Welcoming Ferran Adrià

Ferran Adrià is one of the most creative and influential chefs alive, but that isn’t the entire story. He’s also a philosopher and an avant-garde provocateur. From 1983 until it closed in 2011, elBulli was a fountain of tremendous creativity and stimulation, and it was often a source of controversy because of its techniques, approaches to food, and fine-dining philosophy. Ferran, along with the entire vanguard of chefs who pioneered Modernist cooking, played an influential role in the inspiration to write Modernist Cuisine, which covers science and technique but is also a testament to the power of food to be intellectual, emotional, and unpredictable

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I had heard a great deal about elBulli—both the enormous praise and the debate over what Ferran was doing—well before ever eating there. Although I had already visited its sister restaurant in Barcelona, I was completely shocked when I finally experienced elBulli. Within three dishes, I was blown away. Why hadn’t I eaten here sooner? The food was interesting, intellectual, and deeply profound. This statement sounds somewhat silly, but, in reality, what I was eating spoke to me in the most amazing way. My first spherified olive was a revelation.

Throughout the evening, it became apparent that what I found truly stunning was the enormous range of techniques, methods, and ingredients. In one course diners might be presented with something highly technical, quintessentially Modernist. The next would be insanely simple yet equally as imaginative. Immature pine nuts, harvested by breaking open green pinecones, were transformed into something entirely original. It’s a simple, overlooked ingredient, but at elBulli it became tender risotto.

Incredible moments of playful surprise were always expected, and yet unexpected, throughout the meal. I was served what I thought was a perfect, small baguette. It appeared to be entirely ordinary, but the first bite revealed the “bread” to be completely hollow. I then might discover that a heavy-looking item was actually a foam (essentially a wisp of air bound together by minuscule ingredients) in disguise.

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After experiencing elBulli, one can’t help but wonder who Ferran is cooking for because his food works on so many levels at once. Dishes are not intended to simply showcase a new texture, flavor, or technique—they reference the history and future of gastronomy in a single bite. In many ways, the experience is akin to discovering the work of a truly prolific writer for the first time. A gifted writer can do something amazing with words, producing work that is polysemous, that is simultaneously evocative and provocative, reminding readers that words can be powerful. Ferran’s food works the same way. A single dish at elBulli could be amazingly novel and unique, yet, on the same plate, allude to the familiar and classical: the neoteric pine nut risotto simultaneously celebrated this tradition. Understanding the history of gastronomy provided an even greater appreciation of what I was eating. These weren’t just meals—they were servings of a deeply cherished philosophy.

Though elBulli is gone, now reincarnated into a series of exciting projects, we are certain Ferran Adrià will continue to drive the culinary world. Our team was thrilled to see his newest book, elBulli 2005–2011, an incredible masterpiece that not only captures the final seasons of elBulli but also the creative spirit of Ferran’s restaurant. Of course, we were also rather amused when we placed Modernist Cuisine and elBulli 2005–2011 next to each other. With numerous volumes, both are heavy, to say the least, and must be contained within acrylic cases. The books, however, couldn’t be more different.

Modernist Cuisine is an exploration of techniques employed across the world of cuisine—the contributions of 72 different chefs are found throughout our volumes. In contrast, Ferran’s book is amazing because it’s the singular vision of one chef, supported by a fantastic team. The intellectual evolution of his cuisine, a concept particularly important to Ferran, is covered in fascinating detail. Last fall we were thrilled when we got word that Ferran would be able to visit The Cooking Lab during his book tour. It would become an incredible opportunity to demonstrate how he has influenced what we do and the evolution of our food.

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Normally, lab dinners showcase the techniques we describe in Modernist Cuisine with a menu that typically spans 30 courses. Dishes range from very traditional to very modern in order to demonstrate the content of the books. But for Ferran, our goals were different. Firstly, we wanted to serve him as many courses as he had served me. Secondly, we wanted to construct a menu centered on creativity and innovation as well as celebrate elBulli by organizing the courses into thematic sequences so that the experience would be similar to what diners encountered at elBulli.

