Beautiful, Edible Science: Cold Smoke, Flaming Oranges and Gelatinized Skin as presented by: Discover Magazine

Nathan Myhrvold earned a Ph.D. in theoretical and mathematical physics at 23, helped Stephen Hawking research the quantum theory of gravitation as a postdoctoral fellow at Cambridge University, served as Microsoft's chief technology officer, became a billionaire, and founded an invention-generating company that now holds more than 30,000 patents, including one for an invisibility cloak and another for a laser beam that annihilates malaria-ridden mosquitoes. But that's not all he's done with his science knowledge. In March he published a six-volume, 2,400-page, 40-pound cookbook called Modernist Cuisine that attempts to catalog every science principle known (and, until now, unknown) to cooking. To research the tome, he and a team of 50 chefs, writers, and photographers spent five years conducting detailed tests, many of them involving liquid nitrogen, rotary evaporators, centrifuges, and other industrial paraphernalia. We asked Myhrvold and Wayt Gibbs, the editor-in-chief of Modernist Cuisine, to share a few favorites among the 3,200 photos in the book, along with some of the counterintuitive insights they gained along the way. Prepare to unleash your inner Frankenchef. Essential oils like those of lemon and orange, and concentrated aromatic compounds like vanilla, are to flavor what Klaxon sirens are to sound. Thanks largely to the perfume industry, a huge variety of essences are available, from allspice to wormwood. Some chefs have begun using laboratory-style distillation equipment to derive their own concentrates as well. Smoking is usually associated with sausages, ribs, and salmon, but there's no reason you can't smoke plant foods as well. With vegetables, the goal of smoking is to flavor rather than preserve, though some preservation inevitably results from the dehydration that occurs. Traditional examples of smoked vegetables include the charred, mashed eggplant in baba ghanoush and the smoked Mexican chili peppers known as chipotles. The trick is getting flavors in the smoke to condense in a film on the vegetables without heating them so much that their texture is significantly altered. New cold-smokers allow vegetables like this onion to remain at refrigerator-like temperature while smoke is piped in from a fire.A good pork roast is as sublime as it is uncommon: Its flesh is tender and juicy, its skin delicate and crisp. But how do you get that superb crackly exterior without overcooking the meat? One solution is to cook the skin and meat separately. Vacuum seal the pork in plastic and slow-cook in a water bath until the meat reaches the same temperature throughout. Meanwhile, gelatinize and fry the detached skin and sprinkle it on the loin. Here we garnish it with edible "coals" made out of stewed prunes and caramel foam.

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