72-Hour Braised Short Ribs

Collagen determines, to a large extent, whether cooked meat ends up tender or tough. It is also the determining factor in how long you should cook a given cut of meat. Collagen fibers are the biological equivalent of steel cabling, forming a mesh that holds bundles of meat fibers together. Proper cooking unravels the cable-like structure of collagen fibers and dissolves them into juices, transforming the tough collagen into tender gelatin.

In order to unravel collagen fibers, you must heat them. Heat causes the fibers to shrink, and the contracting mesh squeezes juices out of the meat. The hotter the cooking temperature, the more collagen mesh contracts, and the more juices are lost. If you cook the meat at lower temperatures, fewer of the collagen fibers shorten at any given point in the cooking process, so the mesh constricts the meat less. This is why meats retain more of their juices when cooked sous vide. But at lower temperatures, more time is needed to shrink, unravel, and dissolve enough of the collagen fibers to make the meat pleasantly tender.

Adapted from Modernist Cuisine

Lamb Skewers with Mint Yogurt

There’s something inherently fun about food on a stick. Skewered foods pop up in food culture all over the world: in yakitori bars in Japan; in the astounding variety of satay sold by Thai and Malaysian street vendors; in cotton candy, deep-fried ice cream, and corn dogs at the Minnesota State Fair; and in candy apples, popsicles (even “Spamsicles”), and crispy crickets on a stick.

In Modernist Cuisine at Home, we give some of our favorite skewers, such as Lamb with Mint Yogurt, a Modernist update by cooking the meat sous vide to the perfect temperature before skewering it. One benefit of this approach is that the skewers can be made in advance, vacuum sealed, and then refrigerated. When you’re ready to serve them, simply place the bag in a 55 °C / 131 °F water bath for 15-20 minutes to reheat it, and then sear them in a very hot pan, on a hot grill, under a blowtorch, or in hot oil.

Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Slow-Baked Chicken with Onions

Brining makes meat juicier and enhances its flavor, but salt diffuses through flesh very slowly. You can double or triple the rate of diffusion by injecting the brine deep into muscle tissue. This is very easy to do using a butcher’s syringe, also called a meat injector. Meat injectors usually include two large needles: one has a slanted tip for marinades with spices, and one is perforated for diffusing liquids.

adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

P.B. & J. Gelato

When we developed the recipes for Modernist Cuisine at Home, we focused on using ingredients that we felt were fairly accessible and affordable. So when we reengineered our Pistachio Gelato recipe from Modernist Cuisine, we replaced the carrageenan with tapioca starch and xanthan gum. We tested it with corn starch and potato starch, but we liked tapioca the best. You can use either potato or corn starch, but a different texture may result.

We then took it a step further to include variations for Hazelnut Gelato, Strawberry Macadamia Gelato, and P.B. & J. Gelato, because those ingredients are also easier to find than pistachio butter.

Sam Fahey-Burke, Development Chef

Mango Chili Leather

One of the great things Modernist cooking does for home cooks is allow them to make foods that they normally can only get in stores. Our recipe for fruit leather also lets home cooks play with flavors, like we have in our Mango Chili recipe below.

This recipe is a variation of our Tomato Leather recipe. We also have other variations of fruit leather, and even onion leather, in our book, Modernist Cuisine at Home. In the Tomato Leather recipe as well as in other variations, you need to add 0.2% xanthan gum, but due to the high levels of pectin found naturally in mangoes, you don’t need additional thickeners when making Mango Chili Leather.

Sam Fahey-Burke, Development Chef

Sous Vide Hollandaise

Consider hollandaise, that unctuous mixture of warm egg yolks and butter. The sauce is so fragile because butter congeals and separates as soon as it cools. And it’s all too easy to overheat the eggs and curdle the sauce. But we show you how to avoid these problems by cooking the eggs sous vide by putting the sauce in a whipping siphon; you no longer have to make hollandaise at the last minute while pulling together the rest of your meal.

This is yet another example of the dozens of foundational recipes in our Basics chapter of Modernist Cuisine at Home that are not only approachable and versatile but very tasty, too.

Adapted from Modernist Cuisine at Home

Barley Salad

I love pressure-cooking grains. Many of them, especially barley, don’t need to be soaked. That, combined with the short cooking time of a pressure cooker, means it’s a big time saver. The barley in this recipe takes only 20 minutes to cook. It works perfectly and has a wonderful texture.

On the stove top, the water will evaporate as you cook the grains, so you must continually add water, which can result in grains that are really mushy. In a pressure cooker, however, you use only a small amount of water (just enough water to cook with) and none of it escapes, so the grains don’t lump up too much. It’s so easy!

This is a great recipe, but my favorite use of pressure-cooked barley is in our Barley with Wild Mushrooms and Red Wine recipe from Modernist Cuisine at Home, which is a variation found in the Risotto and Paella chapter.

Anjana Shanker, Development Chef

Modernist Seven-Layer Dip

A seven-layer dip is part of the quintessential Super Bowl experience, especially as far as my wife, Rose, is concerned. So this recipe is for her.

Johnny Zhu, Development Chef

Crispy Chicken Wings, Korean-Style

In our Korean Chicken Wing recipe, which calls for a blend of Wondra and potato starch, you could use just potato starch, but your wings might turn out cakey, and if you leave them out for your party guests to enjoy, they might get soggy over time. Wondra really increases their crispiness, so much so that on the rare occasion that there are some leftovers from the batch made the day before, we eat them cold. Wondra flour is readily available in the U.S., but if you live elsewhere, we recommend ordering it online.

Sam Fahey-Burke, Development Chef

Pressure-Cooked Carnitas

I love my pressure cooker. I love it so much that I’ve started taking it with me to friends’ houses, and once even to a cabin during a ski trip. It’s gotten to the point where when I ask my friends, “what do you want me to make when you come over this Saturday?” they reply, “I don’t know, Judy, something in your pressure cooker?”

While my friends and family tease me, they have always been wowed by the results. Meats like these carnitas, vegetable soups, and risotto are just some of my new favorite dishes to make. Having learned these techniques, I can apply them to other recipes, or add my own flavors, which allows me to be more creative in the kitchen.

Judy Oldfield-Wilson, Online Writer