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

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I have read over most of this thread and have not found what I am looking for. I have a Foie Gras that I would like to try and cook with the Sous Vide Method. Can anyone here give me a recipe or instructions on how to do this? I know that Foie Gras is what initially got this movement started, so there must be quite a few versions out there. Thanks!


Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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There are several different ways to go about this, beacues there are different end results that you might want to achieve. Cold fois gras terrine is different than hot seared fois gras. So, here are the basics which you can then adapt to your own recipes.

In all cases you should prep the fois gras normally (i.e. remove veins etc.)

For hot seared fois gras, cut it into serving slices, and seal each slice in its own bag. Cook the slices sous vide in a bath at 141F/61C for a time given by the tables in this thread. If you want to make double sure about food safety, add 15 minutes to the time. It is unclear if that is necessary - most seared fois gras is served rare in the center without incident - but the extra 15 minutes don't really hurt. There are even many chefs who serve fois gras raw.

If you want the fois gras less well done, and you still care about food safety, you could go as low as 137F/58C, but in that case use the same time given from the table for 141F, then add 112 minutes to the time for food safety.

Once you remove the fois gras from the bag, you can then sear it briefly in a very hot pan (oil at smoke point) or griddle/plancha, or even with a blowtorch. You don't need to sear it, but if you want the seared look and the texture of a crust then this is necessary. The only point of searing is the crust, the fois gras is fully cooked in the bag, so I usually just do the crust on the top side.

Note that there are a number of classic recipes from Alain Senderens, Joel Robuchon and others for steamed or poached fois gras and these can be adapted to sous vide very well without searing step. It is conventional (and delicious) to sear, but don't think that you have to do this.

You can also cook a whole fois gras this way. Use the time in the tables for the thickest part. After cooking you can sear the outside of the whole fois gras, then slice and serve.

One problem with cooking whole fois gras in sous vide is that when the bag sucks hard against the liver, it can crack it. Once it is cracked, it is easy for it to disintegrate. Poor quality fois gras can disintegrate even if you treat it correctly

One way to solve this is to use a chamber style vacuum machine that has a "soft air" settting, which lets the air back into the chamber gently. If you don't have a machine like that, then be sure to separate the lobes of the foie gras, and try to have a pretty regular shape.

You can also cook a fois gras terrine this way. There are three ways to do this.

1. Make the terrine (with fois gras and other ingredients) as you normally would in a mold or pan, then put the whole thing in a vacuum bag and seal it. You obviously need a bag and a vacuum machine, big enough to enclose the mold. Seal it, the cook at 141F/61C using the tables with a time based on the dimensions of the mold, then add 15 minutes.

2. Make the terrine, then roll it into a cylinder or "torchon". Usually you do this by wrapping in plastic wrap very tightly, rolling it up like a sushi roll. In fact, a bamboo sushi rolling mat (makisu) is a great although non-traditional way to shape a torchon. Take the whole torchon, plastic wrap and all, and seal it in a vacuum bag, and cook as with method 1.

3. Wrap a torchon as with method 2, then seal it in a heat shinking sous vide bag. We have not discussed this kind of bag much on the thread. It is also called a "thermo-retractable" bag. Basically this is a vacuum bag made of a plastic which shrinks when heated. Seal the torchon in the heat shink bag as you normally would, then plunge the torchon and bag BRIEFLY into a pan of boiling water. It just takes a few seconds for the bag to shrink. Remove the bag as soon as the shrinking has occured. The heat shrink bag keeps the torchon held together better than a normal vacuum bag would. However if you wrap your torchon with plastic wrap tightly it should hold together without this.

For each method, after cooking time is over, plunge it into ice water bath to chill it then store in the refrigerator until cold for slicing and service. A fois gras terrine needs to chill all the way through in order to slice cleanly.


Nathan

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Does anyone have a source for the heat-shrink bags? I've been looking for them since I got the Joan Roca book. Google searches return mostly the type intended for packaging, not cooking. The few I've found that look appropriate are only sold in huge quantities ("write for quote").

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NathanM,

Thank you! I am not sure of the quality of my foie Gras, I just purchased it in Paris. So I will try the individual seared foie gras example. I have eaten foie gras raw many times so I am not too worried about the safety. We'll see how it goes, again thank you.


Edited by raisab (log)

Paris is a mood...a longing you didn't know you had, until it was answered.

