I was oh-so happy with the results of my first sous vide experimentation. It was easy, my steak was unbelievably good, and far more tender than any steak I’ve ever had before. Figuring that things went so well the first time I’d better get cracking and see what else I could accomplish with this fantastic new (to me) cooking method.
Pork chops are another food that often leaves me wondering what the hell I was thinking. Part of the problem is that most people over-cook pork to the point of ruination. Pork doesn’t need to be cooked to 165 or 170 degrees. That used to be the FDA’s safe cooking temperature. Cooked to that point, you’d be better off just eating a chunk of your gardening gloves, such is the texture.
The FDA has relaxed is safe cooking temperature for pork down to 145 degrees. That’s far more reasonable. Really the only thing you’ve got to worry about with pork is trichinosis. Trichinosis is a roundworm that infects pork. It was a problem earlier in the decade but it’s been largely taken out of the food stream at this point. Most trichinosis infections now occur from under-cooked game meat. Like bear or wild hog. The larvae are killed at 138 degrees, so that’s really the jump off point for safe consumption of pork. I stick to something close to the FDA’s recommendation, depends on what I’m cooking. Pork chops I’ll take almost all the way up to 145 degrees, if it’s a roast I’ll take it out a bit earlier and let it carry its way into the 140′s while it’s resting.
I followed the same steps I outlined in my sous vide post and my initial foray into the technique. These pork chops were already vacuum sealed, part of an enormous bounty of meat that arrived at our Seattle door some time ago. Since they were so nicely sealed up I figured they might cook better that way so I left them in the original packaging. If you were to have to seal your own I’d suggest sealing them in a bit of apple cider, apple juice, or barring that some lightly seasoned olive oil. I did let them defrost completely in a bowl of cool water before putting them into my cooler/sous-vide cooker.
I used less water in the cooler than I did last time as well. I wanted to see how much the temperature would vary having such a large amount of air inside the cooler. Last time I filled it all the way up to the top with water. I lost a few more degrees of heat over the 2 hours they were in there. These were thick cuts, so they needed a bit more time than the steaks. I added a little more boiling water about half way through, I had lost about 5 degrees in an hour, the second hour the cooler must have been thoroughly heated and I only lost 2 degrees.
I used 150 degree water to start. I know that’s more than the 145 degree temperature I was aiming for, but given that I’d used less water in the cooler and these were thicker cuts I didn’t think I’d be doing any harm. By the time I was done the water was just around 145 degrees (after adding a bit more boiling water half way through). That seemed to work out quite nicely. Both chops were around 140 degrees when removed, quickly brought up to temperature by the searing they were about to get.
After the two hour mark I unsealed them and decided to give them a good searing, just like the steaks. Since apples and applesauce are generally a really nice pairing with pork, I seared them on both sides for about 20 seconds. I left them in and deglazed the pan with a good amount of apple cider. It didn’t take long for the cider to cook down and leave a nice little brown-meaty-apple glaze over the pork.
Again I had a huge amount of time on my hands to figure out what to do for side dishes. During out holiday blitz I picked up some different rice and pasta combinations while we were home. There’s a store that I really love which is only local to the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area; it’s sort of a close-out food place and I now always stock up the best I can when I’m home. They had a nifty package of rice that was a mix of Basmati and wild rice that among other things, was something I thought worth trying.
I just followed the directions on the side of the bag. Since it was wild rice the water to rice ratio was huge! 6 cups of water to 1 cup of rice. Boil uncovered for 20 minutes. Then drain and rinse, like pasta. Seemed a little odd to me but it came out very nicely. I used half water and half vegetable stock. You could easily use all stock but I didn’t know how much would end up left over after it had cooked, so I didn’t want to waste a ton. That was a pretty good ratio. After draining the rice I added about 2 tablespoons of butter, a little salt and pepper, and that was it.
The cauliflower was equally an easy proposition. I just steamed them. As far as veggies go there’s not much simpler than breaking down a head of cauliflower into bit sized bites, throwing half a cup of water into a large heated pan, tossing the cauliflower in, and steaming for a bit more than 5 minutes. The crows will be soft enough to cut in half with the blunt end of a wooden spatula. Done. Seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper and that’s it. If you want a little bit of brown on them (and who doesn’t) you can uncover them and leave them over a low heat (like 2 on my stove) for about another 5 minutes while you’re plating and finishing up everything else.
So how was it? Quite good. I don’t think you’ll ever get a pork chop to be as nicely cooked as a whole pork tenderloin. That’s just wishful thinking. As far as pork chops go, however, it was the same as the steak. Flavorful, far more tender than I’ve ever had a pork chop before, and nicely flavored with a mild hint of that apple glaze. The rice was good, next time I might season it a bit more (rice can be very bland) but it was nicely cooked, fluffy, and the butter sure didn’t hurt. The cauliflower was, as always, very good and a nice healthy side. Another sous vide success!
For a dinner for two people you’ll need:
- 2 Pork Chops (or Tenderloin, What-have-you) about 5 or 6 ounces each (sealed in freezer bags – you could seal them with a bit of apple juice or cider instead of olive oil)
- 1 Head of Cauliflower – Separated into Florets – Steamed
- 1 Cup of Uncooked Rice (Follow Directions On Box/Bag of Your Particular Rice)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons of Butter for Seasoning Rice
- 3 Cups of Water – For Rice
- 3 Cups of Vegetable (Or Chicken) Stock – For Rice
- Salt and Pepper to Season.