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Fay Jai

Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 1)

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What you are doing sounds fascinating Bigorre. Where are you located?

Fat Guy, if you can arrange anything I would love to be a part of it. I have been fascinated by sous vide cooking since I saw a demonstration by Rocco Dispirito a couple of years ago and would like to see it done by more professionals

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I work in London , England.Don t be shy for any question about the techniques I will try to do my best!

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OK, I'm not shy. Here are some specific questions:

Can you give some examples of temperatures, and cooking times for a few different foods? Fish, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, vegetables... Just give a few examples that illustrate the technique.

In some cases the cooking time is governed by the time to reach core temperature - this is typically the case for fish, or meats cooked to rare/medium rare. In that case the times depend in part on the size of the cut, but some guidelines would be useful. In conventional cooking you usually cook at a higher temperature than you want the core to reach, so timing is important - it is possible to overcook. In sous vide the typical approach is to cook at the same temperature as the final core temperature, so timing is less critical - it is hard to over cook.

In other cases, like most foods you normally braise (beef short ribs, lamb shanks, osso bucco, veal stock), the cooking time is governed by the time for the food to reach a chemical or physical change - such as the proteins breaking down to become tender. In sous vide you typically cook at lower temperature, but for much longer - like 12 hours or more. Agan, some examples would be useful.

Here is another question - what are the things that you think are cooked best with sous vide? Where is the techinque achieve best, for what things do you achieve the most remarkable results?

Finally, here is a dumb question - do you use wide mouthed funnels to fill the bags? Or, something else? It is hard to keep the top of the bag clean, but you have to so as not to interfere with the heat sealing. I haven't found any appropriate funnel, so I fold the top back, then fill, and fold ip up. Even that does not work perfectly if you're trying to be quick.


Edited by nathanm (log)

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fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, jams, confitures, legumes, pastries, custards, caramalized yoghurt etc. all work well sous vide.

we load up our oven with varying ingredients from pear-parsnip for a puree to meyer lemons for roast meyer lemon. this allows for cooking when we are not in the kitchen, and then to show up in the morning to finish base preperations.

depending on what you are cooking, wide mouth jars allow for a great vehicle for cooking sous vide; and they are reusable. we make stocks, confits, cheesecake, potato preperations in this medium.

cheers

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short ribs 12 hours 190 degrees

pork belly same

veal cheeks same

beef cheeks cooked in tallow for 24 hours at 150 degrees in a pot on the stove

meyer lemons 12 hours 190 degrees

spring garlic 5 hours 190 degrees

these are long term cooking methods

if we had an oven which we could get lower in temperature we would and then extend the time

we also use a water bath of wine or other liquid which benefits from slow reduction; similarly this liquid absorbs the flavor of what is being cooked. our water bath is in a hotel pan topped with two layers of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil

turbot stock is made in bell jars cooked for one hour at 150 degrees then cooled and stained

cheers

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Last week we finally managed to catch up with Doug Psaltis, and we spent a few hours going over various sous vide techniques, tips, and tricks. In the end, though, I was of the opinion that we were going to need some more instruction before being able to create a tutorial that would be useful to eGullet.

Thus, we are planning, in June, to do a sous vide menu project: Doug, Nathan, and I are trying to coordinate our schedules such that we can, on some successive dates, do all the processing and cooking for a five-course menu of dishes -- from cold to hot, savory to sweet -- illustrating different sous vide methods.

So, it will be a while, but we hope to have something nice for eGullet in June.

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caramelized yoghurt--drain yoghurt and season lightly

when thick place in a bag and seal

cook 170 degrees for 24 hours

yoghurt caramelizes and breaks a little bit

puree in blender with spoonful of uncooked yoghurt

uses: panna cotta, vinaigrette, chaud froid, dressings, marinade, glazes, bisquits basically anything you want

cheers

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One aspect of sous vide cooking we have not discussed is the difficulty of maintaining very low heat on a gas burner for any length of time, especially without a simmer burner. I have recently solved that problem by buying an induction cook top.

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Even then, Ruth, it's very difficult to maintain a precise temperature in the water bath for, say, 36 hours. There are plenty of instances in sous vide cooking where +/- 2 degrees will make a huge difference in the final product. So if your water bath is fluctuating between 139 and 143 degrees, you won't get the desired result in a recipe where the point is to keep the item at 141 degrees the whole time. That's why restaurants that are deep into sous vide cooking tend to use steam ovens, which can maintain temperature within .1 degree indefinitely. Or they use dedicated laboratory-style water baths with special circulating pumps, so that the water temperature gets maintained throughout the bath rather than through bottom-up heating on a stovetop.

