Last month, I attended a lecture by Nathan Myhrvold, the genius behind the six-volume cookbook, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. This cooking anthology answers the most pressing kitchen questions such as: what is the best way to cook a burger? (Answer: with liquid nitrogen); how do I make the crispiest fries? (Answer: use an ultrasonic bath).
The majority of these recipes are probably not achievable for most, but the books also shares useful cooking tips for the average home cook. Nathan shared three of his best (and cheap) kitchen tricks:
Kitchen sink cooking: In sous-vide cooking, ingredients are prepared and put in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag, then “cooked” in a hot water bath at a precise temperature.
Tip: Fill your kitchen sink with hot tap water at 115F (use a thermometer). Place a 1-in. thick sashimi-grade salmon fillet in a resealable bag. Drizzle olive oil over top. Remove the air by slowly placing the bag into the hot water. Seal the bag. Let stand in the water bath for 25 to 30 min, keeping the temperature at 115F. Add more hot water if the temperature dips. Salmon will look under-done. You can make a quick sauce to drizzle over, or serve salmon with a salad. (Watch Nathan make this on Martha Stewart).
BBQ tips: The inside wall of most BBQs are usually black. Black absorbs heat, which means when you’re BBQing, the walls – not the food – are absorbing most of the heat. This can lead to overcooking, burnt foods, etc. To combat this, line the interior walls of your BBQ with foil. The foil helps to reflect the heat back into the food for quicker and more efficient grilling. Also, the “smoky” flavour achieved when grilling is actually due to the fat drippings coming into contact with the coals (the reaction creates compounds that coat the food with flavour). This is why fatty meat is so tasty when grilled, and why you douse vegetables in olive oil before grilling.
Tip: Nathan also suggests simply filling a spray bottle with melted butter (or bacon fat!) to spray the coals as you’re grilling. This can help prevent over cooking your meat and veggies, yet the fat and coal reaction will create that smoky flavour you’re looking for.
How to decant wine without a decanter: You don’t need a fancy decanter to show you know a thing or two about wine. Decanters are used to aerate wine (allowing it to “breathe” to release its aroma compounds). The Modernist Cuisine has discovered a way to “hyper-decant” wine, using a regular household blender. Pour the wine into the blender, mix on the highest setting for 1 min. Then let the head, or froth, dissipate before serving to your shocked dinner guests.
Tip: Make sure you clean the blender before using it, lest you want your wine to taste like your morning smoothie.