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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment, 2011


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I made toasted almond ice cream base from The Perfect Scoop in the SVS. I've NEVER had creme anglaise turn out as well as that batch did. I was seriously tempted to eat it over peaches and not freeze it at all. It cooked at 82C for an hour, then icebath for 30 min and then in the fridge overnight before freezing.

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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I’ve got some time off work this week so have been going mad trying out new cooking things. Yesterday was a bit of a disaster: apparently “Essence of Rennet” is NOT the same thing as “Rennet” (it’s a rubbish, watered down version for making puddings, not the sort of thing to be adding to 4l of really nice organic milk when attempting my first go at homemade mozzarella). Any way, undeterred, today saw the arrival of some proper rennet and, far more excitingly, my Sous-Vide Supreme! I think the cheese making might keep till tomorrow...

Having spent the last few months desperately waiting for my copy of Modernist Cuisine to arrive I finally bit the bullet and got a water bath. Am really looking forward to some of the things I’ll be able to cook in this contraption, off the top of my head: scrambled eggs, perfect poached salmon, mi-cuit salmon, slow cooked short ribs, beef cheek pastrami, pigs cheek anything, Onsen eggs, foie gras, twice-cooked scallops, duck confit, egg custard, brisket... I’m giving up work, I won’t have time for it with all this nice stuff to make.

So, what was I going to do for my first ever sous-vide meal? I hadn’t really planned on having the SVS for a while so had to just wander around the supermarket looking for inspiration, I wanted something that would be fairly quick to cook (the 72-hour tough cuts will have to wait) and I knew I wanted to do some mashed potatoes with it. So, in the end I came up with the following: Chicken breast with tarragon and butter, retrograded potatoes and chicory with orange and thyme. Not the most adventurous first foray into sous-vide but hopefully achievable and it will give me a good idea where to start from with simple things like lean meat/vegetables.

So far the potatoes have been peeled, sliced into thinnish sections, vac-packed with a little water and put in for an hour at 66C. After they finish I’ll chill them in an ice bath and fridge them till later. Their peelings have been fried in a good chunk of butter (probably about 100g) until they looked (and tasted) like posh crisps. I love it when cooking stuff gives you a tasty by-product! The butter was then strained and fridged, ready to be added to the mash later.

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The chicory have been sliced in half lengthways and sealed in a bag with some thyme and a little bit of orange juice, some agave nectar and some salt and pepper. Similarly the chicken breasts are sitting in the fridge sealed up with some butter and tarragon, having been brined for about 45 mins in a 5% salt solution. I’ve gone very sparingly with the fresh herbs in both of these as I’ve read that they can easily overpower things when cooked this way... we’ll see whether I’ve gone easy enough!

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More later... (I hope!)

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That was good. I mean really, really good. I'm stunned at how good a simple, boring chicken breast can taste. Very, very happy with it :).

So here's the rest of my first adventure in Sous-viding:

The chicory cooked for just over an hour at 85C, pulled them out and they felt perfectly tender so left them bagged up while I got on with the rest. I cooled the water down with some ice cubes and when it got to 61C (for some, inexplicable reason I found the idea of 61C instead of 60C felt "safer"!) the chicken went in. From the tables I'd found it looked like 1.75 - 2 hours would be fine, in the end they stayed in for nearer 3 as wife and child were late getting in (have a look at my homemade mozzarella thread for more whinging about this!).

The potatoes had spent a good 40 minutes in an ice bath then went into the fridge until I was ready to go with them. I was following a recipe from the excellent Kayahara blog which suggested 25 minutes at a hard boil would be all that was needed to get them ready to puree. Unfortunately my tubers were a LOT more resistant than that... another 30 minutes more resistant. Unfortunately even then they ended up quite grainy, a beautiful flavour from the fried peelings (note to self: definitely do this again) and a lot less fat than normal pommes puree. Not really sure what the issue was here - whether they just needed more cooking after the retrograding, a longer chill period.

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To finish the chicken and chicory I heated two pans for a good 10 minutes, they both had a lovely texture but looked a little anaemic to say the least:

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The chicory I just sautéed in a little oil. I was really surprised with how quickly they coloured, it was one of the things that worried me about searing after sous-viding: even with a good heavy pan on my hottest burner raw food seems to take a while to colour. I was quite concerned that I would end up undoing all the good work of a water bath setup by having to overcook things just to get them nice and brown. Safe to say there was no need to stress about this, warm cooked food is obviously - in retrospect - a different prospect to cold raw food.

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Just to squeeze another new technique into today's adventures I used one of Douglas Baldwin's tips and brushed the chicken with some glucose syrup let down with a little water, again it was amazing how quickly I was able to get colour into the meat. There was absolutely no change in the subsurface, even with a decent level of browning to the skin.

So, the finished dish. Not the most exciting looking thing I've ever made (all a bit "brown" isn't it?), but my god it tasted good:

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Honestly, I have never eaten chicken breast that tasted so "chicken-y". Both of us said this exact thing with the first bite, the herb flavour was just right (I'm glad I used such a small piece of tarragon). The texture though was unbelievable. I know there are scores of posts saying this exact thing but it's not really something that reading about a new way of cooking food can prepare you for, a normally dry boring meat cooked so evenly, so perfectly, tender, juicy and with more flavour than I'd ever had in even the best chicken I'd had before.

Overall I'm delighted with my first foray into sous-vide. Can't wait to try some of the amazing things I've been thinking of for so long...

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(snip)

The potatoes had spent a good 40 minutes in an ice bath then went into the fridge until I was ready to go with them. I was following a recipe from the excellent Kayahara blog which suggested 25 minutes at a hard boil would be all that was needed to get them ready to puree. Unfortunately my tubers were a LOT more resistant than that... another 30 minutes more resistant. Unfortunately even then they ended up quite grainy, a beautiful flavour from the fried peelings (note to self: definitely do this again) and a lot less fat than normal pommes puree. Not really sure what the issue was here - whether they just needed more cooking after the retrograding, a longer chill period.(snip)

I, too, have had a similar problem with retrograded 'taters. It seems that the 2nd cooking takes as much or more time than a first cooking without retrograding. I wonder if it is not a matter of perception? That is, the altered starch really feels different on the tongue, and so needs to be cooked as long as would ordinarily turn the mash to glue.

And, aren't you happy you bought the sous-vide rig? As you said, all that brown stuff, but it tasted so good!

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Chicken breasts are one of my favorite things to do in the SVS. I know they're pedestrian, not so glamorous, and not requiring transglutimase or other fun chemicals, but it's hard to beat perfectly cooked chicken as an ingredient in about fifty million recipes...

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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Decided to try some steak today, got a nice thick sirloin from my local butcher, their beef is ok but not really up there with the best I've had (from, say East London Steak Co.).

It was about 40mm thick so I packed it up with some salt and pepper and a sprig of rosemary:

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Cooked at 54.5C for what ended up being 6 hours, glazed with some glucose syrup and tiny pinch of bicarb:

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It had a lovely even medium rare finish but have to say, after yesterday's revelatory chicken breast experience, it was a bit... meh. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, just felt like it had gone a bit mushy and wasn't all that exciting. I'm sure this has something to do with the 6 hours it ended up having, will definitely go for nearer 3-4 next time for this thickness of meat. Also, I want to try it with a REALLY good steak, something with a bit more marbling should be more interesting.

Any way, onwards and upwards, tomorrow I'll try some scallops and mi cuit salmon - what are people's feelings on temperatures for the salmon?

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Can anybody in the last few posts offer their thoughts on how to solve the graininess issue next time?

After you rice the potatoes, work the puree through a tamis or fine mesh strainer. The retrogradation technique doesn't work well with a coarse-textured potato mash, precisely because of the graininess issue.

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Can anybody in the last few posts offer their thoughts on how to solve the graininess issue next time?

After you rice the potatoes, work the puree through a tamis or fine mesh strainer. The retrogradation technique doesn't work well with a coarse-textured potato mash, precisely because of the graininess issue.