The idea of cooking for Ferran Adrià is truly exciting but also rather daunting. It is quite rational to worry that we might make fools of ourselves. We started planning the menu as a team in January, casually bouncing ideas off each other for new, exploratory concepts. Over the course of several months, we reimagined our repertoire, fine-tuning and perfecting some of our hallmark dishes. A dozen new courses were debuted, and we ultimately eliminated several others. In fact, we met just three days before the dinner to go over the final menu. A handful of dishes didn’t make the cut, but eventually our sequences emerged—nine in total. Each sequence consisted of five to seven dishes bound together by a theme, whether it was a country, like France or Italy, or a phase of the meal, like cheese or dessert.

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Meals at elBulli started with a welcome cocktail, which is something we had never done before. A cocktail at elBulli was not your standard gin and tonic or Manhattan; it was always a cocktail as Ferran imagined. As an homage to elBulli, we started our meal the same way, with a shot of olive oil and basil-infused alcohol. The nine sequences took our guests on an international journey of traditional dishes, all presented in unconventional ways. The night ended with a round of desserts, culminating in absinthe poured over sculptures of 3D-printed sugar.

The dinner was a tour of what Modernist cooking is and can be. We toasted Ferran with intriguing texture, sublime flavors, and, hopefully, a bit of the unexpected. In all, we hope the dinner was a fitting tribute to a chef who continues to inspire us to explore, imagine, and create.

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elBulli 2005-2011 Exclusive Offer

When Modernist Cuisine went to press, Ferran Adrià had just announced that elBulli would be closing its doors by the end of 2011—in light of this news, the culinary world reeled while eagerly awaiting what would come next from Adrià. For anyone who was not able to experience the Catalonian restaurant, elBulli 2005–2011 captures elBulli’s pivotal last years and is a truly gorgeous treatment of its final seasons. The 2,438 pages of our own Modernist Cuisine span an entire culinary movement of history and science, and they chronicle techniques developed by a number of chefs, including Adrià. elBulli 2005–2011, with even more pages that chronicle every recipe and the creative process of the restaurant’s final six years, is an amazing testament to the creativity and singular vision of one chef and a fantastic team.

With 750 recipes, beautifully presented in incredible detail and developed during elBulli’s final six seasons, the seven-volume opus captures both the art and meticulous research elBulli is known for. The set also offers a fascinating evolutionary analysis of the innovations, techniques, technology, and methods developed by Adrià and his team.

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As an exclusive for fans of Modernist Cuisine, Phaidon is pleased to offer readers a 20% discount on copies of elBulli 2005–2011, when ordered directly from their website. As an additional perk, while supplies last, you’ll receive a bookplate hand-signed by Ferran himself and presented in limited-edition box. Visit Phaidon.com before June 30, 2014, to take advantage of this offer, complete with free shipping.

 

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For questions about this offer, please contact the Phaidon team at webinfo@phaidon.com.

50 Courses in 60 Seconds: A Toast to Ferran Adrià

On March 7th the Modernist Cuisine team had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Ferran Adrià to The Cooking Lab. Over the course of five hours, our culinary team constructed and served nine sequencess, 50 courses in all, to honor Adrià and his newest book elBulli 2005-2011. Each sequence was thoughtfully designed to ignite the imagination and speak to the incredible diversity of Modernist cuisine. Unexpected flavors and textures transported guests across the globe and back again, often playing on comforting, familiar dishes.

Here are all 50 courses, in just 60 seconds, from the first cocktail to the final pour of absinthe and every bite in between.

