I used to love watching Alton Brown’s ‘Good Eats’ when I happened to be in the U.S. It was sometimes corny, usually fun and almost always educational.
One thing I learned, which I have tried on occasion, is slow roasting….. really slow. One sets the oven temperature to the temperature you want the finished food to be, and then ignore it. It can never be over-cooked because it can’t get hotter than the oven.
But I will admit, the idea of leaving something in the oven for an unspecified length of time is a little unnerving.
That’s one of the reasons sous vide cooking has appealed to me. The cooking temperature is not meant to be hotter than the finished food.
The other reason it appeals to me is that so much of the meat and fish here in France is packaged ‘sous vide’ – using the actual meaning of the word which is ‘under vacuum’. It’s a packaging technique for food preservation, not a cooking technique.
As it turns out, the food is already packaged for the cooking method.
It’s one of the things I always mean to explore further, but haven’t – which is why this guest post was so interesting to me.
And the fish sounds delicious…..
Herby Buttered Halibut Cooked Sous Vide
In French, “sous vide” means cooking “under vacuum.” In fact, the food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag and cooked slowly at a very low temperature in a water bath. It is a technique that is often used in high-end French restaurants, because it is a very effective way of marinating meat, fish, fruits and vegetables with flavor. You can cook in a very precise way, to a specific temperature, giving accurate results each time.
What equipment do I need?
You don’t need to purchase an expensive restaurant sous-vide machine in order to cook in this way. There are two great gadget options for home cooking that won’t take up a lot of room on your kitchen work surface. The first is to buy an immersion circulator. This is a piece of equipment that will heat up the water to a specific temperature, and circulate it, so that your food will be evenly cooked. If you are using an immersion circulator, you will need to provide your own vessel to cook in, such as a pot, cooler or plastic tub. You will however need to know the volume of the water in the container, so that you can accurately calculate cooking time. The other sous vide option is a small counter-top water bath machine that does all of this for you. These are more convenient, however they take up a little more space.
Herby Buttered Halibut
Halibut is an ideal fish to cook sous vide because it is dense, full of flavor and has a texture that cooks almost like steak. You can serve it medium rare, but with a caramelized crust on the outside. This will be a show-stopper for any French dinner party, or a family favorite for a special occasion.
4 Halibut fillets – approximately 160g each
Fresh herbs – parsley, dill and marjoram work well
Salt and pepper
4 tablespoons of butter
Season your halibut fillets to taste and place them in two Ziploc bags. Inside each bag place 2 tablespoons of butter, a finely sliced shallot, grated lemon rind and a good handful of fresh herbs. You should rub these over the fish fillets, so that they have a good, even flavor. Seal the bags and let them rest for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you have the time. Preheat your sous vide machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions for white fish. For a fillet that is an inch thick, you will have to cook this for 30-40 minutes. If your fish is 2 inches thick, it may take up to an hour at a low temperature.
When your fish is cooked, gently remove it from the bags, taking care not to flake the fish off. Discard the herbs and carefully dry the fish on some kitchen towel. Heat up an oiled heavy skillet pan and place your halibut skin-side down. Cook your fish for a couple of 90 seconds each side until the outside is brown, basting constantly with butter. Serve with a fresh salad and sautéed potatoes.
Sous vide is an excellent way to cook fish, making the most of its delicate flavor. You can cook accurately, creating delicious restaurant-quality dishes for family and friends.
Footnote: I’m thinking how easy it would be to make a perfectly poached egg…..