cover image Modernist Cuisine at Home

Modernist Cuisine at Home

Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet. The Cooking Lab (IPS, dist.), $140 (456p) ISBN 978-0-9827610-1-4

It is instructive to know that before Myhrvold became an expert on the science of cooking, he was the first chief technology officer at Microsoft. Aided by deft, culinary handyman Bilet, he has assembled a “device” that is as visually stunning as it is scientifically vigorous and mathematically complex. Essentially a desktop version of the authors’ 2,400-page mainframe (Modernist Cuisine, 2011), the book is divided into two sections. Part one focuses on the machinery of the modernist kitchen, exploring the tools needed to pull off such inventive restaurant techniques as sous vide, and expounding upon the joys of whipping siphons, blowtorches, and pressure cookers. Many of the accompanying photos provide striking cutaway views of gadgets. It’s Popular Science on steroids. Part two is a collection of 406 recipes, primarily comfort foods that have found their way into a lab to have their DNA experimented upon. There are more than a dozen variants of chicken noodle soup, from pho to goulash broth, and nine types of mac and cheese, including a mac with jack and stilton. Each entry is a study in metric system precision, with ingredient charts listing not only amounts (in grams), but also volume, as well as a scaling percentage to be used in calculating the number of servings. Photos illuminate every step of the instructions for more than 100 of the recipes, and notations are made when special equipment and ingredients are required. As a result, it is a safe bet that their turkey confit recipe is one of the very few places where the terms needle-nose pliers and duck fat can be found listed side by side.” (Oct.)