 

The New Face of Modernistcuisine.com

If you’ve logged on to modernistcuisine.com recently, you probably noticed some changes, which include our new bread project and a few personnel additions to the Modernist Cuisine team. We’ve been working hard to improve our website in order to satisfy our main goal: to make it more user-friendly, while providing an experience that truly reflects everything we love about Modernist Cuisine: gorgeous photography, solid design features, and useful information. You’ll also find new content—tour the volumes of Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, explore the anatomy of a Modernist Cuisine at Home recipe, or strike up a conversation with Nathan about Modernist cooking.

What is yet to come?

We’re still in the first phase of construction, but you can expect even more content in the coming months. Many of you have expressed concern about our full-text search: we know this is a valuable resource, especially when it comes to working through Modernist Cuisine. We are working to create a more user-friendly experience so that it is easier to find information and navigate through the volumes. You can expect an updated, comprehensive gear guide, as well as recipes developed exclusively for the site.

What about the forum?

When we sat down to begin mapping out the new site, one of our biggest questions was, “What do we do with our forum?” As many of our readers noted, our forum had become plagued with spam, making it difficult to use and for the Modernist Cuisine team to respond. We want to provide our forum members with a space that will foster learning and conversations about Modernist recipes, techniques, and ingredients, so, after putting considerable thought into it, we determined there is no better home for these discussions than our good friend, eGullet. Their site is a tremendous resource for both professional chefs and home cooks who have an interest in Modernist cooking. In fact, the origins of Modernist Cuisine can be traced to the infamous eGullet thread about cooking sous vide that was started by Nathan. That discussion was the inspiration for Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking.

Here’s what you need to know about the transition:

  • All content from the modernistcuisine.com forums has been directly integrated into the eGullet forums. You’ll be able to search eGullet for any topics posted on our site; all imported content has been tagged as “Modernist Cuisine Forums,” so it’s easy to find. Our team will now be weighing in on topics and answering questions through eGullet.
  • Your privacy is important to us, which is why we anonymized every post imported to eGullet. No personally identifiable information was transferred, and no IP addresses or related information were retained. Read eGullet’s privacy statement here.
  • It will be easy to continue your discussions in the forum’s new home, but that choice is entirely yours. To facilitate the transition, eGullet created easily activated dummy accounts for each member of the Modernist Cuisine forum. If you decide to create an eGullet account, every post you make on the modernistcuisine.com forum will appear with your new username.

To activate your account on eGullet, send an e-mail to feedback@egullet.org using the account you registered with Modernist Cuisine. Please include the username you wish to use, or, if you are already an eGullet member and would like your accounts merged, let us know in the e-mail.

We hope you take some time to explore and enjoy the new modernistcuisine.com.

The Art and Science of Bread

We are frequently asked what our next big project will be, and for almost a year we’ve alluded to “having something in the works.” In actuality, our culinary team has been working overtime baking and learning about bread. From crust to crumb, we are excited to finally reveal that our next book will be entirely devoted to the art and science of bread.

Why bread? Because it’s so ubiquitous that we now have vast, daunting selections of breads to choose from at most grocery chains. Many of us have started taking the bread course for granted when dining out. But bread shouldn’t be an afterthought on the table or simply a building block for sandwiches—breaking open a good loaf of bread, fresh from the oven, is an experience that can evoke nostalgia for years to follow. For many of us, however, baking bread at home is intimidating and shrouded in mystery. Unlike cooking, most breads are made by varying the amounts of four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and, of course, yeast. Yet the simplicity of these ingredients is complicated by the intricate science of the bread-baking process and by the fact that bakers must contend with an ingredient that is alive and sensitive to its environment.

With thousands of years of wisdom that inform techniques still used today, the art of baking bread is steeped in tradition. As such, we are researching bread’s rich past and studying the science therein. We have been fortunate to meet a number of talented bakers and chefs who are sharing their expertise and knowledge with us, and we remain on the lookout for new experts and resources.

This project comes with another exciting announcement as we welcome to our team Francisco Migoya as head chef and Peter Reinhart as assignments editor. We are incredibly lucky to have recruited two individuals whose contributions to pastry and baking have already set the bar high.

