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Fay Jai

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

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Ted, the chamber machines can do liquids because the vacuum is applied to the entire chamber, not just the pouch.

With a clamp machine (FoodSaver) the pouch is exposed to the atmosphere, so as the air is sucked out the surrounding air pushes in on the bag. If there's any liquid content it will get pushed into the machine. That's why you have to freeze liquids and chill fats so that they're solid if you're working with a FoodSaver.

With a chamber machine there's no air outside of the bag to push on it - the whole chamber is under vacuum. When a chamber machine is doing its thing the pouch just sits there rather than collapsing. After the air is removed the sealing bar closes and seals the open end of the bag. Then the machine releases the vacuum - it's at that point that you'll see the bag collapse.

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Last Thursday I did a duck breast at 143°F for 9 hours. Seared the skin side in a hot skillet for about a minute. Sprinkled it with a little fleur de sel and it was very good. The texture was unlike any I've encountered before.

Tomorrows experiment is a brined cornish hen.

Brine: low fat milk and kosher salt. I've been brining in milk for about 5 years. Based on the results I get I think there's something about the lactic acid in the milk that makes the meat creamy.

Fat: when cooking via sous vide, putting fat in the bag makes the density outside the food higher than it is inside and the juices stay in. I'll make a fresh poultry seasoning using black pepper, nutmeg, and fresh thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary and whip into some butter and evo.

Cooking: I'm going to aim for 12 hours at 160°F.

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Sounds like you are having fun.

One minor quibble - fat in the bag isn't going to help keep juices in because its density is actually lower than the juices. You can see this because if you pour off the juices and fat, (or stock and fat etc.) fat floats to the surface. Its density is lighter than water, or meat juices.

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I am the proud new owner of an MGW Lauda MT Immersion Circulator Water Bath Heater on ebay for 70 bucks. :-)

Can't wait to try it out with these new recipes.

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Sounds like you are having fun. 

One minor quibble - fat in the bag isn't going to help keep juices in because its density is actually lower than the juices. You can see this because if you pour off the juices and fat, (or stock and fat etc.)  fat floats to the surface.  Its density is lighter than water, or meat juices.

You're right, fat floats. But somehow the fat does keep the juices in. See my post in this topic (number 130; fourth photo) as the butter has no meat juice in it even after four hours of cooking. And when I cut open the bag, there was not one drop of pink juice. When I did the duck breast, I did it without additional fat and there was about three tablespoons of juice in the bag when it was done.

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Nathan,

I echo others here in thanking you on a great piece of work and one of the best threads in eGullet (and that is saying something! :biggrin: )

Could you talk a little bit about the post SV finishing e.g. I cooked some 20 mm pork re your chart and then felt I had to flash grill it to improve the visual palatability. Otherwise it would have looked a little too anaemic. I find I nearly always have to do this with SV cooked items.

How do you factor in the finishing (grilling, searing etc.) in the timing process?

Also where do you stand on getting the Maillard before or after the SV step.

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SV produces a result much like poaching. Anything that you would be happy to serve poached can be served as-is out of the SV bag. So, as an example poached chicken, fish, lobster could be done SV. However, some products are unusual to serve poached (steak), or even if it is possible to serve it in the style of somethnig poached you may not want to.

So, a lot of people want to finish the SV product after taking it out of the bag to simulate another cooking method.

There are two choices - you can hide it, or you can sear it.

Hide it means cover the product with a sauce or other coating. You could, for example, pop the SV product in batter and deep fry it - that is an extreme form of hiding it. A post earlier in the thread shows applying a crumb coating to rack of lamb, which is a great example.

Another sort of coating would be a "lacquer" type sauce coating - say a reduction of soy sauce, honey and balsamic vinegar, or something else which is opaque and will stick to the meat.

Heston Blumenthal serves a SV salmon dish at the Fat Duck where the salmon is enveloped in an agar-agar gel coating prior to cooking (I think). Since agar will hold to 140F and he is not cooking the salmon above that, the gelled coating sticks. This is another form of hiding, and of course contributes flavor too.

Searing is the other approach, in which you want to create the Malliard reaction and brown the exterior. The trick here is to use very high heat because the food is already cooked through and you just want to change the surface without deeply heating the product, and thus overcooking it. Here are some approaches I use:

- Pan sear - the pan has to be very hot and the oil smoking.

- Blowtorch - this is my favorite SV finishing approach. This is particularly effective for poultry, but it works for most things - even steak. It is the perfect way to crisp the skin on whole squab cooked SV, for example.

