Monday, December 30, 2013

I have descended into full blown cooking nerd mode. (Saffron-Scented Halibut)

I spent most of high school and college avoiding chemistry.  Then I got into cooking.  My husband bought me an immersion circulator for Christmas!  I didn't know that there was a model that could hook on to an ordinary large pot instead of a giant plastic tub.  It looks more like lab equipment than a cooking tool. I've always been curious about cooking with one because I watch way too much Iron Chef America.  The Anovo immersion circulator is very easy to use.  I'm using it here with a pasta pot and some tin foil. One of the first things I wanted to try out was fish.  This is saffron-scented halibut with tomato compute and zucchini.  It was fantastic!  The zucchini was cooked through, yet still crunchy instead of mushy and gross.  The tomatoes had the right amount of softness.  The fish was perfectly cooked.  It was moist, flaky, and evenly cooked.  The saffron sauce had the right amount of zing from the oranges but it didn't overpower the flavor of the fish.  This dish did involve a good bit of prep work but total cooking time for everything was 17 minutes.

To make the meal, I attached the immersion circulator to my pasta pot, set it for 140 degrees F through its very simple touch screen interface, and covered the pot with tin foil.  The instruction manual emphasized that covering the pot is necessary and suggested tin foil if a special lid wasn't available.

I feel a bit like a mad scientist.  

After I completed all the prep work, I had three separate vacuum sealed bags.  I got a Food Saver Plus to seal my bags.  I've read that zip lock bags are doable, but not that great unless you are really careful.  This is what went into the pot:

The Food Saver has both "wet" and "dry" settings.  Anything with a sauce or marinade should be done on the "wet" setting.  Once everything was in the pot, the zucchini floated.  I don't know if it's just what zucchini does in a pot of water or if the seal wasn't that great.  The water in the pot was clear after I took all the bags out and there was no water in the bag when I opened it so I'm not quite sure what happened.

Here is the final result!  It would look prettier if I'd remembered to get fresh basil.  I used dry instead.  I made a full recipe of tomato compote and I'm glad I did, it was awesome and if I'd halved it, there wouldn't have been enough food.  Next time, I'll serve it with a side salad.  This is definitely not a dish to make on a work night until you get the hang of using the immersion circulator and vacuum sealer.

The recipe had some inconsistencies regarding some of the ingredients such as which one belonged in what bag.  So the recipe as I posted it includes the changes I made.

Saffron-Scented Halibut with Tomato Basil Compote and Zucchini
Slightly adapted from the Sous Vide Supreme blog
Serves 2


Stuff that will end up in the bag with the halibut:

2 5 ounce halibut filets
salt to taste
1/3 cup vegetable stock
1.5 Tbsp butter
~15 threads saffron (I used extra because my saffron is old)
1 Tbsp orange zest

Stuff that will end up in the bag with the tomatoes:

1/2 cup fresh cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 Tbsp finely chopped shallots
2 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Stuff that will end up in the bag with the zucchini:

1 whole zucchini
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp lemon zest
Chives for garnish (optional - I didn't use them)


1) Hook up the immersion circulator and set it for 140 F (60 C).  Then do all the prep work.

2) Season the halibut with some salt and set it aside.

3) Make the halibut sauce by whisking the stock, butter, saffron, and orange zest in a small pot for three minutes.  Place the halibut in a bag, pour the sauce evenly over it.  Vacuum seal it and set it aside.

4) Make the tomato compote by heating 1 Tbsp olive oil in a small pan.  Add the garlic and cook until golden.  Then add the shallots and water and cook for another three minutes.  Then add the tomatoes, basil, and black pepper and stir to combine, about one minute.  Then place it in a bag, vacuum seal it, and set it aside.

5) Make the zucchini bag by trimming the ends of the zucchini and rubbing it with salt and olive oil.  Then rub it with the lemon zest, mint, and parsley.  Place the zucchini in a bag and then add any of the zest or herbs which didn't stick.  Vacuum seal it and set it aside.

6) Once the water is heated to 140 F (60 C), place all three bags in the pot and set the timer for 12 minutes.

7) When the timer goes off, remove the zucchini and tomato bags and set the timer for another 5 minutes to finish the fist.

8) While the fish is finishing, open the zucchini bag and pour the cooking liquid/herbs into a bowl.  Using a vegetable peeler, make "ribbons" from the zucchini and toss it in the cooking liquid.  Then arrange them on the plates.

9) When the fish is finished, remove it from the bag and place it on top of the zucchini.  Then top with the tomato compote.

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