Sous-vide 1.01

It’s been about two months since the sous-vide cooking experiments started, (even though I only posted about it earlier today). Over that time, the projects have gotten a bit more ambitious, and I’ve started to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and what’s worth the time that sous-viding will require. A wider variety of home sous-vide options are also trickling out (apparently the first couple of Nomikus are already on their way, Sansaire should be shipping in November, and my Polyscience model has another lab-grade competitor in Anova).

Multiple steaks do lend themselves well to sous-viding like I said before, however if not everyone is on board with medium-rare steak, you either have to compromise on a midway temperature, or over-sear/cook in the finishing stages. However, if everyone is smart enough to go with appropriately cooked meat, sous-vide was amazing for scaling things up to an entire rib roast…

DSC03412I coated this 5 pound ribeye with smoked sea salt, mustard, garlic, herbs, and such. 8 hours later my guests arrived, and all that was needed was a little sear and a torching:

DSC03413Edge to edge medium rare throughout the entire roast. I’ve made some pretty decent roasts before, but none cooked as perfectly as this one.

I’ve still been chasing after the farm egg style that’s exemplified by places like Empire State South (see the picture from the last post). The problem I kept running into was perfectly cooked yolks, and very tasty but ass-ugly whites. I had tried some of the strategies mentioned in the previous post, with pre-boiling, post-poaching, but the only real fix is to get eggs before the whites start to liquefy in the shell. I hit up the Sunday farmer’s market in Sacramento and bought eggs that were just out of the chicken. Eggs so fresh that they didn’t even bother to stamp a Julian date on the box they came in. $4 a dozen which is a littttle crazy…but I suppose I won’t be sous-viding eggs every day.

DSC03438Boom. Whites that hold their shape, and a smudge of liquid white that could definitely get rid of if you were presenting them for guests. I sous-vided a few and kept them in the fridge.

DSC03442If you thought this was just instant ramen fancied up with a perfect sous-vide egg on top, you’d be absolutely right. To be fair…it is Shin Ramen Black.

DSC03444It’s nice to have a perfectly cooked egg just waiting to be cracked open, though I wonder how long they keep once they’ve been cooked.

But eggs, roasts, proteins, all that is pretty well worn territory. I had yet to try vegetables:

DSC03428Honestly…I’m not certain that sous-viding eggplant made a huge difference, though I suppose eggplant is inherently a bit mushy when it gets cooked. It also required some scary high temperatures to start breaking things down and softening them up.

One other application that I figured sous-vide may be useful for was traditional Korean dishes. Immersion circulation techniques have done some pretty great things for other pork belly preparations, and I thought I’d try applying it to bo ssam. Lots of people are familiar with David Chang’s bo ssam, which involves roasting pork shoulder, and some have even tried his method sous vide. However, Chang’s food, as much as I admire it (and despite the fact that the NY Times propagated the misconception), is KINO a.k.a. Korean in name only. Real bo ssam is a steamed/boiled/braised preparaton of pork belly, usually neatly sliced and served with a bit of salted shrimp sauce, kimchi, and lightly pickled napa cabbage.

Most marinades use ginger, Korean fermented soy bean paste, and sometimes green tea to remove that really porky smell.

DSC03339I started with a slab of pork belly and vacuum sealed it with a mix of soy sauce, ginger, garlic, green tea powder, and soy bean paste.

DSC03340Yes…the green tea powder makes things look pretty foul, but it probably wouldn’t matter after 24 hours in the sous vide bath:

DSC03350There were some strange discolored areas on the external surface, but on the inside:

DSC03353Nice clean pig…the other white meat indeed.

To finish up the outside a bit, I tried:

DSC03356Deep frying. Never do this. I feared for my life. There was a shower of hot peanut oil that took me days to recover and clean up. It did look pretty though…

DSC03357And the finished preparation:

DSC03360Perfectly cooked pork belly, tender meat, fat that was devoid of raw pork smell but had structure, and a rich texture without feeling overwhelming or greasy. For a fleeting moment, the thought went through my head that I had maybe created the best bo ssam in the world…that years of traditional Korean preparations couldn’t even come close. But then, I realized it had very little to do with me and more to do with a leap in culinary technology that wouldn’t have even been dreamed of when bo ssam first was prepared. Just as David Chang’s liberal interpretation relies on the use of an oven…pretty much non-existent in Korean cooking…sous-vide is kinda cheating.

So after two months of use, do I feel that sous vide is for everyone? Should home cooks universally adopt sous-vide like they did the microwave? Absolutely not. Even with low cost options coming to the market, the buy-in is too much for most people. In the past two months, I’ve used my circulator maybe a dozen times. To be fair, I’ve used it more than my microwave, but I use my stove daily, and I feel like a good number of people out there (even those who consider themselves “foodies” (ugh I hate that word)) don’t know how to properly use one of those. The non-stove cooking methods that home cooks love and use…microwaves, slow cookers, and to a lesser degree pressure cookers and induction heating elements, are more about convenience and speed. Immersion circulators may create convenience in very specific contexts, but the focus is on accuracy and consistency, not speed.


About girounds

Medical student and person who likes to cook (mainly because I like to eat).
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