Sous Vide Cuisine
By: Tom Schulte
From a culinary-perspective, I have always had the best intentions. As I wonder aimlessly around the local grocery stores, I seem to envision myself preparing meals worthy of Michelin stars. Upon checkout, I am painfully reminded that I could have purchased this same meal, at a quality restaurant for more or less the same price, without the significant risk of a botched-job. Assuming I gather the confidence to actually cook the meal, it is typically followed by a thorough and critical review by my girlfriend, Khrista, which is then sent via text message to my mother. However discouraging, I have put this all in the past.
I received quite the unique gift this past Christmas from the one and only, Alexander G. Weiss. Maybe it was a result of Khrista relaying my kitchen-related issues, maybe it was a re-gifting type scenario, either way, my eyes lit-up as I unwrapped a brand new Sous Vide. For those of you not familiar with a Sous Vide or immersion cooking, it is truly quite fascinating. The actual ‘Sous Vide’ is typically a cylindrical machine that is clipped onto a deep pot (or plastic container) with a heating element, designed to keep water circulating at a specified temperature. The real beauty behind this machine and technique is its ‘hands-off’ nature and perfection of the final product. For example, experts suggest the ‘perfect’ medium-done steak has an internal temperature of 130 °F throughout the cut. Using the Sous Vide, I set the machine to 130 °F precisely, dress the steaks with whatever marinade, dry-rub, and/or herbs of my choice into a Ziploc bag, slowly suspending the bag into the water bath. Within an hour, the steak achieves an internal temperature of 130 °F, producing the mouth-watering color and texture that I certainly could not recreate otherwise.
After the pulling the Ziploc bag out from its water bath, the contents need to be ‘finished.’ Since the food was cooked suspended in water rather than direct contact with a hot surface, it is lacking necessary characteristics, such as the grill-marks on steaks or crispiness of chicken. There are several ways to finish the food, however a quick stovetop sear, broil, or grill are most popular.
Over the past two months, I estimate I have used the Sous Vide approximately 15 times. Below are some notes on a few of the meals:
- Favorite meal: Marinated beef short ribs cooked at 130 °F for 48 hours, finished stovetop.
- The recipe calls for 72 hours (for added flavor), however we had forgotten we had Bruins tickets for the following evening, trumping the opportunity for a home-cooked meal. I have a hard time imagining the meat could be any more tender or flavorful than it had been.
- Biggest surprise: Meal-prep ability.
- Since the water temperature is precise throughout the container, you can cook essentially as much food as space permits. Using multiple Ziploc bags, you can accommodate various marinates and seasonings without separate cooking sessions.
- Room for improvement: Root vegetables.
- I’ll chalk this up to user-error, as I rinsed the vegetables prior to placing them into the Ziploc bag. As a result, they had the consistency of steamed vegetables even after finishing (they were intended to be crispy).
If anyone has Sous Vide tips, recipe suggestions, or would simply like to know more, please do not hesitate to reach out—I could go on for days!