Introducing the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook edition!

We are thrilled to announce the eBook edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home, available now for $79.99! Powered by the Inkling platform, the digital version includes all the content from the print edition plus exclusive features and new content, making it a perfect companion to the print version. For the full list of features, see the product page.

Modernist Cuisine at Home on DevicesSo, why are we releasing an eBook now? Back when we started developing the original Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking book in 2004, there were no e-readers or tablet computers (the first black-and-white Kindle wasn’t introduced until late 2007). When work began on Modernist Cuisine at Home, e-readers and similar devices had matured but not enough to create the type of digital experience we wanted. Most eBooks were just digital reproductions of printed pages, which created problems for our over-sized, information-dense layouts—text would be too small to read, recipe tables would require a ballet of finger swiping to navigate, and screen resolutions of yesteryear would not have done justice to our vivid photography. We decided to print Modernist Cuisine at Home and wait for tablets and eBook publishing technologies to catch up to our needs.

Thanks to the Inkling platform and recent advancements in hardware, we knew we could create a digital edition of Modernist Cuisine at Home that would exceed, not sacrifice, the quality of the experience of cooking through our books.

Taking full advantage of the digital platform, the eBook lets you study a video* of a new or complex technique, quickly change the recipe yield, add items to a grocery list that syncs to your smartphone, and find product and ingredient recommendations with a single tap. Inkling also developed new features for the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook to make it easy to search recipes by ingredient, tool, and difficulty level.

feature-recipes

With so many new features and additional content, we hope the Modernist Cuisine at Home eBook becomes an indispensable resource in your kitchen and an excellent companion to the print edition.

 

*Internet connection required for video playback.

Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Pantry Partner for Online Store and Cooking Kits

 

Finding Modernist ingredients and tools just got easier. The Modernist Cuisine™ Online Store, powered by Modernist Pantry, provides a wide selection of unusual ingredients, packaged and priced for both home and professional use.

Since the release of Modernist Cuisine, our readers have frequently asked us for help locating ingredients and equipment. While some Modernist ingredients are sold at grocery, health, brewing, and other specialty stores, the shopping experience can be frustrating—ingredients are commonly labeled with different names, and the properties of some ingredients vary widely between brands. In response, we have partnered with Modernist Pantry, an online retailer dedicated to Modernist cooking, to streamline the shopping process. Ingredients are easy to find, and the descriptions provide contextual links to our Modernist Cuisine books.

If you are new to Modernist cooking and want to experiment with some of the most iconic Modernist techniques, we have you covered. The Modernist Cuisine™ Gel Noodle Kit and the Modernist Cuisine™ Spherification Kit include all of the tools and Modernist ingredients needed to learn the techniques of gelling. Each kit also includes a full-color recipe booklet with all the features you have come to expect from Modernist Cuisine: recipes with scaling percentages, step-by-step photos, recipe variations, troubleshooting steps, and detailed information about each ingredient. Each kit contains enough Modernist ingredients to make 20 batches.

Although we think a tank of liquid nitrogen would make a great stocking stuffer, these gelling kits are a little easier to gift wrap. Designed for ages eight and older, they are also great projects to tackle with your kids!

We encourage you to share your creations and variations with us on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more and buy the gel noodle kit here or the spherification kit here.

– The Modernist Cuisine Team

Remembering Charlie Trotter

This morning, the world lost a culinary legend with the passing of Charlie Trotter, chef and owner of the world-famous Charlie Trotter’s restaurant Chicago. Charlie left a lasting legacy. He was a pioneer in the world of fine dining, and was one of the first American chefs to create a model for haute cuisine that wasn’t just an import of European food, but instead was intrinsically based on the cuisine of the United States. He was also one of the first American celebrity chefs. Charlie emphasized dining as an emotional and intellectual experience, and considered classic dishes as a starting point for improvisation, rather than rule. He was a passionate advocate for perfection and excellence, to the degree that he wrote several management books about how to take those values from high end food to other disciplines. A host of innovative chefs like Homaro Cantu, Graham Elliot, and Grant Achatz passed through his kitchen and went to create an exciting set of Chicago restaurants. For me, Chicago is one of the most exciting cities in the world to go to dinner, and that is part of Charlie’s legacy.

