The recipe developers at America’s Test Kitchen have always been more than a little obsessed with science. The publishers of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country magazines, not to mention countless cookbooks, pride themselves in not only tweaking recipes until they are darn near perfect but also sharing the scientific details about why those recipes work.
This year, the ATK editors have launched Cook’s Science, a new science-focused website (cooksscience.com) and series of books. The newest book in the series is “Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients” (Cook’s Illustrated, $40), which comes out Oct. 4. The authors look at the molecular compositions of 50 single ingredients — everything from eggs, chicken breasts, flank steak and shrimp to Parmesan, red wine, onions and olive oil — to figure out how to amp up their flavors, textures and improve how you use them in your own kitchen.
Tied to the book launch, executive editors Dan Souza and Molly Birnbaum are taking Cook’s Science on the road with a tour of events that will swing through Austin on Oct. 11 at Zach Theatre, 1510 Toomey Road. Souza and Birnbaum will focus on a single subject — what makes a good burger? — and dig deeper than you probably could have ever imagined possible. The event starts at 8 p.m. and costs $27. You can find more information about the Austin event and buy tickets at zachtheatre.org.
The brine in this recipe helps season the fish and helps the flesh maintain moisture in the oven, and the brine infuses the sesame seeds with salt, which amplifies their flavor. Purchase salmon fillets that are about the same size and shape. If any have a thin belly flap, fold it over for a more even thickness. If using wild salmon, cook until thickest part of fillet registers 120 degrees.
3/4 cup sesame seeds
4 (6- to 8-oz.) skinless salmon fillets
2 scallions, white parts minced, green parts sliced thin
1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp. juice
4 tsp. tahini
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. vegetable oil
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Dissolve 5 tablespoons salt in 2 quarts water. Transfer 1 cup brine to bowl, stir in sesame seeds, and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Submerge fillets in remaining brine and let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Drain seeds and place in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Cook seeds over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer seeds to pie plate and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Remove fillets from brine and pat dry.
Place scallion whites and lemon zest on cutting board and chop until whites and zest are finely minced and well combined. Transfer scallion-zest mixture to bowl and stir in lemon juice, tahini, ginger, cayenne and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Evenly distribute half of this paste over bottoms (skinned sides) of fillets. Press coated sides of fillets in seeds and transfer, seed side down, to plate. Evenly distribute remaining paste over tops of fillets and coat with remaining seeds.
Heat oil in now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Place fillets in skillet, skinned side up, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until seeds begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using 2 spatulas, carefully flip fillets over. Transfer skillet to oven. Bake until center of fish is translucent when checked with tip of paring knife and registers 125 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve. Serves 4.
— From “Cook’s Science: How to Unlock Flavor in 50 of Our Favorite Ingredients” (Cook’s Illustrated, $40)