TT Culinary Institute: Sous Vide
Want to cook a steak as good as you'll find in a top steakhouse? Or perfect a soft-cooked egg that would be worthy of your favorite bowl of ramen? The answer to all of this and more is the secret chefs have been employing in restaurants for years: sous vide. As the machines become increasingly affordable and home cooks are embracing the technique more and more, we're declaring it high time that you conquer any fears about sous vide and take the plunge.
Let's start with the basics. Cooking sous vide is as simple as placing food in a vacuum-sealed bag (don't worry, we've got a hack for you if you don't have one), and then cooking it in a water bath at a constant temperature. Unlike cooking in a pan, where you'd wait for food to reach the right internal temperature, with sous vide, you set the water to the exact temperature at the beginning. Once the food is in the water bath, you can walk away and leave it alone until the designated amount of time is up. That's it.
The best part is you don't have to worry about anything going wrong. Since you can be more exact with setting and reading the temperature of water, sous vide eliminates the danger of overcooking.
Despite its reputation, this technique isn't just for fine dining. Chefs around the country are employing sous vide in every kind of kitchen. You can even find sous-vide egg bites at Starbucks.
That's why we've decided to make an entire dinner menu for you, all cooked sous vide. Start with a vibrant lyonnaise-inspired salad topped with the perfect egg (see the recipe), then move on to the best rib eye you've ever had (see the recipe) and finish with tender poached pears in red wine and vanilla (see the recipe).
Let's break down how you're going to cook each component with tips and tricks from the experts.
Egg on Our Face
Forget about poaching. Eggs are the easiest things to cook sous vide. Poaching involves cooking eggs in a swirling pot of water that's below a simmer at 160 to 180 degrees. But here, eggs cook low and slow at 145 degrees for an hour. The result: just-set whites and dreamy, custard-like yolks.
So why cook eggs sous vide for an hour rather than poach for a few minutes? "It’s a better way to control the cooking of the product," Vincent Chirico, chef and owner of NYC's Coarse and Vai, tells us. "Poaching is more volatile—if [the sous-vide machine] reads 220 degrees, it’s 220 degrees. When you’re cooking on a stove temperature, it can jump up and down."
Rib Eye of the Tiger
With the appetizer done, it's time to move on to the main course: a big rib eye steak. This is going to be the only way you cook steak from now on. Trust us. Vacuum-seal a seasoned boneless rib eye with herbs, garlic and lemon peel to infuse the aromatics into the meat as it slowly cooks at 129 degrees for two hours. By cooking it low and slow, the steak turns out completely medium rare from top to bottom. Then sear the steak super quickly in a searing-hot cast-iron pan for that ideal crust.
"You are able to cook with precision on a large scale," Michael Mina, chef and owner of the Mina Group, explains. Mina employs this technique for large parties or banquets, times when it's necessary to have large amounts of perfectly cooked beef ready to go all at once. You can also approach this the other way around, Mina points out. He sears the beef first, and then seals it with aromatics to finish cooking it sous vide.
Grow a Pear
Desserts are no stranger to sous vide. Everything from fruit to custards can be cooked in a water bath, and "the results are much more consistent than traditional poaching or roasting," Miro Uskokovic, pastry chef of Gramercy Tavern and Untitled in NYC, tells us. "Since the fruit is being gently circulated around, it maintains the integrity of the structure, and it's very nice and toothsome, even after it's cooked fully. You can use way less liquid than a more traditional method. This really helps keep the flavor very concentrated and true to the fruit." Do just that with pears sealed in red wine and aromatics.
And if you don't have a vacuum sealer, don't stress. The reason you vacuum-seal is to remove any air so the items being cooked remain submerged the entire time. For a great workaround, fill a large pot with water and place whatever you are cooking sous vide in a sealable plastic bag. Then, dip the bag, keeping the seal above the water, until the pressure of the water has pushed out all of the air, and seal close. Your bag is now good to go.
Once you've covered the basics, don't be afraid to try your hand at everything from vegetables to ice cream to cocktails. "We have a lot of cocktails we use the sous vide for, the best example of its use would be our flavored daiquiris," Jesse Vida, bar manager at BlackTail in NYC, explains. The team cooks fruit with rum for 24 hours, extracting all the flavor from the fruit, to make vibrant infusions. Give making your own infused liquors or syrups sous vide a go for a truly sophisticated cocktail.
Whatever you're cooking, don't stress and let your new sous-chef do the work.
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