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Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment (Part 4)


KaffirLime
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So what, exactly, is your question?

I wouldn't necessarily think of cooking vegetables together with meat in the bag simply because most vegetables need to be cooked to a much higher temperature than what you would like to have for the meats. Carrots, for example, would never soften properly if you cooked them sous vide with beef at 55C. For this, you would want to cook the vegetables beforehand before bagging them with the beef if you wanted to have some flavor transfer between the two.

Another feature of braising, for example, is that the long slow cooking concentrates flavors through evaporation. This also is not possible with sous vide cooking. So, if you want to end up with a rich, flavorful liquid at the end, it is likely that you will need to reduce some of the cooking liquid beforehand. Looking at your coq au vin example, you would definitely want to cook down the wine beforehand, not only to concentrate the flavor but also to cook off any alcohol.

Even with the "pre-reduction" of liquids, you will usually need to do a further reduction afterwards to cook down the juices that had come out of the meat. This can get a little complicated sometimes because the meat juices resulting from low temperature sous vide cooking haven't been cooked at a high enough temperature to coagulate certain proteins. My experience is that when these juices reach the boiling point they will coagulate quite a bit of scum that needs to be removed. If you have vegetables that you want to keep in the bag, these may need to be rinsed to remove any scum-forming proteins.

I have, on a few occasions, cooked the meat together with some other ingredients in the same bag. Earlier in this thread I did some chicken breasts with shiitake caps on one side and scallions on the other side. This was a short-duration cooking process, however, and neither the scallions nor the mushrooms really needed to be "cooked." I have also done things like brisket with a puree of (pre-cooked) caramelized onions, which I thought worked pretty well. That said, I'm not sure that I think this technique is particularly useful for cooking everything together in one bag. If I were going to make something like sous vide beef stew, I'd be likely to cook the beef sous vice together with a liquid consisting of reduced stock, wine and some other flavorings. This could even be done several days in advance and the cooked meat refrigerated. After that, you could de-scum the cooking liquid and use that liquid to cook the various vegetables conventionally (which could also be done ahead of time). For service, it's then a simple matter of reheating everything, which could be done using bagged portions in a water bath, or over the stove.

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Some of these I discovered early on; I usually cook the vegetables, then deglaze the pan with whatever cooking liquid and concentrate the result to about ¼ the initial volume; the juices from the meat bring it up to a reasonable strength. In my opinion, the meat cooking with this reduction over a long period enhances the flavor at the end. I must admit, I had not thought about the coagulation of proteins

I like your idea of two bags. I guess the best way to do this is to cook the “dish” using scraps to obtain the liquid, I like it. That way, you can adjust it beforehand. That would mean that you use sort of a sort of dry rub with the spices and cooked aromatics to add flavor, then cook using sous vide. Or, better yet is your idea to cook it beforehand, then use the water bath to keep it at serving temperature.

One thing I haven’t worked on is the transformation of connective tissue to gelatin. What relationship is there, if any, between the temperature at which it is cooked and the texture of the meat? Is the gelatin less likely to dissolve at lower temperatures? I guess I must experiment with the effect of holding at 130F +. I will need to see if the further cooking affects the texture of the meat.

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You may wonder why I am doing this.  Many times I have people over when it is little or impossible to cook shortly before the meal. 

I think in this case you can get a lot of use out of just doing your cooking in advance and vacuum packing the meal. When you have guests bring the packs up to temp in a bath. Not really SV as we know the term today, but you get what you are looking for... Braised or otherwise meals in a short period of time without cooking in front of our guests.

I have maybe 20 different meals in the freezer packed up. Some SV and some not. All are vacuum packed. All come back to temp in a bath of water either in my SV gear or a simple pot on the stove. Cut the top off the bag and plate.

One thing I haven’t worked on is the transformation of connective tissue to gelatin.  What relationship is there, if any, between the temperature at which it is cooked and the texture of the meat? 

Up thread there are discussions about converting collagen to gelatin. Basically, when you lower the temp it takes longer. That's why you see long SV times for meats with lots of connective tissue.

