Microsoft genius turned food-scientist, Nathan Myhrvold, and his insanely smart Modernist Cuisine team have a lot to say about smarter cooking. Here they share some of their most compelling (and easily implemented) ideas, based on their latest books, Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home.
1. When making a salad start with the dressing.
Though it is commonly added last, dressing should actually be the first item that goes in your bowl. This trick will help evenly coat the salad when you toss it. Add slightly less than you think you will need— you can always drizzle a little extra over the top before serving.
2. Hyperdecanting Wine.
For better wine in less than a minute, try hyperdecanting. This trick elevates the flavor of wine by increasing the reaction of oxygen with flavor molecules through a process called oxygenation. To try this tip simply frappe wine in a blender for 30-60 seconds, then allow the froth to subside. We find young red wines work best with this technique.
3. Extend the life of your salad.
Extend the life of produce through a process called ‘heat-shocking,’ which both fruits and vegetables benefit from. Dip them in hot water (typically 40-60 ˚C/105-140 ˚F) for a minute to increase their shelf life by days or even weeks.
4. Improvised sous vide water baths.
You can cook sous vide with any setup that heats food accurately at low temperatures. The simplest way is by using a large pot on the stove. Fill a pot with water and clip bags of food and a thermometer to a wire cooking rack, hang it on the rim of the pot. Heat the water to the target temperature, adjust the burner to a setting that maintains that temperature, and start cooking. Be sure to cover the pot between temperature checks.
5. Add extra yolks to scrambled eggs.
The key to making rich and creamy scrambled eggs is adding extra yolks. For every two whole eggs you scramble, add one extra yolk and you’ll dramatically improve the color, flavor and texture.
6. Peel an egg using a blowtorch.
Torching an eggshell makes it easier to peel without damaging the firm egg white. Soft-boil or hard-boil an egg and rest it at room temperature for two minutes. Then flash the egg with the torch while rotating it constantly. The shell should become dry and brittle within about two minutes, and will fall away easily when peeled.
7. Add Wondra to your fried chicken and stocks.
Wondra is a retro ingredient with Modernist purposes. Next time you make chicken wings, bread them with Wondra and potato starch. The coating will result in a perfect crispy crust. Wondra also happens to be a great thickener— dust it over your sauce, whisk, and then simmer to help thicken the liquid.
8. Shucking clams and mussels.
Shucking mussels and clams can be a hassle, but a quick 2 minute steam, followed by a plunge into ice water, relaxes the adductor muscles that hold mussels and clams shut. This treatment makes it easier to shuck and enjoy the mollusks.