Modernist Cuisine at Home (Anglais) Relié – 24 septembre 2015
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Modernist Cuisine at Home offers useful techniques and solutions that expand our abilities, and it provides us with a practiced and thorough understanding of why things happen the way they do. Most importantly, it ignites a curiosity within and compels us to ask ourselves not What should we make for dinner? but rather, What can we make for dinner? --Thomas Keller
...Nathan Myhrvold and his team, responsible last year for the food-publishing triumph of the decade, the six-volume Modernist Cuisine, have now scaled down and domesticated many of the advanced techniques... Of these, sous vide cooking is the most likely to find a place in the home kitchen, as it has in mine, and Modernist Cuisine at Home treats the subject in glorious detail. --Jeffrey Steingarten, Vogue
Présentation de l'éditeur
What can you make for dinner?
Modernist Cuisine is an interdisciplinary team in Bellevue, Washington, founded and led by Nathan Myhrvold. The group includes scientists, research and development chefs, and a full editorial team all dedicated to advancing the state of culinary art through the creative application of scientific knowledge and experimental techniques.
Change the way you think about food: Modernist Cuisine at Home opens up a new world of culinary possibility and innovation for passionate and curious home cooks. In this vibrantly illustrated 456-page volume you ll learn how to stock a modern kitchen, to master Modernist techniques, and to make hundreds of stunning new recipes, including pressure-cooked caramelized carrot soup, silky smooth mac and cheese, and sous vide, braised short ribs. You ll also learn about the science behind your favorite dishes, what s really happening when you roast a chicken, and why pressure cookers are perfect for making soup.
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I'll start with a disclaimer: Do not buy this book until you are familiar with the original "Modernist Cuisine." By that I do not mean you need to own that set first (quite the opposite, this is the stepping stone to the full set), but you should understand that it encompasses a style of cooking that can be crudely summarized as "cooking for scientists" or "how to make dinner in a laboratory." Once you know what you're getting into, decide if it's worth around $140 of your hard-earned cash.
Now, on to the good stuff. For those of you who salivated for a year, wishing you could justify buying "Modernist Cuisine" but knowing you wouldn't be able to use it to it's full potential (like me), your prayers have been answered! "Modernist Cuisine" made headlines (in the Food and Travel section) for:
1. Deconstructing the science of cooking rather than just listing recipes
2. Focusing on modern methods of preparing foods using tools such as combi ovens, sous vide setups, emulsifiers, etc
3. Including some rather stunning photography of the equipment and ingredients within
I am happy to say that all three are present in the "at Home" version. First, "Modernist Cuisine at Home" (MCAH hereafter) introduces a consolidated set of kitchen tools and gadgets that the home chef can reasonably afford. Don't have the funds for the laboratory-grade centrifuge featured in "Modernist Cuisine?" No problem. Not only does MCAH omit the prohibitively expensive tools from its recipes, but many of them are the same recipes found in the original, redone for the home cook. MCAH even goes as far as offering several options at varying price ranges for the equipment used within.
The same goes for the ingredients. MCAH mostly does away with the laundry list of exotic spices and chemicals featured in many "modernist" cookbooks and instead relies on ingredients you can find either at the local grocery store, or in reasonable quantities online. For the ingredients you are probably less familiar with (malic acid? agar agar?) there is a two-page spread detailing what each does, where it comes from, and what it costs. In many cases, the recipes will list alternatives if you choose not to add their recommendations to your shopping list.
Much like Modernist Cuisine, MCAH explains some of the science behind the various cooking techniques, but at a beginner's level. Each recipe includes a blurb about what's going on inside the pot (so to speak), and almost all of them include multiple variations at the end, allowing for a wide variety of options. This is especially useful for people new to the idea of sous vide cooking, as MCAH does a great job explaining exactly how it works, and how to make it work for you.
