Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘sous-vide

We celebrated our first anniversary in Seattle with dinner at Spur. We had a cosy evening at the gastropub during the miserable spring of last year and loved the experience. Located next to The Coterie Room, Spur is the original restaurant by Chefs McCracken and Tough.

The ambience was warm and bistro like. A narrow room is split into two, long communal tables on the right and individual tables on the left. Plush armchairs are at the entrance and the open plan kitchen is at the back. Mirror panes line the wall to create the illusion of space and illuminate the high ceiling.

The menu is categorised into seasonal and staples. In a nostalgic moment, we ordered the same dishes as we did nearly twelve months ago.

Pimm’s is a classic English liqueur and we sipped on a refreshing twist, the West Coast Pimm’s. Poured into a tall glass with lemon, cucumber, mint, basil and ginger ale, it was a fizzy beverage with a citrus bouquet.

Dotted with capers, a plump piece of sockeye salmon was atop pillowy mascarpone on a crostini. At four dollars each, they were appetising bites.

Cut in half and served with a mound of shoestring fries, the grass fed beef patty, red onion jam, cheddar and thyme were sandwiched in a buttery brioche bun. It was a juicy burger, the delicate sweetness of the red onion jam accentuated the savoury beef.

Parmesan foam, shaved Parmesan, glossy sous vide duck egg, finely sliced green onions, crunchy pine nuts, meaty oyster mushrooms and silky tagliatelle, my main was a delectable combination of textures and flavours.

We reminisced and reflected, making the time to pause over a delicious meal at the end of a hectic week.


When I was browsing the shelves at the Book Larder on their opening day I noticed a display copy of Modernist Cuisine. The bright white covers contrasted with the vibrant photos and the five volumes are slotted in a Perspex case. Curious about the influential tome, I attended Nathan Myhrvold‘s presentation at Town Hall Seattle.

Dr Myhrvold was an engaging speaker. A voracious intellectual, his passion was balanced with poise. He noted that there are many books on the science of cooking but not on techniques. There are specialty books on single techniques such as Thomas Keller‘s Under Pressure. The modernist chefs, Ferran Adrià, Grant Achatz and Heston Blementhal, all have cookbooks.

The intent of Modernist Cuisine is for it to be an encyclopaedia of modern cooking techniques. The project commenced six years ago and Dr Myhrvold compared it to the naïveté of parenting, ‘it seemed like a good idea’! The photographs and illustrations are all original and the volumes ‘explain the science of cooking in chef terms’.

Dr Myhrvold clicked through the slides and described how the photos were constructed. To innovate and discover a new approach, you need to understand physics.

A third of the wok was cut off and Perspex was glued to the open side. The lab was more ‘machine shop than Photoshop’. It caught on fire three times as the ingredients were tossed. ‘The motto was it has to look good for only one thousandth of a second!’

He worked on the book alone for two years and then hired a team of people to complete it. Volume one is history and fundamentals, volume two is techniques and equipment, volume three is animals and plants, volume four is ingredients and preparations, volume five is plated-dish recipes. An additional spiral bound kitchen manual is printed on washable paper.

Modernist Cuisine statistics:
* 6 volumes
* 4 languages
* 43 pounds unpacked
* 2438 pages
* 1.15 million words
* 4 pounds of ink to print
* 7.5 miles long if typed as a single sentence in Microsoft Word
* 147,000 photos shot and 3,200 used
* 1,500 recipes
* 72 contributing chefs
* 6 research cooks
* 44 writers, editors and art staff

Dr Myhrvold commented that Modernist Cuisine is available in the printed medium only. The resolution is compromised as an e-book or on the iPad. Eat Your Books has indexed Modernist Cuisine.

Modernism is an artistic and architectural movement. A deliberate break from tradition, it celebrates abstract values and is a rebellion against the norm. It is a new aesthetic. In the 1980s chefs were doing the same. Cooking techniques were re-imagined to create art in the kitchen. It is artisanal, a craft.

‘Science is a set of rules governing how our world works.’ Until recently food science was about industrial scaling. Science is already in the kitchen and Dr Myhrvold ‘wants take the ignorance out of it’. Modernist Cuisine is a definitive reference for techniques.  

Modernist Cuisine principles:
* Dining in dialogue
* Creativity trumps tradition
* Break rules, surprise diners
* Be innovative
* Science and technology are sources of inspiration, means to an end
* Great food from great ingredients
* How ingredients are grown, harvested and slaughtered matter
* New ingredients create new possibilities

Modernist Cuisine dinners are long with more than thirty courses. ‘In a way it’s an ordeal!’ Dr Myhrvold described some of the dishes and how they were made. 

