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Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (Part 1)


Chris Hennes
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Merkinz, it doesn't matter if the water in your pressure cooker touches the bowl or not. All that matters is that you supply enough water to enable the water vapour to reach the correct pressure, temperature, and 100% saturation. If you use less water, it reaches pressure faster.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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Keith & Chris: If I use the trivet for something like this (my cooker came with one) does the surrounding water need to be touching the bowl / container containing the food?

Thanks for the tip Baselerd but I think my pure was unreasonably thick! I'll give the authors the benefit of the doubt though because the scorching in the pan may have had something to do with it. In the end I had the siphon inverted holding my finger over the nozzle and whipping the bottle down with force using my whole arm (like when you try to get the last out of the shampoo bottle). Then when I opened the siphon after getting as much out as I could there was still half of the mixture still stuck to the sides and the bottom of the siphon - nowhere near the nozzle.

Out of curiosity does any one know how many chargers you can crack into a 0.5L siphon before it gets dangerous? :biggrin:

Isn't there a pressure-relief safety feature? I usually charge my ISI soda siphon with 2 chargers, and about 5% of the last charger will come rushing out because it's just a teeny bit too much pressure. I imagine you could add chargers until bean foam starts unwantedly spraying all over your counter top, but you don't have to worry about it exploding

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Pressure-Cooked Quinoa Salad with Cauliflower (pp. 170-171)

This is a cold salad of quinoa and cauliflower, accented with apple, pine nuts, parsley, celery, and currants: the dressing is white balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and macadamia nut oil. The cauliflower is shaved a la Adria's "couscous" and the quinoa is quickly pressure cooked (four minutes, with a rapid cooldown). Start to finish the dish takes under an hour.

The cauliflower:

DSC_0250.jpg

The cooked and chilling quinoa:

DSC_0258.jpg

Finished salad, served as a main:

DSC_0269.jpg

Overall the flavor balance here was very good: I might go a little lighter on the parsley next time, mine is pretty aggressively flavored and 40g is quite a lot of parsley. The pressure-cooked quinoa was nice, it had a good texture. I've never made quinoa before so I can't really compare to other techniques, however.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Green Salad with Romaine Dressing (pp. 168-169)

The ultra-green dressing for this salad is based on romaine lettuce, along with chives, mint, tarragon, and basil. It's also got a strong dose of Parmesan and anchovies and is emulsified by a sous vide soft-cooked egg. I served it over Boston lettuce with radishes, sous vide beets, and pecans. The dressing is good but not great, tasting first of Parmesan, then through the progression of herbs. I'd make it again as it was quite simple and the color is striking, but I'm not convinced it really deserves a two-page spread in this particular volume.

DSC_0282.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Sous Vide Buffalo Wings (pp. 250-251)

Buffalo Sauce (p. 258)

Blue Cheese Sauce (p. 261)

Green Salad with Romaine Dressing (pp. 168-169)

Today was an all-afternoon Modernist cooking day, doing a bunch of prep for things I'm making for dinner later this week. While I was making a chicken stock and a vegetable stock, I decided I'd also make some Buffalo wings for dinner. Of course, this is a multi-step process itself, but it fit in between stock steps pretty well. It begins by brining the wings in a salt and baking soda brine for flavor and Maillard improvement. While that was going on, I made the blue cheese dip: this is just an emulsion of Gorgonzola in whole milk, thickened with Wondra:

DSC_0293.jpg

Next up, the buffalo sauce: this is basically a mayonaise made with an infused oil. It's designed to allow the wings to stay crispy even with the sauce on them. The infusion has onion, garlic, jalapeño, chipotle en adobo, and paprika:

DSC_0296.jpg

This simmers for a half hour, until you have:

DSC_0307.jpg

Strained:

DSC_0315.jpg

Emulsified with an egg yolk into lemon juice:

DSC_0318.jpg

The wings come out of the brine, get patted dry, and are then cooked sous vide for an hour:

