How you doin’? These days I like to keep something at hand in the refrigerator that’s easy to eat without too much fuss and bother. Something that I can just slice or heat in the microwave that takes just a few minutes to finish and plate. I like to have homemade soup or chili, a small roasted prime rib, cold and crispy fried chicken or a half boneless turkey breast.
We’ve discussed the benefits of sous-vide cooking in previously cooking lessons and I hope you have gone online and purchased one that is suitable for your household needs. I have a Chefman sous vide cooker that only costs about $99. After a couple of years of use, I was very happy with it until the spring-loaded handle broke yesterday afternoon. The unit still functions, but better with the right handle. I have already asked for a replacement handle from the company which I hope will arrive soon.
Sous vide is a method of cooking in which food is placed in a plastic, sealed pouch or a glass jar under vacuum and cooked in a water bath for longer than usual cooking times at a precisely regulated temperature. The temperature is much lower than usually used for cooking, typically around 130⁰ to 145°F for meats, higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the food evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and to retain moisture. It enhances the natural texture of poultry and pork keeping them moist and flavorful. Not only do I use this cooking method in restaurants, but at home nearly every week. It’s great to open the fridge and grab a bag of chicken breasts or pork chops, pop them under the broiler for crisping and re-heating and have a gourmet meal in just minutes—that’s what sous-vide is all about.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Sous-vide time: 3 to 3-1/2 hours
Finish time: 7 to 10 minutes
Yield: 6 to eight servings
1 boneless, skin-on turkey breast half (about 3- to 4-pounds)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 lemon wheels cut 1/4-inch thick
2 sprigs of fresh basil or rosemary
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
ChefSecret: Some recipes call for you to sear the turkey breast before the sous vide process; I prefer to crisp the skin after the sous vide cook.
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: “It’s kind of ironic and hard to believe, when the pandemic first broke that people’s survival instincts told them to grab toilet paper.”
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How you doin’? Get ready, this is a pop quiz. How long does it take to sous-vide a chicken breast? A few weeks ago, I shared the secrets of cooking sous vide-style. This is an open book test—refer to Cooking Lesson #8. Or, I’ll help you out here: Chicken Breasts or Thighs: 2.5 hours @ 137⁰F.
The main reason for sous vide cooking chicken breasts is the perfect texture you get every time. Plus, you always have some ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat-and-eat chicken in the fridge. This is one of these recipes, though you can make it with raw chicken breasts—it just take a little longer.
This sous vide-cooked chicken is spiced up with Southwestern spices and smothered with chopped tomatoes, green chiles, queso sauce, all topped with Cheddar (or Monterey Jack) cheese.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Bake time: 20 minutes (if using sous-vide cooked chicken breasts)
Bake time: 50 minutes (if using raw chicken breasts)
Yield: 2 servings
2 sous vide-cooked chicken breasts, skinless and boneless (or raw breasts)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 can (10-ounces) Ro•tel diced tomatoes and mild green chiles
1 cup Chile Con Queso sauce, medium (On-the Border Queso jarred sauce)
1 cup Cheddar, shredded, or Monterey Jack cheese, or Cheddar & Monterey Jack mix
1/2 Roma tomato, chopped, for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro chopped, for garnish
How are you doing? We’re now in our 28th day of voluntary isolation. We are still trying to keep our sense of humor—so far, so good.
Okay then, I want to make a change in direction. So far, we’ve featured a number of Instant Pot recipes for cooking FAST; now I want to slow it down a bit.
When you think about it, there have really only been four (4) major innovations in the way we cook in the last 60 years—the Microwave, the Instant Pot, Induction and Sous-vide. I use all four (4) and love them all. In today’s cooking lesson I want to center on sous-vide basics.
The Sous-vide process is all about cooking at lower temperatures for longer periods of time than conventional methods. The foods are usually vacuum-sealed in plastic Cryovac bags (think Food Saver) and then immersed in a water-filled container.
As early as 1799 low-temperature cooking was first used in the US. It was found that the roast meat was, not merely edible, but perfectly done and full flavored. In the mid-1960s a couple of French and American engineers learned that foods cooked using the Sous-vide process showed distinctive improvements in flavor and texture. This revolution in French cooking really started in 1974 at Restaurant Troisgros in Roanne, France. Today, many of the finest Michelin chefs on both sides of the pond use Sous-vide for many of the foods served in their restaurants.
Let me share some of my Sous-vide secrets. You don’t need a lot of fancy, expensive equipment—just a large container to hold the water (can be a big pot or plastic Cambro container) and a temperature-controlled Sous-vide water circulator.
I was gifted with a ChefMan Sous-Vide Precision Cooker for Christmas in 2017 and have used it to prepare bulk meals at least twice a month. I don’t recommend the brands that use Wi-Fi for the control panel as they tend to fail when the Wi-Fi signal gets interrupted. As of the today, prices range from $69 to $750—you shouldn’t have to spend more than $150 or so for an acceptable circulator.
The cooking times below will create the best flavors and textures if you follow these simple directions. Some cookbooks call for flash grilling before starting the Sous-vide process, I don’t. Simply season the meat, poultry or fish; brush with a little olive oil, seal in a bag and begin the immersion cooking process. When done, plunge the bags into an ice water bath. Store the sous-vide entrees refrigerated for up to 21 days… yes, 21 days!
The temperatures and times below may seem counter-intuitive at first, but don’t second guess yourself. It really works. Note: Unlike conventional cooking methods, the size of the pieces or weight of the foods doesn’t impact the cooking time or temperature.
I recommend starting with chicken breasts. The Sous-vide method results in the most wonderfully textured chicken breast you will ever have. The flavor depends on the spices and seasonings you add to the bag.
Preferred Sous-Vide Cooking Times & Temperatures:
These are the items I Sous-vide most often. I usually have chicken and pork available in the refrigerator most of the time. I’ve tried ribs, pork belly, stews and more with mixed results—I now make those in an Instant Pot. There are hundreds of other Sous-vide recipes you can find in cookbooks and on the internet.
Once you have Sous-vide meats cooked and chilled you’re ready to finish them off. They can be grilled, baked, sautéed or stir-fried, and they can be cut up and put into salads just the way they are—they are fully cooked. I often make baked Chicken Parmesan or Stir-Fried Pork Fried Rice. If you like a slice of roasted duck breast, you can serve this recipe the same way you would get it in Paris.
Once you get back to work, you’ll find the convenience of Sous-vide cooking will save you a lot of time and make you a wizard in the kitchen.
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