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Really Nice!

"Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide"

94 posts in this topic

I've been reading it today. For those who want to see how SV is done at FL and ps, it's great: terrific photos, lots of recipes from the restaurants. For those who'd like to cook those dishes in our own kitchens, it's a little disappointing. The recipes are as complicated and demanding as you'd expect in Keller's restaurants, which means they generally aren't very accessible for home cooks.
Would the complexity/difficulty comparison be with FL or Bouchon ?

I'm presuming that this might be about super-crafting everything that goes into the bag, but could you give us a more specific idea of what you are referring to? Are we talking fantasy ingredients as well?

Many pretty much demand chamber vacuum sealers, which most home SV cooks don't have.
Is this because of a big liquid content? Or...?
Even the use of metric quantities is less than user-friendly, though obviously not a deal-breaker.
Metric weights are excellent for precision, and easy to scale quantities up or down... Personally, I drink proper big UK pints of beer and worry about the mpg of my car, but I also think metric weights are the preferred way to communicate a recipe!
So it's a fine book, but it doesn't really provide the comprehensive guide for home SV cooking that I'd been hoping for.

I understand that clearly it is not targeted at introducing home cooks to SV, (as one set of rumours had it), but is it really just coffee table fantasy material, or do you think its something to provide practical and aspirational source material for 'ordinary' pros and obsessive amateurs? :wink:

It sounds as though we need to give NathanM the hurry-up!


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Would the complexity/difficulty comparison be with FL or Bouchon ?

I'm presuming that this might be about super-crafting everything that goes into the bag, but could you give us a more specific idea of what you are referring to? Are we talking fantasy ingredients as well?

I'm less disappointed than RobC seems to be, but then my expectations may have been different.

The super-crafting thing is classic Keller, and yes, it's a lot like the FL and Bouchon books in that respect. There are a few exotic ingredients used (Transglutaminase, anyone?), but much of it should be pretty easy to source, if a bit expensive.

Is this because of a big liquid content? Or...?

There are quite a few recipes that call for liquid in the bag, which is a pain if you're using a Food Saver or such. I didn't spot any instructions for using a clamp machine, but I've only had time to scan the book during my lunch break yesterday. I'll check tonight to see if there's anything there about dealing with liquids with consumer equipment. Of course, we've got endless discussion of that on the Sous Vide thread here, so maybe it's a non-issue for us.

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Would the complexity/difficulty comparison be with FL or Bouchon ?
With FL and per se. There are a few references to Bouchon, but it doesn't appear to be the source of the recipes.
I'm presuming that this might be about super-crafting everything that goes into the bag, but could you give us a more specific idea of what you are referring to? Are we talking fantasy ingredients as well?
The difficulty of the recipes is a combination of unusual cuts and ingredients, specific purveyors, some molecular gastronomy chemicals, and multi-part preparations of all the components of very refined dishes. There's nothing wrong with any of that, if what you're aiming to do is reproduce a dish at FL or ps. You could even dumb it down some yourself to make it more realistic for home cooking. My regret is that Keller didn't expend a little effort in creating his own simplified, home kitchen-friendly version of some recipes. I'd love to know Keller's suggestion for tasty chicken breasts SV'd at home, for example. But that's most decidedly not this book.
Is [the need for a chamber vacuum sealer] because of a big liquid content? Or...? 
Mostly because of liquid in the bag, but sometimes also to achieve compression of fruits.
I understand that clearly it is not targeted at introducing home cooks to SV, (as one set of rumours had it), but is it really just coffee table fantasy material, or do you think its something to provide practical and aspirational source material for 'ordinary' pros and obsessive amateurs?  :wink:
I think it goes somewhat beyond coffee table fantasy material, but it will require a good deal of trial and error and ingenuity to simplify the recipes for use in ordinary home environments. That's something one would have wished the author or editor might have managed as part of the book. Would it have been too much to ask for them to publish a FL recipe and a counterpart recipe simplified for home use--something that surely wouldn't approach the real thing in finesse but would still rise above salting and peppering the damned chicken breast and tossing it in the bag?
It sounds as though we need to give NathanM the hurry-up!
My sentiments exactly!

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Would it have been too much to ask for them to publish a FL recipe and a counterpart recipe simplified for home use--something that surely wouldn't approach the real thing in finesse but would still rise above salting and peppering the damned chicken breast and tossing it in the bag?

