Saturday, February 23, 2013

Control your temper...ature. Embrace the sous vide.

As you may have seen from the past few posts, I've been spending some time on a site called ChefSteps.  Basically it's a web destination for anyone and everyone who's interested in modern cooking techniques.  They are developing an online class for sous vide cooking which I've been working my way through.  There's also an active forum to ask questions, discuss knives, compete in weekly challenges, exchange recipes and ideas, or just contemplate the differences between various grades of methylcellulose, if you're into that sort of thing.  Anyway, I've been enjoying the site, and picking up plenty of tips and tricks along the way.  I thought I'd do a menu based on several of the recipes, ideas, or discussions from the site.

So I started off with Caramelized Carrot Soup.  This was a recipe featured in Modernist Cuisine, then adapted for the @Home version of the book.  I'd been wanting to try it.  Since many of the ChefSteps crew worked on the Modernist Cuisine books, it seemed like a fit.  So, I pressure cooked some carrots.  I have an old canning cooker that I use (not sure of the vintage, but the manual includes directions for use on your coal fired stove so I assume it's been around longer than the 2 years I've owned it). I adapted the recipe slightly to cook the carrots in jars, because the cooker is just huge otherwise.  After cooking, they went into the blender, through the sieve, and combined with carrot juice.  Then I added some butter, and emulsified with a stick blender until it was silky smooth.  The finished soup was topped with Creme Fraiche and Roasted Pepitos.  It was pretty damn tasty, and perfect for wintertime.
Caramelized Carrot Soup
Look at that texture.

Next up was the Salmon Mi-Cuit.  That's French for half cooked or lightly cooked.  I had some fresh Ora King Salmon that came in to my local fishmonger this week.  Early that morning, I brined it for an hour, then cooked at 40 degrees Celsius (that's 104 Fahrenheit) for an hour.  It went immediately into an ice bath to rest until dinner about 10 hours later.  It was plated with a vibrant green watercress puree, pickled onions and horseradish cream.  The salmon was awesome.  It had a texture that just melted in your mouth.  Not like sashimi, definitely not flaky, but something altogether different.  This recipe was part of the class, and looked beautiful on the plate.  The top pic is mine, followed by the ChefSteps version on the bottom.  Mine's not quite as elegant, but not half bad.  You can check out the recipe here: Salmon 104 Degrees.  I highly recommend it.    
My Salmon Mi-Cuit
The original ChefSteps Version

The entree was Beef Short Ribs.  These had been cooked for 48 hours at 64C (147F).  The long cook time allows the collagen to break down so that the ribs are tender, but only cooks the meat to medium doneness.  Contrast this with a typical slow and low braise, crock pot or smoking process which functions similarly to break down the collagen, but cooks the meat to well done.    The ribs were paired with a Chimichurri sauce (parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, crushed red pepper, black pepper).

I served the Short Rib with a Potato Pave that I believe originated from Chef Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc, and had been getting rave reviews on the forum.  Those reviews were well deserved.  Essentially this is a Potato Gratin, but the potatoes are sliced thin, dipped in cream, layered, and cooked until tender.  Then they are pressed together and cooled.  After refrigerating overnight, I sliced into cubes and fried the side of each.  This way, every individual potato slice was crispy on the edge.  I think I had about 25 layers of potato in these.  You should search this recipe out, because it is phenomenal.

Also with the beef, was some Brocollini that I cooked sous vide at 90C for about 9 minutes, then charred with a blowtorch and sprinkled with sherry vinegar.

48 hour Short Rib, Chimichurri, Potato Pave, Brocollini
Final Sear on the Short Rib
Potato Pave, ready to go
Creating the crust on the Potato Pave

The final dish of the night was a Lemongrass Cardamom Creme Brulee, which ended up without a picture.  These also got cooked sous vide, though somewhat less successfully.  Although they didn't fully set, they were still quite delicious, and a nice way to end the meal.  

All in all, quite a successful dinner, though it really put my single circulator through the paces trying to complete everything. Several times I put the ribs into hold mode while I borrowed the circulator to cook other items in a separate bath.  Maybe I need to get another.

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