Sous vide mysteries

March 8, 2016

Tough steak, limas and corn. Two outta three ain't bad.

Tough steak, limas and corn. Two outta three ain’t bad.

I have waxed eloquent about the wonders of sous vide cookery here in the past. I still love my sous vide, though it’s been supplanted in the realm of favorite kitchen appliances by the Instant Pot, just because that baby is so freakin’ handy. Where I use SV maybe once a week, once every two weeks, I use the IP a minimum of once a week, and generally a bunch more.


Sometimes sous vide just mystifies me. Like in the case of my friend who ordered one on my recommendation, and has been disappointed with it. “Maybe folks just don’t know how to cook a good steak,” she noted. In all fairness, she lives within easy shopping distance of one of the best butcher shops in Mid-America, and that can have a good deal to do with one’s ability to cook a good steak. If I still lived in easy shopping distance of Weldon’s in Hot Springs, I probably wouldn’t use my SV as much, either.

Anyway, last night I’d laid out a couple of small top sirloin steaks for dinner. Seasoned them down with an all-purpose seasoning, and dropped them in the SV for what wound up being four hours at 140F. To be honest, I was dubious. I figured they had cooked entirely too long (I’d planned on three hours, but my schedule intervened and kept me out longer than I’d planned) and would be mushy.

Damned steaks were tough. Go figger.

Lima beans and corn, however, were excellent. Had about a serving left, which I refrigerated in a single container (succotash!), and the leftover steak will get resurrected in a steak-and-Guinness (except it’ll be Green Flash Double Stout) pot pie.

In other news culinary, I am making preparations yet again for my annual foray, and up to now, failure, into the world of corned beef, as St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon.

Let it be known that I purely LOVE corned beef. Back in the old days when Seessel’s was the finest thing in Memphis for grocery shopping, I used to make a pilgrimage out to Eastgate on a regular basis for corned beef. (That Seessel’s, which is no longer extant, was also, for years, the only place in Memphis I knew of you could get decent bagels and challah bread.)

So I’ve tried to corn beef. Unsuccessfully. (I have also tried to corn buffalo brisket, which was successful only after I cooked the damn thing for about two full days.) I’ve experienced failures that range from failure to cure properly (it didn’t have the characteristic red color imparted to cured meat, though the taste was OK, to so salty I couldn’t eat it, to tough enough you could resole shoes with it.

If it doesn’t fly this time, I swear, I’m quitting.

Today, I stood on my head in the freezer long enough to damn near get frostbitten fingers, hunting for the brisket I KNEW was there. Eventually excavated it by half-emptying the freezer, which is now at least organized. Said brisket is thawing in the fridge. I’ll stick him in the brine on Thursday, and then he’ll  brine for five days. He’ll come out, soak overnight in clear water with several changes, and then half of him will go back in the freezer for pastrami later on while the other half will go into the SV for 48 hours at, I think it was, 180. Must check that time and temp.

I have, since last attempt, purchased Michael Ruhlman’s “Charcuterie,” the Bible of curing meat, which, after all, is what corned beef is. Be assured I will be following the recipe slavishly. If it doesn’t work….well, I reckon I’m going back to grocery store corned beef. Keep your fingers crossed for me, and perhaps you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em can come by on St. Pat’s weekend for a good Reuben sandwich.



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