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


Chris Hennes
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While we're talking about potential errors. I made the brown pork stock for my carnitas. It is a variant on the brown beef stock (sorry away from books so no page number). The stated yield of 1 liter is more than the amount of liquid included in the recipe. I added additional water and it worked well.

How much more? Pressure-cooked stocks always yield more than the water you put in, as water is extracted from the solid components also, and it is not evaporated as in conventional stocks. You can get as much as 50% more in a vegetable stock, or about 20% more in a bones/meat/vegetable stock, according to my experience.

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While we're talking about potential errors. I made the brown pork stock for my carnitas. It is a variant on the brown beef stock (sorry away from books so no page number). The stated yield of 1 liter is more than the amount of liquid included in the recipe. I added additional water and it worked well.

I was curious about the pork stock in the carnitas. Kenji did a Food Lab Article on carnitas and determined that because of the thermal and hydrophobic properties of oil vs water, cooking them in fat was far suprior to cooking in anything water based. He found that cooking in stock made the meat drier and more overcooked. Has anyone tried the MCAH recipe who has some carnitas experience?

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This weekend was my first foray into actually cooking from the book:

Brown Chicken Stock

I *think* this turned out great, but I haven't tasted it yet. At refrigerator temp, the resulting stock was somewhere between liquid and pudding, so it certainly pulled a lot of gelatin out of the wings. Color was a dark brown, and it was very cloudy. My only issue with this is the huge waste of chicken meat which is discarded at the end. I appreciate that the recipes are often going for best flavor, not cheapest or easiest, but it would be nice to see a variation on this which tries to economize better, e.g. by using chicken carcass and/or braising legs both for eating and to flavor the stock. Also would be nice to have some more background on pros/cons compared to traditional stock methods. The clarity doesn't seem great, so I guess if that was important to what I wanted to do with the stock, I would clarify after, or maybe use a different method entirely.

Microwaved Eggplant Parmesan

This was very tasty, a good version of this dish, but for me not particularly special. The cheesy panko topping surprisingly had a decent texture, even after the final microwave step, but I still prefer something crustier, and this was more of a loose pile of crumbs. If I did this again, I'd do the last step in the oven, not the microwave, which would also let me throw on the cheese and panko w/out pre-baking it. I like the idea of using the microwave to par-cook and dehydrate the eggplant, but I didn't notice a difference in the final quality from traditional cooking methods. Then there's another microwave step to fully steam it, and a final step as well to heat the assembled dish. Can the middle step be skipped? Or can the second two microwave steps be traded for a bake in the oven? If not, why not? The book doesn't go into much detail, and this recipe felt fussier than it had to be for no good reason.

Mussels Mariniere

I used cider instead of wine, and that was fine except the cider was a little too sweet. In terms of the overall value proposition of the modernist version of this dish, I ended up very frustrated. I figured the initial two minute steam in a bag had something to do with getting the mussels to open up a bit and make shucking them easier, although the book doesn't actually say. In fact, it seemed to have very little effect, other than making the mussels sticky from the cider. Shucking them was then a lot of work. Not sure how much of that was due to lack of practice, and also due to a batch of mussels with VERY skimpy flesh, but it I think it'd be time consuming in any case. A lot of work for what was often just a tough foot and a few shreds of flesh. Never cooked mussels at home, so don't know if this is unusual. Certainly a far cry from what's pictured in the book. I wonder if cooking them in the shell would cause them to detach much more cleanly, and also if it had something to do with the variety of mussel. Incidentally, the book calls for 1.1 lb of mussels for four servings, whereas in my case 2 lbs made just one serving. The flavor of the broth was good. Mostly subtle, but punchy from the pepper flakes and all the herbs. Certainly the sous vide step worked out great, but if there's ever a next time, I'll be inclined to just throw the mussels shells and all into the pot to steam.

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Welcome Mayland.

I've been making pressure cooked stocks for a while now.

First thing is, the method sucks almost all the flavour out of the chicken which is great for the stock but not so good for eating the by-product meat. You could always do a remoulage with the left overs to reduce waste.

Second is, and I'm not sure this is in the MC at home recipe as I am thousands of kilometers from my copy at the moment, you really need to immerse any unroasted pieces of chicken in water, bring to boil, and then drain to remove the impurities that cause the cloudiness.