I was fortunate to be one of the chefs passing through his kitchen – albeit for a single dinner. My team and I had the rare privilege to cook alongside Charlie to celebrate his restaurant’s 25th anniversary, shortly before its closing last year. We spent several days with Charlie and his staff, and we experienced his gregarious (and sometimes outrageous) personality and incomparable hospitality first-hand. From the moment of our arrival, it was clear that Charlie knew just how to make a guest feel welcome. When our car pulled up to the entrance of Trotter’s, his entire staff – chefs, servers, hosts and all – lined the sidewalk in military formation, as if prepared for the arrival of a foreign dignitary. Once inside, Charlie was quick to put everyone at ease. He enjoyed singling out his chefs and servers, one by one, by interrupting their task at hand and inquiring, for all to hear, “If you were on a desert island and could only bring one book to read, which would it be?” Newer employees answered nervously, realizing the question was a test, and having clearly been put on the spot for Charlie’s amusement.  Experienced Trotter’s team members responded with the correct answer, “Yours, Chef!” It was his way of breaking the invisible tension that divides the diners and service team in traditional fine dining, putting the whole room at ease.

Charlie’s memory will live on in the hundreds and thousands who dined at his restaurant, read his books, or knew him from television. He made an immeasurable impact on the world of fine dining, and we will miss him deeply.

 -Nathan

Revisiting a Halloween favorite: Glowing gummy worms

By: W. WAYT GIBBS

When I was 10 years old, I took a bet from a fellow sixth grader and, in front of the whole class, choked down a panfried earthworm. Of all the weird foods I’ve eaten—and there have been quite a few—that was by far the creepiest.

With a little advance planning, you can make a treat for this Halloween that gives your guests the willies but actually tastes great. Imagine their reaction when you uncover a serving tray piled high with cookie-crumb “dirt” filled with wiggling gummy night crawlers. Then turn out the light, switch on a black light, and enjoy the gasps as the edible worms emit an eerie blue glow, thanks to a tasty fluorescent liquid that you might already have in your pantry.

These treats are fairly easy to make once you have all the needed supplies. And kids will enjoy helping with the preparation, if you don’t mind spoiling the surprise. To make worm-shaped gummy candies, our research chefs use night crawler fishing-lure molds purchased from a sporting goods store. But other mold shapes will work as well; this time of year, it’s easy to find candy molds for skulls, spiders, rats, eyeballs—whatever sends a shiver down your spine. Shallow molds work best.

Two special ingredients combine to yield that smooth, stretchy, yet tender texture you want in a gummy candy. The first is gelatin, which comes in various strengths measured by a unit called Bloom (after Oscar Bloom, who invented the gelometer, a device that measures jelly strength). The recipe works best with 200 Bloom gelatin, sometimes called gold gelatin. If you can’t find it, you can substitute Knox-brand powdered gelatin, which has a Bloom strength of 225. Just reduce the amount used from 20 grams to 18 grams.

The second unusual ingredient is gum arabic, which is made from the hardened sap of acacia trees. The gum gives the candies a smooth, shiny surface while remaining pliable. It’s fairly pricey stuff, but you only need a little bit. Look for it online in powdered form.

And that secret ingredient that glows under black light? Quinine, which is used to flavor tonic water. This medicinal chemical, originally isolated from the bark of a South American tree, is so highly fluorescent that it sends out about 55 photons of visible blue light for every 100 photons of ultraviolet light (also known as black light) that it absorbs. If you don’t already have a black light, get the kind that uses fluorescent tubes: they emit a wider range of wavelengths than LED lights do and will make the quinine in the candies glow more vibrantly.

To obtain the right texture for these candies, it is crucial to use the correct proportions of ingredients.

Glowing Gummy Worms Recipe

The Photography of Modernist Cuisine

When we wrote Modernist Cuisine, we wanted to capture our readers’ attention and engage their curiosity, exposing them to scientific principles and modern culinary techniques. We knew a text‑heavy book might be intimidating, so we added a second goal: make the book beautiful by filling it with stunning photography.

After wrapping up the production of Modernist Cuisine at Home, we decided the photos deserved to be showcased on their own. This book will allow you to see images of food in a whole new way, at a scale that the previous books didn’t allow.

Over the course of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home, we shot over 212,000 images. From that library, we selected 405 photos for this book. Of those, 145 of our most-captivating images span the entire 26-inch-wide opened book, uninterrupted by text. Two-thirds of the photos have never before been published, and, of those, 126 images were created just for this book.

