Chef Nathan Myhrvold, author of the 5-volume, $600 "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking," shows NBC's Matt Lauer how to make a striped steamed omelett; how to use a homogenizer to turn pistachio oil into a cream, and why he uses a centrifuge to make pea soup.
Food + Science = Delicious Dishes
MATT LAUER, co-host:
This morning in TODAY'S KITCHEN STEP-BY-STEP, the cutting edge of cooking. A new six-volume series of books reveals science-inspired techniques for preparing food. It's called "Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking." Nathan Myhrvold is one of the authors. Nathan, good morning. Nice to see you.
Mr. NATHAN MYHRVOLD: Good morning.
LAUER: Is this—this is unbelievable. First of all, the book is more than $600. Is this for a chef, an at-home cook or a scientist?
Mr. MYHRVOLD: It's for people who really love food and are curious about it.
LAUER: You take—you take recipes to the next level. You use incredible gadgets, you use a centrifuge on one, a homogenizer on another. You're going to give us an example here making a striped mushroom omelet. How do we get started?
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Well, this is a mushroom puree that has dehydrated egg in it. A dehydrated egg because a lot of water in the mushrooms, we don't want it too soupy.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: So we're going to spread this here on this here on this nonstick pad.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Spread a little bit more.
LAUER: This is a little time-consuming. This isn't something that somebody's going to make for the kids before they rush off to school in the morning.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: That is right. And, you know, you can make this mushroom omelet without doing the stripes, but we think the stripes are kink of cool.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: So this is called a pastry comb. It's used in French pastry to put stripes on things. And now if you can see, we just strike this across and there's our stripes.
LAUER: All right, and there are your mushroom stripes. Now you put it in this little framing device here.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Yep.
LAUER: And now this—tell me about the egg here.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: This is egg.
LAUER: Just normal beaten egg.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Normal egg—normal beaten egg. Our usual rules, if you're making a three-egg omelet, two whole eggs and one egg yolk. You throw one egg white away. It improves the texture enormously.
LAUER: All right. You're going to pour this on top of the mushroom stripe, letting it hit the spatula first so it doesn't ruin the stripes.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Exactly.
LAUER: OK. And the way you're going to cook this after you get that done, you're actually going to steam it.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: That's right. We steam this at 179 degrees Fahrenheit.
LAUER: Other than just because you can, what's the purpose of this? Does it make it lighter?
Mr. MYHRVOLD: It makes it perfect every time. Normally a French omelet is incredibly technique-intensive. It takes years to learn how to do it just right because using a very high heat...
Mr. MYHRVOLD: ...a little--a second off here, a second off there and you've got a problem. So this...
LAUER: OK, here's what it looks like after it's steamed.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: You can see it makes this nice thing that's easy to manipulate. We cut it into these sections. To actually make the plate up, we've got it here on the plate, we put some mushroom marmalade on. This is egg, it's already cooked—scrambled egg.
LAUER: I thought you were going to put whipped cream on this thing. All right.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: So now we're going to put a layer of this foamy scrambled eggs.
LAUER: How many of these do I get in an order? That's what I want to know.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: As many as you'd like.
LAUER: All right.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: And now we—oh, here we put the herbs on.
LAUER: OK. And you make your little kind of sandwich there. All right.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: And there you go.
LAUER: There is your striped mushroom omelet. You go around that side, I'll go around this side. Tell me what we're making next.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: We're making a vegan pistachio gelato.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: So the problem with pistachios, it's a mild flavor. When you add cream you lose the pistachio flavor. You get green ice cream, not pistachio ice cream. So here we've taken the pistachio, ground it, severing the pistachio oils. So this is pure pistachio oil.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: We've got water under here and we're going to use this homogenizer...
LAUER: Just like the one I have at home, right?
Mr. MYHRVOLD: ...to turn it into cream. So if I could get you to hold this over here, Matt.
LAUER: OK, hold on.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: I'm going to hit run.
LAUER: Go ahead.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: And now what we're doing is we're beating this up. A really good blender or hand blender would also do this.
LAUER: But it allows you to combine things that really don't want to be combined.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: And it turns it into a cream. And you can see it's getting lighter and lighter. If we kept doing this for a while, we would wind up having something that had the texture of a dairy cream...
Mr. MYHRVOLD: ...but in fact it's made entirely out of pistachios.
LAUER: All right, so what do you do with it after you've combined it this way?
Mr. MYHRVOLD: We add some sugar.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: And turn it into ice cream. And here is some.
LAUER: So that's the pistachio gelato right there.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: That's pistachio gelato. If you like pistachios, it has an amazing pistachio flavor.
LAUER: It's—I mean, strong pistachio flavor.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Which you don't get if you made something that had cream and eggs in it.
LAUER: We aren't going to have time to show this last one, but this is a pea puree and it uses a centrifuge.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: That's right. So it starts off as pea puree here. We spin it in a centrifuge at 40,000 times normal gravity. It separates out into a almost clear broth and then you can see there's a layer here--a little hard to see—that we call pea butter.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: It's not really a butter, but it's very find pea particles. And here...
LAUER: There it is on the side.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: ...it is here, so I make this into a dish.
LAUER: Again – I’ll take a bite of that. Again, the book is called "Modernist Cuisine." Nathan Myhrvold, thank you very much.
Mr. MYHRVOLD: Thank you.
Back in the early days of space travel, astronauts squeezed most of their meals out of tubes. A sugary, orange-flavored drink, sold commercially as Tang, was considered a tasty treat. Food was fuel, and little more.