I discovered sous vide a while ago, but never really had the means to put it into action. That is, of course, until my father became obsessed with Thomas Keller’s book and rigged up a little sous vide contraption of his own. This got me thinking, and, while they’re on vacation, I discovered a sous vide hack involving a freakin’ beer cooler! It worked beautifully on my cheap steaks, turning them into a high end gourmet treat. I gushed to my parents long-distance (yes, they still have that!) and my dad recommended I borrow his sous vide Dorkfood DSV temperature controller that turns a crockpot into a sous vide cooking ma-CHINE!
I ended up having to use my ganky little mini crockpot, since the DSV doesn’t work with digital crockpots. In fact, I have absolutely no idea how my dad rigged it up, considering his is digital, but my little baby “dip” crockpot worked just fine for a couple filets of salmon.
I have an obsession with smoked salmon but hate traditional well-done salmon filets. I figured I could conjure up some smoked salmon without a smoker but with its velvetty, rich texture. But without a “smoke gun”, a strange contraption that uses hickory chips to create smoke to actually blow into your vacuum packs, or the ability to actually plan ahead and cure or prep anything overnight, would I manage? Spoiler alert: I totally did.
This is a killer way to prepare what tastes exactly like smoked salmon, but at a fraction of the price and a fraction of the time. I served it with fresh baguette, a yogurt-dill-feta sauce, and chopped red onions, and it was absolutely to-die-for.
Salmon reaches medium-rare at about 50ºC, which is about 122ºF. I set my DSV for 122º, but if you’re using the beer cooler hack, pour the water in at 128º. The water will drop about 6º over the course of cooking, so start with water that’s 6º higher than your desired final temp.
To flavor the salmon, I sprinkled both sides of a 1 lb. filet with about 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I used sucanat as, having gone through an anti-processed food phase, I threw out my brown sugar!), 1 teaspoon salt, and liquid smoke to lightly coat the surface on each side. I then sandwiched a sprig of dill between the two filets and let them cook in a ziploc bag, using the water-dispersion method to ensure all of the air found its way out of the bag.
After 25 minutes, it was cooked to perfection. It literally melted in our mouths and the flavor was just as good as packaged smoked salmon. It was heartier, though, and worked beautifully as a tartine, or, perhaps, a petit smörgåsbord complete with a beautifully complementary sauce–tangy, salty, and bright all at once–and the sharp earthiness and crunch of finely minced red onions. Capers would be lovely, too!
Faux Smoked Salmon Sous Vide
1 lb. salmon filet, skin removed (and saved for fried salmon skin!)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
about 2 tablespoons liquid smoke (enough to coat both sides of the salmon but not to overwhelm)
1 sprig dill
finely minced red onions
1. Slowly pour liquid smoke onto one side of salmon and use a pastry brush to coat evenly. Sprinkle sugar and salt over first side. Flip and repeat.
2. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 8 hours.
3. Heat water bath to 122º. If using the beer cooler hack, pour in water that’s about 130º. When the water reaches 128º, submerge salmon.
4. To submerge salmon, cut salmon into two equal filets. Place into a gallon ziploc bag (or vacuum bag), and sandwich a dill sprig in between them. To use the water-disperision method to push out the air, close the top almost all of the way. Slowly submerge the food in a water bath. The top can hang out of the crockpot or cooler, so long as the food is completely submerged. It should not float.
5. Let cook for 25 minutes.
6. Remove the bag from the water bath and either serve at this temp or cool and serve. Try a piece of baguette smeared with a bit of yogurt-dill-feta sauce, a few pieces of red onion, and topped with your smoked salmon. Nom!
– 1/2 cup natural yogurt (not Greek, ideally)
– 2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
– 2+ tablespoons finely chopped dill (or more, depending on your taste)
– 3 tablespoons finely crumbled feta
– 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
– dash white wine, to thin a bit
– salt to taste
Combine all ingredients. Let rest at least 20 minutes. Serve with sous vide smoked salmon.15