My partner was kind enough to order the new Modernist Cuisine at Home for me as a surprise. I do most of the cooking at home and I have been quite curious about this book and Myrvhold grand opus Modernist Cuisine, but I have to say that even with the simplified approach of the at Home book I'm not actually sure I will cook from it.
Typically I am not afraid of a challenge, but after perusing the book last night a few issues came up:
1. Eventhough many of the recipes don't call for any special equipment, there are unfortunately a very large number that do. I have a well equipped kitchen with good quality, pans, pots, mixers, food processors, immersion blenders, and various other implements, but many recipes call for pressure cookers, air syphons, blow torches, juicers, and sous vide machines (more on this letter). While I would consider adding a pressure cooker and maybe even a blow torch they aren't traditionally that high on my list. To cook from the book however the pressure cooker is an absolute must, and a sous vide set up would be great also.
2. It's all a little precious. I always try to plate food as best I can, being conscious of the composition of the plate, colours etc, and while the pictures are beautiful I don't think I am likely to ever plate as they are doing. Of course I think it is beautiful, and more power to anyone that is willing to take on the task of these presentations, but I'm not sure it is for me.
3. Years ago I read Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, and while I don't want to seem too old fashioned (I am 35 after all), I'm not sure I like the idea of cooking in plastic bags and using certain additives (otolyzed protein etc...). In the past few years I've attempted to eat locally and organically as much as possible and to avoid foods that have been engineered or subjected to extensive processing. The author states clearly that cooking in plastic bags is entirely safe, but somehow I am more likely to trust the wisdom of a good old cast iron pan. Plus some of his suggested methods for jury rigging a sous vide machine at home would have you rewiring your slow cooker, or have you maintain a constant temperature for hours on your stove top, which simply don't seem practical.
4. In my circle of friends and family I am often regarded as a very adventurous cook who isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and take on arduous preparations in the kitchen. That said, I think I have met my match. To me Modernist Cuisine at Home seems like it might still be just too much. It is undeniably a beautiful book that was meticulously researched, is full of interesting recipes and techniques, and would likely yield superior results, but will the braised Korean BBQ be noticeably better than the one I already make. I'm not so sure.
5. Lastly, some of these recipes may be better, even perceptibly so, but to make a steak I may need to cook it sous vide for an hour and then remove from its bag to sear in a pan or use a blowtorch. Right now if I want to cook the steak (outside of BBQ season) I pull out cast iron pan and heat it till it is searing hot and then pop my steaks in for a few minutes a side. Then into the oven they go to finish, before coming out for a quick rest. End to end the steak will be in my plate in 15 minutes, it will have a beautiful crust and still be nice and pink inside. True, the doneness will not be perfect since the bottom and top of the steak will have been closer to the heat source than the centre, but again I'm not so sure this will make a big difference.
The jury is still out for me, I plan to spend a few more days with it before I decide to return it or not, mostly because some of the slow cooker recipes just might be worth it to me, but also because my partner went to the trouble of getting me a nice gift. That being said, at over $100 and nearly 10kg it needs to be a book I am going to use.
Has anyone else had any experiences with the book?