A contemporary approach to proteins Sous vide meats are succulent by Lacey Griebeler P rogressive “molecular gastronomy” techniques aren’t all gimmicks. In fact, quite elegant cuisine—not involving liquid nitrogen or 25 meticulously placed ingredients— can be achieved with a cooking method pioneered by trend-setting chefs but available for any professional kitchen: sous vide. According to avant-garde equipment experts PolyScience (www. cuisinetechnology.com), sous vide is the process of cooking foods in a vacuum-sealed polymer bag that is submerged in a controlled low-heat water bath, or thermal circulator. While this machine has a high up-front cost (its price tag often exceeds $1,000), it helps chefs save money by reducing product loss and increasing yield, as the food will never be heated above the set temperature of the water. And that makes sous vide ideal for cooking protein, the most expensive part of the plate. There are improvements to flavor as well, says Matt Lightner, executive chef of Castagna (www.castagnarestaurant. com) in Portland, Ore. “The advantage of sous vide is to be able to cook items in their own juices,” he explains. “There is very little leaching, so you get the unadulterated essence of the product, and you are able to control the meat to the exact temperature of perfection.” Before diving in, it’s important to think about the protein you’d like to sous vide. Lightner suggests considering how that meat would taste if it were “intensified,” since it will be cooking in its own juices. “A product that is very intense on its own can become even more amplified. Example: some game. And if you are not well-trained in the science and reasoning and reactions of proteins ... it could turn bad rather fast.” Matt Lightner, executive chef, Castagna, Portland, Ore., www.castagnarestaurant.com; wine pairing by Marlene Rossman Yield: 6 servings 5 lbs. lamb breast 5 grams (.175 oz.) sea salt 1 lb. onion 500 mL (16.667 fl. oz.) extra virgin olive oil 1 lb. bell pepper 5 grams (.175 oz.) dill seed 5 grams (.175 oz.) fennel seed 5 grams (.175 oz.) fenugreek 5 grams (.175 oz.) coriander Potxas Beans (recipe follows) Leaves from 2 sprigs each fresh dill, fennel and cilantro, for garnish Method (1) Cut whole lamb breast with the bone into approximately 5” by 8” rectangles; place in a cryo bag with sea salt. Seal and place in thermal circulator at 65˚C (149˚F) for 36 hours. Once finished, allow to rest 10 minutes at room temperature (and reserve lamb broth from cryo bags), 10 minutes in running cold water, then finish cooling in ice water. (2) Peel and place onion on a slicer, and cut paper-thin slices. Allow to caramelize in olive oil on medium to low heat. The final product should be CRISP LAMB BREAST, ONIONS, SEEDS AND LEAVES WITH POTXAS BEANS stringy and not a purée. (3) Place peppers over an open flame; roast until lightly charred on the outside. Place in covered bowl to allow the skins to loosen, then peel, deseed, cut into julienne; reserve in olive oil. (4) Place spices in a cast iron pan; lightly toast seeds until aroma becomes apparent. (5) To serve, warm lamb until heated thoroughly, and remove rib bones (they should come of the protein effortlessly). Place breast in nonstick pan, and slowly caramelize until golden brown crust forms. Lightly warm Potxas Beans in reserved lamb broth; coat until glossy. Garnish Potxas Beans with threads of onions and peppers, dust with seeds, and finish with crisp lamb and leaves of the seeds, where you see fit. Potxas Beans 1 lb. potxas (dried white beans) 1.5 g. (24 c.) water 1 sheet kombu 1 tomato, halved 2 bay leaves Method (1) Soak potxas beans in water for 24 hours. Put beans in a pot with water; bring up to a boil. Add kombu, tomato and bay leaf. (2) Allow to cook extremely low for around 1 hour to soak up the liquid and become tender while staying intact. Wine pairing: Cline Cellars Cashmere 2007 (California) is a classic Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre that will stand up to the opulent lamb prep and the complex flavors of the beans. Sous vide lamb “The main thing is being able to cook something at a very low-and-slow temperature, which allows for a buttery texture,” says Lightner. To achieve perfectly cooked crisp lamb breast (recipe, right), Lightner found 65˚C (149˚F) is the temperature at which the gelatin in the lamb intensifies best and creates a melt-away mouthfeel. Before serving, he caramelizes the sous vide lamb in a nonstick pan, providing the contrast of a supercrispy outside to a buttery inside. 16 | Chef www.chefmagazine.com