Sous-Vide Adventures: Don’t Be Chicken Edition

chicken

Sous-vide: it’s not just for beef (or cookie dough). In today’s guest post from Cuisine Solutions, learn how the Top Chef-y cooking method can take chicken to the next level too.

Sous-vide, for all its culinary upsides, is uniquely suited for the tender preparation of meat dishes. Spare ribs, lamb shanks, and beef tenderloin have become universal staples for the culinary method, with the combined impact of ease of preparation and flavor enrichment making red meat an ideal candidate for going under the vacuum.

That being said, sous-vide is superbly suited for those looking toward the lighter side of the meat spectrum. Chicken, rightly or wrongly, is generally held as meat better suited to holding its sauce than holding its own.

You’d be hard pressed to find a foodie or seasoned chef who’d argue that Kobe beef requires a slathering of steak sauce, but serving chicken alone is a much rarer proposition. Whether you’re including the world’s most common poultry in a curry dish, as the staple of a pasta preparation, or with a Mediterranean-style tomato base, the chicken itself is hardly ever the sole focus.

Sous-vide, with its culinary basis in steeping meat in its own sauces, is a superb choice for those looking to create especially rich chicken dishes. Whether you’re shooting for a chicken korma dish or something more conventionally Italian in its inspiration, a competent chef would tend to improve the final product by wrapping it as a sous-vide preparation beforehand.

Even relatively simple Italian (or Italian-American) preparations like Chicken Margherita or Chicken Marsala are deeply indebted to the flavorful additions that their sauces bring. Chicken, whether prepared with light sauce or a heavier base, only gains a deeper character when it has time to absorb in its accompanying flavor.

As a starting point for the more adventurous chef, give something South Asian a spin. In my never-humble opinion, chicken is the meat best suited for curry dishes, and sous-vide’s flavor-enhancing impact on sauces makes it a natural go-to for curry preparation.

It also helps cut away a lot of the mess that might go into whipping up a chicken dish right on the spot—just remove the bag contents right into your slow cooker, and you’re only minutes away from having a hearty curry dish right at your fingertips.

So go wild (within reason) and swap a lot of unnecessary prep hassle for something that brings a deeper character to your chicken.

How To Sous-Vide Your Chicken

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Burns My Bacon: Sous Vide

We’ve talked sous vide many times here on Endless Simmer. Now that the trend has died down a bit, KK asks, is it even worth it?

Sous vide. It’s a French term meaning, “I’ve got way too much time on my hands and I don’t own a microwave.” This is a cooking process in which you put food into a plastic bag, remove as much air as you can, and then sloooooow cook it in a water bath at around 55 degrees for 72 hours. That’s more than a couple of days. Why would you do this? If you were on your meds you wouldn’t. Can you imagine everything being cooked this way?  You could get your dry cleaning back in less time. I mean, I could order food from New York and have it FedEx’d to me before my sous vide steak is half done.

When I was growing up, I thought that my mother invented fast food. The slowest thing that she cooked in our house was a TV dinner. That took 20 minutes. I was a teenager before I realized that the center of your Salisbury steak wasn’t supposed to be frozen. 72 hours to properly bathe my entrée? I’ve had goldfish that didn’t last that long in water. “Boil in the bag? Oh no, no, no. What’s the rush? Why don’t you sit back and relax while I sous vide us some pasta. Case of wine while we wait?”

The great Julia Child would have a hard time selling THIS French cooking method to American housewives. And really, as a restaurateur, how do you make any money at this? You certainly couldn’t advertise how fresh your food is. Even Michael Phelps wouldn’t last 72 hours in the water. Why would I want my food to? What’s the point? Flavor? After waiting 72 hours for a meal I would eat my shoes.

And in terms of technique, who couldn’t learn to master this? “Gee, I just couldn’t get the hang of sealing the bag. I don’t know how Keller does it!” Just imagine how long it would take to tape ‘Iron Chef Sous Vide.’ You could become a doctor in less time.

I absolutely love many classic French cooking techniques, and I’ll admit, I’m intimidated by some. Sous vide doesn’t make either list. I’m in no hurry to cook slower.  And on the opposite end of the spectrum,  I won’t be dragging home any canisters of liquid nitrogen either. If I want the word ‘extreme’ used to describe anything about my meal it had better be the flavor and not the cooking method.

Extremely flavorful? Qui. Extremely slow? Absolument pas!

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Don’t Stop Sous Vide-ing

egg

One last sous vide post for ‘ya!

When we last left our humble SousVide Supreme machine, we had learned that cooking sous vide is not quite as revelatory as Top Chef had led us to believe, although it is pretty darn impressive for cooking meat exactly perfect through every bite. Now you know we weren’t gonna send this bad boy back before finding out how it can handle an egg.

