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Archive for the 'Food' Category

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Doughnuts as Thanksgiving Food and the Early History of the Holiday in NYC

Gastropolis, Thanksgiving in New York City

As many of us begin to prepare our turkeys and other fixings, we turn to a surprising chapter in the history of Thanksgiving food when doughnuts made an appearance on the holiday plate:

In his chapter, “The Food and Drink of New York from 1624 to 1898,” from Gastropolis: Food and New York City, Andrew Smith describes the role both George Washington and doughnuts have played in how the holiday has been celebrated in New York City:

Although it had originated in New England, [Thanksgiving] was quickly adopted in communities throughout New York. Indeed, it was in New York City that President George Washington issued the first presiden­tial thanksgiving proclamation, which set aside Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a day of prayer and thanksgiving. New York was one of the first states outside New England to declare Thanksgiving an official holiday. In 1795, John Jay, the governor of New York, tried to establish a statewide thanksgiving day, and in 1817 it was finally recognized as a state holiday. Thanksgiving was celebrated with what is now considered the traditional meal of turkey, apple pie, mince pie, and cranberries; New Yorkers often added doughnuts and crullers to the menu. Thanksgiving holiday remained an important holiday throughout the nineteenth century. The Ladies Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church opened a mission in the gang-infested Five Points District, and on Thanksgiving Day, under the eyes of their bene­factors, the ladies paraded and fed hundreds of Sunday-school students.

Monday, November 24th, 2014

How to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey in the Dishwasher!? Herve This Explains

Thanksgiving, Turkey

“Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine.”—Herve This

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, we thought we provide some more practical (or somewhat practical) advice on cooking a turkey from none other than Hervé This, most recently the author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food.

In a 2010 interview with Nature, This suggested the dishwasher as a possible cooking method:

Q: Another professional technique is to cook food for long periods at low temperatures in a vacuum-sealed bag. How might a home chef emulate this ‘sous-vide’ method?

Herve This: Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine. In this way, you can get low temperatures. Butterfly the other turkey and cook it on the grill, creating the maximum expanse of delicious crispy skin. Then serve the moist, flavourful meat from the dishwasher turkey with the grilled skin. A good accompaniment would be foie gras, also cooked in the dishwasher at low temperature.

Now for those not comfortable with Maytag cuisine, here is an excerpt from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, also by Hervé This, on the science of roasting a turkey:

Since it is juicy, tender meat that we want, it is clear why there is no question of opening the oven while the meat is roasting. The water vapor that is released in a limited quantity could escape and then be replaced by the vaporization of a certain quantity of the juices. Opening the oven dries out the turkey. Neither, however, should one humidify the oven before putting the turkey in. In the presence of too much water, the surface water cannot evaporate, and the skin will not get crispy.

Having thus resolved the problem of the surface, the serious problem of tenderness within remains. We cannot disappoint our guests, who fear the pro­verbial dryness of the turkey.

Since tenderness results necessarily from the deterioration of the connec­tive tissue, let us consider this tissue. It principally contains three kinds of pro­teins: collagen, already discussed many times, reticulin, and elastin. Neither reticulin or elastin are notably altered by the heat of the oven, but the triple helixes of the collagen molecules can be broken up and form gelatin, which is soft when it is in water, as we all know.

Calculating the cooking time requires some skill, because the denaturation of the collagen and the coagulation of the muscle proteins (actin and myosin, mainly) take place at different temperatures and different speeds in the different parts of the turkey. It is necessary to know that the temperature of 70° (158°F) is essential for transforming the collagen into gelatin and tenderizing the mus­cles. But the longer the turkey remains at a high temperature, the more water it loses and the more its proteins risk coagulating. The optimal cooking time, consequently, is the minimum time it takes to attain the temperature of 70°C (158°F) at the center of the turkey.

(more…)

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he gives ten of his most memorable experiences dining in China, from specific restaurants to types of dishes.

