Tomato Bisque Soup a la Sous Vide

A few weeks ago, we had a wonderful chance meeting with friends in Milwaukee.  They began telling us about the sous vide system they had, and how much they love it.   Soups, meats, cooking, reheating, holding... everything was wonderful.  Well, it took about three days, and we had ordered a system for us.  This is going to be so fun! Sous Vide, or under pressure is a method of cooking used in high-end restaurants.  Food is vacuum packed, then placed in a warm water bath.  It cooks slowly, evenly and produces amazing food.   The basic system includes a vacuum sealer, the sous vide water bath, and the bags for sealing the food.  It's kind of cooking backwards.  Meats are cooking sous vide, then seared just before serving.  Since the temperature is held constant, nothing can  over cook, burn, or lose its texture while waiting to be served.

Our first sous vide preparation was chicken.  We vacuum packed two chicken breasts with just a bit of butter, salt and pepper and placed them in the water bath for 2 hours.  Upon removal, it was truly amazing.  The chicken was plump, completely cooked, and very moist.  I guess it didn't occur to me that the juices had nowhere to go but into the chicken.   I quickly seared the chicken on a grill pan for color and come crispness on the surface.  A quick pan sauce and ta-da!  Chicken breasts, like we didn't know existed.

Our second meal was Tomato Bisque Soup.   I thought this would be a perfect option.  The soup is made with a white sauce containing milk and cream and should never come to a boil once combined with the tomato and vegetable.   Enter Sous Vide!   After the soup was complete, I ladled it into bags, used the Archimedes' Principle ( slowly lowing the zip bag into the water, allowing the water to squeeze out the air, then zipping shut).  I held the soup at 172 degrees F, just a few degrees about the perfect serving temperature.  Hours later when we where ready to serve the soup, I removed the soup from the zipper bag and into the soup bowls.   No scorching, separating, reducing, just perfect soup.   One bag of soup remained in the sous vide bath.   I made an ice water bath, and quickly dropped the temperature of the soup for safe food handling.  That bag went into the refrigerator for another day.   When we're ready, I can place in back into the preheated sous vide water, for 45 minutes or so, and have soup at just the right temperature again.

Here's the Tomato Bisque Soup recipe.  I've adapted it from The Oven of Brittany, a sweet Madison restaurant, from years ago.


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Tomato Bisque Soup

1 stick of butter, plus 2 T

1/3 cup flour

1 quart milk

1 cup heavy cream

3 cans (large) diced or whole peeled tomatoes (diced and crushed if whole)

1-2 fresh chopped tomatoes

1 green pepper, chopped

1/2 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 Tablespoons dried Basil leaves

dash of cayenne pepper and/or tabasco to taste

1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper (to taste)

In a large saucepan, melt the  stick of butter.  Add the flour and stir quickly to creat a roux.  Cook for a minute two, then stirring/whisking constantly, add the milk.   Continue stirring over medium heat until the mixture starts to thicken.  Then add the cream.  Continue stirring/cooking until the mixture thickens.  Do not heat to a boil.  Remove from the heat.

In another stock pot or large saucepan, melt the remaining 2 T of butter.   Saute and onions, green pepper and garlic until the onions are translucent.  Add the tomatoes and basil and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.  If you like the texture a more uniform, use an immersion blender to further chop the cooked tomato pieces.  Be sure to reduce the heat to barely a simmer, then add the white sauce.   Add the cayenne and/or tabasco and adjust seasonings.    Hold under a boil to prevent separation.

At this point, if you have a sous vide system, preheat the water to 172-175 degrees F, and place the bags in the water after removing the air.  Hold until ready to serve.  When ready  to store, prepare an ice water bath and emmerse the bag in the ice water for at least 45 minutes.  Add ice as needed to keep the water very cold.

Serves about 6.