I made Laila Ali’s Oven Fried Chicken.. It’s 100% baked in the oven.. I used 1/2 spray Canola oil & 1/2 Olive oil. The spray oil has 0 calories & fat grams –vs 120cals & 14grams of fat PER TBLSP for regular canola oil. Peanut & veg oils are higher in fat.. Anyway, this isn’t fat free, but it’s got to be less fat & cals than pan fried chicken.. & tastes pretty much the same as pan fried chicken. To make: you season the chicken the same.. I use onion & garlic powder, dash of cumin & curry, red pepper, paprika, salt pepper etc.. Then u dredge the chicken in wheat flour.. Lightly spray the flour coated seasoned chicken w/ the spray oil each side. (see before / after pics) Then bake in aluminum foil lined pan 35-45mins.. Slow cooking is better.. But u can turn the oven up to have it cook a bit faster. Chicken browns nicely without even turning.. It’s easier clean up.. Very fast prep. Tastes the same.. Lot less fat–I think. I have a side of a single med/sm red potato & herb salad.. Only used balsamic & olive oil on the salad.. Much fewer calories that way on the dressing.. Very easy to make if you don’t like cooking. Pretty fast prep time..
This healthy recipe, inspired by Katie Chin, packs in plenty of vegetables and is an ideal alternative to ordering takeout. A fast dinner, you can have this easy recipe on the table in less time than it takes to browse through the menu at your local Chinese restaurant. Do you have any take out recipes you like to make at home?
From the Plated past recipes archive. Recipe here.
Plated delivers ready-to-cook, easy recipes to your door so that you can make a gourmet dinner in 30 minutes or less.
These chicken strips will match the flavour of the KFC Crispy Strips and satisfy your fast food craving, whether its a meal of these crispy strips with fries and KFC Chip Seasoning and KFC Coleslaw or to make a KFC Twister with Pepper Mayo.
Unless you’ve been hiding under some kind of rock, you’ve probably heard of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, the stunning six-volume, 2,400-page, 50-pound*, $625 cookbook that came out early this year. Nathan Myhrvold, whose team of 30 spent three-and-a-half years** in a 20,000 square foot lab (complete with a high speed camera and a machine shop) working on the tome, was in town this week to speak to about 250 food and science nerds at an event hosted by The Cookbook Store at the Isabel Bader Theatre. A staggering polymath, Myhrvold had already acquired a pair of master’s (economics and geophysics) and a Princeton Ph.D. (theoretical and mathematical physics) by age 23, before working with Stephen Hawking at Cambridge, holding the Chief Technology Officer job at Microsoft, running a patent empire called Intellectual Ventures and dabbling in photography, paleontology and, of course, cutting-edge food. We sat with Myhrvold over breakfast to talk about the surprising success of Modernist Cuisine and what the future holds for the project.
RS: Some say that the Modernist Cuisine is the cookbook of all cookbooks. Others say it’s like an encyclopedia. Then there are those that look at it as a coffee table book because it’s so visually appealing.
NM: If you’ve got a small apartment, you can use it as the coffee table! [Laughs]
RS: How would you classify the set?
NM: The book was designed to be all those things – everyone can take from it what they want. If you go into a kitchen store, there’s tones of fancy knifes, copper pots, and those things that people buy – some use them as professional tools; some people use them as a status symbol, haha; some people love food and all aspects of it. The book has all the capabilities of those things.
Most people are passionate and curious about cooking, regardless of who you are, then the pictures or the information may be enough. I say passionate and curious because if you are more utilitarian in your goal – a journalist in the UK had said “the top selling cookbook in the UK is Jaime Oliver’s 30 minute meals” – that’s very different. It’s a fine book, but if all you want is to cook a meal in 30 minutes, then go buy his book or a hundred other books like that. That’s a very mission oriented view of cooking. If you’re on a mission, then people already service that, but my book is about satisfying passion and curiosity in a broad way. It’s not about 30 minute meals… there are things in the book that can be used for 30 minute meals and if you wanted a 30 minute meal comparison between Jaime Oliver and our book, we’d be happy to rise to the occasion. But there are also recipes in the book that take a hundred hours [laughs].
