Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
cabrales

NYT Articles on Food, Drink, Cooking, and Culinary Culture (2002–2005)

Recommended Posts

Where I do think sous vide methods amplify flavor is when you cook with flavorings in the bag. This is just my personal experience -- I've not studied it scientifically. Still, it does seem that a tablespoon of liquid and some very small quantities of herbs and such can give you a lot of bang for your buck.

Unlike the marination idea, this actually makes a lot of sense. Think about it. . . When you cook in the open air, a lot of volatile aromatics and such are cooked off, and a lot of flavor components are changed due to high temperatures and oxidation. Cooking sous vide changes the equation considerably. First, the volatile aromatics have nowhere to go, so they stick around. Second, the volatile aromatics, and other flavor components, are changed far less than they are with traditional cooking techniques because oxidation is minimized and because the temperature is (usually) far lower. Finally, due to the fact that sous vide cooking times are almost always far longer than traditional cooking times, the various ingredients are in contact with each other and reacting with each other for a much longer period of time.

Consider a beef short rib braised in red wine with rosemary. In a traditional method, the wine, short rib and rosemary spend several hours together at a low simmer, there will be many oxidation reactions, the rosemary will have lost most of its "fresh" characteristics by the end, the braising liquid will not completely surround the meat, and there will be a relatively large amount of braising liquid compared to the amount of meat (which will usually have to be reduced in the end). If the short rib is "braised" sous vide, on the other hand, the various ingredients may spend 24 hours cooking together (or longer), there will be relatively few oxidation reactions, the rosemary is likely to retain many of its "fresh" characteristics, the braising liquid will completely suround the meat, the braising liquid may already be "pre-reduced" and therefore much more intense in flavor, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I add less salt with sous vide than with say braising, because the normal amount of salt would render the dish too salty.

How's that for science?

I liked Hesser's article by the way. I also liked her last one "Bleu plate special"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This was a serious, well-written article that gave the millions of folks who read the Times and aren't 1) restaurant pros 2) passionate cooking geeks like our friends at eG, a look at the history, biology, physics and gastronomy of sous-vide. I think it's great stuff, and I wish I'd written it.

If I hear another Mr. Latte crack about what Amanda Hesser is capable of I'll get very cranky. This piece was excellent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wish you'd written it too. Then it would have been more factually correct and less out-of-touch and star-struck.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It was great to see the article in the Times, I think that kind of publicity and recognition of the technique is just what I need to get budget approval for Sous Vide work in my kitchen, and I'm greatful it's in print, so please don't take my next statement out of context.

As a chef, there's one line in the article that concerns me. "(Reference to Bruno Goussault)...who is having a greater impact on how people cook than anyone since Escoffier..." It sound to me like attempted prediction of a American home cooking trend, which is not the same thing as the impact created by Escoffier, nor is it a studied detail in every available technique, just one new one with variations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The watermelon, for instance, was vacuum-packed with 20 pounds of pressure per square centimeter...

Atmospheric pressure = 14.7 pounds per square inch, or (to use her mixed metrics) 2.3 pounds per square centimeter (about 6.4 square centimeters per square inch). On Earth, it is not possible to create vacuum pressure greater than atmospheric---that's what a vacuum means. I'm not familiar with sous vide equipment, but if it's just sucking the air out of a bag with food in it, then the pressure is limited to 14.7 psi or 2.3 psc. I assume the Times article had a typographical error (misplaced decimal point).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It sound to me like attempted prediction of a American home cooking trend, ...

After dilettantically playing around with my poor man's SV equipment, I think it's a rather complicated technique where you need to control some different parameters. And hiring a consultant at $2000 a day by true cooking masters isn't a hint that the technique is overly simple. I think it's better suited for pro kitchens where working with systematical, long series of trial and error is part of the game. I doubt that too many home cooks will engage in this kind of laboratory work.

Of course, some simpler things like salmon or tuna prepared according the Roca recipe can produce nice results with very basic equipment (a vacuumizer and a large pot of water simmering at 50 C).

SV took 20 years to gain the current level of, err, popularity. I doubt that there's another technique around and currently used by some cutting edge restaurants and which will be extensively reported in the NYT in 20 years from now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seemed to me that the big deal was the ability to cook at a precise temperature and avoid browning reactions (why you would want to avoid these most of the time is beyond me.)

