Liquid Center Egg

The marbling technique is an adaptation of the traditional Chinese tea egg. We tested many different colors, knowing that we wanted to use vegetable dye so that the eggs were sure to be safe for consumption. After testing 12 different colors, we figured out that beet juice worked best. Other colors either weren’t bright enough or didn’t stick to the egg enough.

Then we tested to find the perfect way to serve a boiled egg with a liquid yolk. We wanted the yolk to be runny, so we had to keep it at that perfect silky texture, and at the same time, avoid the rubbery feel that egg whites sometimes get. Finally, we said, why don’t we boil it to set the white, and then cook it sous vide? But we still had to test many different times and temperatures after we created that process. This was before we had our Best Bets for Cooking Whole Eggs table (see page 4·78). Actually, because at that time it seemed like everyone was working with eggs in some way (Johnny was working on custards), we put all of our results together and that became the Best Bets table.

Anjana Shanker, Staff Chef, The Cooking Lab

Brassicas

The Brassicas dish was one of the first things I developed for the lab dinner tasting menus. Max had already had a concept in mind. That’s often how it happens. Max will come in and describe something that he’s thinking about. He’ll give a number of components to build the dish with, and Max is great about giving a lot of suggestions. So it’s very organic in that sense. We’ll develop a dish and taste it; see what it needs quite a few times before Nathan gets his hands on it.

So we started off with the idea of brassicas–the family of cabbages–and we constructed many of the elements for the dish. We then wanted a cheese sauce. One of the first things I wanted to try was to centrifuge the cheese sauce that is in MC, which we already use for a number of other applications. I centrifuged that, and it separated into a fat layer, a water layer, and also a bunch of solids that pretty much tasted like nothing. I then reintroduced the fat, which still had a lot of flavor, back into the liquid. We essentially separated it and put it back together without all the undesirable stuff. We presented this first iteration to Nathan, and he loved it! That was my first real tasting with him, and there were about eight or so different things that he was tasting as potential dishes to incorporate into our dinner menu. The Brassicas recipe was his favorite dish that day, so it was a great moment for me.

Something Max has been working on, too, is a cabbage-juice dish. For the recipe below, it was a great idea to change up the cheese sauce because the whole broth-stew aspect plays more into St. Patrick’s Day, which is what we were going for this time. In terms of classical or Irish dishes, it brings the elements together well.

–Aaron Verzosa, The Cooking Lab

Raspberry Sablés with Lemon Curd

As we were working on Modernist Cuisine, we kept adding more and more to it. We could have kept adding to it, but then it never would have been finished. For the most part, we didn’t cover pastry, desserts, and baked goods. A few recipes of that kind did make it into the book, like our Pistachio Gelato and Sous Vide Lemon Curd. We’ve served both of them at our lab dinners and other events. Often, we’ll use the lemon curd to top off an Earl Grey posset.

Even though Modernist Cuisine was published almost a year ago, we’re still developing new recipes–and now there are no restrictions on the directions we can pursue. That is how we came up with the idea of using freeze-dried raspberries to make a sablé. It is a wonderful vehicle for the lemon curd.

Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home

Cheese Puffs

Wylie Dufresne is one of the most inspiring chefs working today. We first met at Madrid Fusión in 2003, and we’ve been close friends ever since. He’s one of those relatively unsung heroes of the culinary world; he may not be as well known as Heston Blumenthal or Ferran Adrià, but few chefs working today have done as much to push the Modernist movement forward. Wylie has been deeply influential for many chefs, myself included, because he has pushed more boundaries in the kitchen than just about anyone else cooking today.

Wylie was a great help to us when we were working on Modernist Cuisine. Many of the recipes in our book were adapted from, or inspired by, recipes and techniques published by other chefs in their own books. Wylie doesn’t have a book (at least not yet). But he graciously sent us many of his recipes and worked with us to accurately convey the techniques behind them. Wylie also generously donated his time to serve as an expert reviewer for several of the chapters, including chapter 13 on Thickeners and chapter 14 on Gels. Wylie is certainly one of the better-represented Modernist chefs in our book precisely because so many of his recipes have inspired Nathan, Max, and me. The recipe for Cheese Puffs below is just one small example.

