"I outdid myself," says Nathan Myhrvold, the author of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, his exhaustive (and exhaustively publicized) 2,438-page, six-volume, $625 cookbook. That's quite a statement coming from Microsoft's former chief technology officer, who researched cosmology with Stephen Hawking and writes scholarly paleontology articles almost as a hobby.
Smart Ways to Use a Pressure Cooker
Myhrvold and his staff spent more than three years exploring flavor in his state-of-the-art culinary lab. And while they found ingenious applications for rotor-stator homogenizers and other scientific equipment, the device they turned to most often was a basic pressure cooker. "It can do magical things," says Myhrvold. His team relied on it to rapidly make rich stocks and found that its ultra-high temperatures are capable of transforming familiar ingredients in unexpected ways. "We make a risotto with pressure-cooked pine nuts, and they have a beautiful popping texture," says co-author Maxime Bilet. F&W put that pressure cooker recipe and two others to the test to see if Modernist Cuisine delivers more than intellectual heft. And it does.
Inside the Kitchen Lab
"I've been interested in cooking my whole life," says Myhrvold, who attended La Varenne cooking school in France. (Another pursuit: trying to eradicate malaria.)
Myhrvold's culinary lab (part of his larger research facility in Seattle) is staffed by 16 full-time employees and stocked with everything from pots and pans to medical gear like autoclaves. An adjacent machine shop can fabricate all kinds of equipment.
A Chef's Take: "The most interesting dish was the rare beef stewit was so obvious, I wanted to smack my head and say, 'Why didn't I think of that!'" remarked David Chang of NYC's Momofuku empire after attending a dinner to preview Modernist Cuisine. "The book has minor breakthroughs like that, but mostly it documents the past 25 years in Western gastronomy, which is super-important. It will be in every chef's officeno question."
Striking photos, video and more from Nathan Myhrvold's Modernist Cuisine.