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Chris Hennes

"Modernist Cuisine at Home" by Myhrvold and Bilet

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" it's cooking for people who make cooking a hobby "

yes!

" simply meet my day to day needs "

No. a SV freezer full off stuff actually meats your week day food.

this is not just for home folks. its what the 18 star restaurant have been doing for some time.

I havent been to one ( full disclosure )

but a lot of people ehjoy cooking for themselves, their family and their friends.

thats what this is about.

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My first impressions

My copy arrived yesterday and I've spent quite a bit of time reading it already and straight off the bat you WILL be disappointed if you compare MCAH to the original MC. However if you are comparing this book to the likes of Heston Blumenthal At Home, Ad Hock at Home By Thomas Keller, The Family Meal By Ferran Adria and other 'cookbooks' (i.e. not scientific compendiums) then this book definitely sits in the ranks among the best!

The pages are packed with well written recipes most of which have useful variations appended at the end and tips on troubleshooting tricky recipes. The recipes are both exciting and very approachable with clear guidelines on how long it will take to make, how much it will yield, how easy it is to make and in some cases how long it will last in the fridge (pickles, confit etc.). They make Sous Vide in general very approachable and in a large portion of the Sous Vide recipes they use zip lock bags (which is great because Modernist Cuisine left me feeling like I needed a chamber vacuum). There are quite a few recipes that use a pressure cooker which I am very much looking forward to. Each recipe has step by step photos on how they are made and photos usually have some thought behind them i.e. some of the sauce recipes have a photo where an upturned spoon has been dipped into the sauce, pulled out and had a finger wiped across the back of it giving a good indication of consistency (I couldn't think of a better way to convey this in a photograph).

Despite what the NYTimes review says I found the ingredient lists to be very tame! The modernist ingredients they use are usually gelatin, agar agar, sodium citrate, xanthan gum, wandra etc. and with the advent of modernist pantry the only ingredients you might have trouble finding are those that are regional (i.e. we don't get a variety of fresh mushrooms down here in NZ).

I am also really impressed and pleased that they use MSG in a few recipes (and only a very few recipes for those who are concerned). I think it is about time someone stepped up and started pushing MSG as a safe ingredient and what better way to do that than publish some recipes that use it. I mean it's all well and good that the likes of Heston and David Chang can go around preaching that it is a perfectly safe ingredient (and I'm glad that they do!) but it is a whole different story to publish some recipes that use it. I really applaud them for this. If you're interested in what and how they use it check out the Korean Chicken Wings on Chow:

http://www.chow.com/...n-chicken-wings

I have a little graphic design and photography experience from my past so I am usually hyper aware of these things and I think MCAH is a step backward from MC in this area. The pages are much more crowded (in their defense the pages are PACKED with much more information than MC) and the photos (although good) aren't quite to the standard of those in MC with digital noise apparent if a few. These minor gripes however will go unnoticed by 99% of those who open this book and 100% of those who have never thumbed through MC. MCAH is still leaps and bounds ahead of most cookbooks in this area (I'm looking your way Christina Tosi with all your pictures of kitchen staff throughout your book!) and all their photos go some way to either illustrate how your equipment works, describe the best process for preparing a dish or show what your results should/could look like.

MCAH is an excellent standalone cookbook in my opinion weather you own MC or not


Edited by Merkinz (log)

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Great review Merkinz - thanks for that. My copy hasn't arrived yet (I ordered it from Book Depository) - how are you all getting your copies before the shipping date?


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Great review Merkinz - thanks for that. My copy hasn't arrived yet (I ordered it from Book Depository) - how are you all getting your copies before the shipping date?

Cheers. I pre-ordered from amazon and for some reason they started sending them out last week :)

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excellent review. but I missed the NYTimes review: do you have a ref?

If one was in the medical field, the MSG Buzz was I recall a letter to the editor about the Head Ache and completely made up.

I look forward to my copy and its well worth it go get some sort of vaccum ( not chamber ) sealer.

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Same as Merkinz, amazon simply shipped it early. Their page still claims it hasn't been released yet, of course! Merkinz, I think it's interesting that you find the graphic design of this volume a step backwards from MC: I personally thought it was slightly better, not slightly worse. In particular, I thought the space utilization on the page was actually improved, with more information in less space, but never feeling crowded (in my opinion). In particular I liked that so many of the recipes had multiple in-process photographs, so you could see what things should look like at each stage.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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excellent review. but I missed the NYTimes review: do you have a ref?

