The Circle Game

It doesn’t surprise me one bit when people recoil in horror at the idea of processing beef ribs via SV unseasoned, shocking cold, and only THEN applying flour, egg white, and finally, salt and desired seasonings. How could this possibly work? It goes against every assumption about how and why food does tastes the way it does. You’re actually building what should be an impermeable coating around the meat.

It never occurs to them that when you bite into something, whatever is on the surface provides the initial impression of flavor, FOLLOWED by the texture of the item itself. Biting into something that was succulent on the outside, with a salt laden center would be a flavor surprise for sure. It doesn’t even SOUND good.

So, you know what I do? I don’t tell’em. Actually, there are a lot of circumstances where this would be easy. But when people want you to show them how you do stuff, you should feel some obligation to be truthful. That can be a problem too. Often, when I explain to people, or even show them how I do certain things, they give me that look that says “Oh, I get it, you’re one of those chefs that holds back, so that nobody can steal your thunder.”

What was once debate, is now just an argument.

There is always a lively debate about how and when to flavor Sous Vide proteins. Many of us know that only sodium ions (and some components of smoke) penetrate the tangled matrix of complex proteins that we call meat. People in the FB group have grown weary, as have I, from being urged to process “Nekkid, nekkid, nekkid,” and to apply all surface treatments AFTER bathing. Just like people do. Sure, there might be Calgon in the water, but the tasty sweet smelling stuff is ALWAYS applied later, right? Anybody who knows me has heard me preach, and occasionally rant, replete with humorous yet earnest memes reiterating the commandment, “Thou shalt not flavor the bag.”

I remind myself that most people enter the realm of Sous Vide eagerly believing that flavorings in the bag like garlic, rosemary, butter, pepper, etc. will create a flavor sensation. Of course, the manufacturers of the vacuum sealing equipment do little to dispel this myth. Their business depends on this belief.  Reddit and Pinterest posts get a lot more play when you can see someone’s garden bounty proudly displayed through glossy plastic.

Wait ’til they get a load of me.

When new members to the Facebook group encounter me and my decidedly unromantic notions, they basically have but two reactions. Either they stand in silent, shocked wonder at the new revelation, or they unilaterally and unequivocally reject it, me, and my stupid little FB group with outrage and a few parting insults. Either way, my rhythm remains unaffected.

That’s the great thing about science. Empirically, the world appears completely flat as we stare out at the ocean, but most of us know that it is quite spherical. We all want desperately to believe our tongues, hastily abandoning even the well known scriptural admonitions against that.

Okay, let’s start ‘dem Beef Ribs.

I hear a lot of questions about what to do when you need more than one temperature for processing. Sometimes, people are trying to figure out how to serve one steak medium rare, and another one well. Frequently, it’s a matter of wanting to process vegetables, starch and protein ALL via SV, the concept of which is conveniently ignored in many manuals and collections. I saw a really beautiful recipe for John Dory on a website that offers really high priced, precision SV equipment, all made in Germany. I mean, REALLY expensive, $5K circulators that looked almost identical to the IC’s sold here in the States. This recipe was incredibly elaborate, incorporating rare and expensive ingredients, all beautifully photographed. All in all, the fish itself spent about 5 minutes in the tank, and then was transferred to yet ANOTHER skillet. Okay, whatever. You will understand.

I planned this procedure so you can start everything in the morning before you go to work (assuming you don’t work in a restaurant), or in the evening, so that the ribs can come out of the tank the next morning. See how I did that?


