May 27, 2013
Pomegranate Lamb with Autumn Salad and more Kitchen Experiments
Autumn is a lovely time of year
Light is mellow, colours are softer, the leaves burnish and brown creating a carpet of crispness that crunches underfoot. Smoke hangs in the air, not the oily burnt smokiness of BBQs, but a heavier blanket that laps around you each morning and evening as wood fires signal warmth and comfort around the hearth.
Even Autumn produce is mellow
Golden pumpkins, sweet and deep in flavour; pomegranates with their ruby glow and hidden tang; and walnuts brown as dry leaves, rich with oil and hidden goodness stored within for Winter's barren times
That's what inspired this weeks dish
I also added the sweetness of lamb, the creaminess of goat cheese, and a new cooking technique by trialling my Sous Vide machine for the first time.
Remember my Pressure Cooker experiment where I did a side by side comparison of three cooking styles to see which would provide the best results? http://intolerantchef.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/kitchen-experiments.html Well, this is kinda the same, but instead using Sous Vide and the more usual method of first searing, then using the oven to finish the lamb cooking through.
Sous Vide is a very gentle, low heat method of cooking, where the ingredients are first vacuum sealed under pressure, then cooked in a water bath at a very controlled temperature for a period of time.
Basically the food is cooked at the temperature at which you wish it to be served.
So to have my lamb at medium, it should reach an internal temperature of 60*C, so by cooking it at 60*C there's no way I can overheat my lamb, meaning that it will be perfectly cooked each and every time.
To temper these results, and in case your family didn't give you a sous vide machine for your birthday like mine did, I've also cooked the same amount of meat the conventional way using nothing more than a good old fry pan and finishing it in the oven. The method is up to you, but I promise you the flavour will still be delicious!
Two little racks of lamb cutlets, three per side. Just one larger rack cut in half, to make it a totally fair comparison
My marinade today is made up of pomegranate molasses and the most amazing pomegranate balsamic that you have ever tasted indeed. If you don't happen to have any of this on hand, use some reduced pomegranate juice and plain balsamic and a just touch of sugar so it's not too tart
I placed each half rack in it's own pouch and brushed a tablespoon of the pomegranate molasses and 2 teaspoons of pomegranate balsamic onto each
Vacuum and seal the pouches, leaving the meat to marinate for an hour or so, or until you're ready to use them
Pop one of the little pouches into the sous vide machine at for an hour and a half once it hits temperature of 60*C . Put the lid on, and make the salad while you wait for it to cook through
Once it's ready, pull the pouch out of the water with tongs and let it cool enough to hold. See how the meat has changed colour from creamy to opaque and the texture is softer looking
Remove the meat from the pouch- but don't waste all those yummy juicy bits, we'll use them to make the dressing for the salad
The meat is lovely and soft to touch, just a bit springy the way it should be; but the meat is only coloured because of the dark marinade, otherwise it would look rather unfinished
To make the rack look pretty and also to give it the complexity of caramelisation, sear it off in a fry pan on medium heat- just be careful as the marinade had a lot of sugar in it and that can burn very quickly indeed. The meat is fully cooked remember, you just want to burnish it up for presentation
Once off the heat, slice the rack into cutlets and lets see what's happened inside:
Perfect even colour throughout and the meat is soft and juicy. The fat isn't rendered out, but it has a nice jellied sort of texture that's OK and it certainly tastes cooked properly
Now for the other rack:
Once you've marinated it for a while, remove it from the pouch and sear it off over fairly high heat to caramelise and look pretty too, then pop it into a hot oven at about 220*C for 12-15 minutes to finish off cooking through
Let it rest, then slice into cutlets and to see what's going on inside here:
Hmmm... overcooked for sure, and not rested enough either. The meat is still fairly soft as it's a nice cut of meat, so I guess I'm lucky this time
See the difference between the two styles of meat:
*The sous vide is perfectly even throughout/ the other one varies depending where actual heat was applied
*The sous vide has kept it's shape perfectly making for a very tidy effect/ the other is a bit scruffy looking in comparison
*The meat that was sous vide cuts like butter, so soft and smooth indeed that you'd hardly even need to chew- all the fibres of the meat seem to have disappeared somehow. The meat is also lovely and moist and very tasty with a clean flavour of lamb coming through the marinade/ the other meat is still fairly soft and moist but chewing is certainly required here, and you can feel the springiness of the meat fibres as you eat
*The bones on the the sous vide cutlets are nice and clean, allowing diners to pick them up tidily if they want to nibble/ the other bones are dark and sticky, you could pick them up but cleaning your fingers elegantly would require a finger bowl
For the sauce, add all the reserved juiciness from the pouch/meat juices from the pan, back into your fry pan along with a nice sprig of crumpled mint and about 1/4 cup of water and allow to quickly reduce to a nice sweet sauce. Watch the sugars don't burn, and pull the mint out once you're done
Plate up your Autumn Salad, and sprinkle on a few extra pomegranate bits to look pretty.
IFirst I cubed some pumpkin, tossed it in oil and seasoning, then baked it at 220*C until it was cooked through with some nice dark edges. I tossed in a good handful of walnuts just before bringing out the pumpkin so that they would toast through and get a good crunch and release a deeper, richer flavour, then let them cool to room temperature.
Over a bed of baby spinach and rocket leaves I sprinkled some finely torn mint leaves for freshness and zing, then crumbled over some creamy goats feta and lots of yummy pomegranate seeds for that gorgeous pop of juice and flavour to tie it all together nicely. Add in the nuts and pumpkin, and you've got a gorgeous salad that tastes great on it's own, but still works as a perfect side dish for our pomegranate lamb cutlets
Pop the cutlets to the side of the salad, then drizzle the meat and salad with the reduced sauce and garnish with another sprig of mint- Yummo!
This dish really makes me think of Autumn- earthy with the nuts and pumpkin but still some freshness of the mint and fruit, deeper notes of tang and goat cheese and the rich flavour of lamb to complement it all
So what do I think of my Sous Vide machine Dear Readers?
I was really surprised how the lamb turned out- so buttery and soft. It was great to know I could get consistent product if I was cooking for a few people at once instead of 'guestimating' the cooking times. It was also nice to know I could pre-prepare the meat ahead of time and then just sear it off quickly if was in a hurry. I might not use this method for everyday cooking, but I don't think this machine will gather too much dust either!
So Dear Readers, what do you think of Sous Vide cooking, and what cooking method do you prefer?