Sous Vide Is Awesome

Good morning. One of the great things about reporting on food trends is that they work like pendulums, swinging from favor to disfavor and back. The forces that move them are taste and expense.

Take sous-vide machines, which some call immersion circulators. They heat water to a particular temperature and keep it there, allowing a person to cook anything placed in a plastic bag and suspended in the heated liquid — an egg, a steak, a parsnip — to the perfect temperature.

Time was sous-vide machines were expensive and a little pretentious, the sort of tool your friend the banker who makes torchons of foie gras on the weekend might buy, to make sure his lamb chops turn out better than yours — “Don’t you think?” Snob city! Now they’re much cheaper, as Melissa Clark wrote for the food section of The Times this week, in a terrific bit of reporting that suggests that the highest use of a sous-vide machine may be as an aid to regular-folk backyardians looking to grill perfect steaks, fish and vegetables every time. It’s a fascinating read.

And look at the recipes! Rib steaks with spicy salsa verde (above). Peanut-ginger pork with celery slaw. Salmon with caper-parsley vinaigrette. Sous-vide cooking takes some planning. Get started today so that one or two of those can be yours this weekend. I’ll wager they’ll be on your menu all summer long.

As for tonight’s bill of fare, I like Mark Bittman’s recipe for chicken negimaki, to eat with rice and roasted asparagus. Also David Tanis’s recipe for grilled sea scallops with corn and pepper salsa. And I love Mark’s recipe for corn salad with tomatoes, feta and mint.

But you may tire of recipes, of rules and instruction, of the whole exacting business of 2 tablespoons of this and ½ teaspoon that, when you yourself prefer to cook with glugs and knobs and handfuls and always to taste. For you, then, a midweek narrative, a no-recipe recipe, a prompt to cook!

Here’s what to do: Get some firm tofu; some soba noodles; some jarred kimchi. Make a sauce of minced garlic and ginger, some soy, hoisin or oyster sauces, a splash of maple syrup, another of sesame oil, a lot of red-pepper flakes, all whisked together. Boil water for the soba. Cut the tofu into manageable pieces, and pat dry with paper towel. Heat a good quantity of neutral oil, like canola, in a big sauté pan, then add the tofu in a single layer and fry it over medium-high heat, turning to get every side. Meanwhile, cook the soba. Remove the crisp tofu and toss with the sauce. Serve in a bowl, the hot soba arranged to one side of the tofu and the kimchi to the other, along with the sauce. Oh, man. You could put some roasted asparagus on top. A soft-boiled egg. It’s so delicious.

Thousands more actual recipes to cook this evening are waiting for you on NYT Cooking; you do need a subscription to access them. You can look for us on Facebook, though, for free, just as you can see what we’re up to on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

And we’ll be standing by to help, should you run into problems with your account or your cooking. Just write us: [email protected] We will get back to you.

Now, let’s recall that the good life isn’t just cakes and ale. There’s also reading and the parsing of society. So here’s a fascinating read out of the surfer-mom Instagram scene in Australia, by Carina Chocano in Vanity Fair. And here’s another barnburner, from Jessica Pressler in The Cut, about some misadventures at the nursery school I attended long ago.

Yesterday was Courtney Love’s birthday. She is 55, the girl with the most cake.

Finally, some professional news. The first New York Times Food Festival will take over Bryant Park and the TimesCenter on Oct. 5 and 6 for a weekend of incredible eating and conversation with some of the most interesting people in and around the business and culture of restaurants and food. Tickets go on sale today at 5 p.m. Get yours! I’ll be back on Friday.

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