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Modernist Cuisine; the $625 cookbook.

Discussion in 'Social Life, Food & Drink, Travel' started by mm84321, Feb 15, 2011.

  1. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    So, I've done a bunch of shit from this book now, and have wavered on my feelings about it. I now have some conclusions:

    1- A lot of interesting info on techniques and ingredients that are not "normal" for those of us who haven't worked at Alinea, Fat Duck etc.
    2- The recipes are very hit and miss. I like to think that my skills are good enough to follow just about any directions, and I have generally tried to follow the directions pretty scrupulously. A few of the recipes have been huge winners. The sea urchin "tofu" I posted last week was probably the best. Others have been more mixed. A few are "adaptations" (and mentioned as such) of recipes I have from their original sources, and the original recipes are almost always far superior. Why adapt these then?
    3- The biggest problem with the recipes, I think, is that the taste level and palates of the writers are just not that high. The recipes from a book like Simply French, any Ducasse book and even the most casual Gordon Ramsey books, not to mention various books on rather casual cuisine just taste a lot better when executed as laid out by the authors. It makes sense, since it was written by a technologist and two kitchen lab guys, but I guess I am surprised by how low brow a lot of the flavors are. And disappointed.
    4- There is far too much emphasis on new techniques. I can only say that when I cook from this book I find myself cleaning every fucking machine in my kitchen, often multiple times, while I rarely have to use a knife or a stove at all. I guess this isn't really cooking to me. Mixing these new techniques into old is great, better than just old in fact, but this goes too far. At no point to they prefer a traditional method for a new one, hands for machines, or choose simple over complicated. I think that is generally a mistake.
    5- Some explanations are fantastic, especially where they are explaining why things happen the way they do. Especially notable are the chapters on baking and on flavor extraction from meats for stocks and sauces. This is great info any good cook should have.

    I think I am just about done with trying to make things from the recipe sections of the books. They are generally disappointing either because they are not as good as they could be otherwise, or because they are slightly barbaric in flavor. It will now be a reference, like Larousse.

    Any questions, I am happy to answer them.
     
  2. lefty

    lefty Well-Known Member

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    That high speed gelatin video is beautiful. I could watch that all day.

    lefty
     
  3. mordecai

    mordecai Well-Known Member

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    If it does not require any equipment too fancy, I would love to try that sea urchin recipe. Also curious what new revelations about stock are contained in the book?
     
  4. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    If it does not require any equipment too fancy, I would love to try that sea urchin recipe. Also curious what new revelations about stock are contained in the book?
    It doesn't require anything but a blender. The stuff with stock was about the relationship of size of ingredients to time and flavor extraction (smaller is better) and with the advantages of using a pressure cooker.
     
  5. L.R.

    L.R. Well-Known Member

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    I have many, many things to purchase before I ever get down to this book, but it looks interesting. I cook a lot, but at a very basic level, and importantly: on the cheap.
     
  6. foodguy

    foodguy Well-Known Member

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    3- The biggest problem with the recipes, I think, is that the taste level and palates of the writers are just not that high. The recipes from a book like Simply French, any Ducasse book and even the most casual Gordon Ramsey books, not to mention various books on rather casual cuisine just taste a lot better when executed as laid out by the authors. It makes sense, since it was written by a technologist and two kitchen lab guys, but I guess I am surprised by how low brow a lot of the flavors are. And disappointed.

    not to dispute this or any of your other assessments, but i do believe the two co-authors are chefs ... both from fat duck, among other places.
     
  7. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    not to dispute this or any of your other assessments, but i do believe the two co-authors are chefs ... both from fat duck, among other places.
    I thought they were cooks from the Fat Duck development kitchen, not guys who were ever in charge of putting their own names on a dish for the world to evaluate. Anyway, I am sure they are great cooks, but the overall taste level of the recipes seems to be closer to, well, WAYWN than anything my eyes can handle these days.
     
  8. foodguy

    foodguy Well-Known Member

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    I thought they were cooks from the Fat Duck development kitchen, not guys who were ever in charge of putting their own names on a dish for the world to evaluate. Anyway, I am sure they are great cooks, but the overall taste level of the recipes seems to be closer to, well, WAYWN than anything my eyes can handle these days.

    they both worked at other restaurants as well and one of them opened the development kitchen at FD. that said, i'm not disputing your assessment. i do understand that there have been several recipe corrections that have been issued.
    still, most of this stuff seems like it's more novelty than delicious ... not that it wouldn't be fun to do here and there in a nice dinner.
     
  9. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

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    Calling the flavor profiles "barbaric" made me giggle.
     
  10. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    Calling the flavor profiles "barbaric" made me giggle.
    I don't know a better way to describe it. There is just such a lack of subtlety. FG- I believe you are correct about their backgrounds. Also, the recipe project may have been geared more to novelty than anything else, but if that is so, it sort of misses the point of the book which is really to explain that this is a very legitimate way of understanding food and cooking. Anyway, I still like the book. Where else I am going to find out how much hexametaphosphate I need to put into gellan in order to get this texture or another, or how much tripolyphosphate I need to make the perfect sausage. Well, I probably don't need that, but information-wise it is superb in an area where very little info exists.
     
