Sous Vide

 

sous vide
/ˌso͞o ˈvēd/
noun

Sous vide, which means “under vacuum” in French, refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food in a bag, then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This technique produces results that are impossible to achieve through any other cooking method. –  Anovaculinary 

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Our sous vide station.

I have been cooking for a long time, starting in the late 1970’s.  First as a prep cook in a neighborhood restaurant, while in high school, making beer money.  I had no passion for food at the time.  I was still feeling my way through life, not sure what I was going to do.  Slowly, and I mean really slowly, I found that I not only was pretty good at cooking, I was actually enjoying it.  Looking back I don’t think it was the food that I was falling for.  Rather, I was an impressionable young man who enjoyed the camaraderie, the manual work and the fact that a free beer was never far from reach.  However, the more I cooked and discovered new foods my passion finally blossomed…I digress.

This post is supposed to be about sous vide, my digression stems from- In those many years of cooking there have been a few techniques or processes that I have learned which have changed the way I cook and think about food. Cooking sous vide is probably the biggest one for me, with whole animal butchery / charcuterie being a close second (see my 10 part “Death of a Pig” blog post).

When I first encountered cooking sous vide I remember thinking- cooking something in a pot of water in a plastic bag…how lame; what skill does that take?  Well, I was quite wrong.

About 14 years ago we started experimenting using a big pot of water, Ziplock Bags and an instant read thermometer on a burner where we would constantly check the temp and adjust the heat.  I quickly realized that this was a great  cooking method.  We could perfectly cook a piece of meat ahead of time, taking the guess work and timing with a lot more possibilities of screwing something up out of the equation.  Once the meat was cooked ahead of time, perfectly, all we had to do is once the customer ordered and it was time to pick-up the meat all you had to do give a quick sear to the meat and serve it.  No more inexperienced cook fucking-up an expensive piece of meat.

Our experiments started with meats using the ziplock method, now we have several immersion circulators and a restaurant size vacuum sealer that are in constant use cooking all sorts of different things; red meats, burgers, chicken, vegetables, eggs, fish and even an occasional pudding for part of a dessert.  Gone are the days of over cooked chicken breast (sorry, Trisha), every chicken breast we serve is moist and tender.

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My initial trepidation was replaced with “why wouldn’t we cook this way”…a little bit more forethought (prep before service) equals serving a better, more consistent product, it only makes sense.

Sous vide cooking is not just for the professional kitchen,  My Anova immersion circulator and FoodSaver vacuum sealer have been an integral parts of my home kitchen for the past 10 years.

I highly recommend all cooks- pros, wanna-be pros and amateurs to get into sous vide cooking.

The below link is to an informative article in Bon Appetit Magazine.

https://www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-sous-vide-cooking

 

 

 

 

More Lamb Love

Just like I said in the previous post- ” the chops will sell out quickly”, they did.  We’re on to the loins, which also will be gone fast.

I marinated the loins with a lot of herbs, shallots, garlic, mustard and EVOO

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Next I vacuum sealed them and sous vide them for 2 hours at 137 degrees.

 

At pick-up I seasoned the loins with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and then seared the loins.

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After letting the it sit for a few minutes I put a few thick slices on the plate with the rest of the ingredients. The final result is perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious!

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We got a lamb

Tad in a Hat

Farmer Tad

Farmer Tad from Featherbrook Farm in Raynham, MA brought us a lamb.  It’s our first lamb in a long while, unfortunately our long-time supplier of local lamb bought-the-farm and we had been looking for a new supplier.

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Tad, who already brings us chickens, rabbits and eggs mentioned to me that he was growing a few lamb and wanted to know if we were interested in one of them.  I jumped right on it, telling him we would happily take one of them off his hands.

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Tad’s lamb awaiting processing

We have a long history of serving locally produced lamb.  I have been butchering and cooking them since long before we opened EVOO.  I became quite proficient at it; I would time myself to see how long it would take to butcher the lamb into the desired pieces for roasting and braising.  I can easily break-down a lamb in less than 7 minutes; my record is 2 lambs in 11 minutes.  Keep in mind butchering is my least favorite job to do in the kitchen, I’m a closest wanna-be vegetarian and I just want to get it done as quickly as I can.  The below video of me breaking-down a lamb is a couple of years old.

 

 

We have already started serving the chops with some braised meat:

Herb Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops and Braised Lamb with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Crushed Olives, Pickled Cauliflower, Parsley, Marcona Almonds, Goat’s Milk Feta and Mint Salsa Verde

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Being just one lamb there are not a lot of chops, even paired with braised lamb meat we will only have 7 orders before we switch the chops out with roasted loin which will only make an additional 5-6 orders. Later this week or perhaps the beginning of next we will have a roasted lamb leg sandwich on the lunch menu and a braised lamb dish, possibly a pasta dish. Then it will be gone…

 

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loins to be sous vide

 

 

 

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legs waiting to be marinated, roasted and sliced for sandwiches

 

 

New Vegetarian Dish

Polenta Croquette with Braised Spinach, Stracciatella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Parsley, Last Summer’s Tomato Sauce and Pine Nut Crunch  

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I have written in the past about my approach to vegetarian dishes, you can check out my previous post here.

