Praescient Employee Spotlight: Justin Aquino
Cooking made simpler, easier, and healthier with sous vide.
Sous Vide Duck with red curry reduction sauce and a mint, cilantro, and pink peppercorn gremolata
Cooking, to me, has always been a sanctuary. I find healing and respite in the way I get lost in the details while preparing or plating food; I derive satisfaction and fulfillment in seeing said food translate into smiles on the faces of friends and family. Admittedly, I’ve received no formal culinary training and I am relaying this to you as an avid hobbyist and an amateur home cook. While I do dabble in other artistic pursuits, I find that expressing myself by way of food on a plate is by far the most successful means of connecting with others. Far better than ink or graphite on paper, or paint on canvas. It makes sense, after all, because the art of cooking serves to sate a need that is more basic and primal and present compared to what the finer arts of painting or sculpting is meant to fulfill. As an example, you could surprise everyone at your holiday family get-together with your attempt to immortalize good old uncle Jeffrey by revealing a life-sized sculpture of him—one that captures the essence of his frustration being directed at the tv, brought about by a missed call on a blatant triple-step back travel violation. OR you could dramatically unveil a glorious Christmas roast, resulting in hushed whispers, a gasp here and there, shivers sent down your guests’ collective spines, pupils dilated, salivatory responses triggered, and your cousin’s chihuahua trembling in anticipation for even a morsel to come his way.
That said, given the context of our day to day dealings, it can prove difficult to consistently make dinner every evening—let alone be artistic or make nutritionally and financially responsible decisions related to it. Time and again I’d go to work and convince myself that I’d be good, that I’d be a responsible adult and make a healthy meal for dinner… That I’d even make enough to bring to work for lunch the next day, and perhaps even the day after! Something lean, something clean, and something green. Yes, that is the dream. At least until my commute home where I end up serving time on 495. I come out the other end of the American Legion Bridge a changed man, one with neither the time nor the willingness to make dinner for myself. Ultimately, I end up shelling out money to tap a middleman to procure for me “the good stuff”—Chinese takeaway. Half an hour later I’m outside my building wearing a fedora and a coat with the collars turned up, eyes darting around nervously as the product changes hands. I whisk it away back up to my room as quickly as possible and devour it mindlessly while browsing through the Netflix’s myriad offerings. I didn’t get to watch anything. Just browsed for 15 mins until I was done eating.
This is the part where I introduce you to the wonders of the sous vide cooking method, and how employing it at home could yield several advantages that you might fall in love with. There are plenty of articles and in-depth guides that you could tap into online, so I won’t dive in too deep into the technicalities. Basically, you put your ingredient of choice in a Ziploc bag or a vacuum bag in a water bath that’s being circulated constantly at a set temperature. The cooking time is longer than your traditional means of cooking, but the tradeoff is that you are preventing a lot of needless moisture loss. Case in point, a protein that’s near and dear to a lot of our hearts—steak. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cooking a steak on the grill, on the pan, or in the oven, there are key advantages to preparing it via sous vide. The temperature range for steak cooked medium rare 129°F -134°F. Conventional cooking methods subject the meat to temperatures significantly higher than your target range over a shorter period. A cross section of the steak would reveal a gradient going from medium to medium rare. A steak cooked via sous vide gets as much of the real estate in the target doneness. One drawback is that since you’re using a gentler and indirect means of cooking the Maillard effect does not occur—the gorgeous golden-brown exterior and its distinct taste brought about by using direct heat like a searing hot pan or a kitchen blowtorch. That said, this is easily remedied. I throw my steaks on a heated cast iron skillet for about 30 seconds on each side to give it that finish. Below are photos of a couple of dishes I prepared using sous vide.
Left – Gourmet Filet Mignon cheesesteak with Provolone Mandarino, sautéed bellpeppers, onions and mushrooms and sauce Bearnaise.
Right – tamago kake gohan with flash pickled cucumbers and sous vide steak and salmon
I’ve been using my own sous vide unit at home for about 4, maybe 5 years now and it has paid for itself many times over. Admittedly, there are plenty of times when I could’ve and should’ve leaned on It instead of ordering takeaway but in my defense, sushi is outside the sous vide realm. To summarize, there are 4 C’s that come to mind when talking about this method.
- Convenience – It requires very little input and it reduces the number of dishes you work with and have to clean up later. You could put some chicken breasts in the sous vide before you go to work and take them out when you get back. Give them a quick sear and dinner’s ready!
- Control – Temperature and time ranges. Those are really all you have to memorize to play this instrument, after which you can start playing some beautiful music in the kitchen. Fine-tuning it to the wants and needs of your audience.
- Consistency – It is essentially foolproof.
- Confidence – For those of you who are intimidated to cook for yourselves or for other people, investing in this is tantamount to getting training wheels for your bike. Even if you’re a seasoned home cook, using this method helps free up your time and energy to devote to more demanding aspects of the dish… or perhaps time for you to just pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.
The quality of the meals that you can produce with the help of sous vide, I believe, will amaze you. You can make the most out of expensive cuts of meat for a special occasion, or you could also turn very inexpensive cuts of beef eat and taste like they’re worth twice or thrice what you paid for. Additionally, it will help you cut back on deep-frying and just using oils in general in your dishes since you’ll mostly be using water. It is one of the rarities in life whose perks and advantages overwhelmingly outweigh its drawbacks which, in my opinion, are few and negligible to begin with. To those whose interest I’ve managed to pique, I bid you good luck in your kitchen adventures if you decide to give it a try! I genuinely hope that it helps free up some time and reduce some stress in your daily life. Happy holidays all, from my kitchen to yours.