I always test my recipes before I give them out, or print them. I have several people that are my beta testers when it comes to food. I make the recipe several times and they get to eat the results. Just recently I posted a comment about this month’s recipe on Facebook and got so many comments that I decided that the recipe was going to have to come with an explanation. So here is the thought behind the recipe and why it works. This article will also highlight some of the more common comments made about my Facebook Post, which was this: I’m thinking that this months recipe is going to be Dishwasher Salmon.
Now before anyone else gets their knickers in a twist I’ll explain how and why this method of cooking works. It is a very old French method called Sous-Vide, which means “under vacuum”. Food is sealed in airtight plastic bags (food savers work well for this method of cooking) and then placed in a water bath in a temperature controlled steamy environment. The food is cooked longer than normal because the temperature of the water is a constant 131º to 140º although the lower temperature is for meat and the higher for vegetables. The intent behind this method of cooking is to cook the item evenly, without overcooking, and to retain moisture. There is nothing worse than dry fish.
Now I’m going to dig into my knowledge of the history of the Sous-vide method of cooking. Are any of you surprised by this? If you are then you don’t regularly read what I write. Sous-Vide was first used by Sir Benjamin Thompson in 1799, although he used air as the heat transfer medium. The method was re-discovered by American and French engineers sometime in the mid 1960’s, who then developed the method into an industrial food preservation method. In 1974, Georges Pralus adopted the method for his restaurant in France. He found that when foie gras (goose liver paté or goose liver spread) was cooked using the sous-vide method it kept its original appearance, it didn’t lose an excessive amount of fat (important in the making of paté) and it had a far better texture. This method of cooking is used for training top chefs. It is also widely used by Cuisine Solutions, an Alexandria, Virginia based food manufacturer.
There are also some exemplary features to using the sous-vide method of cooking. This method is fabulous for poaching foods. Sealing the food into the container allows the natural juices and aroma to permeate the food. Those juices and aromas are no longer lost as they would be in other cooking methods. The food can’t get hotter than the water bath it is in so overcooking food is avoided. When you are using a high heat method of cooking such as grilling or oven roasting, the food is exposed to very high heat levels. These levels are so much higher than the internal temperature of the food, that the food has to be removed from the heat prior to the meat reaching the desired internal temperature. For instance; you are told to remove a steak from the pan/grill/broiler and let it rest. One of those reasons is that if you cut into immediately, all the juices will run out leaving you with a dry piece of meat. The other reason is carry over. The heat of the cooking method you used was so high that the meat will continue to cook, even after removing it from the heat. So you have the quandary; remove too soon under-cooked meat, remove too late over-cooked meat. The result of water bath cooking is that the water temperature is constant, so a very precise control over the cooking can be attained. This also means that temperature, and therefore cooking, is very even throughout the food in a sous-vide method of cooking. Even items that are irregularly shaped or very thick, can be cooked evenly given enough time. Time is one of the variables in this method of cooking. The thicker the item, the more time it will take. So very dense items will take more time, than items that regularly cook quickly. The upside of using this method of cooking is that at lower temperatures your food will be much more succulent. Take a chuck roast, for example. This is a very tough cut of meat that takes time to cook. It’s incredibly flavorful and does well in a Crockpot because the connective tissue can be hydrolyzed into a gelatin. Using a high heat on this cut of meat would cause the meats proteins to denature to such a degree that it would become tough, and all the moisture would drain from the meat. So cooking this cut of meat in a sealed container in a constant water bath on low heat for several hours is going to allow for a moist and tender roast. Have I done this? Yes. I put together a pot roast dinner into a food saver bag placed it into my Crockpot, poured water over it to cover, and cooked it all night on low, into the next day. It was fabulous. This is the same type of cooking.
Cooking vegetables using the sous-vide method is a bit more involved. You want your vegetables to be crisp and tender, and not mushy and over-cooked. Using the sous-vide method of cooking vegetables allows the flavor to infuse the vegetable, while allowing the vegetables to thoroughly be cooked, while maintaining its firm and crisp texture. Here is the thing to remember. The denser the food, the longer the cooking time. So green beans are going to take less time to cook than that of say, broccoli.
Another benefit of cooking using the sous-vide method is that any spices or ingredients that you use to add flavor to your food will infuse itself into the food and give you an intensely flavorful meal. Because the flavor of your spices are infused into the food more than normal, you have to take care with what you use and how much. For instance, if you use a teaspoon of old bay seasoning on your food when you grill it, or oven bake it, you might wish to decrease that amount significantly.
Another benefit of excluding air in the cooking process, while secondary, it has a very functional value. The food you are cooking in those wonderful food saver bags, can be stored still in those sealed bags and refrigerated. By excluding the air in the food, cooked food can be stored a bit longer in the refrigerated climate. No oxygen in the food means that the fat on the meat doesn’t become rancid like it would when exposed to air. I’m not suggesting that you can keep your food longer than you normally would in the refrigerator, just that it is possible. I still have a three day rule. If it’s been in there for three days after cooking…it’s gone. So I try to keep leftovers to a minimum, because wasting food is not something I like to see happen.
So lets get to brass tacks here. The temperature to cook fish isn’t as critical as the time. Most fish cook quickly at low temperatures. If you over cook fish it will begin to become rubbery and lose its flavor and texture. An egg, however, will take more time due to its proteins. Cooking a piece of fish can take about 20 minutes at low temperatures.
The big problem with this method of cooking? A Sous-vide cooking machine is expensive. Thus the use of a dishwasher came into being. Because the food is tightly sealed, with no air leaks, in either mason jars, or vacuum sealed bags you can even wash a load of dishes while you cook your meal. However, if you are concerned with sanitary issues then run your washer without dishes and a cup of vinegar before you use your dishwasher to cook your meal.
Yes that was one comment to my Facebook post: “You cook your meal with dirty dishes and soap in the dishwasher? Yuk!”
Another was: “That is so gross. Who would use their dishwasher like that?” And the reply to that question is this: “A lot of everyday people and top chefs are using their dishwashers in this way. Goggle it.”
If you found this interesting and are adventurous then you can find the recipe that I used to make a complete meal using my dishwasher at Kat’s Kitchen.