Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
nathanm

"Modernist Cuisine" by Myhrvold, Young & Bilet (Part 2)

Recommended Posts

+1. I guess I'd rather relax with practical, correct information about the food and techniques I'm using, knowing that, in the end, I'm going to come out with a superior product. I mean, heck, if fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, cole slaw, and cornbread aren't relaxing, I don't know what is!


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The trouble with Modernist Cuisine from a review standpoint is that it's so categorically amazing and superior to any other cooking work ever written, it's very difficult to come up with any criticism of the type one needs to make a review seem balanced.

I completely agree with this, up to a certain point.. I think that those of us reading this thread are "slightly" biased towards the book and Nathan's passion in this area (I was starting to find repetitive the comments regarding Nathan’s economic status until I read the remark about spending more than one and less than ten million on the project). I also look at it from the perspective of my former culinary instructors and wonder what they would say about this or any other book being compared to Le Guide (flaming pitchforks and angry culinary mob anyone?). To me, Ruhlman's review is positive but somewhat cautious which is apt from a book review written by a critic and not a perky MC cheerleader (“gimme an M, gimme a C!!”)

I do appreciate the fact that Ruhlman mentions the jacket price ALONG with the online price since a lot of other reviews I've seen just throw the $625 price tag and the $200 difference is something to consider.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Since reading about this book on Wired I've been torn. Yes, I think there is a place for food research. I think researching how food reacts to certain forces and chemical changes is a noble pursuit.

Calling this a cook book, or really anything to do with cuisine is where it destroys credibility. To believe that chefs or cooks will be able to preform extremely complicated, multi-stage applications, using expensive and in some cases experimental machinery, raises the ire of anyone with common sense.

No, I haven't read the book. It's defenders say there's more to it than that. Maybe there is, but every review I've read says it advocates an obsessive sensibility, unreproducible in almost any real kitchen.

Where does art begin and craft leave off? That's a hard question. I've always had a problem with people taking something we all must do, like eating, and making it something where all but the very elite can participate in it. I question the morality of charging over $250 for dinner. Yet, if we follow the Modernist Cuisine, we should have more of it. Chefs should be creating food that no one but the super-rich can afford.

So yes to food science, no to taking a craft and turning it into the unreachable. No to the obsessive perfectionists who move what we should all be doing into the realm of the gods. Yes to knowing the principles, and cooking from the heart.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that those of us reading this thread are "slightly" biased towards the book and Nathan's passion in this area[.]

I'd go one step further and say that many of us are the ideal readers for this project, and as such it feels like a dream come true. It is certainly appropriate to imagine other readers who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, don't feel the same way.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Calling this a cook book, or really anything to do with cuisine is where it destroys credibility. To believe that chefs or cooks will be able to preform extremely complicated, multi-stage applications, using expensive and in some cases experimental machinery, raises the ire of anyone with common sense.

I'd suggest heading over to the Cooking with "Modernist Cuisine", where many of us are, in fact, cooking from the book. Some of the recipes are complicated, and some are not. I will agree that all are "obsessive," however, in the sense that they are really focused on ways to get the "best" product X, Y or Z, cost or equipment limitations be damned.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read Ruhlman's review last night, and while I see the populist angle he was going for I think he could have gone another way and been much more effective. I haven't gotten my hands on a copy yet, but to me this seems like the kind of book best reviewed after a year or so, not after two weeks. That's when you a reviewer can seriously talk about how and why it has changed their life in the kitchen. But, of course, the NYT doesn't want to wait a year to publish a review. That's why Ruhlman was, or could have been, a brilliant choice. He actually has quite a bit of experience with a number of the techniques covered, and so although he had to pick them up without the benefit of the book, he could have written a good chunk of the one-year review by weaving together his own longer-term experiences with the comprehensive treatment the book offers. That's a review I would have much rather read, and I think if done right it could have played well to a mass audience as well.


Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So yes to food science, no to taking a craft and turning it into the unreachable. No to the obsessive perfectionists who move what we should all be doing into the realm of the gods. Yes to knowing the principles, and cooking from the heart.

Burnin', I suggest checking out the book, or at least the Cooking with MC thread, before passing judgment. MC may be obsessive in the sense that certain processes and ingredients are measured carefully, but (having had the books for almost a week now) I don't see them as at all moving cooking "into the realm of the gods."