At almost 13 pounds and with pages almost 60% larger than its predecessors, The Photography of Modernist Cuisine is a massive photo book. In addition to the images themselves, we also provide a glimpse into the story behind each photograph. Some stories describe the daily cooking experiments in our lab, while others chronicle unusual foods we’ve encountered from all corners of the globe. Others, still, illuminate scientific insig hts through a view of food you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. We included these descriptions in the back of the book and also take you behind the scenes to impart how the photographs were taken and edited.

If you love food or appreciate beauty, or if you’ve ever looked at our photography and wondered how we did it, we hope The Photography of Modernist Cuisine will immerse you in a view of food that is familiar, yet profoundly new.

We hope you find a spot for The Photography of Modernist Cuisine in your home (you may have to clear off your coffee table) and enjoy the stories we share.

The Modernist Cuisine Team

 

A triple-almond pie with cherries on top

BY W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

By late summer, the fruits hanging from vast groves of Prunus amygdalus trees in California have withered and split. Through cracks in their leathery rinds, you can see glimpses of the pale teardrop-shaped seeds they protect: almonds, ready for harvest.

By early autumn, fresh almonds are pouring into markets by the ton. It’s the perfect time of year to make this recipe for almond cherry cream pie, which works the subtle and complex flavor of almonds into all three layers: a crispy crust, a custard filling, and a sweet, crunchy topping.

The chefs in our research kitchen tested more than 40 versions of sweet and tart crusts to find the combination that, thanks to a bit of almond flour and powdered sugar, produces a container for the pie that has just the right balance of sweetness, strength, and buttery give. A thin coat of cocoa butter holds the cream filling away from the crust, so it stays crisp from the first bite to the last. And a dash of almond extract enhances the flavor of the almond flour.

The pie is filled with a simple pastry cream flavored by amaretto, the almond-flavored liqueur. Cooking the custard in a temperature-controlled pot of water ensures that the texture turns out right every time.

You can top the pie with caramelized almonds, which are easy to prepare and make an addictive snack on their own. And for a splash of color and a dash of tartness, we add canned Amarena cherries. Fresh cherries are even better, but hard to come by this time of year. Slices of fresh fig also work well as a topping.

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The crust, filling, and caramelized almond topping for this pie can each be made separately and stored until you are ready to assemble the pie. The crust will keep for up to three months if you vacuum seal it and then freeze it before it is baked. The pastry cream filling will keep for up to two days in the refrigerator. The caramelized almonds will keep for up to a week when stored in an airtight container. If you are making the pie all at once, you can save time by making the pastry cream and caramelized almonds while the dough for the crust rests in the refrigerator.

 

TRIPLE-ALMOND CHERRY PIE

Start to finish: 3 hours, including 2 hours of unattended cooking, to make the crust, filling, and topping, and to assemble the pie

Makes one 12 inch pie

12-inch Double Almond Pie Crust, baked

4 cups (1 kg) Amaretto Pastry Cream

½ cup (60 g) Caramelized Almonds

12 Amarena cherries or fresh cherries, halved

2 Tbsp cocoa butter

Melt the cocoa butter over low heat or in the microwave, and brush a thin coat of the oil onto the interior of the baked pie crust. Allow the fat to solidify at room temperature, and then fill the crust with cold pastry cream. Smooth the surface of the filling with a spatula, and refrigerate the pie until it becomes firm, at least one hour. Top the pie with the crumbled caramelized almonds and cherry halves. Serve it cold.

 

DOUBLE ALMOND PIE CRUST

3-1/2 tablespoons (50 g) blended egg yolks (from 3 to 4 eggs)

1-1/2 cups (200 g) all-pupose flour

¾ cup (165 g) unsalted butter, very cold

¾ cup (80 g) powdered sugar

3/8 cup (30 g) almond flour

1 tsp (4 g) salt

¾ tsp (2.5 g) almond extract

½ tsp (2 g) baking powder

baking beads or dry beans, as needed 

Fill a large stock pot with hot water, and preheat it to 153 F. Clip a digital thermometer to the rim of the pot, with the tip well submerged, to monitor the temperature. Place the blended egg yolks in a zip-closure bag, and slowly lower the open bag into the preheated water until the top is nearly at the surface of the water, and then seal it. The goal is to use the water pressure to squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag. Once sealed, the bag should sink.

