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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!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2013 in General Paleo Discussion

 

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Further Adventures in Sous Vide Cooking!

Hey everyone, hope everyone is well out there! Started my day meeting with 7 employees at my office who are ready to take a 30 day Paleo challenge. Reviewed everything, and we start Monday! Will keep everyone informed how it goes.

Sunday I made a Pork Loin Roast in the Sous Vide Supreme and it turned out perfectly. I used a recipe on Nom Nom Paleo’s page for the temperature (137 F for 4-5 hours) and seasoned it with her Magic Mushroom Powder which you can find on her amazing iPad app! Season, vacuum seal, bath for 4-5 hours minimum, and seal in cast iron skillet. Served it with amazing roasted while okra.

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Today I pulled out the Grassfed Chuck Roast I put in the Sous Vide right after pulling the pork out. I put it in at 130 F for 48 hours. Here are the picture start to finish for the meat and sides. First the chuck roast, then the roasted butternut squash “fries”, and some sautéed peaches and apples with cinnamon and ghee. YUM!

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And here is the finished plate courtesy of instagram!

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Have a meeting tomorrow night so no cooking, and likely no blogging! Hope all have a wonderful and blessed day tomorrow!

-E

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Main Entree, Pictures, Side Dishes

 

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Recent Good Eats at the Hacienda!

So much has been going on lately that I have failed to post much of what I have been eating lately.  Tonight is pretty exciting because my friendly FedEx man delivered my new 27 Inch iMac today and I’ve been getting it all set to my liking over the last few hours.  I’m Very excited about the new machine, and hope to really utilize it to make the content of the blog even better.  Enough of that, on to the food!

I love curries, and the other night I really craved a crab curry I used to make before going Paleo.  This recipe is from one of Jamie Oliver’s books and after reviewing it, I figured out it did not need even one alteration to make it compliant!  Now that is convenient.  It’s a classic curry with lots of deep flavors from cumin, fennel, mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, etc.  The key for me is to put extra cilantro both in the dish, and on top when serving.  Here is a picture of the ingredients and the finished product. (I served it on top of some cauliflower rice)

Tonight I cooked a Ribeye Roast in my Sous Vide Supreme.  First I seasoned it with my own rub made of spanish smoked paprika, granulated garlic, salt, and pepper, vacuum sealed it, and I let it soak for 24 hours at 130 F and pulled it out tonight.  This cut of meat does not need to cook this long, but I leave it in longer more out of convenience.  The longer soak does not in any way negatively affect the finished product.

Here is the meat after the soak in the sous vide.

Next I heated up the trusty cast iron skillet and seared each side well.

Lastly, here is a shot of the roast cut, and my dinner plate with a side of bacon green beans.  Note how the meat is cooked perfectly medium rare though out, “edge to edge.”  This is what Sous Vide cooking is all about!

So there you have two quick meals I’ve cooked in the last two days.  Keep experimenting guys with whatever sounds good.  Curries are great because they really lend themselves to easy conversion to Paleo.  Hope all are well, gotta hit the sack…

-E

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2012 in Main Entree, Pictures

 

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Update 6/9/12

Greetings everyone! I took a few days off blogging after my Whole 30 as I worked as hard as I could to post something new everyday of the journey. Aside from my travel days, I did a pretty good job!

After the Whole 30 things have settled down. Yes, I have had some diet soda, but have managed to keep the numbers much more respectable than before. There is no doubting the benefits the Whole 30 brought to my life and my relationship with food. It will be interesting to see how things progress from here.

Last night for dinner we ate a beef brisket that soaked in the Sous Vide for 72 hours. I seasoned it with John Besh’s Basic Creole Spice mix that includes (from memory) salt, pepper, garlic powder, and celery seeds. It gave it an amazing flavor, and I whipped up some Spice Chipotle BBQ Sauce from the Zen Belly Blog out of San Francisco. This sauce was just the combination of spicy and sweet. I cut back a bit on the honey and molasses to keep the natural sugars down, but it was just great flavor and took the brisket over the top. On the side I roasted off some butternut squash and browned off some cinnamon apples in some ghee. I was a little slow on the pictures (off my game) and just managed a pic of the brisket.

