"What were the reasons behind the dictums and cooking lore?"
August 26, 2014 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Great post, but terrible headline on that Prospect article -- This is not a chef.
posted by neroli at 8:57 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hervé This is more or less singlehandedly responsible for the largest revolution in cooking technique and kitchen structure since Escoffier. As a chef (in the colloquial English-language sense), I am quite comfortable referring to him as one too, especially given 'chef' just means 'chief' (or boss, head, etc) in French.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:01 PM on August 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

The article asks, rhetorically, "What is the efficacy of pouring oil into pasta water?" This happens to be a subject about which I have Opinions.

If, like most people, you cook pasta in a huge pot with gallons of water, the efficacy is unsurprisingly low. But this is not the only way to cook pasta!

I cook my pasta like rice, i.e. in a covered pot with the exact amount of water it will soak up. Since there is no excess water to drain after cooking, I can add oil and spices with great efficacy.

The proper ratio is about 3.5 water per pasta, by weight. To cook 200g of pasta you need 700mL of water. Use lower heat like you would with rice.
posted by foobaz at 9:33 PM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I sent this to my Dad, ex teacher of food science. He responded:

"Interesting but the junk/fast food chemists have beaten him to molecular foods long ago. Have a look sometime at all the products on the supermarket shelves made from one ingredient recovered from one natural source and with flavour and texture controlled by small amounts of other pure chemicals not necessarily from natural sources. Examples: all the corn chip,potato chip, cassava, rice crackers from one source with added salt,sucrose, and minor amounts of coloring and flavouring.-mostly singler pure chemicals originating in a factory. Dad "
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:03 AM on August 27, 2014

Fair enough, spleen, but This was responsible for taking those precepts out of the factory and into home and restaurant kitchens, thus sparking a revolution as I pointed out above.

foobaz, can you actually get al dente pasta that way? I've heard of it as a technique, and I'm well aware that gallons aren't needed as long as you stir to prevent sticking, but I haven't tried it with as little water as that, nor at such a low temperature.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:26 AM on August 27, 2014

I was wondering along those lines myself, i_am_joe's_spleeen, if he was just dinking around with home chemistry set versions of established industrial food manufacturing processes.

But based on his portrayal in the first article, I believe he would not object to what your dad said in the slightest. I get a feeling he would geek right out at the machine in the ramen factory in which chickens go in one end and flavor packets come out the other.

This hasn't been "beaten" by them. He is acknowledging the supreme efficiency of those techniques and is trying to better understand them in order to create a new medium. He knows that great artists will be the first to adopt it, motivated by the opportunity to create something truly new.

Where he is way ahead, though, is in seeing his work less for its artistic potential than for its eventual necessity. He is motivated to find a way to maintain the delights of cooking and eating before the system behind them becomes entirely unmaintainable.

His work is a combination of science and art that can benefit fancy food while being grounded in solving real and scary problems. I find that hugely inspiring. Thanks for the post.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 7:41 AM on August 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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