Cookbook Review: Modernist Cuisine at Home, by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet

by Rachel Willard
November 2012

Authors:
Dr. Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet

Difficulty Level:
Accomplished Home Cooks

Price:
$140

Chapters:
Part One: Stocking the Modernist Kitchen
Countertop Tools; Conventional Cooking Gear; Cooking Sous Vide; Ingredients

Part Two: The Recipes
Basics; Breakfast Eggs; Salads and Cold Soups; Pressure-Cooking Vegetable Soups, Steak; Cheeseburger; Carnitas; Braised Short Ribs; Roast Chicken; Chicken Wings; Chicken Noodle Soup; Salmon; Shellfish; Pizza; Mac and Cheese; Risotto and Paella; Cornmeal; Dishes for the Microwave; Custards and Pies

A Few Select Recipes:
Modernist Cheeseburger; French Scrambled Eggs; Sous Vide Steak in a Cooler; Pressure-cooked Pork Belly; Oven-Fried Pizza; Microwaved Black Cod with Scallions and Ginger; Mac with Jack and Stilton
Modernist Cuisine at Home

If you thought Modernist Cuisine couldn’t be translated for the home cook, think again. The six-volume scientific mega-tome has been whittled down to two (comparatively beefy) volumes. Modernist Cuisine at Home is a practical add-on to the original breakthrough cooking anthology, melding the scientific, artistic, and homey while embracing “abstract and modern technologies,” says co-author Dr. Nathan Myhrvold. But a key difference, and draw to home cooks, are techniques for household comfort foods, including mac n’ cheese and seven varieties of chicken wings.

The two-part Modernist Cuisine at Home includes a water-proof, wire-bound booklet brimming with tutorials on appliances, detailed diagrams, intricate cutaways, and instructions. (And glowing introductions from lifestyle mogul Martha Stewart and chef icon Thomas Keller.) Many of the book’s 406 recipes rely on ingredients and instruments you can’t find in a typical market. (e.g., “French Scrambled Eggs” call for whipping siphons and nitrous oxide). But Myhrvold and co-author Maxime Bilet take pains to give highly detailed instructions on where to find and how to use products that might seem too fancy for the everyday home cook, as well as offering an enlightening perspective on commonplace kitchen tools, such as the many uses for the standard pressure cooker.

Taking notes from the French Nouvelle cuisine movement, the authors emphasize that “cuisine is the creative art in which chef and diner are in dialogue.” And it seems as if that dialogue has now transferred to the home cook, and it’s growing louder and stronger and, with this book, much, much smarter.

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