March 16, 2006

Cooking Experiment: Salmon, traditional vs. sous vide

Here are the results of my most recent culinary adventure --- The Salmon Experiment:

I bought three servings of salmon, one each of Sockeye ($12/lb) Scottish ($16/lb) and Wild King ($24/lb),

Usually when I make fish for myself, I just put in some butter, some basil and some lemon, and set it on a sheet pan lined with aluminum foil, pop it under the broiler and cook it until it's firm but still moist. Usually the kinds of fish I buy aren't the ones that are cut thick enough to use a thermometer, so I just use the touch-test method. Fish should be pretty firm, because you want it cooked through all the way.

I took half of each portion, packaged each separately with a lemon slice, basil chiffonade and butter, using my FoodSaver Vacuum pack thingy, vacuumed out all the air, making tidy little sous-vide packages. The other half, I put in it's own foil "boat" and topped them with the same lemon slice, basil and pat of butter.

The sous vide portions were put in poaching water (about 160F) until done to touch. The foil-boat portions were put under the broiler until done to touch.

The results?

The sockeye was nasty both ways. It tasted fishy like cheap canned tuna and the texture was bad, kinda sticking to your molars and generally gross. It might have to do with the fact that it was previously frozen, but properly frozen fish, properly maintained, should still retain quality.

The Scottish salmon was pretty good in the broil-in-foil method, but it was great done sous-vide. Sweet, tender and the texture was lovely.

The wild king was excellent done by broil-in-foil, but was gluey (molar sticky) and had an unpleasant bland fish flavor done as sous-vide.

So the surprise result is that if you want to take full advantage a moderately priced piece of fish, you can use sous-vide and have an excellent result.

Let me extend thanks to my darling husband Kelly for letting me feed him a three course dinner consisting of fish, fish and fish. Poor guy, he thought that when I finished with culinary school he was done with experiments and practice. He never complains when I try something new, and luckily, no horrendous failures to date, except for that satay tofu fiasco... a story for another time.

Feel like trying out some experiments of your own? Here are some salmon recipes from Whole Foods... none of them are sous-vide, though.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating!

    And the result that confuses me is why the sous vide method pretty much ruined the wild king. What's up with that? I'm thinking that maybe you were on to something with the issue of prev-frozen and/or other handling. Otherwise I can't understand the flip-flop in results!

    Might need to repeat the experiment with control for freezing??

    Hmmm... ;-)

    By the way... where do you get your fish? SM Seafood?

    Miss you, CJ! :-)


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