When we are looking at ways to prepare ingredients history and tradition are usually the baseline. The problem is that as we experiment about how to make food better, some of the paths we take are heretofore uncharted. That makes difficult to describe the results. A recent example is our _____ hangar steak. The idea behind the steak was to cook it sous vide in the style of a braise. The problem is that cooking sous vide at a very low temperatures does not come close to replicating the style of a classic braise. In fact, when we actually braised some hangar steak we ended up with an incredible sauce and inedible meat. Wait a second, that is how most braises usually turn out. The meat is tender and dry. Braising allows us to generate great sauces and terrible meats. (Yes, some meats braise up reasonably well but this method is really about the sauce. As we refine what we do, we've found that the results of traditional braises tend to be sub-par unlesss there is a ton of connective tissue and marbling in the meat and it is given time in the fridge to re-absorb the sauce after cooking.) As it happens, braise-inspired sauces are a topic we will be diving deeply into in our next book.
Back to the hangar steak. It is not a braise. What we do is cook it for 24 hours at 57°C. The result is a tender and juicy cut of meat that is rich in flavor. We top it with a sauce created from the traditionally braised hangar steak to amplify both amplify the flavor and the experience of eating it. The finished dish has a haunting aroma followed by the slightly chewy, flavorful meat and the silky sauce. The question is how do we describe the dish. Is it a braise? No, of course not. Is it a roasted or grilled piece of meat? NO! We are using our cooking experience and personal preferences to create the textures and flvors that resonate with us to put the tastiest food on the plate. So what we have is a hangar steak cooked sous vide with a braised hangar steak sauce. Well that is a lot to absorb before someone takes the first bite. We need to work on defining our understanding of the various cooking processes and developing a better language of food. This is not an easy task, but an essential one, as new processes become standards, in order to tell the story of food we are cooking.