- Salamander / broiler. Like the blowtorch, only you generally have less control, however it is also less labor intensive because you don't have to play the torch across the food.

- Grill - particularly if you want grill marks. The grill must be set much hotter than you would use to actually cook because you want to achieve good grill marks in much less time than you would for raw meat where you want to cook the interior.

Some people like to do this BEFORE you do the SV cooking. This can work but it has a problem which is that the browned exterior crust gets soggy during the SV cooking. So I generally do the finishing step later.

The people who like browning it first say that the Malliard reaction products - the flavors of browning - will soak into the meat and help flavor it. This is possibly true, but I have not noticed that this effect is important enough to make up for the soggy crust effect. If I want the browned flavor I take a dark brown stock or demi-glace and put some of that into the bag.

I usually only sear the top of the food, or the top and the sides. Nobody seems to turn their steak over and examine the bottom :smile:

Note finally that you can enhance the browning effect by adding a coating to the meat which will caramelize. A marinade or brine for poultry that includes sugar will greatly increase the skin's tedency to brown. THe same thing is true for meats - at least when you can accept a sweet sauce. Lamb, pork and many other meats are often served with sweet, (or sweet and spicy) sauces.

So, either marinate or cook in the bag with something like sweer, or dip the product in a thin sauce or glaze prior to browning. Obviously, this would mean you have to watch to make sure you don't burn the glaze/sauce. That is almost a hybrid between hiding and searing.

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One of the best threads on eG for sure...I am going to read it again but checking in the last year has got me thinking to pull out the "hot well" in the corner of the kitchen and play around. It has settings for water between 75f and 220f so I think it is time to be plugged in.....anyone done sous-vide using a hot well......?

Does the water bath need to be agitated or circulated...?

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There's a story in today's New York Times magazine about sous vide techniques. It contains, among other things, some interesting material from interviews with Bruno Goussault and his chef-disciples, an unusual spelling ("Cryovacked") and very little actual information on the process. It also contains the statement, about sous vide, that "it will probably trickle down to the home kitchen someday." Hello? What's the Food Saver then? What's this topic here about?

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gallery_8703_920_96380.jpg

If anyone is thinking of doing a story on early US experiments with sous vide, check out Suzanne Hamlin's piece in the NY Daily News on 1-5-83. Lorna Sass did a piece in the NY Post that same year as well, but I don't have the date. At that time it was called "Water Immersion Cooking" and called for heavy food storage bags made from a combination of polyester and polyethylene, and a vacuum packing machine called a Dazey seal-a-meal Sam III. It cost $40.00 at Hammacher Schlemmer and Zabar's.

.

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The NYT Magazine article can be found here (requires free registration). The story is titled "under pressure" which is a bit odd since pressure is not really part of the process.

Many people think that the contents of the vacuum bag are under pressure. That is not so - they are at standard atmospheric pressure. Indeed, everything around us is subject to atmospheric pressure - normally we don't notice because it is unform in all directions. Being squeezed at 14.7 lbs per square inch is not a problem if it is uniformly squeezed in all directions.

In a sous vide bag, there is no air inside the bag, so the bag is stuck to the food with atmospheric pressure. For meat, fish or similar products they basically are at atmospheric pressure, with the bag stuck to them. If you try to pull the bag away from the food you will be fighting atmospheric pressure of 14.7 lbs per square inch.

Porous items - like a sponge - have empty pocket normally filled by air. In a sous vide bag there is no air, so the pockets are filled with a vacuum. Now the atmosphere pressure is not uniform - there will be pressure on teh outside of the bag, but not on the inside. For a weak porous material, it could be crushed because the material is not strong enough to support the vacuum inside. In the case of a stronger porous material, such as a bag of peanuts, there are air pockets in between the peanuts. In a sous vide pouch they will not be crushed but will seem to be welded together as a result.

However, it is important to realize that the food is not actually under any more pressure than it is normally. Indeed, the crushing occurs only because some parts are under less pressure than normal.

There are situations where food really is under pressure, such as in a pressure cooker (which typically operates up to twice atmospheric pressure), or in presses that squeeze juice from grapes etc. There are also vacuum marinators / tumblers which hold the food at less than atmospheric pressure for a long time. But in sous vide pouches the food is NOT under pressure.