How has it taken me this long to get to the photography? Stunning, just as in "Modernist Cuisine". I don't know how they did it, but every picture is suitable for framing. Equipment has been dissected to yield amazing looking cross-sections used in explaining how the various tools function. And get this: included in the back are four prints from MCAH you can frame. I had no idea until they fell out while I was reading, but they are every bit as beautiful as the photos inside, and I dare say will look better on the walls of a kitchen than the usual crap paintings of grapes or farms or cows that people seem obligated to put up these days.
If it seem like I'm gushing, it's because I am. Any home cook who has jumped into sous vide cooking has probably experienced the frustration I have with cookbooks dedicated to the style. You have Douglas Baldwin's "Sous Vide for the Home Chef," which, while great for it's temperature charts (and the fact it came out before anything else was available) is too simple for anyone looking to expand their horizons into restaurant-quality preparations (French Laundry, anyone?). And on the other end of the spectrum is Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure," which, while exquisite in creativity and detail, is geared completely towards the restaurant chef (which he warns in the forward), both in scale and complexity. Even the original "Modernist Cuisine", while featuring more accessible recipes than "Under Pressure", still excluded the home cook from about half of it's contents due to equipment or ingredient limitations. MCAH is the first book that features sous vide in a way that the home cook can learn and excel at, while also creating dishes that will blow the guests away. Seriously, the stuff you can make from this book looks like it belongs on the set of Iron Chef.
This is a "modern" (or Modernist) cookbook, so the recipes inside are going to be closer to what you'd find in a restaurant that uses an obscure adjective for it's title rather than what you'd see in your grandmother's kitchen. If the idea of cooking a beautiful cut of salmon in a Ziploc bag seems blasphemous, or using a digital scale instead of an elephant-shaped measuring cup is akin to high treason, you may not be ready to make the jump. But if you want to learn how modern cooking styles can produce amazing taste and presentation in your kitchen (while removing much of the uncertainty and variation that traditional high-heat methods entail), this is the book for you.
- Currently the best book available for home sous vide setups
- Delicious recipes using accessible ingredients for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Meat, Poultry, Fish and Veggies. Even has a few vegan options inside.
- Teaches the "why" of cooking, not just the "how"
- Stunning photography, and great step-by-step images for most of the recipes
- Comes with a separate water-resistant "kitchen manual" with every recipe inside so you can keep the gorgeous main-book away from the messiness of the kitchen.
- Comes with 4 prints you can frame in your home. Or not.
- Even though the recipes are designed using ingredient weights, approximate volume measurements are included
- Well constructed. You could easily beat an intruder to death with this book if you caught him stealing your sous vide setup
- Even has the bookmark ribbon you see in bibles, which fits, since this has become my new kitchen bible.
- Though it says "at Home" in the title, your average kitchen will most likely lack some of the basic tools used in many of the recipes. At a minimum, you will need a digital scale, Sous Vide setup, a pressure cooker, and a whipped cream siphon. MCAH will help you in your quest to acquire those tools, but you should commit to expanding your kitchen arsenal if you plan to use this book to it's full potential.
- There are no calorie counts on these recipes, and in some cases if there were, it would take scientific notation to fit on the page. This is not a diet book, this is a book dedicated purely to creating the most delicious food possible at home. When you get to the page about deep-frying a hamburger, you'll understand what I mean.
- $140 (or whatever they charge now) isn't chump change, and for most people the new equipment will add to the cost.
- The sandwich on the cover does not actually levitate when you make it at home.
- Does not mow the lawn while you aren't using it.
Feel free to ask any questions in the comments. I am in no way affiliated with the producers of this book, though I would consider trading my first-born for a chance to work in their kitchen. Your Mileage May Vary.
EDIT - 6 Oct 2015: Three years later and I still love this book. I not own the full-fledged Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, but I'm always going back to this one. Take the leap!
