wd 50: The Cookbook by Wylie Dufresne circa '88 with Peter Meehan. Art and science combine in this wildly original cookbook to make dishes that amaze the eye as well as the palate (I'm sure, though I have never tasted them. Unfortunately, I was already in Florida when wd-50 was going strong). Wylie is a culinary innovator who likes the creative edginess of collaboration. Teamwork in the kitchen satisfies his boyhood dreams of being a professional athlete on a winning team. Still, it seems clear that the inspiration for inventive recipes has its source in Wylie alone.
Much of the charm is in his tricky masquerade of one known ingredient for another known ingredient. To make ravioli, he somehow makes a sheet out of carrots. Carrots – that's your pasta. This is just one part of the complex Poached Diver Scallop, Berbere Granola, Carrot-Marcona Ravioli, Dashi. (I'd order it right now if I could. You might say, why don't I just follow the recipe? I don't think that would work. I make chicken by buying a rotisserie chicken).
Sometimes this love of disguise takes the form of downright trompe-l'oeil. I showed the picture on page 97 to my family. They all said, "Fried eggs. Maybe poached eggs. So what?" Ha! Not eggs at all. This little masterpiece is actually Carrot-Coconut 'Sunny-Side Up.' The white is made from coconut milk combined with various gums, and the yolk is carrot juice, smoked maple syrup, and various other ingredients. What is really tricky is the membrane. To top off the fried egg effect, Wylie encloses the carrot-syrup yolk in a film containing water, locust bean gum, kappa carrageenan, and potassium chloride. Pierce the yolk with your fork, and it will run just like an egg yolk.
Wylie puts to good use a surprising phenomenon. Whereas most gelatins congeal as they cool, he has found one that congeals as it warms. Miso Soup, Instant Tofu Noodles comes to the table as a liquid. Before the wondering eyes of the client, the liquid sets into noodles. (I'm having trouble even imagining this one).
When I got to the end of the Time to Eat part of the book (which contains most of the book), I was astounded to see a cheeseburger in a Martin's potato roll. How did this sneak in here? Not so fast, I said to myself. Maybe the roll was really some puree of cauliflower painted golden brown with a reduction of espresso. On closer look, it was indeed a bun of exactly the type I purchase at my local supermarket when I make sloppy Joes. (brown a pound of ground chuck, add a can of undiluted Campbells Tomato soup, slop onto a Martin's potato roll. (You're welcome)).
I'm just saying that the book is full of surprises. Even if you are not a cook, the recipes make great reading. The closing of wd-50 brought down the curtain on a joyous burst of creativity.