-An American in Paris

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following is a pm to a fellow egulleter that thought it may be good to get the public feedback, please do... thanks

hello, I was wondering if you could answer a couple of question I have about sous vide equipment. I wanted to see if these are the thermometers you recommend. also, which bags do you recomend? if I remember you chose some from here, is that right? I have a chamber vacum sealer and two nice water baths, now I need to get to it. I plan to use sous vide method to cook a few of the items at a restaurant I am helping to open , and I need a little more clarification about a couple things. first, I plan to use the thermometer to monitor the temperature of the protein as I cook it a la minute (to avoid cook and hold) will the above work with the closed cell weather stripping? will it leave a visible hole in the meat? is a la minute reasonable? I plan to butcher my seafood for sous vide and bag in individual portions for service. I would like to do a very small (2-3oz) foie terrine, like in a salt and sugar holder, terrine for a charcuterie platter, can I do this sous vide? will the terrine throw off melted fat? if so will it seep back into the mold as it cools? sorry if these questions seem silly, but better to ask than learn by experience with the foie ($) thanks a lot

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I wanted to see if these are the thermometers you recommend.

I use the minature needle probe, which is about half way down that page. These will not make a visible hole in most products.

The probe is best used with a digital thermometer. There are many. I use one by Extech which has a feature where you can set it to beep when the temperature reaches a set point.

also, which bags do you recomend? if I remember you chose some from here, is that right?

The key thing on bags is to make sure that they can take heat. Typically they are called "boilable" bags. Usually these are 3 mil thick.

I plan to use the thermometer to monitor the temperature of the protein as I cook it a la minute (to avoid cook and hold) will the above work with the closed cell weather stripping? will it leave a visible hole in the meat? is a la minute reasonable?

You don't need to use the thermometer in every single portion unless they vary in size and shape a lot. Once you know that a portion of protein of a given size takes a certain amount of time, you can bank on it because the water bath will keep temperature steady.

When you say "a la minute" what do you mean? Usually when people say "a la minute" they mean that cooking does not start until after the guest orders the food. So, you could either prep food into bags up front and keep in the refer until the guest orders, or you could even do the bagging after the guest orders. You can do that with sous vide, but ONLY with very thin portions, beacuse otherwise the cooking time is too long. Obviously, the 36 hour long cooking times for some items would not work this way! But with a thin portion it will work. Check out the time tables and you'll get a good idea of how thin you need the portions to be, then verify it with your thermometer set up to double check.

A variation that many people do is to prep into bags, and the put into the water bath early enough that they are cooked by service. They they just leave them in the water bath during service. If the bath temp is close to the final core temp (which is what I recommend) then they can't overcook.

So, if you are doing poultry or meat, and your bath temp is at or above 131F/55C then you can do this pretty much for as long as you want. The food is in the water bath during the entire service.

If you are doing fish, you will be a lower temp most likely and thus there is some food safety concern about doing it for too long, however a couple hours is considered safe by food safety standards. In fact the official number is up to 4 hours, but I would not push it that long myself. However, fish portions can be cooked to order if they are thin so that is the alternative.

I plan to butcher my seafood for sous vide and bag in individual portions for service.

This works well. If the seafood is thin, then it will typically cook in 15-20 min which depending on your style of service should be fine a la minute.

I would like to do a very small (2-3oz) foie terrine, like in a salt and sugar holder, terrine for a charcuterie platter, can I do this sous vide? will the terrine throw off melted fat? if so will it seep back into the mold as it cools?

You can use a mold with sous vide. To do this you would put the fois gras into the mold, and then put the whole thing into a bag and seal it. If the edge of the mold is too sharp, it can cut the bag when the vacuum pulls it tight across the food.

If the mold is made of an insulator - like thick glass or ceramic, then it will take longer to cook the food that is right against the mold. So, it is better to have metal, or silicone (which conducts heat pretty well).

Generally I would cook fois gras terrine in a bath at 141F/61C and cook to an internal temp of 60C, then after reaching 60C internal let it stay in the bath for 60 minutes extra. At that temp you may get some fat melting, and it may seep away from the fois gras in the bag. The amount is hard to predict - it depends on your fois gras - low quality fois gras tends to melt or disintegrate more than higher quality.

There are three things that you can do about this. One is to just live with it - at worst when you take the bags out of the bath you squeeze the fat back in the direction of the mold with your fingers. Then put the bag into ice water to chill it down. This works reasonably well.

