How about a little fire?

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At WD-50 I saw something done to the potatoes that makes a cook scream, “yes!” A method of cooking the potatoes with an explanation using true understanding of the molecules inside the potatoes and the effects of heat on them.

The potatoes are peeled, sliced, and cooked in a water bath at 65 degrees celsius for 30 minutes. The potatoes are transferred to an ice bath to cool completely. At this point the potatoes are still crisp, seemingly unchanged. Once cooled, the potatoes are cooked just as you would have had you just peeled them. If the potatoes are seemingly unchanged, you might ask what on earth did they just do?

For the answer, you’ll have to read Today’s Secret Ingredient…Heat at TastingMenu.

And the McGee article she refers to is “The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen.”
There are few things more chaotic than fire, and few emergent results more yummy than a nice pizza cooked in a brick and wood oven.

Photo: January 6th by Lili’s One-a-Day.

New Cookery: Emergent Chaos in the Kitchen

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Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal, Thomas Keller and Harold McGee have issued a statement on the New Cookery:

In the past, cooks and their dishes were constrained by many factors: the limited availability of ingredients and ways of transforming them, limited understanding of cooking processes, and the necessarily narrow definitions and expectations embodied in local tradition. Today there are many fewer constraints, and tremendous potential for the progress of our craft. We can choose from the entire planet’s ingredients, cooking methods, and traditions, and draw on all of human knowledge, to explore what it is possible to do with food and the experience of eating. This is not a new idea, but a new opportunity.

Mmmm! I love what happens when constraints are removed. Sometimes it may get a little silly, but often, it’s sublime.


Both McGee and the French Laundry has been alluded to and mentioned in “The French Chef Model of Intellectual Property,” a subject mentioned in the statement:

We also believe in the importance of collaboration and generosity among cooks: a readiness to share ideas and information, together with full acknowledgment of those who invent new techniques and dishes.

Photo by Tamzen on eGullet.

Judging Wines By Their Labels

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Stefan Geens has an entertaining post about “how to judge a wine by its label:”

Therein lies the secret as to why you really can judge wine by its label: Companies where the management has an atrocious taste in labels tend to be the old-school type, uncertain about innovation, parochial about marketing and under the impression that serifs imply prestige. Anyone relying on serifs to get a leg up in the wine stakes is suspect, methinks. A surfeit of colors or an overly florid arrangement of castles and gold leaf also bodes ill for the wine, much like a painter who prefers his works in elaborate gilded frames. Instead, extensive testing confirms that a sans serif font and white space on a wine label constitute a secret sign, a wink by the vintner that their approach to winemaking matches your approach to typography and graphic design. Use this knowledge as a shortcut to good wine.

It’s too bad he’s wrong. Look at that label. Just look at it. Serifs everywhere! Curlicues galore on a burgundy backing. Gold foil! And even two gilded frames! Every single listed element of “atrocious taste in labels.” So if anyone would like to trade one of those for some Albak de Elviwines 2003, I’m happy to help you out.

Would it tip my hand to offer to go two-for-one?

Minh: Great Vietnamese in Arlington, VA

I had lunch yesterday at Minh, at 2500 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA, and it was excellent. The spring rolls were crispy, tender, and not greasy. I had mint scallops as a main, and they were subtle and well prepped. The dessert, which I think was made offside was a hollowed out tangerine filled with tangerine sorbet. Very nice presentation, everyone enjoyed their food. It seemed pretty empty, and I thought I’d give them a recommendation.

Evidence based…cooking

The curiosity that fueled the experiments in Mr. McGee’s first book is undiminished after 20 years, and his approach to cooking is still skeptical. He tries to take as little as possible for granted, asking at each step: Why am I doing this? Is there a better way? All this questioning has yielded conclusions, some more useful than others, and many of them heretical in culinary circles.

The second edition of “On Food and Cooking” was published yesterday. The above is from the New York Times article.