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Customer Review

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to Modernist Cuisine literature, November 8, 2011
This review is from: VOLT ink.: Recipes, Stories, Brothers (Hardcover)
When I first saw the "Volt, Ink." Cookbook at a Williams-Sonoma store, I turned to the index and looked for terms such as "sous vide," "vacuum sealers," or even "liquid nitrogen" (one can always hope). Not finding any of those terms, I almost passed it by -- after all, I have the monumental Modernist Cuisine set, Heston Blumenthal's Big Fat Duck, all of Thomas Keller's books, Ferran Adrià's tome, Grant Achatz's Alinea, and another 12 linear feet of other cookbooks from Escoffier to Momufuko.

But flipping through this effort by the Voltaggio brothers, I was quickly impressed by the beautiful photography and the stunning plating, as well as by the complexity of the various dishes, many of which combine as many as six different preparations into one harmonious whole, e.g., the recipe for Lobster, Forbidden Rice, Carrots, Sunchoke Puree, and Carrot-Tarragon Vinaigrette.

Each recipe lists the necessary equipment, as well as the ingredients. Many, and perhaps even most, suggest using a thermal immersion circulator, although a simple CrockPot or rice cooker, together with an inexpensive controller such as the Sous Vide Magic would do equally well. Likewise, although a chamber vacuum or a FoodSaver style vacuum sealer would certainly be desirable, a home chef could get by very well using a ZipLoc bag and the Archimedes principle, wherein the bag containing the food is submerged in water until all of the air has been squeezed out, and then seal the final corner. (Eureka!)

Other, not so exotic or expensive equipment includes a 6-quart pressure cooker, a deep fryer (optional), a masticating juicer, a dehydrator (optional -- a convection oven or just a plain oven will also work), a high-speed blender, a Japanese mandoline, a PolyScience smoking gun and applewood or other wood shavings, an iSi canister with NO2 chargers, and a kitchen blowtorch.

Some of the recipes do call for liquid nitrogen and a Styrofoam cooler, although I prefer using a double-walled stainless steel bowl or bain. But in general, those techniques are for speed, e.g., when coating foie gras "tiles" with a strawberry liquid, and an alternative technique that involves freezing the foie gras in a freezer for eight hours is presented as well.

Since I have all of that equipment and more, and use them routinely when cooking for just the two of us, this volume will be a very welcome addition to my cookbook collection. For others who are just starting to go down this path, it may all seem rather intimidating, but there is a lot of information available on-line, and many people willing to help. See [...], for example.

I applaud the fact that all of the recipes are given in both traditional volume measurements (cups and teaspoons), as well as in the much more precise and repeatable metric weight-based measurements (grams).

Although terms like "reverse spherification" aren't used, perhaps to avoid the dreadful "molecular gastronomy" epithet, nonetheless such techniques are sometimes employed, as in the case of the Mock Oyster recipe.

There is a Sources section, but unless you know that what a hydrocolloid is, you might not find what you are looking for. In particular, the book uses the terminology introduced by Ferran Adrià and his line of Texturas ingredients, instead of the more conventional chemical names. "Algin" is sodium alginate, "Citras" is trisodium citrate dihydrate, "calcic" is calcium chloride, "gluco" is 75% calcium lactate and 25% calcium gluconate, "xantana" is Xanthan gum, "agar" is agar-agar, "kappa" is kappa carrageenan, "metil" is their particular brand of methylcellulose, "malto" is tapioca maltrodextrine, "lecite" is soy lecithin, and "sucro" is a combination of various sucroses. For further information, see [...]. At one time, Texturas offered a 12-unit Experimental sampler kit. More recently, others have been dividing the large bulk quantities into smaller portions that are more reasonable for the home user.

Finally, because many of these techniques are still quite new, it would have been a considerable help if a References section had been included. But then I would have had to give it six stars!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 27, 2011 11:50:33 AM PST
M. Sojka says:
Thank you for the detailed review and the the mini-glossary of culinary science terms.
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