 

This dish came about when I was thinking about what should we do with all of the plum tomatoes that we put up in Mason jars this past summer.  To me that’s the coolest thing about this dish; we are using local tomatoes in the middle of January. Sure they’re not fresh tomatoes. However, they were bought from local farms (Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA and Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, MA) during the height of the local season. So.. we are still supporting the local community and best of all- they’re freaking delicious!

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To go with the tomatoes-we made polenta croquettes with Four Star Farm’s (Northfield, MA) cornmeal.  We braised The Food Project’s (Roxbury, MA) spinach and topped the croquette with  stracciatella from The Mozzarella House (Peabody, MA).

This one of the many vegetarian dishes that we have produced where you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy.

Employee Spotlight – Athena Hay

Athena Photo

March’s Employee Spotlight is a shout out to Athena Hay.  Athena’s contagious smile has been welcoming our guests at EVOO for almost a year.  As a host she is often the first and last person to interact with our guests, and she is exactly the type of person we want for that job:  friendly, outgoing and affable.  When you arrive at EVOO she may be there to greet you with her professional yet vibrant demeanor shining through, assuring you that we will take great care of you.

As usual Steve Kurland our General Manager and business partner, took on the task of presenting this month’s employee spotlight, Athena Hay, with questions.  Read on and get to know her a little better.

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which job(s)?   I’ve worked at EVOO as a nighttime host for about a year or so.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   Current favorite is the Beef Tartare, but the Chinese Box is still my go-to item.

What have you enjoyed about working at EVOO?   Often when beginning a new job and learning about the “behind the scenes” work, the magic of a place can be lost. But, what I loved about EVOO is that the magic just grew. Learning how much EVOO takes to heart the mission to be environmentally conscious and support and serve local.  And, the actions taken that not all patrons might first notice, like how we reuse all our plate liners and how the server notepads are made from our re-purposed menus.  Or how we grow our own herbs and little tomatoes right on the roof of our building!

What are you watching on TV these days?   Planet Earth II on Netflix is a must see if you haven’t watched it yet!

Do you have any pets?   I do not unfortunately! I do try to keep animals in my life as much as possible however. When I’m not working at EVOO, I have an independent dog boarding and walking job so it is not uncommon to see me walking around town with a posse of pups!

Where did you attend college? What was your favorite class?   I attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I graduated with a BFA in Architecture. I loved all my design studios but it was also great to step out of my comfort zone with classes like Introduction to Jewelry Metal smithing.

What is the last show you attended?   Last show I attended was a jazz show at the Beat Brasserie in Harvard Square.

Where did you grow up? How did you end up in the Boston area?  I am from the suburbs of Boston and first moved into the city for school, Boston is definitely my hometown!

What is your dream job (other than EVOO)?   Researching and designing public outdoor communal spaces is what excites me most in design so my dream job would be working with a like-minded, passionate team designing for a future communities.

Athena

In 1982, at least 15 years before she was born The Who wrote a song about her.

 

 

Employee Spotlight – Hannah Schwab

 

 

K&H

Hannah Schwab, no, it’s not her high school yearbook photo

 

February’s employee spotlight is Hannah Schwab.  Hannah has many roles at EVOO and Za, most importantly she is half of our events team, corresponding with, helping plan and execute our private events.  She also can be seen waiting tables, running food and being a shift supervisor at any of the restaurants.  I am often lucky enough to share the office space with Hannah, between her many emails and phone conversations, she always has a story to tell, most of them are quite amusing.  When Hannah isn’t fulfilling one of her many roles with us she is often training for her next physical challenge, anything from a 5K to a marathon or a triathlon, Hannah is always pushing herself to great achievements.

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Hannah on the right is all smiles after finishing the Cambridge 1/2 Marathon with Kylie Millbern, Colleen and me.

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Hannah during a recent triathlon

Steve Kurland, our General Manager and business partner, came up with this insightful list of questions for Hannah. Continue reading to learn more than you ever wanted to know about Hannah.

How long have you worked at EVOO and in which jobs?   I started working at EVOO in 2011.  I first started working at Za (EVOO’s sister restaurant) in Arlington back in 2005.  In 2010, when we opened Za and EVOO in Kendall Square, I began working full time. At EVOO I am currently part of the events team, supervisor, and serve two nights a week.

What do you enjoy most about your different job roles?   I love the variety that it provides each day.  It’s great to see an event from the first initial phone call to actually serving the party.  I think it is helpful when planning events to also have insight on serving the group as well.  I am a firm believer in the phrase :variety is the spice of life!”

