Sous vide cooking is one of the most talked about new culinary trends, increasingly utilized by both professional chefs and ambitious home cooks alike. But what is sous vide? The name means “under vacuum” in French because ingredients are often (but not always) vacuum sealed before cooking. Simply put, sous vide is a cooking technique that uses a precise temperature-controlled water bath in order to evenly cook food to an exact doneness. Although pioneered by the French in the 1970s, this style of cooking is now used in a wide range of cuisines, from Spanish molecular gastronomy to authentic Italian food.
For those unfamiliar with the technique, the sous vide method might sound a little kooky–and indeed, the technique combines standard cooking principles with equipment that looks like it’s meant for a science lab. The benefits of sous vide are evident from the first bite, however. Sous vide is designed to make it simple to get precise cooking results that are easily repeatable. Imagine making steaks that are exactly medium-rare every time without any risk of overcooking or any need to fret over the pan, prodding the meat with a thermometer or cutting into to it to check how done it is. Preparing tough cuts of meat that require long cooking times to make them tender is also simplified with the sous vide method, allowing cooks to utilize less expensive cuts while still producing moist and flavorful results. And though popular with meat, sous vide can be used to cook a wide variety of ingredients, from poultry and fish to vegetables, fruits, eggs and even sauces and desserts.
How can you get started cooking sous vide at home? The past few years have seen equipment that was once priced to be accessible only by professional kitchens become inexpensive enough to be in range for avid home cooks. To begin, the only thing you absolutely need is an immersion circulator, although a vacuum sealer, a cast iron skillet and a Cambro plastic container are extremely helpful in achieving the best results. You’ll use the immersion circulator to heat and maintain your water bath at an exact temperature throughout the cooking process; a solid version suitable for home use can now be had for under $200.
Once you have your sous vide setup in place, the obvious dish to start with is steak. Pricey and notoriously difficult to cook well, a good steak can really highlight the benefits of sous vide. But the beauty of this method is that it can make so many dishes sing; juicy chicken breasts, perfectly poached eggs or tender and moist pork shoulder are all excellent to make using sous vide.
Of course, while the sous vide method is increasingly accessible to home chefs, getting started does require an investment in equipment and a lot of trial-and-error as you adjust your techniques to this innovative method. Even if you are daunted at the idea of trying to cook sous vide yourself, however, you can still reap its benefits. As an exciting and original purveyor of Italian cuisine in La Grange, La Buona Vita has been serving up specials that utilize sous vide to give diners tender, flavorful and perfectly prepared dishes. Recent dinner specials have included a strip steak prepared sous vide and seared to perfect golden brown perfection. If you are interested in tasting the results of sous vide yourself, La Buona Vita will have a table waiting for you.