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/

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MUST BE JELLY, ‘CAUSE JAM DON’T SHAKE

As my sister and I were growing up, we often saw large amounts of fruits or vegetables being prepared to be made into jams, jellies, antipasti (vegetables in oil), or giardiniere (pickled vegetables). Restocking our cantina became a weekend event whenever our supply was running low.

JAM(1)

When the opportunity arose to pickle or preserve something, I wandered into the cantina to look for something we hadn’t had in a long time. I settled on Grape Jelly, reminded of my mom and her best friends making it in years past. Something as simple as concord grapes can be made entirely versatile. The trick: having fresh grapes. (And in my case, having a family friend that grows them by the tonne.)

JAM(2)

My mom and her friend took their time tweaking recipes to arrive at the perfect jelly. You need:

  • 4 cups of grape juiceJam (10)
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp of butter
  • 1 pouch of certo pectin

Because the grapes I was working with were as fresh as can be, I washed them twice, and made sure to remove any that were deformed or unripe. Then, you start to juice. The easiest way to do it is to put the grapes in a pot, crank the heat, and use a potato masher to squish the grapes. The fragrant smells the grapes emit at this point in the process are amazing.
Jam (8)

Once you’ve accumulated enough juice, you need to separate the juice from the skins. What I recommend using is a Jelly Bag: a filter that you can stretch across a juice jug, that separates the juice from the waste.

Once you’ve got 4 cups of juice, you want to add the sugar and butter into a pot and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Don’t add the pectin just yet; that’s the final step. While you’re waiting, you want to preheat your oven to 200°C. Set your jars to heat up, having the lips in a small pot of boiling water to warm up the seals. Once your mixture has come to a rolling boil, stir in the content of the pectin pouch. Keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Then, remove it from the heat and skim the remaining foam off the top.

Jam (5)

Though the jarring process is very easy, I recommend getting someone to help you, for the sole reason that you work a lot faster with double the hands. You want to ladle the jelly into the hot jars, leaving ¼” or .5cm headspace. Cover the jar with the hot lids and screw the rings on: not too tight, just snug. Once a few jars have been completed, you find yourself with an impromptu concert, as the lids of the jars begin to pop, signalling that a seal has formed and you’ve successfully jarred your jelly.

Jam (4)

Best of Both Worlds

Hello again whoever is reading this out there. This week we were told to perform a sensory evaluation. For everyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s when we try something that we have never had before and describe the five sense. We do however go into more detail in taste.

Since I got this assignment I couldn’t really think of a “new” food that I have never tasted before. I didn’t want to pretend that I never had Parmigiano Reggiano so I could have the perfect sensory evaluation. And I didn’t really have the “balls” to go out and try bull’s testicles. I started working at William Sonoma recently and one day while working I found something called Mulling Spice. I read further into it and found out that you could use it not only to make apple cider but also to make Mulled Wine. So I thought I’d give it a shot and make mulled wine for my sensory evaluation. I chose a Ruffino Chianti which is a medium-bodied and fruity profiled wine. I tried it and found it to be sweet and dry. It was a perfect balance in my opinion, and I would suggest that if you are moving from white to red wines try this one first. After tasting the wine I followed the recipe on the back of the mulling spice but adjusted it to suggestions from people who have tried making it already.

Infusing the Wine

Infusing the Wine

Mulled Ruffino Chianti

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 5 tbsp of mulling spice

While simmering these ingredients you could really smell the fruitiness of the wine coming through. Closer to the end of the simmering process you could really smell the cinnamon, orange rind, allspice and clove. After 20 mins of simmering I was finally able to taste what I had been smelling. The best way to describe it was imagine drinking apple cider and red wine together. Since I chose such a fruity based wine it was just like drinking apple cider. You got the really earthy flavours from the cinnamon, allspice and clove. While you got the fruitness of the wine still there as well as slight hints of orange. I can say that this is an honest balance between the wine and the spice that come together to make something extremely enjoyable in warmer climates. I wonder if it would have a different flavour if served cold…too bad their was none left to try it.

Final Product

Final Product

To sum up this sensory evaluation I learned that by combining two things that I enjoy separately you can make something extremely enjoyable. I like wine like any Italian and I really like the spices found in the mulling spice. Who knew that combining the two flavour profiles you would elevate them to make an earthy and fruity blend? I know there are probably people out there that know this basic principle but for someone who loves to cook and is learning new things you start wondering if you could us these spices elsewhere. I already use my palate in trying to identify what is in dishes and figuring out how I can make it at home. What I want to take back from this week is how to perfect my palate in order to become better a determining flavours as well as a flavour profile.