Ten of Yong Chen’s Memorable Food Experiences in China

1. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant, 12 Linjiang Middle Rd Wuhou, Chengdu, Sichuan, China, 610041; 1+ 86 28 8555 5588
For people looking for great food and legendary restaurants in the United States, there are well-known destinations, such as the Napa Valley region and New Orleans. Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan, is such as destination in China. It does not have globally renowned celebrity chefs like Thomas Keller and Emeril Lagasse, but it does boast a world famous cuisine and countless fabulous dining establishments. Ginkgo Sichuan Restaurant is one of the best of these establishments. The duck smoked with tea leaves is one its specialties. The skin is crispy, and the seasoning nicely brings out the delicate flavor. Its dan dan noodle soup and the Sichuan-style dumplings uphold the reputation of such signature traditional Sichuan dishes.

2. Donkey Pie
“There is dragon meat in heaven; and there is donkey meat on earth.” I had never heard of this saying or tasted donkey meat until my first visit to China’s Hebei Province in 2009. Donkey meat is a local favorite. A wide range of donkey meat dishes can be found in restaurants: hot pot donkey meat, clay pot donkey, strewed donkey meat, donkey intestines, and donkey penis. A particularly popular food is the donkey pie. It is similar to a sandwich, consisting ground or finely sliced donkey meat between two buns with green onions and other vegetable. But all of the donkey pie is baked with the stuffing. It tastes better than a typical American beef sandwich. Numerous local people proudly told me that donkey was healthier than beef. (Scientific research actually does show, for example, that the total mineral content is higher in donkey meat than in beef.)

3. Mushrooms in Yunnan
Another great destination for unforgettable food experiences, Yunnan is a southern Chinese province, bordering Tibet and Sichuan provinces and Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar. Lateral-spatially, it has three climate zones: temperate zone, sub-tropical, and tropical, as well as mountains that are perennially covered by snow. The province’s extraordinary biodiversity has created a rich culinary tradition and a multitude of foodstuffs. One of my memorable experiences in Yunnan comes from savoring a multitude of mushrooms.

One of them is ji cong, or the termite mushroom. When put in a stir fry or soup, it adds a lingering savory taste to the dish. Song rong (matsutake) is a delicacy, used almost solely as a flavor enhancer in upscale Japanese restaurants in California. But in restaurants in Yunnan you can order stir fry dishes, soups, and hot pots that feature this mushroom as the main ingredient. Domestic production of song rong has driven down the price significantly. Another mushroom to taste is the morel mushroom, known locally as yang du jun or sheep belly mushroom because of its shape. Local people told me that it is one of the most expensive mushrooms in Yunnan because its production has not been domesticated. A local friend in the city of Lijiang generously invited me to a hot pot dinner highlighting this delicacy. However, for both economic and gastronomic reasons, it is better used in small quantities in soups or stir fry dishes. Lately, my wife and I have discovered that it is best when made as a morel mushroom risotto. (more…)

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. In today’s post, he lists and describes his ten favorite Chinese restaurants in the U.S., and offers some advice on dining in a Chinese restaurant.

Yong Chen’s Ten Favorite Chinese Restaurants in America

This is a list of some of my personal favorites, rather than an attempt to rank the top ten among all the more than 30,000 Chinese restaurants in America. Taste is highly subjective, shaped by a wide range of socioeconomic and geographical factors as well as personal preferences and backgrounds. Those who have attempted to rank Chinese restaurants can seldom achieve a consensus. In 2012 CNN, for example, came up with a list of the best 50 Chinese restaurants in the United States. Many Chinese food lovers would find several of its selections quite questionable. Among them, Class 302, a decent Taiwanese style establishment that started first in Rowland Heights, California, is a great place for shredded/shaved ice but it would not make my list of top Chinese restaurants.

[Note: tips on dining in a Chinese restaurant.
1. If you are in a non-Chinese neighborhood and want “authentic” Chinese food namely, the kind of Chinese food that the Chinese like to eat, always ask for a pair of chopsticks.
2. Talk to the servers and ask if they have a menu in Chinese (it helps even if you do not read Chinese). Try to order at least one dish in Chinese.
3. Find a restaurant with Chinese customers inside. But do not be fooled by a token Chinese person sitting by the window (I was unconsciously made to play that role several times).
4. If you want plain rice, order it steamed, not fried.]

