The art and science of cooking

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“The most important book in the culinary arts since Escoffier.” — Tim Zagat

A revolution is underway in the art of cooking. Just as French Impressionists upended centuries of tradition, Modernist cuisine has in recent years blown through the boundaries of the culinary arts. Borrowing techniques from the laboratory, pioneering chefs at world-renowned restaurants such as elBulli, The Fat Duck, Alinea, and wd~50 have incorporated a deeper understanding of science and advances in cooking technology into their culinary art. The authors and their 20-person team at The Cooking Lab—scientists, inventors, and accomplished cooks in their own right—have achieved astounding new flavors and textures by using tools such as water baths, homogenizers, and centrifuges, and ingredients such as hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, and enzymes. Modernist Cuisine is a work destined to reinvent cooking.

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How do you make an omelet light and tender on the outside, but rich and creamy inside? Or French fries with a light and fluffy interior and a delicate, crisp crust that doesn’t go soggy? Imagine being able to encase a mussel in a gelled sphere of its own sweet and briny juice. Or to create a silky-smooth pistachio cream made from nothing more than the nuts themselves.

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Modernist Cuisine offers step-by-step, illustrated instructions, as well as clear explanations of how these techniques work. Through thousands of original photographs and diagrams, the lavishly illustrated books make the science and technology of the culinary arts clear and engaging. Stunning new photographic techniques take the reader inside the food to see cooking in action all the way from microscopic meat fibers to an entire Weber grill in cross-section. You will view cooking—and eating—in a whole new light.

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From TASCHEN

Looking Into The Future Of High-Tech Food

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A fantastic read today in Slate got us thinking about this Chez Pim post from a few days ago. Both are about Spanish avant-garde cuisine, but while Slate wonders out loud whether technology-based trends such as foaming will make lasting marks on the food landscape even after their stellar popularity, Pim declares, in no uncertain or complimentary terms, the lasting impression a certain such restaurant left on her.

From Slate’s Lisa Abend:

At its best, the Spanish version of “molecular gastronomy” stokes the emotions, shocks the senses, and, in the words (if not exactly the intentions) of that hedonistic gourmand Claude Lévi-Strauss, is “good to think.” It’s also often delicious.But, from the beginning, some critics have scorned a mode of cooking that relies, in their opinion, too heavily on technology (as if an oven weren’t a machine) and often chooses form over substance.

In asking whether the gastronomical experimentation has reached the end of its popularity, Abend sets out five modes of its possible destruction: Death by foam, death by scholarship, etc. This highly experimental cuisine might be the victim of anything from overexposure to its own version of rococo.But Pim’s complaint seems to cut to the heart of the matter: At “quite possibly the worst meal of my life” at Miguel Sanchez Romera’s L’Esguard, north of Barcelona, she describes a meal that seems almost totally divorced from anything that seems like real food. With most dishes packaged in a gelatinous “Micrifilm,” and served with what sounds like more attention to appearance than to taste, Pim pointedly complains about the chef’s “grand idea:”

But you know what? Sometimes all we care about is if your grand idea tasted any good. Because if it isn’t, then it’s just a big pile of crap.

From the sound of it, Pim got stuck with the latter. But that’s not to say that all scientifically experimental cooking necessarily suffers.As for Slate’s question of whether the 20-odd-year trend in hyper-experimental Spanish cooking will leave a long-lasting mark, well, we’ll probably have to stay tuned. Likely, some techniques will become part of the long-term landscape, while others go away to die. What will become of Micrifilm? We’ll let Pim cover that one.

Fish Foam and Spherified Mango Juice: Will Spanish Avant-Garde Cuisine Stand The Test Of Time?
[Slate]
L’Esguard: Quite possibly the worst meal of my life [Chez Pim]
Photo: Salmon wrapped in Micrifilm at L’Esguard [Chez Pim]

Via