Hacked Sous Vide Black Cod with Tomato & Brussels Sprouts

If you have followed my Siren-ing, you know that I have been simultaneously giddy and heartbroken over black cod for months. I’ve been swooning and fretting while stalking fishermen and harassing dock personnel. Heartbroken because no one who was trapping or hook-and-lining would sell it to me when I wanted it, and giddy for a couple of really good reasons. First, it might be my favorite fish. I say might because I have a fear of commitment when it comes to seafood. Who doesn’t? The second and primary reason for my excitement: THIS RECIPE.
When I was getting ready to start Siren, I sent out an email to all of my chef buddies asking for interesting recipes. I didn’t have any customers yet, but my dream customers were adventurous people who were passionate about food. People who would not shy away from cleaning whole squid or learning a new cooking technique. I asked everyone to get creative. Dreams do come true.
When Mike Lee first suggested sous vide black cod, I thought that maaaaaaaybe we should avoid using recipes that require hundreds of dollars worth of equipment. Mike told me he HACKED it. All you need is a Ziploc bag, a thermometer, and a stockpot. Dude. I was immediately in, so in.
There are many reasons that we should trust Mike with our fish. He made the best black cod ever at Eat Retreat, you know that weekend that I love to blog about all the time. This fish was a revelation of buttery flesh and crispy skin, all perfectly seasoned. It converted non fish skin eaters into fish skin bingers, and it is still discussed at every Eat Retreat mini-reunion. Maybe that’s because I bring it up? OR it’s because that tasty fish haunts our collective Eat Retreater food consciousness. We’ll go with both.
Mike Lee is the founder of Studiofeast. Here is Mike talking about what Studiofeast has been up to lately. Pretty much, they are a culinary collective that does really awesome creative stuff that makes me sad that I don’t live in New York. The man has endless energy. He is running the New York City Marathon to raise money for Citymeals-on-wheels, he is always planning new events for Studiofeast, and he found time to write this recipe and take pictures. I had the pleasure of being one of his Eat Retreat roommates AND I have been cyberstalking him all night. So, I can now say with absolute certainty that he is HILARIOUS. You will agree with me once you read the bonus Q & A after the recipe.
Team, we need to make this recipe and then harass Mike until he comes to San Francisco to do a West Coast Studiofeast event. Deal? I made it tonight and oh. my. God. SO GOOD!
Hacked Sous Vide Black Cod w/Tomato & Brussels Sprouts
Ingredients (one serving)
- Black Cod w/skin, 6oz
- Campari Tomato, 3-5
- Brussels Sprout, 4-6
- Olive Oil
- Fresh Tarragon
- Fresh Thyme
- Kosher Salt
- Butter
- Balsamic Vinegar
Hacked Sous Vide Equipment
- Ziploc bag, freezer quality, 1qt
- Large stockpot, approximately 9 qt capacity
- Digital probe thermometer
1. Peel the outer few layers of brussels sprout leaves, wash, dry, and reserve.
2. In a medium saucepan, heat a thin layer of olive over medium high heat.
3. Add tomatoes to saucepan and toss until skins are blistered and tomatoes are heated throughout. Deglaze pan with a half tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. maintain on heat until vinegar/butter reduce slightly to a shiny, syrupy glaze.
4. Remove tomatoes from pan, allow pan to recover some of its heat and add new oil and sprout leaves. Toss. Once leaves are bright green and heated, remove from pan.
1. Remove skin from cod in one piece. Salt generously on both sides and place on a sheet tray lined with a silpat/parchment paper and bake in oven at 300F for 35 min, or until crispy. Remove from heat and reserve.
2. Create a brine with 5% salt / 95% water and leave fish in brine for 1 hour. Remove and pat dry on paper towel.
3. Fill stockpot with water (ideally should be an inch short of being full), insert probe thermometer into water and place on a med-high burner until water temperature reaches 125F. Once water reaches target temp, turn down flame to a simmer and add a cup of cold tap water to cool down if need be. The idea is to hold the water on 125F as steady as possible. Having a large volume of water is crucial, as it will be able to withstand slight variations in temperature more successfully.