Third is when you pressure cook, do not have it cooking so that the release valve is hissing. It needs to be at the point where it is pressured but not needing to release energy.

If you do these things, you should get a clearer product.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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

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Does MCAH contain any information about the brining technique? I heard Nathan talk about sub-threshold brining and found it really interesting but couldn't find any information about it.

Pot smoking I don't mind, kids get the munchies hot wing sales go right through the roof but when those kids get on god knows what they eat like little birds.

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Hello all,

While I don't have the book yet, I've cooked from MC (thanks library rental!) and have done all of the available "free" recipes out there. This includes salmon sous vide with spice butter, frozen steak to sous vide (with chuck, turned out incredible), caramelized squash, and the one that I've done the most: vegan gelato.

I've done multiple versions: cashew, strawberry-macadamia nut, and made up a nutella on the fly from the hazelnut recipe by adding 5-6 tbsp (don't remember, it was to taste) of great quality cocoa powder. I highly suggest running, not walking, to the nutella vegan gelato.

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I was curious about the pork stock in the carnitas. Kenji did a Food Lab Article on carnitas and determined that because of the thermal and hydrophobic properties of oil vs water, cooking them in fat was far suprior to cooking in anything water based. He found that cooking in stock made the meat drier and more overcooked. Has anyone tried the MCAH recipe who has some carnitas experience?

I generally like the Food Lab articles, but sometimes they can be a bit short on the understanding of science. The idea that a piece of meat in a pot of 98C water will "cook faster" than a piece of meat in a pot of 98C fat strikes me as a misunderstanding of the underlying thermodynamics. Sure, the pot of water may contain more thermal energy than the pot of oil, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the water transfers more thermal energy into the piece of meat over the course of the cooking period compared to the oil. This would likely be true if the burner were turned off once the meat was introduced into the liquid, but since the burner is constantly transferring thermal energy into the liquid it shouldn't be a significant factor. And so on. I don't dispute his findings and results in the linked article at all, but I do question some of his conclusions and the reasoning behind them. I'm especially curious about the assertion that cooking in oil somehow encourages more water to stay inside the meat, an assertion I'd love to see scientifically tested. Anyway, my strong suspicion is that the differences came down more to evaporation and actual differences in the temperature of the cooking medium. The real way to test whether water or oil has a difference on "doneness" and liquid retention in meats would be to seal samples of meat together with water or oil, cook sous vide at 98C for identical periods of time, then measure the liquid loss and evaluate the differences in the meat. My guess is that there would be very little difference, which would not support the thermodynamic and hydrophobicity hypotheses.

Regardless, pressure cooking works differently from "low and slow" cooking below the simmer. I've made plenty of pork dishes by pressure cooking in a limited amount of water, and they always came out tender and juicy.

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I generally like the Food Lab articles, but sometimes they can be a bit short on the understanding of science. The idea that a piece of meat in a pot of 98C water will "cook faster" than a piece of meat in a pot of 98C fat strikes me as a misunderstanding of the underlying thermodynamics. Sure, the pot of water may contain more thermal energy than the pot of oil, but it doesn't necessarily follow that the water transfers more thermal energy into the piece of meat over the course of the cooking period compared to the oil. This would likely be true if the burner were turned off once the meat was introduced into the liquid, but since the burner is constantly transferring thermal energy into the liquid it shouldn't be a significant factor. And so on. I don't dispute his findings and results in the linked article at all, but I do question some of his conclusions and the reasoning behind them. I'm especially curious about the assertion that cooking in oil somehow encourages more water to stay inside the meat, an assertion I'd love to see scientifically tested. Anyway, my strong suspicion is that the differences came down more to evaporation and actual differences in the temperature of the cooking medium. The real way to test whether water or oil has a difference on "doneness" and liquid retention in meats would be to seal samples of meat together with water or oil, cook sous vide at 98C for identical periods of time, then measure the liquid loss and evaluate the differences in the meat. My guess is that there would be very little difference, which would not support the thermodynamic and hydrophobicity hypotheses.

