Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adventures in Sous Vide

Inspired by a number of things, namely Top Chef, a blog I follow, and the Alinea cookbook, I wanted to try my hand at cooking sous vide. Sous vide is sealing some ingredients in a vacuum bag, then submerging it in a water bath for a given amount of time. I've seen it done quite a bit on TV and I've been reading alot about it (with what seems to be the best and most scientific guide here) and I wanted to get my hands wet (no pun intended) because pretty much all of the recipes in the Alinea book call for meat to be cooked sous-vide before searing/serving.

Things that are awesome about sous vide is the concentrated flavors that you get when you cook with it, and the near-impossibility of overcooking your food (since it obviously can't get above the temperature of the water immersion bath). It also can be relatively low in fat, if you choose (I could've added a tbsp of butter to each bag...but I didn't). The problems are that for consistently good sous vide, the best piece of equipment to have is a thermal immersion circulator, which provides consistent water temperature at all times, as well as a vacuum-sealing system (with options from the moderately pricey to the exceedingly ridiculous).

However, for the home cook on a budget (both money and space), I've taken some shortcuts that should hopefully work...

This recipe was taken from the Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking.

I brined 2 chicken breasts in a 5% salt solution for 30 minutes (that's 50 g salt in 1 Liter of water). After rinsing under cold water, drying and lightly seasoning with salt and pepper, the chicken breasts then went into their own Reynolds Handi-Vac Bag, and sucked out all the air.

Using my awesome cast-enameled Dutch oven (thank you in-laws!) and my handy digital thermometer, I rigged up a water bath at 160 degrees. In went the chicken, where it's been sitting for over an hour. I'm planning on taking it out in 13 minutes, then eating it with some roasted potatoes and shallots w/ olive oil and rosemary, and vegetable du jour (for Steph). I'll report back how it is when I'm done eating and cleaning!


Rob Timko said...

Awesome! I recently "discovered" Sous-vide as well...I bought my vacuum sealer when I was making Duck Confit to make it easier to cook the duck in it's own fat without needing tons of fat and afterwards, you just throw the individually sealed packaged in the fridge until you need them!

Then, I watched Grant Achatz's thanksgiving video thing, where he sous-vided a turkey (in pieces) and since we had a free butterball, we sous-vided the a leg the other night....I will NEVER....EVER EVER...cook a turkey or any part of a turkey....not in a water bath in a bag again.

Alex said...

Rob, I had seen your post about the duck confit and I was very impressed! Yours was the blog I had mentioned, but my link was wrong (fixed now).

I saw the same video and was duly impressed. My wife doesn't like turkey that much, but I'm planning on trying it out with all manners of meat. Next time, I hope to have pictures as nice as yours.