On the road promoting Under Pressure with Keller, I was reminded why sous vide is such a compelling technique. Pictured here (thank you brad for all the pix), are short ribs, or rather the slab of meat that rests across the ribs. Before sous vide, this cut would necessarily have been gray or brown, like beef stew and would have been served with a sauce made from the braising liquid. Short ribs had to be braised—seared then simmered in liquid for several hours—in order to melt the collagen that would otherwise leave them tough. The meat would go well above well-done. With sous vide though, you can cook short ribs at temperatures well below the point at which red meat becomes gray if you cook it long enough for the collagen to melt (133 degrees F/56 C for 72 hours for example). The result: rare short ribs that are meltingly tender.
These were served at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC on Friday where Keller and his protege, long time French Laundry veteran, Eric Zeibold, now chef of CityZen, and I had a conversation about why they are so enthusiastic about sous vide. We were also joined by Bruno Goussault, one of the forefathers of sous vide cooking (that's him with Keller, below). On Saturday, Keller and I spoke at Astor Center and I was surprised and delighted by how many non-culinary-professionals there were.
Tonight we're in Philadelphia at the Free Library where we're expecting a large and lively crowd.
Normally book tour is a lonely business. One travels from one city to another not really staying long enough to enjoy the town, and too fatigued to do so were the time available. This little jaunt for me has been like a paid-for vacation, especially with a day off yesterday (the Miro and Van Gogh exhibits at MOMA followed by a fantastic production of Mamet's Speed the Plow, followed by dinner with old friends).
But also, the pleasure has been the nature of the events. The publisher is sending me on this trip, hiring drivers, putting me up in fancy hotels, and all I have to do in return is get on stage and have a conversation with a good friend about things that we both love and care a lot about, food and cooking, in front of a lot of people who care about the same things. I'm telling you, life can be sweet.
PS: A quick warning for those who may want to buy the book—it's surpassing the publisher's expectations regarding how well an expensive book explicitly geared toward professionals would sell. Meaning they're concerned they'll run out before the second printing arrives sometime in January. If you are planning to buy this book as holiday gift, don't procrastinate.
UPDATE: Grant Achatz demos sous vide turkey and stuffing for his business partner Nick Kokonas at serious eats. Notice he does not use any fancy equipment–a pot of boiling water and zip-top bags.