Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010...12:54 am

Under Pressure

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I was back in Singapore over the weekend to attend my big brother’s wedding (congrats again to the happy couple!), and I made a pit stop (or two….) at a new store in town, Tools of the Trade. It’s a retail kitchen megastore opened by Sia Huat (those of you in Singapore might be familiar with the restaurant supply store located on Temple Street in Chinatown) and they sell the same hysteria-inducing variety of kitchenware, only in an (even more) ginormous space that’s nowhere near as cluttered/claustrophobic, and – simply put – feels completely magical.

The biggest draw for me to ToTT was that they’re the local distributors for the Sous Vide Supreme – a water oven designed or home cooks as a much more compact and affordable alternative to immersion circulators. Cooking sous vide (literally translated: under vacuum) involves sealing food in bags and immersing the food in a bath of water maintained at a certain temperature, which enables you to cook your food with much more precision, and at lower temperatures, than traditional ovens would allow. I’ve long been interested in this method, and have previously experimented with a rather ghetto set-up: a large pot of water set over a very low/intermittent flame, with a thermometer to check the temperature, and yours truly armed with a spatula functioning as circulator. As much as that works, to a certain extent, I’ve been chomping at the bit, waiting for the SVS to become available in Asia, ever since it was released in the US.

For my first meal, I decided to keep things pretty simple. The best illustration of how sous vide cookery can benefit a cook is with steak – instead of dropping a piece of meat into a pan or oven that’s a couple hundred degrees hotter than the internal temperature you want your steaks to end up, and having to watch it diligently so you can whisk it out of the pan before it’s done, so it’ll hit the correct temperature once the meat has rested, it makes so much more sense to hold it at said temperature so it is uniformly cooked throughout, only needing a 30-second sear to quickly char the outside a la minute. I especially love how I can now prepare dinner in advance, and keep the food hot without worrying that it’ll dry out or overcook while waiting for my poor overworked girlfriend to come home. All that remains, once she’s in the door, is for the meal to be plated up (7 minutes including searing exactly, tonight!) while she gets changed before we can eat.

I’m really excited to continue getting to know the newest addition to my arsenal of kitchen toys, and hopefully this also means that I’ll have more interesting things to post up here in the coming months. :D

Sous Vide Steaks & Potatoes

2 striploin steaks, or whatever cut you prefer (~1 inch thick, approx 250g each)
salt & pepper
canola oil

4 small red-skinned potatoes, sliced about 3mm thick
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
2 tbsp fresh, plucked, rosemary leaves in herb sachet*

Rinse the potato slices and pat dry. In a medium mixing bowl, stir a large pinch of salt and few twists of freshly ground black pepper into the olive oil, then toss the potatoes in the seasoned oil. Lay the potatoes in a single layer in your bag (dividing between two bags if necessary), and add the herb sachet to the bag. Vacuum seal, then cook at 85ºC (185ºF) for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place, in a single layer, in a bag, and vacuum seal. Cook at 57ºC (135ºF) for 45 minutes (it can be held for up to 5 hours). This temperature will give you medium-rare steaks – adjust accordingly for your preference in doneness.

To finish, preheat a cast iron or stainless steel skillet until it’s screaming hot. Add a film of canola oil, then sear the meat very quickly (20-30 seconds per side) until well-browned and crusty. If, like me, you’re using strip steaks, I’d also recommend starting out by searing the steaks on the strip of fat to melt it down a little and give the fat a little bit of colour. Transfer the steaks to a warm plate and cover loosely with foil to rest for 5 minutes.

While the steaks are resting, sear the potato slices in the same pan (beef fat FTW!) until just to brown lightly. Drain on paper towels, and serve the beef and potatoes with a simple green salad for a delicious meal. :)

*Herb sachets: According to Under Pressure by Thomas Keller, if your aromats are placed directly in the bag against whatever you’re cooking, certain parts of your food will have a stronger flavour than others. As such, he recommends rolling the aromats up tightly in food-safe clingfilm, then snipping the ends off, so that they are not in direct contact with the food.


  • I call dibs on whatever comes out of the sous vide next! It’s gonna be might tasty!

  • NEXT DIBS or first dibs if I play you a song? /bribe

  • Vick: This will only be up for negotiation if there’s a certain mp3 sitting in my inbox by the time my alarm goes off at 0745. /blackmail

    Update: Jon, she delivered hahah. I tell you what okay? First dibs definitely goes to one of the two of you, I shall leave it to who makes it up here first :D

  • hey babe! yeah been lurking around till i caught sight of this. a little bit of a belated comment, but i recall Kenji did a sous vide hack on seriouseats.com. if the timing of this post coincided w his post on the hack then truly the kitchen gods have a part to play in this. :) anyway blessed christmas babe!

  • char: sorry I dunno how I missed this comment! (possibly thanks to the little spammy problem I was having that seems to be resolved now haha.) I think Kenji’s posts on sous vide hacks started a while before I got my SVS, but yes they are pretty awesome! He’s also been posting various sous vide recipes which I’d been eyeing and bookmarking furiously before Nov, and now am slowly getting round to trying out, one by one. :)

    Anyway hope you had a good holiday season and that 2011’s been good to you so far!