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Fay Jai

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

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I've always used propane with my blowtorch, but I thought there was some concern as to the safety of a propane flame when in direct contact with food to be consumed. I'm aware that most grilling is done w/ propane but isn't this different since you risk "contaminating" your food with byproducts from unburned propane (or something)

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Stupid question #umpteen:

Do you sear your ribs before or after sous vide braising, Nathan?


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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Bryan,

The Lauda pump that I purchased works just fine with direct immersion. It does have a provision for attaching a hose for an external tank but it's not required.

Marc

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Cheaper would be a crock pot and a PID, but a DIY project.

PID being?

My crockpot's "Low" setting is about 170 degrees. I've been thinking about getting a smaller one just for Sous Vide, but if I can regulate the temperature some other way, I might consider that. Like a reverse Wine-Stat :biggrin:

Here's what Rival has to say about crockpot temperatures.

We can not specify temperature ranges for the "High" or "Low" settings. Our slow cookers differentiate "High" and "Low" by wattage. These wattages are set to ensure that a standard food load (as described in AHAM spec SC-1-1979) will reach a safe internal temperature within approximately four hours. The wattage required to do this is different for different models, and many variables are involved; (start temperature, food load, room temperature, etc.). Eventually slow cookers will reach a maximum temperature, however the temperature will be different for different environmental conditions and different food loads. Given enough time most food loads will reach the same maximum temperature on both "Low" and "High."

Gastronomic Fight Club - Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Foodies of Omaha - Discover the Best of Omaha

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I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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Do you sear your ribs before or after sous vide braising, Nathan?

I sear afterwards, because I like the sear crust to be crispy, and it isn't if you sear first.


Nathan

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I guess there really isn't much value to keeping the bones in when you cook short ribs sous vide.


--

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To bring the thread back to page 1 (!):

Any experience with doing lobster tail sous vide? Suggestions on time and temperature, perhaps? I'm wondering whether a fast immersion at 190 (Keller butter poaching style) is the way to go, or whether LTLT will help (or, even better, if there's a particular "alchemy temperature" that does for it something parallel to what 104 F does for cooking salmon fillet).


Mayur Subbarao, aka "Mayur"

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I have done lobster sous vide several times. You need to get the lobster out of teh shell and there are two approaches to this. One is to kill the lobster and cut it up, removing flesh from shell. The other approach is to briefly pour hot (but not boiling) water over it, then proceed to cut it up. This is what Keller, and several other chefs, suggests. The hot water is just poured over the lobster, then poured off, so is only on the lobster for seconds. The advantage to the hot water method is that it loosens the flesh from the shell, claws etc.

Once you have the lobster meat separated (claw or tail) put into a sous vide bag - I ususally include some butter, and potentially some seasoning depending on teh recipe. I cook it at 45C/113F until cooked through (depends on thickness - see the fish time tables in this thread).

Lobster comes out wonderfully sous vide - it is tender and perfectly cooked.

I do shrimp and prawns at 45C/113F also.


Nathan

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What's the best kind of fuel to use when blowtorching a sous vide protein?  I know there has been some disagreement about this on other threads but what type of fuel canister should I be buying?

I don't use a "fuel" per se, just a 1200W dual temperature electric heat gun from the local Ace hardware store. On high it gets up to 1000F which is enough to roast a pepper or brown a turkey or remove paint.

Doc

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My water bath from eBay is currently in transit--in Kansas now-- and should be here by the end of the week.  I'm anxious to start experimenting.

Bryan what have you ordered? Most of the water baths/circulators offered on eBay come with the caveat that it "powers on" but other functions have not been tested. Please tell us what brand and model you bought and whether or not it works as it should. I am desperate to have one but very timid about buying on eBay


Ruth Friedman

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I bought an immersion circulator on ebay that worked perfectly. The seller had a ten day return policy. Unfortuately, the wire that attached to the temp. probe shorted out (I didn't know it shouldn't get wet) and the repair costs exceed the price I paid on ebay. I just bought another immersion heater (after getting confirmation from the seller that I could send it back if it didn't hold its temp.). Hopefully it will work as well as the first one -- and last longer than a few weeks!

