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Sous Vide Cooking – What a Warm Bath Can Do For Your Food

For those of you who have read my blog for some time, you know how much value I place on cooking.  In fact, one of my 4 Keys to Paleo Success is cooking at home!  I have a wife, two hungry kids, and a full medical practice.  I also happen to be the one and only cook in my home…so, I am always looking for ways to make easy and convenient food that my family enjoys.

Some may say I have a bit of an obsession with kitchen equipment (especially my wife).  That said, no matter how big your kitchen is you eventually run out of room to store things.  So a couple of years ago when I started to look into Sous Vide technology to say that my wife was a little cold on the idea would be an understatement.  She was convinced that this would be another high dollar toy to collect dust in the pantry (I would like to say, there are none of those to speak of…:).  After several years, my Sous Vide is still going strong, and even my wife has admitted to me that it was probably the most useful appliance we have ever bought to cook with!  Now that’s saying something.  I use my sous vide so much that it has a permanent place on our kitchen counter because it is pretty much always on!

If you have ever uttered the words “I just don’t have time to cook”, the sous vide could be the answer you have been looking for. When I mention the sous vide to others they are usually intrigued and completely in the dark about the technology.  That’s why I decided why not do a blog post on it and see if we can get more people perfectly cooking meals at home!

The Concept:  Sous Vide is French for “Under Vacuum.”  This method of cooking uses a precisely controlled water bath to cook food that is vacuum sealed in airtight plastic bags.  To do it you need a vacuum seal device like your typical Food Saver, and a way to precisely control a water bath’s temperature.  By cooking food in this way you assure that the food is always cooked to the precise temperature that you would like, and you never have to worry about ruining that expensive piece of meat you bought!  In the end it is a very simple concept: cook food to precisely the right temperature to get optimum results (oh, and it can’t be any easier to do).

All you do is decide on what you want to cook, soak it at the appropriate temperature for an adequate amount of time, and finish it off with a quick sear to achieve the crispy brown exterior that adds so much to the flavor of meat.  Now the science behind sous vide cooking is extensive, and can be very complex, but you can keep it pretty simple by experimenting with cooking times on your own and never rushing the process.  Check out this page at SousVideSupreme.com for specific cooking times, or totally geek out with the Sous Vide Dash mobile app to better control your cooking times!

The most important thing to remember is my opinion is to adequately season your food before vacuum sealing AND before searing.  This leads to the most consistent results and great flavor.  In addition, don’t forget to thoroughly DRY off your meat prior to searing or you just won’t get the amazing results your food deserves.

The Cost:  You can spend thousands on amazing sous vide systems, but unless you are commercial chef there is absolutely no need.  I use the Sous Vide Supreme Demi that I paid $329 on Amazon for (you can spend an extra $100 for the slightly larger standard side Supreme).  I also bought a Food Saver vacuum machine from Sam’s Club for around $130, and I was ready to go.  Is this equipment cheap? Absolutely not!  Is it worth it, I would have to say every penny.

Sous Vide Supreme has a home on my countertop.

Sous Vide Supreme has a home on my countertop.

The Convenience:  Most large pieces of meat take hours to cook in the oven, and the results are often variable.  You cook a Ribeye roast and the outer parts are overcooked while the interior can be a bit raw.  A very expensive piece of meat normally turns out good, but why risk it and instead always make it great!  Lets say you have a 4 pound Ribeye roast and you want to cook it perfectly rare/medium rare.  Hands on time includes getting it out of its packaging and seasoning it.  Next you place it in a Food Saver bag and seal it.  So far, total time, maybe two minutes.  Get your Sous Vide out, fill it with water, set it to your desired temperature (I prefer 130F for beef), and place your roast inside.  Using a chart or the mobile app you can easily determine the minimum time needed to cook your roast.  The key is that you find out the MINIMUM time, but that is not a MAXIMUM time!  You cannot overcook your meat, as it will never go above 130F no matter how long it sits in the water.  Let’s say it takes 5 hours to cook, you can leave it 8-9 hours until you get home from work without any issue whatsoever.  In fact, with tougher cuts of meat I often cook them for 24-72 hours.  I’m sure you can keep meat in too long and it will mess with the texture, but I have yet to have any major issues with that.  The key is that under most circumstances, the meat can wait for YOU to be ready to finish it off, not vice versa.  Once I get home I put a cast iron skillet on full blast gas to heat up while I take the roast out of the bag and thoroughly dry it.  I add a little more seasoning and brown it on each side in a little coconut oil for 30-45 seconds.  Total hands on time for the roast 10 minutes MAX, and the results are perfect.

