Building a Meal

Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Constructivism

TRANSLATED BY Malcolm DeBevoise
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 152
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  • Book Info
    Building a Meal
    Book Description:

    An internationally renowned chemist, popular television personality, and bestselling author, Hervé This heads the first laboratory devoted to molecular gastronomy-the scientific exploration of cooking and eating. By testing recipes that have guided cooks for centuries, and the various dictums and maxims on which they depend, Hervé This unites the head with the hand in order to defend and transform culinary practice.

    With this new book, Hervé This's scientific project enters an exciting new phase. Considering the preparation of six bistro favorites-hard-boiled egg with mayonnaise, simple consommé, leg of lamb with green beans, steak with French fries, lemon meringue pie, and chocolate mousse-he isolates the exact chemical properties that tickle our senses and stimulate our appetites. More important, he connects the mind and the stomach, identifying methods of culinary construction that appeal to our memories, intelligence, and creativity. By showing that the creation of a meal is as satisfying as its consumption, Herve This recalibrates the balance between food and our imaginations. The result is a revolutionary perspective that will tempt even the most casual cooks to greater flights of experimentation.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51353-1
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-4)

    To construct a meal, isn’t it enough to put together selected dishes from the classical repertoire? Yes, but why should we go on doing what has already been done before? In this book I will not go so far as to try to completely reinvent cooking. I will halt at the point where constructing a meal makes it possible to ask questions. Questions, marvelous questions! Don’t they deserve answers—invitations to go further, instead of contenting ourselves with what we already have? Aren’t questions the seeds of discovery and invention?

    In the course of creating a menu we will make...

  5. 1 Hard-Boiled Egg with Mayonnaise
    (pp. 5-38)

    To make a traditional hard-boiled egg with mayonnaise, we have to hard-boil an egg, on the one hand, and make a mayonnaise sauce on the other. Immediately, two questions arise: Why should we want to make this dish in the first place, and why should we insist on this particular combination of an egg and a sauce?

    Why the familiar hard-boiled egg with mayonnaise? Lurking behind this question is another one, having to do with tradition. Etymologically, tradition is that which is handed down. But if we have been exposed at a very young age to new methods, what is...

  6. 2 Simple Consommé
    (pp. 39-54)

    A consommé is a bouillon that is served, hot or cold, at the beginning of a meal. Simple consommé—a clarified broth made by cooking meat or fish in water—is a staple of home cooking, sometimes supplemented by vermicelli, tapioca, a julienne, croutons, or something else. Double consommé is a more elaborate preparation whose flavor has been enriched by reduction and further clarification.

    The chef Jules Gouffé (1807–77), whose cookbooks are notable for their remarkable precision, held that “bouillon is the soul of home cooking.”

    Yes, it is the soul of home cooking, because it is a liquid...

  7. 3 Leg of Lamb with Green Beans
    (pp. 55-70)

    Here again I propose a familiar dish—almost a cliché, in fact, at least in the Western world. A leg of lamb with green beans calls to mind Sunday dinner, especially at Easter. Why should we think of serving this dish when we want to construct something new? Because when we eat, we’re consuming not only lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates—we’re also consuming culture.

    Munster, for example, is a cheese that, in spite of its delicate flavor, has a strong smell that enchants people from Alsace and anyone else who has grown up with it. But people who were not...

  8. 4 Steak and French Fries
    (pp. 71-82)

    With the leg of lamb we examined braising, a technique perfectly suited to relatively tough cuts of meat. It remains to consider the case of tenderer meats that are suitable for grilling. To make matters simple, let’s consider steak. What should we serve with it? Most people like starches. French fries are the obvious choice, all the more since their mode of preparation—frying—is quite interesting from the physical and chemical points of view.

    Marie-Odile Monchicourt: In the last chapter we considered a leg of lamb, whose texture we constructed, accompanied by green beans, whose color we constructed. With...

  9. 5 Lemon Meringue Pie
    (pp. 83-98)

    Dessert poses still more questions for those who know how to see them. Why should we serve something sweet at the end of the meal, something whose taste is sure to please children—so much so that dessert is what we deny them when they are naughty?

    A lemon meringue pie is an obvious choice for dessert because it consists of a series of layers, like the pies you find in pastry shops and restaurants, but it is much simpler. Before we go into the kitchen, however, let’s leave our own country for a moment and travel abroad, where it...

  10. 6 A New Kind of Chocolate Mousse
    (pp. 99-122)

    Or how to make a chocolate mousse without an egg. For this final dessert, let’s take as our point of departure the essential idea that cooking is about love, art, and technique.

    Making others happy is easier said than done, but for the sake of the future of cooking we must learn to do it. As for art, some challenge the idea that it can exist in cooking at all, because they have not understood what it involves. It will always be possible to feed one person, or ten, or a hundred, or a thousand by repeating the same old...

  11. Index
    (pp. 123-135)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 136-136)