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I have bought lots of items on ebay, and they almost always work. One water bath died after being used for a while, but it is hard to blame the seller because it worked for many months. There are risks in ebay, but that is also why things are cheap.

There are used laboratory equipment dealers that offer somewhat more in the way of checking that things work, but they are also more expensive.


Nathan

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Bryan what have you ordered? Most of the water baths/circulators offered on eBay come with the caveat that it "powers on" but other functions have not been tested. Please tell us what brand and model you bought and whether or not it works as it should. I am desperate to have one but very timid about buying on eBay

I purchased a VWR 1203. I looked up its specs. online and it looks pretty legitimate. It's not a circulator though, but I don't think that should be too much of an issue. I paid $150 + $25 shipping for it. Not super cheap but a hell of lot less expensive than if I had bought it new or tried to use a used equipment reseller.

This unit does not have a return policy on it. I did correspond with the seller, however, and he informed me that the unit does hold temperature etc. One wonders why a lab would throw out a perfectly good hot water bath, but I'm banking on some good luck.

On a separate note I have a sous vide questions that I haven't seen discussed yet:

How does one cook something like a duck breast sous vide? Does one have to render out the fat first, or will the sous vide cooking process provide sufficient temperatures to melt that fat away? Any suggestions?

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On a separate note I have a sous vide questions that I haven't seen discussed yet:

How does one cook something like a duck breast sous vide?  Does one have to render out the fat first, or will the sous vide cooking process provide sufficient temperatures to melt that fat away?  Any suggestions?

There are as many ways to cook duck breast sous vide as there are to cook it in other ways.

The classic French approach to duck breast is to treat duck breast like the red meat that it is and cook it to medium rare.

I use a water bath at 131F/55C, I cook until the core reaches 130F/54.4C (see tables in this thread for the times). If you like you can then let it cook an additional there 20 min to 30 min for food safety.

Many French chefs serve duck breast even more rare than this - cooking only to 120F/49C. This is a matter of personal preference. A bunch of other chefs will worry about cooking it at that low temp and will cook it at 141F/61C instead, but I don't like like that hot.

You could, in principle, cook duck breast for a very long time (12 to 36 hours) at low tempertaure (I would use 131F/55C) to tenderize it similar to other kinds of red meat. Obviously this depends on the ducks as to whether the breast meat is tough or not. Given the duck that I use, I have not had to do this, but it is an interesting possibility. It would also be interesting for duck legs - traditionally one cooks them at higher temperature because the legs are tougher, but with long time cooking sous vide they might be fine this way. Something to try...

No fat will render at any of these temperatures, so you have two choices - serve the breast without the skin, or crisp the skin by searing under intense heat (broiler, blowtorch, griddle). Any method of cooking which renders the fat will ruin the meat under the skin. If you really want duck skin that is thin and crispy without a fat layer, you have to remove it from the meat and cook it separately.

Or you can overcook the duck breast, if you prefer (can you detect my point of view :smile: ), by cooking it at higher temperature. As an example, you can make duck breast confit by cooking it at 180F/82C - there is a whole thread on duck confit that discusses sous vide approaches. These approaches work for the breast too. Traditionally one uses legs because they were not useful for other dishes (too tough) so they were cooked as confit to make them tender and also preserve them.

Note that even cooked at confit temperatures for 8-12 hours, the skin will not render all of its fat, and will still need to be crisped or seared.


Nathan

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I'm goint to try stone crab claws sous vide and see how they turn out. My local fish monger has agreed to sell me 5 pounds of "green" claws off their boat and we will then begin the experiments.

First, there's the cooking times & temps. Is 113F internal temp enough? I'm thinking that quick chilling it in a super saturated brine solution should get the little buggers cooled off pretty quickly.

I've been warned that if we try & freeze the claws after they've been cooked, the sharp points of the shells usually puncture the bags and they get freezer burnt. Those little "napkins" that the butcher ships put under individually wrapped steaks at the grocery store are suppoed to help a little, but probably not enough.

My friend Jacques' bottom line on this is that if we can figure out a way to do this and keep the claws frozen, we may be able to supply claws on a year round basis and make a buck or two out of it.

I'll post updates as we learn more.

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Butchers use a special tough wrap called bone guard to prevent puncturing vacuum packing bags that have meat on the bone (like rack of lamb). You can buy it from meat supply place (on the internet), but a small wad (i.e. more than one layer) of aluminum foil over the sharp parts also works pretty well, particularly for sous vide cooking because it conducts heat pretty well.

I have not cooked crab, but I would start at 113F/45C. It works for fish, shrimp and lobster, so it should work for crab.

For timing use the tables based on the thickest part of the claw, then add some time. I am not sure how much because I don't have any data for the insulating effect of the shell. I have not tried cooking crab claws.

The best approach is to use a temperature probe - directions in this thread talk about how to do that using a piece of foam weatherstripping to keep the bag sealed. Of course it is hard to get a temperature probe in a crab claw, but you certainly could drill a hole in the shell up front. That is what I would do, particulary if you plan on doing a lot of these....

Another option would be shelling them raw. This takes the traditional whacking of the claw at the table out of the experience.

Let us know how it turns out.


Nathan

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So I got my water bath tonight (though unfortunately it arrived at my house after dinner). Anyway, after cleaning it with every solvent I had on hand, I attempted to set it up on my counter. I warn you, it's not a good idea to move a water bath when filled (it's 25 lbs without water and who knows how much when filled). Needless to say, I drenched myself, my countertop, my floor, etc.

Some have asked as to this water bath's condition and ability to maintain temperature. So far it seems pretty good. A little tempermental with the control knob (it's not exactly calibrated perfectly), but I think once I've got it at a set temperature it will stay there. I've only had it for a couple hours, so I'm still working that out.

I'll be posting my attempts at scallops, jumbo shrimp, wild salmon, duck breast, short rib, and god-knows-what-else sous vide over the coming days. For now, here's my equipment:

gallery_28496_2247_312171.jpg

Foodsaver v1205 with extended vacuum and instant seal. I decided that these two features were important and finding a model that had both these and a reasonable price was quite annoying.

gallery_28496_2247_124413.jpg

gallery_28496_2247_417011.jpg

The water bath with my thermometer inside it. I need to get that temperature down to 45 C.

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Thanks Bryan. I have everything else. Now I have to get back onto eBay once again and find one of those water baths. Please don't forget to post your results,


Ruth Friedman

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percyn, was the "D'artagnan Duck Confit" already confit-ed by D'artagnan? I assume that you made confit out of a D'artagnan duck leg using sous vide technique? If it was already confit, I would think that cooking it LTLT sous vide amounted more or less to very complicated reheating.


--

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Slkinsey,

You are correct...I was essentially heating the duck confit, while I was really making this....

Short ribs - in the Sous Vide machine after 36 hrs @141 F.

gallery_21049_162_8202.jpg

Served with a porcini and bordeaux demi glace sauce sprinkled with some fluer de sel

gallery_21049_162_65732.jpg

The texture was like that of a very tender steak, as opposed to the "pot roast" like texture I get with my traditional braising method.

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The Sous Vide experiments continue...

Seasoned rack of New Zealand lamb at 138F for 5.5 hrs

gallery_21049_162_28381.jpg

Before putting it under the broiler

gallery_21049_162_66084.jpg

The meat was light pink (no red) throughout, but very tender

gallery_21049_162_15743.jpg

Plated after covering with mustard, panco bread crumbs and placing it under the broiler for a few minutes. Also made a sauce from lamb jus, demi glace, red wine, shallots and pomegranate molasses

gallery_21049_162_84680.jpg

The end result was one of the most tender pieces of lamb I have ever had. Next time I will try to shorten the cooking time a bit and also place the lamb under the broiler before covering with bread crumbs and then again after coating it in bread crumbs.

