Culinary Innovation

No this blog isn’t about pressure cooking, it’s about cooking product under vacuum. The term sous vide is a French term, meaning under vacuum. It is a cooking technique where vacuum-sealed food is immersed in a water bath and cooked at an extremely accurate temperature. This technique involves cooking food for longer periods of time at a lower temperature. The accurate temperature allows you to cook food to perfection, this also eliminates concerns about over cooking. This innovation in the culinary industry is extremely simple and fool-proof, and produces amazing results.

This innovation was developed in the mid-1970s by chef Georges Pralus. He was the chef at the renowned Michelin Three-Star Restaurant, Troisgros, in Roanne, France. He used this technique as a means of minimizing costly shrinkage of product and maximizing more bang for his buck. In the last two decades, sous vide has become more popular. It has enabled more chefs to use them as a tool to increase their own creativity. The technique of sous vide cooking relies on the ability of water to transfer heat to food. To cook in a traditional oven, in heated air or on a hot piece of metal, the temperature must be set much higher than the desired cooked temperature of the food. Because of this, timing becomes quite critical. With the sous vide method, because water transfers heat to and through vacuum/sealed food about 10 times more efficiently than air does, the food can cook gently and precisely at the desired serving temperature, without ever exceeding it. There is just one thing to remember, just because chefs are using this application doesn’t mean the ever day home cook can’t also use this. Many stores now sell this technology. Williams Sonoma sells a multiple variety of them ranging from different places (and yes I’m advertising for my workplace).

Why sous vide? It’s a new and unique way of cooking that yields different and better results. Products cooked sous vide develop flavors and textures that simple cannot be duplicated using any other cooking method. Yes these machines can be expensive but you get tons of benefits with them. The main benefits is that it’s easy and fool-proof and you get perfect results ever time. You get the gourmet taste that you get in a restaurant full of flavours. It’s also very hands-off cooking. You just set it up and walk away. You get additional nutrients from the natural juices that are retained in the sealed bag. And with spending the money to buy a sous vide you also save money because you tenderize inexpensive cuts of meat while stiff getting the expensive taste. It just takes 3 simple steps; season and seal your product, simmer your pouches in the water bath, and serve. The final step could have another step where you can give a quick sear on a hot skillet to get a beautiful golden colour and caramelized flavour.

This is a pretty awesome technological innovation in the culinary industry in my opinion. It always chefs to play a lot with flavours and colours. I know what I know from working at Williams Sonoma. We have a few sous vide machines and I’m able to help customers know more about it just because of how interested I am about it. You can cook so many things from steak and fish, to carrots and eggs. The ideas and recipes are limitless. The store also offers classes or demonstrations to people who are interesting in learning or buying product. We had a demo with the PolyScience machine that we sell where we did poached eggs.They were delicious and cooked perfectly. I can honestly say that when I get the smaller machine in stock or when I can afford the medium sized sous vide I will be definitely be buying one and inviting people over for gourmet dinner. In conclusion I firmly believe that the sous vide will not be a trend but an innovation that is here to stay.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/sous-vide-poached-eggs.html

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/polyscience-professional-sous-vide-thermal-circulator/

Becoming a Vegetarian is a HUGE Missed Steak

This month, we were challenged to try out a diet for three days and record what we ate. As per the title, I went with a bit of a cop out and decided to try being a vegetarian; it seemed like an easy choice, what with having little time to research and design a meal plan. I certainly learned a few things along the way. For one thing, a vegetarian diet can definitely be healthier. Sure, you can be a vegetarian and eat nothing but cake, Coke, French fries, and salads slathered in dressing, but generally any restriction placed on a person’s normal diet will result in fewer calories consumed. Vegetarians also tend to steer clear of fast food and many calorie-rich restaurant meals. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet can be more environmentally friendly. Raising animals for meat is a major contributor to pollution, greenhouse gases, water waste and the depletion of fertilizers. Producing a single meal containing meat may take dozens or even hundreds more resources than producing a vegetarian meal.

 

In order for me to do this vegetarian diet challenge, I had to plan my days carefully, and be strict about what I ate from the Monday to the Wednesday. For breakfast, I made bran and rhubarb muffins Sunday night, which were a success. I had one every morning, followed by an apple. Lunches were always salads, something to get me through the day until I got home from school.

When I got home the first night, I had ricotta ravioli with a simple tomato sauce. The ravioli were homemade by my Nonna, delivered on a trip down from Sault Ste Marie. (Picture bags of ravioli, tortellini, and pesto; it’s like Christmas!) The next night, we made pasta with saffron and broccoli. I have to apologize — I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of it — I was so focused on making and eating it that I forgot to! But I can say that it was delicious. Here is the link to the recipe:

http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/ricetta/primi/pipe-allo-zafferano-con-broccoletti/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=marketing&utm_campaign=lacucinaitaliana

For the final night, I prepared a zucchini risotto, simple and delicious. All you need is:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups vegetarian stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 grated parmesan cheese
  • white wine

Melt 1 T. butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and zucchini, and cook until beginning to soften, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Bring 3 cups of broth to simmer in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. Melt remaining 2 T. butter in reserved medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add rice and stir until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add any white wine you have in the fridge and cook off the alcohol. Once evaporated, add 1/2 cup broth. Adjust heat so liquid simmers slowly and cook rice until broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and creamy, stirring occasionally. At this point season with salt and pepper. Add zucchini and mix in cheese. Serve.

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One thing I noticed as I followed this diet was my increase in snacking and consumption of starches. I think, because my body is used to eating meat, I was left still feeling hungry without it. I also felt more bloated from the carb overload. I think I could be a vegetarian if I was able to come up with more unique and filling dishes, but I don’t think I could continue with this particular diet. I do feel like I could benefit from incorporating more vegetables into my diet, once I’ve added more vegetable dishes to my repertoire. I’m sure that, once I’m in the industry with a completed degree, I’ll know much more about different diets, and how to accommodate them and enjoy them myself.