Of the 1500 recipes, I can cook most of them without spending more than $100-200 in "modernist" ingredients and tools. I am well-equipped (I have an immersion circulator, hand blender, digital scale, Thermapen, etc.), but certainly don't have any kitchen gear that costs $2k, $5k, etc. While it is perhaps disappointing that I can't cook 100% of the 1500 recipes included in the book, I can certainly do most of them. Personally, I don't see this as a reason to complain.

This book isn't written for the 30-minute-meals or "one pot" crowd (please know I'm not saying you're in that group!), and I am glad that it wasn't simplified to that level. I think if you have a chance to play with the book, you'll be surprised about how much it offers "regular" people with an interest in this hobby/profession/avocation, and how little it requires godlike capabilities. I'm trying to view the book the way I would a very nice set of golf clubs (though I don't golf). Could they help my game? Sure. Will I ever live up to their capabilities? I'm not sure, but I'll try...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The book is simply too big for generalizations. Sure, there are a lot of multi-step dishes. But some are pretty simple and fast. Once you've made that cheese -- which takes about ten minutes of attention -- that mac & cheese is a 15 minute, one-pot meal.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

cost or equipment limitations be damned.

That would be my point exactly.

Which is that cookbooks shouldn't include a range of preparations, some of which exceed some people's ability to obtain the needed ingredients or tools? That would toss out some of the most important cookbooks of the last decade or two, including everything by Thomas Keller, the Alinea & Fat Duck books, all of the Chez Panisse cookbooks, and Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Speaking as someone who is very unlikely to buy the book(s), I thought the NYT review was pretty well balanced. The Times Dining section must appeal to a huge variety of cooks and readers; I venture to say there must be plenty of readers who never even heard of the eminent doctor until this morning, and many of us who have read snippets about it or see the chatter on places like eG and who (by that I mean me) greatly appreciate an actual review of the book so they don't have to admit their general ignorance about the new food science here. I'm interested in the subject, but not about to plunge in.

Ruhlman's review seemed careful and thoughtful and aimed at a broad audience. I'm glad to know that if I had a pressure cooker I could make really great stock in small batches, so when my library gets a copy (probably never) I can just get that volume, if someone tells me which one it is. Not having a pressure cooker is a minor stumbling block, to say nothing of all the other equipment. Of course the review also brought out the part of me that wants to run screaming back under the covers with a copy of Laurie Colwin. All good.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just read an interview with Myhrvold in the New Scientist I don't think the man knows what he is talking about. One observation he makes is that a steak that is twice the thickness needs four times longer to cook than one half the thickness - that is rubbish - you give a 1 inch steak four times longer than a half inch thick steak all you get is cremated steak.

He also says there is no point in chilling vegetables after blanching, left to cool off on the side gives the same result. Come on, the sooner you stop the cooking process by chilling the crisper the result.

If I find erroneous statements like that in any academic work I am afraid I dismiss it out of hand.

He should stick to computers and let those with years of experiance in the culinary arts do the cooking. Am I being stupid??


Pam Brunning Editor Food & Wine, the Journal of the European & African Region of the International Wine & Food Society

My link

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Ruhlman is on to something. Anything that required as much research and dedication as Modernist Cuisine is going to take quite a bit of time to infiltrate our psyche fully. An early member of the legendary eGullet Sous Vide thread who knew nathanm as one of a handful of go to arbitors who could work through a problem with clarity and precision, I understand that this book has been a work in progress, one of increasing scope and incredible dedication. Once Nathan became Dr.Nathan Myhrvold, scientist, Microsoft executive and billionaire, he admited to us that he was writing the definitive Sous Vide book and that the focus was constantly changing and expanding. The New York Times waits for no review, but I think the measure of this book will be borne out over time.


Even Samantha Brown would have hard time summoning a "wow" for this. Anthony Bourdain

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of the 1500 recipes, I can cook most of them without spending more than $100-200 in "modernist" ingredients and tools. I am well-equipped (I have an immersion circulator, hand blender, digital scale, Thermapen, etc.), but certainly don't have any kitchen gear that costs $2k, $5k, etc. While it is perhaps disappointing that I can't cook 100% of the 1500 recipes included in the book, I can certainly do most of them. Personally, I don't see this as a reason to complain.

I think some folks may be a little out of the spectrum when they think about what the norm is. Without spending more than $100-$200? I've never spent that much on cooking a meal, unless it was a holiday and I needed to feed a tribe. Spending $100-$200 on a weekend hobby would be way out of reach for the vast majority.