As for cooking things in plastic bags. I say yuck, I don't want that near my food.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Seemed to me that the big deal was the ability to cook at a precise temperature and avoid browning reactions (why you would want to avoid these most of the time is beyond me.)

It's also about cooking in small, ready-to-serve portions and a kind of convenience food on highest level. It has considerable economic advantages (time shift end reproducibility) and interestingly there's absolutely no discussion regarding this fact. BTW, let's not forget, SV cooking was born by primarily economical considerations.

As for cooking things in plastic bags. I say yuck, I don't want that near my food.

You are right. From an aesthetical and sensual view, SV doesn't add anything to the art of cooking, to say the least.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As for cooking things in plastic bags. I say yuck, I don't want that near my food.

You are right. From an aesthetical and sensual view, SV doesn't add anything to the art of cooking, to say the least.

I think your wrong. next time your slow cooking something, put your nose right into the pot and take a deep sniff. Now, imagine that all that flavour is just drifting out into the air and disappearing for 3, 4, 6 hours. Imagine how much flavour you lose from foods by doing this? I've always been appalled by this and it surprises me that other people can be so casual about it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think your wrong.

I was not very clear. I meant rather the craft and not so much the (cooked) product.

OTOH, there are recipes (albiston told me about a neapolitanian dish, a lasagne del carnevale I believe) where several ingredients call for very long cooking times. This is desired not only to soften the tissue of meat or vegtables, but to attain a different, caramlized, "condensed" taste. Another example: many cooks don't like pressure cooking, because vegetables retain a "green" taste.

And then some people didn't like my SV cooked meat, because they found the meat to be somehow too "raw", too "bloody", despite the fact is was cooked exactly according to temperatures/times given by Ducasse.

Different tastes, obviously.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
To borrow a line I first read in James Jones' From Here to Eternity at an impressionable age when those things stick, "it will be like washing your feet with your socks on." Will it be as satisfying to depend on a digital read out in lieu of a prod of the steak with your finger?

"Sergeant Milton Warden: Maybe back in the days of the pioneers a man could go his own way, but today you got to play ball."

This sous-vide technology, albeit fairly oudated if you consider the pre-war days of frozen dinners, has regurgitated itself as most traditions do. Chefs like Thomas Keller, Wylie, and Juan Cuevas of Blue Hill have only managed to take this fundamental technique and explode it into the mainstream. I worked for Juan and learned very challenging techniques from him, lessons that he had learned when in Spain (Con Fabes) and at Ducasse and Lespinasse many years ago. These things are not easily translated; they are touched upon softly when the right cook comes around at the right time. The results can be beautiful. One chef teaches another.

I commend these chefs for challenging the past and forcing such a technique into the future state of dining. The ultimate satisfaction for me, as a saucier, when opening a sous-vide package of lamb saddle, or whole quail, is the same as when I sauté it in duck fat over a fire. Sure I can revert back to the banality of ageless cooking, or I can move forward into an ever-changing world. The choice is ours. Whether we decide, as cooks, to stick with the old-school method of cooking, or take a chance and plunge blindly into the new…is it the customer, or the cook, who remains to be challenged?? In either case, the diner’s countenance should reveal a smile. I strive for that always, we all do. And if we do not see that smile, or hear the accolades, it is not the cooking method that has wronged us, it is Us.

I have tasted Keller’s “compressed watermelon”. It is interesting and innovative. It is exciting because no one has thought of this before. To a layman, it might be boring; to a cook that looks up to him like a father, it is brilliant, and it keeps us motivated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Several million American consumers have vacuum sealing machines in their homes, such as the FoodSaver brand. These machines are routinely used in vegetable and fruit preservation, marinating and cooking. I too enjoyed the story, but the Times is way behind the curve here. While consumers are obviously not using vacuum machines with the same level of sophistication as David Bouley and $2,000-a-day professional consultants, you can find FoodSaver discussion all over the web -- including here.

Steve - or someone else, since you're probably otherwise engaged - regarding the cost, that is

Sous vide machines cost $3,000 to $6,000; thermal circulators start at $1,200;
what would the cost be for the average home chef in the average American home or French apartment?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As for cooking things in plastic bags. I say yuck, I don't want that near my food.

