The Ultimate Hamburger As Brought to You By an Insanely Rich Insane Genius Polymath
I admire excess. I admire fellow Americans who keep the faith when it comes to one of the central guiding principles of this nation: "If it is worth doing, it is worth overdoing." So when I learned that Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft ultra-millionaire and the guiding force behind the six-volume $625.00 cookbook Modernist Cuisine would be speaking at Town Hall in Seattle last night, I had to attend.
I'd first bumped into Myhrvold in the Penthouse offices in New York over a decade or so back. He was touring New York promoting something that never really got off the ground for Microsoft -- something that happened a lot in that period. He impressed me then as a very high functioning prodigy moving into middle age. He's a fascinating polymath and his years with Microsoft have left him with the means to indulge his obsessions. One long term obsession, stemming (so goes his myth) from nine years of age, is cooking. The apotheosis of this obsession is the book, say rather "block of paper and ink," known as Modernist Cuisine.
Another fact is that the ink used in printing the book weighs four pounds.
Myhrvold spoke about the book and the recipes and techniques of the book for about an hour in his rather high-pitched but scratchy voice. I was kept interested and informed for most of it if not overly impressed. After all, it seemed to be one of those projects where, if you had the obsession and money (He had both.) to toss at a project, you could staff it and fund it enough to make it happen. He was being marginally more interesting than the ultra-rich nerds who go out and fill barns with Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Then he came to his variation of "The Cheeseburger." Like other things in Modernist Cuisine, Myhrvold's "Chesseburger" is constructed by taking infinite pains to concentrate flavors and make various ingredients do techno-tricks. In exploded form,"The Cheeseburger" looks like this:
Tasty, right? But the payoff is when Myhrvold informs you about exactly how they cook the patty. For reasons explained in the video below, the "shortrib patty ground vertically to align the grain" is first dipped into liquid nitrogen and then lowered into boiling oil.
That's right: first liquid nitrogen at -346F and then into boiling oil. That's when I knew I was listening to a certifiable maniac whose resume and fortune were the only things that stood between him and an Institution for the Cusinely Insane.
Still I had to wonder, "What can that cheeseburger possibly taste like?" I was more than a bit disappointed when he offered to sign copies of his $625.00 book after the talk. I was sort of hoping he'd invite us all out for some burgers.
Posted by gerardvanderleun at April 22, 2013 8:50 AM