  11. foodguy

    foodguy Well-Known Member

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    Calling the flavor profiles "barbaric" made me giggle.

    i think that means no cream or butter. and i agree with the description.
     
  12. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    i think that means no cream or butter. and i agree with the description.
    That too!
     
  13. foodguy

    foodguy Well-Known Member

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    That too!

    if god didn't want us to eat french food, he wouldn't have given us cows!
     
  14. Manton

    Manton Well-Known Member

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  15. GQgeek

    GQgeek Well-Known Member

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    I obviously don't have the book yet, or even know when my copy will arrive - june hopefully bc july is a damned long time away - but do you think you're being fair, matt? There are 1522 recipes in the book. How many have you actually tried? How many should be good in order to qualify as a good recipe book? (ignoring other merits)

    It's probably true that the book is being driven by technology... I mean look at the guy's lab... I have mixed feelings about the approach. On the one hand, it provides lots of examples for techniques that are new and if I want old techniques there are hundreds of books and maybe a couple dozen good ones. On the other hand, it would be nice if it emphasized what was best, and not what was new.

    From what i've seen in interviews, it seems that myrhvold's main goal was to add a degree of control and precision to cooking that has so far been lacking. The guy's a scientists after all, and being able to get repeatable results is importance in science.

    I'm buying it mostly for volumes 1->4, to be honest though. I have other high-end cookbooks and they're fun once in a while - and i have learned a lot from a couple of them - but they're mostly a curiosity requiring too much effort to cook out of on a regular basis.

    Still, I can't wait to get my copy.
     
  16. itsstillmatt

    itsstillmatt Well-Known Member

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    I think I was being fair. Obviously, I have not tried the majority of the recipes, perhaps two dozen, but I can say that a significant percentage of those were disappointing, and I obviously chose them because I thought they would be among the tastiest. The book is great, I think it is good you are getting it, but if they opened a restaurant, based on the food, I don't think it would be a winner. If they opened a food consultancy, they surely would be, and that is what the book really is.

    I guess I don't necessarily agree with you about most high end books. The majority, in my experience, are quite usable. The "high end" recipes in this book are just masturbation, though. They make the prep time in the Fat Duck look like making nachos. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled I have it, just not for the recipes.
     
  17. GQgeek

    GQgeek Well-Known Member

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    I think I was being fair. Obviously, I have not tried the majority of the recipes, perhaps two dozen, but I can say that a significant percentage of those were disappointing, and I obviously chose them because I thought they would be among the tastiest. The book is great, I think it is good you are getting it, but if they opened a restaurant, based on the food, I don't think it would be a winner. If they opened a food consultancy, they surely would be, and that is what the book really is. I guess I don't necessarily agree with you about most high end books. The majority, in my experience, are quite usable. The "high end" recipes in this book are just masturbation, though. They make the prep time in the Fat Duck look like making nachos. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled I have it, just not for the recipes.
    Then it's only fitting that I cook for myself! Anyway, I can't say much more until i get my copy. To tide me over I received The Bread Baker's Apprentice and Larousse Gastronomique today. BBA looks really good. I went through the LG briefly but it's more of a curiosity and something i've wanted for a while but never got around to buying. Can't wait to start baking bread... What annoys me is that I tried 2 different stores that specialized in flours and grains the other day and nobody stocks french type 55 flour, or even the Robin Hood French or European Flours. No wonder all the bread in toronto tastes like shit. I'm having to order it in from L'Epicerie and the shipping costs as much as the flour. [​IMG]
     
  18. L.R.

    L.R. Well-Known Member

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    Can't wait to start baking bread... What annoys me is that I tried 2 different stores that specialized in flours and grains the other day and nobody stocks french type 55 flour, or even the Robin Hood French or European Flours. No wonder all the bread in toronto tastes like shit. I'm having to order it in from L'Epicerie and the shipping costs as much as the flour. [​IMG]

    I cook bread all the time, and am moving to T.O. this fall. This is disappointing. Let me know if you end up finding anything. Also, a friend of a friend owns a bakery in TO, I'll check with them to see if they can recommend a good place.
     
  19. braised

    braised Well-Known Member

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    Simply French, .

    Robuchon's book? It is fantastic - good technique and sensitivity to ingredients.

    I've probably given this book to people 6 or 8 times, its one of my favorites. Braised
     
  20. tattersall

    tattersall Well-Known Member

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    Robuchon's book? It is fantastic - good technique and sensitivity to ingredients.

    I've probably given this book to people 6 or 8 times, its one of my favorites. Braised


    This is probably the most-used book in our house - I agree that it is fantastic. In the same vein I also recently picked up an old copy of Richard Olney's The French Menu Cookbook - it is wonderful, kind of old-fashioned in places, but a worthwhile addition to any cookbook library.
     

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