Trying to understand what you're saying here... the retrograde doesn't effect a smoother texture if the potatoes are not mashed finely enough? Isn't that sort of... obvious? Or am I missing something?

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Can anybody in the last few posts offer their thoughts on how to solve the graininess issue next time?

After you rice the potatoes, work the puree through a tamis or fine mesh strainer. The retrogradation technique doesn't work well with a coarse-textured potato mash, precisely because of the graininess issue.

I'm also a bit confused about this, are the grains that I can feel actually the grains of starch? So without passing through a Tamis retrograding will give a MORE grainy mash, rather than a smoother one because it keeps these grains whole and stops them bursting?

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Retrograding the at starch is not designed to help with graininess. Traditional potato puree is not grainy at all. Retrograding is meant to help with the gluiness that can result when you work a potato puree.

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We were going up to Vermont this week and I decided to bring along a SV leg of lamb. I had a 5 pound bone in leg of lamb in the freezer so last week I somewhat defrosted it on Thursday, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, wrapped a half dozen garlic cloves and a few sprigs of thyme in paper and bagged the lot to rest in the refrigerator for a day. Friday I put it in the beer cooler version of my DIY SV system at 55C. Sunday I took it out (54 hours), chilled it in ice water and refrigerated overnight. Monday we drove to VT and I brought along the stock pot version of my system to reheat the meat. The bone stuck out of the pot a little but that was of no concern. I reheated it for 3 hours, seared it in his 450F oven for 10 minutes and served it to my host and guests. It was out of this world! Tender, nicely medium rare through and through and the flavor was top notch. I boiled the bag juices and strained them through a paper towel. They were nicely flavored and almost clear. We didn't really need them since the meat was so good by itself. The next day we made lamb sandwiches. The juices had gelled and I smeared one side of the bread with this gel along with the left over lamb. Another home run.

Sorry I didn't take any pictures.

PS: My son gave me a copy of Modernist Cuisine for my birthday/anniversary (75/50) last week. This will most definitely have an impact on the things I do from now on. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks!

Edited by paulpegg (log)

Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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Jaws are too short (1-9/16").

Having a hard time envisioning common use scenarios where that is going to come into play? At least for myself, chops, eggs, etc. seems like it would be pretty handy and cheap (can get even better deal with free shipping on amazon).

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Jaws are too short (1-9/16").

Having a hard time envisioning common use scenarios where that is going to come into play? At least for myself, chops, eggs, etc. seems like it would be pretty handy and cheap (can get even better deal with free shipping on amazon).

The leg of lamb i did this week was 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. Those short prongs would be useless for large spherical or cylindrical items.

Paul Eggermann

Vice President, Secretary and webmaster

Les Marmitons of New Jersey

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When using my ruler, calipers are not necessary anyway, a kitchen table with a rectangular border will do to adjust the ruler exactly vertical/horizontal:

Thickness ruler_on_table_600px.jpg

If your table has rounded borders, just use MC:

Thickness ruler_on_MC_600px.jpg

If you do not have MC at hand, McGee will do:

Thickness ruler_on_McGee_600px.jpg

Peter F. Gruber aka Pedro

eG Ethics Signatory

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I think I've found just the measuring device. It's a plastic tree calliper and it will measure cylindrical (or for that matter spherical) objects up to 7" (~177mm) in diameter which should be OK for 90+% of SV applications.

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At less than USD$4 - it shouldn't break anyone's discretionary kitchen gadget budget!

Cheers,

Peter.

Edited to show a better picture and a link with a better price.

Edited by blackp (log)
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I just encountered a nice idea as a supplement to my sous vide thickness ruler on Jason Logsdons souvidecooking.com: use a sewing gauge as a sliding measure. Even better but more expensive would be an X-Ray Thickness Caliper.

I use a combination square similar to this item. I already owned one, so cost was a non-factor. Mine has a bubble level and measures to 1/64 inch. It works well for all but the very wide cuts.

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