Yes, there is a place for experimental cuisine. But where's the edge? When do we say, have we stopped feeding people and are more concerned with what we can do, not why we are doing it?

Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, are talented people. But isn't it time to move away from the over complicated and costly and back to reality? This book takes it further.

There's so much work to do, giving people access to basic cooking skills and ingredients.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe there is, but every review I've read says it advocates an obsessive sensibility, unreproducible in almost any real kitchen.

You've been reading different reviews then I have been. In the reviews I've read, "advocate" doesn't enter into it. I'm not just splitting hairs here, there is a big difference. From what I've read in excepts and reviews, it gives you the extreme, just how far you can go. It isn't telling you that you should do that, or that it is necessary, it is telling you what the outcome would be if you did it no holds barred. Anyone with "common sense" would know that you don't slavishly follow a book, you use it for inspiration and information, picking and choosing your techniques and recipes. It isn't a Bible, and isn't prescriptive. It is just information for your consideration. If the book held back and only gave you "practical" methods, it would deny the reader the choice. This way you have your choice, and it doesn't have to be all or nothing; all the excepts I've seen give plenty of information to allow you apply the general technique without the same level of obsession if you should so wish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Am I being stupid??

Not stupid: you are just going by your gut feelings, whereas Myhrvold and Co. have actually tested these things. The book goes into considerable detail on those assertions, actually showing the temperature plots and the like. With respect to steak cooking time: if you cook the steak four times as long at the same temperature you will incinerate the outside of the steak by the time the inside is done. It's the final core temperature that takes four times as long to reach. SO the solution, as anyone cooking a thick steak already intuitively knows, is to lower the temperature you're cooking it at. With respect to "shocking" vegetables: the point is that shocking doesn't stop the cooking process! While that was always assumed to be the case, careful measurements show that it's simply false: an old wives' tale, if you will. The core temperature reached is almost identical regardless of how fast you chill.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Spending $100-$200 on a weekend hobby would be way out of reach for the vast majority.

What does the majority have to do with it?

Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, are talented people. But isn't it time to move away from the over complicated and costly and back to reality?

Why? I don't understand this statement at all. This isn't public policy here. Again, it isn't prescriptive. Nobody is making you eat, make, buy or otherwise have anything to do with it. If you want to go "back to reality" I totally understand that, but why I should follow you I don't understand at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just read an interview with Myhrvold in the New Scientist I don't think the man knows what he is talking about. One observation he makes is that a steak that is twice the thickness needs four times longer to cook than one half the thickness - that is rubbish - you give a 1 inch steak four times longer than a half inch thick steak all you get is cremated steak.

He also says there is no point in chilling vegetables after blanching, left to cool off on the side gives the same result. Come on, the sooner you stop the cooking process by chilling the crisper the result.

If I find erroneous statements like that in any academic work I am afraid I dismiss it out of hand.

He should stick to computers and let those with years of experiance in the culinary arts do the cooking. Am I being stupid??

Someone's misquoting the book. It doesn't say that ice baths have no point. It says, correctly, that ice baths don't immediately halt the cooking process. The book is filled with references to ice baths, btw, so they clearly think they do something.

Just to be clear about the rest of what you're claiming: you believe that he and his team of researchers don't know what they're talking about and that their experimental measurements of temps and times are thus fraudulent? They're consistent with my experience and half-assed experiments, I should add; what did your experiments tell you?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I fail to see the "either/or" aspect. Basic cooking education can surely coexist with MC in this world, to everyone's benefit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think another thing that's being discounted by those who would dismiss this book out of hand is that - as Ruhlman points out - we have no idea yet what the spin-offs will be that can be used in every kitchen! It reminds me of the shuttle program: putting a man on the moon was a highly expensive project that was completely useless... unless you care to consider the ways it's pushed technology forward. (Not that I'm saying Modernist Cuisine is generally comparable to the shuttle program, but in this respect, I think it is.)


Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think another thing that's being discounted by those who would dismiss this book out of hand is that - as Ruhlman points out - we have no idea yet what the spin-offs will be that can be used in every kitchen! It reminds me of the shuttle program: putting a man on the moon was a highly expensive project that was completely useless... unless you care to consider the ways it's pushed technology forward. (Not that I'm saying Modernist Cuisine is generally comparable to the shuttle program, but in this respect, I think it is.)