Anyway, the article mainly focusses on a broad description of sous vide. It winds up mixing several different things - vacuum packing for food storage, vacuum packing to crush porous items (they mention watermelon), sous vide cooking for cook-and-hold and finally mentions sous vide used for immediate service in restaurants.

The hero of the story is Bruno Goussault, who is credited as being the originator of sous vide. It also mentions George Pralus who is more often credited with orginating sous vide in France. As Paula's post shows there is actually a long history of cooking in vacuum sealed pouches, but the article does not focus on that history other than Goussalt / Pralus.

A few of the things in the article are a bit strange, or incorrect. It quotes Goussault as saying that 52C/125F is hot enough to kill bacteria. Most authorities (including FDA) would say you need to be higher to 54.4C/130F, and even then you need to leave it there for a LONG time - it is not just about temperature. However, as explained in previous posts, that really only applies to cook-and-hold sous vide - for immediate service you don't need to be at that limit at all so long as the total time spent above refridgerator temperature is kept to under 2 hours.

It goes on to say that chefs from Citronelle and French Laundry prefer to cook salmon to 47C, which Goussault claims is unsafe compared to 50C. Well, my recommendation is 45C - just don't do cook-and-hold.

Goussalt also is quoted recommending brining salmon prior to sous vide cooking - 10 minutes in a 10 percent salt solution for 10 minutes. This is supposed to prevent the albumen in the salmon from leaking out.

This article is testimony to the growing popularity of sous vide, and its higher visibility. Then again, as Paula's post shows there have been sporadic thrusts in the past, so this is not the first time it has occurred.

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One of the best threads on eG for sure...I am going to read it again but checking in the last year has got me thinking to pull out the "hot well" in the corner of the kitchen and play around. It has settings for water between 75f and 220f so I think it is time to be plugged in.....anyone done sous-vide using a hot well......?

Does the water bath need to be agitated or circulated...?

Laboratory water baths circulate the water with a pump - that keeps temperature more even. It is possible to cook this way in still water also, just don't pack it too full so that water can circulate (via convection).

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I posted a bunch of cooking time tables in the sous vide thread. That includes a table that is how I would cook beef fillet. The key variable is how thick it is.

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"What can be done is to renew. The word renew is beautiful; renew the cooking from an ethical, human behavior. Based on what we put on a dish, we build an environment, we build a society."

I pulled that (awesome) quote from the Santi Santimaria interview in these pages. I am new to eGullet, and new to this string, so hello everybody. I'm living in Bangkok, opening a restaurant with a great, chef-oriented concept, all degustation menus, beautiful product etc. etc. We've been playing with sous vide a bit, especially for our Matsusaka beef, which we serve in 2-3-4 oz servings. The steaks are so heavily marbled that it would really be hard to melt the fat in the center of a steak without really overcooking the rest, and sous vide works just great. I keep it at about 51 degrees in a pot to the side of the flat top, and it holds pretty well, although a deviation of a few degrees doesn't really hurt it at all. I don't season it in the bag, and I sear it on the pickup, and bring it past rare/med rare if the customer wants it cooked more.

I read the NYTimes article, and tried the watermelon thing to no avail. I don't think I have a dial for psi on my cryo machine. However, I guess that there's an awful lot that I don't know about the whole chill process ( I typically don't put more in the water bath than I'll use in service), so I ordered the Roca book from chips.

I guess the point of this post is to introduce myself, but also to just float the notion that if what Chef Santimaria says has any validity, that we're cooking "from an ethical, human" standpoint, maybe we should think a little about the consequences of wrapping our food in individual heavy duty plastic bags. I like the sous vide method, but I have some reservations about it from an ecological standpoint. It's like the disposable diapers of the culinary world. Almost as bad as those foam thingys that almost all of our produce comes wrapped in...

It also seems to me that one of the main points of the technique is to make up for sloppy cooking. Don't know if a carrot's properly cooked? Well, here's an algebraic formula that even a machine can use to get it right. The joy of this profession is the mindfulness that we have to bring to our stoves every day in order to continue to push ourselves towards the consistency that comes from perfect concentration. I thought the best part of the article was the bit about Robuchon and the egg. A great chef just knows.


Edited by skye (log)

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Does anyone have any suggestions for cooking asparagus? I have a bunch of rather thick asparagus and wanted to try cooking it sous vide.

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I performed a very successful experiment last evening. Using an uncovered crock pot, I placed 117 degree water into it and left it on the low setting. There was no change after an hour. It was one degree warmer after two hours and just five degrees warmer after six hours.