If one was in the medical field, the MSG Buzz was I recall a letter to the editor about the Head Ache and completely made up.

I look forward to my copy and its well worth it go get some sort of vaccum ( not chamber ) sealer.

I'm sorry I was referring to the LA Times Review mentioned above... and now egullet is not letting me edit my post to reflect that. :wacko: My Bad.

Same as Merkinz, amazon simply shipped it early. Their page still claims it hasn't been released yet, of course! Merkinz, I think it's interesting that you find the graphic design of this volume a step backwards from MC: I personally thought it was slightly better, not slightly worse. In particular, I thought the space utilization on the page was actually improved, with more information in less space, but never feeling crowded (in my opinion). In particular I liked that so many of the recipes had multiple in-process photographs, so you could see what things should look like at each stage.

Chris, I guess I should further clarify (and I guess when you get to this level of quality it really just boils down to opinion):

Firstly the design of both books is FANTASTIC! And rivals every cookbook I have in my collection. But as you have also noticed there are differences between the two. MC is pure art, I feel like I could open any volume to almost any page and I could hang it up on my wall! There is alot of space for pictures, graphs and concepts to breathe on the page. MCAH is also graphic design bliss but from more of a utilitarian point of view. I agree that they have squeezed as much space out of each page as possible without crowding it. The recipes, the step by step photographs, the fact tidbits, the variations etc. all work in unison on the page but I just don't get the feel that I could hang it on my wall as art. To get the same effect as MC it would have been alot bigger, more expensive and the average home cook (at which the book is aimed) may well have said: "Whats with all the wasted space?"

Of course the idea of hanging a cookbook on the wall is silly! But I'm just trying to illustrate my opinion. To say that the design of MCAH was a 'step backward' from MC was a mistake... The design is simply different, more utilitarian with excellent use of space! I prefer the design of MC but that same design may well have not worked for MCAH. I do stand by my comment about the photos though... Although excellent in concept, composition etc. they don't quite reach the near perfect 'technical' quality of those in MC - and I'm only referring to a hand full of photos in the book, not every single one... Did they change the photographer? I didn't check that and I'm at work at the moment.

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" it's cooking for people who make cooking a hobby "

yes!

" simply meet my day to day needs "

No. a SV freezer full off stuff actually meats your week day food.

this is not just for home folks. its what the 18 star restaurant have been doing for some time.

I havent been to one ( full disclosure )

but a lot of people ehjoy cooking for themselves, their family and their friends.

thats what this is about.

Amen brother Rotuts!

I belong to the church of "cook a bunch of stuff and fill your freezer up"!

Speaking of which, a run to the local grocery store was made today to start to stock up my depleted freezer. Chicken thighs and breasts, hamburgers (yes, I sousvide them!), a pork roast, parsnips, celery root, potatos, carrots, leeks....and I may have forgotten a few things. Need to go back and get some lamb and beef, but was not happy what I saw in that dept. The next week will be fun cooking all these!

Cheers...

Todd in Chicago

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Received the book yesterday and skimmed through it a bit; ordered a pressure cooker today (and looked through the book some more.) I'm now considering sous vide options.

I found MC to be fascinating but a bit intimidating; MCaH is much more approachable, but as has been mentioned, many (most?) recipes require a pressure cooker and/or sous vide. That's not a criticism, just a fact. It IS modernist cooking after all.

I like that the beginning of each chapter has references to more detailed discussions of some of the topics at hand in the MC books -- a nice feature, but it's not at all essential to have MC; MCaH seems to stand as it's own book admirably.

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TinC: im interersted in your SV Veg adventure (frezzer ver.) as I really havent done much Veg yet.

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What size pressure cooker is everyone using? I have an 11-quart I use for stocks and such, but that is way too big for most of these recipes. I'm assuming 6-quart is ideal?

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Looks like the Amazon US price finally dropped. Now it's down to $127.48, a 9% savings. I wonder if the production costs wound up being more expensive than initially projected? Whatever the reason, I'm still glad I learned about the amazon.ca discount. Egullet to the rescue!

