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Sous vide cooking technique makes its way into home kitchens

At his apartment in St. Petersburg, Kiran Balan preps for a dinner party.

He fills a stock pot with water, clips his Anova immersion circulator to the side and sets the temperature to 137 degrees. In a 1-gallon freezer bag, he loads a petite tenderloin, butter, rosemary, thyme, sage and black peppercorns. He zips it partially closed, rolls it slightly to make sure all of the air is out and then seals it the rest of the way.

When the water reaches 137 degrees, the machine beeps. Balan slips six bags of steak in, sets a timer from his phone and goes to watch a movie.

After about two hours, the circulator shuts off with another loud beep, and sends an alert to Balan's phone, which he has connected to the appliance via Bluetooth. Dinner is almost ready.

The method he's using is sous vide, a fancy French term meaning "under the vacuum."

A barista at the Lab in Hyde Park and a line cook at Proper in St. Petersburg, Balan, 23, went to culinary school at the Art Institute of Tampa. But he didn't learn about this method there.

He first practiced sous vide at Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa, where he worked before the Lab, by prepping hundreds of poached eggs wrapped in plastic wrap.

But now he uses it frequently as a home cook. Balan gets most of his information from YouTube and tutorial websites; a couple of months ago, he went out and purchased an important piece of sous vide equipment, the immersion circulator, on Black Friday.

Traditionally, the sous vide process involves vacuum-sealing proteins like meats and eggs in bags, submerging them in a temperature-controlled water bath and letting them cook for a number of hours at a low, precise heat. The immersion circulator's job is to regulate that water temperature. And temperatures vary depending on the product: For medium-rare beef, the ideal temp is 135 degrees; for carrots, it's 183 degrees.

Because you're using indirect heat from a submersion bath, rather than direct heat like from a saute pan, the internal temperature of the product stays the same as the external temperature of the water. The result is an even, consistent cook without the risk of burning.

"You can't exceed the temperature of water," Balan said. "So your protein cannot overcook."

Developed in Europe by three-star Michelin chef Georges Pralus in the mid 1970s, sous vide is a rather foolproof cooking method that has been used in restaurant kitchens for decades. Many high-end places in Tampa Bay, like Edison: Food+Drink Lab in Tampa and FarmTable Kitchen in St. Petersburg, use it. Nationally, Starbucks recently started offering Sous Vide Egg Bites on its menu.

But, Balan said, it's also easy to perfect at home.

"It's honestly the best cooking technique for people at home," he said. "I bought [an immersion circulator] for my mother."

You can cook large quantities of food at once, then store it in the freezer so you don't have to cook every day. For that reason, it's an ideal method for hosting large gatherings or readying family meals. Balan said he sous vides three to four times a week.

The increasing popularity of kitchen gadgets like sous vide machines follows the trend of bringing the restaurant kitchen into the consumer's home. People now brew their own beer, roast their own coffee beans, rely on pastamakers to make fresh pasta and use dehydrators to create their own snacks.

Megan Woods, a culinary specialist at Williams-Sonoma, said there has been an increasing interest in sous vide because of a growing conscientiousness about what people are putting in their bodies. Instead of purchasing bags of frozen vegetables or fruits, home cooks are sous viding fresh produce and storing it themselves.

Woods, who has taught classes on the technique at the Williams-Sonoma store in International Plaza, emphasized the agency sous vide equipment gives the home cook.

Low-temperature cooking is also a better way to cook food, she said.

"We, just as humans who have created breakfast, lunch and dinner and no breaks, have created fast cooking," Woods said.

When we use fast cooking methods, especially flash-frying and sauteing, vital nutrients are lost. With sous vide, those are kept intact, making food taste fresher even if it's stored for a period of time.

Prices for sous vide machines vary. From SousVide Supreme, there's a 9 ½-quart steel water oven for $275. Both Sansaire and Joule sell immersion circulators, which you clip to your own pot for water temperature control to the tenth of the degree, for $199. The Anova version that Balan uses runs about $169 and has built-in Bluetooth capabilities. (That's how he was able to connect it to his phone.)

Balan said you can also rig a sous vide system yourself with a thermometer (a digital one works best) and a watchful eye. Simply fill a pot with water, place the thermometer in the pot and turn your stovetop on to heat the water to the temperature you need. Once you've added your food, regularly check the thermometer and adjust the heat accordingly to make sure the temperature stays the same throughout the process.

Back in Balan's kitchen, the timer on the immersion circulator has gone off. He transfers the bags from the stock pot to an ice bath to shock the steak and stop the cooking process. Then he places the bags, herbs and all, in the freezer overnight. The next day, about an hour before his dinner party, he'll finish off his meal. Thanks to the sous vide process, all he has to do is add the steaks to a cast-iron skillet, with more butter and rosemary, and get a nice sear on them.

Contact Carlynn Crosby at carlynncrosby@yahoo.com.

Sous vide isn't

just for steaks

Balan cooks a lot of steak, but he said you can cook virtually anything sous vide: fish, vegetables, eggs, desserts. You can make yogurt, creme brulee, stuffing, cheesecake and even eggs Benedict.

"You can sous vide the world, man," he said.

Figuring out different foods' optimum sous vide cooking temperatures takes a bit of research, widely available online and in specific recipes designed to use the method. Here are some general tips for things commonly cooked using the sous vide style.

