March 2, 2011
The sous vide storm now reaching home cooks

Sous vide.JPGBy Blair Anthony Robertson, Bee Dining Critic
Following up on Chris Macias' revealing story in today's Bee on the sudden rise of chef Pajo Bruich, here are a few signs that cutting-edge cooking techniques are catching on beyond high-end restaurants and boutique caterers.

As I was shopping at East Bay Restaurant Supply on Tuesday (for a silicon spatula and a couple of other things), I happened upon a sous vide machine for under $300. Next to it was a vacuum sealer. And near that was a book explaining how devoted home cooks can get into this compelling low-heat, long-hours way of cooking.

Be the first one on your block to cook a steak for three days without sending everyone to the dentist or the ER.

Sous Vide (pronounced soo veed), as many of you know, is talked about more and more when dealing with some of the best restaurants. Thomas Keller of the French Laundry may be most responsible for spreading the word with his book "Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide."
But one of the problem early adopters discovered was the price of the equipment -- this was meant for restaurants, not necessarily hobbyists. The technique basically involves vacuum sealing food in cryovac bags, then immersing the bags in a water bath in which the temperature is carefully controlled while water circulates. If you want your steak to be finished at 130 degrees, theoretically you can set the water at 130 and cook it for hours and hours without creating a new purse or a pair of slippers. The time depends on what you want to accomplish with flavor and texture. Some chefs are also attempting sous vide at home with a pot of water on the stove and a thermometer they watch like a hawk, with mixed results. Bruich will actually be teaching a "Sous Vide 101" class March 19th at Steel Magnolia Commercial Kitchen. Cost is $100. For more information or to register go here.

sealer.JPGI have eaten a pork belly cooked sous vide for 72 hours at 11 Madison Park in New York, and I have had a sous vide steak at The Kitchen Restaurant here in Sacramento for two hours. The steak I had at Meadowood was also done sous vide, but Chef Christopher Kostow told me the precise time it cooked is proprietary. I've also been told that some health inspectors here and there haven't warmed to the idea of sous vide and have even cited kitchens for storing or holding food at too low of a temperature. That will change if sous vide becomes more mainstream and health inspectors keep up with the times.

Regardless, sous vide is demanding of your time, but the rewards could be plentiful if you're interested in delving into it.

Along those lines: Next week, I will have a story in our Food and Wine section about the exciting new book called "Ideas in Food," based on the website of the same name. The book is divided into two sections -- new techniques for everyone and techniques that require a professional kitchen with plenty of pricey toys. We'll tell you about things you may never have tried at home and give you a few recipes.

If all that's not enough for you, give your credit card a good workout by ordering this ground-breaking work. Yikes!

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