A Secret Magic Trick, re: Sous Vide Circulator

So I shall start by indicating first how lovely it is to be wrong regarding the fate of my Democrats in elections on yesterday. We did well. It gives me new heart. Perhaps Democrats are as energized as they think they are. That would be nice.

Locally, here in Henrietta, N.Y., the vote went pretty well. We fired the town supervisor, a Republican, who had been accused of making controversial comments; that is all I need to say about that. We fired the Republican sheriff for some reason. I voted for the incumbent, a Republican. Yes, I voted for a Republican. Get over it. Mainly because I do not recall any major controversy or horror coming out of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and I do not think of it as a political office. But congratulations to Todd Baxter. There’s a new sheriff in town. Rochester re-elected Lovely Warren as mayor. I didn’t see that one coming. Just kidding.

So in this new installment of the occasional advice column known as “Hints from Abelard,” I want to give another perspective of the art of cooking sous vide. This is when you cook food low and slow in a strictly controlled temperature water bath with slow circulation to promote convection. I some time ago purchased an Anova soux vides circulator and was convinced for a week or so that it was the next great hope of cooking techniques.

I imagined that cooking sous vide would be a boon for a bachelor; that one could simply season some meat, vacuum seal it, freeze it, then drop it into the bath upon arriving home, allowing it to cook for an hour or several, then sitting down to gnaw on a perfectly cooked steak or salmon or chicken thigh.

The problem with this notion is that, in fact, cooking sous vide requires a great deal mise en place. First one must season the food, then one must vacuum seal the food. Then, one must draw the water and assemble the pot with the circulator. Then, one must immerse the food and may need to insulate the pot with some foil and a towel to avoid a loss of thermal energy. Then, when the food is cooked, one must open the pouch, allow the food to rest, and then throw it in a scalding pan or zap it with a torch to get that nice maillard action going on.

The fact, my friends, is that cooking sous vide is only sensible if you are preparing a feast for more then two human beings.

Because if you’re just preparing a single steak, or maybe two, you can easily prepare it to perfection if you are willing to use a cast iron skillet and to open a lot of windows and turn on a lot of fans. 500-degree oven. Cast iron skillet. Meat. Kosher salt and Rochester Pepper (Yes, Dad, Rochester Pepper is quite a dandy spicy yummy thing, thank you) (or at least fresh-ground pepper). Two minutes a side. That is a perfect steak. Please watch episode one of season one of Good Eats because it is the best one. Watch it once per year at least. This should be mandatory for every American person. Because I think it’s fair to say that John Wayne ate steak.

Now if you’re cooking for more than two, say you have a hungry crowd of eight, sous vide makes sense. Because if you’re just pan-frying that many steaks? You’re going to mess at least one of them up on a pan. Probably overcook it or burn it severely. That’s just too much meat to babysit on a scorching pan. With sous vide, you cook all of those steaks to even and consistent quality. You sear it on a scorching pan for like 45 seconds. You rest the meat and carve. And you serve.

But for a single guy bachelor type who just wants to serve himself up a nice steak or a pork chop? Honestly, I can get better results with the scorching hot cast iron skillet.

Still. The sous vide circulator does one thing better than anything else, whether you are cooking for one or a million. The sous vide circulator thaws frozen meat. Quickly. Safely. And more naturally and better than any tool you can ever apply to the job. Just put cold water from your faucet into the pan and align and anchor your circulator. Set it to 70 degrees and start it spinning. And throw in your frozen meat in its original wrapping.

You will have thawed meat in 15-20 minutes, without the danger of prematurely cooking it (like, say, thawing it in the microwave), without the danger of it going into the red zone because you left it out too long, and without running gallons of water over it in the sink because it actually circulates the water. This is the best reason to buy a sous vide circulator, period: It is the superior method for thawing frozen food. It will do it safely and faster than any other method.

You can also mess around with you know, using it to cook stuff. But, I’m telling you. This thing is most useful as a frozen food magic food thawer thingie, and that is reason enough for a person to go buy one all on its own.

That is today’s Hint from Abelard.

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So today I heard an old guy have to explain to a young guy that Get Smart was a TV show before it was a movie. I would have felt bad for the older guy except that he began this thread of conversation by taking off his shoe and holding it up to his face and saying “You remember the TV show? Get Smart? Remember?” The dude was standing at his work place holding his own shoe to his face like it was a telephone. I was just glad there are no dogs near where he lives.

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