Harvest pork loin sous vide

Well kiddies, it was bound to happen, I jumped onto the sous vide trend-wagon.  See, here is what happened: after our wedding, Nicole and I had a pile of Williams Sonoma gift certificates burning a hole in our pocket.  Our kitchen is already stocked to the brim and there was nothing else we needed from good old Chuck and company.  Nothing except for the shiny Sous Vide Professional sitting on the shelf staring at me.  Mocking me.  Those gift cards and a little dip into some AmEx points  took care of that problem. Who’s the boss now Mr. S.V. Professional?

OK, so now what?  We have this super crazy expensive piece of lab equipment that I need to use, especially now that Mrs. Jew is starting to monitor the household finances.

It’s grape harvest season and weekends have been consumed with cleaning, de-stemming, and pressing grapes.  It wasn’t all work with no play as we have thrown in an appropriate amount of tasting too!  Finally we had a pretty clear day on Halloween, so we decided to use the opportunity to jump right into the sous vide hot tub.  We chose to make a replica of a dish from one of our favorite restaurants:  pork loin with caramelized apples, brussels sprouts and butternut squash puree drizzled with balsamic syrup.  If this doesn’t have fall written all over it, I don’t know what does.  As you can see from the picture, not a bad first attempt.  It certainly isn’t as pretty as the restaurant version, but taint no slouch either.

I was a little nervous about sous viding, so probably went a little overboard on the temp for the pork: 148.1F deg. for 90 minutes.  The pork was definitely cooked with a nice light pink throughout.  You may be able to see it in the pic a little bit under all that sticky balsamic goodness.

For those new to sous vide, a quick definition might be in order.  Sous vide is French for ‘under vacuum’.  Simply put, you vacuum seal your food, and place it in a water bath set to the final temperature you want to reach.  E.g. for a medium rare steak you’d make the water between 130-140F degrees.  Sous vide is pretty forgiving since you can’t overheat your food.  Tough cuts of meat such as short rib will need a really long time to break down at such a low temperature and it isn’t unheard of to cook food in there for 24 or more hours!  There are a few  downsides though: food comes out of the bag looking pretty pallid, so you still need to quickly sear it to give it a nice outer crust.    The other downside is food safety, there are a lot of gotchas, so you should do more research before trying it yourself*.

Some of the big names in cooking have been pioneering sous vide for years and you’ll hear about Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal quite often in this context.  You’ll also see it used on Top Chef when someone is trying to show off.  It turns out to be a very effective technique for restaurants, so I am sure its happening quietly in a lot of places.    Nathan Mhyrvold, a big ex-Microsoft scientist has put together a definitive tome on sous vide and molecular gastronomy that is sure to be really valuable.  Too bad its like 5 volumes, over 1,000 pages and 500 buckeroos !  Maybe one of you dear readers can send one to me.  I also haven’t gotten Thomas Keller’s book, as his recipes require too much work for me. 

There has been a lot of equipment released to help cook sous vide.  The most common method to keep your water bath at a constant temperature is called an immersion circulator, or another device called a water oven.  You don’t need a fancipants set of tools to sous vide, the way I learned was in a cooking class where they did it  ‘ghetto style’ using a pot, a candy thermometer and a lot of ice to regulate the temperature.  The equipment just makes it neater and easier.

By the way, this was much more work than I am usually prepared for.  When I cook, I like ’em simple with one or 2 pots at most, but this thing took over our kitchen and filled the dishwasher (well technically I filled the dishwasher).   How is it possible that a dish taking around 2 hours to make gets demolished in like 7 minutes flat? Burp.

All in all, we considered this a smashing success.  The pork was moist and tasty, and Nicole was happy.  Now we only need to sous vide like a thousand more times to make it cost effective!

Note: You should time everything so its ready at once.  I steamed the squash right when I put the pork into the bath, and then did the rest 20 minutes before the pork was ready.  When sous vide is done, it’s done and needs to be eaten right away before all kinds of cooties grow on it.

Pork Loin:

  • One nice sized pork loin, enough for 4.  Kept refrigerated.
  • 1 tbl butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 sage leaf

Heat up your sous vide to 148.1 degrees (the .1 is because I can).  Vacuum bag the pork (wrap that rascal, will ya?) with the rest of the ingredients and leave it in the bath for 90 minutes or so.

Remove from bag and immediately brown all sides of the pork loin in a frying pan with a little oil.

Butternut squash puree:

  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbl cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • Pinch ground cayenne pepper (but don’t really pinch it, you’ll screw  up your eyes and netherlands later!)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Steam the squash until soft, then blend everything else in a food processor adding enough stock to make it smooth.

Brussels sprouts:

  • a couple of handfuls of the mini-cabbages
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbl butter
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the brussels in a pan with a little butter.  When nice and toasty looking, add a little lemon juice to preserve the color, add the broth and cover until they are tender.  Remove cover and boil off remaining liquid.

Caramelized apples:

  • 1 or two apples peeled and diced.
  • 1/2 tbl butter
  • 1/4 lemon

Peel and dice the apples, tossing in lemon juice to keep ’em from turning nasty.  You’ll notice that I didn’t peel or dice mine, in retrospect I should have.

Saute the apples in butter until nice and carmelized.  If you really want to sweeten the deal you can add a little brown sugar.

Balsamic syrup:

  • 1 cup of balsamic vinegar

In a small pot, reduce balsamic until it starts to thicken up.  Watch out that it doesn’t burn.

Let cool for a few minutes and use to drizzle on the dish.  I didn’t let it cool, so in the pic it ran all over the place.  No worries, it still tasted great!

*TJCC Legal disclaimer:  If you go and poison yourself due to improper sous vide technique, that’s your fault, not ours.  We aren’t paying for your Pepto, hospital bills, nor a funeral.  Please read up and practice proper sous vide technique, take 2 aspririns and call us in the morning.