Ribeye Roast drying off

Ribeye Roast drying off

Finished Ribeye Roast (Notice edge to edge perfection)

Finished Ribeye Roast (Notice edge to edge perfection)

This convenience aspect is why we love the sous vide so much.  The main part of our dinner many nights is perfectly cooked animal based protein, and the sous vide makes it amazingly easy to prepare with very little time invested.  I have cooked countless cuts of meat this way, and I am yet to have a problem with the results.

Here are two more things to keep in mind when it comes to the convenience of sous vide cooking.  Lets say you find a good deal and want to buy some meat in bulk…you are likely going to freeze some of your bounty.  Simply season the meat, vacuum seal it, label it, and stuff it in the freezer.  When it comes time to cook your meat no need to defrost it, simply stick it into the sous vide at the right temperature frozen, and add an hour or so to the cooking time.  Perfect meat, straight from the freezer, and no time consuming defrost!

Lastly, how many of you have had this happen?  You plan to make chicken thighs for dinner and they are soaking away in the sous vide.  For whatever reason you end up staying out later than you want, the kids get hungry, and you take them to a local eatery for dinner to less complicate your life.  What to do with the thighs?  When you get home take them out of the sous vide and dunk them in a cold water bath.  Once completely cooled place them, bag and all, into your fridge.  In the next day or two simply pop them back into the pre-heated sous vide for an hour to heat them through and proceed with dinner as usual!  I have even frozen completely cooked sous vide meat as an experiment and reheated it straight from the freezer.  Meat was perfect…you just can’t seem to go wrong.

The Consistency:  I can’t tell you how nice it is to know that what I cook will be perfectly cooked to my family’s liking every single time.  As many of you we spend the time to source our meat locally and make sure it is raised in a healthy and responsible manner.  Those of you who do the same no doubt know that this meat does come at a cost.  Nothing aggravates me more than taking an expensive piece of meat and not having it come out just right…or even worse, totally killing it!  That simply does not happen with the Sous Vide.  It’s 100% guaranteed to be perfect if you can just set the temperature right and cook it long enough.

This consistency also leads to enjoying meat at it’s best.  While beef is often cooked rare and enjoyed that way (my 7 year old daughter recently sent a steak back at a restaurant because it was medium…much to done for her!), other meats in particular pork are often overcooked for fear of food borne illness.  When you calculate the time to cook meats you can calculate the time for the core of your meat to reach a certain temperature, or you can calculate the time to Pasteurize the meat to the core.

Sous Vide Dash for iPad

Sous Vide Dash for iPad

That means you can cook a pork tenderloin or roast to medium long enough to kill any potential bacteria, and finally be able to enjoy amazingly juicy pork!  I had honestly given up on pork tenderloin as it always turned out too dry for my liking no matter what I did!  The sous vide has brought all pork back to my kitchen, and I am amazed at what I was missing with poor temperature control!

The Versatility:  To say you can cook anything in the Sous Vide is not an over-statement.  I have cooked just about every type of animal and cut of animal out there, and I have gotten amazing results.  Want to cook seafood? Go for it.  Veggies? Have at it.  You can even cook eggs in a sous vide!

The Results:  If you have not figured it out yet, the Sous Vide has led to some of the most amazing meat dishes I have every made, with little to no energy expended on my part.  I never have to worry about how dinner will turn out.  Here are some examples of dinners from my Sous Vide Supreme.

Searing off a roast in the cast iron skillet

Searing off a roast in the cast iron skillet

Sliced Roast, perfectly cooked

Sliced Roast, perfectly cooked

Sealed and ready for a dip!