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Doing sous vide on a stovetop is hard to do well. In the case of something like fish that you typically only cook for 20 - 30 min it can work, but it is crazy to try to use a conventional stove for multi-hour sous vide because the temperature is not accurate and you risk the pot drying out and having a disaster.

Induction helps, but what you really need is something that maintains accurate temperature automatically. There are two main approaches that people do.

Since the food stays in the vacuum bag, what you need is a constant way to apply heat to the bag - the method does not matter that much.

In restaurants, a lot of people use combi-ovens in low temperature steam mode. Ovens like Rational (which I think is the best one) and others can maintain accurate convection steaming at a wide range of temperatures - so you can set it at 141 degrees F, or some such for as long as you like.

Theoretically you could use a dry oven the same way. However, steam mode has much higher heat transfer than dry air, and the combi ovens have much better temperature control.

The other approach is to use a hot water bath. The best piece of equipment to use there is a piece of laboratory equpment called a circulating water bath. These will maintain a water bath at a constant temperature with very high accuracy. They are expensive to buy new, but fortunately, you can get them on Ebay pretty cheaply - like $200 to $300.

I use both water baths, and Rational combi-ovens.

A slow cooker could be a third alternative, but only if you have a separate digital thermometer to check it becaues they typically do not have very accurate dials.

When Steve and I write up the sous vide tutorial I will include more information on where to get the water baths etc.

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I tried a slow cooker but it could not keep the heat low enough. A good induction cook-top will keep the heat constantly low for at least two hours but I agree with you all that specially designed equipment would be required to maintain a constant low temperature over a long period. However, someone cooking at home is far more likely to be using the shorter cooking times and certainly not on a daily basis.

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What benefit is the vacuum?

Could you do this in a sealable sandwich bag? Or you could glue it shut. Do you need the expensive equipment?

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Moby, I'll give the short answer now and then we'll give a long answer when we write this up formally.

If all you're trying to do is essentially poach something but not have it come in direct contact with water, you should be able to wrap it in plastic and throw it in a pot of water in order to achieve that result. If you want to do anything more than that, you'll need some dedicated equipment.

The issue is that there are quite a few applications grouped together under the heading "sous vide." Some of them can be accomplished quite well with plastic wrap and a pot of water on a stove -- no vacuum or special equipment. Others would be riotously impossible. As you move up the ladder of equipment your options increase, as does the ease of achieving a given desired result.

The vacuum has a preservative effect, preventing bacterial growth (essential in long cooking at low temperatures) and oxidation (critical for, among other things, the appearance of food). It also enhances marinating. And there are a number of other ways in which food behaves differently under vacuum conditions, especially when it comes to the interactions between ingredients. One telling demonstration is to put a piece of meat and a small amount of oil into a vacuum pouch. When the air is removed and the pouch is sealed, the small amount of oil instantly and uniformly gets distributed to coat the entire surface of the piece of meat. It's quite fun to witness. Likewise, if you put a very small amount of an herb -- like a tiny piece of thyme -- in a vacuum pouch with a piece of meat and cook it sous vide for many hours, that little piece of thyme will quite intensely flavor the meat.

The list goes on and on. We'll talk about many more applications in June.

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Rocco DiSpirito writes in his book "Flavors" that a boneless chicken breast should be wrapped tightly in several layers of plastic wrap and sealed for 10 minutes in a 200° oven before immersing in a 160° degree water bath for about 45 minutes. Although he implies that you can add herbs and vegetables to the package, this method is obviously much less efficient and certainly less convenient than using the vacuum pack. Moreover, vacuum machines are invaluable in a kitchen for so many purposes (I cannot imagine life without my FoodSaver) that even if you buy one with only sous-vide cooking in mind you will find yourself using it every time you want to freeze something or pack any food item in an airtight container.

By the way, FG, Garland now makes an induction cook top with a probe that constantly monitors the temperature in the pan and adjusts energy as appropriate. That is not the model I have but for anyone who wants to spend the $4000 or so required I imagine that it would keep a constant temperature indefinitely.


Edited by Ruth (log)

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There are many techniques that you can use that are almost sous vide.

As FG says, vacuum is there for several different reasons, and depending on the result and the circumstance you may not need a vacuum.

On the other hand, the home vacuum packing systems (Foodsaver) are not that expensive, and the smaller commercial commercial ones are more money but may not be terrible...

We'll talk about all this in the tutorial...