On the flip side you can cook something like Salmon and have a rare or uncooked look, but a cooked like texture due to exact temp control.

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

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There are lots of interesting things you can do with sv equipment that is not exactly sv cooking.  For many of these things, you really do need a more powerful vacuum.  I set forth some of these things above, but for example, you can compress fruits and vegetables to change the texture or you can "pressure wilt" raw vegetables to approximate some of the structural changes of cooking without actually cooking the food.  In terms of reduced pressure, you can put a food into a rigid container together with a liquid, reduce pressure (sucking all the air of of the food item) then release pressure, whereupon the food will "suck" up the liquid into the spaces previously occupied by air (this works best for things like cucumber or watermelon).

Does the FoodSaver pull enough Hg to compress fruit? Based on my limited experience with watermelon this past weekend, I suspect it does not. Anyone else have any luck? Maybe I'm just doing something wrong.

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It doesn't seem to be strong enough to significantly compress watermelon from my experience. From what I've read (from others that have moved from FoodSaver to much more expensive units), it requires a much more expensive sealer to compress watermelon.

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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit. I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit. Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

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Vacuum chamber machines are generally powerful enough to compress fruit and veggies in to a terrine-like stack.

"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

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My flickr collection

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First, thanks to everyone for the help on this board. Over the past three weeks I acquired a tabletop roaster, a PID from Frank at Sous Vide Magic and a FoodSaver sealer. This weekend, I had a chance to play with the new rig and wanted to share the results with everyone.

After acquiring some buffalo tenderloin at my local farmers market, I seasoned the meat with Herbes de Provence, some truffle salt, black pepper and truffle butter.

gallery_51910_5987_11414.jpg

Into the vacuum bags they went:

gallery_51910_5987_4150.jpg

I cooked them for approx. 6.5 hours at 140. After a quick sear, they turned out like this:

gallery_51910_5987_16746.jpg

Here's a shot showing interior doneness:

gallery_51910_5987_19202.jpg

The meat was very succulent, but I would have liked it more rare. As I am a SV neophyte, I was quite fixated on the so-called "safety zone" minimum of 140. Was I being overly cautious? Where could I have dropped the temp to and for how long would it have been safe?

BTW, it appears I blew a seal (no hackneyed penguin jokes please), as one bag puffed up compared to the other and was no longer tightly wrapped against the meat. It does not appear I had any infiltration of water, however.

Any feedback and tips are greatly appreciated.

Best,

- VD

Edited by Vicious Wadd (log)
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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit.  I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit.  Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

Thanks slkinsey.

Bummer. I really wanted to do that whole watermelon masquerading as sashimi tuna thing. :sad:

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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit.  I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit.  Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

Vacuum chamber machines are generally powerful enough to compress fruit and veggies in to a terrine-like stack.

Its less the power of the vacuum and more the method of vacuum that makes the difference. FS machines can actually pull a very strong vacuum.

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

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I think I've seen specs on the order of 24 Hg. What about good old fashioned manual compression as an aid? For example, seal the watermelon, then put two 25 pound olympic weights on it.

I'll get compressed watermelon even if I have to kill it! :cool:

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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit.  I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit.  Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

Vacuum chamber machines are generally powerful enough to compress fruit and veggies in to a terrine-like stack.

Its less the power of the vacuum and more the method of vacuum that makes the difference. FS machines can actually pull a very strong vacuum.

I've been thinking about this, and I think I've figured out why it works with a chamber vacuum and not a bag sealer. When you have the fruit in the chamber and evacuate the air, you are creating a low pressure environment in the chamber. This should have the effect of "sucking out" the air in the little spaces throughout the watermelon. The the bag is sealed around the fruit, and when the chamber is opened there is an even 14.7 psi of pressure which closes all the empty spaces created when the air was sucked out of the fruit, thereby compressing the fruit.

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Just as an aside, this reminds me of the prosaic but related crock pot. ...
There is a difference. A crock pot is an open system, whereas in sous vide we have a closed system. In one experiment, I cooked my test dish three ways: traditional, crock pot and sous vide. ... The sous vide was not only better than the crock pot, but better than the traditional treatment. I attribute this to the fact that by cooking it longer and in a sealed bag, the flavors are enhanced.

