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#1 Adrian

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:18 PM

In what's likely another one of those posts where I'm late to the party (ie. it was hashed and rehashed on egullet back in 1924), I wanted to talk briefly about sous vide. Sneak's post, up in the BHSB thread, is pretty typical of the sous vide "backlash" I seem to see a lot around here. It's an understandable sentiment - I think a lot of chefs use the technique out of laziness. I think my first question is mostly directed at mrauder and chop, my second is more open:

1. Sous vide and saucing: I've got a theory that outside of the high end environment, sous vided meats also tent to be poorly sauced because you don't get roasting juices or same amount of fond as you do when you cook traditionally. Similarly, if you're doing a sous vide "braise" you don't get the same amount of braising liquid. High end restaurants compensate through an involved sauce making process, lower level places just eschew the saucing all together or do it poorly. Merit to this theory?

2. Where is sous vide successful? People seem to complain about it a lot at BH, less so at EMP, mixed at Per Se. I tend to think it works better in fancier places that are going for cleaner food, less well in more rustic places. Thoughts?

3. Alternative techniques? How does a CVap oven compare in terms of result to sous vide? I take it that it can't turn braising cuts into "steak" like sous vide can. What about for moisture loss? Do you still need to finish stuff cooked in a CVap to get the maillard reaction?

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#2 Wilfrid

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:33 PM

Just a quick point of information. Using sous vide, in New York at least, requires special approval from the authorities (I have no idea how much that's enforced). The reason is that the laziness manifested itself in kitchens cooking sous vide dishes in advance - even on other premises - and then storing the results for heating and plating later.

This has not helped its reputation.

It can be done well, but it can also result in food of disarmingly bland flavor and texture.

#3 Adrian

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:45 PM

Just a quick point of information. Using sous vide, in New York at least, requires special approval from the authorities (I have no idea how much that's enforced). The reason is that the laziness manifested itself in kitchens cooking sous vide dishes in advance - even on other premises - and then storing the results for heating and plating later.

This has not helped its reputation.

It can be done well, but it can also result in food of disarmingly bland flavor and texture.


Right, that's my laziness point. But isn't all sous vide meat done in advance? You're not going to sous vide a la minute. Is there an ideal time that the food can wait before being reheated? Should it just sit in the water bath since it doesn't continue to cook? What, technically, differentiates good sous vide from bad. I can identify both, I just don't know what constitutes good or bad sous vide technique in the same way I do with roasts or braises. Similarly, what, if any, effect does it have on saucing?

I think you need to interpret what I'm saying in a reasonable way.


#4 mitchells

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 06:53 PM

Just a quick point of information. Using sous vide, in New York at least, requires special approval from the authorities (I have no idea how much that's enforced). The reason is that the laziness manifested itself in kitchens cooking sous vide dishes in advance - even on other premises - and then storing the results for heating and plating later.

This has not helped its reputation.

It can be done well, but it can also result in food of disarmingly bland flavor and texture.


That wasn't the issue. The issue was the temperature of the water baths. The crude ones without automatic temperature controls allowed the meats/fish to reach unsafe temperatures.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

#5 marauder

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:04 PM

I'm a touch confused as to some of your vocabulary choices, especially as it relates to sous vide "braises?" Perhaps I read that wrong or took your meaning incorrectly? I don't want to insult your knowledge base by giving a long winded lecture on the the cooking methods, but they are very different. If you'd like, I can revisit for more in depth discussion. But while they are a few cuts that you would treat with either method, there are far more that are more suited for one or the other. We would certainly sous vide a duck breast, while we would never braise a duck breast. That make sense? Whereas the thighs of the duck could be treated with either method.

Sous vide has certain inherent advantages some of which other cooking methods or equipment can mimic, some of which they can't. As you mentioned, a CVap or combi oven can match the moist environment and the precise temperature settings that sous vide cooking creates. However, it can't mimic the "pressure" or "compressed" aspect that sous vide accomplishes from the vacuum process. So, while we can take a bunch of turkey thighs, and lay them in a hotel pan with duck fat, garlic, thyme, rosemary and cook them in a cVap at a precise temperature, you won't get that deep flavor imparted into the meat as you would if you took a single turkey thigh, put it in a bag with duck fat, olive oil, garlic and herbs, vacuum packed it and then cooked the bag in a water bath. As I like to jokingly say, "it's the same, but different." lol

As to who does it more successfully, high end or more moderate places, I'd say it can be successful in either environment. I certainly wasn't running Per Se or EMP, but many of my most successful entrees were cooked sous vide, initially done with a FoodSaver and a deep pot with a digital candy thermometer--we did eventually "graduate" to a commercial vacuum packer and real immersion circulator.

One example where it was very successful for me was with a savory dish that I used sous vide grilled pineapple. I would quickly grill fresh pineapple rings and then season with tellicherry pepper and a few *secret* spices..lol...and then vacuum pack the rings--compressing them quit a bit--and then cooking them sous vide till just about 142 for 20 minutes. Then we would brulee them with turbinado sugar. It started as a joke with one of my sous chefs based on something the pastry chef was doing...it turned out to being one of the most popular apps we had when paired with Foie. The Four Seasons had done Foie with pineapple when I was in pre-school. But the new cooking methods and some modern spicing, achieved a *new* dish that wouldn't have existed otherwise...