You are right. From an aesthetical and sensual view, SV doesn't add anything to the art of cooking, to say the least.

I think your wrong. next time your slow cooking something, put your nose right into the pot and take a deep sniff. Now, imagine that all that flavour is just drifting out into the air and disappearing for 3, 4, 6 hours. Imagine how much flavour you lose from foods by doing this? I've always been appalled by this and it surprises me that other people can be so casual about it.

Yes, but on the other hand, you gain flavors by cooking things certain ways as well. And as Shaw mentioned earlier, there are other ways of trapping aromatics when you cook that don't involve using plastic bags.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Several million American consumers have vacuum sealing machines in their homes, such as the FoodSaver brand. These machines are routinely used in vegetable and fruit preservation, marinating and cooking. I too enjoyed the story, but the Times is way behind the curve here. While consumers are obviously not using vacuum machines with the same level of sophistication as David Bouley and $2,000-a-day professional consultants, you can find FoodSaver discussion all over the web -- including here.

Steve - or someone else, since you're probably otherwise engaged - regarding the cost, that is

Sous vide machines cost $3,000 to $6,000; thermal circulators start at $1,200;
what would the cost be for the average home chef in the average American home or French apartment?

highly doubtful that you will find it much in a French home.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Vacuum-sealing machines have been on the market for decades (see the Dazey seal-a-meal references upthread).

My experiments with the Tilia FOODSAVER PRO home version have been, to say the least, gastronomically exciting. The updated home version works very well for the small family. Sure, it is a little pricey at $300.00, but not completely out of line when you think you pay almost that much for one or two meals at a restaurant using sous vide.

I use it for making duck confit, certain fruit compotes and slow cooking fatty fish.

After dunking the still-sealed bag in a bowl of slushy ice

I slowly reheat the food, use it right away, or store it in the fridge for a day or two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Vacuum-sealing machines have been on the market for decades (see the Dazey seal-a-meal references upthread).

My experiments with the Tilia FOODSAVER PRO home version have been, to say the least, gastronomically exciting. The updated home version works very well for the small family. Sure, it is a little pricey at $300.00, but not completely out of line when you think you pay almost that much for one or two meals at a restaurant using sous vide.

I use it for making duck confit, certain fruit compotes and slow cooking fatty fish.

After dunking the still-sealed bag in a bowl of slushy ice

I slowly reheat the food,  use it right away, or store it in the fridge for a day or two.

While I think the piece was fairly well done (collage book report style) but I find the entire topic smacks of desperation: on the part of these chefs who find it easier to focus flavor in a baggie than to find really good ingredients and bring the flovor forth naturally, on the part of AH and the Times Mag trying to catch up and join the conversation that their own Dining section has long led.

Those "lost smells" are actually a priceless part of the whole experience of cooking. The kitchen should provide it's own magical rewards to those in it. I really don't want to eat lab food. And when you see David Burke in the Post spraying on 'flavor' I would hope you'd want to, well, loose your lunch. So sad. Wne the tool or process becomes more important than the goal or experienc for which it was designed them something, or all, is lost. Go eat a peach Amanda.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've used sous-vide cooking plenty of times in several different restaurants. IMO it's nothing too special. We still used traditional cooking techniques for 95% of our menu items.

The real advantages are the convenience of storing and portioning food in vacuum-packed plastic bags. All our meat, sauces, and just about anything to be frozen were put into vacuum bags. (convenient, and adds to shelf life) Heating up leftovers for staff meal is alot easier too - just toss the bag into the steam table during lunch service, eat when you dismantle the steam table.

As for sous-vide cooked food being more moist, I don't necessarily think so. When you cook in a water bath it is alot tougher to overcook something, so in that sense the food can be alot more moist. (but when you take the food out of the bag the liquid spills out, and the meat itself isn't much moister than a conventionally cooked piece) But no more so than a perfectly roasted item. For marinating the advantages are that you can use very little marinade and get complete coverage of the item, and marinate/store the item at the same time. The absorption due to 'atmospheric pressure' doesn't seem to be much different, but we'd still sous-vide marinate everything just because of the convenience.

As for sous-vide cooking being a 'revolution', I don't think so. A sous-vide machine is definitely a must-have in a professional kitchen, but COOKING sous-vide has limited uses and isn't as revolutionary or tasty as the hype would dictate. I'll take a fire-roasted filet of beef cooked perfectly over one cooked in a water bath anyday of the week...


