Sous Vide has been around since the 1970’s, but in recent years it’s gained a big following among professional chefs and home foodies alike. The basics are simple: food is seasoned, vacuum-packed and placed in a water bath that is held at the food’s target temperature. The food can be held in the water bath indefinitely, as it will not overcook. The food is then fished out, unpacked, and then seared/broiled/grilled to brown it. Food prepared this way is usually very flavorful and moist, while having a perfectly cooked exterior as well. I’m told it’s the foolproof way to a medium-rare steak.
I don’t own the $400 Sous Vide Supreme (yet,) but I do own an Igloo cooler, and large pots in which I can boil water. I also own a thermometer. So stealing an idea I got from http://www.dadcooksdinner.com/ I filled the cooler with water (occasionally removing some to heat further to maintain the temperature,) sealed my seasoned duck up in bags and let my duck take a bath for a couple of hours. After the bath, the duck went out to the grill to crisp up the skin.
The duck was delicious! Well seasoned with nicely crisped skin. Best I’ve ever cooked? Not quite. I’ve done duck on the rotisserie before that has come out even better, but this duck was still frozen after 2 days in the fridge. I wouldn’t have been able to get it on the rotisserie in time for lunch today. The heated water bath not only cooked the duck, but sped up the remainder of the thawing process.
So, what did I learn? Sous Vide can be done without special equipment. If done carefully, it does produce fantastic results. That having been said, I don’t think I’ll be cooking this way all the time. For special meals where I really want to make sure everything comes out perfectly, Pseudo Vide is a viable, affordable option. (Until such time as I acquire a true SV setup.) For other times, I still do pretty well with simpler techniques.
…Still, when the results are this tasty, I don’t mind experimenting!
My $18 Wal-Mart Sous Vide rig.
Ze duck....or most of it.
I was eating dinner the other night when understanding found its way into the miry depths of my skull. I’ve thought of myself as a bit of a “foodie” for a few years now. I enjoy cooking, especially when I can cook something that’s as good or better than I would get in a restaurant. But I’m not a “gourmet.” My favorite foods are pretty simple.
Not that there’s anything wrong with gourmet cuisine. If foie gras is your thing, enjoy! I do occasionally enjoy dining at a fine restaurant and enjoying the work of a gifted chef. But I find at least as much enjoyment in my quest to make the perfect macaroni and cheese.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have convenience foods. Much of my early cooking came out of boxes. Frozen, powdered, dried, condensed, reconstituted and instant pretty much summed up my cooking repertoire. The fact that the “tomato sauce” in the meal-in-a-box for the night contained no actual tomatoes was something I didn’t think about much. Square fish, vague brown “sauce” (or worse, “gravy”) oddly colored foods and ingredient lists that belonged in my high school chemistry class were par for the course.
I find myself in the middle now. I want good, simple food made from ingredients from my food store. I’ll leave the chemistry to someone else. That’s the essence of “Real Food.” I want the food my grandmother made. If I can update the flavor and technique without having to resort to artificial, over-processed garbage, then that’s a bonus.
In the beginning, was the food. And it was good!
That’s really where this all starts. The food. I love food. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who knows me. I have many interests in this life, along with a very small handful of obsessions. Food is at the top of that list.
I’m not a gourmet. I’m not big on super-exotic ingredients from three different continents combined in innovative ways. I’ve nothing against that type of cuisine, but the meals I keep coming back to – the meals I crave – don’t fall into that category. I’m more of a steak and potatoes guy. Just make sure the steak is perfectly cooked and seasoned. Better yet, I’ll cook.
In other words, I’m after simple food, done well. I want the bowl of chicken soup that’s so good it makes you dream about the soup you wish your mother could have given you when you were sick. I want the steak that you eat half of before you realize you’ve been cutting it with the back of your knife. I want recipes that fit on a 3X5 card without having to write small. Nothing too complicated, just good. I want real food.
And that’s where this is really going. I’ve decided that I’m going to be spending more time cooking this year. I want to raise my game. I want to hone the technique I already have and expand it with new tricks. I’m not planning to open a restaurant, host huge dinner parties on a regular basis or launch my own cooking show. I just want to cook.