No matter how much you revisit the past...there’s nothing new to see. -Robert TewOne of the most important lessons that any cook, particularly a self-taught cook, has to learn is that a recipe is just somebody’s opinion. As James Beard put it, “it’s always a good idea to follow the directions exactly the first time you try a recipe. But from then on, you’re on your own.” Inspiration, improvisation and even whimsy are the hallmarks of a good cook, and what makes cooking something fun to do.
Even my mommy’s brisket recipe, a hallmark of our family holiday celebrations, has gone through some changes at my hand. But, this year’s brisket was cooked in a really cool way.
I cooked it sous vide.
Ever since it began to become accessible to the home cook, the concept of sous vide cookery has intrigued me. At the beginning it was daunting because of the expense necessary to obtain the appropriate equipment. As the years passed, alternative methods became available. In fact a search of the web will give you many suggestions of how to attempt this procedure without any special equipment.
The urge to try it this way became more intense after a gathering on this topic of like minded friends - a group my kids call "The Sausage Club".
I do have a few bits of special equipment. I have a Foodsaver vacuum sealer, which is useful for many other things. I also have an Auber Instruments thermostat, my choice for maintaining a constant temperature. With this I can regulate any electric cooking vessel plugged into it. I have successfully used a crockpot, a rice cooker, and in this case for something as large as a brisket an electric roaster.
Except for the actual cooking method, I followed the recipe I previously posted to the letter. The onions were slowly sweated and caramelized, and the brisket thoroughly browned in a heavy pan. Both were placed in the Foodsaver pouch where the actual sous vide cooking would be done. The pan was deglazed with water and wine, and the liquid added to the pouch.
Together with the meat, onions and liquid from the pan I added the usual bottle of Catalina dressing. I placed the entire package upright in the freezer for about 45 minutes to partially solidify the contents. Then I vacuum sealed the bag.
The electric roaster was filled with water and heated to135°. The brisket remained in the water bath at that temperature for 72 hours.
Prior to beginning the Seder I drained the liquid and the onions from the pouch and into a gravy separator. (My separator has a plastic screen across the top which caught the onions.) The brisket was placed on a cutting board and loosely covered to keep warm during the beginning of our Seder ceremony (I keep a wok cover handy for this purpose).
The oven was preheated to 550°, and while serving the courses of gefilte fish and chicken soup I placed the brisket in the oven, just a brown up the exterior before slicing.The gravy was served on the side.
The result was amazing - tender and succulent, juicy and full of meaty flavor. If there was a taste sensation the word “unctuous” was invented for, this was it. Even the gravy tasted more intense.
My wife, Trish, considered sous vide cookery to be another cooking fad. One like deep frying a turkey - which provided good results but wouldn’t be used on a regular basis. From the first piece of fish gently poached in a sous vide rig through last night’s brisket, everything that we have tried at home cooked in this fashion has been fabulous. Beyond description.
The fact that this entire course could have been prepared well in advance, and frozen or refrigerated until it was time to eat, is a convenience that should be taken into consideration.
Yes, I would do this again. I an instant.
I can’t wait for my next sous vide adventure.