A great way to demonstrate the versatility and usefulness of the chamber cryovac machine is to try some very simple and inexpensive preparations that will allow you to achieve interesting textures and tastes that are otherwise impossible. One of the first I personally tried was compressed cucumber, something that ended up on the restaurant menu as a great alternate texture for the same fresh taste.
Compressing fruit and vegetables in a chamber cryovac makes the flesh more dense and somewhat more flexible, giving the added impression of being more juicy. Cell walls are broken and the structure of the product changes in a way that’s difficult to describe without actually touching and tasting.
Here’s my method and a sample plated amuse buche I served recently: First, peel your cucumber carefully, taking off a very fine layer of skin and leaving the slightly greener layer of flesh underneath. Cut into sections about 10cm long, then turn on it’s end and quarter. Using a thin blade remove the seeds and you should be left with a flat bar about 10cm x 4cm about 5mm deep.
Next, season the cucumber flesh. I used a tiny pinch of sea salt and a sprinkle of both dehydrated celery leaf and cucumber skin. They help impart a stronger flavour and look fantastic. To make, simply place celery leaves and cucumber skin in a dehydrator. Once dry, blitz into a fine powder using a spice grinder.
Lastly, lay flat in a cryovac bag as big as your machine will take. Add a dash of rice wine vinegar to create a slightly pickled flavour. Cryovac on your machine’s highest setting, and leave to infuse for a few hours in the fridge. Once ready to use just trim any soft or flimsy edges to make a more uniform serve.
Play with different pressures and times and you’ll discover more interesting textures. I prefer to vac on 8 out of ten for a slightly crunchy strip. You can vac multiple times to create an even softer texture.
Here’s one of our first uses of compressed cucumber, an amuse buche of cucumber, cold smoked and sous vide ocean trout, Greek yoghurt and coriander.