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Poor Man's Sous Vide

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This is how I've done sous vide for years.  I used one of those Gatorade coolers with a spout on the bottom, so correcting the temperature was a simple matter of spouting out X liters of water and pouring in X liters from a kettle.  Usually I have to do that once in the 1-2 hours I'm bringing steak up to temperature.


It's especially useful for me, because in my opinion sous vide is a technology for managing a lot of food for a lot of people, like grilling for 30 people at a birthday party.  In that case, an actual sous vide machine is worthless, but a big fat Rubbermaid cooker is perfect.

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Some of the fun of sous vide (and BBQ, or even cooking in general) is taking cheap cuts/ingredients, and transforming them into something magical thru skill, science/technology, and perhaps, a little bit of love. That's not to say I don't buy some high-end ingredients from time to time; only that I especially enjoy the challenge of the thrift aspect of the culinary arts.

One dish that's particularity sentimental to me is Poor Man's Lobster. When I was young, once in a great while, my dad would take my brother Ryan and I out to eat at a sit-down restaurant, and let us order just about whatever we wanted, within reason. I usually went for the Poor Man's Lobster, as it sounded fancy to me, but was still ok by Dad. He was a single father to us for a few years, and eatin'-out dollars were few and far between. As a husband and father to a large family myself, we don't blow extra money at restaurants just for the sake of it very often, either. Instead, we prefer making magic at home with simple ingredients, some technology and skill, and a whole lotta love (cue Led Zeppelin). Anyways, enough rambling....on with the show.


I wanted to see if I could do something special with some el cheapo cod fillets; think $5/# in the freezer section at Wally. I didn't even bother thawing them, actually it works out better this way I think. I cut them from the vacseal, smeared them copiously on all sides with room temperature butter (which sets and hardens to the fish), then liberally coated them with kosher salt and white sugar. I also added some tarragon. The large amount of salt helps firm the cod up to a more lobster-esque texture, and the sugar balances the salt and adds that sweetness that lobster has. I vacsealed them up, and tossed 'em in the SV bath at 130 for 2 hours. When they're ready, I preheated the oven broiler, and got the rack up really close. I removed the fillets from the bag (discarding the juices), and patted the fillets dry with a paper towel. Make sure to handle/dry the fillets gently, as they can still flake apart. I arranged them on a foil-covered cast iron skillet (end to end if they're small) and coated in melted butter and a dust of paprika. Broiled for about 2 minutes, until the edges were just starting to brown. Served with all the usual accoutrements.


Folks, this one was a big win! Cooking sous vide allows the ingredients to really steep in their own juices, which is a boon to seafood. Poor Man's Lobster is often poached, which donates much of the flavor to the water, which is discarded. Also, the salt concentration really assisted in firming things up nicely. While the fillets still flaked, as cod does, they had a much tighter texture, without being dry or chewy at all. Of course, they were basically enveloped in butter/salt/sugar/tarragon for two hours, so good things were bound to happen! I'll definitely be adding this to the repertoire! Thanks for looking, and letting me "bend your ear"!






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