It’s time to start cooking all of your food in a zip-lock bag in water slightly warmer than your hot tub. Unless your cooking fish, then you might as well just bring that filet ‘o ziplock bag in with you! I am of course talking about the latest trend in what I like to call ‘Journey’ cooking, Sous Vide.
The history of this type of cooking isn’t a long one! You only have to go back as far as the 70’s to find the root of this latest culinary trend. it was born out of necessity, providing a way to perfectly cook many types of foods without the costly shrinkage and the ability to use much less expensive cuts of meat to make amazing dishes. The method really took…..flight…..as a way of delivering gourmet meals on flights. And how does it do this??! And why isn’t everyone doing it if it’s just so darn good?!
Well, you can expect a chuck roast to be ready, and perfect in only 37 hours. That’s not a typo. That’s 37 hours! Oh, and when you’re all done cooking you still have to perform the ‘finishing’ step. C’mon now, have you ever seen a chicken breaks sitting in water for 12 hours?? Gotta crisp that sucker up before it hits the plate.
I’ll Wait a moment for the room to clear.
So, for those of you that are left, let me tell you what that 37 hours brings you. A $9 roast that I would put up against any grandma’s secret recipe, Sunday’s best, no expense spared roast beef dinner. Or a chicken that, if you’re smart, you’ll allow to cool down, egg wash, bread and fry, will be an almost religious experience. It’s that good.
I have a friend that described the process as similar to attaching 4 small tires to a piece of plywood and pushing yourself from Clearwater to Sarasota a’la Eddie Murphy in Trading Places (you know the scene). You’ll get there, and you may appreciate it more for the effort it took, but I’ll be in the car. I get it. BUT if you are ever zipping down I75 and see a jolly looking fella hand boarding it south, you’ll know I finally got him to try it How you ask? Well, that’s the magic, and the secret to so many chefs around the world.
Here’s an example. Have you ever been to a nice….like really nice steak house, and ordered one of those ‘baseball’ Filets, or a porterhouse that looks more like a roast than a steak? And you cut into it, and just past the perfect, bubbling crust is a color that goes right to the other side without a single shade change?? You with me?? So how the heck do they do that?? You can’t do that!! I cant do that!! How do they do that??
Sous Vide. It means, Under Vacuum.
The chef will vacuum seal what is usually a piece of meat (eggs and potatoes are pretty amazing too), and completely submerge the bag (a ziplock bag works great) in water. You can use any pot or plastic container deep enough to cover the food. The Sous Vide is a long, tennis ball holder size piece of equipment that will tighten onto the side of the vessel. This machine will then slowly bring the water to the temperature it is set at, and then hold it precisely at that temperature until the chef is ready. Big deal you say? Well here’s the thing, it holds not only the water, but the food at the exact temperature set.
So, if you like your steak on the rare side, then 135 degrees is the temperature you are looking for. Sure you can cook a steak rare, you can even buy one at a fancy steak house, prepared by a fancy chef, aged in a fancy fridge, served by a fancy waiter, but it will never, ever be edge to edge 135 degrees! Until now, and yes, there is an enormous difference! And because the method of cooking is so exact, once the steak reaches that temperature of 135 degrees, at cant go over. And the longer you leave that steak in there, the more incredible it’s going to be.
Yeah, that 16 ounce t-bone is done and ready to eat after about 1hr, 10min, but wait……just wait. Not just another hour or two….but try another 6 or 8. Remember, you cant over cook it!! It’s 135 degrees. It will only ever be 135 degrees. But the longer you let that lovely, lovely cut of meat stay in its little bath, the more the natural fats will render away, the more the connective tissues will melt, so when you finally take it out, and give it 60 seconds a side in a shallow bath of olive oil and garlic in your favorite cast iron skillet, and finally cut into it, I swear you will never wonder how the other half lives again!!!
Yes, its weird, yes its comically long, yes it’s impractical, yes its probably not something most people are going to run out and adopt. Yet. But the more they come down in price (I love mine, it was $129) and the more people experience it, either at a restaurant or a friends, the more will try it on their own. I think it will be the new slow cooker for the connoisseur. Not a bad niche