Science suddenly seemed to be in the forefront of what was happening in advanced kitchens. Everywhere you went, there were newfangled foams, gels, “airs,” and “soils,” and ingredients doing impossible things.
Intertwined with this novelty-obsessed culinary movement was the field of kitchen science, which sought to figure out the chemistry of even the most ordinary forms of cooking. ...When modernism arrived in the arts, it marked a dual break: a rupture within the history of the art form and a splitting off between advanced practitioners and the general public—between the popular and the serious. That’s what is happening in cooking, and the idea of it as a modernist revolution is a clarifying one.
But its mission has a more practical essence, from which us laymen can learn: to examine in detail the science of cooking. Katy McLaughlin writing for The Wall Street Journal shares some of the things she learned from the book that can be incorporated into our daily cooking:
PROBLEM #1: Your pan-fried food comesHow clever is that?
out soggy and greasy.
SOLUTION: Use more oil. Before shallow-frying, pour oil into a pan that is equivalent to nearly half the depth of your food. Heat it well and fry the food. When done, drain on a rack and blot excess oil with paper towels. The food will be crisp and less greasy than if you had skimped on the oil.
WHAT'S GOING ON: When food heats, water escaping from the food creates a tiny layer of steam that lifts the food off the bottom of the pan. If there's not enough oil in the pan, the food will not make contact with the oil. That means that instead of frying, it steams, and then merely absorbs the oil, sponge-like, upon contact. With a thick enough layer of oil the food will have full surface-contact with the oil and will fry—and properly fried food does not actually absorb much oil.
And now for the videos: shot at super high speeds (6,200 frames per second)--the Modernist Cuisine team is exploring in high definition the way different foods react. The first video, of Jello cubes dropping on a counter-top, is oddly mesmerizing. The second, of a single kernal of popcorn, is 12 seconds of bliss. Honestly, I never thought I could be thrilled and charmed by a single kernel of popcorn. But, there you have it. (And there's lots more cool stuff on their website--including amazing photographs.)