Submerge the bag of yolks, and let them cook in the 153 F water for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust the heat as needed to keep the temperature at or near 153 F.

While the yolks cook, dice the chilled butter, and combine it in a food processor with the flours, powdered sugar, salt, and baking powder. Pulse the food processor until the mixture takes on the texture of cornmeal.

Add the almond extract and cooked egg yolks gradually, while continuing to pulse the food processor. Continue processing until the dough starts to bind. Although it may look quite dry, it will cohere eventually.

Shape the dough into a ball, flatten it into a thick disk, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Put the wrapped dough into the refrigerator and let it rest for an hour. As it rests, the butter in the dough will harden and the gluten will grow more elastic. While the dough rests, you can make the pastry cream and caramelized almonds from the recipes below.

Preheat an oven to 375 F. Roll the rested dough into a circle that is about 1/8 inch think and about 2 inches larger in diameter than the pie pan. If you find that the dough is too sticky to roll, either chill it again or place it between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment, and then roll it. 

Line a 12 inch pie pan with the dough; do not trim off the excess. Instead, let the edges drape over the sides of the pan. Press the dough firmly into the pan interior. If you don’t need to use the crust right away, cover the unbaked crust in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator. For longer-term storage, vacuum seal it, and stick it in the freezer.

To prepare the crust for baking, prick it with a fork all over, and then press parchment paper over top to protect it during baking. The fill the pan with baking beads or dry beans, and press them against the walls so that the dough doesn’t droop while it is in the oven.

Put the pie pan on a baking sheet, and bake it in the preheated oven until it turns golden brown, about 12 minutes. Midway through the baking, rotate the pie pan a half turn so that it browns evenly.

Carefully remove the beans and parchment paper. If the crust still looks a little wet, return it to the over for another 2 to 3 minutes. 

Cool the crust to room temperature, and then use a knife or vegetable peeler to trim any excess crust from the edges of the pan.

 

AMARETTO PASTRY CREAM

¾ cup (200 g) egg yolks, blended (11 to 12 yolks)

½ cup (110 mL) heavy cream

½ cup (100 mL) whole milk

¼ cup (50 g) unsalted butter, softened

5 tablespoons (64 g) sugar

1¼ tsp (6 mL) amaretto liqueur

pinch of salt 

Fill a large stock pot with hot water, and preheat it to 176 F. Use a thermometer clipped to the pot to monitor the water temperature. 

In a saucepan, combine the cream, milk, sugar, and salt. Whisk the mixture over medium-low heat until the sugar and salt have completely dissolved. 

Strain the blended egg yolks into a zip-closure bag. Remove the air from the bag by slowly lowering it into the stock pot until the surface of the water almost reaches the seal, and then close it. The bag should sink into the water. Allow the egg yolks to cook in the water bath for 35 minutes; adjust the heat as needed to keep the temperature at or near 176 F.

The yolks should now be firm and fully set. Transfer them immediately from the bag into a blender, and puree them at low speed. Do not allow the yolks to cool before blending, or the pastry cream will become grainy.  

While the blender is running, gradually add the amaretto and the warm cream mixture. 

Increase the blender speed to high, and gradually add the softened butter. Blend until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy.

If you will not be using the pastry cream right away, press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming, and store it in the refrigerator.

 

CARAMELIZED ALMONDS

½ cup (50 g) sliced almonds

2-1/2 tablespoons (25 g) sugar

2-1/2 teaspoons (10 g) egg white, blended

pinch of salt 

Preheat an oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the almonds, sugar, egg white, and salt well, and then spread them evenly across the paper. 

Bake until golden brown, about six minutes. The color of the almonds can change quickly, so keep an eye on them. 

Cool the almonds to room temperature, and then crumble them into large pieces. If you will not be using them immediately, store the almonds in an airtight container.

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Photo credit: Melissa Lehuta, Modernist Cuisine, LLC

 

Grilled cheese sandwiches to knock your socks off

BY W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

When I was a child, I thought like a child, I ate like a child: PB&Js, BLTs and grilled cheese sandwiches made from slices of Velveeta melted to gooey perfection between two slices of skillet-toasted white bread.

