For my birthday, my lovely wife got me the Modernist Cuisine at Home cookbook. Having read so much about the book and hearing friends rave about what they’d read in it and made from it… I was a ball of excitement to make something out of the book.
One of the great things about this book is it’s extensive use of two of my favorite kitchen techniques: pressure cooking and sous vide. Having just had a conversation at work about paella, I decided to take on the paella recipe from the book for a weeknight dinner, but that required some weekend prep work.
Because I don’t feel like transcribing all of the recipes and because the author of Modernist Cuisine is notorious for his enforcement of intellectual property rights, I will not be republishing the recipes I used. I’m just going to give you the high-level overview of how this was made.
- Made brown chicken stock on the weekend. The MC version of this recipe makes it in a pressure cooker, which cuts the time from 12 hours down to 1.5 hours.
- Also, yes, there is a difference between chicken stock and brown chicken stock. Brown chicken stock involves (wait for it) browning/cooking the chicken before using it in the stock.
- Browned the veggies for the paella in a pressure cooker for a few minutes, browned the paella rice for a couple minutes. Then put in some sherry, let some of the alcohol burn off, then dumped in the chicken stock. I sealed up the cooker, and let it cook for 7 minutes.
- While the paella was cooking, I cooked my bay (small) scallops in a 122ºF sous-vide bath for about 7 minutes. I pulled them out, and gave them ~45-60 seconds in smoking-hot cast iron skillet (and torch at the same time).
- These came out perfectly. I never really think about the texture of a bay scallop, because sea scallops really get all the glory… but these were good.
- I then mixed the scallops into the paella mixture and served with a some parsley
As I was reading through and executing this recipe, I kept thinking: “but what is going to make this ‘pop’?” I was so certain that any recipe contained in the hallowed covers of Modernist Cuisine would be 3-star quality that I never really stopped to think about the recipe critically. I wish I had; it came out pretty bland. We ended up putting .5 tsp (or more) salt per serving to give this enough flavor to be interesting.
I’d definitely like to play around with pressure cooker paella some more, but until then, stay critical of recipes… even if they’re in a book.