I joined the MC crew just after the book was published. While I consider myself to be at least an adequate home cook, I quickly had to learn many of the finer points of not just all 2,438 pages of Modernist Cuisine, but of the movement itself. Poring through the volumes, as well as looking at photos of Modernist restaurants online, I also noticed some recurring themes. One of them was pouring a consommé tableside, à la Ferran Adrìa.
When I was brainstorming recipes to publish on the blog this month, I naturally started thinking about Thanksgiving. One of my favorite things about the traditional American feast is how well all of the elements go together. I wondered, Could you pour a consommé over your dish and create a stew? I started writing down ideas, and later I pitched some of them to MC coauthor Maxime Bilet.
Max saw some issues with some of the particular components I proposed for the stew: meats don’t mix well with carbonated fruit, he said, and croutons didn’t strike him as the best representative of stuffing. But he liked my overall idea as well as the notion of a pour-over consommé, and he and Johnny Zhu, one of his culinary research assistants, developed these into a Thanksgiving masterpiece.
The moment I tasted their creation, I knew what I’d give thanks for this year, the chance to work with true geniuses. I didn’t know what I was eating, but I said, “This tastes like Thanksgiving.” Johnny had made a puree of store-bought stuffing mix. The cranberry liquid mingles with turkey jus. The turkey breast is cooked sous vide to a perfect core temperature. And Nathan’s comparison of Modernist cooking to architecture really clicked in my head when I watched Max arrange the various components on the plate.
In the beginning, Max jokingly calling this dish “Judy’s Stew” (whereas I referred to it as “my crazy idea”). Nathan called it “Modernist Cuisine in a bowl.” But none of those names stuck because, of course, I am not a chef and didn’t actually invent any of it, and because it is more than just Modernist cuisine. So we have instead called it Thanksgiving Stew because it is the quintessence of Thanksgiving dinner, presented in a new light.
Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer