Like so many of us, Carla Hall is cooking a lot at home these days. Although she’s regarded for her cookbooks and has appeared on television shows such as Top Chef, Top Chef: All Stars, and The Chew, Hall describes herself as “baby new” to sous vide. For the International Sous Vide Day 2020 celebration in Washington, D.C., where she also lives, she served Short-cut Deviled Eggs over Smashed Potatoes with Mustard Seed Drizzle using Cuisine Solutions’ Sous Vide Poached Egg. She also recently partnered with Sous-Vide magazine publisher Cuisine Solutions for a miniseries, “Dining Out at Home,” in which she prepares restaurant-quality meals using their fully cooked sous vide products. Sous-Vide spoke to her about some of her recent kitchen adventures at home.
How do you like to use sous vide at home now that you’re playing around with it?
CH: Yeah, so I’m playing around. I’ve done chicken, I’ve done vegetables, I’ve done, like, pork chops, like really thick pork chops. One of the things that I’ve wanted to do—oh, I’ve done beans, I’ve done sorghum, I’ve done oatmeal—one of the things that I want to try are collard greens. And so that’s next on my list.
So you’re fairly new to sous vide, it sounds like?
CH: I’d never had a circulator ever. I mean like baby new, I mean in the last six months new, like really new. It was just nothing that I did, and the funny thing is that I’m all about technology and food and pushing the boundaries, but I think it really was this emotional disconnect to sous vide because Top Chef was so stressful for me that I was thrown into it without knowing about it and then I just said well I don’t need that, right? So I’ve discarded all of those myths or blocks in my head, and so now it’s like oh my gosh, this is amazing.
What have you been eating and making while staying home lately?
CH: The other day I had made a hollandaise which was so delicious, so I had these egg whites, and I already had some black bean soup. So what I love is that I have these little bits and bobs in the fridge and I kind of now have to go, “OK, what am I going to do with it?” So I just made a quick omelette with the egg whites and some herbs inside and then I put the black bean sauce on top with some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers and herbs and scallions, and I was like, this is so good, and I didn’t think about it, you know what I mean? Those are the best dishes that you just open the fridge, put something together, and you’re eating in like 15 minutes.
Are you using this time to take on any cooking challenges or recipes?
CH: I still don’t have yeast yet, so bread is on the list, and the collard greens. I have a list of things that I want to do with my circulator, so I am playing with grains, the sorghum, the beans, just getting that timing right. And then like I said, the collard greens, because I’m like, “Can I make collard greens? Can I do sous vide collard greens where they still have that bright green?” I don’t know, I don’t even know if that’s possible because the vinegar would come later, I wouldn’t put it inside.
So, playing with that. A lot of people are coming to me with requests to do recipes like cooking from my pantry so I have been playing with doing fried beans. Black-eyed peas I’ve done, but using different beans like chickpeas and black beans, just a mix of beans to fry them in the oven with oil. And it’s not only snacks, but also salad toppers, things like that. So I’ve been playing a little bit with that, but also having enough fat so they are still delicious, because you can throw beans in and spray some oil on them and put them in the air fryer but they just don’t have that fatty deliciousness that they really have when they are deep-fried.
Any kind of lessons learned, any tips that you have for people that are using this time to try sous vide themselves?
CH: I think for me, because I have so much time at home—start in the morning. Nobody mentions this and I don’t know if it’s a thing, but I start with boiling water on the stove and put it into my [sous vide] container so I don’t have to wait until the water comes to temperature, because that takes a long time. And I broke my vacuum sealer because I sort of didn’t understand that if the liquid goes through it that it’s going to just die. So that died. So don’t do that.
Anything else you want to mention?
CH: I have to say that I have really enjoyed—and it’s solely separate and apart from this interview—all of the food that I am using from Cuisine Solutions. It’s been really, really great. I’ve been enjoying it so much. The Fire Roasted Pepper Sauce is great as a sauce, it’s also great with stock, a splash of cream, and wizzed up as a really quick soup, which I love… . It’s just like, wow, you can heat something up and in an hour you have something that actually took several hours to make.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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