Categories
recipes seafood sous vide techniques

Wild Turbot Fillets (Sous Vide)

Trader Joe’s is one of our favorite places to buy groceries. We’re big fans of their frozen foods, especially their pizza, but we’ve never really explored the wonders of their flash-frozen seafood until now. Sous vide lends itself well to cooking seafood, and from what I’ve been reading, fish prepared sous vide is soft, tender and flaky.

The Seasoned Wild Turbot Fillets caught my eye because they were already seasoned, and I figured I could just drop the bag in the water and be done with it.


Seasoned Wild Turbot Fillets

Seasoned Wild Turbot Fillets

I heated up the water bath 113F/45C and cooked the fish for around 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, we took the fish out of the bag, reserving the juice. The fish is very fragile and soft, so be careful when moving it around. In a lightly buttered pan, sear the fish for about 30 seconds a side. Remove the fish from the pan and pour the juice from the bag into the pan to make a sauce. After cooking down the sauce a bit, spoon it on the fish and you’re done.

Here’s mine served with steamed rice and wilted spinach.


Plated Meal

The texture was just what I wanted—soft, tender, and flaky, and the impromptu pan sauce was a nice touch.

NOTES

  • 113F/45C is considered below “food safe” but if you’re serving the fish immediately and not storing it for later use, it should be fine. Also, pan searing before serving should also make the fish “safer.” Cooking it right in the bag that it came in also minimizes possible contamination.
  • You don’t have to use much butter…just coat the pan lightly.
  • Because the cooking time is so short, you could easily do this in a pot over the stove. Just make sure you can regulate the water temperature for 20 minutes or so.
Categories
beef chicken sous vide techniques

Adventures in Sous Vide

It was an incredible meal at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc in Yountville, CA, that introduced me to the concept of sous vide cooking. Sous vide is French for “under vacuum,” and in a cooking context, it means that food is vacuum packed and “processed” in a water or steam bath at a fixed temperature for a long period of time…sometimes 24 hours or more. The temperature of the food never rises above the temperature of the water, so it’s impossible to overcook the food.

For example, a 36 or 48-hour “braise” for short ribs (below) would be excessive using a traditional braise, but when it’s done sous vide, the vacuum packing allows the meat to maintain its original size and shape, the long cooking time lets the collagens in the meat break down, and it produces a final product that’s tender with a buttery texture and an intense, concentrated beef flavor you just can’t get from a old-school cooking methods.


short ribs

Sous vide cooking is simple in concept but harder to execute in real life because it either requires potentially expensive equipment or a lot of free time to babysit the food. The most important aspect is maintaining constant temperature; a variance of a degree or two can dramatically change the texture of the food. The most common way sous vide cooking is performed in high-end restaurants is by using a water bath that’s heated using an immersion circulator, a piece of laboratory equipment that both heats and circulates water so that the temperature remains constant.

Heated immersion circulators are not cheap; they can go for around $1,000 new, so we turned to everyone’s favorite garage sale (ebay) to get ours. We picked up a Julabo HC8 that’s so old it says “MADE IN WEST GERMANY” on the back. It’s digital which makes it easier to monitor, and there’s a whole bunch of other controls on it that I really don’t understand. But it turns on and it works, and that’s all that matters. We got it for $110 ($95 + $10 shipping).


Julabo heating circulator and water bath

Our vacuum sealer is a Tilia Advance Foodsaver v2490 BC from Costco, which I highly recommend because it has a “pulse” feature that lets you customize how much air you want to remove from the bag before sealing. Our water bath is a simple Lexan hotel pan (1/2 size x 6 inches) made by Cambro that I picked up at Smart & Final. They also had flip-top lids with an opening that was perfect (after popping off the lid) for suspending the Julabo above the water bath since ours didn’t come with any clamps or other mounting equipment.

The most information you’re going to find on sous vide on the Web is at the eGullet.org forums. The main sous vide thread has been around since 2004 and is filled with lots of great information on how to get started, recipes, and loads of tips, as well as the safety concerns that accompany this form of cooking.

Here’s some of the things we’ve made so far.

Rib Eye Steaks
Barbecue Chicken
Baby Back Ribs (Filipino-style Adobo and a traditional dry rub)
Beef Short Ribs
Seasoned Wild Turbot Fillets

I hope to chronicle some of our experiments here on the blog, so this list will grow, and links to these dishes are forthcoming.

Categories
beef grilling Northern California recipes Southern California steak

Summer Grilling – Steaks

I love grilled meat, but I love it even more in the summertime. This past 4th of July, we had a mini family reunion, and as usual, I was asked to grill some meat. I wanted to keep it simple, so I grilled some New York Strips and did an easy BBQ chicken recipe that I’ve been using for years.


finished steak

Steaks are pretty easy to make, and I don’t see why people are so amazed when I grill them. I had five steaks to work with, so I decided to do two different preparations. Three steaks were rubbed with olive oil to coat and then seasoned with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on both sides. On the other two steaks, I used Emeril’s Southwest Essence as a rub. I don’t normally use Emeril’s products, but we had the bottle buried in our pantry, so I thought I’d use it. It worked out really nicely.