Edited by Mikeb19 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The real advantages are the convenience of storing and portioning food in vacuum-packed plastic bags.

Thank you.

As a layman, I found it highly suspectible that in these days when economic considerations start to dictate virtually every aspect of life, such an important motif is not mentioned at all. "Cost-cutting" as a no-no word in the holy halls of flavour and texture?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The real advantages are the convenience of storing and portioning food in vacuum-packed plastic bags.

Thank you.

As a layman, I found it highly suspectible that in these days when economic considerations start to dictate virtually every aspect of life, such an important motif is not mentioned at all. "Cost-cutting" as a no-no word in the holy halls of flavour and texture?

My first heads up to sous vide cooking was about four years ago when i was hanging in the kitchen of Paris' Restaurant Le Cinq and a great deal of the meats/seafood/etc were cooked sous vide. Then the wave of gastro molecular sous vide popularity.

so...when i found myself not long ago sitting outside on a warm summers night in Bergerac, France, with a group of winemakers, as we ate the most ethreal foie gras souffle with asparagus and hazelnuts......I thought I would lead the discussion to sous vide and see what people were thinking. "All of the important restaurants use them" I said. Le Cinq, El Bulli, WD-50....". with much oooohing and laaaa-ing, everyone was like: oh, really, do you think? They were agast in a pleasant, interested, way. (the wine was divine!). So we called the owner of the restaurant and the chef over for their opinion, and they were very enthusiastic, saying: oh, yes, though we do not do it here, it is the future, as IT IS MORE ECONOMICAL AND YOU CAN MANAGE YOUR STOCK better.

As for me: i have mixed feelings. I"m a hands on, sensuality, feel it, smell it, sniff it, girl. i don't like cooking in plastic, don't like precision, don't like thermometers, instead like to touch touch touch. On the other hand, if a technique or tool can do something that makes a different result thats intriguing. Would love to play with that anti-griddle freezing thing.

but am not really fond of sous vide (actually its not the sous vide, its the low low temp) meats, they are too tender, too flabby. but hey, thats just my humble opinion.

I'd like to taste per se's watermelon, and I'd LOVE to taste the korean pickled garlic that Chef Zadi found in Korea.

Marlena

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
After dunking the still-sealed bag in a bowl of slushy ice

I slowly reheat the food,  use it right away, or store it in the fridge for a day or two.

The short time lapse is significant. There have been experiments showing that in long-term storage there is substantial nutritional loss--the extended shelf life is dearly paid for. That's significant with mass-produced food eaten by a lot of people; where $300 dinners are concerned, no one is likely to eat them often enough to be malnourished. :biggrin:

As to keeping the ingredients as close as possible to their natural state, this isn't necessarily an advantage. Have you eaten an olive straight off the tree recently?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's fine for a cook to post his professional opinion here that sous vide is of limited gastronomic value and I will take it as a professional opinion, but when a chef knocks my socks off with a mouth watering dish that's exceptionally satisfying and appealingly presented, I have to assume the chef who thinks it's not an important technique simply hasn't investigated its potential. By the same token, once a chef had demonstrated his mastery of traditional techniques, it would be unreasonable to suggest he's using sous vide out of desperation. In fact, if his sous vide dishes were the equal or better of traditionally cooked dishes I've had in Michelin three star restaurants, I shouldn't really care if the chef was led to sous vide by desperation, if the dish I'm eating is as good as any other I've had. The point I'll agree on is that the final product is the most important aspect to me as a diner.

I'm not surprised to hear that a great country chef in France, secure in his educational traditions would prefer to think of new techniques in terms of cost saving and stock control rather than a culinary advancement into unfamiliar territory. His response was to say he's hip to the technique as a business tool, but don't worry, no one will ever cook better than I've learned to cook. That may well be why I eat better in Spain than in France these days.

Finally, I'll agree that no one technique is the best for all applications. That includes fire. Sometimes food is best left raw. The best fish chefs of France have been taught a thing or two by sushi chefs. Anything that increases the potential for good food should be explored as far as I'm concerned and sous vide cooking has already proven it's ability to add to the quality a chef can deliver to the table, even when cooking one on one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×