We have a book advance coming up before too long (It thrills and humbles me to say that.) so I thought that we should do something extra for Christmas. I made two suggestions. The first was an iPad, which Angela turned down. She decided instead to get this…
Well, more specifically, she chose this…
We now own a new Polyscience immersion circulator. If you haven’t been watching Iron Chef America, I might need to explain sous vide. Sous vide — French for “under vacuum” — involves vacuum sealing food in a plastic bag, usually along with seasonings, then immersing it in a hot water bath for a certain length of time.
The idea is that the temperature of the food will rise to that of the water and no higher. Steaks can be cooked to a perfect medium rare then seared off before serving. Because the steak never gets hotter than medium rare, it cooks exactly the same throughout in about an hour. A brisket can go in for 48 hours while all its connective tissue breaks down. Vegetables cook without losing any of their nutrients. But it was eggs that got us interested.
We’ve really been wanting a circulator ever since we had the “breakfast” dish at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. For Christmas breakfast, we made the dish pictured above — the first thing we cooked sous vide, our approximation of Andy and Michael’s dish.
Instead of the polenta they use, I made Bill Neal’s cheese grits. For the pork I used country ham, but I didn’t have any fresh pork rinds. Oh well. The big difference was that I cooked the egg at 64 degrees Celsius instead of the 63 degrees that Michael recommended. The egg was still excellent — a medium boiled yolk with a soft poached white. The only problem was that the yolk was too firm to properly stir into the grits.
Later in the afternoon, after our Christmas lunch at New Asia, we demoed the circulator for Angela’s folks and my mom. This time we cooked an egg at 63 degrees and got a beautiful, perfectly poached egg, exactly like Andy and Michael serve. That is one of the most interesting things about sous vide. With this equipment, you can cook very much like a restaurant cook. You don’t have the limitations of an underpowered stove. All you need is quality ingredients and imagination. Of course once we sous vide meat and want to finish it off on our pitiful little stove, we’ll see how things go.
For now, we are mainly playing with eggs. It’s not exactly uncharted territory. Hell, our circulator even came with a laminated card that shows the effect of different temperatures on eggs. Still, like every new learning experience, it’s exciting. Baking soda volcanoes may be lame, but it’s our volcano.