Chris Young, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine

Microwaved Tilapia

Max asked me one day whether I had any recipes for microwaved meat. It was a surprising question. In general, meat is awful in the microwave, no matter how you cook it. Our recipe in MC for microwaved jerky works around a common problem of microwave cooking, its tendency to dry out meat, by turning it into a useful technique.

But when I started thinking about the question, I remembered that my mom was always telling me about this six-minute microwaved tilapia recipe, which mimics a traditional Chinese steamed fish dish. When I finally tried it, I remember thinking: wow, it’s just as good as in a restaurant. It’s tender, moist; not dry or chewy at all. So I pulled the recipe together for Max, and it turned out to be wonderful for what he wanted. As soon as I got my mom a copy of Modernist Cuisine, I flipped right to that page and showed her the recipe, where it says “Adapted from Mrs. Zhu.” She just beamed.

Johnny Zhu, Development Chef

Popping Buckeyes & Eggnog Cocktails

My mother used to make Buckeyes for me, and I’d help her sometimes. It was always a fun experience, and it was my first introduction to cooking. Unfortunately I can’t eat them much anymore because I ate so many as a kid. I used to sneak behind my Mom’s back to get them out of the tin she kept them in, in the freezer.

I’ve always called them Buckeyes because I grew up in southeastern Ohio, which is known as the buckeye state. And of course the treats also look like the nuts of the buckeye tree. Keeping that name for this recipe is a little bit of my Ohio pride coming through, even though I haven’t lived there in years.

The coating of Pop Rocks in this recipe is a variation on the usual chocolate coating. It adds a neat twist. You can buy pastry rocks, which are pretty much the same thing as Pop Rocks, from Chef Rubber.

Sam Fahey-Burke, Development Chef

Pressure-Cooked Vegetable Risotto

The classic rules for cooking risotto demand ceaseless stirring, meticulous additions of liquid, and a fair amount of mysticism about how the dish must always be made to order. In fact, risotto is not as delicate as popularly supposed. When done properly, partially cooking the rice or other grains in advance will not degrade the quality of the dish. Gualtiero Marchesi, Thomas Keller, and other prominent chefs parcook risotto and then refrigerate it to firm the starch. Breaking up the cooking process in this way improves both speed and coordination on the line.

It can be challenging to determine how much liquid to use when cooking risotto because absorption varies dramatically according to the variety of rice and the cooking method. A good starting point is to try using twice as much liquid as grain. Expect to experiment a bit before you find the optimal ratio for each recipe.

Estimating the final yield of risotto is easier. The “Yield after cooking” column in the table below indicates how much the grain will swell and increase in weight after full absorption of the liquid used. For example, no matter how generous you choose to be with your cooking liquid, 100 g of raw, dried amaranth will produce 190 g of drained, fully cooked amaranth.

After parcooking the risotto and finishing it on the stove top, you can dress the cooked risotto with sauce or, for less starchy grains, add a thickener to yield the traditionally creamy result. Some grains, including bomba rice, barley, and steel-cut oats, have enough natural starch to create a sauce of their own. Others are better if you finish them mantecato; that is, enrich the sauce with a dollop of butter and some cheese.

adapted from the Plant Foods chapter in Modernist Cuisine

Hanukkah Short Ribs

The holiday season is upon us and, above all, that means spending time with family, reflecting on the blessings of years past, and enduring the horrors of dry, tough, stringy meat. Although I am fortunate to have great cooks as parents, many of my childhood memories of holiday potlucks were punctuated by the disappointment of a perfectly good beef brisket or plate of short ribs that had been annihilated into shoe leather at the hands of a well-intentioned friend or relative. The only saving grace was my high tolerance for the spicy, sinus-clearing power of horseradish sauce, which made the beef possible to gnash down, quickly chased by a cup of grape juice (or a clandestine glass of Manischewitz).

As is commonly the pitfall with Thanksgiving turkey, cuts of meat that are only cooked once a year often lack the care and improvement that come from frequent iteration. And although I’m perfectly happy to eat beef short ribs and brisket year-round (especially when barbecued), many family traditions reserve this cut for holidays and special occasions. The trick to preparing a tender, succulent piece of beef is to break down the significant connective tissue without overcooking the meat so much that it dries out; the physics at play are involved, and are often overlooked in the chaos of holiday preparations.