A little cool water after two hours should keep the temperature within one degree. In anyone's experience, how much does the temperature initially drop when the packages are placed in the bath? I know the food should be cool and any liquid should be frozen.

I guess I could place a few ice cubes in a bag and measure, but will that simulate the food? Another question - if I want to cook something at 110 degrees and placing the food in the bath lowers the temp by five degrees, should my initial temperature be 115 degrees?

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115F to 117F is in the range were you may want to cook fish, but not other things, and you don't want to cook the fish for hours anyway (would not be safe). So it sounds like you could use your slow cooker to do that.

Typically the food in sous vide pouches is put in cold, but you absolutely have to have to cold ahead of putting in the bath - again for food safety you don't want it lying around for a long time.

The water temperature does drop when you put cold product in. How much depends on the volume of the water versus product. Your slow cooker may not put out enough energy in warm mode to reheat the water when you put fish in. No real way to find out without testing it.

For short cooknig times, as you typically would have for fish, many chefs just use a stove and watch the temperature. It is not as convienent as an automatic water bath but it does work. As the cooking time grows longer this gets more impractical, but for short times it works fine.


Edited by nathanm (log)

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Another question - if I want to cook something at 110 degrees and placing the food in the bath lowers the temp by five degrees, should my initial temperature be 115 degrees?

You could compensate for the drop in temperature when placing the bag in the water bath by pouring in some hot water until you achieve target temperature of the water bath...similar to the way you'd lower the temp by putting in ice cubes.

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115F to 117F is in the range were you may want to cook fish, but not other things, and you don't want to cook the fish for hours anyway (would not be safe).    So it sounds like you could use your slow cooker to do that.

Typically the food in sous vide pouches is put in cold, but you absolutely have to have to cold ahead of putting in the bath - again for food safety you don't want it lying around for a long time.

The water temperature does drop when you put cold product in.  How much depends on the volume of the water versus product.  Your slow cooker may not put out enough energy in warm mode to reheat the water when you put fish in.  No real way to find out without testing it.

For short cooknig times, as you typically would have for fish, many chefs just use a stove and watch the temperature.  It is not as convienent as an automatic water bath but it does work.    As the cooking time grows longer this gets more impractical, but for short times it works fine.

Thanks Nathan. Tonight I'm going to try hotter water temps - around 150 - 160 degrees (chicken) and see if the pot stabilizes that temp as well. The I'll use the ice cube trick tomorrow and note how much the temp drops.

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Regarding the NYT article, I might give that watermelon trick an attempt.

My food saver isn't strong enough to change the texture of watermelon. :hmmm:

Regarding bacteria and temperatures. The TDZ (temperature danger zone) is between 40°F and 140°F. This is the range in which bacteria is able to reproduce. Bacteria doesn't die at 140°F, it just stops reproducing. Bacteria reproduces at its best between 70°F to 120°F.

The flow of food is the path food takes from receiving to putting it on the table. This includes the time you take the food out of the store's refrigerator, continue shopping, store it in the car, perhaps drive to another store, blah, blah, blah, and finally get home to put it in your refrigerator. Then add the preparation, cooking, holding times that the food is in the TDZ and add it all up. You don't want to have food in the TDZ for more than four hours. After that it is considered unsafe.

This gives some credibility to the argument that a steak cooked rare is safer to eat than a steak cooked medium because it's in the TDZ for a shorter period of time. Or in this case with fish. Cooking it at 115°F for a couple of hours is okay assuming you've observed how long it's been out of refrigeration from the time you took it out of the store's/fish monger's refrigeration.

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One thing I'm finding is the importance of having some other medium in the bag along with the protein to help keep the juices in the protein. Each time I've done this without something extra in the bag, about 2 to 3 tablespoons of liquid from the protein ends up in the bag. I've determined that the weight and viscosity of the medium doesn't matter, it just has to be different from the water inside the protein. Butter, salt water, oil, stock, mole sauce or even using watered down mustard in the bag, the juices stay in. The results are mouthwatering. For every two portions in a bag just add about 1/2 cup of whatever then freeze the bag for about 30 minutes to keep the food saver from sucking it out. Work quickly though.

The results are far supieror from having a protein in the bag alone. To date my best is a 9-hour cooking time at 143°F for a duck breast cooked in olive oil. The texture of that was spectacular, unlike any duck breast I've ever had in my life. I repeated it with a 2 hour cooking time and it just wasn't the same. An extended cooking time has a positive, tenderizing affect on the texture. Just be sure to stay above 140°F if you're going for an extended period of time.

