Sous Vide: defn. Under Vacuum; French.

So as you may have discerned by now, I’m a bit of a foodie. Unsurprisingly, I not only love to eat and cook, I also like farmer’s markets, cooking classes and Top Chef. My brother went to culinary school and actually knew some of the contestants, which was pretty cool. It’s also nice having the reality check from my brother. It’s so easy to think “Whatever, that’s not too hard. I could do that.” My brother calls me each week after Top Chef airs and we talk about what happened on the episode. He elaborates on a lot of what happened during each episode and puts exactly what those chefs are doing into perspective. What they are doing is HARD.

But aside from that, I also occasionally learn something from watching Top Chef, which I love. Top Chef was the first time I heard of the technique Sous Vide.  As set forth above, Sous Vide means under vacuum in french. So let me tell you what the technique is and then I’ll explain why it’s awesome.

1. The Technique: You vacuum seal whatever it is that you are cooking (a food saver works brilliantly) and then put it in a hot water bath to cook. That is an extremely simplified explanation and I’m sure any real cook or chef would just shake his or her head at me, but whatever, that’s basically what it is. Okaaaay, you might be thinking. I boil stuff all the time. NO! The concept is that you are cooking at a low temperature for a longer time and the trick is holding a precise temperature and it is really hard to do this without the correct equipment.  Now this kind of equipment has been used in labs and professional kitchens for a long time. However, it is only within the last few years that companies have started producing consumer level appliances for cooking sous vide. And I got one for my birthday this year! (Thanks Mom!)

2. Why It’s Awesome: Think about how we normally cook stuff. We cook it at a high temperature so that the center of whatever we are cooking hits some temperature that is much lower. For example, if you are roasting chicken breasts, you may be cooking them at 375 or 400 in order to get the center to about 165 or 170 degrees. This results in a center that is properly cooked, but an outside that is overcooked and dry. Using the Sous Vide method allows you to cook the food at the end temperature, so you end up with a consistent level of doneness throughout the food. Have you been to a nice restaurant in the last few years and gotten a thick juicy steak that is perfectly pink from top to bottom and is just seared on the very outside? Chances are that the steak was cooked sous vide and then briefly seared in a really hot skillet at the end.  But don’t take my word for all of this, I’m not an expert. However, there are numerous resources available online, as well as entire books published on the subject. Check them out for the real info.

Now, I have the Sous Vide Supreme (!!!!) and I’ve been playing with it and cooking different kinds of food in it since I received it. My most recent experiment was pulled pork. Now, my family is from Memphis and I grew up eating pulled pork barbeque. This is not the same thing. BBQ cooks all the fat out of the meat and you end up with blackened crunchy bits with the sauce baked on…so good. However, there are plenty of uses for pulled pork that don’t require the BBQ goodness and this was pretty damn tasty with a fraction of the effort. The pork is sealed in with seasonings and cooked for about 20 hours, which results in a super-tender, flavorful, fall apart at the touch of a fork pulled pork.

ingredients

2 lbs boneless pork butt (Worth noting, pork butt is actually pork shoulder. The barrels they used to be packaged in were called butts. And now you know.)
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs fennel
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp meyer lemon peel
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 slices bacon
optional: apple slices, 1 tsp ground cloves

Note: this recipe should be made the night before or at least 8-10 hours before you want to eat the pork. It takes a long time to break down all that collagen and stuff.

bagged apples

Fill the sous vide machine with water and preheat to 175 degrees.

While the water is heating, put the pork in the food saver bag, along with all of the seasonings. I doubled the recipe and added the optional ingredients to one of the bags. So good.  Vacuum seal the bag(s).

cooked

Place in the sous vide machine and then let that sucker cook for a long time. I put mine in at about 9 pm so when I got home around 6 pm the next night the pork was perfect and ready to take out. But let the pork cook for at least 8 hours.

prepull

When you’re ready to take the pork out, use tongs because it will be quite warm.  Cut open the packets and remove the pork to a plate or bowl. A word to the wise: the pork will literally be falling apart. I used tongs to gently transfer the meat. Discard the bacon. Feel free to reserve all the good pork juice and fat that is left in the bags.

pulled 1

Use two forks to pull the pork apart so it is in nice little strips. Because the pork was cooked in a sealed contained, there will still be some fat clinging to the meat even though all the fat has been cooked out of it (if that makes any sense). If that sort of thing bothers you, you might want to drain the fat from the pork in a sieve or colander for a while.

Now you have a lovely pulled pork bursting with flavor to use as your little heart desires. The first thing I did was cooked up some peppers and onions so I could make pork tacos with my delicious pulled pork. Other good uses include pulled pork sandwiches with pickled jalapeños and BBQ sauce, omelets and eating straight with a fork.

This recipe was inspired by one I found at the blog Me and My Torch.

Sous Vide Pulled Pork
 
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs boneless pork butt
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs fennel
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp meyer lemon peel
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 2 slices bacon
  • optional: apple slices, 1 tsp ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Fill the sous vide machine with water and preheat to 175 degrees.
  2. While the water is heating, put the pork in the food saver bag, along with all of the seasonings. I doubled the recipe and added the optional ingredients to one of the bags. Vacuum seal the bag(s).
  3. Place in the sous vide machine and then let that sucker cook for a long time; at least 8 hours and up to 30 hours or so.
  4. When you're ready to take the pork out, use tongs because it will be quite warm. Cut open the packets and remove the pork to a plate or bowl - the pork should be literally falling apart. I used tongs to gently transfer the meat. Discard the bacon. Feel free to reserve all the good pork juice and fat that is left in the bags to make into a sauce.
  5. Use two forks to pull the pork apart so it is in nice little strips. Because the pork was cooked in a sealed container, there will still be some fat clinging to the meat even though all the fat has been cooked out of it. You'll probably want to drain the fat from the pork in a sieve or colander for a while.
  6. Now you have a lovely pulled pork bursting with flavor to use as your little heart desires. The first thing I did was cooked up some peppers and onions so I could make pork tacos with my delicious pulled pork. Other good uses include pulled pork sandwiches with pickled jalapeños and BBQ sauce, omelets and eating straight with a fork.
Notes
This recipe should be made the night before or at least 8-10 hours before you want to eat the pork. It takes a long time to break down all that collagen and stuff.