Mercury Chef Chris Ward Goes Crazy For Sous Vide

As I read the press release posted below, I couldn’t stop this David Bowie song from creeping into my brain. (Sorry, I had to share.) Lest you think I’m totally insane, the song does relate to the subject at hand: sous vide, a cooking method in which foods are vacuumed packed in plastic and then cooked in a liquid at a relatively low temperature. Short story: it started in France and then Thomas Keller wrote Under Pressure and sous vide became the new “it” food.

My first Dallas sous vide experience was several years ago at the Mercury. Lately, I’ve seen sous vide dishes on the menu at The Mansion and Lola. But Chef Ward is going over the top with his newly expanded sous vide menu. Foodies, all aboard. (Go, girls!) Full release below. resos: 972-960-7774.

CREDITED AS ONE OF FIRST TEXAS CHEFS TO COOK SOUS VIDE, INNOVATIVE MERCURY RESTAURANT EXECUTIVE CHEF
CHRIS WARD EXPANDS SOUS VIDE MENU

AS QUOTED FROM THOMAS KELLER’S NEW BOOK, UNDER PRESSURE:
“SOUS VIDE IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT CULINARY INNOVATIONS
OF MODERN TIMES ALLOWING THE CHEF TO PRODUCE DISHES THAT WOULDN’T
BE AS FINE OR CONCEIVABLE WITHOUT IT.”
Dallas, Texas — Credited as one of the first Texas chefs to serve dishes prepared by the sous vide cooking process, Chris Ward expands his menu to offer sous vide dishes from Dover Sole to beef short ribs which have been braised for 48 hours prior to serving.

Ward began to adjust his recipes to the sous vide process five years ago and will launch cooking classes this year to teach other restaurant and home chefs how to cook foods sous vide. He began learning the sous vide technique over a decade ago from Michelin-starred chefs in France.

Sous vide was developed in France by Scientist Bruno Goussault as a method to enhance the flavor of food with the power of precise temperatures in cooking.  Due to its exactness, sous vide cooking offers unprecedented temperature control and renders flavors and textures to food that no other cooking process can.

The food is hermetically sealed in a specially designed pouch and slowly cooked at a slightly lower-than-usual yet exact temperature for minutes or days; the natural fibers of the food soften and dissolve leaving the food tender enough to cut with a fork.

This gentle method of cooking also allows the preservation of the food’s flavor, aroma and nutrients. Meat, lamb loin, turkey and veal tenderloin cook evenly and uniform producing meltingly tender dishes.

Vegetables and fruits cooked in an oxygen-free environment remain colored and the flavor and nutrients are not lost in the cooking water or atmosphere.  Carrots taste more like carrots and apples more like apples.

According to Ward, “small amounts of herbs and marinades have dramatic effects used with the meats and the sous vide process enhances the flavor of delicate fish. Foods traditionally braised in simmering stock, sauteed, roasted or poached can now be cooked consistently to medium-rare pink with sous vide.”

According to Bruno Goussault, “Sous vide is clearly going to become the pillar of food safety as it is a packaged product wherein all vegetative types of pathogenic bacteria have been destroyed and for which the risk of recontamination has been all but eradicated in a safer product. And it is likely to continue to amaze us in the future as its usage evolves, and as more chefs embrace sous vide for their own imaginative ends.”

12 comments on “Mercury Chef Chris Ward Goes Crazy For Sous Vide

  1. In the early 90s I worked for Hyatt Regency Dallas and corporate F&B introduced sous vide (we referred to it as boil in a bag) banquet meals. We were asked to keep it quiet so banquet customers wouldn’t think that they were getting frozen food. I don’t think the sous vide of today is quite the same as it was back then. Is it?

  2. I’ve worked at a couple of places that do sous vide and I do it at home with a basic setup. It’s fantastic. Its great for both long slow cooked items (confits, braise, etc) and even for quick cooked items like steaks. The cool thing is that the interior of the meat stays at one temperature, so instead of having what we call a “bulleye” effect on the meat (where the outside it well done, then med well, then medium..etc. all the way to the medium rare center) it’s perfectly cooked to the same color all the way through. It also allows you to cook things like “pot roasts” and “short ribs” to medium rare while still making them meltingly tender due to the extended cooking process (24-48 hours) since the lower temp needs more time to break down the collagen.

    It’s fantastic–and a lot of the really high end places around the country and world have been doing it for years (think Bolud, Achatz, Trotter, Jean Jorges, Ducasse, Robuchon, among many others). Thomas Keller’s book is great but hardly revolutionary. Its a great summation of years of trial and error however and a very good book…but hardly accessible for most home cooks due to the equipment used.

    It’s controversial in some circles due to perceived sanitation issues, but handled with care the risks are very small–probably no more risky than standard cooking or canning.

  3. Love it but wonder, have we addressed the plastic safety issue or has that already been and gone?

  4. I’m all about slow food movement (I think) but waiting 24-48 hours for something to cook? I will definitely try it at Merc Grill but have ZERO interest at doing it for myself. Would you seriously smell the food in your kitchen for two days before you can eat it? I’d die. Surely my husband couldn’t be that patient either.

  5. Absolutely love it. I experimented with salsify last week and did lamb three ways this week.

  6. It’s hard to smell it if it’s in a vacuum sealed plastic bag :)

    Seriously, its not hard to wait and the results speak for themselves. It just takes a little planning and once you get it going it takes care of itself.

  7. To DGirl: That ain’t your Hyatt 90s boil-in-the-bag. The differences are really twofold: the bag is not used to store the food, just to cook it, and the temperature is low but constant.
    To Brandy: Chicken breast takes an hour (at 141 degrees F). Steak 90 minutes (temperature alters doneness).

    The press release is a good example of the essay you would write if you had a brief to explain only the adDvantages of sous vide. A balanced description would point out that many subtle effects of cooking are not possible with sous vide. For example, if I do steak I sear it after the sous vide process is finished for the ‘Maillard reaction’. Likewise sous vide can’t produce the effect of ‘cooking’ with acid (e.g. ceviche).

  8. There has been an approved HACCP program already extablished in New York and Chicago, it was through cuisine solutions. Bruno Goussault was the one that came up with the program and has been doing sous vide experiments for the last 40 years. With Duel master degrees in food science and microbiology. Open your mind and try it, it’s bigger and better than green giant.