I’m very excited to announce the publication of the latest cookbook, Under Pressure, from the team that created The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon—the first American cookbook to address the fundamentals and the most refined extremes of this relatively new technique: cooking food at low precise temperatures, aka cooking sous vide.
Harold McGee writes in his introduction, in the very first sentence: “This book introduces American cooks to one of the most important culinary innovations of modern times.”
Let me repeat: One of the most important culinary inventions of modern times.
McGee continues: What is this great advance? “A way of heating foods precisely. At last!”
Such a simple notion but an impossibility until the immersion circulator (the device pictured above) arrived in the restaurant kitchen.
Under Pressure is a cookbook that, first and foremost, codifies this new technique. It addresses the three basic sous vide principles: time, temperature and pressure. And the four basic uses: storage, marination, compression, and cooking. And it gives a thorough rundown on safety issues (McGee consulted on all matters microscopic).
For chefs and professional cooks, the 10-page key to product-time-temperature is worth the price of the book alone ($75 retail, $47.25 from Amazon)—want to sous vide beef sirloin, chicken legs, pork belly, carrots?—the chart tells you recommended temperature for recommended time.
And for anyone curious about the methods and various uses of sous vide—from a la minute fish cooking, to cooking tough cuts of meat for days, to vegetable cookery—Under Pressure stands to be the definitive work. (I’m biased, of course, but still—how could it not be the definitive work? It’s the only one out there. … OK, there is Sous Vide by Joan Roca, translated from the Spanish, but that remains relatively obscure and costs more than $200; not to take anything away from Roca, who is hugely respected and makes sauce out of dirt.)
Deborah Jones, whose photography fills the first two books, surpasses herself (as I hope her pix here indicate). Susie Heller and Amy Vogler wrote and tested all the recipes—a heroic task. David Hughes at Level designed the book.
The recipes come from Keller as well as from his long time chefs de cuisine, Corey Lee at the French Laundry and Jonathan Benno at per se. Desserts are from executive pastry chef, based at per se, Sebastien Rouxel. As with all the books, these are the exact recipes used in their kitchens. Every recipe uses at least one sous vide application.
I'm was thrilled to have been a part of this project and am very excited to see it published.
Keller and I will be discussing the book this Friday at 4:30, at the restaurant CityZen, joined by CityZen chef Eric Zeibold, long time 2nd in command at the French Laundry (event is now sold out, sorry!), on Saturday evening at Astor Center in NYC, and at The Free Library in Philadelphia on Monday.
UPDATE: A word on plastic and safety. Still not sure what all the fuss is about, I asked Harold McGee by email if there were some definitive answer to questions about the safety of cooking in plastic. His reponse: no, but there doesn't seem to be anything to worry about.
"What I would say," he wrote, "is that all commercial wraps have been much tested and don't seem to pose much risk. Polyethylene in particular, the standard cling film, is made without plasticizers and is least likely to release chemicals into foods. Saran is now polyethylene (used to be PVDC). Cryovac is a proprietary sandwich of different plastic layers that apparently includes PVC or PVDC, but the food-contact layer is polyethylene."
If you're concerned, he says, call the manufacturer of the product you use.
UPDATE: I've just been sent a link to the podcast of Keller and myself at
the Free Library in Philadelphia, 11/29/08. Click past my windy intro to hear Keller describe sous vide in his own words.)