Archive for November, 2012
Navigating the world of Modernist cooking equipment can be a daunting task for the uninitiated, but don’t worry, I’m here to help. This year’s list gift guide includes everything you need to start cooking like a Modernist in the comfort of your own home kitchen.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is an old management adage, but it’s just as applicable to precision cooking. An accurate, responsive probe thermometer is the single most critical tool in any chef’s arsenal for ensuring properly-cooked proteins. But, in Modernist cooking, temperature control is just as critical for hydrating hydrocolloids and activating enzymes. I recommend the Thermapen because of its exceptional accuracy and lightning-fast read times.
Any fan of Modernist Cuisine knows that an accurate, digital scale is required for every recipe in the book. This scale, by American Weigh, measures in 0.1 gram increments up to 2 kilograms, making it one of the most versatile I’ve found.
How would you like to give all of your favorite cheeses the same melting properties as Velveeta with out any compromise in flavor? Well, my friends, this ingredient does the trick. A carefully-measured dash of sodium citrate acts as an emulsifier to keep your cheese from separating into an oily mess when it melts. For more, see my CHOW video on High-Tech Melty Cheese.
The whipping siphon is not just for savory foams anymore! This indispensable tool also makes quick work of flavorful infusions, pressure-marinates meat, carbonates drinks, carbonates fruit, and much more. If you’re tempted by a cheaper, off-brand siphon, I’m afraid you (and the Modernist cook in your life) will be disappointed. iSi is the only siphon brand I’ve tested that can handle thick foams and purees.
As we explain in Modernist Cuisine at Home, The key to moist meat and crispy skin is injection brining. Brines help the meat absorb more water and hold onto it during the cooking process. Unfortunately, it has the same effect on poultry skin, and moist skin is just the opposite of crispy. To get around that conundrum, we recommend injection brining, which both protects the skin and speeds up the total brining process.
A chamber vacuum sealer is one of the most-used and most-critical pieces of gear in any Modernist kitchen. Unlike edge-style sealers, like the FoodSaver, a chamber vacuum easily seals bags of liquid. It’s the perfect companion for sous vide cooking, but it’s far from a one trick pony. Want to make pickles in 60 seconds, or compress fruits and vegetables? Done. How about extracting the dissolved gas from your omelet? Done. And if you’re preparing food for a potluck, leave your Tupperware behind: a vacuum bag is the ultimate way to transport your foods, cooked or raw.
It is literally worth owning a pressure cooker just so you can make the Caramelized Carrot Soup from Modernist Cuisine at Home. I’ve tried other brands, but my favorite is Kuhn Rikon. It is much quieter than pressure cookers with a “bobbling weight”, and has an easy to read pressure gauge. It even works on induction cooktops! You’ll find incredible time savings and more flavorful results from the dozens of pressure cooker techniques that Modernists cooks love.
I’m not much of a horsepower guy, unless we’re talking about blenders. The Vitamix is sets the industry standard with over 2 horsepower (peak) and blade speeds up to 240 miles per hour. That intense power yields finer purees, smoother soups, and stronger emulsions… not to mention fabulous margaritas.
Of course, I have to give a shoutout to two fabulous sous vide bundles that our partners at PolyScience and SousVide Supreme have put together for the holidays.
The Sous Vide Professional™ CREATIVE Series is my personal immersion circulator of choice. Featuring the same precision as its big brother, the CHEF Series, this circulator runs even quieter, making it perfect for home kitchens. And, of course, it makes the perfect gift bundle alongside Modernist Cuisine at Home.
This bundle from SousVide Supreme is everything you need to get started cooking sous vide at home. The SousVide Supreme water bath features a self-contained heating element and a small countertop footprint. The bundle also includes an edge-style vacuum sealer – perfect for sealing meats and vegetables for those long cooking times that produce such exceptional results.
[Disclosure: I and the Director of Applied Research for Modernist Cuisine. I have business relationships with some of the manufacturers suggested in this list. However, all of the recommendations listed here are based on my personal preferences alone and do not reflect an endorsement by Modernist Cuisine, LLC. I have not received, nor will I receive any money, products or preferential treatment for the recommendations on this list.]
Modernist Cuisine introduced the idea of a “constructed cream” – a cream-like sauce that has never passed through a teat [if you’re into vivid imagery]. Dairy creams, including milk, are actually emulsions. Milk, for example, is composed of tiny droplets of fat suspended in water and stabilized by a protein called casein. So, if milk and cream are emulsions of fat and water, why not emulsify together any arbitrary fat and water to produce a sauce with the thickness and mouthfeel of cream? Boom: constructed creams are born.
That one insight has incredible repercussions, and the Modernist Cuisine at Home recipe for Home Jus Gras is a great example. In a traditional gravy, you start with very flavorful roasting juices or pan drippings. The problem is that pan drippings are quite thin, so we typically thicken them by adding flour or cornstarch. This approach has “compromise” written all over it: starches are flavor inhibitors. The Modernist Cuisine approach is to combine those roasting juices with flavorful liquid fat instead, and to swap flour and cornstarch for xanthan gum, which can be used in extremely small quantities and doesn’t dull the flavor of the finished sauce.
The full recipe – which is amazing! – is in Modernist Cuisine at Home. However, if you’re short on time, we’ve developed an even simpler version using store-bough fat and stock. This Simplified Jus Gras recipe is in the Modernist Cuisine recipe library. I hope that this recipe is also a jumping-off point for you to experiment with your own flavors. Last year, I used this technique with rendered fat from a pre-Christmas goose and some spiced apple cider to produce a grain-free gravy that jived with my wife’s dietary restrictions. But, there’s no reason you couldn’t use bacon grease and whiskey, if you were so-inclined.
For the rest of the MDRN KTCHN series, check out CHOW.com.
I’ve always been fascinated by puffed foods. Maybe it’s because our brains are hardwired to enjoy crunchy snacks… maybe it’s because Snap, Crackle and Pop were sending subliminal messages when I was a kid. In this video, I explain the science of puffing and show you a simple one you can make at home: puffed rice crisps.