Anybody that knows me can attest to the fact that I am hopeless in the kitchen. It is not so much that I am intrinsically lazy but as a food writer, I eat out at restaurants daily and am rarely home for meals. That said, eating out regularly in Vancouver can get very expensive especially when you factor in our 12% HST and 15-20% gratuity. For this reason, one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2013 was to try and eat at home more often.
When I was invited to a cooking demo this month by the Canadian distributor for the Sous Vide Supreme, I was a bit hesitant as I do not write about cooking products. Remembering my resolution to eat at home more, I decided to swing by the Sous Vide 101 demo last week to see what this product could do.
For those not familiar with the sous vide process, it effectively involves vacuum sealing food in pouches and then cooking the food in a water oven. Historically, this process has not been that accessible but recent advances in technology have allowed products like the Sous Vide Supreme to create a viable product market.
As you can see in the photos, the process is relatively painless. You place whatever you are cooking into a pouch, use the supporting appliance to vacuum seal it and then submerge the entire bag in the water oven. There are various grill apparati you can place into the oven to ensure your bag is kept completely under water.
One of the first items we tried cooking was a beautiful piece of BC salmon. Now, anybody that has attempted to cook even a modest fillet knows how difficult it is to cook the entire piece evenly. After a very quick surface sear with a blow torch, I was quite impressed by the tenderness of the fillet. The fish meat flaked off nicely and was very moist and flavourful. You could really notice the consistency of the cook and how efficiently the natural flavour profile was sustained.
Cooking meat is one thing but what about vegetables? Our host chef quickly plated some carrots and asparagus he had prepared earlier and again, I was quite impressed. The asparagus was surprisingly springy and crisp with a nice crunch. For some strange reason, I was expecting both the carrots and asparagus to come out soft or mushy but they both presented with very nice integrity.
One of the most popular cooking clips on the Sous Vide Supreme network is the egg demo. I am a huge fan of eggs prepared in any manner so I was looking forward to seeing how a sous vide egg tasted. In summary, you can manipulate the texture of the end product through small changes in cooking temp but the eggs we tried were delicious. The yolk had formed into a custard like consistency while the egg white was perfectly cooked. Spread across a few strips of crisp toast, I really enjoyed this offering and would definitely try to replicate this dish at home.
The next three dishes were the heavy proteins: a large chicken breast, some flank steak and a rounded steak fillet. Chicken breast is something I rarely attempt on my own as I find it always comes out dry and tasteless. Aside from a very light herb pat, the sous vide chicken was left completely naked. After the chicken breast was briefly pan seared and served, I found the cuts of chicken to be moist and delicious. The level of tenderness of the chicken was amazing and was easily consumed without any accompaniment.
Flank steak is not the most popular cut of beef for home chefs as the sectional texture of the meat can be quite coarse. Using the long duration, low temp sous vide process, our serving of flank steak came out remarkably tender. This specific offering really highlighted the product’s ability to thoroughly cook meat without drying it out. Chefs do not have to fear sacrificing flavour or moistness for tenderness which completely changes the iron triangle of constraints.
To finish off the demo, our hosts got a little ambitious and attempted to serve us a dessert prepared entirely by the Sous Vide Supreme. By pairing crème fraîche with champagne infused strawberries, this was not a simple dessert by any means. Personally, I would never even think of putting together something like this at home. After seeing how easy and straightforward the process was, it gives me a lot of confidence that even I can create such a refreshing dessert.
I went into this demo fairly motivated to find out what, if any, compromises were made when using this machine. Does food come out soft and limp after such a long submersion? Does surface texture suffer due to the vacuum seal process? How skilled does a home chef have to be to actually use this product? After spending a couple hours at the demo and then reading up on the product at home, I must confess that this product truly is astounding. Although the $400-$500 price tag may seem like a large up-front cost, I sincerely believe the long term returns of this appliance will pay dividends in excess of the original expenditure. With very low energy consumption compared to a traditional stove top or oven, there are definitely fiscal benefits to this purchase as well as the culinary benefits outlined above.
In summary, the Sous Vide Supreme is a remarkable appliance in that you do not need any culinary skill to use it. Although the sous vide technique may seem gourmet, you do not need to be a gourmet chef to use it. I was fascinated by how natural the flavour profiles were and how evenly the proteins were cooked through. Although the cooking process does become longer, I think it is worth it especially when you factor in the huge margin of error for cooking time. If this write-up perked your interest in any way, head on over to the Sous Vide website to learn more at www.SousVideSupreme.com. Enter the promo code ‘BCBLOG’ during checkout and it takes $20 off the price of any Sous Vide Supreme water ovens or packages. Or, you can check it out at Amazon.