DSC_0311.jpg

DSC_0314.jpg

They come out of the SV, get patted dry, and then shallow-fried at 392°F:

DSC_0322.jpg

And finally, plated up with the same salad as yesterday (minus the beets and pecans):

DSC_0324.jpg

When I tasted the buffalo sauce on its own I was not terribly impressed, but once it was on the wings I changed my tune (in particular once dipped in the blue cheese). These were really, really good wings. Tough to do for a crowd, I think, since you can't fry that many at a time, but the taste and texture were top notch.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I too had some time on my hand this weekend and wanted to try a few of the easier recipes... However everything I've tried from this book so far has led the to believe is a the Modernist Disappointment :unsure:

So today I tried:

Pressure-Caramelized Peanut Sauce (P.111) ... I remember seeing this in the PDF preview that had the full contents page and I've been wanting to try it ever since. Sounds amazing!

Got everything I need locally. I even had enough leftover galangal from making Tom Yum soup.

P1010766.jpg

Into the pressure cooker and this time I put it in a bowl on the trivet:

P1010769.jpg

After pressure cooking it was pureed and then seasoned with palm sugar, salt and 40g of fish sauce (I decided to use only 30g as I felt that 40g would simply be to much based on how the sauce tasted at that stage. So how was it? Very disappointing, by itself it tasted dull with what can only be described as generic maillard aromas (not in a good way either) with a strong fish sauce note and a hint of peanut. The galangal and shallot aromas/flavors were obliterated by the pressure cooking. When this sauce was paired with the rice noodles (see below) it seemed to improve a little with more of the peanut flavor coming through. But I won't be making this again.

Interestingly when you look through the book this very peanut sauce is shown in several photos. First it is shown on the actual recipe page (below middle) then it is shown again on Skewers recipes page (below left). I've included a photo of my results from following the recipe to the letter (with the exception of the 10g of fish sauce I left out). It's quite different isn't it! ... if you follow the recipe you get a not so great tasting gray fluid.

0001-1.jpg

Moving on I wanted to pair the peanut sauce with the ...

Rice Noodles (P.271) I've been making pasta for a while now and I'm quite used to making pasta, I had great success with the pasta recipe in MC so naturally I was pleased to see some variations on the basic recipe.

My dough had 3 - 4 hours rest time in the fridge to hydrate (the recipe prescribes between 1 and 24 hours rest time).

P1010788.jpg

Then it was rolled out (ultimately to 2mm thickness), rested again, then cut and rested yet again. This recipe didn't cut too well. I have an Atlas pasta cutter and have never had problems in the past but with this recipe the noodles just wanted to stick to each other as soon as they passed through the cutter. hmmmmmmmm ... :huh:

P1010793.jpg

Well the noodles tasted OK (cooked for 45 seconds in boiling water) but it was difficult to get past the disappointing sticking mass of noodles. :sad: Here they are dressed with the peanut sauce and a little peanut oil.

P1010794.jpg

... The show must go on! So I decided to make some...

Mediterranean Vegetable Confit (p.126) ... I LOVED the Pressure-cooked Garlic Confit from MC and it has become a staple in our house so I thought I'd try its cousin. :biggrin:

Fairly straight forward really... chop vegetables, cook.

P1010776.jpg

Mine were a little overcooked (the bell peppers were really withered and the zucchini was very very soft) but it tasted great. I'll likely cut the cooking time down when I make this again and / or cut the vegetables a little thicker (the mushrooms were about right). I look forward to trying the Fingerling Potatoes Confit but fingerling potatoes are a little hard to come by around here so we'll see.