This I totally agree with. I just don't want to see everyone trying to build their own space shuttle ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that those of us reading this thread are "slightly" biased towards the book and Nathan's passion in this area[.]

I'd go one step further and say that many of us are the ideal readers for this project, and as such it feels like a dream come true. It is certainly appropriate to imagine other readers who, for perfectly legitimate reasons, don't feel the same way.

I’ve been following the modernist cuisine threads on-and-off and do find it all pretty fascinating. And such a thrill to have the author on line and engaged in discussion with us. But at the risk of coming off as a little old lady shaking her cane in the air at newfangled methods, I’ll admit to having some reservations about the whole concept of manipulating food so extensively.

I realize that many of the ingredients and techniques we think of as part of traditional gourmet cooking are ingredients that have been already highly manipulated and processed to produce something revelatory. Like bread, wine and cheese, among other things. So I get the argument that modernist cuisine is just taking that same philosophy and applying it in new and unique ways. And yeah, it looks really cool, the techniques are astoundingly interesting and I know some of it is downright delicious, delighting the eye as well as the palate.

However, I work as a product developer for a major food company, and something about it all just rubs me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong, I know mass-produced, cost-reduced factory-made food for the masses is in an entirely different league than genius chefs turning out brilliant creations for high end restaurants. But they’re using the same tools.

For instance, I have, at my disposal, hundreds of flavors from flavor scientists who are world-renown experts in their field; some of these would knock your socks off in intensity and quality. Although I’m tempted to sneak a few of the more outstanding examples home to add to my own cooking (Trust me, I’d be a rock star in the eyes of my family if served a Thanksgiving gravy that had a cleverly concocted blend of a great caramelized onion flavor, the most perfectly intense roasted top note, a savory enhancer perhaps.), I couldn’t do it. To me, that’s not cooking. And then I realize that these flavors are tools that, with the right equipment, the highly skilled modernist cook could possibly create in their own home (or restaurant). In fact, the picture of the modernist’s kitchen looks horrifyingly similar to our pilot plant here at work!

So it feels right to use these tools as long as I invest in the equipment, learn the science and techniques and produce them myself. But not right if I take what’s already out there in the food industry, add a splash or two, and use them to elevate my own cooking to a higher level? In other words, where is the line drawn? Maybe it shouldn’t be? And what’s next? The virtual meal that has the ability to far surpass the real life experience?

I don’t want foie gras that looks like a cherry. Or olive oil gummy worms. Yeah, they’re really interesting and I can appreciate the skill it took in their creation, but it all just seems too gimmicky for me. Not to mention that many of the ingredients referenced in the book are things we’ve been using for years here at work that consumers balk at on our labels. The world is being turned upside down!

These are just some nagging thoughts regarding the intersection of technology and art and not necessarily a criticism.

A good analogy might be hand painted art vs photo shopped pictures. Both use the creative process and both might be equally pleasing to the eye. And even traditional oil painting utilizes some chemistry in the manufacture of the oil-based pigments. But I tend to have a greater appreciation for the cruder, more soulful, old-fashioned methods and the product they create. Which is ironic given my food science background. Or maybe it’s my background that has me stubbornly insist on drawing that arbitrary line that separates the culinary arts from food technology.


Edited by angevin (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Having just read an interview with Myhrvold in the New Scientist I don't think the man knows what he is talking about. One observation he makes is that a steak that is twice the thickness needs four times longer to cook than one half the thickness - that is rubbish - you give a 1 inch steak four times longer than a half inch thick steak all you get is cremated steak.

He also says there is no point in chilling vegetables after blanching, left to cool off on the side gives the same result. Come on, the sooner you stop the cooking process by chilling the crisper the result.

If I find erroneous statements like that in any academic work I am afraid I dismiss it out of hand.

He should stick to computers and let those with years of experiance in the culinary arts do the cooking. Am I being stupid??

hmm...don't know about that last question of yours, but you are definitly being limited in your thinking to what you "know". The point of books like MC or McGee is to examine those long held traditions or assumptions and see if they satnd to scientific scrutiny. If you are grilling the steak, then of course you will cremate the outside, but he is probably talking about even low temperature (like SV) in order to get the core of the steak up to the proper degree of donness. It's not rubbish, it's proven science. I can prove that using my own SV setup.

Really, like DalJ said, it is not either extreme Roto-vap cuisine or cooking in a hearth in this day and age. Both can coexist quiet well.

Spending $100-$200 on a weekend hobby would be way out of reach for the vast majority.