I half agree with you. I think they make two conclusions in that essay:

1.) The hydrophobic properties of oil help prevent water loss due to encapsulation of the food. I can buy this I suppose, as long as you guarantee the temperature is not high enough to generate steam within the food. I will say though that the qualitative assessment of dryer pork in the water-based preparation is hardly conclusive of this effect. I do agree though that their test was not as controlled as it could have been. Using sous vide bags definitely would eliminate possible sources of error such as evaporation.

2.) The higher specific heat capacity causes the water-based preparation to cook faster than the oil-based one. Here's where I agree with you slkinsey. As you mention, the burner can provide all the heat the oil or water needs to stay isothermal, so there is no shortage of energy in either preparation - provided there is enough volume of each liquid to keep the temperature reasonably stable. The real property of interest here is the thermal conductivity - a materials ability to conduct heat within itself and to other materials at the interface. In other words, a material with high thermal conductivity can transfer heat quickly and vise versa. Water has extremely high thermal conductivity - and a quick google search revealed that most cooking oils have less than half that of water. I think that in either case this should only affect the ramp-up time. Another factor I can think of is the viscosity of the oil and water. I can't imagine this being too much of a factor, but if the temperature of the cooking fluid is kept constant by natural convection then it is probable that the oil would be less efficient.

Edited by Baselerd (log)
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Second is, and I'm not sure this is in the MC at home recipe as I am thousands of kilometers from my copy at the moment, you really need to immerse any unroasted pieces of chicken in water, bring to boil, and then drain to remove the impurities that cause the cloudiness.

Third is when you pressure cook, do not have it cooking so that the release valve is hissing. It needs to be at the point where it is pressured but not needing to release energy.

True, it does call for a blanching for the white stock, but not the brown. Not sure why not.

I'm using an electric cooker, and it wants to vent steadily, although not vigorously. From what I've read, this might not be ideal for flavor also. As an aside, I wish "venting" or "non-venting" as well as PSI were listed in the product information for more pressure cookers...

I generally like the Food Lab articles, but sometimes they can be a bit short on the understanding of science.

...

Regardless, pressure cooking works differently from "low and slow" cooking below the simmer. I've made plenty of pork dishes by pressure cooking in a limited amount of water, and they always came out tender and juicy.

I had several issues with the explanations in that article as well. I sort of have a feeling that the difference would be due to the mouthfeel from a residual coating of fat more than anything else. Generally, speaking, why does blitzing meat in a pressure cooker at 250 degrees not completely dry it out?

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1.) The hydrophobic properties of oil help prevent water loss due to encapsulation of the food. I can buy this I suppose, as long as you guarantee the temperature is not high enough to generate steam within the food.

Think about it for a minute: Presumably having oil sitting on the surface of the meat isn't somehow going to "scare" water back inside the meat. So at the very most, the oil represents a kind of hydrophobic layer sitting on the surface of the meat? So, let's imagine this... the meat fibers are contracting and squeezing out water. This water makes it to the surface of the meat just like it normally would (the oil on the outside can't affect what's happening in the interior of the meat). Now we have a droplet of water that was squeezed out of the contracting meat fibers and it's sitting on the surface of the meat. Is the idea that the hydrophobic property of the oil will force this water back inside? Or that it will slow the rate at which water is exuded from the meat? Meanwhile, what is to prevent that water from simply sliding off the piece of meat and falling to the bottom of the cooking vessel? Or, for that matter, why wouldn't the droplet of water simply stay there on the surface of the meat just like it would if you coated the meat in an impermeable plastic membrane? In actuality, we know what happens, which is that plenty of water comes out of the meat. Having prepared sous vide duck leg confit both with and without oil in the bag, I can't say that I have noticed any difference whatsoever between the amounts of exuded liquid.

2.) The higher specific heat capacity causes the water-based preparation to cook faster than the oil-based one. ... The real property of interest here is the thermal conductivity - a materials ability to conduct heat within itself and to other materials at the interface. In other words, a material with high thermal conductivity can transfer heat quickly and vise versa. Water has extremely high thermal conductivity - and a quick google search revealed that most cooking oils have less than half that of water. I think that in either case this should only affect the ramp-up time.

Right. Thermal conductivity might make some minute amount of difference in ramp-up time to the target temperature, but I can't believe that this wouldn't be lost in the noise of the imprecise temperature control of the Food Lab experiments.