1. Blue Ginger, 583 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02482; (781) 283-5790.
I cannot claim that I know which Chinese restaurant is the best in metropolitan Boston. Before my 2004 trip there, I had heard a great deal about Blue Ginger. I went there with a friend from China, and we both were very satisfied with its service, décor, and food. The chef owner, Ming Tsai, graciously came out to greet us. My favorite was the tender butterfish marinated in sake and miso. My friend liked his grilled Long Island duck breast with Asian duck confit, but he asked: “Do you consider this a Chinese restaurant?” Indeed, if there is something Chinese about the restaurant, it is well hidden in the background. The restaurant represents the creative efforts of Chinese American chefs to blend Asian food with other cuisines.

2. Tommy Toy’s Cuisine Chinoise, 655 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA 94111.
San Francisco is where Chinese restaurants first started in America. The Bay Area remains an area for great Chinese food. Tommy Toy’s was an interesting restaurant because it was one of the few Chinese establishments to serve traditional Chinese food in a fine dining environment and charge find dining price – the two things that few other Chinese restaurants have been able to do (see chapter seven of Chop Suey, USA, for more discussions). But in early 2013 the restaurant ended its twenty-seven-year run, revealing how difficult it still is for Chinese food to climb up the gastronomical hierarchy.

3. Cheng Du Tian Fu (Heavenly City of Chengdu), 41-28 Main Street, Flushing, New York.
For Chinese food lovers, metropolitan New York is another exciting place. Manhattan’s Chinatown and the other Chinese communities in the area offer a great diversity of food representing different regions in China. In New York proper, culinary connoisseurs can have unforgettable dining experiences in several upscale establishments like the dazzlingly decorated restaurant Buddakan. The multiple-course banquet that the documentary film maker Julia Marchesi invited me to in Mr. K’s, in the summer of 2011, rivaled the signature dinner at Tom Toy’s.

But I have found even more interesting Chinese food in small places. One of them is Cheng Du Tian Fu in Flushing’s Golden Mall. The food at the little basement stall is almost as spicy as that in the provincial capital of Sichuan. When I dined there early in 2011, I was surprised to see two European visitors. “Why are you guys here?” My curiosity made me almost rude. “We read an article in the New York Times.” The Times article they remembered, as I found out later, was a piece published by Julia Moskin back in 2008 (in her article, she described several dining stores in the basement food court of the Golden Mall but not Cheng Du Tian Fu, which was discussed by Joe DiSefano in “Off the Beaten Path” Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing”). Among the dishes I tried, the dan dan noodle ($4) and ox tongue & tripe ($6) were more than worth the money, reminiscent of the same dishes in Chengdu. The most famous dish was the “hot spicy soup” – a dish consisting of vegetables and other ingredients boiled in pork stock served with spicy sauce. Served by numerous restaurants in Flushing, it represented the increasingly popularity of simple local foods from China in a fast changing community.

(more…)

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

How Well Do You Know Your Chop Suey and Other Questions about Chinese Food

You might have memorized the menu from your local Chinese restaurant but how well do you know the history of Chinese food? Here’s a quiz to test your knowledge based on material from Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, by Yong Chen:

ProProfs – Chop Suey, USA

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

A Recipe for Chop Suey from Chop Suey, USA

Chop Suey

In Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America, Yong Chen explores the rise of Chinese food in America and how it became ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape. Epitomized by chop suey, American Chinese food was a forerunner of McDonald’s, democratizing the once-exclusive dining-out experience for such groups as marginalized Anglos, African Americans, and Jews.