Yes it would've been too much to ask that. This is Thomas Keller's food. It is highly refined and -usually- labor intensive. If the FL book coped out and provided a "simplified" recipe for the "home cook" (not sure that that exactly means BTW) for each recipe in the book then it would've missed it goal and never have become the classic it is now. To learn from the master (whether it is Escoffier, Keller, Achatz, Adria or Robuchon) one has to do it their way and then apply it to their own home kitchens. Keller is not Bittman -who I admire for what he does as well- and I doubt he is interested in creating an infinite number of simplified variations on his recipes. I am honestly surprised anyone expected anything different based on the guy's previous books and cooking history.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I am honestly surprised anyone expected anything different based on the guy's previous books and cooking history.

I think this is because of previous rumours about the book and the possible availability of home versions of sous vide equipment.

That being said, Bouchon is much easier to deal with than French Laundry in a home kitchen.

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If the FL book coped out and provided a "simplified" recipe for the "home cook" (not sure that that exactly means BTW) for each recipe in the book then it would've missed it goal and never have become the classic it is now.
Sorry I confused you with the term "home cook." I meant pretty much what Thomas Keller means on page 38 where he write about making the dishes "manageable for home cooks." You seem to feel it would be beneath TK to create recipes that are more manageable for home cooks; I'd be loath to attribute to him that level of arrogance, because he seems like a very decent and down-to-earth guy. And if TK doesn't have the time or interest to do so, it shouldn't be beyond the abilities of one of his large crew of assistants or indeed someone else the book's editor chooses to employ.

The book is fine for what it is, a collection of highly complicated recipes from FL and ps. What it's not is a book that will help the vast majority of home chefs improve their SV skills. That's a pity and leaves a large hole in the publishing market.

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If the FL book coped out and provided a "simplified" recipe for the "home cook" (not sure that that exactly means BTW) for each recipe in the book then it would've missed it goal and never have become the classic it is now.
Sorry I confused you with the term "home cook." I meant pretty much what Thomas Keller means on page 38 where he write about making the dishes "manageable for home cooks." You seem to feel it would be beneath TK to create recipes that are more manageable for home cooks; I'd be loath to attribute to him that level of arrogance, because he seems like a very decent and down-to-earth guy. And if TK doesn't have the time or interest to do so, it shouldn't be beyond the abilities of one of his large crew of assistants or indeed someone else the book's editor chooses to employ.

The book is fine for what it is, a collection of highly complicated recipes from FL and ps. What it's not is a book that will help the vast majority of home chefs improve their SV skills. That's a pity and leaves a large hole in the publishing market.

He does seem like a nice and down to earth guy who loves fried chicken and burgers and I did not imply that it is beneath him to create a homecooked meal. I'm saying that in no way did I expect him to create any recipes short of what he would serve at his restaurant. He did not do it for FL or for Bouchon, so why should he do it now?


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Having just leafed through my copy, I think it definitely has some usefulness to home cooks. That doesn't mean that I'll be recreating any of the dishes precisely, but I can absolutely envision cherrypicking techniques and preparations from one recipe or another.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I am honestly surprised anyone expected anything different based on the guy's previous books and cooking history.

I think this is because of previous rumours about the book and the possible availability of home versions of sous vide equipment.

That being said, Bouchon is much easier to deal with than French Laundry in a home kitchen.

This is precisely what I was trying to convey above (probably in too few words for once!)

It sounds (if even SLKinsey is unlikely to try ANY of the recipes as written) as though the book might have been subtitled:

"French Laundry 2 - the sous-vide stuff".

Is that a fair assessment?


Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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One difference between this book and the FL cook book is that the latter placed a great deal of emphasis on the food suppliers and philosophical aspects of the restaurant. The essays interspersed throughout the book were as important as the actual recipes.

Under Pressure is much more focused on technique. There are explanations of what CSV is good for, how to use it appropriately and safely, etc. It's a big, pretty book, but I see it as being more of a practical reference than the FL book was.

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Did people really think this was going to be a "how to do truffled lobster sous vide in your coffee pot with a chicken breast and a radish" type of book? :raz:


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Having just leafed through my copy, I think it definitely has some usefulness to home cooks.  That doesn't mean that I'll be recreating any of the dishes precisely, but I can absolutely envision cherrypicking techniques and preparations from one recipe or another.

That is the correct answer. It is an amazing book. I love the precise instructions for cooking vegetables and fruits sous-vide. As for using liquids without a chamber vacuum pre freezing them works very well in most situations. Today I plan to cook artichokes, quince and potatoes using Keller's temp and timing.

