Under Pressure, writes Harold McGee in his introduction to this, the first book written in English on cooking sous vide, "introduces cooks to one of the most important culinary innovations of modern times."
An uncommonly grand claim coming from so precise a scientist and writer, but such is the power of this controversial method. "Thomas Keller and his chefs," McGee continues, "illustrate the powers of precision heating with dozens of dishes that wouldn't be as fine, or even conceivable, without it."
Sous vide method comprises a group of techniques that allows the cook to realize flavors and textures that no other cooking method can. By sealing food in plastic and submerging it at exact temperatures for minutes or for days—food that is traditionally braised, sautéed, roasted, or poached—we can attain astonishing results. The tough cuts of meat we once braised in simmering stock can now be cooked sous vide to a medium-rare pink, juicy and meltingly tender. Lamb loin, veal tenderloin, and other larger cuts of meat, difficult to cook evenly, emerge uniform throughout. Delicate fish is enhanced and the margin of error reduced. Vegetables and fruits, cooked in an oxygen-free environment, remain vividly colored. And, because the food is sealed in plastic, its flavor is never lost to the cooking water or the atmosphere. Carrots taste more like carrots, apples more like apples. Small amounts of herbs and other aromatics can have dramatic effects. Cold techniques are valuable as well. Marinades used with meats en sous vide are powerfully effective. Various fruits and vegetables, such as melons, cucumbers, and pineapple, become new when compressed.
Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide is an invaluable contribution to our culinary world at a time of unprecedented interest in food and cooking, both in the restaurant kitchen and at home. The most critical aspect of sous vide lies in discovering what combination of time and temperature achieves the most sublime results. The answers, as discovered and practiced during the past decade by the chefs of The French Laundry and per se, two of the most respected restaurants in the world, are all here, within the innovative recipes from Keller's landmark restaurants.
Under Pressure is a source of instruction, technique, and recipes for anyone who wants to experience the new ideas sous vide makes possible, inspiration for what is possible and what might be.From Publishers Weekly
The origins of sous vide cooking, or vacuum-packing foods and cooking them at precise, relatively low temperatures for long periods, may have been largely in frozen convenience foods, but it has become standard in top kitchens worldwide, notably Keller's own. Now, Keller aims to demonstrate the technique to a wider swath of cooks-not the masses, but at least those who can afford this lavish volume and the sous vide equipment. One need not cook the exact recipes (which are unaltered from the restaurant's) to be inspired by Keller's careful yet whimsical creations, such as a cuttlefish "tagliatelle" with palm hearts and nectarine or squab with piquillo peppers, marcona almonds, fennel and date sauce. And Keller, with several of his chefs as well as "curious cook" Harold McGee, takes pains in the introduction to explain sous vide fundamentals, arguing persuasively that it is not a fad but an important technique that allows unparalleled control over how ingredients are heated and what flavors and textures result. Still, at least until the equipment is more affordable, most readers will admire this gorgeous book on their coffee tables, from the simple beauty of photos of ingredients in their natural states to plates with a course's elements so artfully arranged they would not be out of place in a modern art museum.