Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sous Vide Tomatoes Confit and Other Cute Christmas Food

Aah, sous vide.  It is the technology that has been around for several decades now, and you probably only recently heard of it through Kickstarter.

My partner and I attended a special Sous Vide cooking class hosted by Chef Jason Wilson at Crush a little over a year ago.  What a treat!

Sous vide is a beautiful way to infuse flavors together with slow, gentle, and consistent cooking throughout the entire food.  Jason talked about how different foods require different temperatures and cooking times through sous vide and how you have to bring food back to room temp with an ice bath to prevent harboring food pathogen growth (especially when it comes to animal proteins).  It is also much better to use some sort of vacuum sealed bag when using sous vide.  For one, the water is then able to form a better surface area to the food which allows for a more consistent cooking.  The pressure also helps the flavors infuse a lot better.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Jason demonstrated a compressed watermelon recipe.  First, he sealed the watermelon and other ingredients in a Food Saver bag and vacuumed it.  Then he showed us a pressure chamber sealed bag with the same ingredients.  What a difference it made!  The chamber sealer was able to form a much stronger vacuum than the Food Saver, so the watermelon was much darker (crushed slightly better, though not very different in size) in the chamber sealed bag vs. the Food Saver bag.  We already had a Food Saver machine at home, but about six months later, my partner dropped the hammer and bought a chamber sealer.  We love it!  That chamber sealer is great at sealing liquids.  The Food Saver tried to suck air out of the bag, whereas the chamber sealer created a negative pressure chamber to pressurize the bag.  Minimal air is left in the chamber sealed bags, and the Food Saver machines suck so much air - and liquid! - out of the bags, it can even cause itself to shut off due to overflowing the liquid catch tray.  It was very annoying.

We tried to thaw some frozen fish that had been sealed in Food Saver bags, and there was freezer burn on them.  This is almost never the case with our chamber sealed bags (within reason, of course).  It definitely has saved us quite a bit of money in the long run!

Since I know so many of you have purchased an Anova sous vide cooker through Kickstarter, I decided it would be a good time to share one of my favorite sous vide recipes.  One of my go-to recipes that I took away from Jason's class was a Sous Vide Tomato Confit.  It is so cheap, easy, and quick!  Our guests love it!  I serve it year round.  It's crazy to take a bite of a perfectly sealed cherry or grape tomato and you get a burst of basil, garlic, and chili flake flavor inside the tomato!  I sometimes serve it with some cherry size mozzarella balls.  It makes a beautiful "wreath" display when you put them on a stick - cherry tomato, basil leaf, and mozzarella ball.

With Jason's permission, I am posting this recipe for everyone out there.

Chef Jason Wilson's Tomato Confit

Oven bath temperature: 135F

1 pint cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes (or similar sized tomatoes)
10 leaves of fresh basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red chili flakes
5 cloves peeled garlic
Optional ingredient: 1 package of cherry size mozzarella balls


  1. In a small pan, simmer the garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes and remove just before they brown.
  2. Add all the ingredients to a vacuum bag and remove all air by pressing against a sink ledge or counter and expel the air.  
  3. "SEAL ONLY" the bag and place into the 135G water bath for 1 hour.
  4. Serve or preserve when timer sounds.

Optional steps:

  • Add some strained cherry size mozzarella balls and gently stir to coat the mozzarella with the confit juices.  
  • Drain the excess olive oil and refrigerate to serve cold or serve immediately.
  • For a cute "wreath" presentation, put a single cherry on a toothpick, then a small basil leaf, and then a cherry size mozzarella ball, and alternate the placement of the toothpick (cherry side next to the cheese side on the next stick, as pictured to the right).  Since some of the sous vide tomatoes will burst during the cooking process, be sure to double the amount of cherries for this recipe and try to use the soft but still-sealed cherry tomatoes on the toothpicks.  Sometimes they would ooze a little bit once they were pierced, and that was fine.  Just be gentle and pierce the tomatoes slowly; don't jab them or else you will send tomato juice flying across the table. For the rest of the tomatoes that didn't make the skewer cut, just eat them! 

I decided to get extra cute with it during the Christmas holiday time.  I made a cream cheese snowman as the centerpiece to an appetizer tray, and adorned the side with a wreath of sous vide tomatoes and mozzarella!  That was one delicious tray!

I wasn't fully prepared to make a snowman that day.  It was sort of a last minute thought.  I stood there in my kitchen asking myself "I do want to build a snowman, but what should I use to make the snowman's face?"  I wandered over to my spice rack and found some inspiration.  

Cream Cheese Snowman

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese
3 capers
1 apple (any reddish skinned apple will do)
7 pink peppercorns
1 japones chili pepper
2 black peppercorns
2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
2 sprigs of fresh dill
Robert Rothschild's sauce of your choice (pomegranate, raspberry, cherry, or mango flavors will suffice)

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly, but do not dry them.
  2. Take both packages of cream cheese out of the wrapper.
  3. With your hands wet, take one of the packages of cream cheese and try to form a ball shape as best as you can.  You can put it on the center of your serving tray and turn it like it is a pottery wheel, using your hand to shape it.
  4. For the second package of cream cheese, separate a wad of cream cheese that is about the size of a golf ball.  This will be for the snowman's head.
  5. Take the remaining cream cheese and form a second ball, slightly smaller than the base of your snowman.  This will be for his/her belly.  Make sure you keep your hands wet while trying to form the ball.
  6. Place the snowman's belly on top of the base and make sure they stick together nicely.  If necessary, you can sprinkle a little bit of water on it with your fingers and mold them together.
  7. Form the snowman's head with the remaining golf ball size cream cheese and place it on top of the snowman.  Make sure they stick together nicely.
  8. For the snowman's buttons, push 3 capers firmly in the snowman's belly.
  9. For the snowman's smile, push 7 pink peppercorns firmly in the snowman's face, but be careful not to push in too far.
  10. For the snowman's eyes, push 2 black peppercorns firmly in the snowman's face, again, be careful not to push in too far.
  11. For the snowman's nose, cut off the tip of a japones pepper and push it firmly into his face, again, be careful not to push it in too far.
  12. For the snowman's arms, push 1 sprig of fresh dill into each side of the upper part of the showman's belly.
  13. For the snowman's scarf, use a vegetable peeler to peel a long, continuous skin along the apple - about 1 & 1/2 to 2 times around the apple.  Wrap the skin around the snowman's neck.
  14. Place two sleeves of Ritz crackers around the circumference of the snowman base.
  15. Put a small ramekin of dipping sauce at the base of the snowman.
  16. Provide a small cheese knife or spreader to allow guests to scoop away at the snowman.
  17. Enjoy!