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Under Pressure

Braised Veal Cheeks Butter Poached Maine Lobster Tail Pommes Maxim Confit Calf's Heart with Peacans, Turnips, Cherries

Author Photograph of Thomas Keller About Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller, the chef-owner of The French Laundry and per se, is the only American-born chef to have two three-starred Michelin restaurants. In addition, he has Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California, and Las Vegas and another Bouchon Bakery in New York. His newest endeavor is Ad Hoc, a casual dining establishment in Yountville. He is the author of The French Laundry and Bouchon.

From the Introduction: Why Sous Vide?

Why sous vide? You can, and should, ask the same about any technique. Why sauté, why roast, why grill? Yet we don’t think to question these techniques, because they have been around for so long. Sous vide techniques are new, and so we’re naturally a little quizzical, even skeptical. The answer is: we use sous vide because it allows us to achieve specific results that can be achieved only this way.

Sous vide is not complicated or mysterious, but rather straightforward and exact. Like all cooking techniques, it is defined by a temperature-time equation: a given temperature is applied to food for a given time. The two basic facts that distinguish sous vide from the other cooking techniques are these: we vacuum-pack the food in plastic (using a vacuum-packer), and we cook it in water that rarely exceeds 185°F, well below simmering, and usually a good deal lower. We program and maintain temperature with an immersion circulator.

Sous vide is no more complicated than that. And it gives us the extraordinary ability to cook food at the same temperature we want it to reach. When we use most other cooking techniques, we subject the food to temperatures far hotter than we want that food to be. When we roast a beef tenderloin, we may only want it to reach 125°F at its center, and yet we put it in an oven that’s 225°F higher than that. To cook that same beef tenderloin sous vide, we would vacuum-pack it and put it into 125°F water. Moreover, when you use a high-heat method such as roasting, the exterior of the meat gets very hot, past well-done, and inside you get successive rings of well-done, medium-well, medium, and rare. With sous vide, our entire tenderloin, not just the center, is the temperature we want it to be.

Cooked sous vide, nongreen vegetables, such as carrots and turnips, emerge with no loss of flavor to the cooking medium, nor do they fall apart. Fruits such as watermelon and pineapple acquire an unusual, wonderfully dense texture when compressed by vacuum-packing. Pale fruits such as apples and pears don’t oxidize and their color stays vivid, and fruits such as cherries take on a gorgeous translucent appearance.

These are a few of the many wonders of sous vide. Because sous vide simplifies so many aspects of cooking, I believe it will one day be as familiar to home cooks as roasting or frying is now. Microwaving food was once unfamiliar, after all, and sous vide, in my estimation, has many more applications than does the microwave oven.

Thomas Keller at Work Spanich Mackerel Ham en Brioche At the Restaurant

Puree of Sunchoke Soup with Arugula Pudding and Pickled Radishes

Puree of Sunchoke Soup with Arugula Pudding and Pickled Radishes

Sunchokes are very sweet and rich, so we pair them with the sharp, peppery flavors of arugula and three types of radishes, which are gently pickled and cooked sous vide. The arugula is blanched and pureed, then combined with a basic creamy vegetable stock that is thickened with beurre manié and egg yolk to make a savory pudding. My favorite element in this dish is the radishes. The sous vide technique really sets their vivid color and cooks them in a way that leaves them powerfully flavored.

Makes 10 servings

150 grams water
75 grams champagne vinegar
75 grams granulated sugar
4 large red French breakfast radishes
4 Flambeau radishes
4 icicle (white) radishes

Sunchoke Soup
50 grams unsalted butter
50 grams thinly sliced Spanish onion
400 grams thinly sliced peeled sunchokes
4 grams granulated sugar
12 grams kosher salt
1 kilogram Chicken Stock
100 grams heavy cream

Arugula Pudding
300 grams arugula leaves
Canola oil
70 grams sliced shallots
1 bay leaf
2 thyme sprigs
100 grams Vegetable Stock
100 grams heavy cream
5 grams kosher salt
10 grams Beurre Manié
10 grams beaten egg yolk (about ½ large)

100 grams Clarified Butter
100 grams Brioche, frozen and cut into ⅛-inch dice
Kosher salt

Radish sprouts

For the Radishes

185°F; 25 minutes

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove from the heat and chill over an ice bath until cold.

Meanwhile, rub the radishes in a damp towel to clean. Trim the ends from the radishes. With a #12 parisienne baller, cut balls of red radish. Cut the Flambeau radishes into small disks. Cut the icicle radishes into oblique (roll-cut) shapes.

Place the 3 types of radish in separate bags. Pour in enough of the liquid to just cover the radishes and vacuum-pack on medium. Cook at 185°F for about 25 minutes; the radishes should still have some crunch. Cool in an ice bath.

To complete: Drain the radishes and let dry on C-fold towels.

For the Soup:
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and sweat until completely soft. Add the sunchokes, stir in the sugar and salt, and add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sunchokes are completely soft and the stock is reduced by about half. Add the cream and bring to a simmer.

Puree the soup in a Vita-Prep, then pass through a chinois or fine-mesh conical strainer. Refrigerate if not serving right away.

For the Arugula Pudding:
Blanch the arugula leaves. Cool in an ice bath. Drain, wrap in a towel, and wring out as much water as possible.

Put the arugula in the Vita-Prep with 4 ice cubes (the ice will help the arugula maintain its color). Puree, then pass through a chinois or fine-mesh conical strainer. Set aside.

Heat a film of canola oil in a saucepan. Add the shallots and sweat until softened, about 3 minutes; they should not develop any color. Add the bay leaf and thyme and cook gently for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cook for about 3 minutes, until the shallots are very soft. Add the cream and salt. Reduce by half, then strain through a chinois or fine-mesh conical strainer into a small saucepan.

To complete: Bring the cream mixture to a simmer and whisk in the beurre manié. Keeping it at a low simmer, cook for 15 minutes to remove any taste of raw flour. Whisk in the egg yolk. Remove from the heat. Using two parts arugula puree to one part cream base, stir the puree into the cream and heat over low heat.

For the Croutons: Heat the clarified butter in a sauté pan. Add the brioche and stir to color evenly to a golden brown. Season with salt, and drain on C-fold towels.

At Service: Reheat the soup if necessary. Place a spoonful of the pudding, some radishes, and the radish sprouts in the bottom of each bowl. At the table, pour the soup around the garnishes. Sprinkle the croutons on top.

Copyright © 2008 by Thomas Keller. Reprinted from Under Pressure with permission from Artisan.

Under Pressure

For a detailed description & pricing info click here.

In Under Pressure, Thomas Keller shows us how sous vide, which involves packing food in airtight plastic bags and cooking at low heat, achieves results that other cooking methods simply cannot-- in flavor and precision. For example, more...

Also by Thomas Keller:

Ad Hoc at Home Bouchon The French Laundry Cookbook The Complete Keller

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