A deeper mold will help avoid this, because it is harder for the fois gras fat to migrate out of the mold into other parts of the bag. Also, you can put the molds upside down in the water bath. The fat is lighter than water so water pressure in the water bath will make the fat migrate to the highest place in the bag that it can get. If you put the mold upside down it won't be able to crawl over the edge of the mold. Does that make sense? You may need to have a wire rack inside your water bath to hold the molds down. Wire racks or grids made for cooling baked goods work well for this.

If this becomes a huge problem then you can use heat shrink bags. To do that you need to seal like you normally would, but seal very close to the mold. Cut off the extra bag away from the seal. Then you plunge the whole thing in boiling water for 10 seconds or so, until the bag shrinks around the mold.

The heat shrink bag approach also works for a free form fois gras terrine, such as a torchon. Unfortunately, I don't know a good source of heat shrink bags - I don't use them myself.

sorry if these questions seem silly, but better to ask than learn by experience with the foie ($) thanks a lot

Not at all - asking questions is the point of eGullet.

Nathan


Nathan

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I have a lot of experience cooking foie gras sous-vide - literally thousands - in and out of molds/terrines - but in combi-ovens. If you do it "torchon" double roll it and prick the first layer with a pin to release air and get a tighter roll. If you use a mold/terrine know your machine - do not seal it too tightly - and you can double bag. The golden fat will surround the surface - but work with it - either serve it with - which is beautiful - or peel it off and melt it for cooking - you will not miss this fat in the final product. Nathan - with the shrink wrap bags you were right the first time around - a quick dunk is all you need - 10 seconds is way too long - and then straight into the ice bath. Why don't you use them?

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Thanks! I will be trying a couple small terrines and torchons soon, I am sure I will return with questions. When you say "double roll it", do you mean w/the cheese cloth or two bag- one and then prick it and then the other? thanks

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atlanta cook - just plastic film. Lay two livers - facing and inverse - on a squared piece of film. Roll tightly then prick. Place that roll on a second piece of film and roll again - do not prick unless necessary for a tight finish. Finally seal in a shrink wrap bag. No need to cut off the excess.

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Nathan - with the shrink wrap bags you were right the first time around - a quick dunk is all you need - 10 seconds is way too long - and then straight into the ice bath. Why don't you use them?

Mostly I don't cook things that need to be molded. There isn't any advantage to shrink wrap bags unless you want to mold or shape the product. I don't do foie gras that often, and when I do it is usually hot seared not a terrine or torchon.

Which supplier do you use for the bags? I'll try some...

Nathan


Nathan

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Nathanm - it's time for me to ask the oracle for some help again...

I want to cook some Beef over the weekend to have with some Salsa Verde. I want to get the effect of a nice cold piece of rare roasted fillet but using a cheaper, tougher cut.

I've tried Heston Blumenthal's version (in his book Family Food) and it was good but not super tender. From memory I think the suggestion was to cook it at 70C until the correct internal temperature was reached. The problem was that the meat was quite tough still. Earlier in one of your replies you intimated that it can be a good idea to cook the meat for a bit longer (at the target internal temperature to ensure it doesn't overcook) so that the meat fibres break down a little more.

Can I ask for your suggestion as to method as to try on a 2kg piece of beef (not fillet!). I have at my disposal cling film (i.e. no Vacuum sealer!), an induction hob (able to hold to 60C) and a Gaggenau oven (able to hold to 50,55,60C etc.) and a good temperature probe. The oven is probably the most reliable. Any suggestions?

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If you want it both rare and tender you will need to cook for a long time - say 36 hours at 131F / 55C. So if you want this for the weekend you'd better get it started ASAP!

The basic issue is that the collagen in the meat will break down over time at low temperature in a moist environment - that will occur no matter how the meat is cooked - whether sous vide, or pseudo-sous vide.

Is your oven a steam oven? I think that Gaggenau has a home combi-oven. If that is what you have then this is probably your best bet.

Note that an oven that uses dry air at 55C is not going to do the same thing - it can't transfer heat well enough, and the surface temperature of the meat won't be the same.

Not having a vacuum sealer means that you can't really do sous vide. However you can do the following thing. Take a zip lock bag and put your meat in there. Pour some oil (olive oil, canola oil...depends on what you like) into the bag with the meat and squeeze out most of the air by hand then seal the bag. The idea is to make sure that the meat is covered by the oil. This keeps oxygen off the meat and is some approximation to sous vide. This is not a good idea at lower temperature, but at 55C should be OK. But if you get much hotter the zip lock will melt.