Chen writes, “When Chinese restaurants started to venture outside Chinatowns, chop suey became the most famous line of dishes. It remained a synonym of America’s Chinese food for decades. However, its origin has been shrouded in mystery. Cooking it can help us better understand this simple and versatile traditional Chinese dish, which has be­come a quintessential American story.” With this in mind, here is a recipe for chop suey, one of several recipes included in the book:

Pork Chop Suey
Serves 1 or 2

2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp light soy sauce
dash of black pepper
1 lb lean pork, sliced into thin strips
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ tsp salt
3 cups sliced napa cabbage
4 cups (soy) bean sprouts
1 /3 cup diced celery
1 cup shredded carrot
4 button mushrooms, cut into wedges
1 /2 cup chicken broth

Mix the cornstarch, sugar, water, rice wine, sesame oil, soy sauce, and black pepper in a bowl. Add the pork and marinate for 1 hour. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wok or nonstick frying pan, and add the green onion and garlic. Stir for about 10 seconds.

Add the marinated pork. Stir until cooked. Transfer it to a clean con­tainer and set aside. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, and add the salt and then the cabbage, bean sprouts, celery, carrot, and mushrooms. Stir for 2 minutes or until almost cooked. Put the pork back in the wok and add the chicken stock. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil.

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Book Giveaway! Chop Suey, USA

This week our featured book is Chop Suey, USA: The Story of Chinese Food in America by Yong Chen.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Chop Suey, USA to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, November 7 at 1:00 pm.

American diners began to flock to Chinese restaurants more than a century ago, making Chinese food the first mass-consumed cuisine in the United States. By 1980, it had become the country’s most popular ethnic cuisine. Chop Suey, USA offers the first comprehensive interpretation of the rise of Chinese food, revealing the forces that made it ubiquitous in the American gastronomic landscape and turned the country into an empire of consumption.

Read the chapter “Chop Suey, the Big Mac of the Pre-McDonald’s Era”:

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

An Evening with Herve This and Note-By-Note Cooking

Herve This and Adam Gopnik discuss

Hervé This is in town this week, so for those who couldn’t make it to his various events, here’s an account of his recent appearance at the Columbia Maison Française to discuss Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food. And you can still catch him later today at the Institute of Culinary Education

“Molecular cooking is over—it’s for grandfathers!” Hervé This exclaimed on Monday night at the Maison Française on the Columbia University campus. This is in town this week to promote his new book, Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food, published by Columbia University Press. The event was moderated by Adam Gopnik of The New Yorker, who started out the night by declaring that even the Cronut™ isn’t revolutionary in the face of note-by-note cooking.

Hervé This introduced his novel concept by describing a carrot as a sum of its constituent parts—water, cellulose, aminos, minerals—and asked that the audience begin to think of these components as similar to the notes of a song. He claims we can cook food just as a musician writes a melody on a synthesizer (the end result could fall anywhere between Jingle Bells and Rachmaninoff, a candy bar or a truffle sauce). Note-by-note cooking, therefore, is about building, not deconstructing food. This implored the audience to “forget about the word natural” as no cooked food is natural (think of a French fry in relation to a wild potato). Instead we must value the artificial for its inherent “art” and recognize that there will be both good art and bad art.

The audience was clearly entranced by the idea, but everyone wondered how to do it? Hervé answered by describing a typical weeknight dinner he cooks for his family: a tough cut of meat braised for many hours in a low oven with a few drops of truffle compound for a sauce. (He sometimes adds a drop or two of syrah compound to make a red wine reduction.) Even though the compounds have been highly processed, the terroir of the mushrooms and the grapes still comes through and “makes his family smile.” He described the note-by-note kitchen of the future as one full of beautiful lacquered boxes with maybe 10 aminos, 20 pungencies, 30 colors…in addition to bags of flour and jars of paprika.

(more…)

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Herve This Is Bringing Note-by-Note Cooking to the USA!

