Get Sous Vide Savvy for the Holidays

“Justice, get those lamb racks and tenderloins prepped and into the water bath!” Executive Chef Rudy would shout prior to dinner service back when I was a sous chef at Madison Square Garden. I wasn’t exactly new to the sous vide method, but it was here at MSG that I learned to apply this style of cooking for hundreds of VIP clients at once. That experience isn’t something everyone is going to have, and it gave me the know-how to eventually to write Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking, and share my sous vide savvy with chefs and home cooks. With the holidays in full swing, sous vide is definitely a cooking method that’ll help you ace even the largest holiday dinners for family and friends.

Mastering the Art of Soud Vide Cooking by Justice Stewart, founder of Gourmet De-Constructed catering and private chef services (Image courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.)

Sous vide has been around since 1799, accidentally discovered by physicist Benjamin Thompson. It really became popular in French restaurants in the 1970’s, but the equipment wasn’t fit for home kitchens at that time. I didn’t discover it until 2010 when I hosted wild game dinners with fellow friends, chefs and foodies.  I was a very passionate home cook that used my instinct and natural love of cooking to find new ways to make food better, and sous vide was one of those ways.

Pork Cutlets with Marsala and Wild Mushrooms from Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking by Justice Stewart (Image by Mandy Maxwell and Cheyenne Cohen, Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.)

Back then, I was working in construction and dabbled in the food industry as a side hustle until I finally took a full-time gig for a catering company in Manhattan. It was a tough decision to make since I wouldn’t earn as much money as I did in the construction industry, but cooking made me a much happier person. These days (8 years later), I apply my passion for sous vide to my private chef and catering business in NYC, Gourmet De-Constructed.

Chef Justice Stewart of Gourmet De-Constructed, author of Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking (Image courtesy Justice Stewart)

In the 2000’s, sous vide experienced a revolution among restaurant chefs. But here in NYC there are stricter rules in place for restaurants using the method, for fear of food borne illnesses, so special training is required to utilize the method. Food prepared sous vide is often cooked in the danger zone for bacteria to grow, 41F – 141F (5C – 60C). But in a process called low-temperature-long-time treatment (LTLT) the science of pasteurization takes over and longer cook times destroy microorganisms. This means chicken can be cooked at 145F (63C) instead of 165F (74C) over the course of a few hours and be completely safe to eat.

Cardamon Spiced Poached Pears from Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking by Justice Stewart (Image by Justice Stewart, Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.)

With new technology available, you can prepare food sous vide at home without spending tons of money on equipment or having a large footprint in the kitchen. Nowadays, a home device can be purchased for as low as $60, and the professional chef can get a quality device for $600-$700. A few of the most popular brands out there are Polyscience, Joule, and Anova.

Most beginners tend to use this method to cook steak to perfection, but the holidays are a great time to get creative and explore more complex dishes. I feature a few recipes in my book with serious holiday “wow” factor, such as Chateaubriand with Red Wine Sauce, Pork Cutlets with Marsala and Wild Mushrooms, Monkfish with Saffron Buerre Blanc (for those that do the Feast of Seven Fishes), and Cardamon Spiced Poached Pears. This past Thanksgiving, I prepared some amazing holiday turkey roulades with the sous vide method which displayed the versatility of precision temperature cooking.

Monkfish with Saffron Buerre Blanc from Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking by Justice Stewart (Image by Mandy Maxwell and Cheyenne Cohen, Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.)

Besides impressing your guests, preparing food at precision temperatures in a vacuum sealed bag helps maintain not only the flavor, but also the nutrients of your food, which makes it a healthy option. One of the best things about sous vide cooking is that it offers you more control over your timing. It also makes it easy to cook many individual portions for a large group. Another benefit is you can pre-cook food items to a perfect doneness, refrigerate, and then drop the food back into the water bath when your guests arrive, without sacrificing quality or flavor.

Chateaubriande with Red Wine Sauce from Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking by Justice Stewart (Image by Mandy Maxwell and Cheyenne Cohen, Courtesy Page Street Publishing Co.)

I wrote Mastering the Art of Sous Vide Cooking because I wanted to share my passion and knowledge with home cooks who want to up their game and create restaurant quality dishes. It’s a great resource for professionals too, and it takes readers on a culinary journey around the world via the sous vide method. Nothing is off limits with sous vide. You can prepare proteins, vegetables, desserts, condiments, cocktail infusions, pickling…the list goes on. All you need is a little equipment and a sense of culinary adventure, and sous vide can be your new go-to method for impressing guests in both home and professional kitchens.

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