If you’re task oriented (what’s the quickest way to cook a 30 minute meal), then I say, buy his book. But if you’re curious how things work, then that’s a different thing.
In terms of whether you need other cook books? Well I have other cookbooks.
This book is designed to be based on 21st century cuisine. It is a broad survey of how traditional cooking methods actually work. So we take (not every single method but) all the principal methods of Western cooking, and many principal methods of Asian or other styled cooking, in the context of 21st century cuisine. Every modern technique we can find. We’re not saying that traditional techniques go away; there’s just no reason to reprint them, lots of other people have done so. Most cases there is an improvement. That was our primer – to be the basic foundation for 21st century cuisine but only in the context of everything else that has happened.
RS: What was the inspiration and motivation behind the massive project?
NM: The book is so different from traditional cookbooks, if you can get by its cost, one thing that cookbooks are about is that it’s simplified. Ask any chef who’s written a cookbook, the cookbook editors are sort of relentless about making in laymen’s term. People ask if they can do every recipe at home, and I say no. I don’t understand why that’s a good goal, at least in my mind, for this book because we’re trying to explain how cooking works. It’s the fundamental question: would you like to hear the real story or would you like to hear the dumbed-down story?
There are a lot of people who would like to know the real story. The fact is that 25% of the recipes in the book – forget about it – you’re not going to do it. To read about them and learn about them at the same time as other chefs do. Another one of the goals of our book is that everyone who reads it will learn something, even if you’re Ferran Adria or Heston Blumenthal or the best chef in the world – someone’s going to learn something they never knew before.
I think it’s kind of cool, if Thomas Keller learns something from the book and you learn it the same time that he is. It flies in the face of the idea that everything has to be dumbed-down because it’s so different than conventional wisdom. Today I get a lot of journalists saying that this is really for the professional cook – that’s a paternalistic view. It’s not for everybody. If you look online you’ll find thousands of people who are not professions but are cooking from it, sharing their experiences on a blog… any market is not uniform. It’s interesting and complicated.
Another inspiration for the book was the sous vide thread on eGullet that started in 2004 and a lot of people checked in from all walks of life. One of the guys, Bryan Zupon was a Junior at Duke University and he was cooking sous vide in his dorm room, in part because he figured out it was a sort of loop hole that they didn’t allow hot plates but you could use a water bath. This is the spirit of all these people sharing on eGullet.
RS: Given the somewhat niche appeal of the subject, the fact that it’s being reprinted a second time, has the reception for the cookbook surprised you?
NM: There’s two ways you can design a product, broadly speaking: you can go do market research. Most big companies do that – they do focus groups and surveys. It’s probably the way most products are designed and tested. That’s not what we did. The other way you can come up with a design is if you do what you want, and God I hope someone will buy it. That’s the way art is made and great restaurants are made. Appealing to committees and asking people what they want gives you a limited view of things. Having your own vision, like novels that are successful or non-fiction journalism, are pursued by people who have their own idea. So that’s what we did. We had this vision.
Once we had it done and we could show [publishers] what we had done, then it was more concrete vs. “I’m going to cut cans in half, take pictures… they’ll ask what famous photographer are you using? Oh I’m going to do it myself and a guy I found on Craigslist.” I’ll just sound like a creepy person. But after we had it [done], a couple publishers were very interested… but one wanted to print 2000 [copies]. I was like we’re done. It might be a smart number to print, but I was so deep into it that I couldn’t just sell 2000 copies worldwide. That’s just too little. Of course, so far we’ve sold 25,000 and hoping for 30,000 this year, and that’s just in English. There’s still French, German and Spanish. Over time, we hope to sell really a lot… because you want impact. People cook to have other people eat it. If you hire the best chef in Toronto, say “we’re going to give you double your salary but as soon as you finish every one of your dishes we’re going to put it down the garbage disposal,” they wouldn’t want to do it. It wouldn’t be fun. So we wrote these books to have impact. So we hope that people would buy it. Some are going to say “why is it so expensive? Why couldn’t we use shitty paper?” We were making a quality product. Quality actually matters. There’s great rustic, peasant style food all over the world, but there’s also something wonderful about food that’s been refined and elevated. For the same reason it’s wonderful that the world has a Per Se or French Laundry or a Fat Duck. We thought, we should have a really quality book. We’re not going to skimp on the paper and printing – the cost difference was really small – maybe you’d save $20, but so what? It’s not a lot.
