From hours in the oven to years in the barrel, this illuminating book examines the relationship between the cook and the clock, and the underappreciated impact that time has on our favorite dishes
Two minutes into boiling an egg, the white isn’t set and the yolk is totally raw. After five minutes however, the white is fully set and the yolk slightly runny―a perfectly spoonable, soft-boiled egg. Boil for another three minutes for a set and tender yolk, or an additional five minutes for a fully set yolk. But be careful: once you boil the egg past ten minutes, you’ll have a crumbly yolk and dry, overly firm white. When it comes to boiled eggs, you may think you’re only dealing with one ingredient, but there is another less obvious, but still critical ingredient involved that should not be overlooked: time.
The Missing Ingredient is the first book to consider the intrinsic yet often forgotten role of time in creating the flavors and textures we love. Through a series of encounters with ingredients, producers, cooks, artisans, and chefs, acclaimed author of The Chef’s Library Jenny Linford shows how, time and again, time itself is the invisible ingredient in our most cherished recipes. Playfully structured through different periods of time, the book examines the fast and slow, from the seconds it takes for sugar to caramelize to the centuries it takes for food heritage to be passed down from our ancestors. From the brevity of blanching and the days required in the crucial process of fermentation, to the months of slow ripening that make a great cheddar and the years needed for certain wines to reach their peak, Linford dissects each segment of time needed to cook―and enjoy―simple and intricate cuisine alike. Including vignettes from the immediacy of taste (seconds), the exactitude of pasta (minutes), and smoking and barbecuing meats (hours), to maturing cheese (weeks), infusing vanilla extract (months), and perfecting parmigiana and port (years), The Missing Ingredient is an enlightening and essential volume for foodies, bakers, home cooks, chefs, and anyone who appreciates a perfectly-executed dish.