Sunday, January 6, 2013

Another sous vide dinner - at home

Just this past weekend we had 2 families over for dinner at our place. After hearing me mumbling about how good Sous Vide dishes can be, my friend A requested that I did one that evening, which I not only obliged but made 2 dishes out of my Sous Vide machine.

I started off with 3 "amuse-bouches" - quick dishes to put on table just in case I was late finishing the main courses. Grilled bell peppers were prepared in advance and served as a cold antipasti dish (with sliced baguette), then a hot dish of jamon iberico croquette with parsley aioli. First time I did a croquette actually and turned out it tasted all right, but I would prefer a firmer texture for a croquette so they can be kept in a more regular shape. Then it's a curried kabocha espuma served in small shot glasses - essentially turning a Japanese pumpkin cream soup into foam using my siphon. I made the dish just because it's a cold winter day and wanted something warm and hearty, plus I saw some cute-looking pumpkins in the Japanese supermarket downstairs that I found it hard to resist to bring one home.

My appetizer dish was salmon with cauliflower veloute. Salmon fillets were brined (soaked in salt water) and cooked in a vacuum bag in 52C water bath for 30 minutes. They were then pan-fried in olive oil for one minute each side before serving. Veloute is essentially a white, buttery sauce (you can read it all from Wikipedia if you are interested) and this time it's made with cauliflower puree. To plate, the veloute sauce was spooned in the middle of a deep dish, salmon fillet was placed in the middle, then a dollop of lumpfish caviar on top, braised brown shimeji mushrooms in the sauce, and finished off with a light drizzle of black truffle oil.

I picked up a slab of boneless short ribs (USDA Prime, almost 5 Lbs) from a cold meat store the week before. Most of the short ribs sold at supermarket have already been sliced because normally that's how they are cooked as korean barbecue (as Kalbi) and as they are not exactly the most tender cut they must be sliced thin or else they will be too tough to chew, but since I was slow-cooking I could afford to serve them in thicker slices to give the dish more substantial texture. Well the store manager was little surprised when I told her I don't need the short ribs be sliced at all.

Anyway, after I defrost the short rib slab at home, I cut it into 2-inch thick strips (aka flanken style). I read somewhere that apple cider made a good marinate for tougher cut of steak as cider has a tenderizing effect, so that's what I used this time. Other than that and a pinch of salt and peppers, I didn't put in anything else really. As sous vide cooking tend to "exaggerate" any marinating effect I wanted to do it after the meat was cooked to have a better control. I put the strips of steak into a plastic bag, poured the marinate liquid into the bag and kept it in the fridge briefly. Then I vacuumed the bag when the liquid turned into ice and cooked in 55C water bath for 36 hours (yeah, I started cooking about 2 days before the dish was served).

To complete the dish, I made a carrot puree, then more carrot cut in cubes and braised in butter along with pearl onions. The steak was pan-fried (2 minutes each side) and cut into half-inch slices and put on top of the carrot purees (then butter carrot and onions on the side). I made the sauce out of a bottle of Chilean cabernet sauvignon and put in the steak jus into the mix (basically simmered that into a reduction), then lastly I put a small serving of mesculin with balsamic vinaigrette on the plate as well.

The dish was okay - I love how the meat turned out after cooking - the cut has a marbled texture with right amount of fat, and with strong meaty flavor. As I finished cooking the meat in the morning and they have been kept in the refrigerator until just before serving, I think I should have pan-fried them a little longer before I plated them as they were just lukewarm, and I probably left the cider with the meat for a little too long as they are more on the "crunchy" side than tender. Something I should bear in mind next time - this is also why I didn't share the recipe this time. 

I wanted to do a dessert that I can prepare in advance, so I decided to do a simple cake known as the rum baba. Ingredients are simple - flour, yeast, sugar, butter and milk. (I put the recipe in a separate post) Normally it's served with whipped cream or creme anglaise but this time I made a pineapple sorbet to go with it, then finish off with some yuzu peels (leftovers from my stollen baking last week), mango dice and blackberry (just to make the dish looks nicer).

And we had excellent wines that evening courtesy of our friends m and t who were so gracious to share some of their wine collections:

1970 Chateau Haut Brion - The label's torn but this has absolutely nothing to do with the wine quality. At first look, an elegant garnet color and certainly showed no signs of tiredness. Came with a floral nose and it was okay on first sip - about 10 minutes from opening - with subtle cassis and blackberry flavors but it just blossomed to greatness on my second sip with tobacco and cedar notes that followed. Fine tannins - smooth and comforting. Medium body but long finish. Amazing vintage, but the lack of sediments might suggest it's close to the end of its drinkable age.

2000 Pensees de Lafleur - Pomerol is always so pleasing and this one is no exception, especially it came from an excellent vintage from an excellent vineyard - after all this is the second wine of the great Chateau Lafleur. The palate was dominated with red cherry and licorice and hint of minerals and vanilla in the background. It has good amount of tannins, and it's the long-lasting finish that left me with a great impression. Excellent choice for the red meat dish today, I must say.

2008 Yarden Galilee Cabarnet Sauvignon - We were not surprised at the quality of this Israeli winery can offer as we had their 2005 Gewurztraminer before which was gorgeous. A jammy, plum note - to the extent I would probably mistaken this as a merlot if I tasted this blind - which gave way to a deeper cocoa taste and hint of vanilla. A little weak on tannin and not a particularly long finish, but nonetheless an enjoyable everyday sort of wine. As we just celebrated Christmas only a few days ago, I suppose it's appropriate that we drink something from a place where it all began.

Originally we also had a bottle of fa diu (Shanghainese rice wine) which came from the private collection of a legendary Hangzhou restaurant in town, courtesy of our friends, but we didn't get the chance to open this time. Will have to wait for another occasion, which hopefully won't be too far away.


Lucie Batteur said...

Hi !
Thansk for your recipe : seems really great !
Whould you agree if I post it on a Facebook page which talk about Wine of Pomerol ?

gary s said...

Thanks! Glad you like it. Yeah feel free to post it on your fb page! =)

Razlan said...

I had a sous vide dinner recently, and I thought the food is always lukewarm at best. From your description it seems like my experience is a bit of one-off? Are slow cooked food meant to be served tepid?

gary s said...

Razlan, well, sous vide is cooked at low temperature, but it shouldn't be served that way. One thing that sous vide can't do is to make the food crispy or charred like pan-frying or baking can do, so most of the time chef will finish the dish with a quick grill on the pan so the surface is a bit charred to bring out the flavor. Or heat up the sauce before serving so the dish is served hot.


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