Over the past few months, the way that I have been cooking has changed irrevocably. You see, late last year, I picked up a device from Singapore’s newest, coolest and easily largest kitchen store, ToTT, that has not only changed the way that I cook but also what I am cooking.
The device is a SousVide Supreme, which is something you quite simply need to use to realize just how revolutionary it can be for a home chef. I am sure by now most of us are familiar with seeing the words “sous-vide” on restaurant menus.
What this means is that the proteins we are eating have been vacuum packed (often with certain flavoring agents) and cooked in a water bath at a precise temperature and for a specific amount of time.
This technique allows chefs to cook foods to perfect doneness and through varying cooking times, achieve textures not possible previously. The process can also often enhance flavour as well as retain moisture in meats and other proteins that might be lost during other cooking methods.
Over the past few months, I have been cooking a lot with this remarkable machine. There a a lot of reasons to love it. Here are just a few of mine. Firstly, the SousVide Supreme–while not exactly cheap–is much more affordable than the commercial immersion circulators that a lot of professional chefs use. That does not mean the pros won’t use the SousVide Supreme. Many do, including Top Chef’s Richard Blais, who prefers them to immersion circulators. Secondly, the SousVide Supreme has a small footprint, meaning it won’t take up too much counter space, and is relatively attractive. Thirdly, it is pretty idiot-proof; getting it up and running is easy and quick. Lastly, the results have been spectacular. While there are many things one can do with this great little device, what I especially like is that I can cook a very lean cut of meat to a perfect doneness without losing any moisture. In the past, I’ve avoided working with a lot of these cuts because the results would be tough, dry and unpalatable dishes. Now, however, I can produce amazing results.
Because my darling wife S is 7 months pregnant, I will be cooking this year’s Chinese New Year reunion dinner. It is a duty that my mother had delegated to S a number of years ago and something she’s happily worked on each year. This year, though, I have taken on the assignment and have already decided to create a rather non-traditional 5 course meal. I’ve been testing out recipes already and have most of the menu pretty much planned out. At least two of the courses will be prepared using the SousVide Supreme.
One of these dishes is a simmered duck breast served with a mizuna and carrot salad and a miso dengaku sauce. Preparing the duck using the SousVide Supreme is easy. Prep your SousVide Supreme by filling it with water and setting the temperature to 59 degrees Celsius. Take your duck breast and make incisions in the skin. Fry it skin-side down until the skin is golden brown and quite a bit of the fat is rendered off. Then plunge the whole duck breast in ice water to stop the cooking.
Make a marinade using dashi (or another stock), mirin, sake, and soy sauce. You want this sweet, savory and all around yummy. Pour the liquid into a plastic bag (only use bags that can be placed in a warm water bath), add the duck breast and seal with a vacuum packer. Please note that if you are using a domestic vacuum packer, you will not be able to vacuum this. Just try and remove most of the air and seal. That’s what I do. Then place the bag with the liquid and the duck into the SousVide Supreme and cook between two and half hours to three hours. When ready, remove the duck from the bag; use a toothpick and poke one end of the duck, tilting it over a plate or bowl to allow any blood to drain from it. Then slice it and serve with salad and dengaku sauce (there are many good dengaku recipes on the Web, and one on my own blog here). The duck should be gorgeously tender and flavoured very lightly by the liquid it was cooked in.
The other dish that I have already decided to prepare is a sesame crusted orange-hoisin lamb loin with sweet potato mash. For the lamb, I first ensured that it was tied up tightly using kitchen twine in order to give it a rounder, more cylindrical appearance. I then made a marinade using orange juice, orange zest, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, mirin and sake. I covered this and let it sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours so that the flavours really penetrate that meat. When ready to cook, prepare the SousVide Supreme by filling it with water and setting the temperature to 55 degrees Celsius. Then take the meat out of the marinade, pat it dry and vacuuum pack it in a bag. Cook in the SousVide Supreme for two and half hours. When done, remove the bag from the machine and plunge it in ice water to stop the cooking and cool off. Set aside. Make your mashed potatoes as to your liking. I used Japanese sweet potatoes and tossed in some roasted garlic, blending with butter, cream and a pinch of salt. I also made two sauces for the dish. The first is a reduced mixture of a spicy kecap manis, orange juice, chicken stock, and soy sauce. The other is a mint oil made from olive oil, mint, sugar and salt. When ready to serve, remove the lamb from the bag, rub it with a little more hoisin and quickly sear all sides of the meat in a hot, oiled or buttered pan. Have a plate with your sesame seeds ready. When all sides of the meat are seared, quickly remove from heat and cut off all the twine. Then roll the meat in the sesame seeds so that all sides are coated. slice into nice medalions and plate with the mashed potatoes. Drizzle a little of the reduction and the mint oil on the plate. The lamb will be super moist, wonderfully tender and full of natural flavour.
Of course, these are just two ways you can use a SousVide Supreme. I’m still playing with it on a weekly if not daily basis. As mentioned, while it is an investment, it is a total game-changer if you love to cook. And a device I probably could not cook without now that I have had one for a while.