If you bought the same number of pounds of cookbooks, if you tried to replicate the same content for traditional cooking, you’d buy more than $600. It would cost you much more money than my book. And it wouldn’t be as cohesive because this was done by one team. We had no idea if it would work, but it seems like it has.
RS: So would you say that real potential can’t be realized until you try, and that you can’t let limitations restrict yourself?
NM: That’s one of the main reasons I did the book. I realized that this could be my contribution to cooking. Maybe in a parallel universe, I became a chef instead of working in Microsoft, going into physics and all the other things I did. If I started a restaurant at this stage in my life – for Seattle to have one more great restaurant, that would be nice – but it wouldn’t have the impact on people. I’d have more impact in i.e. Toronto with this book than if I say had a restaurant in Seattle. I’m not complaining about restaurants, but the ability for someone to find investors, to find space, to create a restaurant, although it’s difficult, people can do that. But a cookbook like this that has all the properties it has and covers all the techniques… who’s going to do that? Big publishing companies are incredibly conservative. Maybe they’re right to be conservative, but in this case, I love food and I love this kind of food, I knew how hard it was to learn this kind of cooking because I was learning it myself and it required lots of research, asking chefs around the world, a lot of experimentation… if I could pull all of this together to make a definitive book, coalesce all the information in one place, it would be hugely valuable. For the chef who would never get a stage at El Bulli or The Fat Duck a huge opportunity. That’s what I hope to be my contribution to food.
RS: Do you find any of the chefs resisting this because now you’ve explained how to do many of these once mysterious techniques?
NM: In general I’ve found most of the Modernist chefs are incredibly helpful. If you ask Ferran [Adria] how to do something, he’ll tell you, but he doesn’t have to explain to everyone what he’s doing. And even in his wonderful cookbook, he didn’t have the page count to go into tutorials. Some of the chefs don’t have the patience, because doing all those step by step things; they’re on to the next cool thing. That’s fair enough, that’s what they’re supposed to do. If you went to a great fashion designer and asked them, teach me how to sew [laughs]… It’s wasn’t a question of people hording ideas (maybe there’s a few people who do hoard ideas but that wasn’t the big phenomenon).
RS: Could it be that this is part of the culture of this movement/cuisine/technique? Where in the past with more traditional methods much of those techniques are guarded or protected vs. now it’s all about sharing knowledge to help advance things?
NM: Cooking still has an interesting structure. The medieval guilds were all about apprenticeships; you learned by turning at 13-year old to a master who treated him a little better than a slave and then they grew until they became the master, where upon they started abusing apprentices. That was the way most professions were. There are professional chef schools, but many of the greatest chefs are self taught which is fine; there’s still a whole idea of apprentices working their way up which is great so long as there’s a certain amount of shared information.
There’s a lot more than gimmicks and tricks; there’s a fundamental basis to the way you do things. Now that we know a way to describe modern cooking, it’s understanding what effects you’re trying to achieve with the food and then understand how to get them. Traditional techniques are sentimental and contradictory. Take roast chicken: crispy skin, moist flesh. Traditional cooking typically tries to make a compromise. Sentimental philosophy of Modernist cuisine is that you cook the inside one way and the outside another way. It’s all about the idea of control – another big idea in Modernist cuisine – you can be in control. The idea that it’s all mystical, that it requires vast amounts of human skill
RS: In working on the MC , what was the biggest myth you debunked?
NM: We found a bunch of errors in food safety – there’s a whole chapter on that. One example is eggs cooked to order should be brought to 145-degrees for 1-second. That does nothing. It’s sort of a cosmetic regulation. There’s a regulation for fish: 145-degrees for 1-second which overcooks the fish. If they said 145-degrees for 12-minutes, it would have some sense to it, but for 1-second it means nothing.
