Sous vide salmon, roasted asparagus and Russian River Damnation

I’ve always wanted to try doing my own sous vide hack. My go-to food website, Serious Eats, suggests using a beer cooler, but I saw something much smaller but just as useful at home. It was a rice cooker-like device but which did not run on power. It was essentially a metal pot inside a shell, something like a thermos for slow-cooking food. I saw later on that it was used by another home cook on a food blog, but the name of both the appliance and the blog escape me at the moment.

Anyway, I just heated water to around 140F, which may have been a bit too hot in retrospect. I seared the salmon, skin-side down in olive oil first to be able to take the skin off easier, then put the salmon in a ziplock bag. I immersed half the bag in the warm water to get the excess air out and sealed it. I left the bag for twenty minutes, and in the meantime, I crisped up the salmon skin some more in oil and then quick roasted some asparagus in the toaster oven. I also made a quick “sauce” of lemon juice, olive oil, red onion, capers and lemon zest. When the twenty minutes were up, I finished the salmon in some butter in a blazing hot pan for a minute per side, and seasoned the finish product right after removing it from the pan with sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper and lemon juice.

I think the side of salmon I got was a bit thin, and it literally fell apart when I took it out of the ziplock. The water may also have been at too high a temperature, because while the salmon was not dry, it did come out a tad over medium. Nevertheless, the salmon tasted heavenly, and notwithstanding the liberal use of butter and fried skin, gave a healthy and clean impression.

I’ll definitely be trying sous vide again, using that same hack, but only with simple i.e. short-term dishes such as fish and eggs. I don’t have the mechanical/electrical/techie know-how to try out those hacks where I can use my rice cooker or slow cooker by wiring up some device to cause it to maintain a certain temperature. I’ll stick with hour-at-the-most sous vide tricks, as I’m not that ambitious.

I paired the salmon and asparagus with Russian River Damnation, a Belgian-style golden ale that I received as a birthday present. This has to be my favorite golden ale thus far, and it breaks my belief that Belgian-style beers brewed in Belgium tend to outshine the American craft versions. Perhaps for Trappist styles such as the tripel and dubbel, but for Damnation, I’ll make an exception.

Cedar plank grilled salmon is an oft-advocated pairing for the Damnation, with the beer aged in cedar as well. While I didn’t have any cedar planks, and living in a condominium prevented me from grilling, I think the method of sous vide cooking finished with a sear in butter and a dash of lemon was perfect, nonetheless.

The Damnation was golden indeed, topped with a frothy off-white head, while its bouquet was of grass, fruit and traditional Belgian yeasts with a bit of alcohol vapor. When I took my first sip, it was peach all the way, followed by some spice – especially as the beer warmed up. The typical Belgian funk was present, but just subtly. This was enjoyable to drink with its crisp medium body and balanced carbonation. Russian River really does make some of the best beers in the world.

Appearance: 4.5 Aroma 4.0 Taste 5.0 Mouthfeel: 5.0 Overall: 4.5

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