4. Place fish into Ziploc bag and fill with just enough oil to nearly submerge the fish; add a few sprigs of thyme and tarragon into the oil.
5. Dunk the open Ziploc bag into the water while still holding onto the open lip. Allow the water to force all the air out of the open top and once you as much air out as possible, seal the bag. Pull bag out to check that the plastic bag is clinging tightly to its contents, and if so, drop the entire bag into your 125F water. Let fish cook in water for 20 minutes. (if you have proper sous vide equipment, you probably know what to do and all you need to know is: 125F/51.7C – 20 min. don’t forget to wrap the herbs in a layer of cling film in your vacuum bag, to prevent the flavor from aggressively burning into your fish)
6. Pull fish from bag and plate with the crispy skin, tomatoes and brussels sprouts on the side. Dress fish with some lemon juice and oil from the ziploc and enjoy!
- Q: Why not just poach this in olive oil like, all traditional and what not? 
- A: Because it requires much more oil, mainly. With this method, you can use much less oil since you only need enough to cover the fish. You can use nicer oil if you want, or butter if you’re so inclined. Of course, if you have a use for a ton of black cod/tarragon/thyme flavored oil, then awesome…poach away!
- Q: There’s a dirty rumor floating around about how sous vide concentrates flavors much easier in the bag than in traditional methods. Can you confirm or deny this? 
- A: You can concentrate flavors into things easier with sous vide–flavors in the bag (like herbs) have very little room to move, so they will probably end up in your main ingredient. This can be a bad thing though, like the time you put 9 sprigs of rosemary into your sous vide bag with that steak which came out smelling like a Christmas tree. N00b! Use herbs in lesser quantity than if you were cooking non-sous vide and always wrap the herbs in cling wrap before you seal them into the bag to prevent the flavor from penetrating the protein too aggressively. This is less important if you’re going hacked sous vide with fish, since the pressure isnt high enough and fish doesnt take long to cook, but if you’re doing something like 72 hour sous vide short ribs, you better wrap that herb up if you don’t want a gross tree-like flavor on your meat.
- Q: I had a horrible accident with crispy, perfectly seasoned fish skin as a child once and I hate it now. What’s in this for me? 
- A: Well. That sucks, crispy, perfectly seasoned fish skin totally rules. But if you insist, you can get that crispy protein taste (Maillard FTW!) back into this dish by giving your fish a nice hard sear in a hot pan after you pull it out of the bags. Careful though, that fish is gonna be delicately flaky as hell coming out of the bag.
- Q: I’ve got like a million things going at the house and can’t be bothered with this precision timing. What do I do? 
- A: Fine. Sous vide is pretty forgiving in terms of cooking proteins to temperature and holding them. While I don’t advise keeping your fish in the water too long beyond 20 minutes, you can drop the water temp about 5 degrees (add cold water slowly, read your thermometer) and hold the fish in there for up to 30 min or so. You should be fine and have nicely done fish, but beyond that timeframe, you’re on your own.
- Q: I’m allergic to tomatoes and brussels sprouts, what now chef? 
- A: Weird! Ditch the tomatoes and sprouts and feel free to use something else–the world is your oyster. This recipe isnt written in stone after all, I was just in the mood for tomatoes and brussels sprouts. Other things that go with this fish: bacon, kale, squashes, spinach, buttery breadcrumbs, garlic, grains like cous cous or rice, anything miso flavored, snap peas, glazed carrots…the list goes on and on, this fish pairs nicely with a lot of things.
- Q: I have a FoodSaver Vacuum sealer but I keep mucking it up with all this olive oil getting sucked out of the bag. Halp!
- A: This is easy: freeze the olive oil! I too don’t have a fancy $4000 chamber sealer, so I keep an ice cube tray filled with olive oil in my freezer at all times. This is good strategy for anything liquid you want to get into a sealed FoodSaver bag. For anything I need to sous vide with olive oil, I simply pop a frozen olive oil cube into the bag and call it a day. Also, butter is an even easier move because dairy cows think ahead.