You may be pulling out your hair over that last sentence: Aren’t dishes prepared from most high-end cookbooks, you ask, just pale re-creations of the vibrant, food-stylist-driven food photographed between the covers? Sure, but I think the reason you and I presumably are attracted to “Modernist at Home” boils down to the book’s implied promise: that its techniques and approaches will result in better-tasting and better-looking food. You, too, will be able to prepare an omelet with an exterior as smooth and silky as flan, one that releases a wave of fluffy, daffodil-yellow egg pudding at the prick of a fork.
My homemade version of the modernist Steamed Herb Omelet, however, had the texture of chicken feet. The fault lies squarely with me. Despite owning a pegboard wall covered with pots and pans, I could not locate the recipe’s required 8-inch pan, only a 10-inch one, which obviously spread the egg mixture too thin and resulted in an omelet with thin, wrinkly and elastic skin. I clearly needed to invest in another piece of equipment, a common theme for me with “Modernist at Home.”
With that said, “Modernist at Home” can be a benevolent dictator, happy to reward those who toe the line. I prepared three dishes, ranging from easy to advanced, with deeply satisfying results. My favorite of the trio is the Low-Temp Oven Steak, which uses a dry-heat, low-and-slow method that leaves your barely frozen, thick-cut New York strip steak with a mesmerizing, Mark Rothko-like brushstroke of rose-color flesh at the center of the meat. (Helpful hint: Don’t defrost previously frozen steak for the recipe; buy it fresh, then place it in the freezer for 30 minutes, as directed.)
If you pair the steak with the cookbook’s recipe for creamed spinach, made thick with Wondra flour and rich with mascarpone and Comte cheeses, you’ll have a meat-and-side combo that will rival the best steakhouse’s.
You will have also spent at least two hours preparing the meal, not including the time wasted wandering from store to store in a desperate search for Wondra. This is one of the essential calculations you have to make before deciding to buy “Modernist Cuisine at Home”: How much money and time are you willing to invest to join the movement?
Modernist Creamed Spinach
Modernist Low-Temp Oven Steak