Almost two weeks ago, I wrote that I was about to embark on a new culinary adventure by cooking sous vide. Inspired by Thomas Keller's demonstration, I bravely went where I'd never gone before. Thanks to everyone who left words of advice; I tried to heed them all. To find out how I got to the final result, as seen in the photo above, read on.
This is the kit that was given out to the attendees. Contents: one vacuum packed lamb saddle from Elysian Fields Farm that was already trussed, one small pack of herbs and a clove of garlic, one packet of sel gris, and one packet of lamb stock.
Temperature regulation is essential to sous vide. Several of the commenters said they used equipment that did it for them like a crock pot, pressure cooker, rice cooker, and even a fryer. Since I don't own any of those, I needed to purchase a thermometer. I found one at Williams-Sonoma. In the photo, I'm calibrating the thermometer.
The recipe called for a water temperature of 61.5°C which converts to 142.7°F. (Epicurious has a conversion chart, but if you don't find the specific temperature you need there, use this handy automatic converter.) Once the temperature hovered just over 140°F (I know, I know, not so exact), in went the lamb still in the plastic packaging. To keep the temperature steady, I kept a very low flame throughout the process. Every once in awhile, I did turn it off when the temperature crept up to 145°F.
After 50 minutes had passed, out came the lamb. It's been years since I've cooked meat so I wasn't sure if the lamb looked done, at least on the outside. But I couldn't sit around wondering. The lamb needed to be finished off. I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and placed it into a sauté pan where it was seared in canola oil. The last step: Out went the oil and in went butter, garlic, and thyme. The lamb had to rest for 15 minutes, which is what it's doing in the photo. The end was in sight!
Time to make the sauce. And this is where I veered completely from the provided recipe; apologies to Thomas Keller. I had no way of cutting the bone. I tried improvising the sauce, especially since I had neither vegetables for the mirepoix nor chicken stock. I thought I'd ruined the lamb stock but thankfully, my friend Jean Soo thought to deglaze the pan with some wine. She saved the day.
Here's an inside shot of the lamb. It didn't have that bull's eye effect that you often see with cooked meats where it's darkest around the outer edges and gradually gets lighter/pinker toward the center. As you can see in the photo, the lamb was an even pink throughout-just like how it was supposed to look! I have to say, I was very happy with the visual result.
The real question, of course, was: How would it taste? I thought it tasted pretty darn good for my first time cooking sous vide. The lamb was tender, juicy, and full of flavor-and this was before adding the sauce to the meat. Friends agreed, so I'll chalk this up as a success.
But what about sous vide as a cooking method? For me, the biggest pro was getting succulent meat. And like I'd mentioned in the previous post, fruits and vegetables get a beautiful hue. And overall, flavors are intense. The biggest con, especially if you're going low-tech like me? The time and attention required throughout the process. If you're in a rush, sous vide is not for you.
I'm not sure if I'll do this again primarily because I don't own a vacuum sealer but I have to say, as uncertain as I may have been during parts of the process, the precise nature of Thomas Keller's recipe helped me move right along with the confidence I needed. For those of you who are up for a challenge or want to branch out with sous vide, I really think Under Pressure is a book you'll want in your kitchen.
Esther Sung first joined Epicurious.com in 2006. Prior to this, she spent several years in book publishing, including at Harper Entertainment, where the proverbial three-martini lunch was sadly nowhere to be found. When not in the office, she moonlights at the Bottle Shoppe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and through this she has developed a fondness for Syrah and Malbec. A quasi-vegetarian, she admits to having relished eating yuk hwe, a Korean raw beef dish.
MORE FROM EPICURIOUS:
Videos: Chefs & Experts
Epicurious sits down to interview some of the culinary world's best
The Epicurious Editors' Blog
Food News and Views From All Over
Classic Cookout Entrées
Pulled pork sandwiches, skirt steaks, and more grilled party favorites
Weekly Dinner Planners
A collection of tasty recipes for the busy work week
Epicurious.com's guide to seasonal cooking while the weather's warm