• To poach eggs, line a glass or jar with plastic wrap, crack an egg into the wrap, twist the wrap closed and drop the egg into a water bath set at 143 to 147 degrees. (For a runnier egg, go with the lowest temperature; for a harder egg, go with the higher one.) Cook for about 60 minutes. You can also drop the whole egg, in its shell, into the water, cook for 45 minutes, then peel the egg shell and finish poaching it in a pot filled with water that's just below simmering.

• For fish, like tuna, halibut and salmon, simply treat them like steaks. Season properly, place in a gallon-sized freezer bag, squeeze out the air and cook for 45 minutes. Finish in a saucepan for a good sear. According to recipes.anovaculinary.com, the best temperature for cooking tuna is 145 degrees; halibut, 130 degrees; and salmon, 115 degrees.

• To infuse vodka, combine 2 cups of the booze with whatever you're infusing (like a half-pound of bacon) in a 1-gallon freezer bag and drop it in a water bath set to 150 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from bath, strain and store.

• On the cover: Balan made this steak according to the method outlined in the story. Then, he topped it with homemade pomegranate gastrique — made by boiling a mixture of pomegranate juice, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan until syrupy — and spinach oil — spinach blended with herbs and olive oil then strained until smooth. Goat cheese gives the whole thing an added oomph.

medium

Port Poached Pears

Ingredients

  • 4 ripe Bosc pears
  • 1 cup tawny port
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 (2-inch) strips orange zest
  • 2 (2-inch) strips lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Instructions

  1. Fill a stock pot with water and heat to 180 degrees.
  2. Peel and place pears in a 1-gallon freezer bag with the rest of the ingredients. Zip bag closed, being sure to let all the air out. Place into the water bath and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. After time has elapsed, removed the bag from the water and remove the pears from the bag. Into a saucepan over medium heat, add the liquid and cook until it becomes a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  4. Core and slice pears into ¼-inch slices, arrange on a plate, then drizzle with syrup.
  5. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert. Serves 4.
Source: Adapted from recipes.anovaculinary.com

medium

Beef Tenderloin With Red Wine Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 (2-pound) piece of beef tenderloin
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced, and 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup red wine
  • ¼ cup port (optional; if you don't have, use more red wine)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 to 6 thyme sprigs

Instructions

  1. Preheat your sous vide water bath to 129 degrees. Place the tenderloin in a gallon-size freezer bag and seal, making sure to get all of the air out.
  2. When the water reaches 129 degrees, lower the bagged tenderloin into the water bath, making sure it is fully submerged. Cook for 2 hours.
  3. About 10 minutes before the beef is ready, begin to make the sauce, which can be finished while the meat is resting.
  4. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the shallot, minced garlic and salt and saute, stirring constantly, until translucent and slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Raise the heat to high and add the red wine, port and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by about two-thirds, about 15 minutes.
  5. Lower the heat to medium, add the cream and cook until the mixture is thicker, 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add pepper, thyme and 1 tablespoon more butter.
  6. When the tenderloin is ready, remove the bag from the water bath and let it rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the tenderloin to a platter or tray, pat the meat thoroughly dry with paper towels, then season with salt. Add the liquid in the bag to the wine sauce.
  7. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add the canola oil and coat the bottom. When oil is hot, place the meat in the pan and sear on all sides. Then, add last tablespoon of butter, thyme sprigs and smashed garlic. Baste the meat with the melted butter, cook for a few minutes with all ingredients in pan, then transfer meat to a platter and wait 2 minutes before slicing.
  8. Serve with red wine sauce. Serves 4.
Source: Sous Vide at Home by Lisa Q. Fetterman, Meesha Halm and Scott Peabody (Potter/TenSpeed/Harmony, 2016)

medium

Glazed Carrots

Ingredients

  • 1 pound peeled whole baby carrots
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat a pot of water to 183 degrees. Place carrots into a vacuum bag along with butter, sugar and salt, and seal. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, use a freezer bag and be sure to carefully let all the air out before zipping it closed.
  2. Cook carrots in water for about 1 hour, or until they're tender. Then, pour into a skillet and cook over high heat for about 2 minutes, or until the liquid from the carrots has thickened into a glaze. Season to taste with salt, pepper and parsley, and serve.
  3. After sous vide, carrots can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Serves 4.
Source: Adapted from seriouseats.com

medium

Creme Brulee

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Fill a pot with water and preheat to 195 degrees. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and granulated sugar, mixing until pale and thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan on medium-high heat, bring heavy whipping cream to a simmer. Once cream is heated, add vanilla extract and allow to simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain through a sieve into egg and sugar mixture, whisking together. Divide the mixture into 4 mason jars and seal the lids loosely to allow air to escape and avoid glass cracking.
  3. Lower the jars into the bath, cover with plastic wrap and cook for 45 minutes. Afterward, remove from water, dry with a towel and allow to cool in a refrigerator for 4 hours. Remove lids, sprinkle with ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar and blow with a torch until caramelized.
Source: Adapted from recipes.anovaculinary.com

Sous vide cooking technique makes its way into home kitchens 01/09/17 [Last modified: Monday, January 9, 2017 11:10am]
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