But when I became an adult, I put away childish things. I grew out of Velveeta and Wonder bread. Grilled cheese sandwiches, however, are forever – assuming you know how to update them for a more grown-up palate.

Begin by using better bread. In place of the squishy white stuff, try something with more substance: a flavorful sourdough, sweet brioche, or crunchy baguette, for example. Buy a loaf, and slice it yourself into slabs about half an inch think (or halve the baguette lengthwise). The slices should be substantial enough to hold everything together but not so bulky that they overwhelm the flavor of the sandwich.

Next, add some interesting texture or flavors to the filling. Thin slices of sweet apple and spicy jalapenos complement sourdough slices nicely. The brioche makes a delicious and filling breakfast or brunch when stuffed with sliced ham, sauteed mushrooms and a fried egg. A baguette yields a bruschetta-like grilled cheese sandwich when dressed with fresh basil leaves, pesto and tomato confit.

The star in this show, of course, is the cheese. You can use the fanciest, stinkiest, crumbliest cheese your heart desires if you borrow a trick from the food scientists at Kraft. Flip over a box of Velveeta and you’ll find there, listed among the other ingredients, the reason that it slices so easily and melts so uniformly: sodium citrate. This white, crystalline ingredient looks like salt, and in fact it is a salt – a salt of citric acid, which is a natural component of citrus fruits. You can buy sodium citrate at some brewer supply stores or order it readily online.

I keep a big jar of the stuff in my pantry because it is so useful for making cheese sauces for pasta, nachos or fondue. Just dissolve 11 grams of sodium citrate into 1 1/8 cups (265 milliliters) of milk or water over medium heat, bring to a simmer, and gradually whisk or blend in 285 grams of finely grated cheese (3 to 4 cups, depending on the kind of cheese and coarseness of the grater). As the cheese melts, the sodium citrate serves as an emulsifier and prevents the fat from splitting off to form a greasy slick on top.

The recipes below riff on this technique to make a thicker cheese sauce that sets into an even sheet, perfect for cutting into slices and adding to sandwiches. Use whatever kind or blend of cheeses and liquids you want (cold wheat beer works well in place of water). Add the weights of the cheese and liquid, and multiply the total by 0.028 to get the amount of sodium citrate to use.

For example, you can make 500 grams of emulsified cheese (enough for 12 to 14 slices) by blending 14 grams of sodium citrate into 115 milliliters of cold wheat beer, simmering, and blending in 200 grams (3 cups) of grated Gruyere and 180 grams (3 cups) of grated sharp cheddar.

Poured into a warm baking sheet and covered with plastic wrap, the cheese becomes solid after about two hours in the refrigerator. The slices, when individually wrapped in plastic or parchment paper, will keep for up to two months in the freezer. They thaw quickly, so when you get that Sunday afternoon urge for a quick grilled cheese blast from the past, you can recreate a fond memory from childhood in no time.

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If possible, weigh the cheese in the recipes below rather than relying on volume measurements; volumes can vary greatly with the kind of cheese and fineness of grating.

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AGED WHITE CHEDDAR ON SOURDOUGH WITH APPLES

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Makes 4 sandwiches

For the cheese slices:

3 teaspoons (14 grams) sodium citrate

1/2 cup (115 milliliters) water

6 cups (380 grams) aged white cheddar cheese, grated

For the sandwich:

Butter

8 slices sourdough bread, about 1/2 inch thick

8 very thin slices apple (Honeycrisp, or your favorite variety)

3 tablespoons (30 grams) thinly sliced jalapenos

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, or oil the sheet lightly, and heat it in an oven set to its lower temperature. The larger the baking sheet, the thinner the cheese slices will be.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sodium citrate in the water, then bring to a simmer. Add the grated cheese to the simmering water a handful at a time while whisking or blending with an immersion blender until all of the cheese is completely melted and smooth.

Pour the melted cheese onto the warmed baking sheet. Tip the sheet back and forth to form a single layer of even thickness. Cover the cheese layer with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours. Slice the cheese into pieces sized to fit your bread slices.

When ready to prepare the sandwiches, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium. Alternatively, heat a sandwich grill or panini press.

Butter the outward-facing sides of each bread slice, assemble the sandwiches, each with a slice of cheese, a slice of apple and a bit of the jalapenos. Add a sandwich to the skillet and panfry until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining sandwiches.