Hmmm hmmm goood !!!!

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      Jamaican Peppercorn
      Vanilla Bean
      The steps required to comprise each dish are, as one might imagine, intricate and numerous. For the Poached Broccoli Stem, Chef Grant begins by separating the broccoli stems from the florets. The stems are stripped of their fibrous exteriors and pared down until they are uniform in size. Grant comments on the use of the second hand part of the vegetable: “This dish started with the roe. Every year we receive the most amazing Brook Trout Roe from Steve Stallard, my friend and owner of Blis. Typically, we serve the eggs with an element of sweetness. I find it goes very well with the ultra fresh salinity of the week-old roe. This time around we wanted to take a savory approach so I began looking into complimenting flavors in the vegetal category. About the same time, our group had a discussion about secondary parts of vegetables and the stem of broccoli came up. I had a past experience with the stem and found it to be very reminiscent of cabbage. Knowing that cabbage and caviar are essentially a classic pairing, I felt confident that we could work the dish out. Now I'm struggling to decide if this is a broccoli dish or in fact a roe dish, I think they really battle for the top position and that helps makes the dish very complex."

      Chef Grant processing the broccoli

      The stems are placed in a polyethylene bag, along with butter, salt and granulated cane juice. The bag is sealed with a cryovac machine

      The sealed stems are placed in a 170 degree F water to cook, sous vide, until extremely tender; about three hours

      Broccoli stems after cooking
      The crisp bread element is fabricated via the use of an industrial deli slicer. Chef Grant then brushes the sectioned pieces of poached broccoli stem with eggwash, affixes them to the thin planks of brioche and places them in a fry pan with butter.

      Grant's mise...not your ordinary cutting board

      Poached Broccoli Stem and Crisp Bread cooking

      Ready for plating

      A bright green broccoli puree is made with a vita-prep blender. Here, Chef Grant "mohawks" it onto china given to him by Thomas Keller

      Smoked Coho roe has arrived via Fed-Ex, courtesy of Steve Stallard

      Chef Grant devises a plating scheme for the Poached Broccoli Stem while Curtis looks on

      Chef Grant ponders one potential plating of the dish. He called this incarnation 'predictable' and started over.

      Another plating idea. This version is garnished with broccoli petals and ultra-thin slices of connected grapefruit pulp cells. The yellow petals are stand-ins for what will ultimately be broccoli blossoms
      Grant is still displeased at the dish's appearance. "The dish tastes as I envisioned it....texturally complex, with the crispness of the bread, the soft elements of the floret puree and stem, and the pop of the eggs. The buttery richness from the bread gives the stem the flavor of the melted cabbage I loved at the [French] Laundry. And the hot and cold contrasts from the roe and broccoli …I like it…..I just don’t like the way it looks.” Another attempt and the group agrees, it is better but not “the one.” The use of the thinly sliced cross sections of peeled grapefruit energizes the group. In the next rendition, they make small packets with the ultra thinly-sliced grapefruit containing the roe...

      A third plating configuration for Poached Broccoli Stems; this one featuring the packets of roe wrapped in ultra thin sheets of grapefruit pulp cells
      At this point the team decides to move on and come back to it next week. After some conversation they decide that in the final dish, broccoli will appear in at least 5 forms: poached stems, floret puree, some raw form of the stem, the tiny individual sprouts of broccoli florets, and the blooms. Grant feels that Poached Broccoli Stem could be ready for service, although he still envisions some changes for the dish that will make it even more emblematic of his personal style. “Our dishes continue to evolve after they hit the menu. It is important for us to get to know them better before we can clearly see their weaknesses.”
      The thought for the dried crème brulee originated over a year ago when a regular customer jokingly asked for a crème brulee for dessert. “He said it as joke, I took it as a challenge,” says Grant. "Of course, we never intended to give him a regular crème brulee.” The team tried various techniques to create the powder-filled caramel bubble while at Trio to no avail. An acceptable filling for the Dried Crème Brulee has been developed by the Chef and his team but several different methods, attempted today, to create the orb from caramelized sugar have been less than 100% successful.