I had several issues with the explanations in that article as well. I sort of have a feeling that the difference would be due to the mouthfeel from a residual coating of fat more than anything else.

Yes, I agree that it's probably more due to the mouthfeel coating of residual fat as well, although there may be other things that contributed to the result (I don't doubt that the water sample was dry compared to the oil sample). The impact of even a little extra fat is something that can't be discounted. For example, the Modernist Cuisine team found that it was impossible to distinguish the difference between duck legs cooked submerged in fat (i.e., confit) and steamed duck legs cooked to a similar extent and subsequently finished by brushing them with flavored fat.

Generally, speaking, why does blitzing meat in a pressure cooker at 250 degrees not completely dry it out?

I have no idea, except that perhaps it's due to the radically shorter cooking times. 20 minutes at 250F is a much shorter time than 3 hours at 208F. And think about it: deep frying chicken can result in much juicier meat than long braising if it's done right.

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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A great resource to get you started with brining/curing is Jason Molinari's (an eGullet contributor) blog found here: http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/

Another place with good information is: http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/

The gist of equilibrium brining/curing is that you use the exact amount of salt, sugar and cure you need, rather than using large amounts of ingredients for a specific time and then rinsing or soaking your product to remove the excess. The big advantage to me is that even if you cure your meat a couple extra days it still won't be too salty.

Larry

Larry Lofthouse

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Microwaved Eggplant Parmesan (p. 344)

This was a fast, simple dish to make: it doesn't require many ingredients, and only needs a pressure cooker (for the marinara) and a microwave. I thought it was mostly successful: I wish the topping stayed a bit crispier (it was crispy, but I wanted more), and I wish that it plated up nicer. I don't know how the MC team got that gorgeous slice they show a photo of, but mine was much too "flow-y" to stand upright. I even tried cooking it like you do brownies, in a waxed-paper-lined dish, so it can just be pulled out instead of scooped, but to no avail.

DSC_0550.jpg

DSC_0554.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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A great resource to get you started with brining/curing is Jason Molinari's (an eGullet contributor) blog found here: http://curedmeats.blogspot.com/

Another place with good information is: http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/

The gist of equilibrium brining/curing is that you use the exact amount of salt, sugar and cure you need, rather than using large amounts of ingredients for a specific time and then rinsing or soaking your product to remove the excess. The big advantage to me is that even if you cure your meat a couple extra days it still won't be too salty.

Larry

Thanks for the response. How do you calculate the exact amount of salt, sugar and cure you need?

Pot smoking I don't mind, kids get the munchies hot wing sales go right through the roof but when those kids get on god knows what they eat like little birds.

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Microwaved Eggplant Parmesan (p. 344)

I don't know how the MC team got that gorgeous slice they show a photo of, but mine was much too "flow-y" to stand upright.

Same here. If there is a trick, I'd love to know, mine was also a shapeless but tasty blob.

I've done few more dishes, some of which I've loved, others were just ok, not mu cup of tea I guess.

Pistachio pesto was very tasty but I did not specifically taste the pistachio, they got "lost" in all the herbal flavours. I will make it in future with pine nuts and reserve my precious pistachio for gelatto or nougat.

Garlic confit great. Would gladly eat it on toast. I could not taste it in Creamed spinach, I guess I prefer stronger garlic taste there, or my taste buds are not as good as those of the MC team (this is very likely). I liked adding milk, already creamed by Xantan gum to spinach, it made it lighter than my usual spinach is, this will be my go to method going forward.

Fragrant salmon was amazing, I used the spices on several other fish types since, including halibut, and this time I could taste the added hazelnuts, which was a plus.

Finally, Stripped omlet. I wanted to try this ever since I read about it, more than a year ago. It was very tasty,although sticky to silicone and difficult to work with. French omelette foam was delicious but not stable, it lost volume few secs after it left siphon

To be fair, I deviated from numerous steps:

  • I piped the mushroom batter instead of combing it (less straight lines than on the pic, but this opens creative omelette writing possibilities)
  • I used square sheetpan size silicon, then cut my squares
  • I had too little batter for the size of my sheet
  • Did not remove the foam before pouring, as suggested

All in all, still turned out great, and I know what to correct next time (more batter, bake 2 mins longer, remove foam).