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GOAT CHEESE ON BAGUETTE WITH TOMATO CONFIT AND BASIL

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Makes 4 sandwiches

For the cheese slices:

2 1/2 tablespoons (38 milliliters) water

2 1/4 teaspoons (11 grams) sodium citrate

3 cups (380 grams) goat cheese, rind removed and crumbled (Bucheron or your favorite semi-aged goat cheese)

For the sandwich:

16-inch baguette

Butter, as needed

1/4 cup (80 grams) pesto

1/2 cup (120 grams) tomato confit in oil (or sun-dried tomatoes in oil)

8 to 12 leaves fresh basil

Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, or oil the sheet lightly, and heat it in an oven set to its lower temperature. The larger the baking sheet, the thinner the cheese slices will be.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sodium citrate in the water, then bring to a simmer. Add the cheese to the simmering water a handful at a time while whisking or blending with an immersion blender until all of the cheese is completely melted and smooth.

Pour the melted cheese onto the warmed baking sheet. Tip the sheet back and forth to form a single layer of even thickness. Cover the cheese layer with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator until set, about 2 hours. Slice the cheese into pieces sized to fit your bread slices.

When ready to prepare the sandwich, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium. Alternatively, heat a sandwich grill or panini press.

Cut the baguette into 4 segments, each about 4 inches long, then slice each segment in half lengthwise. Lightly butter the crust of each baguette slice, then assemble the sandwiches, using a bit of pesto, a slice of cheese, a bit of sun-dried tomatoes and 2 to 3 basil leaves per sandwich. Panfry each sandwich until the crust is toasted and the cheese is melted, 2 to 3 minutes on a side.

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Photo credit: Chris Hoover/ Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Beer-can chicken: popular classic based on science

BY W. WAYT GIBBS Associated Press

You may not find too many restaurant chefs plopping their poultry on cans of PBR, but all those tailgaters and beachside grillers are on to something.

There are solid scientific reasons that chicken really does roast better in a more upright, lifelike pose than when it is flat on its soggy back. And by adding a couple of extra prep steps to the technique and taking your care with the temperature, you can get the best of both worlds: succulent, juicy meat and crispy, golden brown skin. On top of all that, you get to drink the beer! The chicken doesn’t actually need it.

Beer-can chicken recipes are everywhere on the Internet, but most of them don’t address the two biggest challenges of roasting poultry. The first is to avoid overcooking the meat. Nothing is more disappointing at a Labor Day cookout than to bite into a beautiful-looking chicken breast only to end up with a mouthful of woody fiber that seems to suck the saliva right out of your glands. The solution to this first challenge is simple: take your time, measure the temperature correctly and frequently, and choose the right target for the core temperature (as measured at the deepest, densest part of the thigh). When you cook the bird slowly, the heat has more time to kill any nasty bacteria living in the food, so you don’t have to cook the heck the out of thing. The federal government recommends bringing the meat to 165 F for at least 15 seconds. But guidelines issued by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service show that 35 minutes at 140 F achieves the same degree of pasteurization, even in the fattiest chicken. The recipe below calls for several hours in the oven and a core temperature of 145 F to 150 F, which will meet those guidelines as long as you slow-cook the bird at a low temperature. But be sure you use a reliable, oven-safe thermometer and place it properly as directed in the recipe. The tip shouldn’t be touching or near any bone. The second challenge that most beer-can chicken recipes fail to overcome is crisping the skin. Here, liquid is the enemy, and adding additional liquid in the form of a can full of beer is the wrong approach. So empty the can first _ the specifics of that will be left as an exercise for the reader_ and use the empty can merely as a way to prop up the bird and to block airflow in its interior so that the meat doesn’t dry out.

Also, give the skin some breathing room by running your (carefully washed) fingers underneath it before roasting. As the subdermal fat melts away, it will trickle downward; a few well-placed punctures provide exits without compromising the balloon-like ability of the skin to puff outward under steam pressure. Held apart from the juicy meat, the loose skin will dry as it browns, especially during a final short blast of high heat in a hot oven. Done right, each slice of tender meat will be capped with a strip of wonderfully flavored skin, which will be at its crispiest when it emerges from the oven. So have your table ready, and don’t be slow with the carving knife. But do take a moment to remove the can before you tuck in.