      Caramel blob awaiting formation. Chef Curtis kept this pliable by leaving it in a low oven throughout the day

      Chef Grant’s initial idea to use a metal bubble ring and heat gun (normally used for stripping paint) to form the bubbles does not work as hoped. Attempts to fashion them by hand also come up short.
      Says Grant, “At Trio we tried a hair-dryer. When Martin told me about these heat guns which get up to 900 degrees F, I thought we had it for sure. If it was easy everyone would do it I guess.” Eventually, Alinea partner Nick Kokonas garners the task’s best result by positioning a small, warm blob of sugar onto the end of a drinking straw and blowing into the other end. The results are promising. Curtis suggests using a sugar pump to inflate the orbs. That adjustment will be attempted on another day.
      “We intentionally position whimsical bite in the amuse slot, it tends to break the ice and make people laugh. It is a deliberate attempt to craft the experience by positioning the courses in a very pre-meditated order. A great deal of thought goes into the order of the courses, a misalignment may really take away from the meal as a whole.” For PB&J, the grapes are peeled while still on the vine and then dipped into unsweetened peanut butter. They are allowed to set–up, and then they are wrapped with a thin sheet of bread and lightly toasted. When the peeled grapes warm, they become so soft they mimic jelly. The composition is strangely unfamiliar in appearance but instantly reminiscent on the palate. PB&J is, according to Grant, virtually ready for service. There are a couple of aesthetic elements, which need minor tweaks but the Chef feels very good about today’s prototype.

      Chef John peels grapes while still on their stems

      Peeled grapes on their stems with peanut butter coating

      Chef Grant studies the completed PB&J in the Crucial Detail designed piece

      PB&J
      Often, creative impulses come by way of Alinea’s special purveyors. “Terra Spice’s support over the past couple of years has been unprecedented, and it has accelerated with the start of the food lab,” says Grant. “It is great to have relationships with people that think like we do, it can make the creative process so much easier. Often Phil, our contact at Terra, would come into the kitchen at Trio and encourage us to try and stump him on obscure ingredients. We always lost, but not from lack of trying. He even brought in two live chufa plants into the kitchen one day.” The relationship has developed and Terra team has really made an effort to not only search out products that the chefs ask for but also keep an eye out for new ingredients and innovations. In August, Phil brought by some samples of products that he thought the Alinea team might be interested in trying.

      Phil of Terra Spice showing the team some samples

      Coconut powder and other samples
      Grant recalls “the most surprising item to me was the dried coconut powder. When I put a spoonful in my mouth I could not believe the intense flavor and instant creamy texture, it was awesome.” That was the inspiration for what is now Instant Tropical Pudding. The guest is presented with a glass filled with dried ingredients. A member of the service team pours a measured amount of coconut water into the glass and instructs the guest to stir the pudding until a creamy consistency is formed.

      The rum-spiked coconut water being added to the powders
      At the end of the day, the Chefs assess their overall effort as having gone “fairly well.” It’s a mixed bag of results. Clearly, the fact that things have not gone perfectly on Day 1 has not dampened anyone’s spirits. The team has purposely attempted dishes of varying degrees of difficultly in order to maximize their productivity. Says Grant, “Making a bubble of caramel filled with powder…I have devoted the better part of fifteen years to this craft, I have trained with the best chefs alive. I have a good grasp of known technique. The lab's purpose is to create technique based on our vision. Sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will fail, but trying is what make us who we are." The team's measured evaluations of their day’s work reflect that philosophy.
      According to Chef Grant, “The purpose of the lab is to create the un-creatable. I know the level at which we can cook. I know the level of technique we already possess. What I am interested in is what we don't know...making a daydream reality.” With little more than 100 days on the calendar between now and Alinea’s opening, the Chef and his team will have their work cut out for them.
      =R=
      A special thanks to eGullet member yellow truffle, who contributed greatly to this piece
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