Now for the review: The problem with most cookbooks is they do not provide the cook with a reasonable starting point from which to make excellent cuisine. I remember the days when I used to struggle to try to make recipes from Larousse Gastronomique and Joy of Cooking that were spectacular, but that end always seemed to elude me. I never felt as though I prepared a meal- ANY meal which rivaled or surpassed that of my favorite restaurants. Those cooks in the high end restaurants knew things that I didn't know, and used equipment I had never seen, let alone used. Well, that is no longer the case. I picked up the original tome (Modernist Cuisine) and extracted from it the recipes I could do in my kitchen at home, and at once realized that there was a whole world of phenomenal food out there, waiting to be tasted.
I cooked chicken breast sous vide (using a Rube Goldberg contraption I have since replaced with the SousVide Supreme) and the breasts were done perfectly, with all the delicate tastes intact. Wild duck breasts that had been lying in the back of my freezer because I knew they would taste like cardboard? They were the best poultry I had ever tasted. With those two successes under my belt, it was on to fish! I live in Florida, and so am fussy about my fish. My first foray was into cobia, and that dish, on that day, was the best fish I have ever tried, let alone made. And so on. Best green beans. Best carrots. Best risotto. Best salmon. You get the idea...
After getting sous vide under my belt, then I started playing with other techniques. Spherification is a blast, and I modified a technique from Thomas Keller's Under Pressure to make watermelon and mango 'egg yolk' "Steak Tartare", which was a huge hit with my guests. I just had the best carrot soup of my life, with the recipe taken from MCAH, which uses caramelization techniques well known to pros, but heretofore unknown to me (it involves a pressure cooker). Making classic sauces takes an hour or so, instead of many, many hours.
This is not a book for everyone, because not everyone really, really likes food. Or likes being able to create things in their own kitchen that far surpass their local restaurants. If food is just fuel, forget about MCAH. If, on the other hand, you have a part of your mind that remembers special meals, remembers certain dishes of their past with pleasure, and likes to savor their food, rather than gulping it down so you can watch the 7:00 Seinfeld reruns, this is the book for you. It is the first book that goes beyond- far beyond- what Erma Rombauer started all those years ago with The Joy of Cooking. The new millenium put self publishing in our hands (faceBook) and video distributing (YouTube) and reporting (Twitter), and now, in this age of paradigm shifts, we have world-class cuisine in our own homes. It's crazy, but it's cool.
The focus of the book is on techniques and use of equipment which are new or recently had a renaissance. Favorite equipment includes pressure cooker, water bath / CVAP oven and vacuum sealer. As many do not have a water bath and vacuum sealer, makeshift alternative solutions are given. Common to the equipment is that their best use can often be explained by science, thus taking the guesswork out of the equation.
The sections focus on common dishes, such as pizza, burgers, steaks, roast chicken, salmon, vegetables and pies. Many of the recipes offer alternative variations, encouraging the cook to use the fundamental technique while creating their own dishes. By using the on common dishes, it becomes more clear how the techniques can then be applied to many other tried, tested and true recipes.
The book is not meant as an entry level cook book for someone who needs to learn some tricks to keep themselves fed. It is geared towards those who want to learn how to make the most out of available tools and characteristics of various foods, and raise the flavor to a new level. Although in no way necessary, it is my belief this book will inspire more to buy the first set, so as to gain a deeper understanding.
The book keeps the extremely high standard for food photography, a pure delight to look at, also making it a great book for the coffee table!
Everything about the book is what I wanted, and the few typos are not that big of a deal.
I have most of the equipment already, so I will be cooking from this a lot. I will try to post results as I make them.
My biggest criticism is that the book smells terribly of paint. I can barely stand to read it for long as it smells so bad. The manual that comes with it smells even worse, and the last 40 or so pages of it are stuck together at the bottom. Hopefully letting it air out overnight will help. If it weren't for these issues, a definite 5 star (Edit: bumped up to 5star due to the smell dissipating and awesome customer service).