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Under the leadership of head chef Migoya, our bread program has blossomed in a relatively short time. His passion has led him to push the boundaries of pastry arts in savory, pastry, viennoiserie, and bread. Chef Migoya pairs sublime flavors with Modernist techniques to create exquisite, avant-garde pastries and chocolates that are almost too stunning to eat. Having worked as executive pastry chef at The French Laundry, and most recently as a professor at The Culinary Institute of America, his work has earned him recognition as one of the top pastry chefs in the country by both the Huffington Post and Dessert Professional, and he has been imparted Medal of Master Artisan Pastry Chef by Gremi de Pastisseria de Barcelona. Chef Migoya has authored three pastry books, winning a 2014 award for The Elements of Dessert from International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).

Peter Reinhart Photo Credit Ron Manville

One of the leading authorities on bread, Peter Reinhart will lend his extensive expertise to this project. As a full-time chef on assignment at Johnson & Wales University, Peter teaches courses on baking and the juncture of food and culture. A best-selling author of nine books, his approachable methodologies and techniques have been embraced by home bakers and earned him numerous awards, including Book of the Year (2002) for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice from both IACP and the James Beard Foundation. Additionally, he won James Beard Foundation awards for Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads (2008) and Crust and Crumb (1997), with a nomination for Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. His newest book, Bread Revolution, will be released in the fall of 2014.

Our hope for this project is that, by revealing the history, science, and techniques of baking bread, we will create an in-depth multivolume set of books that will be useful and accessible to amateur home bakers, passionate bread enthusiasts, restaurants, and small-scale bakeries alike. But because we are in the beginning stages of this book, we do not know how many volumes it will be or when it will go on sale. There is a lot for us to decide, but we will stay true to the approaches used for Modernist Cuisine, so readers can expect the same level of rigor and detail in our writing, illustrations, and photography as we attempt to showcase bread in a new light.

If you have a burning question about this project, or would like to contribute your expertise, we would love to hear from you. Please contact breadcontributions@modernistcuisine.com.

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Celebrating Steven Shaw

The best meals are shared, creating a sense of community. These experiences bring people together to exchange ideas, pose questions, debate passionately, laugh loudly, create memories, and relish in eating good food. Steven Shaw did all of these things as well—his work embodied the spirit of his subject matter.

The culinary world lost an innovative voice on Tuesday. I’m shocked and deeply saddened to lose Steven, who has been a great friend to me and to the entire culinary world.

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Steven genuinely enjoyed good food, whether it was a pizza, a particularly delicious deli sandwich, or a provocative Modernist creation at a high-end restaurant. His voracious appetite for both food and writing drove him to leave a successful legal career to become a food blogger, long before that title existed and certainly before anyone was actually getting paid for it. He was an evocative, intelligent author and critic who had a gift for inspiring people to explore, debate, and eat. His early, enthusiastic newsletters transformed into his blog, which evolved into eGullet; the community he created is a true reflection of his passion. His decisions in how to shape and moderate the disparate voices into a managed conversation made eGullet into a forum where chefs, home cooks, and just about anybody else openly shared their knowledge. He was a trailblazer, centralizing our conversations and democratizing our discourse by moving it to an online agora.

In many ways, the inspiration for Modernist Cuisine was born on those forums. In 2004, I started exploring and explaining sous vide cuisine on eGullet. Almost immediately, I was contacted by FatGuy, and, in addition to the public posts, we started to e-mail each other directly. As a result of the experience, I was determined to write a book on sous vide. Steven was a tremendously positive influence on the development of both Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home. He was a sounding-board throughout the writing process, providing thoughtful feedback on early manuscripts. I and the rest of the Modernist Cuisine team owe a great deal to him for all of his help and guidance.

