“They choose a bag of food, it’s cooked, and I serve it to them.”
The response was simple and straightforward, one part sticking in particular – “bag of food.” While those three words implied something closer to Army meals and camping cuisine, knowing Chef Gavin Pinto, the secret in the bag was bound to be innovative and delicious.
With dual water baths set to 131°F, mountains of vacuum-sealed Denver steaks in one, and clod heart steaks in the other, it was clear sous vide was part of the evening’s show.
“It’s not uncommon to find chefs using water baths in their kitchens, but they likely won’t give it a nod,” shared Pinto, test kitchen manager for the Certified Angus Beef ® brand. “I thought using it as part of the dining experience would be interactive and fun for our guests.”
Having placed the steaks into the water bath three hours before dinner service, Pinto’s goal was for each steak to tenderize and reach 130°F, ensuring food safety. He was quick to share not all cuts would need three hours. Some should be cooked sous vide in different increments, depending from what part of the animal they hail.
“More tender cuts coming from the loin and rib only need about 90 minutes. Leaving them in longer could ruin their texture,” Pinto said. “It’s beneficial for cuts from the chuck, like the Denver and clod heart, to sit longer, making them more tender.”
Guests selected a steak and a bag of carrots and parsnips, and then the show began. Pinto seared the bags’ contents on a flat top grill, creating a familiar Asian-influenced dining experience, minus the infamous onion volcano.
“It was a bit hibachi-like,” Pinto explained with a grin. “It was neat interacting with our guests and seeing their reactions. It helped knowing each steak was cooked perfectly.”
Without the need to worry about internal temperature, Pinto was able to get creative with plating. The seared steak and vegetables were plated on a butternut squash espuma and topped with microgreens—the foam puree becoming a staple in many of the chef’s dishes.
“The butternut squash puree was a concern to plate,” Pinto said. “The Nitrous bubbles could have caused the puree to spatter and caused a mess, so I decided to transfer the espuma into a bowl and plate it from there.”
While the secret about sous vide might have already been out of the bag years ago, there’s opportunity to change things up. Try bringing it front-of-house, and let others enjoy a unique show and taste what’s been in the bag the entire time: a delicious eating experience.