Learning to cook with two new cooking appliances has me reviewing and following recipes designed specifically for sous vide cooking with my Joule immersion circulator and for pressure cooking with my Instant Pot.
Slowly I’m figuring out whose temperature recommendations and time guidelines for sous vide cooking I can trust. The chicken shown above was cooked at 149 degrees for one hour.
It’s the same way I determine which cookbook authors and websites conduct very good recipe testing and publish reliable guides. Kenji Alt-Lopes and his Sous Vide 101 posts over on Serious Eats seem the most reliable for the taste in our household.
I’m keeping a sous vide journal to record details of each meal cooked and what happens if I do something wrong – like overestimating the thickness of a steak. Since sous vide cooking is something I’ve never attempted, it does come with a bit an experimental, make-a-mistake, correct-it-next-time, learning curve.
Pressure cookers were always in use among members of my extended family and I had one when I lived in a large suburban house. It was one of those things I chose not to move to a tiny city kitchen. Although the learning curve is less steep, I’ve already added too much liquid to a curry, forgetting that in the pressure cooker the sauce was not going to reduce and thicken.
Same Recipe, Different Outcomes
All of this experimentation made me more aware of how daunting learning to cook can be. It helps to realize that the entire process is inexact and even old hands will not have a perfect outcome every time, even if they slavishly follow a recipe.
A recent PBS video by Jacques Pépin has gone viral among my food-loving friends.
Jacques uses his recipe for caramelized pears to demonstrate how a cook can go wrong by not adapting a recipe to the conditions and ingredients on hand. For example, unripe pears take longer to cook than ripe ones. In the process of cooking the pears, the sugar used to form the caramel could burn before the unripe fruit cooks through. He also shows how to adapt for each possible problem.
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Words: Penny Cherubino
Photos: ©2017 Penny & Ed Cherubino