By Paul Suplee, MBA, CEC, PC-3
Whether it’s at my “real job” teaching culinary at Wor-Wic Community College, or at one of my restaurants, I am always in a mode of research and development.
There is no rest for the weary, and as Robert Strauss so famously noted, “Success is a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired. You quit when the gorilla is tired.”
If anyone in this business quit when they got tired, there would be no workers. It is an exhausting field, period. But I digress. Back to R&D.
If you have ever had the pleasure of working with a combi-oven (combination oven), then you are familiar with its versatility. These tools are part steamer, part convection and a combination of both (hence its moniker). They are invaluable tools, but ungodly expensive.
Along comes Anova Culinary, a brand well-known for bringing sous vide immersion circulators to home cooks years ago. They made circulators so affordable that I purchased six of them for the college program.
It cost me half the price of one commercial circulator, and as we are not selling the food, I can use them to train. They are simply a fantastic teaching tool.
Fast forward to this year and I find myself staring at a wonderful combi-oven in my house. These maniacs literally made one for residential cooking. And this thing is insane.
It pulls many duties, such as aforementioned convection, full steamer, both together, air fryer, dehydrator, toaster oven and I’m pretty sure that I’m missing a couple functions.
But the kicker for me is its ability to cook ‘sous vide,’ which traditionally has been done in water baths.
With the ability to cook food in a tightly sealed chamber with steam injecting into the oven, we now have an oven that is taking untraditional cooking methods and turning them into even less traditional. And the result is breathtaking.
My first dinner in the oven was roasted chicken. In the first stage, the chicken is cooked at 149 degrees with full steam, the temperature slowly cooking the chicken to an internal temperature of 145.4 degrees.
As most of you know, the rule on chicken is to take it to 165 degrees for 15 seconds. Cooking the chicken sous vide takes a little over two hours, so the time allotted will kill any pathogens just as effectively, but it will simply take that much longer. The ending is the same for that rascally salmonella.
But holy smokes, is that chicken a thing of legends. It is incredibly tender and moist, although it is rather pale. Thus starts the second stage, which is a hot roasting to crisp up the skin and add flavor.
To finish off the week, the following evening I cooked a pork loin that rivaled the chicken in how moist it was. I think I’m starting to enjoy cooking again. I could get used to this.
The next day, as I was sitting on a lot of clams from one of my restaurants that has been closed for a week due to modern inconveniences, I gave roasted clams a shot. I set the oven to 400 degrees and steam at 70 percent.
You certainly do not need the steam, as the wine in the recipe provides moisture, but since I was playing around with the new appliance, I figure that it would be wise to learn all its functionality.
It was the proper call, as the clams came out quickly, the chorizo (the pieces not drenched in the wine and butter) crisping up nicely, adding a new layer of flavor to the broth. The wine and butter melded to create a wonderful sauce for dipping a nice piece of baguette and the lemons became very tender, making them very easy to squeeze onto the clams.
All in all, it was incredibly simple and now a part of my combi-oven arsenal. Again, you do not need to use this type of oven. A standard oven at 400 degrees works just fine. But, if you have an interest in playing with new toys in the kitchen, this might not be a bad thing to investigate and invest in. It is time to start having fun in the kitchen again.
40 ea. Middleneck Clams
1 c. Whole, salted butter
1 c. White wine
2 Lemons, halved
1 c. Dry chorizo, diced
2 Sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 c. Chopped Italian parsley
1/2 c. Freshly minced garlic
1. Rinse the clams and set aside until ready to roast. If you have the foresight, time and patience, soak the clams in salted water (it should taste of the ocean) for six hours. This will allow them to purge sand from their systems.
2. Combine everything else in a roasting pan. Cut the butter into small pieces so as to expedite its melting.
3. Preheat an oven to 400F, and top your concoction with the clams, ensuring that they are in a single layer.
4. Depending on your oven (conventional or convection), roast the clams for about 12 minutes, or until they have all popped open. Once one starts, the rest should pop open fairly quickly.
5. When the clams have opened, divide them and then cover with the sauce in the pan. The clam juices will blend beautifully in the dish.
6. Serve with a chilled, crisp white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a steel-aged Chardonnay.
—Paul Suplee is a Professor of
Culinary Arts at Wor-Wic
Community College and owner of
boxcar40 and boxcar on main.
Visit him at www.boxcar40.com;