Sealed and ready for a dip!

Steaks dried off before the sear

Steaks dried off before the sear

Finished Steak

Finished Steak

Grass Fed Chuck Roast

Grass Fed Chuck Roast

Finished Roast

Finished Roast

Chicken Thighs ready for searing

Chicken Thighs ready for searing

Chicken Thighs, Skin Crisped to Perfection

Chicken Thighs, Skin Crisped to Perfection

Crispiest Chicken Thighs ever

Crispiest Chicken Thighs ever

Grass fed roast being sealed

Grass fed roast being sealed

Roast out of the Sous Vide

Roast out of the Sous Vide

Finished and perfectly cooked roast

Finished and perfectly cooked roast

Pork roast completed

Pork roast completed

Perfectly cooked Pork Roast

Perfectly cooked Pork Roast

I hope this has given you even a little bit of interest in Sous Vide cooking!  There is no doubt that the cost of the equipment to cook this way can be hard to afford.  All I can tell you is that I have owned my fair share of kitchen equipment in my day, and I would be hard pressed to find a more valuable member of my cooking arsenal than my fancy water bath.  Have experience with a Sous Vide of your own?  Share your experiences and new ideas on what to throw in and at what temperature!  Here are some useful links for Sous Vide cooking!

Nom Nom Paleo – Amazing food blog that first peaked my interest in Sous Vide Cooking.  I really can’t tell you guys enough how much you need to check out Michelle’s blog.  It’s beautiful, witty, and delicious!  Check out her recipes and her iPad app that includes many recipes specific to Sous Vide.  The chicken thigh recipe above?  All Nom Nom!

Sous Vide Supreme – Makers of what I think are the most affordable and easy to use Sous Vide cookers for the home cook.

Douglas Baldwin – Expert if Sous Vide Cooking and Non-Linear Waves

Modernist Cuisine – Great article on “Why cook Sous Vide”

Sous Vide Cooking – A Blog all about Sous Vide Cooking!

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in General Paleo Discussion

 

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New Recipe: Moroccan Saffron Chicken With Almonds

Greetings everyone, it’s been a week or so since I’ve posted…just took a little time off to recharge the batteries.  I’ve also been working like crazy, but then again, what’s new?!

Over the last few days I’ve started cooking again a lot more, and it has really got me thinking about finally going to work on reworking my favorite recipes to make them Paleo.  My main passion in life has always been cooking and it’s the one thing I do everyday to relax and unwind.  Many see cooking as a chore, I just don’t in any way.  So, here is the first of my efforts.  Sorry in advance for the lack of photos, my camera was out of batteries!

Ingredients:

4 Large Chicken Breasts

1 Large Yellow Onion

2 Celery Stalks

2 Carrots

1 Large Clove of Garlic

1/2 Cup Fresh Almond Meal

1 Cup Chicken Stock

Large Pinch of Saffron

Fresh Cilantro to Taste

Cut the Chicken breasts into bite sized pieces, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  Chop the onion, carrots, and celery into very fine dice.  Warm up the chicken stock just a bit and put the saffron in it to start the flavors infusing into the stock.

In a heavy bottom pan sauté the chicken in two patches with a healthy dose of olive oil.  Once the chicken is cooked and starting to brown remove to a warm plate.  Add a touch more oil and cook the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic clove (roughly chopped) until cooked down, maybe 5-7 minutes.  Once the veggies are cooked add the saffron stock and almond meal stirring to combine.  Add the chicken along with another cup or so of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes.  I like to let the sauce reduce a bit towards the end of the cooking to concentrate the flavors a bit.

Serve over some Cauliflower rice and top with as much fresh cilantro as you like!

I served it here with some simple roasted okra and it was an awesome meal.  The combination of the saffron and the almonds is amazingly rich, and I think I could eat this every night!

Hope y’all get to try it and share my love for this dish!  I’m a big fan of Moroccan flavors, and they lend themselves fairly well to Paleo conversion.  Hope all have a great Fourth of July!!