P1010791.jpg

All in all this was another disappointing venture into MCAH and this time it wasn't because I had technical issues, this time it was simply because the flavors just weren't that great. I'll press on but I can't help but feel let down. :sad:

Edited by Merkinz (log)
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Merkinz when I was cooking the huge US BBQ from MC I was also quite disappointed in the dressing for both the potato salad and the coleslaw - I found them boring and - for the first time in my memory - there were leftovers of both. Yesterday we had another BBQ but it was just a typical kiwi style one. I made my normal coleslaw and potato salad but - thanks to MC - I made a few changes which really did make a huge difference; I put bacon fat in my coleslaw dressing and I used muscat vinegar in the potato salad. They were big improvements to my original recipe which was already hugely more tasty than the MC version. I tend to think that the main point of these books is to teach a new technique and style and that maybe that is more important than the flavors in some of the dishes. So even though you feel your MCAH experience hasn't been all that great so far - I bet you will end up using some of the techniques in future dishes.

Having said all that - I would still use the MC recipes for the meat on the BBQ as it was truly stunning.

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jfrater, thanks for your comment. I know what you're saying, I too have read and cooked a bunch of thing form MC and gained a tremendous wealth of information. This is in fact the very reason I pre-ordered MCAH. I imagined that it would largely be a recipe book with key techniques form MC distilled into the recipe pages.

However from the few recipes I've cooked so far I'm quite simply dissapointed! I'm intentionally avoiding the recipes that were hits from MC (such as their Mac n' Cheese) and focusing on the 'new' recipes. I can't help but feel that these were thrown together without much thought and weren't thoroughly tested. The peanut sauce recipe is terrible and I can't imagine using any part of that again.

I do want to like this book, I paid alot of money for it after all, and I will keep on trying recipes in the hopes of finding a few hits to make it worth while :smile: ... but I won't sing its praise if all I get is dissapointment after dissapointment when cooking from its pages.

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I don't have the book as yet but somewhat in their defence Thai food is not meant to be cooked entirely to a recipe. Differences in ingredients make it virtually impossible to give exact proportions. I went to a cooking demonstration by David Thompson yesterday and the very final thing that he did was taste the dish and adjust the amounts of fish sauce, sugar, etc to taste. Without this you will not get a sweet/sour/salty/hot balance, which is the desired outcome in Thai food.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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When I tasted the buffalo sauce on its own I was not terribly impressed, but once it was on the wings I changed my tune (in particular once dipped in the blue cheese). These were really, really good wings. Tough to do for a crowd, I think, since you can't fry that many at a time, but the taste and texture were top notch.

Did the sauce do what it was supposed to do -- "allow the wings to stay crispy even with the sauce on them"?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I tried wings today too. I made the Crispy Korean Style wings. They were excellent.

Chris, I also tried the blue cheese sauce. I made the aerated version with the siphon. All my guests loved it.

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Cauliflower Soup (p. 180)

Using the leftover cauliflower from the quinoa salad I made the other day, I made the pressure-cooked Cauliflower Soup for dinner tonight. This is made the same was as the carrot soup that we know and love, but replaces the carrots with cauliflower and the carrot juice with vegetable stock. I think I'm on the record as saying that the MC sous vide vegetable stock is drinkable on its own it is so good: I think this is the same recipe (though I admit I didn't actually check). The pressure-cooked cauliflower has a nice roasted flavor, so coupled with the stock the soup itself was excellent. It was also very creamy, considering that it has no cream in it, though I suppose this might just be due to the BlendTec. MCaH's suggested garnishes are very similar to those used in the MC deep-fried cauliflower recipe: Chaat Masala, Marcona almonds, and grapes (instead of the tamarind in the original). I enjoy this flavor combination, though I admit that considering that the rest of the dish took very little time (not counting cooking the stock) there was no way I was going to peel the grapes.

Cauliflower soup.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris it looks great! ... did you season your soup with the Chaat Masala? If so how do you think the soup would be good without this seasoning? I'm looking for my next dish to cook and was just perusing the pressure cooked vegetable soup pages.

Also can I get your thoughts on the Broccoli-Gruyere Soup. The recipe implies that the cheese would go in the pressure cooker with the broccoli and liquids but I am a little hesitant to try this as it seems to go against logic and I haven't had much luck with the book thus far...