The first was deep fried watermelon. Starch is the key to crispy potato chips. Sweet potatoes have less starch and their chips are a little limp. Watermelon was infused with starch for deep frying.

There are minimal desserts in the book. One recipe is pistachio and hazelnut ice cream without milk, cream and egg. The nuts are grinded, the oil separated and emulsified with water, and seaweed extract is added as a stabiliser. It is a ‘world first kosher real cream sauce’!

Next was pea butter. Dr Myhrvold told a ‘pea-ness’ joke with glee. Pea butter is made in a centrifuge where it clarifies and concentrates in intense gravity. He recommended frozen peas for freshness. The three pea layers are pea broth, pea solids which can be made into pasta, and unctuous pea butter. The technology highlights the natural ingredient, celebrating the essence of the pea.

A caramelised carrot soup is cooked in a pressure cooker. Caramelisation, a chemical reaction, occurs in an alkaline environment and thus baking soda is added. Beets, squash and other vegetables can be substituted and it is a ‘concentrated, powerful flavour’.

Every component of the ‘ultimate burger‘ is special. The patty is cooked sous vide, cryo-fried in liquid nitrogen and deep fried. The liquid nitrogen reduces the grey and freezes a thin layer on the outside penetrating all the ridges of the minced meat as a barrier to over cooking.

There is a chapter on coffee. ‘Damn it we’re from Seattle! Coffee from a three Michelin starred French restaurant is not fit for a Seattle street vendor.’ Dr Myhvold recalled ordering a coffee in New York and brashly declared ‘you’re from Seattle’. The barista replied, ‘Vivace‘.

He was asked what his last meal would be and he cheekily answered ‘one that takes a really long time to cook’. Another query was about the safety of sous vide pouches. He responded that if there are concerns you can sous vide in glass mason jars.

Dr Myhrvold has always been interested in food. When he was nine he cooked Thanksgiving dinner for his family. He was born in Seattle and returned before having children, ‘just like salmon’. He believes he is in the best part of the restaurant business, consumption!

Disclosure: I received a demo product from Duo PR. This is not a sponsored post.

I love desserts but rarely bake at home. A balance of precision and intuition, measurement and touch, it is both a science and an art. And I have neither the talent nor the patience to bake every week. When I do bake, I mostly make scones and biscuits (biscuits and cookies for Americans!), and sometimes banana bread.

Pears were in season and I bought a couple of Beurré Bosc pears with the SousVide Supreme Demi in mind. Sharone Hakman poached them in Zinfandel, dusted the halves with cinnamon and served them on a pillow of mascarpone at the SousVide Supreme event.

I followed this recipe for poached fruit. Simmer white wine (Domaine Cherrier Sancerre from Soul Wine), water, sugar and vanilla bean until the liquid reduces by half, and chill to thicken.

Peel, core and cube pears, and place into food grade plastic pouch. Pour in syrup and apply Archimedes’ principle to remove air from the pouch before zipping the seal. Cook in the water oven at eighty five degrees Celsius for twenty five minutes.

Perfumed by vanilla, the delicate flesh had an intense pear flavour that paired well with a scoop of ice cream.

I recommend using ripe fruit and adjusting the ratio of sugar in the poaching liquid, and pour yourself a glass of wine while preparing this non-baked dessert!

Disclosure: I received a demo product from Duo PR. This is not a sponsored post.

A dish that I’ve frequently reflected on from the Sharone Hakman and SousVide Supreme event is the eggs with asparagus and brioche croutons. The freshness of the ingredients was highlighted by cooking them sous vide, their essence presented on a plate.

The complimentary Lagana Foods campanelle from the Off The Menu dinner had a shelf life of two to three days. I followed this recipe for sous vide eggs and this recipe for carbonara for the pasta.

I was in a hurry to make a weekday dinner and the components were prepared and cooked in the time the eggs were in the SousVide Supreme Demi. I recommend using the freshest eggs as sous vide accentuates their flavour and colour.

The eggs are placed directly into the water oven without a food grade plastic pouch or vacuum seal. I experimented with different duration at the same temperature of sixty four degrees Celsius and the best consistency was cooking the eggs sous vide for forty minutes.

While the eggs were in the machine, I diced shallot, garlic and bacon, and sautéed them in olive oil with peas and chilli flakes. To serve, toss with pasta and toasted pine nuts, and crack a sous vide egg on top. Break the yolk and gently stir the egg through.

It was a simple yet delicious combination of quality ingredients, a versatile favourite!