Duck confit is one that some chefs say, if you cook duck in fat, it will create this unique flavour. That’s a fraud. I figured that out because I was trying to understand how the fat can actually penetrate into the meat because fat molecules are large and they won’t go through the membrane. Firstly, what people call fat is actually fatty tissue. Most of what people object to is that it’s rubbery – that’s the collagen matrix that holds the fat; you have to render it to get the fat. Duck fat melts at 14-degrees Centigrade, so how come you have to cook it so hard? It’s not the fat; it’s that the lipids are enclosed in collagen and the collagen needs to be broken down because the lipids are trapped. It’s that collagen that gives rubbery duck skin. I realized the fat couldn’t possibly penetrate the meat so how does it create a unique flavour and texture? And the confit nature of the meat isn’t just at the surface, it goes all the way in. So it had to be a fraud.
We did a taste test, and we either cooked it traditional, sous vide or steamed it. As long as the time and temperature are the same, in a blind taste test, we couldn’t tell the difference. When I tell some chefs this, they almost get angry and don’t agree with it. But I say look, it’s not about agreeing, try it. If you can try in a blind taste test, maybe you can taste things I can’t taste, but no one in our group could taste it.
One of the essences of science is to know this idea that hypotheses can be disproven. And chefs have to understand that there are a lot hypotheses that people take for granted. Some of its correct but a lot isn’t.
RS: What’s your next cookbook project?
NM: Well in terms of a project that’s a little smaller than a giant multi-year, multi-volume extravaganza again. We did one of those, and I’m sure I’ll do another one again at some point, but the books that will come next will be a smaller thing – single topic book. And I can see a list of many single topic books. Imagine if I was doing another volume to Modernist Cuisine? It is a lot of ways to make that next volume by taking a specific topic. But I would also like to see the pastry and desserts so hopefully. One thing that was special about Modernist Cuisine is that we did take this topic approach and we didn’t have any compromises, we wanted to cover everything out there. So we have to find areas that are worthy of our attention; approach different ethnic cuisines or a technique in more specialized form. So there’s a lot of different ways that you could slice it. So we’ll see what happens.
RS: One thing I’ve found interesting is that chefs who have been reticent to use the label “molecular gastronomy” are now suddenly happy to talk about “modern cuisine.” Thoughts?
NM: Well molecular gastronomy is a terrible name. We discuss the history of it in the book. Chefs hate it. The ironic thing is that Hervé This, who’s this French food scientist – he would tell you he’s the father of molecular gastronomy – he feels strongly that that term shouldn’t be used to describe restaurant cuisine, but used for science.
RS: I believe he now refers to it as Note by Note?
NM: The latest thing he’s excited about is called Note by Note cuisine, which I’m not sure I fully understand. It seems to be like if you start using a slang term… it’s possible to be widely used because not anybody knows precisely what it means because they use it in context. I haven’t seen any precise definition of it. Is seems to be about isolating specific characteristics of ingredients and then having a sequence of these things in a menu which is analogous to playing notes of music. That’s my interpretation from the little I’ve seen, and Max, my co-author who reads French better than I do, said that seems to be kind of what he does.
Anyway, Hervé doesn’t want to call it molecular gastronomy; the chefs don’t want to call it molecular gastronomy. Molecular sounds very off-putting to people. If you take a scientific perspective of course everything is molecules and it’s not molecular biology. If there’s a reason to call it molecular biology – because that’s the study of unique molecules of life – and it’s molecules that that you’re concerned with, and there’s no sense that that’s true here. Historically molecular gastronomy was invented as a cool name for a conference. Hervé recently sent an email out to people that he was thrilled that this cuisine was being called modernist. Heston Blumenthal wrote a piece saying the same thing: that as far as he’s concerned, molecular is dead, it’s now modernist. I think modernist has a significant improvement over molecular: first, it’s more encompassing and broader. So what we mean by modern is that people cooking a wide range of styles, it’s not a single style. It includes people who cook foods that are deliberately different; the differentness is part of the point. If you go to Alinea, Moto or El Bulli part of the entire creative point is for it to be new and surprising. Just like artists that do that. There are people who use surprise as part of the experience. There are also a lot of chefs that don’t cook that way but modern techniques are still part of their cuisine. Modern art encompasses a wide range of different artistic styles. Modern art includes Jackson Pollock, the French Impressionists, Chuck Close doing photorealism and everything in between. In the same way modernist is a term for cooking, or a style of cuisine that is meant to be all encompassing.