Modernist Cuisine Beer Can Chicken
Photo credit: Ryan Matthew Smith/ Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Start to finish: 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours (30 minutes active) Servings: 4 1 medium roaster chicken 12-ounce can of cold beer (any variety you like to drink) Set an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven. Remove the upper racks. Heat the oven to 175 F, or as low as your oven will allow if its controls do not go this low.

Wash your hands well with soap. Remove the neck and bag of giblets, if included, from inside the chicken. Slide your fingertips underneath the skin at the neck opening and gently work the skin away from the meat. Use care to avoid tearing the skin as you pull it loose from the body; continue as far as you can reach on both the front and the back. Turn the chicken over, and repeat from the cavity opening at the base of the bird, making sure to loosen the skin on the drumsticks so that it is attached only at the wings and the ends of the legs. Use a knife to pierce the skin at the foot end of each leg and at the tail end of the front and back. These small incisions will allow the cooking juices to drain away so that they don’t soak into the skin. Pour the contents of the beer can into a glass, and enjoy it at your leisure. Push the empty can into the tail end of the bird far enough that the chicken can stand upright as it rests on the can. If the neck was included with the chicken, use it like a stopper to close up the opening at the top of the bird. Otherwise you can use a bulldog clip to pinch the skin closed so that steam inflates the loose skin like a balloon and holds it away from the damp meat as the chicken roasts. Set a baking sheet in the oven. Insert the probe of an oven-safe thermometer into the deepest part of the chicken’s thigh. Stand the chicken upright (on the can) on the baking sheet and roast until the core temperature reaches 145 F if you want the white meat to be juicy and tender; for more succulent dark meat, continue roasting to a core temperature of 150 F. A medium-size roaster will need 3 to 4 hours.

After the first 30 minutes of roasting, check the effective baking temperature by inserting a digital thermometer through the skin to a depth of 3/8 inch. The temperature there should be within 5 F of the target core temperature (either 145 F or 150 F). If it is too high, open the oven door for several minutes; if too cool, increase the oven setting slightly. Repeat this check of the near-surface temperature every half hour or so. When the core temperature hits the target, take the chicken out and let it rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, increase the oven temperature to its hottest baking setting. Don’t use the broiler, but do select a convection baking mode if your oven has one. Return the bird to the hot oven, turn on the light, and watch it carefully as it browns. The goal is crisp, golden brown skin. The skin will start to brown quickly, and browning will accelerate once it starts. So keep your eye on it. Once the chicken is browned, remove the can, carve it, and serve immediately, while the skin is still crispy.

Great grilling with 3 tricks to tender, tasty beef

BY W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

You don’t have to go to some high-end steakhouse or shell out $200 a pound for ultramarbled Wagyu beef from Japan to get flavorful, tender beef for your next barbecue. Just keep three crucial factors in mind: the grade, the grain and the aging. A well-informed purchase and a couple of easy prep steps can make the difference between a so-so steak and one that sends your eyeballs skyward.

Step No. 1: buy the best meat that fits your budget. To do that, you need to know a bit about how beef is graded in the U.S. The system is based mostly on the age of the animal and the amount of marbling in the meat.

“USDA prime” is the highest grade. Only about 3 percent of cattle meet the criteria, so most prime-grade meat is snatched up by fancy restaurants and specialty butchers before it makes it to supermarkets. Below that is “choice,” followed by “select.” Anything below these is best avoided for steaks, ribs and roasts. In Canada, the equivalent grades are called “Canada prime,” “AAA,” and “AA.”

Though the visible fat content of red meat is easy to measure, researchers have found that it accounts for only about 5 percent of the variation in meat tenderness. The Australian government uses a much more reliable grading system that takes into account other important factors, including what the animal ate, how it was treated, and the pH of its muscles, which reflects how humanely it was slaughtered.

If cattle are exhausted, shivering, injured or highly stressed at the time they are killed, their muscles deplete their natural fuel store of glycogen, and the pH of the meat is abnormal as a result. Beef that is unusually dark, firm and dry often is a product of poor slaughterhouse practices.