Disclosure: I received a demo product from Duo PR. This is not a sponsored post.

I loved the convenience of the SousVide Supreme Demi. Any combination of protein, and dry or solid seasoning can be vacuum sealed in a food grade plastic pouch and cooked sous vide. A homely dinner can be prepared quickly with ingredients in the fridge and pantry.

I followed this recipe for sous vide steak. A slab of butter, bruised garlic cloves and sprigs of thyme were added to the sirloin sprinkled with salt and pepper.

The portions were submerged at sixty degrees Celsius for at least forty five minutes to cook the steak to medium. You can adjust the temperature to cook the steak to your preference.

With the sirloin steak in the water oven, I cut up vegetables for roasting, and caramelised onions and sautéed mushrooms for a sauce.

I skipped the final step of searing and served the sirloin sliced. The meat was buttery and tender, and a perfect medium.

The only limitation was cooking steaks to different levels of doneness but Mr S was happy to compromise.

Disclosure: I received a demo product from Duo PR. This is not a sponsored post.

I discriminate against the chicken breast. I grew up eating the tender meat of thigh fillets and drumsticks, and the tough, dry and bland breasts were relegated to soups or shredded for sandwiches. This makes the chicken breast perfect for cooking sous vide. Poaching food in a vacuum sealed pouch cooks it evenly and gently, retains moisture in the protein, and infuses the seasoning.

I followed this recipe for basic sous vide chicken and added tarragon. Although I’d be reluctant to have the machine on without me being home, it doesn’t require the supervision and vigilance of a stove. I sprinkled the chicken breasts liberally with tarragon, salt and pepper, vacuumed sealed each in individual bags, and refrigerated until two hours prior to dinner.

While the chicken breasts were submerged in 63.5 degrees Celsius, I chopped and sautéed vegetables for the accompanying risotto. The SousVide Supreme Demi is silent and does not emit heat. I lift the lid several times out of curiosity and steam fogs up my glasses.

The final step of the recipe suggests searing in butter until golden. I would have if I was using a skillet or pan for another part of the meal already but I wasn’t so I minimised dishwashing by skipping it. The chicken breast was tinged a pale pink and it sliced with ease.

Chicken and tarragon are a classic pairing and the fragrant herb lingered. It had a soft, yielding texture and was delectable with the slight crunch of the vegetables in the risotto.

The chicken breast is redeemed by sous vide!

Disclosure: I received a demo product from Duo PR. This is not a sponsored post.

Our kitchen is notoriously gadget free. No blender, no food processor, no stand mixer, no sandwich press, no coffee maker. And for many years, no kettle. A toaster is the only gadget on our counter. I attended the Sharone Hakman and SousVide Supreme event a couple of months ago and received a demo unit afterwards.

The poppy red SousVide Supreme Demi was conspicuous on our counter. A modern design with rounded edges, there are only five separate components to the machine. A detachable power cord, an aluminium lid, a perforated grill and a stainless steel rack can all be contained within the machine making it easy to assemble, store and clean. I read the instruction booklet once and the display panel is simple to use.

A vacuum sealer is required to cook sous vide and it’s similar size to a laminator. About the length of the SousVide Supreme Demi, it is light and the power cord can be wound up underneath.

The food grade pouch is placed on the vacuum sealer, clicked closed and either sealed if there’s liquid or vacuum sealed.

Sous vide and modernist cuisine have a reputation for elaborate, deconstructed dishes. I don’t intend to replicate or create restaurant quality food. My goal is to test how sous vide applies to ordinary home cooking.

The first meal I cooked sous vide was salmon. We rarely cook seafood at home as I have an aversion to the lingering smells. The benefit of vacuum sealed poaching is it eliminates that. I followed this recipe for salmon with lemon and dill.

I coated two fillets of salmon in olive oil, finely chopped dill, lemon juice, salt and pepper, vacuum sealed and refrigerated them. The pouches were cooked sous vide at fifty two degrees Celsius for twenty minutes. I served the fish with roasted vegetables. It took a little planning to time the heating up of the water, preparing the salmon and roasting the vegetables. If done in an efficient order, dinner would have been ready in an hour by my calculation.

The plastic bags were cut open and discarded which lessens dishwashing but they are not biodegradable. The salmon retained its shape and the dill remained bright green.

Cooked evenly to a pinkish hue, the salmon was flaky and succulent. The temperature of the protein cooled quickly so ‘serve immediately’ is important. It paired well with roasted vegetables, its varying textures contrasted with the uniformity of the salmon.

My first experiment with the SousVide Supreme Demi was a success!

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