The Sous Vide Cheeseburger Project

July 5, 2013

So, as many of you know, I was the co-Founder of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters.

In the last 10 years, the phenomenon of Sous Vide, or thermostatically controlled water bath cooking, has caught on like wildfire, much of it due to the popularity of a massive set of discussions on eGullet about it.

Despite this massive amount of discussion about Sous Vide, I had no interest in the subject for the longest time.

In fact, I felt it was so geeky and so elitist and pretentious that the only way I was really interested in enjoying food cooked using this method was in fine restaurants, which could afford the expensive thermostatically controlled water circulators ($1000+) and had the need to utilize it for large-scale cooking efforts, for which the technique and the technology was originally designed.

But as with any technology, price does come down. And in the 10 years since the original eGullet threads started, microprocessor-controlled Sous Vide cooking systems have dropped down in price dramatically.

How cheap? How about $99 for the Dorkfood Sous Vide controller now sold on Amazon, combined with a cheap hot plate/cheap rice cooker or an electric crockpot and a package of Zip-Lok bags?

I was sent the Dorkfood controller to review by the manufacturer — I’ll have a more technical write up on ZDNet about it shortly.

But let’s get to the meat of the matter: Anyone with the willingness to do so can now cook Sous Vide, with minimal skill, budget and debugging required.

First of all, why would you want to Sous Vide anything? Well, the advantage is that you can cook a vegetable or a protein to its finished cooking temperature. Once it reaches that temperature, it is perfectly cooked. Because you are cooking it in a sealed bag in a water bath controlled by a computer, you have no loss of juices and the meat does not dry out.

The flavors using this process are absolutely intensified because you are cooking the meat in its own juices.

While Sous Vide is often used for extremely expensive cuts of beef, fish, seafood and poultry to cook right “on point” like the guys on Top Chef do, you can also use it to make the juiciest rare cheeseburger known to man.

And if that isn’t worth forgiving me for using a fancy French technique on the 4th of July to cook an All-American Cheeseburger, I don’t know what is.

You want to make one of these? Follow my lead, young Sous Vide padawans. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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NJ Dining: White Manna (UPDATED)

March 5, 2010

Welcome, Anthony Bourdain:No Reservations viewers! I’ve added a number of shots to this post that I took during the filming of “Obsessed”. Enjoy.

White Manna
358 River St, Hackensack, NJ
(201) 342-0914

Fast food is not something I indulge in frequently, and when I do, I tend to prefer the classic Americana kind rather than the big chains. White Castle is an exception, just because of the uniqueness of the product.

If the hours are right, and the moons are properly aligned, and my stomach says “throw your best at me, you son of a bitch!” then I head over to my very favorite Jersey burger place of all — White Manna, on River Street in Hackensack.

 

White Manna as seen in daylight. Photo by “Daniel”, eG Forums

White Manna is a tiny little diner structure that can seat about maybe 15 people, tops. The story goes that the original was built in 1937 prior to the 1939 Worlds Fair exhibition in Flushing, NY, was then used at that event, and then later moved to New Jersey. The Hackensack location is not the original, it was built in 1946.

The “Original” location in Jersey City also serves hamburgers and was started by the original owner of both restaurants, however they are no longer related to each other.

All this historical stuff aside, it’s pretty much acknowledged by everyone who has been to both that the better burgers are at the Hackensack location.

When Tony Bourdain asked me where we should go eat when arranging our interview for No Reservations, I could only think of one place — the tiny little belly bomb joint which has over the last few years probably accrued more web traffic on this blog than any other.

There’s No Reservations at White Manna. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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