Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bless the water bath

I'm learning as I cook – I admit it. Maybe it's wrong to experiment on customers, but I can't afford a 'development kitchen'. The customers have to eat my experiments. I'd heard about vacuum packing and slow cooking the parcels at low temperatures but it didn't seem to connect to my cooking. Me, ideally I'd cook on an open fire. It feels a bit wrong to use a couple of grands equipment to make scrambled eggs.

But then I noticed that in every decent place I went there was an intensity about the flavour, a compactness about the main ingredient and a softness of texture that was both puzzling and intriguing. I made the leap and spent my couple of grand and I was right: It's a different world out there in the water bath.

Take confit of duck (I have a feeling that a section of my customers don't because they're not sure what it is). A salted (overnight) flavoured (herbs, especially thyme) leg of domestic duck cooked in duck fat and then fried in the rendered duck fat. In the bad old days that fat cooking had to be done till it was falling off the bone, but then (difficult to believe) it would fall off the bone. I bag the leg with less duck fat than I would use to simmer it in, and then leave it in the water bath (82 degrees). OK, originally I was going to cook it for 8 hours, but I forgot it and it ended up at 16......but, the tenderness, the flavour, the sticking together in one piece.

My meats like venison I can prep, portion and bag, then all I need to do is pop it in the bath when they order (OK, I'm stuffed if they don't order a starter) and then brown it on the griddle pan to serve. Clean storage, easy cooking and a power of flavour and succulence. I would say it's even impossible to overcook but if you work hard you can – the meat is still pink but it get's a bit cotton-wooly. Seems like some places are browning before bagging, but me, I'm still experimenting.

Health inspectors hate it and we get an extra 'high-risk' category for using it. If you're not serving the meat directly then you have to cool it in ice before storing. But for me, meats and fish are coming along nicely, and I haven't even got to playing with vegetables or fruit yet. I reckon the whole vacuum packing/water bath thing is going to hit the domestic market. Consumers could buy the pre-vacced food and reheat really quality produce. Somebody's going to notice that it stuffs that whole microwaving frozen M&S meals that makes up too much of domestic 'cooking' these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment