A Comfort Food Christmas

by arnold on January 14, 2008

This year, instead of a traditional Christmas dinner, we decided to do meal composed of comfort food, i.e. fried chicken, beef short ribs, flap steak, mac and cheese, bacon smashed potatoes, and chocolate cake. The fried chicken and short ribs were inspired by the food we’ve had at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville, and in fact, the fried chicken recipe is based on the Ad Hoc version that was published in Food and Wine magazine in October 2007.

What this actually means, of course, is that we cooked all the entrees sous vide. I got a 60C/140F water bath going and started the beef short ribs on Dec. 22 so that it would cook for 48 hours. I added the flap steak, which I found really cheap at Costco, to the water bath about 12 hours before serving. The chicken was brined overnight as specified in the recipe and then placed in the water bath about two hours before we started frying. The 140F temperature is a little low for chicken, but we were still going to fry it so getting it up to the “safe” temperature of 160F wasn’t too much of a concern.



Overall, these were the best sous vide dishes I’ve made to date. After getting some tips from Nick, Ad Hoc’s general manager, on a trip to Ad Hoc the day after Thanksgiving, the short ribs we produced were perfect. I might try them at a lower temperature next time so they’re a little more rare, but I stuck with 140 because we were working with chicken, as well.

The flap steak was initially a stop gap in case we didn’t have enough food, but they ended up being one of the stars of the dinner. After removing from the water bath, I seared them really quickly on one side for appearance’s sake and then cut them on the bias for presentation.

The chicken probably didn’t need to be cooked sous vide, but I’ve been doing it this way to ensure that the chicken is really moist and tender when it’s finally served.

I’ll post the recipes for the mac and cheese and smashed potatoes later, but in the mean time, you can see what they looked in the slideshow. My cousin brought corn and salad (not pictured) and the delicious chocolate tunnel cake that finished the meal.

It’s been a couple years since my wife and I took over the cooking duties at major holidays, so the main goal is to make sure that my mom likes the food. So far she’s been impressed, but I’m trying to figure out if we should do something more traditional next year, or should we start a sous vide short ribs and fried chicken tradition for the holidays?

What do you think?

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Steph January 20, 2008 at 11:31 pm

Everything looks really amazing…seriously, restaurant quality. Perhaps you can fuse traditional w/ sous vide! After all, the holidays are special and in your crazy world, sous vide is practically everyday food :P

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