Wednesday, May 5, 2010

signature dish

By now you've probably discovered that much of what your parents told you was wrong. Maybe they meant well, or didn't know any better, but rest assured, ignoring their advice, like that of the high school principal, was sometimes the right thing to do. Example: Playing with your food. Chef's who did not ignore this childhood advice staple are likely busy today running a fast food hot line. This may result in consistent product but it's better to eat playful, real food.



I recently learned of the poor person's sous vide from my pal Ebban (not his real name!) who, when not trying to corner the market on fresh water in the desert, is steeped in MacGyver re-runs. Apparently Hulu, unlike the rebels, can find it's way deep inside a fortified bunker outside of the Green Zone.

Sous vide
, for the uninitiated, is French for "under vacuum". Tony chef's have been spending thousands on complicated vacuum cooking apparati for several years but turns out you have everything you need in your pantry. And here's how to do it.

Instead of vacuum sealing the item to be cooked you place it in a zip-lock bag and remove as much of the air as possible. To cook the item you'll need a clean cooler and some hot water. The trick with sous vide is to maintain the cooking fire (in this case hot water) at the desired finish temperature. Never more and never less. The item bastes in its own juices until it reaches the desired finished temperature. And a cooler is designed to do precisely that—hold temperatures steady for long periods of time. Recently we tried this method on a couple of filets and were astounded as how easy it was and how well and precisely it cooked the meat.

First, season the meat with pepper and salt, place in an Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Squeeze all the air from the bag as the food will need to directly contact the cooking liquid with no air spaces between. Make sure the bag is secured closed to prevent water from leaking into the bag.

To cook beef mid-rare (160° F) fill a small cooler with hot water from the tap and then add heated water from a teapot to bring the entire bath to 165-170°F The water bath temperature will drop slightly once you add the food which is why you start a few degrees higher. You must use an accurate instant read thermometer to insure the temperatures are correct.

Place the Ziploc bag(s) containing the filets in the water. Place a small lid on top to keep the bags fully submerged. Close the lid and then after a couple of minutes check the temperature and if off by more than a few degrees, adjust up or down as necessary. Close the lid and wait another 30 minutes before checking the water temperature again. If needed, adjust the water bath temperature by adding more hot water but never get it hotter than your final desired temperature. After 1.5 hours the filets will be cooked to perfection. You'll know it's done because the juices will have come out of the meat and it will be brown on the outside. You're doing the same thing that you do with any other heat source, you're setting the proteins in the meat. Let the filets stand for 20 minutes and the quickly (on the grill or in a pan) char the outside for 30 seconds. You will be astonished at the tenderness of the meat.



We served our sous vide cooked filet mignon with a slice of no-knead, pecan semolina bread and an apple-cauliflower soup. For desert, a signature dish of home made fresh strawberry and pineapple candied fruit jellies, no added sugar, just pure juice and all the yummy goodness one can stand.

1 comment:

Hapi said...

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