“Technology.” It’s a word that doesn’t come up much in my posts. In fact, I think this may be the first time it has, since my focus is usually on food and not the appliances that I use to make it. But today, this musing is on an appliance that I believe will help me prepare some spectacular dishes as it did earlier this week as well as last night.
Not since I purchased my first Cuisinart food processor in 1978, have I been so impressed with culinary technology. Back then, on a graduate-student budget, $160, the price of the “economy” Cuisinart model, was a challenge; but even after using it once, I thought it was worth every penny.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to say the same about most of the other kitchen marvels I’ve just had to have—until now. On Black Friday, we purchased a Joule at a great price.
It’s an immersion circulator that keeps water at a constant temperature for sous-vide cooking. Beautifully designed, it’s the smallest one in the market, but it also appears to be the most highly rated. Its diminutive size is attributable largely to its being operated via a smart-phone app, thus eliminating the need for an LED display and multiple buttons.
We first saw the Joule used on the PBS show “America’s Test Kitchen.” The episode, titled “Sous Vide for Everybody,” had two cooking demos and a product comparison/review. The first demo illustrated how to cook the perfect poached egg without cracking the shell. When the cook removed the eggs from the water bath and cracked them open, we were wowed: the whites were perfectly cooked and the yolks tantalizingly runny.
The second demo used the Joule and the sous-vide method to prepare steaks. After liberally seasoning the steaks, they were placed in a Ziploc freezer bag along with a ¼ cup of vegetable oil. All the air was carefully squeezed from the bag, which was then lowered into a 130ºF water bath and cooked for two hours. After cooking, the steaks were taken from the bag and sat on paper towels for 5 to 10 minutes. They looked terrible, like some bad lab experiment. But after being patted with more paper towels to eliminate any moisture, the steaks were placed into a hot skillet with 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and seared on each side for 1 minute. A total transformation; perfectly seared steaks, exactly medium rare from end to end.
The show’s equipment review evaluated a number of sous-vide circulators and gave their highest rating to the Joule. We were hooked.
The first time I used the machine was to make the poached eggs we had seen on the show. We achieved the same results.
The next time was last night when we reenacted the steak demo. I didn’t want to experiment with $50 worth of NY strips; but as luck had it, our local supermarket had an incredible sale on them, which allowed me to purchase two 1 ½-inch steaks for $11 and change. Again, we followed the show’s instructions to a T and, as the photos below illustrate, achieved the same results. Tender, juicy, perfectly medium rare steaks that tasted as good as they looked.
While I don’t think sous-vide cooking will feature in many recipes here, don’t be surprised if from time to time you’ll read a post about a dish that uses the technique and its technology. Who knows; instead of using Ziploc bags, I may even break out my FoodSaver vacuum sealer that I’ve had for years and never used.