Sous-vide (/suːˈviːd/; French for “under vacuum”)is a method of cooking in which food is sealed in airtight plastic bags then placed in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 6 hours, up to 48 or more in some select cases) at an accurately regulated temperature much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat and higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and retain moisture. –Wikipedia
True confession: I am a closet sous vider. I come from the last of the old guard that rejected sous vide in favor of more classical techniques. I was first exposed to sous viding when I did a stage for Joel Robuchon in Paris in 1996. He had a pork belly dish I vividly remember, the ultimate Petit salé aux lentilles, a melt in your mouth dish of cured pork belly served over creamy lentils. Petit salé is far too bourgeois for most diners of a three star Michelin restaurant and I am convinced the dish was not actually on the menu but there only for gastronomic regulars in the know. Each morning at Robuchon a plastic tub was filled with warm water and a strange device attached. The machine gently hummed while vacuum-packed bags of cured pork belly were lowered in. All throughout prep and service, the machine circulated water heated to a precise temperature around the packets. It felt like Christmas whenever someone ordered it. Time stopped. Everyone’s attention was fixated on the opening of that one single package and I always wondered who was on the other side of the swinging kitchen doors eating it. Since then, every “modern” kitchen I have worked in had at least one such circulator.
Finally, companies like Anova are making this extraordinary technology affordable and within reach for home cooks to use.
At the end of summer, my six year old son’s day camp sells all their gear. We had purchased a six foot section of stainless steel shelving for our garage. While I was waiting for the counselors to bring it out I noticed a stack of Anova circulators for sale. At $99 dollars apiece the cost was reasonable enough for me to try one out.
I was quickly impressed with the ease of use. There is even a downloadable app for your smart phone that allows you to connect to it. You can set temperatures, cooking times and monitor the status of what you are cooking all from your phone. It comes fully loaded with basic recipes to get your feet wet while you learn. I recently made two dishes I want to share: my version of Joel Robuchon’s petit salé and a flavor bomb wagyu steak served over buckwheat noodles with a miso truffle butter that anyone can easily prepare. You can buy your own Anova circulator here or better yet give them to your friends who love to cook.
Petit salé aux lentilles is a rustic peasant dish born out of necessity and geography. Historically when pigs were slaughtered, farmers would put the meat into salt boxes to conserve them. Petit Salé originated in Auvergne where beautiful green lentils are grown. The pork was soaked in cold water to remove some of the salinity, then slow cooked with lentils. Today, while salting is no longer a necessity, it remains a rural tradition.
This dish is born out of that same ancestry.
- 6 ounces coarse sea salt
- 1 ounce brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons crushed juniper berries
- 2 pounds raw pork belly, available at any Asian food market
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 star anise
- 1 section dried orange peel
- 1 rosemary sprig
- Mix the sea salt, brown sugar, bay leaves, cloves, allspice and juniper berries together.
- Coat the pork belly with this mixture and allow it to sit for four hours in your refrigerator.
- Set your Anova circulator to 158 degrees F
- Rinse the cure off the belly.
- Put the pork, cinnamon stick, star anise, dried orange peel and rosemary sprig into a zip lock bag.
- Use the immersion technique to seal the bag. See this youtube video.
- When the water is the correct temperature add the belly and cook for 24 hours.
- Make sure to weight in down so it stays submerged. I used a small cast iron pan.
- pork belly, see recipe above
- 2 cured and/or smoked pork shanks
- 1 quart homemade chicken broth
- 1 package Käsekrainer sausages, or other pork sausage
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 sweet onion, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 2 ribs of celery diced
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 quart homemade chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- Sous vide the pork belly according to the recipe above.
- Put the cured and/or smoked pork shanks into a large pot with your chicken broth and bring to a simmer.
- Let cook for two hours adding water to maintain the same level throughout the cooking process. Since the pork is already fully cooked this is done to soften the meat and make a more flavorful broth to cook the lentils in.
- Open the package of sausages and wait till for the final assembly of the dish.
- Heat butter in a large pan.
- Add onion, carrots and celery and saute till tender, about five minutes.
- Add green lentils and cook a few minutes.
- Add broth and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
- Continue to cook for 1 to 2 hours until the lentils become creamy and soft. You will have to add either more stock or water as you go, since lentils drink a lot of water as they cook. I am often reminded of risotto when I cook them.
- Do not season with too much salt. The pork and pork belly have plenty enough.
- During the last 20 minutes of cooking, add the sausages and heat till hot.
- Open the sous vided pouch of pork belly and pour the juices into the lentils. This will add an unctuousness and level of complexity to the final taste.
- Slice the belly lengthwise.
- Arrange the lentils on a large serving platter.
- Put all three meats on top and serve.
- We drank both a very coarse and rustic Cote du Rhone and a new world chardonnay with it. Both wines worked well.
Probably one of the best sous vide applications for the home kitchen is cooking your steak. It may sound extremely contrary to everything we learned growing up, but you can easily control the final outcome. Sous viding allows you to cook something to precisely a temperature and hold it there. The longer you hold it at temperature the more the muscle fibers break down and become soft. However, too long and your meat will become mush. Perfectly done and your steak will always be juicy and perfectly cooked. Although I made this dish with A5 Japanese wagyu, perhaps the world’s most sought after beef, it is easily made with any high grade beef found in your grocery store’s meat section.
- 4 - 2 ounce pieces of A5 Wagyu Rib Eye
- Set your Anova circulator to 128 degrees F
- Use the immersion technique to seal the bag. See this youtube video. for instruction.
- When the water is the correct temperature add the wagyu and cook for two hours.
- Remove meat from bag, pat dry, and sear in a smoking hot pan.
(For more info check out my article on Wagyu)
I served the rib eye over buckwheat noodles bought in a local Chinese grocery store with a pool of ginger sauce and a dab of black truffle – miso butter. The noodles were simply cooked and tossed in a tablespoon of the black truffle – miso butter. Here are the two accompaniments that will work with a variety of other proteins and vegetables.
- 1 cup Braggs amino acids or soy
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup mirin
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, or sherry vinegar
- 2 inch section fresh ginger root, chopped fine
- 1 head garlic, chopped fine
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- pinch hot pepper
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch reconstituted in ¼ cup water
- Put everything into a pot except cornstarch.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Whisk in enough of the cornstarch to make the sauce thick but not jello-like.
- Let steep for 30 minutes.
- 4 ounces black truffle butter, or regular butter at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons of miso paste
- 2 scallions, sliced thin
- Mix everything together.