Thanks

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However from the few recipes I've cooked so far I'm quite simply dissapointed! I'm intentionally avoiding the recipes that were hits from MC (such as their Mac n' Cheese) and focusing on the 'new' recipes. I can't help but feel that these were thrown together without much thought and weren't thoroughly tested. The peanut sauce recipe is terrible and I can't imagine using any part of that again.

I completely understand where you're coming from here. I haven't had any real losers, but so far none of the recipes has scaled the heights that were to be found in the original: there have been no revelations so far, just some good food. In any other cookbook I'd be fine with that, but between the precedent set by the original MC and the price tag of this one, the bar was set pretty high.

I've also been quite disappointed with the decisions they made with respect to ingredient selection. It's almost as though their entire goal was to make this "home cookin'" by omitting anything that sounded "chemically." I don't think it's reasonable to argue that their ingredient selections were based only on availability: I have to order Tipo 00 flour from the same place I order Calcium Chloride, and even Chervil is basically unobtainable here unless I grow it myself. I'm OK with drawing the esoteric ingredient line someplace (e.g. no transglutiminase) but I think they drew it too far back, especially considering that many of the more conventional non-chemical ingredients are equally difficult to procure.

I also find that many of the recipes here are very simple extrapolations from "mother" recipes in MC: this would be completely fine in a $25 cookbook, but in a volume as expensive as this one I don't think I can blow a two-page spread on grilled-cheese sandwiches, or vegetable puree soups. I was looking for a little more innovation, rather than just "OK, now that you've learned how to emulsify cheese with sodium citrate, let's spend eight pages thinking up completely conventional uses for it. How about... baked mac and cheese!"

I think ultimately it comes down to value, which is of course a very personal thing: I believe this is a good cookbook. It is certainly a gorgeous cookbook. The recipes are clear, extraordinarily well-illustrated, and in my experience good to very good tasting. But this book retails for $140 US. There's no escaping that in the shadow of Modernist Cuisine, this is... just a cookbook.

Edited by Chris Hennes
Wording (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Chris it looks great! ... did you season your soup with the Chaat Masala? If so how do you think the soup would be good without this seasoning?

I did, that's what the little sprinkles are on the surface (this is the Chaat Masala recipe from the original MC, however, because I had it on hand. I don't know if the one in MCaH is different). Yes, the soup is perfectly delicious without it, albeit a bit more conventional-tasting: which is to say, it's a top-notch roasted cauliflower soup, but not unique. The Chaat Masala, almonds, and grapes are what take it someplace new.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I too had some time on my hand this weekend and wanted to try a few of the easier recipes... However everything I've tried from this book so far has led the to believe is a the Modernist Disappointment :unsure:

So today I tried:

Pressure-Caramelized Peanut Sauce (P.111) ... I remember seeing this in the PDF preview that had the full contents page and I've been wanting to try it ever since. Sounds amazing!

Got everything I need locally. I even had enough leftover galangal from making Tom Yum soup.

P1010766.jpg

Into the pressure cooker and this time I put it in a bowl on the trivet:

P1010769.jpg

After pressure cooking it was pureed and then seasoned with palm sugar, salt and 40g of fish sauce (I decided to use only 30g as I felt that 40g would simply be to much based on how the sauce tasted at that stage. So how was it? Very disappointing, by itself it tasted dull with what can only be described as generic maillard aromas (not in a good way either) with a strong fish sauce note and a hint of peanut. The galangal and shallot aromas/flavors were obliterated by the pressure cooking. When this sauce was paired with the rice noodles (see below) it seemed to improve a little with more of the peanut flavor coming through. But I won't be making this again.

Interestingly when you look through the book this very peanut sauce is shown in several photos. First it is shown on the actual recipe page (below middle) then it is shown again on Skewers recipes page (below left). I've included a photo of my results from following the recipe to the letter (with the exception of the 10g of fish sauce I left out). It's quite different isn't it! ... if you follow the recipe you get a not so great tasting gray fluid.

