I don’t have the sous-vide kit or much inclination towards trying one out. Sous-vide textures are certainly interesting but I’m a sucker for the Maillard reaction: no caramelisation, no appetite. Of course not everything should be caramelised but when it comes to meat and fish, that little bit of a crispy skin or the scorched steak surface is a firm requirement.
Bland and pale, sous-vide dishes remind me of baby food albeit harder to chew. I appreciate that all the flavours are locked within, but it’s all a bit boil-in-the-bag, which after all it actually is. And what good is a dish you can’t smell when it’s cooking? No good at all.
Super-low temperatures give quite similar results and they let the smells permeate into the kitchen – a little. I first started experimenting quite a while back, foolishly using my completely unreliable gas oven which couldn’t maintain temperature within 50C. But since I’ve got the brand new electric one which can be set to as low as 30C – and will keep it constant for hours – things got much more interesting.
I low-roasted beef, easy as it only needs to cook up to 55-60C internal temperature. I made low temp pork loin which worked beautifully: the meat stayed moist while cooked through – pork too often dries out too much to my taste. In both cases I seared the meat beforehand for that mouth-watering Maillard effect.
But fish is even better – and easier as it needn’t always be seared, I promise you won’t miss the Maillard in this instance. It tastes a little like poached but it’s not watery. It’s flavoursome – at low temperature just a little salt and olive oil is sufficient to enhance the salmoney taste. It can be served hot, warm or cold and the bed of aromatics (the idea swiped off Samin Nosrat) ensure easy washing up and no sticking. Sous-vide? Nature abhors a vacuum and so do I.