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…
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.
But eggs, roasts, proteins, all that is pretty well worn territory. I had yet to try vegetables:
Honestly…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.
To finish up the outside a bit, I tried:
Perfectly 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.