Will It Be Sous Vide? the Glorious Side of Thanksgiving
Hello dears, and welcome back to another holiday issue ofWill It Sous Vide? , a weekly column where I do whatever you want with my immersion circulator.
During our last topic selection session, we settled on Thanksgiving parties because let’s face it, most people care more about the parties than the turkey. No particular side won out, so I decided to try three of my favorites: cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
Smash Hit: Cornbread Dressing
My (cocky, southern) family has two very serious rules about bread served with turkey:
- The bread must be of corn variety.
- Better not to call it “stuffing”.
A good dressing starts with good cornbread, so I made my grandmother’s very simple, very light and delicious cornbread. You can use any cornbread (including store bought), but I’ll include the recipe just in case you want to try it. (I know this is not technically a sous vide recipe, but I never intended to make a dressing with any other cornbread.)
Not-Sous-Vide Corn Bread from Grandma Claire
- About four tablespoons of full-fat bacon
- 1 1/3 cups self-rising yellow corn flour
- 1 egg
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 ℉. Add bacon fat to a baking dish or skillet (my grandmother always uses a baking dish and doesn’t give a damn about it) and put in the oven. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl. As soon as you hear the bacon grease sizzle (about 5-10 minutes), remove the pan and pour in the dough. Return to oven and bake until golden brown (about 35-45 minutes). Let cool and it will work. Crumble if you are going to use it when refueling.
A traditional dressing requires cornbread, eggs, broth, butter, and herbs. I first tried the stock version – I don’t really know why; just to see what happens, I suppose? – and this was not surprising, because the mash turned out to be liquid. Then I decided to ditch the broth entirely and use my BFF Better Than Bullion to give it that original quality. I settled on this recipe and it’s pretty darn good.
Fantastic Sous-Vide Cornbread Dressing by Claire
- 4 cups minced cornbread (which, by the way, is exactly the same as the recipe above)
- 1 onion, chopped (you may notice a lack of celery because celery tastes so bad)
- 5-7 fresh sage leaves, depending on size
- 1-2 fresh sprigs of marjoram
- 1-2 fresh sprigs of thyme
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons bacon fat or lard (or butter, if needed)
- 2 teaspoons of fried chicken is better than bullion
Remove the herbs from the stems and chop finely. Add herbs, chopped onions, and cornbread to a 1 gallon freezer bag and shake for a fragrant flavor.
Beat eggs in a bowl and add your favorite fat and Better Than Bullion. Stir to create a visually unattractive slurry.
Pour the dubious-looking liquid over your sexy crumb mixture, push the air out using the immersion technique, and place in a 165 ℉ water bath for two and a half hours.
Pour it into a cast iron skillet and place it in a roasting pan to brown on top. I do not recommend setting it on fire, as this will lead to scorching, not browning of the minced meat, and the burnt filling is not the most interesting thing.
So, is there a sous vide for corn dressing?
Answer: Yes, damn it. I’ve dressed a lot in my life – everything is pretty good – but it was the best thing I’ve ever had. The fat and herbs are soaked directly into the cornbread without making it wet, so every bite is full of flavor, and the eggs give the whole thing a pleasantly moist texture, almost like a cake. You may notice that the onions are not very well done, but I love the dressing. Freshly softened, barely translucent onions lend lightness, allowing you to cut through the richness of the dressing, and I appreciate that. If you need the onions to brown, simply sauté them before adding to the dressing mixture. If I hadn’t already watched pumpkin pie for my family this Thanksgiving, I would have insisted on making it. I give him 5 out of 5 turkeys.
With one caveat: mashed potatoes
As some of you have pointed out, my kitchen appliance game is weird. I have an immersion circulator, but no microwave; ice cream maker for my KitchenAid, but no coffee pot. I also miss the potato fortification tool because I’ve always rubbed the mashed potatoes with a wooden spoon – maybe a bench mixer with paddle attachment – and I’ve never had problems with lumps. Sous-vide mashed potatoes were different. (More thoughts on why in a moment.) As for the recipes, I used this one from Anova’s site as a template , making a few changes.
Mashed potatoes with a very garlic, slightly lumpy Sous-Vide flavor:
- 2 lb brown potatoes, cut into 1/8 inch slices
- 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 8 oz (2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large sprig of rosemary (this is optional. I made two batches and preferred a batch without it).
Place everything in a 1 gallon freezer bag and immerse in a 194 ℉ water bath for two hours. (The Anova recipe takes an hour and a half, but my potatoes weren’t ready in that time.)
As soon as they cook. drain the melted butter and buttermilk and leave. If you have potatoes, run potatoes through. I don’t have potato rice, so I tried to beat them using a spoon and then a stand mixer. It didn’t work, and I still haven’t gotten rid of all the bumps.
Since these babies were cooked in fat, they were a little slippery and some of them cleverly avoided both my spoon and paddle, slipping away without a grip. However, these were some of the tastiest mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. As with the stuffing before that, cooking them in fat gave them a lot of flavor, in this case the flavor of garlic, and that garlic was present in every bite.
Coming back to the question, we always come back to: Will the mashed potatoes be sous vide?
Answer: Yes, of course, and they taste pretty darn good, but you’ll need a food grinder or potato holder to get the texture you want, as you can’t get rid of the clumps without them. If you have access to one of these devices, I encourage you to do so. I give them 3.75 out of 5 bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau.
A pointless but delicious option: cranberry sauce
I’ve seen several recipes for sous-vide cranberry sauce and, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out what their advantage would be. As we all know, liquid cannot evaporate when sealed in a bag, so the sauce cannot dissolve. Also, there is nothing easier than boiling cranberries with water and sugar, so, again, it is not entirely clear why anyone would do this. (But that’s half the point in this column.)
I didn’t actually use the recipe for this, I just tossed 12 ounces of fresh cranberries and a cup of white sugar into a 1 gallon freezer bag and submerged in a 185 ℉ water bath until the berries started to break down (about two hours). (For obvious reasons, I left the water without water.) I took out the bag, smashed it with my hands to make sure everyone was familiar, poured the sauce into some vintage pyrex and let it cool overnight in the fridge.
Once again with feeling: sous vide cranberry sauce?
Answer: Technically yes. You do get a sweet and sour cranberry sauce, but it takes a very long time and you don’t extract enough pectin to make any gelling material, and I absolutely love the gelatinous cranberry sauce. The sauce was also slightly warmer than the traditional way, which can be viewed as positive or negative depending on your taste. So it’s nice , but not as good as boiled cranberry sauce, and it takes more time. I give him 1 out of 5 slices of pie. (Cruel.)