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Duke's Food Obsession

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Sous-Vide Porterhouse—an embarrassment of riches

Sous-vide porterhouse. Those words together give me the chills.

Okay, that’s a bit much, but then again, that’s my life. I have come relatively late to the sous-vide banquet. Already much has been written about the technique, and the cookbooks are starting to come.

But first, what is sous-vide? Sous-vide, or “under vacuum” in French, was developed in France by Georges Pralus as a method for cooking foie gras. Pralus found that by vacuum-sealing and gently poaching the liver, he achieved an amazing product and also lessened very costly waste. Now, sous-vide most often entails placing the food a plastic bag, adding seasonings, vacuuming the air out and cooking the food very gently in a sometimes very low temperature water bath until it is done. Many chefs in the U.S. have jumped on the bandwagon, most notably Thomas Keller of the French Laundry who has just published a book on the subject.

The technique offers many superlatives: tender texture, great flavor, targeted cooking temperature, as well as the aforementioned less shrinkage and waste. Also, with cooking sous-vide, you use less seasoning and added fat so the product is healthier. For the professional, the technique gives the ability to reheat a perfectly cooked product at a later date.

The thought of a steak prepared sous-vide intrigued me. It is clearly an excellent choice for fish, and items like chicken breast that are prone to overcooking and drying out. But steak? It is intriguing in that you cook to the exact temperature that you like your beef. And, with proper temperature control, you can hold it for some time, and not overcook it!

Also, it would be meltingly tender. And, don’t forget, it would be taking a nice warm bath surrounded by seasonings.

About the only negative that I have read about with meat prepared sous-vide is that the exterior of the meat will come out grey. Not the maillard effect of browning and caramelizing. But that’s nothing that a very hot cast-iron skillet or grill wouldn’t fix.

The star of my show was a lovely 32oz, 2” thick, 21-day dry-aged porterhouse. (The thickness with sous-vide is very important: under sous-vide the thickness determines the cooking time. For a very interesting read on this subject, check out www.egullet.com On one of the discussions, Nathan Myrhvold, the former CTO of Microsoft, posted a table of cooking times and tips. Also, there are discussions of anaerobic bacteria growth, etc.—too much for our purposes here.)

To the steak, I added approximately 2 Tb. butter, 1 tsp Kosher salt and black pepper. I sealed this in a food saver bag and submerged my beefy beauty in 130 degree water, as this was the end temperature that I wanted—a perfect medium rare. The sous-vide porterhouse cooked for about 2 hours and 10 minutes. In most cases, a water circulator is used and highly recommended to maintain such low and constant temperatures, but I double stacked pans and finally set the water bath in those pans to allow the heat to diffuse. I used a thermometer to monitor the water temperature. For a temperature this high, it worked well.

After two hours the meat did indeed come out grey. I plopped it down on a waiting very hot grill for a 45 second sear on each side.

The end result? The inside of the porterhouse was a solid medium-rare red. All the way through. In fact, my wife commented that it was weird to have a steak without a varying degree of doneness when you cut it. The texture was butter tender. About the only downside to this method is the lack of grill or pan-seared flavor. But, that’s something I can live with...

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Duke Diercks Duke Diercks is the owner of Duke’s Cowboy Grill in Ponderay. Visit his blog at www.bbq-recipes-for-foodies.com

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