Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Serious Eats Sous Vide Christmas

This summer I got really lucky and was able to support the Anova Precision Kickstarter and buy my brother an immersion circulator for the low price of $99!

They came to my intention through an excellent food blog called Serious Eats.  A mixture of restaurant reviews, recipes, cookbook spotlights, and other food-related news, my favorite articles are almost always from "The Food Lab," a column descended from a cadre of incredible science of cooking educators: Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher, Alton Brown.  It's written by an MIT grad and all around wizard, Kenji Lopez-Alt.  I saw his steak demo at the MIT Museum last year, and he's just as knowledgeable and fun in person.

So - Eric has played around with his shiny new immersion circulator a few times, but we decided that obviously this had to be a Sous Vide Christmas.  We took over Christmas Eve and Christmas day from mom, and planned it all out. 

Was it good?  Oh man.  It was so good.  I can't even.  I am so mad at myself for not buying one for me. 

Gorgeous steak from Widmer's Supermaket in the MacGroveland neighborhood of St. Paul.

Prepping the water bath!  The other nice thing about this process is that it frees up oven space.  You can really put the water bath and machine wherever you'd like, as long as there's adequate heat protection below (trivets are your friend).  Normally we put something roasting in the roaster on top of our washing machine, but the only pan that we had that would fit three steaks wasn't tall enough to attach the circulator properly, so we had to attach it to a taller stock pot, and the two didn't fit on the washer.  Oops.

Is something cooking?  You can bet Ayden will stop by.  

We cooked our steaks for about three hours at 140ºF, or medium.  But with this method, you'll end up with the entire steak being cooked at medium rather than the outside of the meat overcooking and ending up with a gray band of meat.  No one likes that gray band.

However...the meat after being in a bag for three hours does look really gray on the outside, despite the appearance of perfectly cooked steak once you open it.  There is something you miss in cooking a steak sous vide: a nice crust.  Restaurants solve this with a blow torch, but at home, it's a bit more straightforward to sear it for about 20 seconds on each side in a screaming hot pan.

Final sear!

(also: things you don't realize you miss until you don't have them?  a hood fan that vents to the outside of the house!)

I realize this is a terrible picture, but I can't get over how pretty that steak is.  So much delicious.  And with green bean casserole, confirmation potatoes***, and rainbow jello dessert?  Perfect Christmas Eve dinner.

**frozen hashbrowns + shredded cheddar cheese + cream of chicken soup + sour cream + butter soaked cornflakes.  =the best.  I love the midwest.

The next day, we decided to sous vide a turkey breast to go with a ham from our favorite meat market up north.  You should have seen us, for a 1 pm dinner, we had to be up at 9 am dealing with raw turkey skin.  It was hilarious.  You've never seen Christmas until you've seen two adults trying in tandem to remove turkey skin from a turkey breast.  At 9 am.

"Carefully remove turkey skin in one piece and set aside. Using a sharp boning knife, remove breast meat from breastbone. Set breastbone aside. Season turkey generously with salt and pepper on all sides. Place one breast half with cut-side facing up on a work surface. Place the second breast half face-down, with the fat end aligning towards the skinny end of the first breast half. Gently form into an even cylinder."

First problem: carefully remove turkey skin.  Seriously?  Okay.  How does one do that?  Is there a video for that?  Fat is sticky.  Erhm.  Gahhhh.  It's grosssssss.

(Also, and very sadly, there are directions in the recipe to make crispy turkey skin by sandwiching it inbetween parchment paper and sheet pans, and we were dumb and didn't check it enough and just went by the recommended recipe time.  Big mistake!  Check it at 20 minutes. It was burned beyond use when we took it out at 35 minutes.  Womp womp.)

Second problem: don't even get me started on the knives at our house.  The main kitchen knife we use is a super crappy serrated knife that has gone 15 years without sharpening.  You take your life into your own hands when you pick up that knife.  We ended up digging through our "knife drawer" (my mom hates knife blocks) and found a sharper knife, one that I guarantee my grandfather sharpened 20 years ago for processing ducks in his basement and it somehow ended up here.  Of course.

Third problem:  you did not mention that there would likely be a neck we had to deal with.  Gahhh all these parts.  Where are the bones?  Gah.  AND THESE KNIVES AREN'T WORKING.  We finally had to use a mallet to pound on the top of a knife to get it through the bone. 

We finally went to this tutorial, which helped, but not as much as we would have wanted.  It's hard to look at a giant thing that you know has breasts but also has lots of other stuff, but you can't tell what to do where.  I hereby admit my ignorance, Serious Eats.  Please help!

We ended up cooking the turkey at 147ºF, or halfway between the "white tender moist" and "tender and traditional roast texture."  I think it still really skeeved out my mom because turkey for her has always been food safety approved rather than food safety AND tasty approved...it took a few articles online to convince her that, in fact, we weren't going to make her sick or kill her with our 147ºF turkey. 

Ayden's back!  Anyone surprised?  No?

THE BEST TURKEY EVER, some incredible tasting ham, stuffing, wild rice, and a new potato dish (which was good but unnecessary, especially given the really standout gravy recipe).


I cannot emphasize how good this was.  Easily the best turkey breast I'd ever had.  The funny turkey-loaf-like presentation didn't even matter to me.  It just tasted so good!

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