“Fish don’t fry in the kitchen,
Beans don’t burn on the grill,
Took a whole lotta t-ry-in’,
Just to get up that hill!”
— “Movin’ on Up”, theme from The Jeffersons
The Jeffersons was one of those wonderful American sit-coms from the late 1970s that could never be made in today’s era of “national conversations” and perpetual furrowed-brow outrage about racism, sexism, and any other -ism to come down the pike. For Australians who never had the privilege, the show centred around an African-American family, the eponymous Jeffersons, whose paterfamilias George made a small fortune building a chain of drycleaners and thus was able to get his family out of the ghetto and “move on up” to Manhattan’s Upper East Side – to, as the classic gospel theme song put it, “a de-luxe apartment in the sky.”
The show dealt with upward mobility, class, and race relations (George hated whitey and called the mixed-race couple who lived upstairs “Zebra!” to their face) with more texture, yet more honesty, than a year’s worth of “beer summits.” As a further indication of their status as new bourgeoisie the Jeffersons also had a live-in maid, Florence, who cooked for the family and whose sparring matches with George made for a constant B-story.
Why do I bring up this little gem of TV history? Because here at Stately Prick Manor we’ve been doing a bit of moving on up … from a set-up that could be pretty accurately described as “ghetto sous-vide” to something a bit more “de-luxe”.
Regular readers will know of the Prick’s old sous-vide set-up which was constructed out of a slow cooker, a thermocouple, an electronic temperature controller, and a few other bits and bobs and which looked like a benchtop IED. (Note to any fans of the site in the National Security Agency: That’s looked like, not was. But better stay away from the pressure cooker posts just to be safe, eh?). Very “ghetto”. And for a variety of esoteric reasons known only to the Prick, we held on to it for ages despite its pokey capacity, imprecision, and margin of error wider than a Neilsen poll.
To everything there is a season, and with a birthday coming up, well, here we are:
Naturally, the new machine – a Breville Sous-Vide Supreme – has been christened Florence. For she’s what cooks your food once you’ve moved on up from the ghetto.
But how does it work? Far better than the old set-up. It gets up to temperature quick-smart but doesn’t overshoot the mark (the old set-up would fly three or four degrees over the set temperature, then drop several more once food was added, and then take a while to get back up to heat, and so on, often necessitating a bit of goosing one way or the other with a kettle or glass of ice water). Indeed it is ridiculously precise, measures the temperature to a tenth of a degree, and can be set Its 10-litre capacity is double the effective space previously. And it looks better on the bench as well, with plenty of room should a proper chamber sealer ever find its way to our door.
For Monday dinner we picked up a little Australian sea bass (allegedly sustainable and assuredly picked up in our own territorial waters) and popped it in the bath at 48C for about 30 mins before searing off the skin in a pan:
The whole dish was a bit of an ad hoc invention around the protein with a bit of fennel confit, roasted baby tomatoes, basil oil, beurre blanc, and some quick-pickled oyster mushrooms put together for a nice balance of sweetness, richness, and tang:
All in all pretty tasty and the perfect way to treat a buttery, oily fish like sea bass.
Indeed, along with long-and-slow-cooked off-cuts like short ribs (we did some for 48 hours the other day in the old machine with pretty good results) it would seem seafood, which demands precision, is perfect for this sort of cooking.
Which of course is why I think the next thing I’ll cook in it is wild boar.