May 1, 2018
Slow and Steady Wins the Plate
More restaurants discover ‘low and slow’ is the way to go
Think of your favorite family recipe, whether it be mom’s chicken, dad’s short ribs, or your cousin’s lemon custard. It’s your favorite because you absolutely love the way it tastes and eating it makes you happy! Your taste buds remember the experience of that dish because mom, dad, and your cousin each make their signature recipe exactly the same way every time. If you took a bite, and it didn’t taste the same as before, you would probably be disappointed.
I mention this because recent National Restaurant Association research found 8 in 10 diners choose a restaurant because of favorite menu items. And while it’s not difficult to consistently replicate a meal for four, reproducing hundreds of the same item in a restaurant kitchen can be challenging because the outcome of the dish can change with each new person who pulls that ticket.
In my career as a culinary development chef for Southeastern Mills, I find creative solutions to help our customers be more successful, and lately I’ve been delving into how to make dining experiences, in all restaurant categories, more consistent while still retaining the special flavors of the dish. To that end, one cooking technique I’ve been actively exploring is the sous vide method.
1. Gather Equipment
2. Prep the Food
3. Vacuum Pack It
4. Set Temp and Time
5. Sear and Serve (or Save)
As you can see from these steps, sous vide is great for a home cook because it doesn’t require a lot of skill and it’s nearly impossible to ruin basic proteins like beef, poultry, and seafood. Also, the equipment has moved from being scientific and priced for professionals, to being easy to find and affordable. One thing to note, sous vide cooking times usually range from 30 minutes to 48 hours, so this is a technique you should plan for in advance. However, sous vide requires little attention once everything is packaged and placed in the water.
Personally, I started experimenting with sous vide cooking a few years ago. It was coming up in conversations because it was a technique several of our customers were using, but at the time it wasn’t part of my culinary knowledge. As a chef, I’m constantly learning new things, and often the things I enjoy the most are things I just freefall into without really knowing what I’m doing. But that’s how you grow in the culinary world!
Sous Vide Equipment
Mason jars can be used in the sous vide process and work well for making desserts like yogurt, crème brûlée, and flan. Mason jars can also be used to infuse vodka with flavors using the sous vide process.
Sous vide water balls are very useful for long sous vide cooking times. These small ping- pong-like balls keep heat from escaping and control evaporation levels.
If you’re concerned about plastic waste, reusable sous vide bags are now on the market from several manufacturers. They can be used multiple times if cleaned properly between each use.
Before you vacuum pack meat or poultry, slightly freeze the item so that the juices don’t leak out. Even with a normally dry protein, I find this helps retain a really tight seal and the finished product comes out more flavorful.
Herbal products (for instance, Italian seasoning) don’t do as well with long cook times and are better applied after the sous vide process.
When cooking poultry, separate the white meat from the dark meat since they will need different cooking times. Personally, I find sous vide to be a better technique for white meat since that part of the bird can get a little dry.
Don’t overlook seafood when considering this method, as the technique cooks fish especially well. I make sous vide salmon often and my wife does a sous vide perch that always comes out just perfect.
Although not specifically created for the sous vide method, Southeastern Mills flavor bases and seasonings perfectly complement this method. Combinations I’ve tested and can recommend include:
Whole Turkey + Southeastern Mills Turkey Base – Spread the base on a whole turkey and then cook it sous vide to bring out the most amazing flavor.
Turkey Legs + Southeastern Mills Pepper, Maple, and Molasses Seasoning – I used this to sous vide turkey legs, then place the legs in the oven afterward for caramelization. Outstanding!
Chicken + Southeastern Mills Chicken Tagine Base – Great with cubed chicken!
Beef + Southeastern Mills Korean Bulgogi Base – Use with beef and do a quick barbecue sear for Korean tacos or simply serve over rice.
Chuck Roast + Southeastern Mills Umami Base – Add to chuck roast or another favorite cut for the most tender beef you’ve ever had.