It seems like just the other day that a 40-plus-pound set of books called Modernist Cuisine came out of Bellevue, Wash., and loudly impacted the world of technically minded cookery. But six volumes, priced at $450 and recommending that you equip your kitchen with all manner of industrial equipment, was a little daunting to the home cook. Today, Nathan Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine At Home arrives on shelves with a somewhat more modest impact: a mere 10 pounds for a highly reasonable $130.
The new book recapitulates a lot of the valuable material from the original, but strips out a great deal of background and theory, and makes a noble attempt to address the home cook. You can make every recipe in this book without owning a high-pressure homogenizer or a spray dryer, for instance! In practice, many of the recipes still fly over the heads of casual cooks, but not nearly as far over as the first batch did.
The signature Modernist pistachio gelato — which is made with no dairy, just the unctuous fat of pistachios — reappears in this book, but it no longer requires you to make your own “constructed cream” by pulverizing nuts in a colloid mill. Instead you simply buy pistachio butter from a gelato supply company. The recipe recommends PreGel brand, which is conveniently available in a minimum order of 11 pounds for $449.50. Not as far out of reach, perhaps, but still, one wonders how many batches of this gelato are actually getting made by home cooks.
Just as in the first book, though, there are plenty of dishes that actually can and will be whipped up with relative comfort. The pressure-cooked carnitas, a long-time PopSci favorite, is back, now presented in more detail. MCaH discusses practicalities of techniques like sous vide in an actually helpful way, covering the bases for people who want to invest hundreds of dollars in water-bath technology but also taking other options seriously: if you want to cook salmon in your kitchen sink or hot tub, authors Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet have your back.