Sous vide techniques, however, make it easy to cook beef perfectly, every time. By holding the cut at a low, precisely controlled temperature for a very long cooking time, you can achieve both perfect doneness and fork-tenderness with no need for basting or fastidious thermometry. And, cooking sous vide leaves your ovens empty, so Aunt Jeannie has space to warm her casserole before the family buffet line forms.

At your next family gathering, up the ante by bringing a beef brisket or plate full of short ribs cooked perfectly sous vide. And don’t forget the wine, for the kids’ sake.

Scott Heimendinger, Director of Applied Research

Starch-Infused Fries

When Nathan, Chris, and I were writing Modernist Cuisine, we knew that two great techniques had recently been created for making French fries: one by Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck in the U.K. and another by Dave Arnold and Nils Norén at the French Culinary Institute. So we decided to include in the book recipes inspired by both of those teams. Our pommes pont-neuf is similar to Blumenthal’s triple-cooked chip. Arnold and Norén built their technique from a Polish researcher, Gra?yna Lisi?ska, who discovered that steeping potatoes in a pectin-dissolving enzyme creates a great fry texture, and that technique is illustrated by our pectinase-steeped fries recipe.

Then we started musing about other methods we could try to make the ultimate French fry. It occurred to me that we had an ultrasonic bath that we hadn’t used much for the book, except as a handy tool for extractions. I thought perhaps the cavitating action of the ultrasound would create an interesting texture in the fries. So, after cooking the potatoes sous vide to a nice, tender consistency, we put them in the ultrasonic bath. And sure enough, the cavitation created thousands of little fissures on the surface of the potato, which effectively released all of the natural potato starch. When we then deep-fried the potatoes, we could see the starch come out and crisp up to form tiny hair-like fuzz on the outside of the fries. They had an amazingly satisfying, crispy texture.

Having succeeded in finding a way to get the natural starch out, it got us thinking about ways to stuff more starch into the potatoes. We realized that we could use vacuum packing to infuse starch into the potatoes to produce an extra layer that would allow the interior texture to remain silky as the exterior fried and dried to a crisp. The next logical step, of course, was to marry both methods together into a recipe for starch-infused ultrasonic fries. They’ve been a big hit when we have served them at our dinners and events.

In the end we published all four recipes for French fries (five if you include the pommes pont-neuf). Each differs somewhat from the others in it texture and fluffiness, but all of them are great. The recipe for Starch-Infused Fries here is one of the simpler ones. If you want the others, you’ll have to buy the book!

Although these recipes represent the successes of our many rounds of trial and error, not all our ideas panned out. Our seemingly brilliant idea of infusing fried with ketchup or vinegar, for example… well, let’s just say that they’re not in MC for a reason.

Maxime Bilet, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home

Carbonated Cranberries

When I was nine years old, I announced to my mother that I was going to cook Thanksgiving dinner. I went to the library and checked out some books on cooking: Escoffier, Julia Child, all of the classics. Some people ask how my mother could let me do such a thing. Her response is that she couldn’t have stopped me.

It wasn’t the best meal of my life, but it was a start. Since then I’ve made many Thanksgiving dinners. Perhaps you might even say too many. Everyone loves a traditional Thanksgiving dinner but chefs, particularly home chefs, want to use such a meal as a challenge, to both hone and show off their skills. Making the same thing year after year might taste wonderful, but it can lose its thrill. The great thing is that you can really mix things up with Thanksgiving while still serving up the basics, like we did in our Thanksgiving Stew recipe. Because everyone knows the traditional meal you are referencing, everyone will understand the twist you put on a dish.

This is why I love our carbonated cranberry recipe, which is a riff on our fizzy grapes recipe in Modernist Cuisine. Cranberry sauces come in all sorts of variations, from gelled to spicy. That’s why switching up your usual cranberry dish is a great place to start playing around with Thanksgiving dinner.

Of course, some people still want everything on their plate to be exactly as they remember Grandma serving. There’s nothing wrong with that. But knowing the science behind cooking can help you bake your bird in an oven with excellent results. Your guests don’t even have to know.

Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home