volumes but not in the kitchen manual, deceiving much of the value of having the KM in the kitchen (I am constantly going to pickup volume 2 for those tables when I'm cooking SV, it would have been so useful AND EVIDENT that they had a clear place in the KM...)

I am loving the book however and do think that the pages on SV equipment will be worth it to the person I am giving the book to.

I am sure it will be of great value, I think the book is wonderful, it's just a pity those few details that make it miss the mark of absolute excellence...

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although a very small complaint, as I have one, I think the Thermapen should have been mentioned on the temp probe page.

and about that PACO jet ....

as a stand alone book for those w/o the larger tomes, it does give one a good idea what SV might be like with just zip-locks and an insulated cooler with no other stuffa to try out and then decide on taking the plunge or not.


Edited by rotuts (log)

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Actually Thermoworks as a company is mentioned somewhere, if I remember correctly, but the Thermapen product is not on the probe page.

Given that they don't provide SV time-to-core tables, mentioning tools such as SousVideDash also would have been useful.

I was also surprised that the quinoa recipe does not require pre-soaking it to remove the saponin... am I wrong or this is an important safety issue, isn't it?

Another "nice to have" would have been more "Best Bets" tables. I find them one of most useful items in the original volumes, and simpler tables could have been included here. There are only "best bets" for some SV temperatures. I think that, in addition to recipes, best bets for stock aromatics, pickling, pressure-cook times, etc would have been great and would have made the Kitchen Manual the best all-in-one place-to-look-up when cooking.


Edited by EnriqueB (log)

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Another "nice to have" would have been more "Best Bets" tables. I find them one of most useful items in the original volumes, and simpler tables could have been included here.

The things I found most useful out of MC were the tables for things like frying batters and pickles etc. where you would move down the table for the different types of batter/pickle and then across the table for the ingredients for a particular batter/pickle. I use these tables alot!

This would have worked really well for things like the different pestos as well as the infused fats and oils. ... maybe risottos as well?

... but I'm biased, I do love a good table :biggrin:

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Having only made three recipes from the MC:AH I am very impressed. I think the thing that I am surprised about is how much I want the big brother now! I think that I am going to have to save my pennies and get that soon. Yes that is a LOT of pennies.

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Another one: their rendition of "paella" would make most spaniards laugh, purist around would simply scream...

Two distinguising features of good paellas are that it is a completely dry rice, and that it has a crust from Maillard reactions on the bottom (in contact with the paella pan, called "socarrat"). I think none of them is respected in the MCaH version.

The hard part of making a great paella is to control the liquid so that the rice ends up completely dry, especially because all or most of the liquid is added at the beginning and it is not stirred. This is hard and usually makes people use exactly the same variety of rice and exact fire settings so it can be obtained in a consistent manner. Minor changes on type of rice or strength of fire alter the rice/liquid ratio to get this, and although minor aditions of liquid can be done to adjust, most should be guessed at the beginning. In my opinion, much as I like pressure cookers, this simply cannot be done with a pressure cooker. Also getting the "socarrat" crust would be hard (and they don't attempt to do it in their recipes).

What we search with modernist versions of classical dishes is to improve them somehow, but I think their version only detracts, you cook faster but the result is not better. In fact, the rice pictures that illustrate the paella dishes does not look like a dry rice, and they would be called around here simply "Arroz de" ("Rice"), but not paella. Of couse it can be excellent but it would not be a paella. Note that there are neverending discussions between Spaniards themselves of what really is a paella, but I'm not in that camp, I do not favor tradition and fixed rules per se, but in this case they move away too much from the spirit and features of the dish.

For what I consider a good modern/modernist rendition of paella, see for example this one (in Spanish) and its comments: http://www.umami-madrid.com/2012/07/25/mejorando-el-arroz-y-el-marisco-en-paella/

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Another one: their rendition of "paella" would make most spaniards laugh, purist around would simply scream...

Two distinguising features of good paellas are that it is a completely dry rice, and that it has a crust from Maillard reactions on the bottom (in contact with the paella pan, called "socarrat"). I think none of them is respected in the MCaH version.

The hard part of making a great paella is to control the liquid so that the rice ends up completely dry, especially because all or most of the liquid is added at the beginning and it is not stirred. This is hard and usually makes people use exactly the same variety of rice and exact fire settings so it can be obtained in a consistent manner. Minor changes on type of rice or strength of fire alter the rice/liquid ratio to get this, and although minor aditions of liquid can be done to adjust, most should be guessed at the beginning. In my opinion, much as I like pressure cookers, this simply cannot be done with a pressure cooker. Also getting the "socarrat" crust would be hard (and they don't attempt to do it in their recipes).

What we search with modernist versions of classical dishes is to improve them somehow, but I think their version only detracts, you cook faster but the result is not better. In fact, the rice pictures that illustrate the paella dishes does not look like a dry rice, and they would be called around here simply "Arroz de" ("Rice"), but not paella. Of couse it can be excellent but it would not be a paella. Note that there are neverending discussions between Spaniards themselves of what really is a paella, but I'm not in that camp, I do not favor tradition and fixed rules per se, but in this case they move away too much from the spirit and features of the dish.

For what I consider a good modern/modernist rendition of paella, see for example this one (in Spanish) and its comments: http://www.umami-mad...isco-en-paella/

I agree 100%. It's not just a stretch to call that a paella. It's not even in the same ballpark! an Arroz or even risotto is more appropriate.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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Got my replacement today from Amazon CA. In an Amazon box, in a gift bag and in the proper MC cardboard box.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

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