Herve This, Note-by-Note Cooking

After spending a week reading about Herve This’s Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food, now’s your chance to see the dynamic chemist as he comes to New York and Boston for a series of great events, beginning this Friday!:

Friday, October 24 at 6:00 pm
Boston University Jacques Pepin Lecture Series in Gastronomy and Experiential Food Studies

Saturday, October 25, 2014 at 12:30 pm
Boston Book Festival/Alliance Francaise de Boston

Monday, October 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Columbia University Maison Française
Columbia University’s Maison Française presents Herve This, Michael Laiskonis, and Adam Gopnik in conversation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 at 6:00 pm
Albertine Bookstore at the French Embassy
The discussion will be followed by a tasting prepared by Chef and Creative Director of the Institute of Culinary, Michael Laiskonis.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm
Institute for Culinary Education

Thursday, October 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm
Experimental Cuisine Collective at New York University

Friday, October 31, 2014 at 12:00 PM
Culinary Institute of America

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Video: Herve This takes us into His Lab to Show Us Note-By-Note Cooking

We conclude our week-long feature on Note-by-Note Cuisine: The Future of Food, by Hervé This, with this great video via the BBC. This takes us into his lab/kitchen to discuss and show us how to cook using the principles of note-by-note cooking and how to employ compounds into your dishes! Happy viewing and Bon Appétit!

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Herve This on Why Note-by-Note Cooking Is Good for the Future of Food

“Thanks to note-by-note cooking, we have a whole new slew of cooking possibilities in front of us as well as new consistencies, new odors, new tastes, and new flavors.”—Hervé This

Herve This, Note-by-Note CookingThe following is a post by Hervé This, author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food. (For more on the book, you can also read an excerpt or an interview with Hervé This):

Fittingly, Columbia University Press added “the future of food” on the cover of my new book since note-by-note cooking is truly the future of food and more and more chefs are exploring and employing its techniques in their cooking.

If you look to the current developments of culinary art, you don’t see much novelty except note-by-note cooking. Wild plants? The eminent French chef Michel Michel Bras has been cooking them for decades. Molecular cooking? Even if you call it “science-based cooking”, or “modernist cooking”, or “techno-emotional cooking” (what is this need to give more names when one was already given?), that was proposed as early as the 1980′s!

Yes, there is no newer proposal for culinary art than note-by-note cooking, and we are living a very exciting time. Thanks to note-by-note cooking, we have a whole new slew of cooking possibilities in front of us as well as new consistencies, new odors, new tastes, and new flavors.

(more…)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Interview with Herve This, author of “Note-by-Note Cooking”

Herve This, Note-By-Note CookingThe following is an interview with Hervé This, author of Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food:

“All food is ‘artificial’! Do you think that barbecue meat hangs ‘naturally’ on the trees of the wild forest?”—Hervé This

Question: How does note-by-note cooking differ from molecular gastronomy?

Herve This: Molecular gastronomy is a scientific activity, not to be confused with molecular cooking. Indeed, molecular gastronomy, being science, has nothing to do with cooking. In other words, science is not about making dishes. Science looks for the mechanism of phenomena. That’s all. And technology uses the results of science to improve technique. So, note-by-note cooking is a technique.

Another question could be, how is note-by-note cooking different from molecular cooking? And here the answer would be that the definition of molecular cooking is “to cook using modern tools” (such as siphons, liquid nitrogen, etc.). But you still use meat, vegetables, etc. However, with note-by-note cooking, the instruments are not important, and the big revolution is to cook with pure compounds, instead of meat, vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.

Q: Where does the name Note-by-Note Cooking come from?

HT: In 1999, when I introduced the name “molecular cooking,” I was upset, because it was a bad choice, which had to be made for many complex reasons. Unfortunately, people now confuse molecular gastronomy and molecular cooking. So, For note-by-note cooking, I wanted a name that could appeal to artists and it’s fair to say that note-by-note cooking is comparable to a term such as electro-acoustic music.

Q: Won’t not-by-note cooking produce artificial forms of food?

HT: Yes, but all food is “artificial”! Do you think that barbecue meat hangs “naturally” on the trees of the wild forest? Or that French fries appear suddenly from potatoes? No, you need a cook, to make them. In ordinary language, “natural” means “what was not transformed by human beings”, and “artificial” means that it was transformed, it was the result of human “art”.