Tell us a bout being a Doula:   One of my really good friends (and a past employee of the restaurant) recently asked me and another friend to be her doulas for her second child’s birth coming up this February.  For those that have never heard of a doula, they are meant to help provide support to the mother and family during child birth and after.  I took a class and learned all there is to know. I am excited to support my friend. I also think that is not something you normally hear about. How awesome to have a support system built around you for not only the mother and baby but for the significant others as well. You never know, it could be a future side job.

What’s your favorite food item on our current menu?   I LOVE everything on the menu. The burratina dish is always great.  We have just started to have a burger on the menu and it changes weekly, and they are all amazing.  Who doesn’t love a burger?  The Haddock dish has some great flavors.  I could go on and on. I always tell everyone how spoiled I am working here and having the opportunity to eat great food all the time. It’s a blessing.  My all time favorite dish is our strawberry gazpacho in the summer and the strawberry rhubarb crisp!  And don’t even get me started on the pizza at Za.  

What have you learned working at EVOO?   Wow, there are so many things.  I guess the skill of being great at customer service. Whether at a table talking about our menu or helping someone planning a party, a smile, thank you, and overall enthusiasm for our food and mission goes a long way.  I feel very fortunate to be a part of a great team here!

What’s on your music playlist right now?   I have recently been on a music surge lately of some artists.  Currently in rotation are Big Thief, Colter Wall, and Lisa LeBlanc. The later two are both from Canada.

What was your favorite clothing item in high school?   I don’t think that I had a favorite clothing item.  I had a red Jansport backpack that I  loved.  I really liked the television series “My So Called Life”.  And the lead character had a red Jansport. So I thought it was pretty cool.

What is the last show you attended?   I recently went to see Greensky Bluegrass at the House of  Blues in Boston .  There’s nothing like adding a little twang to your evening to make your soul happy. These guys are really great musicians and put on a fantastic show.

Where did you grow up? How did you end up in the Boston area?   I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, a little town called Beaver Falls.  Famous for the being the home town of  Jets quarterback Joe Namath.  After high school, I joined the United States Coast Guard.  I was stationed in Buffalo, NY and Cape Cod.  I met a bunch of awesome friends and overall had a great experience.  After the Coast Guard, I moved to Boston and went to college and have never left. At my heart I am still and will always be a Pittsburgh Steeler fan!

What was your first car?   A 1994 Toyota Corolla.  It was a great car. Drove cross country in it.  I should never have traded it in but liked the look of the old Jettas so off it went.  I now have a 2004 Honda Civic Coupe, Scooter, he’s the best!  Trying to keep him on the road for another year!

What’s your dream job (other than EVOO)?   This is a tough question.  There are lots of things I would like to do. The next step would likely be some role within event planning and maybe not at a restaurant but within the arts world some how.  I always wanted to be a park ranger (since High School) and work a historical site giving tours.  I also went to school for radio broadcasting so maybe working for public radio.  

What is one thing you are passionate about?   I don’t think that I could list just one thing that I am passionate about; it’s like naming one band as your favorite band.  So here are a few: Family, Hankers (Hannah’s boyfriend Hank), Friends, Work, Running, Triathlons (my picture is from after I finished an Olympic distance triathlon this past Summer), Biking, Ocean, Swimming, Music, Concerts, Records, Reading, Walden Pond, Cooking, Knitting, Yoga, Movies, Eating, Dancing, Outdoors,  really just enjoying all there is too life!

National Margarita Day, celebrate with EVOO’s Jalapeno Margarita

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Thursday, February 22 is National Margarita Day

One of the added benefits from all of the preserving we do at EVOO is we have these great locally sourced in-house-made flavor bombs that we can add to our cocktails.  Our specialty drinks are often flavored with things like apple butter, peach butter, berry jams, preserved cherries and pickles, which we use to flavor a multitude of our specialty drinks. The most popular of these drinks is our Jalapeno Margarita, made simply with just the finest ingredients: Jalapeno Tequila, fresh squeezed lime juice, agave nectar and EVOO’s sweet pickled jalapenos all shaken together with some ice and then strained into a salted rimmed cocktail glass.

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EVOO’s Jalapeno Margarita:

2.5 ounces   Tanteo Jalapeno Tequila

1.5 ounces   fresh squeezed Lime Juice

.5 ounces   Light Agave Nectar

4 each   slices of EVOO’s sweet Pickled Jalapenos, plus 1/2 ts of the Jalapeno Pickle Brine

Shake well with ice, strain into a salted rim cocktail glass, garnish with a few additional slices of jalapenos.

note: most likely you won’t have a jar of EVOO’s jalapenos in your cupboard.  You can substitute your favorite brand; most brands are not sweet, just add an extra squirt of agave nectar if desired.