Recipes: Lamb cutlets sous vide
A throwback to her childhood, Greedy Girl never approached cutlets or chops with any great relish. All she remembered was tough, overcooked meat that was hard to get off the bone. Dining out changed that opinion, particularly the lamb cutlets at Melbourne’s Portello Rosso. Soft and tender, they were also uncommonly plump. Despite gluttonous husband’s best efforts in the kitchen, we couldn’t replicate the plumpness and juiciness.
Sitting up at the bar at Portello Rosso, hidden away in a little laneway off Little Bourke Street, we were able to engage the wait staff in conversation one evening while tucking into some very enjoyable tapas. The secret to the luscious cutlets was revealed – they were cooked sous vide.
Having a home sous vide set up and already enjoying much success with a pork belly recipe, gluttonous husband developed his own way of preparing lamb cutlets – and here it is!
There are things that a home cook should know about preparing dishes using sous vide; if you don’t have a temperature-controlled water bath, you can mimic it with a large saucepan and a thermometer. Having said that, it’s a big ask to monitor the temperature and water levels for what can be an extremely long time, such as what’s required for the pork belly. This recipe, however, calls for cooking at 55 degrees celsius for 90 minutes so it may be manageable.
Another no-no is using liquid marinades for your meats. Herbs (fresh or dried) and spice rubs are fine but given you’re vacuum sealing the produce, liquid makes this process impossible. The vacuum sucks out the air – and the liquid. If you want to use liquid marinades, just squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag – don’t try to vacuum seal it.
Ingredients and method
You can basically do as many cutlets as you can fit into your water bath at any one time. Vacuum sealing them into small bags (the bags we use hold five cutlets) means once you’ve taken them out of the water bath you can throw them into the freezer and take out as many packets as you’d like to finish them in a hot pan.
For the amount of cutlets we used, you need, per vacuum-sealed bag, a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme, one of oregano, a crushed clove of garlic and a good grating of lemon rind. The great thing about cooking sous vide is that the cutlets are better with a little more fat on them, which cooks down in the water bath. This often means the cutlets are cheaper to buy than leaner ones. Don’t use cutlets or chops with huge rinds of fat – trim them down a fraction, or ask your butcher to do it for you. It’s important to wrap the cleaned cutlet bone in tin foil. This ensures the bone won’t pierce the bag when you seal it.
Just grate the lemon zest over the top of the herbs and add some freshly crushed garlic (please, don’t use any of the pre-crushed stuff out of a jar). Take care not to grate any of the white skin of the lemon. This is quite bitter.
Pack the bags first with the fresh herbs, lemon rind and garlic (remember – no liquid, you can use liquid if you’re just sealing the bag by hand rather than using a vacuum).
Pack the cutlets in ‘nose to tail’ so they fit reasonably snugly and the package retains a fairly flat shape when you place the bag edge into the vacuum sealer.
And just drop them gently into the water bath. Our machine has a handy rack that allows you to space out multiple bags.
And this is what the cutlets look like after they’ve come out of the water bath. Despite the picture, they’re actually cooked – but don’t look particularly appetising. They need to be finished in a hot pan.
Before they’re seared, we remove the edging of herbs you see above and sprinkle a little dried thyme and oregano on top to reinforce the herby flavours.
And then you just put them into a hot pan, seasoned with salt and pepper and with a tiny amount of oil to sear both sides. This gives them a slight crust and a lovely colour. Don’t forget to rest them for five minutes once they come out of the pan. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top and you’re done!
You can serve these up as part of a tapas feast, or prepare some vegies or salad on the side for a more substantial meal. The meat remains soft, juicy and tender and they’ll be the plumpest lamb cutlets you’ve ever prepared. Enjoy!