As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.


Ruth Friedman

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Having just leafed through my copy, I think it definitely has some usefulness to home cooks.  That doesn't mean that I'll be recreating any of the dishes precisely, but I can absolutely envision cherrypicking techniques and preparations from one recipe or another.

That is the correct answer. It is an amazing book. I love the precise instructions for cooking vegetables and fruits sous-vide. As for using liquids without a chamber vacuum pre freezing them works very well in most situations. Today I plan to cook artichokes, quince and potatoes using Keller's temp and timing.

As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.

I agree with both of you. Although he doesn't modify recipes to make them easier to do at home, a there's a lot of information that one could easily use at home. Before reading the book I wasn't aware of the importance of chilling things after searing, so I will definitely be keeping that in mind, and I also like the idea of the herb sachet.

Freezing works very well for liquids if you do it in a relatively flat container. I took a crack at the pigtails yesterday, and they came out pretty well, even with a foodsaver.

Here are the tails in the bag before cooking...

gallery_58756_6235_627.jpg

And the finished dish;

gallery_58756_6235_21099.jpg

The tail and the dressing are really good and relatively easy to make. I'll probably make more after I use up the ones that I froze.

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That looks beautiful and I shall do some as soon as I find the tails. I find trotters and ears in Chinatown in New York but I do not recall seeing any tails. Did you buy them in a Chinese or a Mexican market?


Ruth Friedman

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That looks beautiful and I shall do some as soon as I find the tails. I find trotters and ears in Chinatown in New York but I do not recall seeing any tails. Did you buy them in a Chinese or a Mexican market?

I saw them in the freezer case at a Super H Mart. I think the recipe would work just as well with trotters if you can't find tails though.

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As for complaints about his use of metric measurements What could be more accurate? I would be happy if I never saw another "cup" measure again.

Ditto!! It is sad whenever another baking book comes out from very respected authors and all it lists for measuring is a spoon of this and a cup of that. Same is tru about the wonderful Alinea book, not a single "teaspoon" in sight, only grams and ounces as it should be.


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Despite pre-ordering "Under Pressure" ages ago, I finally got it in the mail this afternoon. My first impressions are below. Once I have had time to carefully study the book, I will try and cobble together a proper review.

I am generally impressed by the depth and scope of Thomas Keller's "Under Pressure". The 79 pages of recipes for fruits, vegetables and desserts are especially interesting since they have only been touched on in the "Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment" thread. The recipes for fish and meat do not differ significantly in temperature or time from those discussed in the sous vide thread or in my "A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking".

Being written by chefs, it is not surprising that "Under Pressure" lacks the scientific rigor of Nathan or my writings. This is especially true when it comes to cooking times, which are independent of thickness. [Recall that heating times increase four fold when the thickness is doubled.] The discussion of safety is mostly correct, but propagates the myth of the "danger zone" being between 40F/4.4C and 140F/60C. [it also misstates that "Salmonella is the most heat-resistant bacteria" when it is well known that Listeria is the most heat resistant bacteria.] While I certainly commend them on stressing the importance of storing food at below 38F/3.3C (to prevent the outgrowth of C. botulinum), the discussion on pasteurization is very limited. That said, most people probably feel that my guide excessively dwells on food safety and pasteurization times.


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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Just got mine today and I agree with you Douglas. NathanM and yourself have produced the best info. The temperatures are too high but that could be due to our litigious world. But I love the book. Haven't cracked open the Fat Duck or Alinea books yet, am eagerly awaiting Christmas. But I expect at least the same equal quality as this.


“Do you not find that bacon, sausage, egg, chips, black pudding, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and a cup of tea; is a meal in itself really?” Hovis Presley.

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Was it just me or if the foreword from Mcgee say something along the lines of "you can cook short ribs medium at 135 for many hours...."

but then in the safety section they stress never to cook anything for longer than 4 hours below 140?

i'll check the book when i get home tonight, but i remember reading that..

Edit to say: Yup, in the foreword, Mcgee says "you can cook a short rib medium rare (135) for 48 hours...."

Interesting how there is that much of a disconnect!


Edited by jmolinari (log)

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Was it just me or if the foreword from Mcgee say something along the lines of "you can cook short ribs medium at 135 for many hours...."

but then in the safety section they stress never to cook anything for longer than 4 hours below 140?