The 100 or 200 that was mentioned was intended to mean like an initial investment, not necessarily breaking that out every time you open MC! Common sense tells me I can maker that Macaroni and Cheese that was mentioned with less than $10.

Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, are talented people. But isn't it time to move away from the over complicated and costly and back to reality?

I am not even sure what that means. The more we can learn from the masters in any subject, the better we are!

Honestly, some comments are very illogical and defy common sense.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find the NYT review to be very disappointing.

On one hand, one could excerpt sentences from it would surely rank among the most postiive things every printed in an NYT book review. On the other hand one could also excerpt sentences which are among the most mean spirited and damning ever put in an NYT book review. As a result, you can come away from the review with nearly any point of view you want ranging from dismissive and condemning to praiseworthy adulation.

If you point at the positive parts, then I have nothing to complain about. Indeed, given those comments it may seem petty that I even bring it up.

Of course if you point at the negative parts then it's quite a different story.

Part of the issue is what a book review is about. There are at least three goals that most book reviews have. The first and most direct is that it describe the book to people so it can be a guide to their purchase decision. But book reviews are themselves a kind of literature and many are written at least in part to be an entertaining piece of writing. The third goal of many book reviews are a paen to the ego of the reviewer, and the glory of the publication (The New York Times!), establishing how superior they are.

Ruhlman's review can't seem to make up its mind about the first two. It says lots of positive things, but also many negative. That may be in part an effort to make it fun to read: that's how I interpret the comment about how many thousands of milligrams of asprin are required to read the book straight through. (safety note: don't take that much asprin at once, it would be an overdose!)

Mostly the schizophrenic nature of his comments make it seem like he wants to have it both ways. To people who love the book (for example, the professional chefs that have seen it) he can point to the positive comments and talk about how miraculous our stock recipe is, or other very positive comments. To people who have a different take he can moan about how bad the text is, how expensive the equipment is, and how much asprin he had to take.

The false modesty of how Ruhlman is not qualified to review the book is quite telling. He's "just" a trained chef, food journalist, author of multiple books referenced by MC, and has written about the world's best modernist chef. That's all. But even he isn't qualified to review the book.

Oh please! If he really thinks he couldn't do the job then he shouldn't have accepted the assignment. But nobody would say he isn't qualified. Of course he is. And if he does accept the assignment why spend the text to remind us of his resume. It's often true that a book review tells us more about the reviewer, than about the book, but that is said in a figurative manner ; in this case it is literally true.

Another telling point is that in his own blog post he doesn't throw the barbs. So maybe it is some rule at the NYT that you have to do that to pass muster. Several people have told me "what do you expect from the New York Times, they always have bitchy, holier-than-thou book reviews". So maybe his editor made him do it.

Given other posts in this thread, let me be clear that Ruhlman is certainly entitled to his opinion, and the most damning things he says about the book are mostly that - opinion. It's up to him whether found the book "mindcrushingly boring", as evidently he did. Naturally, I'm disappointed because we went to a lot of effort to make the text clear and easy to read. We've gotten high marks from others on explaining difficult concepts in a simple clear manner. But hey it's his opinion. Maybe the text did crush his mind with boredom, but I take some solace that many others don't feel that way. Plus, you can always skip those parts. In fact, based on some of the rest of the review, that may be exactly what he did.

Some of his other comments are more subject to question. He says that we are "Sometimes overly proud of itself, at other times it is recklessly (and admirably) opinionated.". He then proceeds to quote sentences about food saftey, and about epidemiology studies linking saturated fat to heart disease as examples of our "reckless" opinion.

Really? In the revelant sections of the book we go WAY out of our way to support every single thing we say with both explanations, and academic references. It isn't my "reckless opinion" that there is no large study linking saturated fat - we document it. In fact, us going overboard on explaining this (because it is sure to be controversal) might be the part he found mindcrushingly boring. So, which way do you want it? Documented and through (but possibily boring if you don't find food saftey or nutritional epidemiology interesting).

I also have a problem with the "recklessly (and admirably)". It's another example of trying to have it both ways. Depending on the audience he can point at either word. The same "have it both ways" thing crops up in the faux-populism. He complains (incorrectly) that we have nothing but sous vide for meat. But he is the author of Under Pressure, a book solely about sous vide! What is up with that?