As for the saucing, the way sauces are created in restaurant settings is a topic that we can discuss for over a year. It is not done the way most people think. In the case of a braise, yes, you obviously start with a braising liquid as the building block. However, with typical entree items, the piece of protein being cooked and the finished sauce on the plate have never met each other prior to plate up--best way I can describe it. We start with meat scraps and make the sauce totally separately from the finished products being done during service. It allows for more efficient production and much better consistency of flavor. So, we would prepare our proteins to sous vide and probably a totally different cook would prepare the sauce. Lack of fond in the pan isn't an issue as the saucier is creating his/her own fond with those scraps and bones I talked about.

#6 marauder

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:20 PM


Just a quick point of information. Using sous vide, in New York at least, requires special approval from the authorities (I have no idea how much that's enforced). The reason is that the laziness manifested itself in kitchens cooking sous vide dishes in advance - even on other premises - and then storing the results for heating and plating later.

This has not helped its reputation.

It can be done well, but it can also result in food of disarmingly bland flavor and texture.


That wasn't the issue. The issue was the temperature of the water baths. The crude ones without automatic temperature controls allowed the meats/fish to reach unsafe temperatures.



If you are a place like EMP or Per Se, you can utilize sous vide (And just about every other cooking or procurement method) much more efficiently, because you know your reservation book isn't going to take wild swings. Also, you are cooking a set menu, so give or take a handful of diners with allergies or special requests, you know how many "xyz's" you need days in advance. On the other hand, when I was in Jersey, I could do 20 covers on Tuesday night or 60...makes methods like this harder to implement. That said, it is perfectly acceptable--and safe--to sous vide your protein in the vacuum bag and then immediately cool it down--in an ice water bath in the same vacuum bag. That could then be stored under refrigeration and the protein seared to order at the time of service. I did that with duck breasts all the time and to the best of my knowledge, never killed anyone ;)

#7 Wilfrid

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:20 PM

That wasn't the issue. The issue was the temperature of the water baths. The crude ones without automatic temperature controls allowed the meats/fish to reach unsafe temperatures.


If you're saying storage isn't an issue, it is.

#8 marauder

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:25 PM


That wasn't the issue. The issue was the temperature of the water baths. The crude ones without automatic temperature controls allowed the meats/fish to reach unsafe temperatures.


If you're saying storage isn't an issue, it is.


I have neither the time nor the inclination to read what Wilfrid linked--although I do acknowledge that storage has been issue for NYC--I stand by the idea that cooking a protein sous vide and treating it the same way you would treat any other protein is perfectly safe. If you are going to store items that you have cooked sous vide, they need to be chilled rapidly and then stored at the proper temperature--IE: less than 40 degrees F.

#9 Sneakeater

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:26 PM

If you are a place like EMP or Per Se, . . . you are cooking a set menu, so give or take a handful of diners with allergies or special requests, you know how many "xyz's" you need days in advance.


But but EMP doesn't have a set menu. It has a list of principal ingredients and a dialogue. [sarcasm emoticon]
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#10 mitchells

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:26 PM


That wasn't the issue. The issue was the temperature of the water baths. The crude ones without automatic temperature controls allowed the meats/fish to reach unsafe temperatures.


If you're saying storage isn't an issue, it is.


I never said that. Storage is no more of an issue for sous vide preparation than it is for any other preparation.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

#11 Wilfrid

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:29 PM

...they need to be chilled rapidly and then stored at the proper temperature--IE: less than 40 degrees F.


Fail. DoH sets specific (and lower) maximum temperatures for different storage periods. :P

Just teasing you. I was offering the pdf to mitchells to enhance his afternoon.

#12 mitchells

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:31 PM

The whole health department thing started when a few restaurants were caught with sealed packages of meat and fish floating around in water baths below a satisfactory temperature.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

#13 marauder

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:32 PM


...they need to be chilled rapidly and then stored at the proper temperature--IE: less than 40 degrees F.


Fail. DoH sets specific (and lower) maximum temperatures for different storage periods. :P

Just teasing you. I was offering the pdf to mitchells to enhance his afternoon.


For the record, Per Se routinely gets banged for their sous vide cooking, cooks not wearing hats and cross contaminated cutting boards. Some things you just can't lose sleep over...

#14 mitchells

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:33 PM


...they need to be chilled rapidly and then stored at the proper temperature--IE: less than 40 degrees F.


Fail. DoH sets specific (and lower) maximum temperatures for different storage periods. :P

Just teasing you. I was offering the pdf to mitchells to enhance his afternoon.



I would be willing to bet that at least 90% of the restaurants currently using sous vide have no separate fridge for their sous vide foods.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

#15 Wilfrid

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Posted 01 December 2011 - 07:34 PM

(I have no idea how much that's enforced).