Instead of “artificial,” it is better to think of “synthetic”, and again in this sense, note by note is synthetic in a similar way as electro-acoustic music. But just listen to the radio and synthesizers are everywhere, often with sometimes beautiful sounds. Moreover, in art, the scope of what is possibile increases with more choices. And more choice is better!

(more…)

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “Note-by-Note Cooking” by Herve This

Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food, Hervé ThisThis week our featured book is Note-by-Note Cooking: The Future of Food by Hervé This.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Note-by-Note Cooking to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, October 17 at 1:00 pm.

Note-by-Note Cooking is a landmark in the annals of gastronomy, liberating cooks from the constraints of traditional ingredients and methods through the use of pure molecular compounds. Hervé This clearly explains the properties of naturally occurring and synthesized compounds, dispels a host of misconceptions about the place of chemistry in cooking, and shows why note-by-note cooking is an obvious—and inevitable—extension of his earlier pioneering work in molecular gastronomy.

Read an excerpt from the introduction, “Why the Need for Note-by-Note Cooking Should be Obvious”:

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Interview with Natalie Berkowitz, author of “The Winemaker’s Hand”

Natalie Berkowitz, The Winemaker's HandThe following is an interview with Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir:

Question: You obviously talked to many different winemakers for your book, were there particular approaches to the craft that united them all?

Natalie Berkowitz: I’ve always marveled at the diversity of human creativity. Generations of artists used the same colors but their paintings represent their personal visions. The concept compelled me to write The Winemaker’s Hand. Unlike consistent products like Coca Cola, Tropicana Orange Juice and Heinz Ketchup, wine lovers are treated to a plethora of wines from different regions crafted from an amazing number of varietals.

The Winemaker’s Hand is a compilation of conversations with more than 40 vintners from many viticultural regions around the world. They reveal how all winemakers wrest with their soils and the forces of nature, (or terroir) to create a wine that represents their individual talents, passions, expertise, vision, philosophy, and historical traditions. All these factors are integral to what goes into a bottle of wine. After all, the grapes don’t jump into the bottles themselves, it’s what makes winemaking both and art and a science.

Q: Are there new technologies that are currently changing the way in which wine is made?

NB: Because of new technologies, wine has improved around the world since the last part of the 20th century: steel fermentation tanks, better barrels, more comprehensive information from chemical analysis, and a better understanding of which varietals fare better in different terrors. Winemakers are generous souls, willing to share ideas about new technologies with their peers.

(more…)

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Wine Fraud: Buyer Beware — A Post by Natalie Berkowitz

Natalie Berkowitz, The Winemaker's HandThe following is a post by Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir

Obsessed individuals with deep pockets bitten by the collecting bug willingly spend a fortune on rare treasures to display their affluence. Insatiable acquisitiveness and eagerness to flaunt their trophies are a subtle form of “look at me.” Stratospheric prices confer immense cachet on the object and to its owner, but it takes an unfortunate negative turn. Con artists can smell a mark and will engage in their tricks of the trade: fraud, forgery, misrepresentation, and counterfeiting.

Even though wine fraud plays second fiddle to more sensational examples of art fraud, scams involving wine have been known to run into the millions of dollars. Beginning in the early 2000s, demand and prices for the rarest wines shot up rapidly, as did the potential payoff from selling fakes. The idea of owning a prestigious historical bottle created a frenzy among potential collectors. Covetous wine lovers, some who are connoisseurs and others who collect rare bottles for prestige, compete to buy cult wines, rare vintages, and famous labels. Wine collectors who covet particular vintages and notable producers suspend credulity, seduced into believing they achieved their heart’s delight when in many cases they paid outrageous sums for fraudulent wine.

Wine deception abounds. It can start on the most basic level at a winery when a harvest goes awry and fails to produce high quality grapes. Some less-than-honest vintners adulterate a poor vintage, adding wine from a previous crop or from different wine regions. Coloring agents or wines with stronger color are used to deepen pallid wines. Some wines are adjusted for the tastes of certain markets.

