Modernist Cuisine requires a chemistry degree
December 12, 2011 2:17 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone dived into Modernist Cuisine? What are some of the must try recipes? The tome is overwhelming and the equipment required can get expensive.

I'm not an expert cook, but I actually find Modernist Cuisine easier to understand and follow than other cookbooks, which aren't nearly as precise in their ingredients or preparations.

Unfortunately a lot of the recipes require things I don't have in my kitchen (e.g., Manugel DMF, FMC BioPolymer brand, or a vacuum tumbler). I get this is sort of the point of Modernist Cuisine, but I could easily go broke trying to recreate every recipe.

Are there a subset of recipes people are really enjoying? Or perhaps a variety of recipes that use more or less the same exotic ingredients and equipment? I don't mind buying a vacuum tumbler if it is going to be used 80% of the time, but not if it is used in a handful of recipes I'll never try.

Also any poor man hacks of the equipment or the recipes would be nice to have. For example, when I sous vide, I simply put the product in a freezer bag and try to get all the air out which works great. I don't have an expensive machine.
posted by geoff. to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
There were some scanned pages floating around detailing risotto, which looked amazing. I can't vouch for it personally -- the recipe wasn't complete -- but I'm always looking for new risotto hacks so I latched onto that one. I think it only needed a pressure cooker.
posted by supercres at 2:19 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

We made an approximation of the burgers over the weekend - cooked sous vide in ziplock bags, we skipped the liquid nitrogen step and went straight to deep frying them! The technique produces a burger that is nicely cooked and juicy on the inside, but has a very crunchy delicious crust on the outside! Definitely recommended!
posted by unlaced at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Chocolate Chantily is pretty straightforward :D

Oh! And for winging it on the vaccuum; using a drinking straw and sucking the air out isn't too shabby. Watch out for liquids that are not very delicious uncooked :)

(I'm eyeing up a meat grinder so I can make a bunch of the sausage recipes.)
posted by ambilevous at 2:50 PM on December 12, 2011

The butternut squash soup with a pinch of baking soda is easy and brilliant.
posted by firstbest at 2:54 PM on December 12, 2011

Making coffee with water at the exact temperature that they recommend (although now I don't remember what it is -- 200 F?)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:33 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're trying to get the air out of a freezer bag without special equipment, one good approach is to close all but a small portion of the top of the bag and to lower everything else into a bucket of water. The water will squeeze the air out of the bag, and you can finish sealing the top while the bag's still immersed.

Even if you do get a Foodsaver/etc, this approach may still sometimes be your best option. The Foodsaver won't work well for anything with a lot of liquid, for instance. (Vacuum sealing a bag full of liquid requires a chamber vacuum sealer, which'll be much more expensive.)
posted by ethand at 8:09 AM on December 13, 2011

I got a copy of Modernist Cuisine and a Sous Vide Demi for wedding presents, and I have a vacuum sealer, so I've been trying to ease into the recipes too. There's a Getting Started page at the book's Web site that lists some accessible recipes. I've tried the Chicken Tikka Masala (p. 118), and it was delicious but jeez there's a lot of prep involved – saffron-infused water, spices toasted and ground – and you still have to vacuum-seal the chicken with the marinade for 12 hours, and then again with butter – in two separate bags so you can sous vide the thighs and the breasts at different water temperatures!

The Ham and Cheese Omelet (p. 240) "can be made in a conventional oven [rather than a steam oven], but doing so requires great vigilance". So I'm going to try that soon. And Grant Achatz's Eggs Benedict recipe is pretty straightforward if you can keep two pots of butter at 162ºF and 194ºF long enough to cook the egg yolk and white drops...

There is a searchable on-line index to the Kitchen Manual which lets you select the ingredients, equipment, and techniques you want to use – but it only shows recipes that use all of them! When of course what you want is to see all the recipes that you can do with only your selections. So if you're dying to put Activa in a centrifuge, it'll tell you that you can make Salmon Custard, but if you tell it you have blueberries too, it finds no recipes at all. I guess Nathan Myrhvold's involvement guaranteed that no thought would be given to the user's actual needs...

Hmm, the AJAX request that returns the search results is not protected... I could use it as an API and build a better interface... [maniacal laughter]
posted by nicwolff at 6:38 PM on December 13, 2011

That's right, of all the people whose intellectual property could be of greater use and value to society it was copied and remixed, I'm singling out the head of Intellectual Ventures.
posted by nicwolff at 8:37 AM on December 14, 2011

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