Classic Grilled New York Steaks

INGREDIENTS
New York Steaks
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Olive Oil (approx 1 tbsp. per steak)


Classic Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. One hour before grillling, remove steaks from the refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.
  2. Rub each steak with olive oil.
  3. Sprinkle each side of steak with kosher salt

Southwest New York Strips

INGREDIENTS
Emeril’s Southwest Essence (or use your favorite rub)
New York Steaks


Southwest Steak

DIRECTIONS

  1. The night before you grill, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel.
  2. Sprinkle rub mixture on steaks so that there’s an even coating on all sides.
  3. One hour before grilling, remove steaks from refrigerator so they can get up to room temperature.

COOKING TIMES

For medium rare, I generally cook the steaks for 4 minutes per side. Add or subtract a minute depending on your desired doneness. If you want to make cross-hatched grill marks on the meat, turn the steaks 90 degrees after 2 minutes.

To check for doneness more accurately, use a digital instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature of the meat (med. rare is somewhere between 130-135 degrees)

Categories
Ad Hoc beef reviews sous vide Thomas Keller

Ad Hoc (06.30.07)

Washington Street is an unassuming country road in the Napa Valley that also happens to be the epicenter of Thomas Keller’s culinary empire. His flagship restaurant, The French Laundry, put Yountville on the map, but Keller also operates Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and the happy accident down the street known as Ad Hoc.

As its name implies, Ad Hoc was supposed to be a temporary six-month experiment before Keller opened a restaurant specializing in gourmet burgers and wine. But Ad Hoc proved to be so popular that it’s now become a permanent member of Keller’s restaurant family, and the “burgers and bottles” concept was put on the back burner.

 


ad hoc
 

Under the leadership of Chef Dave Cruz, Ad Hoc serves a different four-course set menu every night, showcasing the best of American comfort food, including braised beef short ribs, roasted Kurobuta pork, hangar steaks and their legendary fried chicken. Each meal consists of a salad course, main course, cheese course and dessert. If you finish your meal and want a bit more, you can always ask for seconds and they’ll happily bring you more. Wine selections are plentiful, and the young, energetic staff is happy to help you pick an appropriate wine.

When we arrived, I got excited when I saw that we were getting braised beef short ribs. I didn’t really care about anything else on the menu because there are only a few things I love in this world more than a braised beef short rib. This evening’s menu:

 


Frisee and Mache Salad
shredded Liberty Farms duck leg shaved celery, cornichons, fried capers,
duck skin cracklins and a creamy garlic dressing 

~

Braised Beef Short Ribs
baby leeks and fennel, fingerling potatoes, sofrito,
orange zest and spanish black olives

~

Cana de Oveja
camembert with K & J Farms nectarines

~

Mixed Berries and Cream
house-made granola


The Frisee and Mache Salad was excellent, especially when you consider that I’m not much of a duck fan because I usually find it too fatty and the flavor can be overwhelming. But this duck leg was the exact opposite; it was succulent and flavorful without dominating the salad, and I forgot I was eating duck for a second. Fried capers were a revelation…they look like they burst open, kind of like miniature bits of fresh green popcorn (or would that be pop-capers?). The duck skin cracklins were a great substitute for bacon bits; there’s nothing like crunchy fried bird skin is there?

 

The main course of Braised Beef Short Ribs was an eye-opening entree. Our waiter said the meat was braised for 48 hours, which was confusing to me until one of our dining companions revealed that it was technically a sous vide. I had no idea what a sous vide was at the time, but soon learned that this technique produces some of the most delectable meat I’ve ever eaten. Cutting into the meat was like moving a hot knife through butter, but the meat didn’t fall apart. Each slice of meat melted in my mouth and had a really rich, beefy flavor with a hint of citrus from the orange zest. Not only was this among the finest meat dishes I’ve ever eaten, it made me curious enough about sous vide to explore the possibilities of doing it at home.

The cheese course consisted of Camembert wedges and slices of the freshest nectarines I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. You tend to forget how good fresh fruit really tastes if your only source is the local Safeway.

Dessert was a seemingly simple Mixed Berries and Cream with delicious house-made granola from Bouchon Bakery. The twist here is that the whipped cream is mixed with a little creme fraiche and buttermilk, which made it more decadent than one might think possible. I never thought I would go ga-ga over a blueberry and raspberry parfait, but in the right hands, anything can be positively sinful.

Ad Hoc’s casual atmosphere and easy-going staff make it easy to relax and enjoy a truly superb meal. What’s most striking about the dining experience was the simplicity of the food. It’s basically comfort food that’s been refined or redefined by using different techniques and fresher ingredients that elevate it to a higher level. If Ad Hoc is the low-hanging fruit in the Keller kingdom, then I can only imagine how good the food is at Bouchon and The French Laundry.

I think I’ll start saving my pennies now.

INFORMATION
Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA 94599 map
707.944.2487
Ad Hoc on Urbanspoon