The reason why we omnivores like veal is because of how tender it is. Yes, the little critters are confined to a very small pen which keeps them from moving around a lot, which keeps their flesh meltingly soft by preventing the development of tougher muscles, which many people think is sad (or atrocious, depending upon your ilk). I have no such scruples: I am gluttonous for foie gras; I revel in veal; I love lobsters boiled live; hell, I’d enjoy an ortolon if I ever got the chance to eat one. If you consider me inhumane because of my eating habits, I certainly respect your opinion… but I’ll likely not invite you over for dinner when I’m pulling out all the stops.
All this is just preamble, though. I bring up the tenderness of veal for one reason: to say that it’s even MORE tender when cooked sous vide. Although not a particularly old technique, sealing foods in air-tight bags and cooking them in a water-bath set to the temperature at which the food should be served is optimal for several purposes: by cooking the food in this manner, there is no risk of over-cooking, and there is no drying out of the surface layers of proteins by virtue of the much higher heat needed to bring the internal temp to the right degree; something magical with collagens and proteins and cellular stuff happens at a lower heat held for a long time — tissues turn to gelatin, and juices stay locked in place; and meats need only a quick browning on a hot pan at the last minute before service. But sous vide cookery generally requires the purchase of a prohibitively expensive and very space-consuming piece of equipment, since since money and space are two things I don’t have, I thought I’d have to struggle with maintaining the temperature in a saucepan on my stove, which I’ve done successfully once before, but which took lots of time standing by the stove stirring and adjusting the water with flame and ice (figuratively speaking). Tonight’s technique was MUCH EASIER. And the results? Veal so perfectly cooked and tender I could cut it with a sharp glance. Doused with demi-glaze, served with potato crisps draped with gorgonzola cream, honey roasted carrots, and a snappy Meyer lemon gremolata, dinner transported me to Nirvana with each and every sweet sweet bite.
Sous Vide Veal Tenderloin, Honey Roasted Carrots, Potato Crisps, Gorgonzola Cream, Demi-Glaze, Gremolata
1lb veal tenderloin, trimmed
4 tbs butter
1 tbs dried tarragon leaves
1 small bunch slender carrots
3 tbs EVOO
3 tbs honey
1 large russet potato
3 oz gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cream
1 Meyer lemon
4 tbs minced parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt, cracked black pepper, dried oregano, dried rosemary
1 package Classic Demi-Glaze Gold
Instead of a set-up shot, showing all my ingredients, I shall instead show you the star of tonight’s show: my Igloo cooler. Based upon Serious Eats’ brilliant life hack article, I now know I don’t need to buy a ridiculously expensive piece of equipment to sous vide – all I need is a $20 cooler. Y’see, not only do these babies keep things cool, they keep things HOT, too. For anything that can be cooked sous vide in less than 5 hours and in less than 160° water (these are my approximations), a nice, tight sealing cooler will do the trick.
The whole package then gets set inside a large freezer zipper bag, and using a straw, I get as much air out of it as possible. I zipped the bag up as close to the straw as I could before I started sucking like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, then I even slightly zipped across the straw while sliding it out of the bag so that as little air as possible would leach back into the bag before it was sealed completely. SeriousEats points out that one can also submerge as much of the bag as possible in water before sealing to push out all the air, but every time I’ve tried that I’ve always spilled a little water into the bag – and I didn’t want to get my meat wet. This worked fine.
I thought I would have to use a kettle to get my water hot enough, but my kitchen faucet delivers water at close to 160° – so I actually had to add a little cold water to get my temp to a little over 142° F. I then filled up my largest, heaviest measuring vessel with hot water, too, so it would submerge – which I used to anchor my bag of meat which still wanted to float. I shut the cooler, and walked away for 90 minutes.
The carrots get doused in EVOO, salt, pepper, and honey, and then both they and the potatoes get placed into a 400° oven for about 30 minutes. At the halfway point, I flip the potatoes and roll over the carrots for even cooking.
Gremolata is one of those condiments that isn’t used as often as it should be. The traditional mixture of minced parsley and garlic with grated lemon zest adds snap and freshness to tons of preparations, and it goes particularly well with rich meats.
Ahhhh – gorgonzola. I melt a tbs of butter in a saucepan, add my cream, and then my gorgonzola to make a cheese sauce. On another eye, I prepare the demi-glaze with only a few ounces of water (I want a nice, rich drizzle of flavor, and not a gravy) and a dash of minced garlic.
My 90 minutes have passed, and I eagerly reach into my Igloo to see how my veal tenderloin looks. And it looks MARVELOUS. It is perfectly cooked to a lovely medium rare – but it admittedly looks a little flaccid and unappetizing all greyish like that….
… which is why I’ve got an oiled, cast iron skillet smoking on one burner. I sear my tenderloin on all sides, propping up the narrow edges (which make my meat want to roll over) by clipping the tongs in the ‘closed’ position and resting them flat against the edge of the pan. I sear for about 1 minute all the way ’round – so 6 minutes total. I’m looking for the Malliard reaction, which is a fancy way of saying I want to brown the outside of this tender morsel.
The explosion of flavors on my plate just blew me away. The sweet carrots, crispy potatoes and sharp, creamy gorgonzola sauce, the rich, garlicky demi-glaze offset by the fresh, green gremolata, and the oh-so-silky-and-tender-and-delicious veal medallions. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to prepare veal any other way, and now I can’t wait to try the same technique with strip steaks and filet mignon, and even eggs for perfect Benedicts. But now – I EAT!