Any suggestions how to solve for stickiness (maybe longer baking will do) and especially French egg foam stability.

Oh, and the Shitake marmalade was spectacular! I used it in a another pasta dish few days later, it gives such depth and richness, will be making that often and keep it as part of my frozen basics.

Still did not manage to do any sweets, but will soon I hope.

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Thanks for the response. How do you calculate the exact amount of salt, sugar and cure you need?

In general, most cured meats (either hot smoked or cooked in some manner) use proportions of approximately 2% salt, 1% sugar, and 0.25% Cure #1. Salt and sugar can be adjusted a little for taste. So, for bacon, if I had 1 kg of pork belly I would dry rub it with 17.5 grams of salt, 10 grams of sugar, and 2.5 grams of cure #1. The reason to not use 20 grams of salt in this case is that the cure is made of mostly salt. Also, my personal preference is for a lot less sugar, but a lot of recipes call for around 1%.

For something like a corned beef or pastrami, I would brine it in an amount of water that would cover it. For the sake of this example, let's say that is 1kg, and we have 1 kg of brisket for a total of 2 kg. Just use twice the quantities listed above.

Soak or cure times depend on thickness and whether you inject (for brines). Recipes will call for a minimum cure time, but if you go longer your product will not be too salty.

Or, if you were just looking for a short answer, ... By weight. :smile:

HTH,

Larry

Larry Lofthouse

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I puzzled by two pictures in MC@H:

pp. 33 middle and pp. 86 bottom. both deal with pressure cooking and the maillard (or 'burnt') reaction. How do you get these colors in a fluid cooking medium? are they from contact with the bottom of a relatively dry PC'er?

Im posting here as hopefully those who have done more PC can comment. Id take a picture of these two pictures but that might violate copyright?

Edited by rotuts (log)
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Finally, Stripped omlet. I wanted to try this ever since I read about it, more than a year ago. It was very tasty,although sticky to silicone and difficult to work with. French omelette foam was delicious but not stable, it lost volume few secs after it left siphon

To be fair, I deviated from numerous steps:

  • I piped the mushroom batter instead of combing it (less straight lines than on the pic, but this opens creative omelette writing possibilities)
  • I used square sheetpan size silicon, then cut my squares
  • I had too little batter for the size of my sheet
  • Did not remove the foam before pouring, as suggested

All in all, still turned out great, and I know what to correct next time (more batter, bake 2 mins longer, remove foam).

Any suggestions how to solve for stickiness (maybe longer baking will do) and especially French egg foam stability.

Oh, and the Shitake marmalade was spectacular! I used it in a another pasta dish few days later, it gives such depth and richness, will be making that often and keep it as part of my frozen basics.

Still did not manage to do any sweets, but will soon I hope.

Bojana,

Regarding the striped omelet:

1) If the omelet sheet has cooked long enough, then there should be no issue with sticking. That is not to say that it will slide right off the silicone. One still has to be gentle in removing it from the silicone, but it should not be unusually sticky. I would suggest, perhaps, 1-2 more minutes of cook time. Our ovens may not be calibrated the same as yours. If that still doesn't work, I would suggest spraying the silicone and then wiping it off with a paper towel, so that there is only a very thing layer of oil on the silicone.

2) Depending on the temperature of the eggs in the siphoned French scramble, it may take a little longer in the sous-vide bath for the eggs to cook to a point where they are stable out of the siphon. Generally, when I mix the scramble base straight out of the refrigerator, I add on an extra 5 minutes to the cook time. Also, if you are dispensing the foam immediately, the scramble base may not have had enough time to fully absorb the nitrogen from the chargers. Give it a few shakes, and minute to fully absorb the nitrogen, and then try again. If this still doesn't work, you might try one more charge.

I hope this was helpful.

Johnny

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

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Apple and Parsnip Soup (p. 181)

Another simple pressure-cooked soup. Again, delicious: I particularly like the brown butter garnish. I used bacon instead of speck, which worked, and included the suggested pickled apples as well (I did include the calcium chloride in the pickle, and appreciated the added firmness).

DSC_0558.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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