Yes indeed (my crockpot comparison was tongue-in-cheek, Mikels). More seriously, a profound physical factor at work here gets little mention. That's the volatility of flavor components, which sealed or "closed" cooking suppresses. The subject is important enough in other contexts to fill technical textbooks, and I often wonder (when braising an aromatic stew, say) how much we enjoy the enticing aroma at the cost of the final dish -- it all comes from the same pot.

Such flavor changes sometimes get mistakenly attributed to oxygen, when actually volatile esters escape from open vessels regardless of oxygen. There's a famous parallel situation in wines, where people carelessly attribute rapid flavor shifts in open bottles to "oxidation" until they learn that tests show the same flavor shifts in oxygen-free atmosphere, from light volatile or dissolved-gas species departing the wine.

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MaxH,

Is this in any way applicable to SV, where cooking is done in a vacuum/closed cooking bag?

"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

***************************************

My flickr collection

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Yes Mike, that's my point. A consequence of sealing the bag is to seal in not just flavor abstractly, but volatile flavor specifically. (Depending on the bag material, some components still diffuse out through it -- my chemist friends are expert at recommending particular plastic wraps to hold in the overpowering aromas of old Epoisses and other Burgundian cheeses, on this principle -- but that's very slow compared to loss of aromatics from an unsealed container.)

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I've finally got to try SV squab.

A 1.5 lbs bird was cooked at 60C for 2 hours with salt and pepper, just enough to cook breast to medium-rare.

gallery_57905_5970_19790.jpg

Both breasts were separated from the carcass ( see below),

gallery_57905_5970_65951.jpg

the seared for 30 sec. on each side and served with roasted yellow beets, house made blood sausage and beet juice demi-glace.

gallery_57905_5970_2486.jpg

Breast meat was near perfect: quite juicy, tender, with a shot of game taste, but not undercooked at all (although not quite as tender as chicken breast SV at the same temp).

gallery_57905_5970_17633.jpg

I would recommend 60C for medium-rare squab breast, with temp adjustment to the right degree of doneness.

Edited by MikeTMD (log)

"It's not from my kitchen, it's from my heart"

Michael T.

***************************************

My flickr collection

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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit.  I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit.  Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

A while ago I tried it with an apple as well as a few vegetables. It didn't compress the fruit.

Having never been able to try it, I wonder if it removes air or water. I don't have the equipment to perform a simple experiment. Weigh the fruit before employing the vacuum. Then, weigh the fruit after. If it is air, there should be no measurable change, unless you have a very sensitive scale. If it water, then there should be a difference. If it is water, then the vacuum must be strong enough to allow the water to be evaporate quickly or boil at room temperature.

Edited by Mikels (log)
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I don't think it is water. This is why the fruits for which the compression effect is interesting tend to be ones with a lot of air inside (watermelon, cucumber, etc.). No one is, e.g., compressing a plum.

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Just did my first home cooked sous-vide item. Did a hangar steak (nice, tender, flavorful and cheap cut) at 136 for about an hour. Turned out perfect. Might drop the temp a degree or two next time, but overall very good result. Just seasoned and vac'd it with some olive oil and thyme. Very nice.

Gonna try an egg and probably do a chicken breast tomorrow.

BTW, I set it up using the PID controller and a rice cooker. Very cool and simple...didn't know it could be done so cheap or I would have done it a couple of years ago. Thanks guys.

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After many attempts, I finally managed to get brisket to come out the way that I wanted. I've done quite a few of them in the past six months and while many were tasty, they didn't quite capture what I was after. The brisket was done at 135F for 48 hrs. The result was pink and fork tender with a nice meaty texture and not dry at all. The main reason that this one turned out so much better than my last couple of attempts was the sourcing of the meat. Most of my experiments were with supermarket briskets. This time, I purchase a couple of smallish (3 lbs) flats from a high-quality butcher. They were trimmed of most of the external fat and had nice marbling.

