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Posts Tagged ‘sous vide’

Chef Lesourd's Saddle of RabbitHaving watched a bazillion cooking shows where professionals and amateurs submerge lamb, beef and veggie wrapped in plastic into precise temperature  water baths and reading the praise doused on “sous vide” by culinary icons Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller, I was really was excited at the prospect of seeing the technique and tasting the results.

“The classic sous vide process involves two steps: Step One is sealing the food in air-tight bags, typically through the use of a vacuum pump/sealer. The term, “sous vide,” or “under vacuum,” though applied to the entire process, arose from just the vacuum-pump method of accomplishing just this first step. Step Two is the actual cooking of the food at low temperature for a prolonged time.”  From Wikipedia

Meat, vegetables and even fruit are cooked at regulated end result temperatures.  That means a rack of lamb would be sealed and cooked in a water bath regulated to 60 C if you wanted a medium rare result.  It will take much longer to cook as in conventional cooking you cook at a high temperature, say 180C, so the process goes a lot faster.  The benefit of sous vide is that you can never over cook the lamb if the water is never above 60C – that is the maximum temperature the lamb can reach.  This way the juices stay in the lamb and it is perfect every time – very important for a restaurant.

The sous vide water bath had been used in a prior demonstration and unfortunately not recovered from a mishap where the electric temperature regulator fell unceremoniously into the water bath.  Chef had to abandon the use of it during this demo and had sent it for repair.   It had not returned and this meant our rabbit was destined to be cooked the old fashioned way, seared and roasted.   Trés disappointing!  As the roast rabbit is hardly exciting let’s talk about polenta.

Polenta with Black and Green Olives catches your imagination with the promise of sweet creamy corn meal, tangy parmesan and salty green and black olives.  It reminds me of an awesome lunch I had in Italy with my family after a wine tasting at Pieropan in the region of Soave.  The restaurant is literally across the street from the winery if you go and as we had no plan for lunch we sauntered in and took a shady seat on the terrace.

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Lesson 21 Fish with leek base

There are numerous techniques for cooking fish from whole roasting, poaching, braising and sautéing but in this lesson for the first time – cooking fish in plastic wrap in the oven.  I suppose this is somewhat similar to poaching or cooking sous vide which also uses low temperature cooking.

The balance of the dish was excellent with the gently cooked sea bass filet and beautifully glazed tender baby vegetables.  The fish filet, 700 g, is first liberally sprinkled with salt and placed in the refrigerator to cure for 20 to 25 minutes.   The filet is then rinsed, wrapped in plastic and then portioned into 175 g steaks.  Then placed on a baking tray in the oven set at 65 C.  The steaks can take up to 40 minutes to cook.

In the meantime, the trimmed bottom portion of the leek, slightly green and white, is cooked in salted water until very tender.  It is then drained, patted dry and placed between two pieces of parchment paper and gently flattened with the flat side of a cleaver or a rolling pin.   This will be placed on the plate as a base for the fish.  Done in advance, it can be placed on parchment and rewarmed in the oven at 180 C for 5 minutes then gently slid onto the plate.

The baby vegetables all get the same glazing treatment in separate pans.  Peeled and clean vegetables, a ¼ bay leaf, a sprig of thyme, a little water, a knob of butter, good pinch of salt and a paper lid are placed in a pan on med heat and cooked until the liquid is almost evaporated.  At the end of the cooking process swirl the veg in the pan to glaze with the lovely buttery sauce that has developed.  Ready to plate!

Herb – parsley, tarragon, watercress – leaves and stems are separated.  The leaves blanched in salted water and the stems are chopped and sautéed with butter, onion, a clove of minced garlic and 200 ml of chicken stock until soft.  Then all is pureed in a blender.

The flavors are all very mellow but absolutely delicious!  The fish is delicate and moist and complemented perfectly by the buttery glazed vegetables.   The aromatic coulis adds a splash of color and herbaceous goodness that takes it from bland to bam!

These flavors would also translate well to other white fish such as cod or tilapia or other forms of cooking such as sautéing or poaching, so if sea bass is a little to rich for your pocket book just do a swap.  Use your extra cash for great bottle of Sauvignon Blanc!

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