We've written about the stunning visuals and high-tech recipes in former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myrhvold's new cookbook, Modernist Cuisine, before. But at $500 a copy, we haven't had the chance to take it into the GOOD kitchen and give it a test drive.
Fortunately, Popular Science was lucky enough to be invited to Myrhvold's own R&D kitchen to try some recipes from the book. The word "kitchen" does not really do justice to Myrvhold's set-up, which, in addition to the centrifuges and sous-vide cookers common amongst molecular gastronomers, includes a "working biology lab and mosquito hatchery, a chemistry lab, a serious machine shop," and its own photography studio. The mosquitoes, disappointingly, do not appear to play a role in the cooking process—Popular Science explains that Myrhvold's company is also involved in fighting mosquito-borne disease, and has developed a "laser weapon designed to blast mosquitoes out of the sky." What such an instrument could do to your average crème brulée or breakfast waffle remains to be seen.
The menu that Popular Science's Paul Adams consumes includes a drinkable everything bagel in the form of a broth studded with dill, lox, and chives, foie-gras bonbons, and a plate of homemade processed cheese. The highlight of his meal, though, seems to be the pea butter toast:
Fresh peas are blended to a puree, then spun in a centrifuge at 13 times the force of gravity. The force separates the puree into three discrete layers: on the bottom, a bland puck of starch; on the top, vibrant-colored, seductively sweet pea juice; and separating the two, a thin layer of the pea's natural fat, pea-green and unctuous. A standard pea yields about 3 percent fat, so the half-ounce of glistening viridian on my toast was the equivalent of perhaps a pound and a half of peas condensed into a single bite.
For the first time in my life, I think I want a centrifuge! And if I win the lottery, you can definitely expect to see a report on the rest of the dishes in the book.
But, in all seriousness, although molecular gastronomy is sometimes vilified as frivolous foodie decadence, the process of investigating the potential of a single ingredient—the pea—to this degree seems of a piece with a greater thoughtfulness toward food and our relationship with it overall, which is ultimately, I think, a very good thing.
Click through to see a slideshow of the rest of the meal and read the rest of Adams' report. Thanks to BLDGBLOG for the tip.
Image: a bagel shot and pea butter, photographed by Paul Adams for Popular Science.