Here are a couple of pictures (which don't do justice to the meat -- the exposure wasn't right --so the color is a bit washed out). The color was a nice bright pink.

It was great with either sour cream/horseradish (like what I would use for roast beef) or barbecue sauce. I am looking forward to making hash with it for breakfast on Saturday.

gallery_51976_6006_88148.jpg

gallery_51976_6006_3401.jpg

Equipment: Auber PID, Hamilton Beach tabletop roaster, FoodSaver, cheap aquarium air pump for circulation, cheap propane torch for browning

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Equipment: Auber PID, Hamilton Beach tabletop roaster, FoodSaver, cheap aquarium air pump for circulation, cheap propane torch for browning

Mmmmmm.... Brisket....

e_monster, I have the same setup, Nesco instead of Hamilton Beach roaster. Just wondering what settings you're using for your P, I and D. If I remember correctly,you have the "old style" Auber controller (blue case)? Using the numbers Auber provides, mine seems to overshoot 5+ degrees on the initial heat up, and when I add the cold food, I'm getting closer, but not there yet.

Thanx

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I have the first generation Auber. The settings I used were: P/I/D 250 / 900 / 100

I have experimented with the settings for the roaster and am still experimenting. I found that there suggested settings for the Nesco gave me more overshoot than I wanted. So, I have played with them a fair amount.

I start with water that is about 130 degrees and I let the temp stabilize for a few hours before adding the meat. With these settings, I get an initial overshoot of a degree or two that takes a while to settle down. I get another overshoot of a degree or so after I add the meat as it compensates for the temperature drop. But it settles down pretty quickly after that and stays stable for the rest of the cooking.

(Note: with the default settings my Presto Multicooker -- too small for brisket -- has no overshoot. So, I use the multicooker whenever the items to be cooked will fit in it).

I plan to experiment a bit more with settings. The small overshoot is not a problem with a big piece of meat since the temperature re-stabilizes fairly quickly for me (long before the temperature of the meat will have approached the bath temperature).

I have considered setting it to PD or PI (rather than PID) mode based on something that I read to see how that works with the roaster. The main issue with the roaster is that there is a fair amount of intertia/latency in the heating element. Someone suggested that setting I to 0 can result in less overshoot.

Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to experiment lately. It would be worth setting the D exaggeratedly higher and lower to see what impact that has on overshoot.

Equipment: Auber PID, Hamilton Beach tabletop roaster, FoodSaver, cheap aquarium air pump for circulation, cheap propane torch for browning

Mmmmmm.... Brisket....

e_monster, I have the same setup, Nesco instead of Hamilton Beach roaster. Just wondering what settings you're using for your P, I and D. If I remember correctly,you have the "old style" Auber controller (blue case)? Using the numbers Auber provides, mine seems to overshoot 5+ degrees on the initial heat up, and when I add the cold food, I'm getting closer, but not there yet.

Thanx

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No, I don't think that a FoodSaver can compress fruit.  I actually wonder whether any bag sealer can compress fruit.  Haven't tried it with the semipro bag sealer I have now.

Vacuum chamber machines are generally powerful enough to compress fruit and veggies in to a terrine-like stack.

Its less the power of the vacuum and more the method of vacuum that makes the difference. FS machines can actually pull a very strong vacuum.

I've been thinking about this, and I think I've figured out why it works with a chamber vacuum and not a bag sealer. When you have the fruit in the chamber and evacuate the air, you are creating a low pressure environment in the chamber. This should have the effect of "sucking out" the air in the little spaces throughout the watermelon. The the bag is sealed around the fruit, and when the chamber is opened there is an even 14.7 psi of pressure which closes all the empty spaces created when the air was sucked out of the fruit, thereby compressing the fruit.

When I bought my Foodsaver, it came with three canisters, like these: Foodsaver canisters

Do you suppose that the Foodsaver would generate enough vacuum to successfully compress fruit in these? While compressed fruit isn't high on my personal to-do list, I would be happy to provide some experimental results, if someone wants to guide me in the prep.

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