Monday, April 21, 2014

Sous-vide Flank Steak with Red Wine Sauce and Gorgonzola Powder

I love slow cooked meats and the seemingly magical way that a tough cut can be broken down into tender juicy bites.  Smoked, braised, roasted, sous-vided.  (Sous-vided... that is the past tense of sous-vide, right?)

The sous-vide machine is essentially a hot water bath.  Food is vacuum sealed in plastic and submerged in water held at a specified temp.  For example, a medium rare steak is ~135 degrees.  When I cook this flank steak, I set the water temp to 135.  The steak cooks at this temperature for 8 hours.  Because this temperature of the water is the final temperature of the meat, there is practically zero chance of overcooking the food. (However, if left long enough, those proteins will denature so much that you will have meat mush.  Mmm...)

The sous-vide machine has been a lot of fun to play around with.  Before using it for this steak (135 degrees), it's been used to hold homemade yogurt at a steady temp while it ferments overnight (112 degrees), used to cook pork belly (180 degrees) and used to make egg yolk croquettes (144 degrees).  It's been fun discovering different uses for the machine and learning why the cooking temperature and time varies for different foods.

If you don't have access to a sous-vide or sous-vide equivalent (Yes, Doug Macgyver'd us a second machine using a Cole-Parmer Immersion Circulator and a small cooler) braising the flank steak would work nicely for this recipe too.

Flank Steak
  • 1 pound steak
  • oil
  • salt and pepper
Heat the sous-vide machine to 135 degrees.  Season the steak with oil, salt and pepper.  Vacuum seal the steak and submerge in the sous-vide for 8 hours.  (Note, my steak was about 1.5 inches thick. The cooking time should be increased for thicker steaks.)

After removing the steak from the vacu-bag, sear it on a hot cast iron over high heat for thirty seconds per side.  Slice across the grain when serving.

I once came across an article in Food and Wine magazine discussing the common practice of home cooks using lesser quality wines for cooking and debating whether the quality of wine used in a recipe will affect the outcome of the dish.

I don't recall all of the specific details, but I do remember that their test chef's found that the quality of wine was less important when the wine was being used as a secondary ingredient (i.e deglazing a pan for a stew) but should be considered as more of a factor when the wine will contribute as a primary flavor in the dish (i.e. a red wine sauce).

This seems like such a straightforward conclusion but in my house we're definitely still using the least expensive bottles when the wine is being transported into my mouth via silverware.  I think until Cakebread Cellars starts funding my amateur cheffing, I'll probably stick with what I've been doing. (Just don't tell Dana Cowin)

Red Wine Sauce
1.5 cups
  • 4 shallots - diced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a zinfandel)
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cold butter - cut in small chunks
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, saute the shallots in two tablespoons of the olive oil until lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and add the rosemary and red wine.  Reduce by half.  Add the broth and reduce by half again.

If you like a smooth sauce you can either strain out the shallot and rosemary or process it in the food processor.  If you're making this for a meal ahead of time, the liquid can be refrigerated at this step and the remaining steps completed before serving.

Return liquid to the pan.  Reduce heat to low.  Season with salt and pepper.  Finish the sauce by swirling in the chunks of cold butter.

After a lot of searching online for some guidance on dehydrating cheese I still didn't feel overly confident about this process.  I found plenty of instruction for dehydrating cheddar cheese, a harder cheese to begin with, but gorgonzola is so much more... wet...?  I definitely didn't go into this with a lot of confidence about the outcome, but the process was simple and I actually had great results.

The following tips were scattered around the internet or discovered during my attempts.
  • Oil from the dehydrating cheese will accumulate on the trays, especially during the first four hours.  At hour 2 and hour 4, transfer the cheese onto a paper towel and wipe off the trays.  At this point also press the larger chunks of cheese with the back tines of a fork to make them smaller.  (As the chunks begin to dry out it will become easier and easier to break them up into smaller chunks and smaller chunks will dehydrate more quickly.)
  • Half way through the process, run the cheese through the food processor.  Try to keep the chunks as small and similarly sized as possible so it all dehydrates evenly.
  • As the cheese becomes more and more dehydrated, it will become more susceptible to browning or burning.  Keep a good eye on everything in the last 2 hours or so.

The gorgonzola powder was sprinkled around the plate of flank steak for an extra flavor component and it gave a great earthy tang to the steak.  I had quite a bit left over, but this powder can be stored in an air tight container for a very long time.  I found some sources say it will store for 10 years.

We have used it on popcorn and sprinkled in a steak taco.  I'd love to try shaking some on mac and cheese or stuffed mushrooms.  Doug's a big fan of it and said he will just eat it plain.  (Though... imagining him licking fingers full of gorgonzola powder isn't my most appealing daydream.)

Dehydrated Gorgonzola Powder
1/3 cup
  • 1.5 cups gorgonzola cheese
Arrange the cheese on the plastic trays included with the dehydrator.  Set the dehydrator to high.

As the cheese dehydrates, oil will accumulate on the plastic sheets.  After two hours, scrape the cheese off the trays onto paper towels.  Wipe residual oil off of the trays and return the cheese to the trays.  Repeat this step after another two hours.

Continue dehydrating for two more hours (6 in total at this point). This time, scrape the cheese off the trays into a food processor.  The cheese should be dry enough at this point to be able to process into finer

Turn the dehydrator down to low and dehydrate for a final four hours.  Process again so that the cheese becomes a dust.  If it still seems to be retaining moisture, continue dehydrating until the cheese is completely dry.

I served this dish at the Pasta, Passion and Pistols party 
with a brussels sprout, pork belly and rum-soaked apple skewer.
The link to the pork belly skewer (above) also has a short 'how-to' on those DIY skewer toppers!


  1. NERD ALERT! I wonder if the dehydration could be accomplished more quickly if it were processed in a heated evacuated container. The removal of air pressure would make the water boil off at a much lower temperature. Look at the second graph: I have a vacuum pump (somewhere) if you or Doug want to go crazy with it. -- Jim

    1. Innnnteresting... We would definitely like to play with it!

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