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What size pressure cooker is everyone using? I have an 11-quart I use for stocks and such, but that is way too big for most of these recipes. I'm assuming 6-quart is ideal?

Unless I've missed something, they don't really say in the book. Their master recipes for stocks tend to yield 2 - 5 cups, with scaling percentages provided.

I ordered a 7.4 quart pressure cooker because it was readily available, could provide some amount of stock, yet still cook other food for one or two people. I hope that was a good choice.

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What size pressure cooker is everyone using? I have an 11-quart I use for stocks and such, but that is way too big for most of these recipes. I'm assuming 6-quart is ideal?

Scanpan sell a set of two, that share the same lid. Consdiering the price, it works well - you get a big one for stocks, and a small one for smaller meals - eg perfect for the carrot soup.

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I wonder if 'early adopters' would get a refund with a call:

1-866-216-1072

I cant sand price manipulation! its been a week?

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Yesterday the LA times published a mixed review of Modernist Cuisine at Home written by Russ Parsons (here).

[...] I was dogged by the wish that Myhrvold had turned his vast knowledge to helping real home cooks rather than teaching hobbyists how to mimic avant-garde restaurant chefs [...] The first bump I ran into is probably one that will be shared by a lot of home cooks: Almost all of the recipes required either equipment or ingredients that I don't have [...] The bigger issue, though, was finding something in the book that I wanted to cook. There were several recipes that looked good, but on closer examination, most of them seemed to revolve around some modernist complication that would improve the dish only incrementally, if at all.

It's a little frustrating to see professional critics so dismissive of the techniques and ingredients used, especially when they compare it to how much easier/accessible traditional cooking is. As far as I'm concerned, the whole reason people buy the MC books is to learn about these non-traditional techniques.

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Especially since that stuff is the raison d'être of the whole book! It's like buying a book on using a bread machine and then complaining that it requires a bread machine.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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What size pressure cooker is everyone using? I have an 11-quart I use for stocks and such, but that is way too big for most of these recipes. I'm assuming 6-quart is ideal?

Scanpan sell a set of two, that share the same lid. Consdiering the price, it works well - you get a big one for stocks, and a small one for smaller meals - eg perfect for the carrot soup.

I meant I already have an 11-quart pressure cooker I use for stocks. That's too big to make carrot soup or risotto for two.

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therippa, one trick I use is to put a smaller bowl inside my pressure cooker, almost like a double boiler (except I have the water in the main PC touching the bowl). Then I can use whatever the best bowl size is for the quantity. You still have to heat enough water to pressurize the larger cooker, but that's not actually that much water (1cm should do fine). Just be careful about how high you crank the heat, and how fast you cool it down, as the inner bowl can boil over.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I wonder if 'early adopters' would get a refund with a call:

1-866-216-1072

I cant sand price manipulation! its been a week?

I tried an online chat. First, they told me that $140 was the lowest price at the time my book shipped. Then they switched to saying there was no price guarantee in place when I placed my order back in June. What a scam! Ship the book early then lower the price and now they don't have to honor their pre-order guarantee!


Anne Napolitano

Chef On Call

"Great cooking doesn't come from breaking with tradition but taking it in new directions-evolution rather that revolution." Heston Blumenthal

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well you could say you would return it

but I think you need to call that number

as the WSJ said their margins are extreemy thin no need to contibute to that

BTW returns are free!


Edited by rotuts (log)

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I just got shipment confirmation for my order through Amazon UK. Should have it next Friday!

I asked my local cookbook shop about it, but they hadn't even heard of it yet (apparently MCaH is self published like the first two printings of MC). They tried to inquire through Taschen, but as of yet, no international edition and no international distribution (besides Amazon) is planned, apparently.

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Yesterday the LA times published a mixed review of Modernist Cuisine at Home written by Russ Parsons (here).

I saw this review a couple of days ago and part of one paragraph struck me as odd....

My kitchen is pretty fully stocked (just ask my wife). In fact, I even have an immersion circulator. But to really get into this book, I probably also should have bought a vacuum sealer,...

Um, isn't an immersion circulator without a vacuum sealer (be it a chamber vac or a Foodsaver) kind of like having a 2 ton floor jack and no lug wrench?

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