In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique for Perfectly Cooked Meals

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Jan 13, 2017 6:08 PM
Sous Vide At Home

Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique for Perfectly Cooked Meals, by Lisa Q. Fetterman, with Meesha Halm, Scott Peabody
Copyright © 2016 Lisa Q. Fetterman
Photographs copyright © 2016 by Monic Lo

Our Summary:

Learning to cook sous vide, or "under vacuum," challenges every home-cooks understanding and conventions about the traditional home kitchen - from cooking times to temperatures and the idea of when and how to season foods.  All of this and more is up for grabs when you set up an immersion circulator and water bath to cook your food.  But what Sous Vide at Home promises is the ability to create inspired, restaurant-like perfection in your home.  It promises control where modern cooking conventions cannot. 

What  you need to know:

Get it:  Published by Ten Speed Press, November 1, 2016, Hardcover $35.00.  (Amazon from $27.13; Kindle: $18.99)
See it:  288 pages with about 10 information-packed pages on how to cook sous vide, including meal planning and entertaining strategies.  Intensely colored and close up photographs of each finished dish.
Make it:  75 recipes, plus 16 recipes for cocktails, bitters, and infusion, plus 8 basic recipes for sauces and condiments.

Our Review:

For years restaurant chefs have relied on the technique of sous vide, or cooking "under vacuum," to produce "cooked-to-perfection" results.  More recently, popular television cooking programs and competitions have brought this process into our home kitchens in more affordable ways.  Often called a "stress-free" way to cook, sous vide requires little more than placing food into a zip-top bag, squeezing out all the air, and placing it in a water bath with an immersion circulator set at a precise temperature.  The circulating water cooks the food to the precise temperature without sacrificing the drying effects of the direct or indirect heat of stove-tops and ovens. 

Stress-free, however, requires a bit of study and a lot of trust.  While many of the recipes in Sous Vide at Home can be cooked in an hour or less (some as short as 10 - 15 minutes - it will take you longer to set up the equipment and get your water to temperature), there are just as many recipes that require hours and, in fact, days of cooking to achieve the "cooked-to-perfection" results.  Though, you must remember, food cooked sous vide still requires you to finish the recipe:  cook sauces, prepare component parts, sear off and finish the food you just cooked sous vide and put it all together on the plate. 

The author, admittedly, writes this book in promotion of her own sous vide machine, the Nomiku, said to be the first affordable sous vide machine (available only on the Nomiku website and starting at $200 to about $250), though there are others on the market including the Anova Culinary PCB-120US-K1 Bluetooth Precision Cooker, 800 Watts (Amazon, about $150), which we have used with consistent and excellent results. 

If you have gotten far enough to consider the upfront expense, and are comfortable with the idea that your food might take days to cook, then this book is a no-brainer with tempting recipes starting with breakfast and perfectly cooked eggs (eggs Florentine with no-whisk hollandaise sauce and fast-poached egg, right through proteins and vegetables of all types (scallop sashimi with grapefruit-yuzu vinaigrette, turkey meatballs stuffed with mozzarella and basil, stout-glazed short ribs, or kvell-worthy pastrami, or sweet potato tacos),and desserts (sous vide ice cream, anyone?) and cocktails and bitters (pumpkin spice bitters, homemade gin and tonic, dark and stormy) that will pull you into temptation without one minute of regret.

And it's temptation that wins the day with this book.  The mouth-watering photography alone makes you want to invest in this idea of perfection.  Happily, it can be achieved, though it does take a bit of effort, a lot of trust, and just a bit of practice.  

Chef Donna's Note:  You will need an immersion circulator for these recipes.  Immersion circulators can be purchased in kitchen specialty stores or online.  You can expect to pay about $100 to $400 or more for the immersion circulator.  I use the Anova Culinary PCB-120US-K1 Bluetooth Precision Cooker, 800 Watts (Amazon, about $150) with consistent and excellent results.

The Recipes:

Dark and Stormy with Homemade Ginger Syrup

Salmon with Miso-Fennel Salad

Tri Tip Steak Chili

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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