Rice, sesame seeds, oil, salt. That’s all you need to create some tasty little crispy treats and learn a bit of food science. OK, and a dehydrator. That helps too. But that makes it science-y, right? Right.
I had quite a bit of BBQ sauce from the barbeque I went to last week. I even brought it to another barbeque, but still had leftovers. What to do? A quick look in the book and I found a recipe that uses the sauces: pulled mushrooms. It’s like spaghetti marinara except they’re mushroom noodles in BBQ sauce. Why of course it’s like that. Plus the recipe was inspired by Ideas In Food. Since I had recently met Alex over at Scott’s a few weeks back, it seemed fortuitous. Time to head to the Asian grocery store.
I was going to a summer BBQ and thought it would be nice to bring a variety of sauces for people to pick and choose. Nathan Myhrvold has a special passion for BBQ, having won first place in the barbeque world championships in Memphis, Tennessee. There are eight recipes in the book (not to mention a two page regional map of the different varieties throughout the American south). I chose to do half of them: Kansas City, Memphis, North Carolina (Eastern Region), and North Carolina (Lexington Style).
I had half of a flank steak left from my foray into microwaved beef jerky, so I needed to use it up. Luckily, just 15 pages later in the The Work, there was a recipe for Kalbi Flank Steak. This is interesting because in Korean, Kalbi means “rib”, and the marinade is applied mostly to beef and pork ribs. But hey, we’re Modernists, right? Let’s see what a different technique applied to the same product can create.
I threw a big dinner party last weekend. Well, six people total (including our culinary teammate Scott), but seven courses. I totally brought it. But then I was brought down: three of the courses totally sucked. The pea consommé? At the last moment I overdid it with the cinnamon oil – it tasted like a bad scented candle. The Thai beef curry broth was watery and the beef over-tender. The sous vide vegetables were mushy and lifeless. Man, was I embarrassed. But one of the courses did come through: my deep fried chicken feet. Good thing, too – they took the longest to prepare. I don’t know if I was redeemed, but at least I wasn’t damned. In the end, fowl became friend.
Spring is taking its time arriving this year, and there seem to be more cloudy days than sunshine. But that’s not a problem – while I wait for the outside to warm up, I can just warm up my insides. With a Vietnamese pho, to be exact. Cooking Asian food can seem so different than what I’m used to making in the kitchen. Can my soup match the dish at my favorite local spot? I turned to Modernist Cuisine to help me in my quest.
Note: It’s way too easy to play on words with the pronunciation of the word “pho”, which is “fuh”. For instance, we have a chain of restaurants here in Seattle called “What The Pho?“. I will try to abstain.
Jethro and I were asked to create a dish with “wow factor” for a group of scientists for an upcoming event. We wanted to craft a bite that’s first and foremost delicious, but also illustrates some of the hallmarks of modernist cooking: textural transformation, surprise, and use of unconventional techniques to refine and reinterpret something traditional. It also had to be practical and economical, since we’ll be serving nearly 200 people in two hours. This meant quick plating time, low portion cost, and minimal prep. After some brainstorming, we decided that a cryopoached (liquid nitrogen-frozen) puff would fit the bill. Jethro had already made the Fat Duck’s Cryopoached Green Tea Sour (which I recognized from Modernist Cuisine), but we wanted to make a version that was our own, and frankly, one that was simpler and cheaper.
I threw a little holiday dinner party the other night where a guest had one request: “I want some godly gourmet goodies like you’ve been posting”. Fair enough. I started with a caramelized butternut squash soup (centrifuge, pressure cooker), a steak version of the Thanksgiving Stew from Modernist Cuisine (sous vide), and finally, dessert: gingerbread pumpkin seed brittle and candy cane cotton candy. Where did I get that recipe? I made it up!
Last week, Next Restaurant released its first in what I assume will be an endless series of digital cookbooks featuring the recipes of all the courses of each incarnation of the restaurant. They are currently in the midst of their third iteration of the menu, called ‘Childhood’. Prior to that was a ‘Tour of Thailand’. And before that, the opening salvo to their concept, ‘Paris, 1906’.
Why Paris in 1906? Kinda random, right? No, not for these guys. As they state in the opening of their iCookbook:
Cesar Ritz and Auguste Escoffier opened the Ritz Hotel in 1906. A new upper class thrived; visiting the Ritz, along with restaurants such as Maxim’s, became something more than just dinner. Part fashion show and part social scene, the restaurant was now the entertainment.
Paris, 1906 — Escoffier at the Ritz was an easy choice as our opening menu at Next.
Ah, Escoffier. As Heston Blumenthal said, “We eat how we eat because of Auguste”. They decided to go boldly into the future by acknowledging the past. I, too, have a fondness for what I jokingly refer to as Industrialist Cuisine. And there is one dish on their menu in particular that exemplifies the restaurant as entertainment theme circa 1906: Caneton Rouennais à la Presse. Why? Because they used a big old brass contraption to press an entire duck to get at its juices. Entertainment, indeed.