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I hope all are well, and I plan on getting a new post up tomorrow on some new real patient data!
-E

 

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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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Whole 30: Day 9

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Today I stand at the verge of hitting double digits in my 30 day challenge! Tomorrow will be 1/3 down, and I’m pretty excited about it. I was off today which was nice. I started the day doing some home visits for a hospice that I work for. It’s not often we get out in patient’s homes these days, so the visits have become quite enjoyable for me even though it is my day off! This morning I made a two egg omelette for breakfast with my super fresh farm eggs. Yum! My wife and I had the rare chance to grab some lunch today sans kids and we headed to a local burger joint and ate amazing burgers minus the buns of course. Some sweet potato on the side and we were stuffed!

Dinner tonight actually started two days ago when I defrosted a beef chuck shoulder roast from Butterfield Farms and vacuum packed it after lightly seasoning it.

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I prepared my Sous Vide Supreme and warmed the water to 130 F. Using my newly purchased metal rack I put the roast in, and let the magic happen for 48 hours…till tonight. I got the roast out and this is what I found!

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In the mean time I chopped up a red pepper, yellow onion, and a head of cauliflower and cranked up the convection oven to 385F. I tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper and cooked them for around 40 minutes shaking them around every 10 minutes or so.

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I removed the roast from the bag and dried it thoroughly. Using my Iwatani Butane torch I browned it nicely all over. As you can see the meat was perfectly cooked edge to edge…Sous Vide style! The taste of the grass fed beef is definitely different, but we all agree better. My daughter (6 years old) inhaled around a third of the darn roast and declared…”Dad, grass fed is the way to go!” This chuck roast was transformed into meat comparable in taste and texture to prime rib. Cheap cut + warm tub + time = Expensive cut results! The best way I can describe the difference in taste is to say that the grass fed beef tastes like a dry aged steak at a steak house. It must be the grass coming through, but it was very enjoyable. Here is what the end result looked like.

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All in all, a very good day off. I really want to encourage anyone out there who is even considering a Sous Vide purchase to do it! I bought the Demi version which reportedly has 85% of the cooking area as the more expensive regular sized unit. The cost of $299 is worth every penny. I do not consider this a kitchen gadget, or fluffy luxury, it is an integral part of my cooking equipment on a day to day basis. Even my wife, the “expensive kitchen gadget we don’t need” queen has admitted that I was…wait for it…”right” about how awesome this thing would be. She is even trying to convince her friends to buy one! If you are serious about Paleo and spend the money on Grass fed meat and wild caught seafood you DON’T want to waste your money and improperly cook things. The Sous Vide is like a guarantee that your investment will be worth it.

I hope all had a wonderful day. I will continue to keep posting about my Whole 30 experience, and plan on continuing to share my insights as a Paleo Physician in a very non-Paleo world. I appreciate everyone who follows, comments, and supports my blog. May you all have a blessed evening.

-E

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in General Paleo Discussion

 

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Whole 30, Day 7

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Today makes a week, and that is pretty exciting!

I taught my first sunday school lesson today, and that went pretty well. Fairly intimidating process, but none-the-less it seemed to go over well, and I’ll be teaching again in around a month.

This morning was absolutely crazy getting to church. My wife had to work as a volunteer in the nursery, and I was teaching. In the process of eating some cheerios my son decided he did not like the cup they were in, and proceeded to kick the cup across the room. Bad news…he got in a fair bit of trouble; good news…he may have a future in the NFL as a field goal kicker 😉

Breakfast throughout this fiasco consisted of a hard boiled egg. For lunch I took my wife and mother in law out to a mexican joint with the kids. Had a steak and grilled veggies…it was quite tasty. They are awesome and don’t mind me asking tons of questions about how EXACTLY they are cooking my food! For dinner we ate over at our neighbors house. It is quickly becoming a sunday tradition to eat over there while all the kids play in their pool. I make the main dish, she makes the sides. Of course they are also Paleo followers so it makes the whole thing great. Tonight for the main dish I made a Sous Vide Brisket that I cooked for 48 hours. This is what it looks like when you take it out.

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Once out of the bag and completely dried, it’s time to hit the smoking hot cast iron skillet to brown on all sides. I put the skillet on high and let it heat up for 10 minutes so that it’s crazy hot. The results are always amazing.

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My neighbor whipped up a few sides of roasted asparagus which were amazing, and the Pesto Spaghetti squash from the Make it Paleo cookbook. We all agreed that this side dish was the winner of the night. Absolutely amazing job by Kathryn on the sides again tonight!

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Another great weekend has come to an end. Looking forward to a good week, and for the weekend. This saturday will be my wife and I’s first venture to our local Alexandria CrossFit. It’s about time we get more serious about our physical fitness…and we are ready to go! Hope everyone had a good weekend, and all the mothers had a good mother’s day!

 

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