Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lobster Sous-Vide

Finally, one week after its arrival, I get to put my hands on the long awaited thermocirculator. Since I had friends visiting, I decided to play safe and try something simple. I created a quick and easy recipe pulling elements from various books.

I followed Thomas Keller's directions for the cooking of the lobster tail, except instead of putting the whole thermocirculator into a bath of beurre monte'(that would be a bit too expensive for a one-off!), I made a small portion of beurre monte'and put it into the bag with the lobster tail. I also added some dill from my garden for extra flavour, and cooked the tail for 15 minutes at 59.5C. This resulted in a firm but creamy texture. I then refrigerated the tails as I decided to serve them cold.

For the fennel, I based the timing on Thomas Keller's: 75 minutes at 85C. The only inconvenience was that the circulator pump stopped at about 45-50 minutes, and basically the cooking process became unreliable from then onwards. I then learnt that at such high temperature, the Sous-vide professional can't cope and eventually fails. After several experiments, I came to the conclusion that the only way to make it work reliably (without placing it in an air conditioned environment, which is a bit silly), is to place a decently powerful fan blowing into the device. Well, next time I'll know. The fennel was a bit undercooked as compared to what I did the previous day, but still nice. I then quickly browned it on each side on a frying pan before serving. The other struggle was due to the fact that I don't have a vacuum packer and I have been sealing the bags in water. This technique works perfectly with meats and seafood or anything heavy, but when you deal with vegetables, you definitely end up with air bubbles that blow within the pack once you place it into the hot bath, bringing your carefully sealed vegetables floating on the surface. this is really something you don't want, since the temperature will not be evenly distributed. I am planning to cook more vegetables sous-vide, so I will buy a vacuum packer.

The onions were cooked together with the fennel, and they were also slightly undercooked. They seem to require about the same timing as the fennel for proper cooking.
I made the lobster sauce with 1/2 cup of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of sour cream, salt and about 15 fresh green peppercorns. I whisked it until emulsified and let it rest in the fridge. I only served the foam on top of each lobster tail.

Lessons learnt from my first sous-vide experiment:
  1. If you are planning to cook vegetables, you will need a vacuum packer, or else you will end up with floating parcels
  2. 85C for 75 minutes is a high temperature which tends to overheat my circulator (on sous-vide professional machines). The usage of a fan pointing onto the device resolves the problem. According to Polyscience, my unit is defective and they are now replacing it free of charge!
Overall, I must say that on my first experience with this cooking technique I had a lot of fun. There are hurdles that you need to resolve and learn how to deal with, since this is different than conventional cooking, but this is also what makes it attractive. The thought that once you learn', it is perfectly repeatable, makes me think of the day that I will be able to sit and relax while the meat is braising!


alkanphel said...

Wow this is something I'd love to try but I don't know if I'll ever get a circulator. I need to get one of those Creuset cast iron posts first!

amiscell said...

I would highly recommend the "Creuset" cast iron pan! A sous-vide machine is more of a toy to play with. I might totally change my view in 6 months time, I'll keep you informed :)

ratatouille said...

well done, chef!

omc said...


I am representing Neo Group of Caterer. We will be having a food tasting session for our up-coming Christmas menu for bloggers.

If you are interested, you may drop me a email @ jessie.ong@neogroup.com.sg.


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