-E

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2012 in Main Entree, Recipes

 

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Whole 30: Day 14

Greetings all! Hope everyone has had a great weekend so far. My wife got a fancy new Point and Click Camera and I’m trying it out today for the pictures. Curious to see how the quality looks compared to my trusty Olympus Digital SLR.

This morning was a fairly typical sunday morning where we got up and got everyone ready for sunday school and church. I’m ashamed to say I ate NOTHING for breakfast today as I just didn’t feel too hot and putting something in my stomach didn’t sound very good to me. I did fix a coffee with coconut milk and cinnamon which I’m finally getting a taste for. For lunch we headed to a local steak house were I got the New York Strip (no butter), a dry baked sweet potato, and a water. It was a big steak, and it was yum. My twin nieces came over to play with my kids today, and we managed to entertain them by heading to a friend’s house (thanks @bariatricfreedo!) and swimming in their pool for a few hours. Upon return to the hacienda I threw some already cooked chicken thighs into the Sous Vide at 150 F to reheat. I threw some chopped up some yellow pepper, a few slices of left over acorn squash, a red onion, and a handful of green beans in a half sheet pan and roasted them to perfection. Next I cooked the chicken thighs in my cast iron skillet and crisped up the skins to absolute yumminess. Visit @nomnompaleo’s web page for that recipe along with tons of other great recipes. Here are the photos…

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I want to thank all of you for following! Have a great day. Tomorrow is half way!!!

 
 

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Update 2/26/12

Hey everyone! Hope you all had as good a weekend as I did. Just a totally relaxing weekend with the family, and I really needed it! So, what did I do? Well, I started off Saturday morning with a trip to the Green Market downtown to buy some Inglewood Farms organic produce and eggs for the weekend. I got it home, washed it, bagged it, and settled it all into my Veggie Refrigerator Drawer.

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Next I did a few housekeeping chores for the kitchen. I was running low on my balsamic vinegar glaze, so I bought two 3 dollar bottles of balsamic vinegar at the grocery, and I simmered it until it was reduced by around 1/2 or more. This makes a thick and rich glaze that is amazing with almost anything. Sure, you can spend tons more on very old balsamic, and I do have some of it, but that is only for special occasions. This stuff is cheap, yummy, and perfect for every day. Next, I put a heap of almonds into the food processor and let them go for 10 minutes. At the end I add a little roasted almond oil, and there ya have it…almond butter!

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Saturday night I cooked up my kid’s favorite…Flat Iron Steak! They sell them individually pre-vacuum sealed at Kroger, and I find the flavor just about the best of any steak you can get anywhere. Like I said, the kids love it. Funny enough, they will ONLY eat it medium rare! I always cook it that way, and they won’t accept it any other way. Fine by me! I added another batch of the the Health-Bent.com Roasted Acorn Squash drizzled with a little of my newly made balsamic glaze, and a side of Inglewood Farms Chinese Spinach sautéed in bacon grease…YUM!

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I woke up this morning craving something a little different…a cheat maybe? So, I whipped up some Paleo Coconut Pancakes. I’m not ready to say I perfected the recipe yet, so I’ll keep working on it and post it when ready. Pancakes themselves are perfect, just need to work on the spice combination! For a topping all I had was a relatively bruised honey crisp apple. I chopped it up and sautéed it in ghee till crisp, and then added a little cinnamon and agave to finish it off. Added a couple of pieces of bacon, drizzled a little melted raw honey on the pancakes, and that’s all she wrote. Lets just say…we’ll eat these again!

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We decided to take the kids on a hike today out at Valentine Lake, so before we left, I collected the cornish hens I put to defrost a few days ago and seasoned them. I my spice grinder I put three dried shitake mushrooms, a tablespoon of sage, and a tablespoon of salt. I whizzed it up and liberally applied it to the birds. At the bottom of my slow cooker I put a chopped up onion, a few carrots, some left over acorn squash from the other night, and three garlic cloves. I put the birds on top, put a third of a cup of chicken broth in the cooker, and set it for 8 hours on low.

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When we got back this afternoon, I took the hens out and put them on a rack to cool. With my immersion blender I made an amazing gravy out of the juices and veggies in the bottom of the slow cooker. Just had to add a touch of salt to finish it off.