A grade stamped on the package is one useful piece of information about the quality of the meat, but it isn’t the end of the story. Some of the best beef is not graded at all; it is sold by small producers who can’t afford to pay the high costs of having a USDA grader on site. In other cases, official-sounding labels — such as Certified Angus Beef — are not grades, but rather brand names used by loose associations of ranchers to make their meat appear distinctive.

Step No. 2: Whether you spring for a prime tenderloin or a select flat-iron steak, you can get the most tenderness out of the cut if you pay attention to the grain. Just like wood, meat is a collection of long, skinny fibers. If you cut the meat along the fibers, it’s like sawing boards out of a tree trunk: the resulting pieces are very strong and hard to chew. Instead, slice across the fibers; the tougher the cut, the thinner the slices should be. Each bite will then fall apart more easily and release more of its juices and flavor.

Step No. 3: For a real steakhouse experience, try aging your meat before you cook it. The best steakhouses use special humidity-controlled rooms to dry-age beef for a month or more. The drying process concentrates sugars, protein fragments, and other flavorful molecules to yield unparalleled taste. But because the steaks shrink as they dry and much of the exterior has to be trimmed off before cooking, this is typically an expensive step.

Here’s a shortcut: brush Asian fish sauce onto the steak (use about 3 grams of sauce for every 100 grams of meat). Put the coated steak in a zip-closure bag, then remove the air by submerging the bag in water while holding the open end just above the surface (the water forces the air out of the bag). Seal the bag, then lift it out of the water. Refrigerate the sealed meat for three days before you cook it. You may be surprised by how much tenderer the steak becomes and by the depth of its meaty, umami flavor.

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Photo credit: Nathan Myhrvold / Modernist Cuisine, LLC

Seven Salad Tips

With warm weather comes an abundance of produce. Salads are a classic way to create a mélange of flavors and textures by using the best produce of the season. But often times, produce can become soggy, wilted, or just plain boring. Here are some of our favorite tips to brighten up your salads during this or any other season.

1. Start with the dressing: Though it is commonly added last, dressing should be added to your bowl first. This will help evenly coat the salad when you toss it. Add slightly less than you think you will need. You can always drizzle a little extra over the top before serving.

2. Add a little lecithin:
Liquid soy lecithin is a great emulsifier, which is why we add it to our vinaigrettes. Try adding about 1-2% (by weight of the oil) lecithin to prevent the dressing from separating. Make sure you use the liquid variety; the powdered kind is a foam stabilizer, not an emulsifier. We sometimes use a pasteurized egg yolk (cooked sous vide) as an emulsifier, but this adds flavor to salad dressings, whereas liquid soy lecithin does not.

3. Extend its life: Fruits and vegetables benefit from heat-shocking. Dipping them in hot water for a minute will increase their shelf life. Nobody likes wilted lettuce and shriveled celery in their salads, so, next time you come home with a bag full of produce, try our tips for extending crispiness.

4. Snip fresh herbs:
Herb aromas are most potent right after cutting them, so snip them just before adding them to your salad. That’s right, we said snip. Not only do kitchen scissors make it easier to pluck and chop leaves, you can also snip these items directly into your salad bowl.

5. Think seasonally:
While you can find many produce staples at grocery stores year-round, those in their peak season will still be best. In the spring, seek out asparagus, fava beans, peavines, new potatoes, rhubarbs, radishes, baby carrots, tarragons, and borages. In the summer, toss together the likes of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, bell peppers, avocados, zucchini, stone fruits, melons, chervils, lemon verbenas, and basils. Sweet onions, arugulas, celery root, butter lettuces, apples, pears, figs, thymes, and parsleys are all good finds in the fall. In the winter, watch for spinaches, young chards, beets, citrus fruits, watercresses, winter savories, chives, and legumes.

6. Textural contrast: A salad doesn’t have to be all crisp and crunch. Textural contrast can be one of its great delights. Mix and match different textures, such as creamy (soft cheeses, egg-based dressings), tender (braised beets, cooked potatoes, baby lettuces), chewy (dried fruits, aged cheeses), crispy (lettuces, cucumbers, apple slices), and crunchy (fresh pickles, raw vegetables, sunflower seeds, croutons).

7. Use your hands: As long as you thoroughly wash your hands, there is no reason not to use them to mix salads. You will find that you are better able to coat each salad piece evenly. If you remain squeamish about getting your hands dirty, use disposable gloves.

Composing a Salad Cutaway by Modernist Cuisine