Finally finding a copy of "Modernist Cuisine" ($625 retail) and giving all five volumes a read, it dawned on me: food industries make money by turning the cheapest possible ingredients into something palatable and modernist cooking is simply applying those techniques to good starting materials. The fact that you end up with recipes that can't be replicated by talented home chefs guarantees a recipe monopoly.
Myhrvold's geek hack of stovetop macaroni and cheese is simply using Kraft's process on gourmet cheeses. Kraft discovered how to emulsify cheese with sodium phosphate and Myhrvold substitutes sodium citrate (sour salt), which is available in some grocery stores. He glosses over the fact that sodium phosphate is tasteless and is made of things found in dairy products, whereas sodium citrate has a citrus fruit flavor that has to be covered. Finding Iota carrageenan is not easy, either.
A quick internet search for reliable "science-y" mac and cheese recipes gave me two from Alton Brown and two from Cook's Illustrated and one from each of those sources seemed to stem from the same original source. Then it occurred to me that what I really wanted was Pasta ai Quattro Fromaggi, without the baking and crumb topping.
The result was a combination recipe - I haven't worked out the conversions of cheese by weight to cheese by volume when shredded, nor dry vs. cooked pasta, so this is more notes on a recipe than a final recipe.
Mac and Cheese
Grate cheese until you have 1 1/4 c. fontina, 3/4 c. gorgonzola, 1/2 c. pecorino romano and 1/2 c. parmigiano reggiano. Combine. For each cup of cheese: 1/3 c. water, 1/3 c. hefe-weizen beer, 2 tsp. sodium citrate, 1/4 tsp. carrageen. Heat to simmer, stir in cheeses and emulsify with immersion blender. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to set. Bring back to room temp before continuing.
Cook 1/2 lb. pasta in salted water al dente. Drain, melt in 2 Tbsp. butter, toss.
Whisk 2 lg. eggs, 12 oz. can evaporated milk, pinch cayenne, 1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper, 3/4 tsp. dry (oriental/English) mustard. Stir into pasta. Add cheese mixture. Warm over low heat, stirring, about 3 minutes, until creamy.
Look what followed me home!
4 days ago