Food & Drink

Range of recipes in ‘Sous Vide’ is ‘amazing’

By Joan Leotta

For The Sun News

Was one of your New Year’s Resolutions to learn something new? Or perhaps in this past holiday season you were gifted with a machine for making food using the sous vide method at home. If so, then this book is the primer you have been looking for.

For those of you who, like me until recently, are not well acquainted with this cooking technique, author Chris McDonald starts off the book with an excellent explanation of the formerly restaurant-only way of cooking.

McDonald explains that, sous vide a technique developed in France (hence the name) is the process of cooking food in sealed package in water, at the serving temperature.

He adds that it is a time and energy saving technique that makes it possible for restaurants to present complicated foods that might take hours to prepare, in just a short time and in single person portions. There is less waste, which saves money, and the pouch portioning makes it easier to store foods. You serve only what you need for the number of people at that particular meal. It produces consistent results and keeps food from drying out during cooking.

What has kept the technique from use by home cooks has been the cost of the machinery needed. However, the cost of sous vide necessities has dropped. It’s no longer necessary to buy commercial grade equipment for home use—good reliable food sealers, static sous vide bath equipment, immersion circulators and instant thermometers are on the market and have good reviews. You need three of these four elements to experiment with sous vide—either the static bath or the circulator, a device to seal packets and the thermometer. Don’t skip the latter. Food safety means you have to closely control and monitor the temperature during the cooking process. For those with concerns about using plastic pouches, Mc Donald says, “People need not be concerned…as long as they (pouches) are BPA and PVC free.”

Mc Donald is one of Canada’s most respected chefs. He has owned and worked in restaurants all across Canada including the Avalon restaurant in Toronto (where he lives now). Avalon was devoted to investigating the boundaries of urban fine dining. Mc Donald describes sous vide as simple—a matter of “cooking by numbers” just following the directions in each recipe.

This book is both a training manual for the new technique and a gourmet’s delight of exercises to practice your news skill. Short of taking a course (if it were offered for home chefs) at the HGTC culinary arts school, there is probably no better way to learn the technique at home—as a manual it appears to be all-inclusive.

I do not own the equipment for sous vide, so I was unable to try out any of the included recipes, but I can tell you that the range of recipes is amazing—from game foods to simple chicken preparations. Many of the recipes opened my mind to making things like grilled octopus at home! Many dishes I thought were too complex for home preparation (like venison with pureed chestnuts) are explained as “easy” in this cookbook. Many recipes are for game meats and there is an entire chapter devoted to “offal”, cuts of meat we ordinarily do not use. Mc Donald says the sous vide method will make them tasty and tender.

If you are considering the investment in sous vide, add this book to your list of essentials.

At A Glance

Title | The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook

Author | Chris Mc Donald

Publisher | Robert Rose Press

Price | $29.95