Todays' experiment will be short ribs with hoisin sauce and pork belly with maple syrup. I'm aiming for 24 hours on the short ribs and 18 hours on the pork belly; both at 170°F.

Following that, I think I'll go with a lobe of foie gras in the bag, which is the ingredient that started all this. :laugh:

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Does anyone know of a sous vide cooking school that is taught in English. I am looking for something in America or Europe. My knowledge is basic by I am interested in applying this into the ala minute cooking of my restaurant but am unsure of the applications and would like to learn from some expert teachers.

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Regarding bacteria and temperatures. The TDZ (temperature danger zone) is between 40°F and 140°F. This is the range in which bacteria is able to reproduce.  Bacteria doesn't die at 140°F, it just stops reproducing. Bacteria reproduces at its best between 70°F to 120°F.

This is the standard gospel that most people talk about with food safety. It is not really correct, but it is the simplified version that most people quote.

Keeping your food less than 4 hours in the "TDZ" is good practice as a broad rule, but the specifics depend on the situation involved.

As an example, it depends on the kind of food, the pH and several other factors like whether there is an anerobic environment (no oxygen) and how long it will be stored later (even in a fridge). In posts above this is discussed in more detail, or you can go to the real food safety data and find out.

If you are going to do leave in the bag for an extended period then this is NOT enough because it won't kill botulism spores.

Actually most bacteria die above 120F, but some need to 125F. Death is statistical and the number of bacteria killed depend on the time at the temperature. The rate is exponential in temperature above a certain point, so that they amount of time you need decreases dramatically as temperature increases. The FDA documents that I posted previously show the amount of time you need.

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      Throughout his career, Jose’s vision and imaginative creations have drawn the praise of the public, the press and his peers. José has received awards and recognition from Food Arts, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Saveur, the James Beard Foundation, Wine Spectator, and Wine Advocate. In addition, José has been featured in leading food magazines such as Gourmet as well as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Good Morning America, Fox Sunday Morning News with Chris Wallace, the Food Network, and USA Today.
       
      Widely acknowledged as the premiere Spanish chef cooking in America, José is a developer and Conference Chairman for the upcoming Worlds of Flavor Conference on Spain and the World Table at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, November 2 – 5, 2006.
       
      In 1993, Jose moved to Washington, DC, to head the kitchen at Jaleo. From there, Jose took on executive chef responsibilities at neighboring Café Atlantico and later Zaytinya. In July of 2003, Jose embarked on his most adventurous project to date with the opening of the minibar by jose andres at Cafe Atlantico. A six-seat restaurant within a restaurant, minibar by jose andres continues to attract international attention with its innovative tasting menu. In the fall of 2004, Jose opened a third Jaleo and Oyamel, an authentic Mexican small plates restaurant and launched the THINKfoodTANK, an institution devoted to the research and development of ideas about food, all with a view toward their practical applications in the kitchen.
       
      Every week, millions of Spaniards invite Jose into their home where he is the host and producer of “Vamos a cocinar”, a food program on Television Española (TVE), Spanish national television. The program airs in the United States and Latin America on TVE Internacional.
       
      Jose released his first cookbook this year, first published in English, Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America (published in the United States by Clarkson Potter) and shortly after in Spanish, Los fogones de José Andrés (published by Planeta). The book is an homage to Spanish cooking and to tapas, one of Spain's gifts to the world of good cooking.
       
      Jose Andres is passionate, intelligent, dedicated, witty and a fan of FC Barcelona.
       
      Jose has been a member of the eGullet Society since 2004.
       
      More on Jose Andres in the eG Forums:
      Cooking with "Tapas" by Jose Andres
      Vamos a Cocinar - cooking show with Jose Andres
      Jaleo
      José Andrés' Minibar
      Zaytinya
      Oyamel Cocina Mexicana, Crystal City
      Cafe Atlantico
       
      Jose Andres recipes from Tapas in RecipeGullet:
      Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo (Patatas a la Riojana)
      Moorish-Style Chickpea and Spinach Stew
      Squid with Caramelized Onions
    • By gibbs
      With Modernist Cuisine I waited a couple of years and ended up with a copy from the 6th printing run the advantage of this was that all errors picked up in the erratta had been corrected in the print copy.  I am looking to get modernist bread soon and wondered if someone had purchased it recently to check or if someone knew of hand if they have printed any additional corrected runs 
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