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There was a really cool "Vacuum Cooking" episode of Iron Chef on this week which I just watched. The theme ingredient was scallops -- these were the super fresh, in shell (with all the parts) kind caught off the coast of japan. The challenger chef, Senji Osada, is one of the prime practicioners of the method in Japanese cooking.

http://www.ironchef.com/96/96_e13.shtml

Overall, the panel didn't like most of his dishes. His approach in cooking is not really to season any of the food, so as to allow the concentrating effect of the vacuum bag cooking to showcase the natural flavor of the ingredients -- unfortunately this didn't really seem to work for the scallops.

It would have been nice to see Osada butter poach some scallops and lobster like the way some fancy French restaurants do -- Iron Chef Sakai chose only to do one Sous Vide dish using Foie Gras -- which was an overwhelming success.

Moderator's note: broken link. -- CA

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I just got the Ducasse 'Spooncookbook' and of course wound up here as a result of my sous vide researching.

He's doing meat sous vide for between 12 and 24 hours at 143 f I believe.

From the little I've found on the web so far, it seems sanitation and sterilization are paramount concerns, beyond even what one would usually follow in the kitchen

Vacuam cooking has been especially interesting to be in the dessert area, fruit confits especially.

But I'm a bit nervous to go running out to get a black and decker bagger, lets say.

Would Botulism be a concern?

I need to check it out a bit more.

"The other approach is to use a hot water bath. The best piece of equipment to use there is a piece of laboratory equpment called a circulating water bath. These will maintain a water bath at a constant temperature with very high accuracy. They are expensive to buy new, but fortunately, you can get them on Ebay pretty cheaply - like $200 to $300."(nathanM)

This is damned cool!

I think I might have seen this kind of set up in a Food Arts article about a restaurant in DC, chef is French.

It's like a box mounted on a pole that has a fitting that locks on to the pan sides?

Has the tutorial gone online yet?

Dying to find out more about this stuff!

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We've had a bit of a setback on the tutorial because Doug Psaltis, our mentor of sous-vide cookery, headed off to the West Coast to work for Thomas Keller at the French Laundry. So now either I need to find a new guru here in New York, or Nathan needs to visit Doug in Yountville and write the tutorial for us, or I need to win the lottery and open a beautiful little restaurant on my vineyard on the North Fork of Long Island where I can hire Doug to be the chef.

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Not that he isn't busy enough and all, but maybe chefG could help out?

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It's good to have a combi oven to cook sous vide. We do a lot of 24 hour braises sous vide in combi ovens(biotherm settings for Altoshams). Anything from lamb shoulder to pork belly to oxtail to short ribs. Combi ovens offer very consistent temperatures to cook at for very consistent results. One of my favorites is making carrot puree sous vide. Just some carrots,honey,cardomom,butter,salt and pepper; cook until very tender in the bag(in a pot of water) and puree in a blender with a little cream.

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I came across a dish yesterday at the Ebury - slow roast belly of pork - that was actually done by confiting pork belly for a long time, and then finishing it in the oven. Among other things, I was very impressed by how the method hadn't warped the meat, or oxydized it, and the texture was perfectly gentle throughout. The fat was gelatinized.

But it made me think about densities of cooking fats, and I wondered if it had a similar effect to sous vide. T. Keller writes about how the density of buerre monte is greater than blood, and so he often rests pieces of meat in it - where no blood or juices will escape into the buerre - because of that density differential. If you're cooking in duck fat at low temp for a long time, you're providing a barrier against both oxygen and bacteria due again to the density differential. If it also keeps juices inside the meat, isn't this a fair emulation of a vacuum?


Edited by MobyP (log)

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Everything you say seems to make a lot of sense, Moby. I like to cook fish, guinea hen breasts etc. both sous vide and in duck fat and have found the resulting texture to be very similar. It would be great to get Harold McGee's take on this subject.

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There are several aspects to sous vide cookery. The "barrier" phenomenon is one of them, but only one. To the extent a differential in density will act in furtherance of containment and exclusion, there are similarities to the barrier that a vacuum bag supplies. But that's not always or exclusively what a cook is trying to accomplish with sous vide equipment. In most cases something is placed in the bag -- seasoning, herbs, sauce, etc. -- in addition to the main ingredient. So there is what you want kept out (the "poaching" liquid) and what you want kept in (all those herbs and such). Sous vide cookery allows you to make both choices. In addition, what is kept in behaves differently under vacuum conditions. Absorption is quicker, deeper, and more uniform -- there is essentially a multiplier effect. On top of that, I think it would be hard to maintain sous-vide-caliber temperature accuracy in fat. Most dishes that are done as confit or poached in fat do not require that the temperature be exactly 141 degrees for 20 hours -- they offer a lot more leeway. In short, it's easy to use sous vide techniques to replicate the confit process; it's a lot harder to use a confit-like process to replicate sous vide cookery.

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