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I was also incredibly fortunate to be able to call him a friend. He was smart, doggedly rational, and had a famously acerbic sense of humor—he was a genuinely good guy and a truly amazing person to share a meal with. I have many wonderful memories that were made while sitting across the table from him. I was privileged to dine with Steven in the last weeks at elBulli. Our group comprised chefs and hard-core eaters, but six hours and fifty-two courses after the beginning of the night, we reached our limits. Yet, when the last plate finally arrived, Steven turned to me and said in an incredulous voice, “Is that it?” It was all the rest of us could do to contain our laughter.

Steven has left a lasting legacy. He taught thousands of people how to really love food and his work will live on in the community he built. eGullet is a gift that he created for everyone—especially for me. He will be sincerely missed and lovingly remembered as a legend. He gave so much, but it ended far too soon. If I could say one last thing to him, I would say, “Hey Steve, is that it?”

The Science Behind Non-Newtonian Noodles

Modernist cooking isn’t just reserved for state-of-the-art kitchens and labs, for culinary ingenuity is found in many surprising places. Street vendors in particular are among the most innovative and resourceful cooks out there. They often combine humble ingredients with science to create extraordinary dishes, often paired with entertaining finesse to stop hungry locals and travelers in their tracks.

For instance, the vendor in this video is preparing fei chang fen, a tasty specialty of Chengdu, in Sichuan province, China. He uses a marvelously simple, yet clever way of making noodles by grabbing handfuls of batter from a large pot and dropping it into a colander, allowing the batter to drain through the holes. The batter at the bottom of the colander flows freely, but the mixture at the top appears much thicker—thick enough, in fact, for the vendor to forcefully slap the surface without submerging his hand. The process repeats as he casually looks around, until the vendor shears off the batter into individual strands of noodles, which he then drops into boiling broth to cook.

Traditionally, elastic fei chang fen noodles are made of sweet-potato starch reserved in a steaming-hot broth with pig intestines. The resulting noodle soup is then garnished with bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts, chili oil, and vinegar.

It is the unique preparation, however, by which the street vendor creates his noodles that caught our attention. By combining starch and liquid, he creates a non-Newtonian fluid: a liquid that does not flow with constant viscosity but with a viscosity that changes in response to shear forces, which are forces that push in opposite directions along two distinct parallel lines. Simply put, non-Newtonian fluids can behave as both a liquid and solid. When you apply shear forces to non-Newtonian fluids, you’re met with resistance—try punching such mixtures, and you might come away with a bruise or two. In contrast, Newtonian fluids (like water) have a relatively constant viscosity, despite shear forces and flow rates, which allow them to flow in predictable ways.

We encounter non-Newtonian fluids every day, a classic example of which is Ketchup, which stubbornly stays in the bottle and acts solid, even if the bottle is inverted. If you shake the bottle, the flow starts and then picks up speed as shear forces reduce the viscosity. Often the result is that too much ketchup dumps on the plate.

There’s no need to shake a bottle of water when you want to fill a cup. When you pour water, you can easily anticipate the trajectory and flow of the fluid; splashes are just a function of the pourer’s clumsiness.

Despite the ubiquity of non-Newtonian fluids, scientists have only recently begun to understand the mechanisms of how they flow.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have uncovered just how the molecules of non‑Newtonian fluids behave. By using high-speed videography and force sensors on mixtures of cornstarch and water (commonly known as Oobleck with an etymology tracing to the pen of Dr. Seuss), the research team observed the so-called “snowplow” effect: when a mixture is compressed, the molecules pack together to create a solid surface.

The snowplow effect partly explains how the noodles in the video can be picked up like a block one second and then flow freely the next. When the vendor smacks the batter in the video (likely done to distribute the batter or for a bit of dramatic flair), the molecules directly under his hand compress into a hard mass that is unable to exit the colander, momentarily exhibiting properties of a solid, just like the packed snow that builds up in front of a snowplow.

But when the vendor lets the batter rest in the colander, the molecules relax, and the mixture flows again. The vendor then shears off the dough into individual strands of noodles, which fall into the boiling broth below and cook. Although scientists now understand how molecules become “jammed” into a solid, they are still trying to understand how molecules relax to take on characteristics of a liquid.