0001-1.jpg

Hello Merkinz,

My name is Johnny, and I am a development chef at Modernist Cuisine. We always appreciate constructive criticisms of our recipes and we are always eager to help clarify any steps that don't work out for those who are trying to use Modernist Cuisine at Home. I have a few suggestions that may help you with the peanut sauce and pressure cooking in general,.

First of all, I understand that the scorching of the siphoned refried beans led you to try using a trivet and a layer of water.

With regared to the refried beans, I always find it helpful to give the pressure cooker a few shakes while the pressure is building in the pot. Depending on whether you are using a gas, electric or induction burner different hot spots will affect the potential for scorching. And since you can't remove the lid to stir the pot, a few shakes during the initial heating should keep the beans from settling into one place and burning.

Second, with regard to the peanut sauce, I think that the suggestion to use a trivet and water in the bottom of the pressure cooker was good for preventing the scorching, but had an unfortunate side effect. If a significant amount of water was used to get the pressure built in the cooker, from under the trivet, then that water may have diluted the peanut sauce during the cooking process when it converted to steam. This would explain why the sauce seemed "dull" and thin. May I suggest that you simply put all of the ingredients directly into the pressure cooker, and give it a few agitations to prevent scorching.

Please let me know if you have any other questions. We are always delighted to help.

Johnny Zhu

Edited by jzhu (log)

Johnny Zhu
Research and Development Chef for Modernist Cuisine
johnny@modernistcuisine.com

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Thanks Chris for your interesting comments.

Also thanks for your input Johnny! It is great to see some help from the MCAH team here and it is most appriciated. I'll revisit both of these recipes with these suggestions in mind and I hope I am proven wrong with the peanut sauce. :smile:

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... Right!

Pressure-Caramelized Peanut Sauce (p.111) revisited. So after receiving Johnny's comments on the peanut sauce I felt that I owed them a second batch before I wrote the recipe off completely.

I prepared all the ingredients exactly the same, I had all the ingredients I needed from the previous batch. The ONLY change I made was I dumped all the ingredients into the bottom of the pressure cooker instead of using a trivet.

P1010800.jpg

tick, tick, tick, ... 40 minutes later and ...

P1010806.jpg

BOOM! It was a completely different sauce! It was thick, it was rich, it was balanced, it was DELICIOUS!!! Holy s^*t it was delicious :biggrin: ... the difference between the two (both shown in this picture above, left is the OLD sauce, right is the NEW sauce) was incredible and there was only a very slight change in the way I cooked it. I held back again and only put 30g of fish sauce in but the peanut flavor was robust enough that it could easily hold the 40g that the recipe suggests. The sauce was MUCH thicker, just right for a peanut sauce note the sauce on the left in the picture is fridge cold (colder generally means thicker) whereas the new sauce on right is piping hot but still thicker. I gave a spoon full to my other half and said: "Here, try this, this is what I was meant to serve you last night", she tasted it and her face lit up immediately: "mmmmmmmmm, thats delicious!"... :rolleyes:

This recipe is a winner so I'm here to eat some humble pie and say thank you to Johnny. I wouldn't have been able to enjoy it if I didn't bring it to the forums ... I simply wouldn't have made it again.

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The series of peanut sauce posts is one reason why I love to read threads here: constructive criticism with results!

I'm going to put that peanut sauce on our agenda for later this week.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Was greeted with display shelves full of honeycrisp apples when I went to the market today, so the parsnip and apple soup is definitely on the menu tonight or tommorow!

I have a question about the red wine glaze in the book if anyone has tried that recipe yet. In the first step you brown almost 3 pounds of ground meat, set it aside, then use some of the rendered fat from it in the next step. None of the remaining grease nor the meat is mentioned again, so am I correct in assuming that you are only using the ground meat to obtain rendered beef fat, and then are left with a bunch of ground meat that you will need to repurpose?

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