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sous-vide flank steak with bourbon-miso cream sauce

I’m going to give you the tl;dr version first: I put a piece of flank steak in some warm water for three hours, and then we ate it. Sounds gross, right?

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Sous-vide cooking basically involves cooking food in an airtight bag at a relatively low temperature for a long time. Basically, you set the water to whatever temperature you’d like the food to be at, and then you wait. Since water is an especially good conductor of heat (much better than air, which is why 212 degree water can burn you instantly, but sticking your hand in a 212 degree oven for a few seconds will just feel pretty warm), the food (usually meat or fish, although you can sous-vide vegetables and eggs) comes up to temperature within a few hours. Restaurants have been using this technique for a while now, because it’s an excellent way to consistently cook a bunch of pieces of food ahead of time.
As usual, my major food crush Kenji Lopez-Alt has a great write-up on this technique here at Serious Eats.

However, sous-vide at home used to require a laboratory immersion circulator (upwards of $2000) or one of the new $500 Sous-Vide Supreme machines that is being sold “for home use”. But my pal Kenji figured out that you don’t really need the whole immersion circulator for smaller pieces of meat: you can just stick the thing in a cooler.

I’m sure that you have lots of questions about sous-vide. Here are some helpful links for further reading:

  • Wikipedia for a basic overview.
  • Serious Eats for another overview, with some helpful pictures about steak temperature.
  • Serious Eats on the cooler method.
  • Mike Vrobel of dadcooksdinner.com on beer cooler sous-vide New York steaks and rack of lamb (Mike’s site is a great resource, by the way — I get a lot of inspiration and ideas from the guy, and I envy his cooking gadget budget and space to store all of his toys!)
  • Douglas Baldwin‘s page. Baldwin is a mathematician and sous-vide enthusiast. He has written a lot on the science of sous-vide, especially as it pertains to safety. He also has some awesomely awkward videos – check them out.

So I decided that before school starts up again, I should sous-vide something. We’re big fans of flank steak here at the Hershman-Rossi household, so I figured I would try that. It’s not really the best cut for sous-vide (I think that a New York strip or another “prime” steak would be a better way of showcasing the method) but it’s what I had in the freezer.

Hokay. So.

Sprinkle your steak with lots of salt.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Shmear it with Dijon mustard.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Seal it up in a vacuum sealer (if you don’t have one, you can use a Ziploc bag – see the Serious Eats link for an easy way to remove all of the air):

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Grab your biggest cooler and clean it out, then fill it with the hottest tap water you have.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak
From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Grab a probe thermometer and stick it in the water. You want the temperature to be just above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (130 is the target temperature for medium-rare meat, and you will lose a bit of heat over time, so it’s good to start a bit high). Add boiling water as necessary to get the temperature up (make sure to stir well so that the water temp evens out).

Dump in your steak! Note that you can do multiple steaks at once with this method; seal each in its own bag and throw ’em in there.

Meanwhile, get started on the sauce. The one drawback to sous-vide cooking is that you don’t get a lot of delicious fond (crusty burnt-on bits after you cook something in a pan), so any saucing you want to do has to be completely independent of the steak. The good news is that you can make this delicious sauce ahead of time and reheat it in the microwave or keep it warm on the stove.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak
From Sous Vide Flank Steak
From Sous Vide Flank Steak

After a few hours, your steak is ready! Pull it out and take its temperature – it should be between 120 and 130 degrees.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

The steak tastes great at this point (and is fully cooked), but it looks terrible and there is no delicious crust. So, heat a heavy pan up until it’s super hot:

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Then, brush the steak with a little vegetable oil and sear quickly, about 30 seconds on each side. This is going to create a huge amount of smoke, so don’t be freaked out. If you have a grill, this is a great place to use it.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

You don’t have to worry about resting the same way you do with conventional meat preparation, so you can really cut into this right away. I was pretty happy with the way this turned out. Here are a few observations:

  • the meat is very consistent all the way through – there is no band of gray around the outside of each slice
  • our flank steak wasn’t as tender as we would have liked, but I can’t tell if that was because of this particular piece or because of the cooking method.

I served this with green beans and risotto, just like I did in my other flank steak recipe.

From Sous Vide Flank Steak

Sous-Vide Flank Steak with Bourbon-Miso Sauce

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 16-ounce flank steak
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • vegetable oil
  • Bourbon-Miso sauce (recipe below), for serving

Directions

Salt the steak on both sides and smear with the mustard. Place in a Ziploc and remove all the air, or use a vacuum-seal bag.

Fill a large cooler full with hot tap water. Using boiling water and an instant-read or probe thermometer, adjust the temperature of the cooler water to 131 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the bag in the water. “Cook” for at least 2 hours and as many as 6 hours, keeping a close eye on the water temperature. You will probably have to add boiling water every half hour or so to maintain 130 degrees.

When you are ready to eat, remove the bag from the water, drain off any liquid, and pat dry. Heat a cast iron or heavy stainless steel pan over high heat for 5 minutes, or until smoking hot (alternately, use a grill, on its hottest setting, or with lots of coals over direct heat). Brush the steak lightly on both sides with vegetable oil and place in the hot pan. Sear for about 30 seconds on each side, or until well-colored (be careful — flank steaks are so thin that too much direct heat will start to cook them past 130 degrees). Remove to a cutting board. Slice thinly against the grain and serve with Bourbon-Miso sauce.

Bourbon-Miso Sauce

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large shallot, minced finely
  • 1 heaping tablespoon shiro (white) miso paste
  • 1/4 cup bourbon, plus a little more if needed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed
  • salt, if needed
  • 1/4 unseasoned rice vinegar or Champagne vinegar, if needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar or honey, if needed
Directions

Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until the butter and shallots are well-browned, about 5 minutes. Add the miso and cook another minute. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully add the bourbon. Stir until the bubbling subsides, about 30 seconds, then return to heat and cook another few minutes. Whisk in the cream and cook until thickened, about 5-6 minutes. If you want a completely smooth sauce, transfer to a small bowl and use an immersion blender to liquefy. Taste for seasoning. If it tastes too heavy, add a little more bourbon and/or a tiny bit of vinegar. If it tastes too acidic or boozy, add a little sugar or honey. If it tastes too salty, add a little more cream. I added about 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar, half a shot of extra bourbon, and 1/8 teaspoon of honey, but your results may vary based on your booze and your tastes.

This sauce keeps for at least a few hours on the counter. You can heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave right before serving, or just keep it in a small ramekin near the stove and it should stay warm enough to be pourable.

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2 thoughts on “sous-vide flank steak with bourbon-miso cream sauce

  1. I’ve been meaning to pull the bubba sous vide technique out again, and this post is inspiring me. I just have to shovel the deck, so I can get to the grill…

    Have you tried deglazing the pan with the juices from the sous vide bag, then adding them to your sauce? I want to try that, but I’ve been using the grill for my sous vide searing, so I don’t have a pan to work with.

    Thanks for the shout out, and keep up the posts!

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