Coolest Cooking Techniques of the Year

From smoking salmon on a stove to preparing sushi, Food & Wine looks at standout cooking techniques of 2011


After a year of testing and tasting, Food & Wine’s Daniel Gritzer reveals the coolest cooking techniques of 2011.

Smoking Salmon on the Stove
I always thought I’d need elaborate equipment to make lox at home, but chef Jason Alley of Comfort restaurant in Richmond, Va., set me straight with his awesome stovetop method. He hits a fillet of salmon with an intense blast of smoke just long enough to flavor it — but not long enough to cook it — and then cures it with salt and other aromatics, just like gravlax. It’s an amazing shortcut. Now I just need someone to show me how to make New York–caliber bagels on the fly.

Operating a Pressure Cooker
When I had the chance to pick Nathan Myhrvold’s brain earlier this year, I could have asked him anything. After all, he’s a former Microsoft CTO, a trained chef, an inventor, a cosmologist, a paleontologist, a patent guru, and an overall mad genius. I had him explain the science of pressure cookers and the best way to use them. One useful tip: Regulate the heat to prevent steam from blasting out of the cooker’s vent. According to Myhrvold, vigorous steam is a sign of too much pressure, and the consequences include an unwanted drop in cooking temperature and possible damage to the device. It’s good to know, but in retrospect, maybe I should have asked him for his secrets to becoming a billionaire.

Making Tofu
What the heck is tofu? It’s a question that had plagued me for years. I mean, I knew it was made from soybeans, but how exactly? I finally got an answer from Douglas Keane of Cyrus and Shimo Modern Steak in Healdsburg, Calif. The thing that amazed me the most is how similar the process is to cheesemaking: Coagulate soy milk, break up the curd, drain the whey, and eat. Tofu suddenly seems so much more indulgent.

Finding a Tamale Shortcut for the Lazy Gastronaut
I love masa, the maize dough that’s used to make tamales. But let’s be honest, assembling and steaming tamales in banana-leaf wrappers is a bit of an undertaking. Thanks to New York’s Alex Stupak, chef at Empellon, I now have the lazy man’s solution: the Tamal Pie. It’s basically a giant skillet filled with layers of masa that sandwich a delicious filling. Bake it, slice it, and enjoy, hardly any assembly required.

Learning to Prepare Sushi, From Rice to Roll, with Morimoto
After learning to make sushi from Masaharu Morimoto, I don’t think I’m capable of singling out the most important technique — they’re all so cool and, frankly, essential if you want to make great sushi at home. From toasting the sheets of nori to fanning the seasoned rice and marinating fish like salmon in vinegar and salt, it’s all just really helpful stuff.

— Daniel Gritzer, Food & Wine


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