The ground-breaking under-pressure method, usually called sous vide
, involves submerging food for minutes or even days in sealed, airless bags at precisely the temperature required to produce perfect doneness. Flavors and textures unattainable by other cooking methods can also be achieved.
The technique has been in the pipeline for awhile--one forerunner is the boil-in bag mom used to put veggies on the table--but has only recently attracted top chefs. One is Thomas Keller, famed chef-proprietor of The French Laundry and Per Se. His mightily sized, gorgeously produced Under Pressure explores every inch of sous vide, including the ramifications of using this precision-cooking technique (once time and temperature are established, best results follow automatically) on the craft of cooking, which has always meant a potentially rewarding engagement with the possibility of failure.
The book makes no bones about being addressed to professionals. Typical recipes, like Marinated Toy Box Tomatoes with Compressed Cucumber-Red Onion Relish, Toasted Brioche, and Diane St. Claire Butter, involve multiple preparations and dernier cri ingredients, and thus resist home duplication. There’s also the matter of the pricey equipment required--chamber vacuum packers and temperature-maintaining immersion circulators--not to mention the precautions required to ensure that foods, usually cooked at low temps, are safe to eat.
What the book does offer the home cook is, however, thrilling. It introduces something new under the sun--an exciting, transformative technique of great potential. Anyone interested in food and cooking--not to mention lovers of extraordinarily well produced books--will want to explore Under Pressure. --Arthur Boehm
From Publishers Weekly
The origins of sous vide cooking, or vacuum-packing foods and cooking them at precise, relatively low temperatures for long periods, may have been largely in frozen convenience foods, but it has become standard in top kitchens worldwide, notably Kellers own. Now, Keller aims to demonstrate the technique to a wider swath of cooks—not the masses, but at least those who can afford this lavish volume and the sous vide equipment. One need not cook the exact recipes (which are unaltered from the restaurants) to be inspired by Kellers careful yet whimsical creations, such as a cuttlefish tagliatelle with palm hearts and nectarine or squab with piquillo peppers, marcona almonds, fennel and date sauce. And Keller, with several of his chefs as well as curious cook Harold McGee, takes pains in the introduction to explain sous vide fundamentals, arguing persuasively that it is not a fad but an important technique that allows unparalleled control over how ingredients are heated and what flavors and textures result. Still, at least until the equipment is more affordable, most readers will admire this gorgeous book on their coffee tables, from the simple beauty of photos of ingredients in their natural states to plates with a courses elements so artfully arranged they would not be out of place in a modern art museum. (Dec.)
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