Another comment panders to the natural food movement "Much of this revolutionary cooking is based on ingredients and techniques long fundamental to the processed food industry. Are we to embrace the ingredients and techniques of modernist cuisine at the very moment industrially processed food is being blamed for many of our national health problems?".

Well Michael, you tell me. You're the author of a book on sous vide which is precisely one of those techniques.

Of course, he knows that. He also knows we address this issue in the book. We go to great lengths to explain that this is a false dichotomy. Using unfamiliar techinques and ingredients is not the cause of our health problems. We are no friends of the processed food industry, we condemn it for falsely advertising dubious health benefits, among other things. We explain that the techinques and ingredients are safe.

Raising this as a question lets him pander to people with those fears, and keep his credibility with them. It seems so thoughtful to pose this question, but it seems to me another way to try to have it both ways.

A post above questions Ruhlman's statement that there are no recipes for meat that don't use sous vide. Of course that is totally wrong. We have a chapter on combi-ovens, CVAP ovens and microwaves and have meat recipes for each of them. We have a big section on smoking meats that uses a smoker. We have a big section on raw meat that doesn't use heat at all. We have a big section on sausage and cured meats. Our section on cooking tough meats has pressure cooking times for all manner of tough meats - including a pressure cooked carnitas. We even have microwaved meats - including a very cook and super fast beef jerky, and a tilapia recipe from the mother of one our chefs.

I have not counted them up, but I suspect that we have more non-sous vide meat recipes in the book than a typical cookbook has recipes of any kind. We certainly have more non-sous recipes than Under Pressure does.

An odd thing about this assertion is that Ruhlman emailed me with questions EVERY DAY for the last week or so, so even if he couldn't find any of the recipes, he sure could have asked.

So anyway, those are my thoughts on the review. I hope that Ruhlman liked the book - if I average the postiive and negative comments it seems so but it is hard to be sure.

It seems that he found it useful in the ways that I most want it to be used - as a reference work that opens up new culinary vistas.


Nathan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By WackGet
      Recently I picked up a few different types of emulsifiers in bulk powder form when I saw them in passing at a catering wholesaler.
       
      Having never used powdered emulsifiers before in cooking or baking, I figured I'd find pretty comprehensive instructions for their use on the web - but I can't.
       
      I'm not a stranger to food science but nor am I a chemist. I understand that emulsifiers are at least sometimes prepared by pre-mixing them into a (heated?) liquid or fat and then using the resulting solution in the actual recipe, which may explain why a lot of commercial emulsifier mixtures are packages as tubes of gel or paste. I've also checked several industry-level textbooks about emulsifiers and while they are fantastic for in-depth explanations of the chemistry behind each emulsifier, they do not (as you might imagine) provide guidance on how a lowly baker or cook would actually use a powdered form.
       
      So does anyone know how to prepare and use a dry powdered form of any of the following in a real recipe?
       
      Specifically I am most interested in enhancing baked goods and adding stability to sauces, but would also like to know how to use them for other processes such as sausage-making too.
      E471 Mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids E481 Sodium stearoyl lactylate E482 Calcium stearoyl lactylate E472e DATEM (diacetyl tartaric acid ester of mono- and diglycerides)
        Thanks.
    • By mjbarnard
      I cooked two turkey breasts sous vide. This year had access to the Meater+ thermometer probe which I managed to vacuum seal in the bag without difficulty (it is small). Since it works wirelessly I was able to monitor and it records the internal temperatures at the thickest part of the breast.
      I thought the results were interesting. I cooked at 60C for 8 hours. I have always used https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/a-better-way-to-turkey-cook-that-bird-sous-vide-for-the-best-feast-ever which gives long cooking times at lower temperature. I have found that as according to this page https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/11/sous-vide-turkey-breast-crispy-skin-recipe-thanksgiving.html that 55C gives turkey which is just a little too pink for most tastes. Over the last few years have increased the temperature up to 59/60 and I find it perfect - very moist and tender, but pale not pink.
      See attached images. I changed my mind a couple of times and started at 58 then 60 then 59 again, so ignore the slight variations. The thing I found interesting was that the thickest part (of a large breast) reached 55C in around 1 hour 40 mins and target of 59 in 2 hours 30 mins. Now I appreciate that sous vide is a combination of temperature and time or duration, but the data make me think that around 4 hours would be sufficient, as per the seriouseats table. I have previously used the chefsteps 55-58 for their much longer advised times, up to 12 hours and the meat is still quite pink at the end, so I dont believe 55 for 12 hours would effectively be the same.
      From now on I will watching the internal temperatures with interest. This has always been the (relative) unkown for sous vide amateurs. 