To observe these unique (and often entertaining) properties of non-Newtonian fluids, try creating your own Oobleck by mixing one cup of cornstarch with one-half cup of water. And the next time you find yourself wandering through a market, take a second look at the cooking techniques of street vendors because you might be witnessing a complex scientific process!

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Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to find upcoming posts about street vendor science.

The Delicious Science of Guinness

Guinness isn’t just tasty — the company has a long history of technical and scientific innovation.

Guinness draft beer is famous for both its taste and its velvety, foamy head. The creamy foam of dry stouts is notably different from the bitter, more carbonated foam of other beers because of the addition of nitrogen. In fact, kegs that dispense stouts are pressurized with nitrogen, which has a low solubility in liquids and works to displace carbon dioxide (CO2), imparting a unique head with a pleasant mouthfeel.

The bubbles of other beers, as in lagers, form as dissolved CO2 comes out of solution slowly. But this doesn’t translate well to canned beers. So, in the late 1980s, Guinness developed an answer: a special can pressurized not just with 2 but also nitrogen. Cans — and, more recently, bottles — of Guinness contain a floating plastic container called a widget, which releases additional nitrogen when the container is opened. This sophisticated combination has been very successful in mimicking draft Guinness.

In 2006, Guinness introduced another option: the Surger, an ultrasonic device that sits under a pint glass and sends out a pulse of ultrasound to create cavitation, which drives bubbles out of solution.

We cut open a Guinness Bottle to examine how the widget works its magic.

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– Adapted from Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking

A Super Bowl Snackdown

Super Bowl fever is in full swing this week, and here in Seattle we’re feeling extra excited this year. Game day isn’t just a celebration of American football; it’s an ode to the United States’ adoration of snack food. In fact, the only day that precedes Super Bowl Sunday in super snacking is Thanksgiving. Crispy, crunchy, melty, creamy, skewered, fried, baked, pressure-cooked, and even infused—we love them all. To help you celebrate, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite recipes that will bring a Modernist twist to your game-day parties.

First Half:

Pressure-Cooked Carnitas

Pressure-Cooked Chicharrón

Modernist Seven-Layer Dip

Melty Queso Dip

Starch-Infused Fries

Cheese puffs

Half-time Show:

Lamb Skewers with Mint Yogurt

Crispy Chicken Wings, Korean Style

Neapolitan Pizza Dough with Classic Pizza Sauce

Silky Smooth Macaroni and Cheese

Cooking Meat Sous Vide in a Cooler

Smoked Dry Rub Ribs

Second Half:

Frozen Fruit Rolls

Mind-Blowing Microwaved Cake

Pistachio Gelato

P.B. & J. Gelato

 

For precision cooking fire up the… cooler?

BY W. WAYT GIBBS
Associated Press

When you head off to the shore, the woods, or a tailgate party at the stadium, you don’t have to settle for preservative-filled hot dogs or overcooked burgers.

Live a little, and take along a few inch-thick strip steaks, or maybe some fresh salmon or chicken fillets. Rest easy, because cooking the meat to perfection will be a snap. And the best tool for the job is the very container you’ll use to carry the food: a big, insulated ice chest. You’ll also want to pack a digital thermometer — and a blowtorch, if you have one.

When relaxing outdoors, we’re in no hurry. But cooking over the intense heat of a fire or grill is unforgiving; time things wrong by just a minute or two, and the window of opportunity for a perfectly medium-rare steak or a just-done salmon fillet will have closed.

As long as you have plenty of water and a way to heat it, however, you have a better alternative: transform that insulated cooler from an improvised fridge into an improvised hot water bath for cooking your food. Then you can cook your meat the way high-end chefs do, or sous vide, as they say in the restaurant world.