You could take the zip lock and cook it this way in either the steam oven, or in a water bath. You should prop it so that the zip lock seal is pointing up so that it does not leak.

Besides sous vide there are many other techniques for slow roasting, or poaching, or poaching in oil. You could poach the meat in oil in a pan, without the zip lock bag, but you'll need more oil. Just keep the meat submerged and keep oil temp at 131F/55C. Note this is not really the same as confit - for a confit you poach in oil or melted fat, but at much higher temperature (typically 175F/80C or higher). Using water instead of oil (i.e. directly poaching the meat in water) is NOT the same - you'll cook the meat but I don't think you'll get the effect you want.

Please note that you have some major compromises - especially no vacuum sealer - so this is a bit uncertain. Good luck!


Nathan

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Thanks Nathan. Unfortunately I don't have the Combi just the straight-forward Fan/Convection oven but I will try as you suggest after all the experimentation is half the fun!

One thing I am not sure on though - why is wrapping the meat in oiled clingfilm not the same as putting it in a sous-vide bag? Surely the effect is the same - no air? Am I missing something blindingly obvious.

What do you think about cling-filming the (joint+oil+seasoning) and placing it in a pre-heated water bath in the oven at 55C for 36 hours?

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Has anyone tried using a pork-tenderloin SV? I know the color may be slightly off-putting to people, as most people cringe away from pink color of it. Not me personally.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

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I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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Excellent, I am going to give it a shot tonight. Do you remember what temp you cooked them at?


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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...

Not having a vacuum sealer means that you can't really do sous vide.  However you can do the following thing.  Take a zip lock bag and put your meat in there.  Pour some oil (olive oil, canola oil...depends on what you like) into the bag with the meat and squeeze out most of the air by hand then seal the bag.  The idea is to make sure that the meat is covered by the oil.  This keeps oxygen off the meat and is some approximation to sous vide.

A po-man's vacuum pack can be done by doing the bag like Nathan explains, but instead of using your hands to sqeeze out the air fill a sink with water then submerge most of the bag in the water. The water pressure will push the air out and you can zip the bag up. You can go one step further and put the zip bag in another larger bag that will allow you to completely submerge the ziplock bag to create more pressure to push the air out.


My soup looked like an above ground pool in a bad neighborhood.

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So I was feeling energetic and tried a pork sous-vide[ dish tonight. I had a small tenderloin, some scallions, a serrano chili and some small crimini mushrooms, so I created a small packet with all that and a few pats of butter. I tossed in some S&P and a few szechwan peppercorns.

I apologize in advance for the photos, I am still getting used to the camera and the flash modes.

bagged.jpg

I stuck the whole packet in the water bath. I had it set to 64C and kept it there until I got an internal temp of the pork at 64C.

lauda.jpg

After I took it out of the packet I have to say it looked not very appetizing. :unsure:

cooked.jpg

So it went into a hot pan with a dab of butter and canola oil for a sear.

seared.jpg

Much better!

Finally, the plating.

plated.jpg

I served it with some oven roasted acorn squash that was roasted with some hazelnuts, hazelnut oil and a touch of honey. The scallions and mushrooms from the bag were served on the side, and the meat drizzled with some of the cooking juice.

While it was good overall, pork (at least this preparation) isn't my favorite way of eating pork. I have done salmon and chicken so far with amazing results. I think I am just partial to a nice pork roast.

The meat was extremely tender, but even with the sear was missing that roasted taste. Maybe I should have tried searing it longer.


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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John. Maybe next time blowtorch the pork before bagging it?


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Hah! I knew I missed a step!

John.  Maybe next time blowtorch the pork before bagging it?


John Deragon

foodblog 1 / 2

--

I feel sorry for people that don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day -- Dean Martin

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A question for sous viders using vacuum sealer but not immersion heaters.

How difficult has it been to maintain consistant water temps of say 130, 150, 170? And how have you done it?

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Just pulled out my duck confit that ran @ 80C all night (per nathanm) using a thermal regulator from ebay to find that the regulator had seized up and the temp dial (analog model) is kinda stuck :sad: used a dig thermometer to monitor the temp, the duck looks good, I will post with a flavor reveiw and maybe a picture or two when they are cooled off.

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Johnder,

What was your opinion of the veggies? I've found that the sous-vide does nothing for them. Nathan has suggested higher temps (like 82C), but I haven't gotten around to trying that yet.

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