Maximum Flavor by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot
There might be something to be said for reinventing the wheel. After all, when it comes to…say…chicken pot pie, is the way we’ve always made it really the best? Or is there a way to make that pie crust crispier, that filling even more savory, that chicken more tender? In Maximum Flavor, Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot make no assumptions about the foods we cook every day. Some of their findings might take you by surprise, some might stretch your whole concept of “home cooking,” but they will always result in a tasty meal.
• Who wrote it: Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot
• Who published it: Clarkson Potter
• Number of recipes: Around 80
• Recipes for right now: Gingerbread Waffles, Garlic Bread Popovers, Beef Chili and Waffles, Thai Beef Salad, Butternut Squash Caponata, Barbecue Potato Gnocchi, Smoked Maple & Miso-Glazed Wild Alaskan Salmon, Korean-Style Chicken Wings, Caramel Cake, Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Toffee Oatmeal Cookies
• Other highlights: In Maximum Flavor, Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot rethink our everyday recipes in three ways: they look at technique, they look at ingredients, and they look at equipment. Their approach often draws on molecular gastronomy, but this isn’t necessarily the flashy, celebrity chef style of molecular gastronomy we hear so much about; this is the humbler, home cook version. We get egg whites and baking soda used in unexpected ways (to lend crispiness to chicken wings) and the microwave is used for more than just heating things up (like making dainty fairy cakes). This is less about flash and more about thinking through a recipe with a scientific — and innovative — eye.
You can certainly treat this as strictly a cookbook and pick meals from its pages to fill your weeknight meals. But if you dig in a little deeper, there’s a great deal to learn, much of which can be applied to other parts of our cooking. I’m completely intrigued by their technique for freezing clams to make them easier to shuck for clam chowder — with a side benefit that the authors say the clams stay more tender after cooking. This is a technique that can be applied to other shellfish and other dishes as well! I’m equally curious about their recommendation to flip meat frequently, which goes against much of what we’ve been told, but which they say promotes more even cooking.
There are a few recipes that call for a sous vide machine and a few others that call for a pressure cooker. The authors realize that these aren’t necessarily common items in everyone’s kitchens, but the recipes that use them really highlight what each device has to offer. And if you do have a sous vide machine or a pressure cooker, the recipes here will definitely show you some new ways to think about your favorite gadgets!
No, you definitely don’t have to be a molecular gastronomy nerd to appreciate this book — not at all. But you do have to come with an open mind and a willingness to step outside the box for the sake of a good dinner.
• Who would enjoy this book? Home cooks who love to tinker around in the kitchen, food science geeks and fans of molecular gastronomy
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Maximum Flavor by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot
• Visit the author’s website: Ideas in Food
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