Molecular gastronomy, progressive cuisine, mad scientist cookery...whatever you call it I think it's cool. It's cooking meets science geek and the possibilities are so much fun. It is, however, expensive, time consuming and challenging to find ingredients and tools. I dabble in molecular gastronomy, finding ways to incorporate techniques into everyday cooking.
Sous vide cooking is by no means a new cooking technique but it has been popularized by the trend in molecular gastronomy. It has become a common technique in cooking television and is used in some really interesting restaurants. On a side note, dining at Alinea in Chicago is on my bucket list. If I ever get there I'm photo documenting the entire meal. Cooking at a consistent temperature in a water bath ensures even cooking throughout the entire item, lowering the risk of overcooking the food.
Although there are a lot of gadgets out there, sous vide cooking can be achieved with just a few simple kitchen tools. A large heavy bottomed stock pot, an accurate instant read meat thermometer, and ziploc bags. This crude version of sous vide does require more attention as you are constantly watching the temperature and adjusting the flame under the pot, but it achieves the same results; perfectly cooked food with an even temperature throughout and the most amazing texture.
Start with really fresh Salmon. We can get really great fish in the Pacific Northwest and for this recipe I bought 3/4 of a pound of wild Alaskan line caught king salmon. Never frozen, the fish in this part of the country is simply amazing. We just have to put up with the hoards of tourists at Pike Place Market to get it. We elbow our way in, grab our fish and get out of there quickly. It's insanity any time other than very early in the morning.
Heat a pot of water to 122 degrees and clip a meat thermometer to the side. I found that our tap runs about 115 degrees at the hottest so it did not take long to bring the water up to temperature. To hold this temperature, I set the burner at the lowest setting. I set an alarm on the thermometer to go off at 124 degrees and turned the burner off when the alarm sounded. It was a constant off and on of the burner every few minutes, but it worked to hold the low temperature needed for this recipe.
Remove the skin from the salmon along with any pin bones. Season with salt and pepper and place each filet in a ziploc bag. Place thinly sliced shallot, fresh basil, and dill pressed into each side of the fish. Add a generous drizzle of olive oil to each bag; enough to evenly coat the fish.
Using a bowl of water, carefully lower each bag into the water slowly to push out the air. Before seal the bag before it reaches the surface of the water. This is a makeshift vacuum seal. Enough of the air is pushed out of the bag to accomplish the intended technique for sous vide.
Place each bag into the pot of water and cook for 25 minutes. Most sous vide units circulate the water, but simply stirring the pot periodically is a suitable substitute.
When the salmon has cooked through, carefully remove from the bag (it will be very delicate) onto a parchment lined tray. Heat two tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium high heat. Sear fish in hot butter for a minute or two, on one side only, basting with the hot butter. Serve immediately on warmed plates.
Ryan and I agree that sous vide salmon is possibly one of the best things we've even eaten. The texture of the fish was so buttery you could cut it with a spoon. It flaked nicely but not a single bite was overcooked or dried out. It was simply amazing. We savored each bite wishing we had purchased twice as much fish and could have seconds. I'd still love to add a sous vide unit to my kitchen tools, but in the meantime I'll be using this technique far more often for perfectly cooked food.
Sous Vide Alaskan King SalmonBy Land of Noms, January 31, 2015
- 3/4 lb of fresh salmon
- 1 shallot, thinely sliced
- 4 fresh basil leaves
- 4 sprigs of fresh dill
- salt and pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- Heat a large pot of water to 122 degrees, maintaining temperature over lowest possible heat setting and monitoring with a meat thermometer
- Remove skin and pin bones from salmon, portion into two equal size portions
- Season with salt and pepper
- Place each portion in a small ziploc bag
- Place thin slices of shallot on each side of the salmon
- Place a fresh basil leaf and sprig of dill on each side of salmon, drizzle olive oil into each bag to liberally coat the fish
- Using a bowl of water to displace the air, remove as much air as possible from each bag and seal tightly
- Place bags in hot water and cook for 25 minutes
- Carefully remove cooked fish from bags onto a parchment lined baking sheet
- Heat butter in a skillet over medium high heat, sear one side of salmon for 30-60 seconds while basting with butter
- Serve immediately on a warmed plate
Sharing our culinary adventures in Cascadia with simple, sustainable & satisfying eats. Bon Appétit!