The military’s M.R.E.--the Meal Ready to Eat, or those air-sealed packages full of gummy pastes and freeze-dried dreck that soldiers carry into the field--is getting a much-needed upgrade. But it’s not in the form of better tasting dehydrated foods or better freeze-drying technology. Rather, the U.S. Army has developed the world’s most cutting edge sandwich, the BBC reports, one that can be served fresh after sitting on the shelf for a full two years.
As I write this, I'm sipping three aged Scotches that have been fractionated into some nine glasses. It's mid-afternoon. Yes, I am at the Tales of the Cocktail convention in New Orleans again -- one part learning and one part drinking, served straight up. Some people prefer to vary the proportions slightly.
When you drink whisky, you're drinking the wood it was aged in. That's easy to understand in concept, but friend of PopSci Dave Arnold is here to spell it out for our taste buds: He has set up his laboratory evaporator and physically separated out the flavor components in a glass of Glenlivet so they can be sipped individually.
As I may have mentioned, I have lately developed a bit of a thing for pea butter. Not some sort of pea-infused dairy butter, but the real deal, the pure green fat of tender garden peas laboriously isolated and concentrated, and spread on toast. I first had it when I was visiting the Modernist Cuisine laboratory/kitchen in Seattle last month, and now I very much want more.
In 2008, Dr. Nathan Myhrvold began to carve out a portion of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse outside Seattle that houses the research lab of Intellectual Ventures. The former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft had an idea for a cookbook he wanted to write, and he needed some kitchen space.
Maxime Bilet, the kitchen's head chef of R&D and a co-author (with Myhrvold and Chris Young) of the ambitious cookbook, led me through the kitchen, where four full-time staffers were in the process of making me lunch using a variety of outre apparatus. The usual kitchen accoutrements were on display -- stove, sink, cutting boards, refrigerators -- but Bilet's tour started with the ultrasonic bath.
In a high-tech kitchen laboratory in Seattle, Nathan Myhrvold is putting the finishing touches on Modernist Cuisine, his obsessive 2,438-page cookbook documenting the future of food. I recently visited for a futuristic breakfast
Recently, in a laboratory outside Seattle, I ate a piece of buttered toast that I will remember for the rest of my life. The bread itself was not extraordinary, but it was spread thickly with the brightest-green butter I've ever seen. It was not true butter, but rather an extract of pure green peas. 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 three 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.
I was eating with Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, in the rather amazing kitchen at the heart of his 20,000-square-foot laboratory outside Seattle.
In fourth grade science class, we learned that sodium chloride always, always forms simple cube-shaped crystals. That was before a gang of mad potato chip scientists got their hands on it.
In response to the Food and Drug Administration's imminent consideration of regulating the amount of sodium food manufacturers can include in consumer goods, Pepsico, whose Frito-Lay division makes Lay's potato chips, is redesigning the good old salt molecule to make it healthier.
Sous vide cooking presents an interesting paradox: it's currently de rigueur in the kitchens of the world's most advanced chefs—those helmed by wild prodigies like Keller, Adrià, Dufresne, Achatz—yet, fundamentally, it's one of the simplest and most foolproof methods for cooking just about anything to its exact level of perfect doneness. But now, we non-pros have a new option—the Sous Vide Supreme, the first sous vide setup aimed at home cooks. Do you have to be Thomas Keller to pull off sous vide? I've been cooking with a Sous Vide Supreme for the last month to find out.
Most American children are familiar with marshmallows. These fluffy, chewy treats are sold in bags in the supermarket, often for use in Rice Krispie treats and s'mores. Marshmallow Fluff is a spreadable marshmallow product, often found nestled on shelves beside the peanut butter used for lunchbox confections, adding a sweet, viscous layer to sandwiches and brownies. Around Easter, marshmallow Peeps, with their softer structure and crunchy sugar coating, appear in stores. In many homes around the country, marshmallow-covered sweet potatoes are a staple at the Thanksgiving table.
In 1986, the movie Space Camp was released and freeze-dried ice cream became all the rage around the country. These small packages of impossibly light and dry Neapolitan ice cream were everywhere. For many of us, this unusual, crunchy confection was our first introduction to freeze-dried food. Freeze-dried ingredients were originally popular with the military and NASA, and later gained a foothold with camping outfitters as an extremely lightweight way to carry a variety of foods into the wilderness that could be easily prepared with the simple additions of water and heat.
We are proud to introduce today the first installment of our newest regular feature,Kitchen Alchemy. In it, H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, a husband-and-wife cooking duo and authors of the constantly fascinating Ideas in Food blog, will take us through the myriad intersections of food and science; and as an added bonus, each column will also feature an innovative and, needless to say, delicious recipe for putting said science into action. Enjoy. —Eds.
Pressure cookers are among our favorite culinary gadgets. We like them for things as simple as perfectly steamed beets and as playful as caramelized yogurt. And the days of screeching, squealing pressure cookers, shuddering on your range top and conjuring fears of explosions, are on the wane. Today we have quiet, efficient appliances that are used in both professional and home kitchens. Now you can buy electric pressure cookers, which shorten cooking times, are easy to clean and make a minimal amount of noise.