Thursday, July 23, 2015

Livin' La Sous Vide Loca

So I probably haven't mentioned this, but I keep a quarter jar in our living room, where I save my shiny $.25 pieces for a couple of years, and then roll them once the jar is filled and go buy myself something frivolous, sinful and fun, something I might not purchase otherwise.  I give myself permission to blow my quarter money on anything I want. I generally get about $200 from the jar, so it allows me to gift myself with absolutely no guilt whatsoever.  It's a little "I Love Me" present. One time I bought a great pair of boots, another time I actually brought the quarters with me on a cruise and used them to have fun gambling (I won all my money back!) ... and this time I bought a sous vide system.

I first heard about this wonderful appliance on my friend Stephen Andrew's blog (here's a link if you are interested: Stephen Andrew's Sous Vide blog post ) and was insanely jealous at the ease with which he appeared to put together his holiday feasts.  With the sous vide system, it appeared as if he actually had enough time to decorate beautifully AND enjoy the company of friends and family. I have a feeling he could probably do this anyway, but anything I can do to give myself a leg up I will take. Of course for me one immediate benefit presented itself in my mind, which is that I could start drinking champagne at noon without worrying I was going to forget my expensive free-range bird or cut of meat. (like last time) That decided it. I started thinking about buying a sous vide system after that, but waited until Quarter Jar Day to do it.

And so here it is, the Anova sous vide system hooked up to my spaghetti pot, gently cooking a cheap chuck roast for 36 hours as an experiment. (According to the instructions, you can cook a cheap cut of meat in the sous vide system for a long time -- like 36 hours or so, and it will emerge as soft and malleable as a more expensive cut of meat, only needing to be browned up a bit before serving.)

I will be out of the house for at least half the day tomorrow, and so the thought of coming home to a home-cooked meal is tantalizing. It's even more appealing to know that it will happen without 1) the mess and occasional overcooked quality the crock pot's meals sometimes have or 2) dining with a grumpy husband who has accidentally overcooked a meal because he was trying to cook whilst simultaneously talking to one of his vineyard workers who needs instructions on irrigation, and playing a rousing game of solitaire on his iPad -- all at the same time. It happens.

But not with the sous vide, baby. It has one task, and one task make a silk purse (tender steak) out of a sows's ear (cheap chuck) and I'm believing it's gonna happen.  I'll let you know how it goes.

And as a final note, how grand is it that it will cook dinner without either heating up the house via the oven or needing to physically go outside and turn the solar cooker every half hour or so to follow the sun while I'm cooking out there? 


  1. Chuck roast is one of my very favorite things to make sous vide! You will be in love. Pour the liquid in the bag through a sieve into a sauce pan and reduce it just a little. Then once the meat is browned, pour that back over it. I always do that and it works brilliantly! I'm so excited you got this! I've already started my holiday planning...and opening the champagne (prosecco for me), at noon is always on the agenda! What temp do you have the chuck set to? A lot of the guides say 140F, but I always set my chuck to 165F as the connective tissue breaks down at approx 160, so 165 makes it more tender. I made pulled pork over July 4 weekend that was to die for. And so easy! I'm working on getting a reliable spice mix recipe written for my chicken. I usually just dump spices by feel, so measuring has proven to be rather annoying. But as soon as I feel like it's consistent, I'll share. Enjoy!

    1. PS-I had a problem with my unit a few months ago (the old model, they've fixed it for your mode). I was pretty upset because I bought it on amazon and figured I was out $200. I emailed Anova at 11:30PM detailing my problem. I had a response by 11:36 asking for proof of purchase for an immediate replacement to be fedexed the next morning. I provided, and a new unit arrived two days later. Not only do they have a great product, but they have superb customer service!

    2. PPS- sorry! But I know you're very water conscious, when I run mine for long periods of time evaporation becomes significant. So I often cover the vessel with aluminum foil and that solves it. Just not wrapped around the trunk of the unit. Okay, last comment!

    3. So far, so good. Only thing is that the cookbook I bought says to cook steak/meat (including chuck) at 131 for medium rare....should I bump the temperature up? I was thinking it would end up tasting more like a steak when done. Of course this is the experiment, so if necessary I can bump it up next time, 130 is supposed to be the temp that makes it safe to cook for many hours. I've been keeping an eye on the evaporation rates and adding a little water. I'll do the same today. I'd love to make a reduction, maybe with a little red wine added, so I'll try that. And for spices, I just used some garlic, salt and pepper this time. Wanted to keep it simple so I could really analyze how the meat came out.

    4. Ah I see. I'm always going for a super tender pot roast style when I cook chuck. Makes sense to have it lower for a steak texture. I'm eager to hear how it turned out! And evaporation isn't much of a problem around that temp. More of an issue when it's running for a long time at 165.

    5. Oh my. It was absolutely AMAZING. It had a taste like steak or prime rib, but could be cut with a butter knife! I did a reduction from the juices in the bag w/ red wine and it was a perfect accompaniment. Big Ag was so incredibly impressed; he said he can't wait for me to use it again!