(more…)

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Got Cricket? Get it at Book Expo America

The Insect Cookbook

Every year publishers from around the world descend on the Javits Center in New York City for Book Expo America to promote their new titles. To lure visitors to their booths, publishers will try a variety of incentives ranging from free books and tote bags to pens and author autographs.

This year, at booth 1538, we’re trying something new. To help promote the recently published The Insect Cookbook: Food for a Sustainable Planet we’ll be handing out Chapul Cricket Bars. As explained on their site, Chapul “has a simple goal – to build a more sustainable future by introducing incredibly efficient insect protein in a delicious, organic product…our tasty Chapul bars.”

Chapul

As explained in the following excerpt from The Insect Cookbook, Kofi Annan and others have extolled the virtues of eating insects for their nutritional value and as a more sustainable alternative than meat.

(more…)

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Umami Has Come to Stay

Umami, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

We conclude our week-long feature on Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek with the authors’ discussion of the importance of umami for the way we think about food and diet:

“We consider umami to be the central point around which the circle of deliciousness revolves and are convinced that it deserves a place of honor in all the food cultures of the world.”—Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek

As we have seen throughout this book, umami is a relatively new label for a taste that, for possibly the past 1.9 million years, has been an integral aspect of the food of modern humankind and its ancestors. It is an attribute of nutritious food and in this way has steered our preference for food with that particular taste. The taste is intensified when we work with the raw ingredients in certain ways, which have been refined in the course of millennia and which are the very heart of our food cultures, culinary skills, and gastronomy. Virtually all the cuisines in the world seem to strive to impart umami, each with its typical and regional raw ingredients and centuries-old techniques. Of all the techniques, cooking, aging, and fermenting are best able to draw out umami.

Generations of housewives, cooks, and chefs have known intuitively how to elicit umami and that it is indispensable. In more recent times, food manufacturers, gourmets, and innovative chefs have become aware of its synergistic effect and have started to tap into its potential in a rational, creative way. Nevertheless, many of us have not yet gained an easy familiarity with the word umami as an expression to describe savoriness in our raw ingredients, our food, our meals, and our food cultures.

Science has taught us which substances in the raw ingredients can help to impart umami, and, armed with this knowledge, we are better able to understand why food has umami tastes and, just as important, what we have to do to enhance them. We now also know that what characterizes umami is the multiplier effect. This taste comes fully into its own only with the help of an intimate interaction, a synergy between two types of substances, glutamate and ribonucleotides. An awareness of which raw ingredients are sources of these two substances allows us to sharpen our insight into how we can prepare more delicious meals. While this will naturally be of great value in the field of advanced gastronomy, it is of equal importance in our own kitchens, where we can use it to real advantage, even with simple techniques and local ingredients.

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Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Umami and the Art of Killing a Fish

Ole Mouritsen, Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

The following excerpt is from Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste by Ole G. Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek:

Ikijime, which means to terminate while alive, is a 350 year old Japanese technique for killing fish. It has the effect of delaying the onset of rigor mortis, thereby ensuring that the taste of the fish is of the highest quality and that there is least damage to, and discoloration of, the flesh. The fish dies humanely and unstressed, which preserves and releases more of the savory substances that bring out umami.

The traditional method is as follows. With a heavy knife, a cut is made in the head on the dorsal side of the live fish, slightly above and behind the eyes, severing the main artery and the elongated medulla, which is the lowest part of the brain stem. This is the part of the brain that controls movement. A second cut is made where the tail is attached to the body. Then the fish is plunged into an ice slurry in order to allow it to bleed out. The muscles of the fish relax in the ice cold water while the heart continues to pump, but the fish has ceased to struggle for its life and is unstressed.

