Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not your Mother's Sous Vide

Last night I attended one of my first foodblogger events of the Fall semester. The newly published Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, stopped in Austin on his self-financed book tour across America. In between cooking appliances and a box of Whole Foods chocolate chip cookies there was a smattering of Apple products, both the men in front of me and to the side wielded iphones and several people still wore their bluetooth headsets; geeks were definitely present. While its difficult to get past Potter's nerdish good looks, and yes that is a thing, he wowed the crowd with promises of unmitigated food safety and a perfectly poached egg.

His new cookbook combines his two passions of cooking and nerditry, also a thing. And by that I mean it has a page dedicated to customized cookie cutters in the shape of Tux the Linux penguin, an interview with Adam Savage from Mythbusters and uses the word "hack" without reserve. Styled a la biology lab report, the book itself reminds me of something you could find Used at the University Co-op, complete with a handwritten cheat sheet and a few mid-class doodles (notably, page 19 is an xkcd comic.)

The evening began pleasantly as I was greeted by Potter himself who then promptly removed his shoes. The discussion began with an introduction to his book's approach to culinary science and the various cooking methods available. An infrared thermometer was passed round as were words such as myosin and actin and discussions between Potter and friend Michael of Cooking for Engineers about $1000 hacks of the culinary sort led to the highlight of the evening: a crock pot.

Yes, the crock pot. While I'm not a big fan of this 1950's staple (I have an unexplainable fear of casseroles and other similarly homogenized meals) Potter demonstrated its obvious hackablity. Rice cookers, crock pots, and slow cookers alike are all easily converted into domestic-friendly sous vide contraptions with a few extra purchases and perhaps a quick lesson in Celsius conversions. For hundreds of dollars less, home cooks can now sous vide like the pros, properly cook a steak medium rare and make soft poached eggs that 1950's house wives could only dream of. The book similarly explains how to achieve this hack.

Without a doubt, this book is well work the $34.99. Cooking for Geeks has a nice balance of hacker humour, easy instructions and recipes, old timey illustrations and an adorable author who wondered if the wireless computer doc would work all the way from the downstairs parking lot.
You can find more information about Jeff Potter and how to purchase his book at his website.

Cooking for Geeks Lab Report
September 15th, 2010

1. With Potter's sous vide methods one can potentially cook an egg for multiple hours and it will still remain nicely poached and edible
2. We humans like our myosin proteins cooked and our actin proteins uncooked
3. There is a difference between melting and caramelizing sugar
4. Those who write code are the most innovative cooks
5. According to the Mindless Eating "What type of Cook are You?" quiz I rank somewhere between a giving and healthy cook and that I should only date someone from the same category. I think I'm safe, the Boyfriend does not cook.