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My on-going inquiry began when all I wanted to do was to ask a restaurant (Clos des Sens in the Savoie town of Annecy) near the house I found to rent on the Bay of Talloires, if their chef uses sous-v

I wouldn't. I just get a laugh out of how insane he truly is!   Let's face it; cooking and technique have always evolved. Some tools are good; others, not so much. And no matter how good the tool

I too do not own a microwave in my house. I have a toaster oven somewhere but, can't track it down at the moment, or for the last 3 years but, I know it's somewhere. I use a microwave at my office b

 

 

 

 

I once helped on a dinner for 60 people - the main was 72-hour braised short ribs - they came out great and it's amazing to have braised short ribs that are tender, juicy and cooked medium rare to medium, as opposed to well-done.

 

How do the ribs get hot enough to convert the collagen into gelatin without ending up well-done?

 

They don't. It comes out more like a medium rare steak. Chang describes this technique in the Momofuku Cookbook* and how it was used on the first menu at Ko. It's neat and delicious, but not a traditional braised shortrib.

 

*guys, read this thing - it's like a manifesto for all this stuff we debate here, straight from the horses mouth.

 

ETA: maybe you can increase the temp to get the collagen to unwind (i don't see why not), but that's not the recipe that i've seen.

 

 

Actually., per the Baldwin web site linked above...

 

At lower temperatures (120°F/50°C to 150°F/ 65°C), Bouton and Harris (1981) found that tough cuts of beef (from animals 0–4 years old) were the most tender when cooked to between 131°F and 140°F (55°C and 60°C). Cooking the beef for 24 hours at these temperatures significantly increased its tenderness (with shear forces decreasing 26%–72% compared to 1 hour of cooking). This tenderizing is caused by weakening of connective tissue and proteolytic enzymes decreasing myofibrillar tensile strength. Indeed, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin above 122°F to 131°F (50°C to 55°C) (Neklyudov, 2003; This, 2006). Moreover, the sarcoplasmic protein enzyme collagenase remains active below 140°F (60°C) and can significantly tenderize the meat if held for more than 6 hours (Tornberg, 2005). This is why beef chuck roast cooked in a 131°F–140°F (55°C–60°C) water bath for 24–48 hours has the texture of filet mignon.

 

 

Yeah, isn't that my point even if my science is wonky? Chang's talking about making off cuts tender like filet mignon or porter house, not making them tender like braised cuts (they're not falling apart, they're medium rare). This is a big advantage of sous vide, if you want to make short rib like a filet which is like a thing you might like to do.

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Thanks for the nice reception. Even though the discussion has veered off somewhat, it is interesting for me to read.

 

For purposes of the discussion, I am agnostic about sous-vide. I have a lot to learn at the moment. As of now, I appreciate the indispensability of it in avant-garde cooking as I have had memorable meals from Adria, Blumenthal, and Achatz (but a really bad one from the Roca Bros.) Also, if I cooked at home, using sous-vide equipment sounds like fun. In "traditional" restaurants I make it a point to ask and then avoid ordering if possible any dishes prepared with it. I worry about what sous-vide does to textures and the nice feeling you get in your mouth with a perfectly-cooked fish and piece of meat; i.e. not so tenderized so that you don't lose the springy resistance.

 

What I worry about is that sous-vide is becoming a shortcut in restaurants, and my best guess is that chefs don't want to talk about the extent they use it unless you ask point-blank at the restaurant. As a preliminary perception, I am starting to think that employing sous-vide is becoming rampant and that it allows chefs the opportunity to make more money at the expense of making dishes in an optimal fashion. I am almost certain you will see a proliferation of restaurants within restaurants (Per Se and Le Bernadin in my original post, for example) because the preparation can sit around for some days and then quickly finished when needed.

 

A question I ask myself is that since Robuchon used sous-vide in the 1980s on the Paris-Strasbourg trains, why didn't the great chefs pick up on it at the time. I think if you asked some veterans like Michel Troisgros, MIchel Guerard, Alain Passard, and Jacques Chibois why they never adopted sous-vide, you would get some interesting answers, likely along the lines of what Andrew Carmelini recently said in regards to his new restaurant Lafayette (It takes the love out of cooking, no caramelizing, if I remember correctly). Of course the equipment has evolved and chefs find new ways to use it, but overall for me it's all part and parcel of the the continuing dilution in fine dining.

 

Generally speaking, the main theme of my thread starter was to bring out the defensiveness of restaurant chefs when asked point-blank about the extent, if any, that they use sous-vide. I even asked at the newest MIchelin three-star in France, La PInede in St. Tropez. So far no response, but it has only been two days.

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I'll bet that there was more sous vide going on in the 1980s and 90s than you think. Not only Robuchon in the 1980s at Jamin (why can't I find the clip!?) but this article from the Times traces it back to Troisgras in the 1970s. I would imagine that the growth in the use of sous vide is probably caused by two things: the first is the obvious convenience (which, as we've all stated, can be a bad thing) and the second is that it went from being associated with industrial food to being an easy to grasp element of the molecular/modernist movement.

 

On the defensiveness aspect, it seems that if chefs are fairly open about it, at least when speaking through the media. I wonder how much luck you'd have asking how many of the dishes were braised or relied on reduction sauces? You are driving on I theme that I've mentioned in other threads - restaurants using technology and menu structure as a convenience/cost saving move. When properly used, I think this can be a good thing. I'm not sure a Ssam Bar is possible without sous vide, "Chinatown" service, etc. The problem is that many restaurants use the technique as a pure shortcut, without an eye as to how to best express the raw product.

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Generally speaking, the main theme of my thread starter was to bring out the defensiveness of restaurant chefs when asked point-blank about the extent, if any, that they use sous-vide. I even asked at the newest MIchelin three-star in France, La PInede in St. Tropez. So far no response, but it has only been two days.

 

Have you really asked any restaurant chefs "point-blank"? I think, as has been mentioned above, you're reading too much into some issues with translation, and probably clerical employees simply deleting your emails without going on to bother the chef.

 

If you pick up any random edition of Thuries or YAM, I think you'll find that most of these guys (or gals, I suppose--Anne Pic's new book calls for sous vide in basically every recipe) are quite open about their use of it. So I don't think that there's really a vast conspiracy to sweep its use under the rug.

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And I think, in the proper hands, it's a great tool. So's a pressure cooker, a blow torch, an induction burner, an immersion blender, a Robot Coupe, a blast freezer, a Paco Jet, and on and on. I don't hear anyone complaining about chefs taking shortcuts when using those.

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that's the sort of thing you'd need to ask a chef directly. also keep in mind that employees answering mail electronic or otherwise or those taking reservations may have signed NDAs and not be at liberty to share with the general public anything (especially specifics about food prep [think trade secrets]) that happens in the kitchen or even in the running of the restaurant. A chef owner has more freedom to answer such questions, more directly.

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What about a microwave?

 

 

Some chefs are using them to bake cakes.

 

Yes, after the batter has been put through a syphon. I've seen it demoed, and it is something that I would approve.

 

FWIW, when I was at Le Bernardin (late 1990s), the micro-onde resided in the pastry department. Hot line used it for things like braised red cippolini when they ran out during service.

 

Again: there are so many possible uses for vacuum sealing (= sous vide). Robert, I admire you, but I don't understand what you're asking about, or why.

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It's great for reheating things. Left over Chinese food comes to mind. Yes, you can do it in an oven. Twenty minutes at 325 will get you the same results as 90 seconds in a microwave.

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