|Perfectly pink in the middle, crusty on the outside. Unbelievable flavor.|
Are you familiar with sous vide cooking? You may not realize it, but you’ve most likely eaten food that was cooked in a sous vide machine. If you’ve had a filet mignon steak that was perfectly evenly pink throughout with a crispy caramelized crust, and wondered, “how the heck did they get it so perfectly cooked,” you were experiencing a little sous vide magic.
Until a few weeks ago, all I knew about sous vide was that it was some sort of fancy technology professional chefs used in their kitchens. At a Food Fete cocktail party following the Fancy Food Show, I had a quick conversation with a Sous Vide Supreme representative. I mentioned that I knew nothing about what it could do, and she offered to send me a new unit designed for home cooks to play around with for a couple of weeks. I gave her my card and promptly forgot about our talk in the confusion of our move. When she contacted me in early September to make sure I was still interested in reviewing the unit, I was ready to play. And that’s just what I’ve been doing for the last week.
|the Empty Sous Vide Machine|
Before I go any further, I should probably clue you in to what I’ve discovered. Basically a sous vide machine is a big water bath that allows vacuum sealed food to be cooked at a precise temperature for a long time. The temperature ranges depending on what you’re cooking: hotter for vegetables, lower for meat, but is always below boiling. And because the temperature is constant, the food cannot be overcooked.
|Lowering the lamb chops into the Sous Vide|
You can leave a steak in the unit for 3 hours and it will remain medium-rare, taking away the pressure of timing dishes together. I didn’t believe it until I tried it, leaving some lamb chops in the unit for 2 hours, but they came out perfectly pink and moist. I now think of the sous vide as similar to slow cooker in terms of time convenience, it just doesn’t turn the food to mush. Once the meat is cooked, searing it on a really hot pan for a few seconds on each side will give it that crusty exterior.
In addition to the cooking precision of sous vide, there are a couple of other perks worth mentioning:
- Nutrition. Because of the lower temperature, nutrients normally burned off are retained.
- Flavor. The long cooking at low temperature seems to intensify the flavors. I rubbed some spices on the lamb chops and they tasted as though they had marinated overnight.
The Sous Vide Supreme is definitely revolutionary. I’ll be dreaming about those lamb chops for a long, long time. But I don’t think it will be as ubiquitous as the slow cooker any time soon. It still has a few serious drawbacks:
- Size: This is not a small appliance. It’s larger than a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer. Definitely something to which you would need to commit valuable counter space.
- Price: Although significantly cheaper than a commercial unit, the $450 price tag is still steep for many home cooks.
- Versatility: You can’t cook a meat and a vegetable in it at the same time. They need to cook at different temperatures.
- Vacuum Sealing: In addition to the Sous Vide Supreme, you’ll also need to buy a vacuum sealer and a supply of vacuum seal bags.
That said, I’m sorely tempted to put this on my Christmas list this year. I think that a sous vide machine could become as treasured as my slow cooker. The stress of late soccer games would basically disappear, if I knew that perfect medium rare steaks could be on the table within a minute of us getting home. I could easily give up a corner of a counter to have perfectly cooked meat in my life.
I’ll be playing around with my new toy for the rest of the week. I’ll let you know how butternut squash, salmon, eggs, and filet mignon turn out. Stay tuned!
Perfect Lamb Chops Using Sous Vide Machine
- Set the Sous Vide Machine temperature to your desired temperature (120F/49C for rare, 134F/56.5C for medium rare, 140F/60C for medium). You don’t really want to go beyond medium in the Sous Vide machine as it will make the meat really gummy. If you want a well-cooked piece of meat, then you don’t need the sous vide machine anyway.
- Season the lamb chops with some spices. Go lightly, a little goes a long way in the sous vide. Feel free to add some garlic cloves to the package as well, no need to chop them. Seal the meat using a vacuum sealer, one to two chops per package, being care to not let the bone pierce the bag.
- Once the Sous Vide has reached the temperature, immerse the vacuum sealed bags of meat in the water.
- Cook your 1 inch lamb chops for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 4 hours. If the lamb chops are thicker, cook them for a minimum of 2 hours and a maximum of 4 hours.
- Once the minimum time has elapsed, set a frying pan on the highest heat possible. Brush with grapeseed or vegetable oil. Quickly sear the meat on each side for a few seconds to brown. Serve immediately.