Sous Vide Spectacular

Well I’ve had my setup for almost a week now and it’s been hard at work. I’ve done a great mix of foods, most very simple, trying to highlight what makes it different to conventional cooking methods.

Poached Egg
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Slow poached eggs have been around for centuries and are very common in Japan. The texture is very different to a normal poached egg. The white is very soft and velvety, the yolk creamey and light. But the best bit is the presentation. You serve your guests the egg – still in it’s shell – which they then break over the salad/toast/scallops and out slides a perfectly cooked poached egg. It’s a brilliant party trick.

Salmon
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Fish is a really popular sous vide dish as it’s so hard to cook perfectly. All the guesswork is taken out, you pick your temperature and put it in. A few minutes later you have a beautiful piece of fish that just needs a quick brown (with a blowtorch or ripping hot pan). The texture is very different – soft, fudgey and delicious.

Chicken
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Everyone who I’ve spoken to about sous vide has said I need to try chicken. Everyone’s had the same dry chewy disasters before – sous vide chicken is out of this world. Freakishly moist and tender it blows away anything else I’ve tried. Brilliant stuff.

Scallops
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The scallops were good – not incredible – just very nice. There’s two methods and I went for the quick (60C for 10 minutes rather than 50C for 45mins or 40C for two hours) I’ll experiment with a different one in future.

Duck

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The duck was an absolute winner, the sous vide created a very soft texture, deeply ducky flavour and rendered the fat beautifully. A few seconds in a red hot pan crisped the skin and a quick sauce made with the juices from the bag finished it off perfectly.

Scrambled Eggs

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One of Hestons recipes, this was a very easy breakfast. Because its all cooked in a disposable bag, there’s no washing up – just break the eggs, milk, cream and seasoning into a bag, moosh it around and cook for 15 minutes before pouring onto a plate. Simple! The texture is very smooth, almost custardy.

Cod

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Another recipe from Heston – the cod cooks very soft, making neat plating a nightmare. Next time I’ll use a cranked spatula! The texture is lovely, far smoother than you’d expect and the sous vide takes all the guesswork out – its almost impossible to overcook it!

Steak

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This is the big one. I love steak. I’ve eaten steaks all over the place and I’m very particular. The sous vide should allow me to perfectly cook very thick steaks before quickly searing them in a red hot plan. How does practice match up to theory? Superbly. One of the juiciest steaks I’ve ever eaten – perfectly cooked. If anything, 54°C is a tad to warm, I’ll try 52°C next time.

Pears

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One of the few areas where sous vide is underused, desserts are still pretty experimental! The poached pears were delicious, the sauce is sugar, honey and vanilla, I was a bit worried about the quantity if vanilla but it actually works really well. Next time out I’ll go for some alcohol too – whisky/brandy would be amazing.

Burgers

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A lot of internet sites rave about sous vide burgers – I was keen to give it a try! I used some bog standard burgers from the supermarket, and the results were very promising. The paleness is a little off putting, it needs a very very hot pan. I also had the water a little warm, I’ll go for 54°C next time. Even so – it was incredibly juicy, great barbecue potential!

Pork Belly

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This is the longest recipe I’ve cooked (outside brewing/fermenting). A 24 hour salt/sugar/herb cure. 30ish hours in the water bath. The result? Amazing – rich porky taste, the aromatics did a great job on the inside, the texture was lovely – not too soft. To get some texture on the skin you have to essentially deep fry it – putting a big joint like that into a wok of hot oil is an experience!

Carrots

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Carrots are always amazing when they’re not boiled – the flavour molecules are soluble in water, so boiling is not a great idea. These were awesome straight out the bag, but a quick glaze in a hot pan transformed them. Fantastic side dish.

Conclusion
As you can see, I’ve been quite busy! The sous vide is an amazing tool, but like any it needs to be used properly. There’ll always be a place for a quick fried steak. But certainly if you’re entertaining, it takes out a lot of the stress and offers some huge benefits.

When I get a chance I’d like to try cooking some more unusual items – I think game would be amazing. I also want to try poaching in unusual/expensive liquids. Chicken poached in truffle oil? Steak poached in whisky? Yum.

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