The final, definitive step is to shut down completely the autonomic nervous system, which continues to send messages to the muscles to contract. It is destroyed by inserting a long, very thin metal spike along the length of the fish through the neural canal of the spinal column. At this point, the fish relaxes totally and all movement ceases.
The blood that remains in the muscles retracts into the entrails of the fish, which are removed under running water so that blood and digestive fluids do not spill onto the flesh. The head, tail, gills, and fins are cut off and the fish is wrapped in paper or cloths to absorb any blood that might still seep out. At this point, the fish can be filleted for cooking, sliced for sashimi, or allowed to age for one or two days in the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Why Umami is Good For You and 12 Ways to Add it to Your Diet

Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

In Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste, Ole Mouritsen and Klavs Styrbaek explain the health benefits of umami:

Food with umami can often be prepared with significantly less salt, sugar, and fat without sacrificing the delicious taste of the resulting dish. Salt, in particular, is frequently applied too liberally in order to compensate for ingredients that are insipid or unpalatable. In many cases, its use can be reduced by as much as a half by incorporating foodstuffs with umami into the recipe. The fifth taste spurs the appetite, an attribute that can be exploited to advantage in caring for the sick and the elderly, who may have lost interest in eating. At the same time, however, umami promotes satiety, which helps to curb overeating by those who are inclined to overindulge. Either way, adopting a diet that has an abundance of umami may be a way for modem humans to eat in a healthier manner and to adjust their caloric intake to suit the needs of their bodies.

So where can you find umami? Well, the authors also provide a list of 12 easy way to add umami:

Mushroom salt
Cut shiitake or other dark mushrooms into slices and dry them in an oven on low heat. Crush them into a powder and mix it with Maldon sea salt flakes.
Use to season fish, soups, vegetables, and pasta dishes.

Marinated mushrooms
Marinate mushrooms in a little soy sauces or garum
Can be fried or used raw in salads.

Essence of Worcestershire sauce
Concentrated reduction of the sauce kept at the ready in a small bottle with an eyedropper.
Just add a couple of drops to meat that is being fried or to a sauce or a dressing. Rounds out the taste of a pâté or an egg dish.

Highly concentrated chicken bouillon
1 L (4¼ c) chicken stock reduced to 1 dL (½ c) or less.
Use as an essence in gravies that are a little flat or to add depth to a dressing, or drizzle on pasta or salads.

Miso paste
Light or dark paste made from fermented soybeans; available where Asian foods are sold.
Adds a nutty, savory taste to dressings, sauces, marinades, and soups (especially those with shellfish); or use it like butter to coat warm vegetables just before serving.

Anchovy paste
Available in a squeezable tube to keep in the refrigerator.
For all types of vinaigrettes, dressings, marinades, pesto, and pâtés.

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Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Interview with Ole Mouritsen, Coauthor of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste

Umami, Ole Mouritsen

“Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.”—Ole Mouritsen

The following is an interview with Ole Mouritsen, co-author of Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste:

Question: How was umami discovered?

Ole Mouritsen: The taste has always been with us, but it was only given the name umami in 1909 when the Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda discovered the substance (glutamate) that make the Japanese soup broth, dashi, so delicious. Umami is a contraction of the Japanese expression umai, which means “delicious,” and mi, which means “essence,” “essential nature,” “taste,” or “flavor.”

Q: What is the importance of umami and how does it change the way we think about taste?

OM: As a basic taste, umami is important for the flavor of food as well as for stimulating appetite, controlling satiety, and hence regulating food intake. Due to its complex interaction with other tastes, e.g., by enhancing sweet and salty and suppressing bitterness, umami will remind us about flavor being a multimodal sensation. Knowing about umami will not only help us to produce better-tasting meals but will greatly contribute to re-establishing a culture around the communal meals.

Q: How can it or should it change the way we eat and prepare food?

OM: The most important aspect of umami is the fact that it builds on a synergistic effect brought about by two components in the food: glutamate that elicits basal umami and nucleotides that enhance the sensation of glutamate. It needs two to tango. In the classical Japanese umami-rich soup broth, dashi, the two components come from seaweeds and fish or shiitake, respectively. It is precisely the same synergy we know so well from pairing eggs with bacon, cheese with ham, vegetables with meat, etc. Knowing about this synergistic principle will guide us to change the way we eat and the way we compose a meal.

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