    • By TexasMBA02
      After batting about .500 with my previous approach to macarons, I came across Pierre Herme's base recipe online.  After two flawless batches of macarons, I've been re-energized to continue to work at mastering them.  Specifically, I want to try more of his recipes.  My conundrum is that he has, as far as I can tell, two macaron cookbooks and I don't know which one I should get.  I can't tell if one is just an updated version of the other or a reissue or what the differences really are.  I was hoping somebody had some insight.  I have searched online and haven't seen both books referenced in the same context or contrasted at all.
       
      This one appears to be older.

       
      And this one appears to be the newer of the two.

       
      Any insight would be helpful.
       
      Thanks,
       
    • By chefg
      I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.
      The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.
      When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.
      This was good motivation.
      When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.
      1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

      2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

      3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.
      b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.
      Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.
      The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.
      4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:
      a. pastry
      b. cold garde manger
      c. hot garde manger
      d. fish
      e. meat
      Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat
      sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.
      5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.
      6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

      Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.
      We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…
      We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.
    • By ronnie_suburban
      It’s the first day of cooking in Alinea's Food Lab and the mood is relaxed. We’re in a residential kitchen but there’s nothing ordinary about it. Chef Grant, along with sous chefs John Peters and Curtis Duffy are setting up. The sight of the 3 steady pros, each in their chef’s whites, working away, does not match this domestic space. Nor does the intimidating display of industrial tools lined up on the counters. While the traditional elements are here in this suburban kitchen: oven, cooktop, sink, so too are the tools of modern restaurant cookery: pacojet, cryovac machine, paint stripping heat gun…wait, a paint stripping heat gun?
      In the physical realm, the Food Lab is a tangible space where the conventional and the unconventional are melded together in the quest for new culinary territory. With Alinea’s construction under way, the team must be resourceful. This meant that renting a space large enough to house both the office and the kitchen aspects of the food lab was out of the question.
      The decision was made to take over a large office space for the research and administrative aspects of Alinea and transform a residential kitchen into the Lab. Achatz and the team would work three days per week at the office researching all aspects of gastronomy and brainstorming new dishes, while managing the project as a whole. The remaining time would be spent in the kitchen executing the ideas formulated at the office. “At first I thought separating the two would be problematic,” says Grant “but in the end we are finding it very productive. It allows us to really focus on the tasks at hand, and also immerse ourselves in the environment conducive to each discipline.” The menus for opening night—containing as many as 50 never-before-served dishes--must be conceived, designed, tested and perfected. The Alinea team does not want to fly without a net on opening night.
      On a more abstract level, the Food Lab is simply the series of processes that continually loop in the minds of Chef Grant and his team. While there is no single conduit by which prospective menus--and the dishes which comprise them--arrive at Alinea, virtually all of them start in Chef Grant's imagination and eventually take form after brainstorming sessions between the Chef and his team. Menus are charted, based on the seasonality of their respective components, and the details of each dish are then laid out on paper, computer or both and brought to the kitchen for development. In this regard, the Food Lab provides something very special to the Chef and his team. “We consider the food lab a luxury,” says Grant. Once Alinea is open and the restaurant’s daily operations are consuming up to 16 hours of each day, time for such creative planning (aka play) will be scarce. Building a library of concepts, ideas and plans for future menus now will be extraordinarily valuable in the future. Otherwise, such planning sessions will have to take place in the 17th and 18th hours of future workdays, as they did when the Chef and his team were at Trio.
      Today, several projects are planned and the Chefs dig into their preparations as soon as their equipment setup is complete…
      Poached Broccoli Stem with wild Coho roe, crispy bread, grapefruit
      Stem cooked sous vide (butter, salt, granulated cane juice)
      Machine-sliced thin bread
      Dairyless grapefruit “pudding”
      Dried Crème Brulee
      Caramel orb shell made with bubble maker and heat gun
      Powdered interior made with dried butterfat, egg yolks, powdered sugar & vanilla
      PB&J
      Peeled grapes on the stem
      Peanut butter coating
      Wrap in brioche
      Broil
      Micro-grated, roasted peanuts
      Instant Tropical Pudding
      Freeze Dried Powders of coconut, pineapple, banana
      Young coconut water spiked with rum
      Muscovado Sugar
      Cilantro
      Candied Chili
      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...