And once again, the answer is “perfectly…if you’ve got all day.”

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A Half Baked Idea: Sous Vide Cookie Dough

cookie dough

You crazy ESers asked for it, and you got it. After playing around with my SousVide Supreme and being rather underwhelmed cooking just meat and veggies, I asked you for some crazier ideas. My partner in crime gansie had a stroke of genius:

What about cookie dough? But don’t cook it long enough where it actually turns into a cookie, just so it heats through and kills any harmful crap. so it could be one gooey, warm, doughy, chocolaty, gushy thing. (Confession – i used to heat up purchased cookie dough in the microwave).

Hmmm…what about cookie dough? Honestly, I can never resist the temptation to lick the bowl, salmonella or not, but it does always scare me a little bit, and I know I really shouldn’t be doing it. So could we use the SousVide to cook the dough to just high enough temperatures where it would be safe to eat but still gooey and delicious? Well, we could certainly try…

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Feed Us Back: Comments of the Week

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Jens takes the lead in the biggest/most badass beer contest:

Here in Germany (in Bavaria to be exact) they sell 1 liter of beer (around 34 ounces, called a “Maß”) during Octoberfest. The biggest beer I’ve ever seen had been 1.5 liter bottles of beer in Latvia, containing 17% alcohol. I kid you not – this stuff tasted like beer liquor.

Can you beat that? Feed us back!

– Meanwhile, rabi reaches back to 100 bananas and clearly wins craziest comment of the week:

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Extreme Simmer: The SousVide Supreme

sous vide

So after hearing me bitch for the last two years about how everyone on Top Chef gets to sous vide but I don’t, someone finally decided to throw me a bone. The folks over at SousVide Supreme, the first legit sous vide machine aimed at home cooks, sent me over one of their $450 contraptions to test out for a few weeks. Woo-hoo!

For those who need a recap: sous vide cooking involves vacuum sealing ingredients in plastic bags with this neat little contraption:

carrots2

That’s actually the most fun part, watching all the air get sucked right out of the bag. Then you submerse the bag in a thermal hot water bath that’s designed to remain at an exact pre-set temperature, down to the degree:

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Top 10 Finds at the 2010 Food Fete

snackers

The younger, hipper cousin to the Fancy Food Show, the annual Food Fete is a gathering place for foodie types; a showcase of the newest products across the world of cooking, dining and drinking; and an all-around schwagfest. Obviously, we bit. Here are the coolest new products we spotted at this year’s fete.

10. Sous Vide Supreme

sous vide

Remember last year when I got high on Top Chef and bought that Thomas Keller sous vide cookbook but then realized you need a couple grand worth of equipment to sous vide food at home? Well some clever market researcher must have realized there are a lot of d-bags like me out there, because SousVide Supreme now has an at-home sous vide machine designed for the average joe. OK, at $450 maybe it’s for the slightly above-average joe, but still, getting closer! Everyone must sous vide! UPDATE: Endless Simmer tries out and reviews the SousVide Supreme.

9. Glace de Veau

glace

Ya’ll know we don’t usually hype pre-packaged sauces and such here at ES, but when the supermarket starts carrying roasted veal stock reduction, I have to digress from the norm. Yes, yes, I can hear Anthony Bourdain carping on about how every cook should have their own homemade veal stock in the freezer and how it only takes 172 hours to prepare so what’s your goddamn problem? Well you know what? I’ve had your book on my shelf for two years and still never made any damn homemade demi-glace, so I’m going with this. In stores this fall.

8. Box ‘o EVOO

olive oil keg

I think Lucini was actually there to show off the taste of their olive oil, but I was more impressed by the packaging. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve always found those tiny 6-oz. jars of oil woefully inept at keeping up with my usage, and the large bottles too heavy to lug home from the grocery store. Solution: an ungodly amount of extra-virgin olive oil, packed into a plastic bag in a cardboard box. It even comes with a spiggot, just like boxed wine! All I need now is the self-control not to drink directly from the spout.

7. Green Garlic

garlic

This is a tasty green product that I’ve never seen in stores before. California-based Christopher Ranch is expanding their garlic repertoire by harvesting the stuff while it’s still young and green, and selling it with the leafy, scallion-like stalks attached. The green part of the garlic offers a less intense garlick-y bite, and you can still use the bulb, or even fry up those little strands at the root and sprinkle them on top of a dish. Coming soon to a Fairway or Whole Foods near you. Downside: shipped across the country in plastic packaging — I’d rather see them at the far mar.

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