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For my sides, I sauteed up some cubed King Trumpet Mushrooms in olive oil, and roasted some asparagus in the oven at 400 F for around 20 minutes. Just toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper and pop them in. I usually add some kind of vinegarette to top my asparagus because Kourt just loves them that way, and tonights did NOT disappoint! Whole grain mustard, White Balsamic Vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. All I can say is…Kourt and I were fighting to lick the left overs out of the bowl! Finally, I plated everything up. We have the adult plate, and the kid’s plate! All were happy…

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Really, just a great weekend! Good weather, good food, and great times with my family. Time to go start planning tomorrow night’s dinner!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in Main Entree, Pictures, Recipes

 

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Update 2/23/12

Ok, so I’ve kind of been kind of slacking on updates lately…been crazy busy with my brother on vacation! I did manage to cook up some yummy grub last night which I stole from other sites!

Ginger Lime Chicken from Paleo Magazine and Roasted Butternut squash from Health-Bent.com. Good stuff!! Post again soon 🙂

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Main Entree, Recipes, Side Dishes

 

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Update 2/14/12

How is everyone doing on this Valentine’s Day?? Hope all are well. Kourt and I had our Valentine’s dinner last night, so we were home tonight and I cooked for the kids. A few other goodies first though.

For those who don’t know, I’m Puerto Rican by heritage. We eat LOTS of plantains, and I have vivid memories of eating very ripe plantains for breakfast with my eggs. So, enter a perfect Paleo breakfast. You want the plantain to be so ripe, you think it’s rotting! (Completely black) Just slice it, and fry it up in coconut oil.

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Next for dinner tonight I made baked chicken. Now there are many out there who seem to be afraid of baking a whole chicken…but you can’t beat it! They are cheap, and taste better than any boneless skinless anything out there. This is how I have always baked my chickens, no alterations needed for paleo!

Wash the chicken’s very well in cold water and pat dry. Slice a shallot in half, and stuff half into the cavity of each bird (I always make two so I have left overs). Also throw in 3-4 thyme sprigs and rosemary sprigs from the backyard (or supermarket). I buy grass fed butter (which has a VERY favorable omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio, and universally accepted in paleo in moderation) and rub it all over the birds. Last I season liberally with salt and pepper. You can use your imagination and season as you see fit! Preheat oven to 375 F Convection (400F conventional) and place birds in on a rack breast side up. Cook for 20 minute, flip them over, cook for 30 minutes, then flip back over until done. Around 20 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest 10-15 minutes. Carve and Serve! It’s just so easy, even a caveman can do it….sorry for that.

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Ok, so last…I have had basically nothing resembling a “treat” in 6 weeks, and it’s valentine’s day, so I made Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies! They were from the book Make it Paleo, and they were amazing!

And I threw in a picture of me and my little man at his Valentine’s day party! Hope all had a wonderful day!!!

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Main Entree, Recipes, Snacks

 

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Easy Chicken Dinner

Evening everyone!  I’m on call, and got in a little late, so it was a quick dinner tonight.  After a rushed stop at Kroger for my goods, I came home and got to work. Simple dinner menu? Chicken Thighs, roasted King Trumpet mushrooms, and wilted red chard.

The mushrooms were easy.  Diced them into bite sized pieces and tossed them in this awesome garlic infused macadamia nut oil I found a Marshalls.  In the oven at 400 F for 20 minutes and done.

The chard was a last minute addition.  I’ve kind of been slacking on bringing greens into dinner lately, so I got the chard.  Wife wasn’t too excited, but she survived.  Washed them, and put them in hot olive oil for a minutes or so. I added a touch of chicken broth, a healthy dose of reduced balasmic vinegar, and some S&P.  Let it cook down till it was a nice sticky mess, and yum!

Chicken was even easier.  Season, saute, and done!

I’m telling all you doubters out there…this took me 15 minutes!!!  And it cost less than 20 bucks (fed all four of us, and could be much cheaper without the organic chicken). You can’t Paleo without cooking…so GET COOKING!!

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Pictures

 

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