...

I'm really not that surprised. While food scientists have no problem cooking at 130F/54.4C indefinitely, the safety section sticks to the "danger zone" dogma of the FDA.

What I am surprised at, is that all the tough cuts of meat are cooked well done at over 158F/70C for 8--24 hours. Even sticking to the dogma of the "danger zone", tough cuts could be cooked at 140F/60C for 8--24 hours (which has been shown to produce especially tender meat).


My Guide: A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking, which Harold McGee described as "a wonderful contribution."

My Book: Sous Vide for the Home Cook US EU/UK

My YouTube channel — a new work in progress.

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My impressions of the book have echoed Douglas's, as well as some of the other commenters here.

It's very interesting to read how Keller uses sous-vide, but some of the information in the book is, erm, a little surprising. The total lack of mention of cooking times varying by thickness of cut is a major omission, for example, and like Douglas, I was very irritated by discussion of the "danger zone". I was interested by the descriptions of and instructions for cook-chill, but given the scientific omissions in the book, I'm frankly not sure how much I trust them, especially in a home environment. Anyone?

So far, the section of the book I've used most often has been the lengthy table of cooking temperatures at the back - which also contains cooking times, which I've been totally ignoring. (I'd be worried that a total novice to sous-vide might pick the book up and decide to, for example, cook a bone-in chicken leg for an hour at 64 degrees, which would probably leave the inside under temperature, but I may be being paranoid there.)

Just about every recipe includes liquid in the bag, meaning that you'll need a ($2,000) chamber vacuum sealer to try a lot of them. Having said that, as other commenters have mentioned, a lot of the liquids are freezable. My impression was that some of the recipes required the liquids to be prepared or added into the bag in rather specific ways, but I haven't checked thoroughly enough to be sure whether there are any total dealbreaker recipes for us poor people with FoodSavers.

Having said that, there's a lot of good stuff to be said about "Under Pressure". Its descriptions of the uses of sous-vide to cook various types of food, and the advantages therof, are really fascinating reading. The aforementioned multi-page table is a great resource (and has produced fantastic results with everything I've tried). And the recipes are wonderful inspiration for the variety of things that sous-vide makes possible.

But the gap in the market for a home sous-vide cookbook is still open.


Edited by the_nomad (log)

Kamikaze Cookery: Three geeks cook. With Science. And occasionally, explosions.

http://www.kamikazecookery.com

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One thing I found interesting as well was the apparent shift in the plating at TFL and per se. It seems that, in TFL cookbook there was a definite style to the plating in that everything seemed high and tight (generally). I noticed that the presentations in UP were very European in their design. Looked very Michelin 3 star to me.

Just an observation...I found it interesting to note the change. It's nice to see that even though it is regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the world they don't rest on their laurels about things.

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The other thing I thought was interesting was just how much transglutaminase they're using these days in their dishes. Actually, Activa's much more prevalent in Under Pressure than it is in the Alinea book. In most cases, the recipes could probably done without Activa, but interesting nonetheless how Keller is disguising modern techniques that most diners will barely notice.


---

al wang

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...The total lack of mention of cooking times varying by thickness of cut is a major omission, for example...

I would say that this would only be a major omission if the book were attempting to be a general guide to sous vide cookery. I don't know where people got the idea that it would be. The reason he doesn't need to include time-versus-thickness information in the book is that he goes to the trouble of describing in excruciatingly precise detail just how big the food items should be that are cooked in his recipes. When he tells you to split a single 455 gram side of Spanish mackerel, sandwich two thin slices of jamón serrano between the two pieces, bind with transglutaminase and cook at 61C for 12 minutes, I can't believe it is possible that there will be differences in the thickness of this food item that would meaningfully affect the specified 12 minute cooking time. Thus, no time-versus-thickness discussion needed. If he were giving an example of a kind of recipe you could to with most any sort of fish at most any size, then he would need to open it up to a discussion of time-versus-thickness, as well as a discussion on temperatures for fish in general. But, as noted, that is not the purpose of this book.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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...  When he tells you to split a single 455 gram side of Spanish mackerel, sandwich two thin slices of jamón serrano between the two pieces, bind with transglutaminase and cook at 61C for 12 minutes ...

Now there IS a nutshell review!

One might possibly think that the 455 grams, as specified, evidenced a burning desire for precision and a total rejection of easy round numbers, but of course its just 1.00 pounds in fancy dress! :biggrin:


"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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