This is a wonderful yet healthier version of steak and chips. The steak is simply pan-fried, or cooked sous-vide.
“Sous-vide” is French for “under vacuum”. Food is vacuum-sealed in a food-grade plastic bag and then slowly cooked in a low temperature water bath. The modern “boil-in-a-bag”.
You have most likely eaten this type of “boil-in-a-bag” in your favourite restaurant or local gastro pub for some years without even knowing it.
Cooking sous-vide keeps the nutritional stuff in, ensures edge-to-edge even cooking and eases serving for larger numbers and late comers.
Think of when you use a cooking thermometer to see if your roast is cooked. With sous-vide, once the food reaches its pre-set temperature, it will not overcook, yet stays at that level of done-ness. Only keeping it there for an excessive amount of time will eventually overcook it and ruin the texture. Else it quite happily sits there while you get everything else ready.
So far I’ve experimented with eggs (scrambled, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, Confit, poached), steak and venison steak, duck breast, salmon, chicken breast and thigh, carrots, green beans, chicory and honey poached pears. So much more to play with yet.
I find Serious Eats a particularly good resource for my sous-vide experiments.
Sous-vide cooked fish or meat is deliciously moist, but sadly looks a bit anemic. So it’s often briefly pan seared on both sides to colour and caramelise just before serving.
Many vegetables take well to the sous-vide treatment. Most cook nicely at 85 C for 45 mins-1 hr. When you see the juices in the bag, you will realize how much flavor and juice had previously been lost when you were boiling or steaming them.
This cooking method has been around in professional kitchens for years. It has only recently become more affordable and accessible to the ambitious home cook.
The most popular home cook options are the Sous-Vide Supreme (classic water bath), the Anova, Joule (not available in the UK yet) or Lakeland “Hang-in-any-pan” water circulators or, in my case, a multicooker such as a Redmond or a Giles and Posner that allows detailed low temperature and time settings to enable sous-vide cooking. Some of these have fancy apps and wifi control.
A vacuum sealer is the natural partner for sous-vide cooking, but you can just use the water displacement method with a food-grade zip-lock bag (Archimedes method) instead. I’m sold on my upright Foodsaver vacuum sealer though. It looks like a large fancy toaster, takes up relatively little worktop space and does the job beautifully.
For me, vacuum sealing also saves a lot of food waste, as, as a solo dweller, I vac-pack leftovers, divide multipacks into tight, neat individual portions to freeze and quickly sous-vide veg that are about to go past their best and whip them into the freezer, for sous-vide reheating straight from the freezer at a later date.
Vacuum sealed fish or meat can also be cooked or reheated sous-vide straight from frozen, just add 30-40 mins to the cooking time.
Simple Steak (pp -GF LC RSF)
1 steak of choice
1 tbsp neutral oil such as rapeseed oil
1 tbsp butter
Bring the steak to room temperature and pat dry with kitchen paper. Rub all over with oil while you heat a good non-stick frying pan.
Add the steak to the dry yet searing-hot pan. Season. I only season with pepper initially, only adding a grinding of salt once seared, as salt draws the juices out. I prefer my juices in.
Turn the heat down to medium-high and be brave: leave the steak alone now without messing with it (average guidelines for a 2 cm thick steak):
Blue: 1 minute each side
Rare: 1½ minutes each side
Medium rare: 2 minutes each side
Medium: 2¼ minutes each side
Medium-well done: 2½ – 3 minutes each side.
Add butter when turning half way through. Occasionally baste with the butter.
Wrap in aluminum foil and rest for a couple of minutes to let the juices settle.
Heat up the water bath (see temperatures below).
Season the steak and place in a food grade bag. If cooking more than one steak, use individual bags to allow the water to circulate around each.
Add optional aromatics such as fresh thyme, rosemary or bay leaf. Vacuum seal using a vac sealer or the water displacement method.
Place the vac packed steak into the water bath and cook to your liking:
Rare 50°C 1 hr 15 min
Medium 60°C 1 hr 30 min
Well Done 70°C 1 hr 45 min
Rare 54°C 2hr
Medium 62°C 2 hr 30 min
Well Done 70°C 2 hr 30 min
Medium 64°C 1hr 10min
Well Done 70°C 2 hr
Rare 50°C 45 min
Medium 60°C 45 min
Well Done 70°C 45 min
Rare 50°C 45 min
Medium 60°C 45 min
Well Done 70°C 45 min
Rare 55°C 8-24 hr
Medium 60°C 8-24 hr
Well Done 70°C 8-24 hr
I‘ve had great results with fillet, sirloin and even venison steak at 54 C for 1 hr for medium rare.
However tonight I gave a flat iron steak the same treatment, and admittedly it was a little tough. Think it needed longer to tenderize.
When done, remove the steak from the bag, saving the juices.
Pat the steak dry with kitchen paper, then rub some oil all over it.
Heat a good non-stick pan until searing hot. Add the steak and quickly sear over medium-high for 20-30 secs each side. Add the butter and the juices from the bag halfway through and baste.
No need to rest a sous-vide steak. Serve with the pan juices drizzled over.
Spicy sweet potato fries or wedges (pp – GF DF LC RSF V Vg)
1-1 ½ sweet potato
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne or chili powder
¼ tsp freshly ground sea salt
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp Z’atar (optional)
1-2 tbsp neutral oil such as rapeseed oil
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Either cut the unpeeled scrubbed sweet potatoes in wedges, or peel and cut into fries by hand or using a potato chipper.
Mix the spices with the oil in a large bowl. Mix the wedges or fries through the spiced oil to coat.
Spread the wedges or fries onto a non-stick oven tray in a single layer. Bake for 35-45 mins or until tender, cooked through and starting to caramelize.
These won’t crisp up like potato chips, but should get a nice golden hue with caramelized edges.
“Salsamole” (serves 2 – GF DF LC RSF V Vg)
A good handful or 2 of cherry or small vine tomatoes, (I used a heritage mix), quartered or roughly chopped
1 avocado, peeled, roughly chopped
a small red onion, finely chopped (optional)
1 red chili, seeded, finely chopped
A small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Juice of a lime
Mix all the ingredients, done. Pile onto a little salad if using as a veg side. Great as a burger topping or in a wrap too.