Convert a Cooler into a Water Bath

I realize that this idea strikes some people as funky, but it’s simple. Here’s how it works. You fill the cooler with hot water. You place your meat in a sealed plastic bag. Add the bagged meat to the cooler, then walk away. The hot water slowly, evenly, perfectly cooks the meat to your desired doneness.

First, a few guidelines. The cooler and meat should be warmed to room temperature before you start. To maintain the temperature during cooking, plan on using about 8 quarts of water per steak or fillet, and dump in water that is a good 15° F warmer than the final temperature you want the center of the meat to achieve. The recipe below lists final target temperatures for several good options.

During the entire cooking time, the food stays safely sealed in plastic bags, which lock in the cooking juices and keep out the water and anything that might be living on the walls of the ice chest.

Cook Steak Sous Vide in a Cooler

Though the meat will take longer to cook in the bath than it would on the grill, that gives you time to hang out with friends and family. And as long as you don’t use water that is too hot, it is almost impossible to overcook the food. Just make sure, for safety’s sake, that you use whole cuts (no ground meat, such as hamburger or sausage) and that the food gets eaten within four hours of putting it into the water.

No matter how hot the water is, it won’t sear the meat. That’s where the blowtorch comes in. Torches fueled by MAP or propylene gas burn more cleanly than those that run on butane or propane. Sweep the tip of the flame across the surface of the meat in quick, even strokes until an appetizing brown crust forms. The interior will still be done to perfection, virtually edge to edge. Season with some flaky salt and melted butter, and you’ll completely forget that you’re roughing it.

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COOKING MEAT SOUS VIDE IN A COOLER

If you have time to brine the salmon in advance, you can refrigerate it for 3 to 5 hours in a mixture of 4 1/4 cups water, 4 1/2 tablespoons salt and 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Start to finish: 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours (varies depending on thickness and variety of meat)

Servings:

Two 1.1-pound (500 grams) beef strip steaks

OR

2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) boneless chicken breast

OR

2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) fillets of salmon, halibut or black cod

1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 tablespoons butter

Flaked sea salt

Drain and wipe down a large, insulated cooler, then let it come to room temperature. Bring the meat to room temperature as well.

Select a target final temperature for the meat.

For beef strip or rib-eye steak — 144 F for medium, 133 F for medium-rare, 129 F for rare

For beef filet — 144 F for medium, 127 F for medium-rare, 122 for rare

For chicken breast — 140 F for medium, and hold at this temperature for at least 20 minutes to pasteurize

Salmon fillet — 113 F for rare, 126 F for firm

Once you select your target final temperature, add 15 F to that. This is the temperature to which you must heat your water. For example, to cook a beef strip steak medium rare (133 F), the water should be heated to 15 F above that, or 148 F. Heat 8 quarts of water per piece of meat to the temperature you calculated, dump it into the cooler, and close the lid tightly.

Wash your hands well with soap. Place each steak, breast or fillet in an individual zip-close plastic bag. Add about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil to each bag.

It is important to remove as much air as possible from each bag so that it does not float and the water can transmit heat to every part of the food. Before sealing the bags, open the cooler. One at a time, hold each bag by its open end and slowly lower it into the water until the water level is just below the seal. The water will push the air out of the bag. Seal the bag tightly. The sealed bag should sink. Repeat with the remaining bags of food. Space the food in the bottom of the cooler so that water can circulate easily around each bag.

Close the cooler lid firmly, and cook until the meat warms to the target temperature. Expect inch-thick steaks to reach medium-rare in 50 to 60 minutes; salmon fillets of that thickness may take only 20 minutes. Chicken breast may reach 140 F in 30 to 40 minutes, but must be held at that temperature or higher for at least 20 minutes more in order to pasteurize them.

Remove the meat from the bags and place it on a rack or baking sheet. If you want to sear the surface of the meat, sweep the flame of a blowtorch over each side in a series of quick, even passes, or place it on a very hot grill until browned.

Season generously with salt and serve immediately.

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Photo credit: Melissa Lehuta/ Modernist Cuisine, LLC