Sous Vide or Not Sous Vide...

This post is in honor of and a tribute to a long-time friend of mine that I have just recently learned passed away. Although it was almost two years ago, I feel it as if it were yesterday. He and I did some crazy things together, laughed, rocked hard, got twisted and silly, got in trouble, but most of all, enjoyed many of life's great things together. We rode bikes, in which he was a dominator on the racing circuit in the SF California area and introduced me to great street riding(me, I was always a dirt rider). We got into some great music and jammed at many-a-rock concert. We would hang out and venture into the Puget Sound and then again in the Bay Area when I moved down there. The thing I am saddest about is that I have not talked with him since I left SF in 1986 to move back to Seattle. No cell phones, no Internet really, no number. People move, and lose touch. From what I heard, he was challenged with troubles and now, no longer. I know his family think of him often and I pray for them all and wish them well. I know that Chris is in a better place now and only hope that he knows that I miss him. Sorry for not contacting you bud. This post, as humble as it is, is about the search for passion, about seeking what you find exciting and about perfecting your craft. I know that Chris was always doing so in his cycling, so this is for you as a tribute in my own search of perfecting my craft of cooking. ...Sous vide or Not Sous Vide~ that is the question, or at least it was last Thursday for this great exploration of taste, texture and flavor using this old, yet renewed technique of precision cookery. We were charged with a mission to create a tasting menu with the idea of comparing things cooked or processed "sous vide" (literally "under vacuum) and those of traditional or normal cookery methods. The experience was to be evaluated both from a cooks point of view(mine) and from a guests view as a diner. Interesting to say the very least. Here are pictures of a few of the dishes. We ended up getting quite busy, so some dishes were not photographed. My bad. Overall, the items cooked sous vide; vacuum sealed in a bag, then cooked slowly in a hot water bath by means of a digitally controlled immersion circulator were extraordinary. Remarkable. Even profound. I have cooked sous vide many times, but without the new technology of today, which was really cool. The foodstuffs we cooked sous vide tended to have a very clean, natural taste and flavor, while the items cooked traditionally or using regular cooking methods were richer, more augmented with heartiness. Sautes and roasts seemed more intense, while the sous vide ended up softer and cleaner. The textures that were displayed were phenomenal. Tender pieces of fish and meat were left to provide for a deeper flavor in and of itself. I have always enjoyed the flavors of roasts and pan sauteed items as the caramelization is flavor that is so awesome. Some of the dishes we cooked sous vide became so "in your face" with pureness that it was almost incomprehensive, in a good way mind you! Some things we found that are better on their own and by themselves, rather than being flanked by say a piece of squab or soft shell crab, and others were better as a whole collection of parts. One of the most unique and fascinating observations was the olive oil sponge cake cooked in a bag sous vide. Simply wild. The play on Thomas Keller's octopus sous vide was tasty, although lacked some depth. The melons, rhubarb and strawberries that were compressed was stellar. The squab although perfect for my taste and palette, was a bit rare in hindsight. The lamb was tender and tasty and perfectly cooked, but again, was amiss in some of the "charred grill" nuance that it's counterpart so gracefully flaunted. Here below is the 12 courses of goodness we crafted at the chef's table. I hope you enjoy the read as much as we did cooking it while coming to our own conclusions about taste and texture. As stated by T.K. in Under Pressure...sous vide cookery is not meant to replace other means of cookery and is not the catch-all for everything, merely a precise method of temperature, texture enhancement and flavor control for some things. It is the answer at times to our questions of what we aim to accomplish in the final product and let the method and/or technology help us get there, not control what we cook and how we cook it by being the preliminary focal point. This is to add to our repertoire, not become the only method in it. And finally to Chris' family...God bless.
Hawaiian Ahi Tuna "Crudo"
Compressed Watermelon, Citrus, Avocado, American Sturgeon Caviar
and Mango-Togarashi Foam
House Cured vs. Local Artisan Prosciutto
Compressed Melon, Mostarda, Mosto Cotto "Paint", Olive Oil, Orange Dust

Honey Bunches of Oats Crusted Foie Gras
Compressed Rhubarb, Hazelnuts, Cacao Nibs, Rhubarb Gastrique
Baby Octopus Sous Vide vs. Traditional French Method
Charred with Chorizo Potatoes, Lovage, Tuberous Begonia and Green Olive Vierge

Porcini & Smoked Paprika Dusted Soft Shell Crab
Anson Mills Grits, House Cured Bacon, Corn, Grilled Porcini
Sweet Corn Nage Sous Vide vs. Traditional Pot Cooked Corn Nage
Bouche Revigorant
Pickled Melon Rind, Cured Ham Sorbet, Pedro Ximenez, Spanish Olive Oil
Squab Breast Sous Vide vs. Traditional Pan Roasted Squab
Morels, Fava Beans, Pea-Morel Tortellini, Huckleberry Jus

Grilled Lamb Loin Sous Vide vs. Traditional Grill of Lamb
Fennel & Artichoke Sous Vide vs. Fennel & Artichokes a'la Blanc and Glace

Spice Basted, Slow Roasted Beef Brisket
Heated Sous Vide with Baby Carrots Sous Vide Glace
Piedmontese Tuma Trifulera
Cow's & Sheep's Milk Cheese, Warmed Compressed Local Strawberries
Elderflower Essence, Grains of Paradise, Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
Dauro de L'emporda Spanish Olive Oil Sponge Cake Sous Vide
Pistachio, Basil Infusion, Golden Raisin Coulis, Rose Geranium Milkshake
Hazelnut Macaroon-Mascarpone Sandwiches, Strawberry Jellies
Salted Caramels, Valrhona Manjari Chocolates


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