I contacted MC about the stuck/torn pages and they kindly offered a replacement. I'm guessing if you find yourself in a similar situation contact them.
As for the smell it has mostly dissipated. If you can, leave the book out of the box overnight, and most of the smell should go away.
I tested the Sous Vide Chicken (only breast), Mac n Cheese, Modernist Mayonaise, Romaine Dressing Salad, and Sweet onion slaw.
-Sous Vide Chicken: Awesome, moist, nothing too crazy here, but it was nice to have the time/temp.
-Mac n Cheese: Very cool, and really easy to make. Have to experiment with the cheese though. We tried a 50/50 of white new zealand cheddar and Emmi Gruyere. The first few bites were good, then it became overwhelming.
-Modernist Mayonaise: Love it. Totally going to make this all the time.
-Romaine Dressing: I really liked using a soft boiled egg instead of all the oil to thicken it. That said, I used a 12month parm, and that and the anchovies were pretty much all I tasted. It was still really good, but the flavors need some balancing. I will try again with a younger parm.
-Sweet Onion Slaw: I really like this. Its sweet, spicy, and has an awesome crunch. I mixed some with my sous vide chicken and made a chicken salad sandwich.
Overall, the recipes were really easy to follow, and I was surprised at how little time they took to prepare.
Added to the tested list are:
-Pressure cooked caramelized banana puree: So awesomely flavorful, although the grams per banana is quite a bit off. The book specifies 2 bananas should equal 500 grams. It took roughly 4 for me to get to 500 grams.
-Pressure infused Sous Vide Coffee Pastry cream: The method was far, far easier then a traditional pastry cream, and it turned out amazing. I used this and the banana puree to make the banana creme pie. It was loved by everyone who tried it.
-Flaky pastry crust (regular version): Method was good, but baking time seemed a bit off. Will try again tonight and see if I get better results. It seemed to be more "sandy" then flaky". That said, the crust is great.
-Stilton slices: followed the directions exactly, but it turned out to be more the consistency of a "spread" rather then a slice. I will try again using the standard cheeses just in case I missed something technique wise (although it was pretty simple). Hopefully it will work out better next time.
Still happy with the book, but a little irked that two weeks after I bought it, the price has dropped $30. Also, the pages in the reference guide seem to be breaking down or something. More and more become stuck together, and have a shiny substance that appears on them. I have tried to wipe it off to no avail. Will most likely need to contact MC for a replacement.
One more thing which I am adding a day later to this review: The Modernist Cuisine at Home does one more thing which is VERY helpful and which I wish would become the standard for cookbooks from now on: measurements are given in weight, volume and scaling percentages! Yeah! Weighing is much easier and more efficient. The scaling method is very useful when wanting to make a recipe for 2 or for 12 or even 20. Digital scales are so cheap and useful that I believe that every kitchen should have one sitting on the counter. If you haven't used one when baking, borrow one from a friend and try it -- once you do, you'll be a convert, and you'll thank Myhrvold and Bilet and all the team at The Cooking Lab for this extra measure of help and usefulness. Now if only other cookbook writers and their publishers would take their cue and provide us with this help. I no longer buy books on baking which don't provide measurements weights -- if I want to guess at how much of an ingredient to use, I don't need to pay for a recipe, and that if what it amounts to using volume measurements when baking.
Also, don't let the size and weight of the book put you off -- that is just for reading and reference even though it has the recipes in it. What you will use in the kitchen is the smaller spiral bound plasticized pages book with just the recipes. Splattered? The pages wipe clean. Open it up to a recipe and the pages lie flat. Easy to use in kitchen while cooking. But wait, there's more: there are charts giving guidance on various cooking methods for various cuts of meat, etc., such as best cooking methods for tough cuts of meat and then listing the various ways -- pressure cooker, braising, sous vide, etc for different cuts of meat. And excellent overview. As I say, this book is useful for all skill levels.