RS: Do you eat out or cook more?
NM: Well it’s different. For starters, Seattle there are a lot of great restaurants, but there’s not a lot of great modernist restaurants. So when I travel, I like trying to experience other things that I don’t get at home. So great restaurants, ethnic restaurants and other takes on food are also nice to try. So when it’s places like Chicago, it’s places like Alinea, Moto and places like that but also Hot Doug’s and the French fries in duck fat are great. Ha ha ha.
RS: Have you tried horse fat fries? (Not there. I had to make it myself – it was terrible with having to render down the fat itself that had to be sourced, but…)
NM: Use a pressure cooker.
RS: Now I know.
NM: It’s great. What we do with rendering fat is use a pressure cooker and to use Mason jars to hold the fat with an inch of water under.
RS: What is your favourite cuisine? Restaurant? Do you find that having demystified the cooking process through the MC that you are less easily impressed?
NM: It’s not hard to go out to eat. The funny thing is that knowing how I would do it doesn’t mean I know how they would do it. There’s a tendency to over think things “oh yes, they must have done this and this and this and this cuz that’s how I’d do it.” But no actually.
In terms of harder to be impressed. You know those optical illusions? The lines… I don’t know if you know the trick? One of the lines looks longer? You can say we know, but the perception is very hard wired. The food is great, tastes great and it doesn’t really matter knowing how it’s made – it doesn’t affect how you experience it. Once you’ve had lots of great food and you know what it can taste like if it’s no overcooked you become more picky about how it’s overcooked – which is also pretty easy to forgive in a certain context. But it’s about being more aware.
RS: Comments on your dining experiences in Toronto?
NM: When I’m in a different city, I would eat with a local guide because usually when you come to a city, there’s a set of places that the concierge will tell you is the best restaurant in town. There are places that a guide like Zagat will tell you, then there’s a place that a foodie will take you. There is some overlap but not very much.
In Singapore there’s something called makansutra. The name is a sort of take on kamasutra: makan means eating (??) in a local language. And this crazy guy writes all about street food, a guy named Seto, and when I’m in Singapore, he takes me around. You go to like 30 places and at each one you order only one dish. It’s things from all across south east Asia and all the things that are unique there. So if there’s a Seto in every town, that would fantastic, but of course there isn’t.
Unfortunately didn’t have much of a chance [to explore Toronto]. I did have pre-arranged dinners at Splendido and Campagnolo, which was fine, but I ate at one Indian restaurant while I was here called Utsav. We asked one of the concierges, who’s an Indian woman, where to go for lunch. It was very good actually. Typical Indian dishes but we also didn’t want to walk. It was good. I love all food basically.
But sure, I’d love to come back to Toronto and explore a bit.
RS: You have such varied interests that take up your time. How much of it do you use to focus on food and MC?
NM: I’m interested in a lot of things. I try to do it to the best of my abilities.
In the case of paleontology, I write a number of articles on paleontology. Every few years I do one, it’s not very constant. And my contribution to paleontology is smaller, it’s a contribution but it’s not “Oh my god, I’m the world’s best paleontologist.” But it’s fun. And I’m going to keep doing it. My company – development and also inventing – and one of the things we try is to try to invent things that are solutions to problems. We might fail. We have a philosophy that it’s good for us to try to do those things. Again, you can tell me that the world doesn’t work or we shouldn’t be doing it that way.
The cookbook has been interesting because cooking has been something that, up until now, if you interviewed me about all my other things “oh yes, he’s also a really good cook, he once won a barbecue contest…” people would be like oh that’s an interesting little hobby. It’s not like it is a contribution that was important towards cooking, I mean, up until the book. The book was trying to be something that was very important. My relative contribution to cooking may well exceed my relative contribution to paleontology, whatever that means.
RS: They’re all significant contributions, but given all that you’ve accomplished and projects you’ve lined up for the future, what is it that you hope will be your legacy?
NM: Warren Buffet was asked when he was gone what he said was: god that guy was old. [laughs] So the legacy, I’m not at the stage in my life where I can worry about that. I’m hoping that I have a lot more years walking out of here [laughs].
It’s a funny question, because in paleontology, my paleontology friends will say “he done a few interesting things” and I’ll have some little legacy in paleontology but currently it will be little; maybe I’ll come up with something bigger later on. In physics and in other interests of mine, in those areas, yes in some of them, if you interviewed them after I was gone they’d say: “too bad he wasted his time in all that other stuff. Maybe he would be a successful guy if he didn’t waste all his time on all this other crap.” It’s funny because my friends in each area don’t quite understand why I would waste my time from their perspective. Lots of chef friends can’t quite understand why I don’t open a restaurant, because to them that is the best thing you can possibly do. So what’s up with that? They say “surely this book is how you were going to introduce your new restaurant.” Well, not so much. So within cooking I’m hoping the book has an impact. People write to be read; people cook to be eaten. So I really hope the book has a big impact. If it has a big impact, it would help a whole generation of cooks – at home and professionally – will help them get access to techniques that they couldn’t get otherwise. If you interview me 10 years from now, we’ll be able to say, “here’s the restaurants and the trends that have been influenced from the creation of this book.” I hope that there’ll be other books by that date, that I won’t be totally done, but if I was done today, I would hope that this book will be a good contribution, that people would have found it really useful. That’s as much as you could hope for.
RS: Thank you for sharing about the whole process of this project. It’s exciting to see the final product but I can’t imagine how hard those 5 years were when you were working through the trials and tribulations.
NM: There was a lot of work. There are things that don’t go how you’d like; there are those things that turn out really well. It was a great project. It’s terrific to see it now actually accepted by people.
RS: Are you thinking of any more translations of MC?
NM: Two languages: Chinese and Russian. If you look at what countries will hold the most high end restaurants – Canada is not going to quadruple its high end restaurants, you couldn’t. The number of high end restaurants will remain relatively constant (maybe they’ll grow at a few percent per year, but the population is flat and it’s already wealthy/successful country. The same is true for the United States or Europe. China, will have more high end restaurants – like how the United States went from in the 19th century it went from an agricultural country and the wild west and everything else into this urbanized industrial country – and that’s what’s happening in China. If you want to be influential… Plus China has this interesting combination of [having] rich culinary traditions of its own and everybody loves variety. So there will be more French restaurants developing , more sushi… If you lived in Shanghai or Beijing today, or Hong Kong – Hong Kong’s had a western economy for a while – so it’s got great restaurants of every variety. They’re actually selling the books in English in China through our printer. For the very rich people in China it doesn’t matter the books are in English. It’s also not a big influence on the culinary world. The challenge there is finding a way to get it translated in a cost effective way. If you told me that when we translate it to Chinese and I’ll never make any money on it, I’d still do it just because it’ll be a cool thing to do. It actually has many of the same properties that I said about China: it’s another unique situation where they’re growing more of a restaurant culture and growing more of an open society. Spanish is great, because not only do you get Spain but you get all of Latin America. So if you look at parts of the world that are more influential, the parts of the world that are developing are only part of the story. If you look back 20 or 30 years from now, it’s the parts of the world that are growing fast, they will go from having no culinary traditions to high end cuisine – that’s where you’ll have the most influence.
RS: And can we use the metaphor that “they’re really hungry for it” appropriately here?
RS: Thank you so much for your time.
* Random fact: Although both editions are printed on high quality paper, edition one used paper from Japan and weighed a mere 48-pounds. However, in wake of the tsunami earlier this year, the paper was no longer available and an equally high quality source, but slightly heavier product, from China was used. The ink alone weighs 4-pounds.
** Mhyrvold worked on the project for two years alone before having a team.