  • Beef rib bones, meaty, as described here, 4 each.
  • Red potatoes, 2 each.
  • Green Beans, 16 each
  • Parsley, chopped, as much as you can bear to create.
  • S+P
  • Bread crumbs, enough to coat. Use 8 oz, and save what’s left. This is the only way to fly.
  • Eggs, 1 (one), separated.
  • Flour, as needed.
  • 1 oz. Cranberry Umami Ketchup (recipe follows)

Cranberry Umami Ketchup

  • Ketchup, 4 oz.
  • Cranberry sauce, 3 oz, I make a savory one without sugar, but we’re not going to go there today.
  • Fresh garlic, 1/2 oz.
  • Parsley, some, no need to chop it, because we’re going to do the food processor thing.
  • EVOO, 1 oz.
  • Red Boat Fish Sauce, 1/2 oz., OR
  • Hondashi powder, 1 teaspoon, OR
  • something like that.

Process everything in the blender, processor, do what you got to do.

Set the controls for the center of the Sun.

  • Preheat your IC to 183F, use the biggest vessel available, we are going to do a little Sans Vide too.
  • If you are just learning how to bag stuff up, go here.
  • Put the bones in a Ziploc gallon bag and seal using Archimedes principle, or vacuum. Try to keep it all one layer.
  • Bag the red potatoes, same way.
  • Put the bones and the potatoes in your tank, make sure they sink, that they don’t leak, etc., all that good stuff
  • Take a Ziploc Quart bag, and fill it half way with water.
  • If you are using Lipavi racks, you can hang the bag in the tank on one of them with a clothespin, so that the opening stays above water level.
  • Otherwise, try to find a way to prop it up.
  • Give the water in the bag a few minutes to achieve the same temperature as the tank.
  • Drop the beans in the bag with the water, DO NOT SEAL.
  • Green vegetables emit gasses when exposed to heat, and if it is not allowed to escape, it will cause the vegetables to turn black.
  • Most of us have seen this without realizing the cause.
  • Even covering a pot of boiling water with asparagus or broccoli in it will do this.
  • It also has an unpleasant flavor.

Okay, now you have everything in the tank.

  • Process for one hour.
  • Remove the bag with the beans and carefully unload it into cold water. Remember, that water in the bag is hot.
  • Remove the red potatoes and shock cold.

That is one naked potato

  • If you want to peel the potatoes the way I did, you can shock them until they’re just warm enough to feel strangely comforting through a wet towel, which you rub them with.
  • This removes the skin, with a little help from a paring knife or a sharpened finger.
  • Don’t dig into them, and don’t gouge out the eyes.
  • Otherwise, just leave the peel on.
  • I mean, NOBODY peels red potatoes, come on, man.

Change the temperature in the tank and process @:

150Fx8-12 hours. Pinch. Shock. Refrigerate. Come back later.

  • From this starting point, the complete course will take 2 hours or less, assuming you have already chopped the parsley. Otherwise, you are on your own.
  • Preheat your oven to 350F.


  • Lay the ribs out on as large cutting board.
  • There’s a reason for this.


  • Lightly coat the ribs with flour, I like to use one of those shaker things so I don’t get too much on there.

  • That’s right, flip them over an do the other side too.

  • Coat them with egg white.
  • Pretend you are a little kid, and you are playing in the mud or the gutter or the paint or somewhere where you mom would scoop you up from before you made a gigantic mess, and just spread the egg whites all over the bones.
  • Don’t try to take a picture just now.
  • Believe me, I tried.
  • There will still be some egg white on the cutting board, DO NOT CLEAN IT UP!
  • Do not allow your spouse or whatever to clean it up yet, either.
  • There is a reason for this.
  • Wash and dry your hands.
  • NOW you can take a pic if you like.

  • The detectives among you have prolly figured this part out.
  • Sprinkle lightly, the surface is, of course, extremely sticky.
  • That’s what we want, right?


  • Sprinkle liberally with parsley, and let it fly all over the board, not to worry.

  • Both sides now, just like the song.
  • Put the ribs on a cookie sheet, I like to use those silicone mats, or parchment, just because there’s less clean up.
  • Other herbs are good too–fresh fennel frond, thyme, it doesn’t have to be parsley.
  • I like parsley.
  • I had a friend once, and she really dug the rosemary scented candles, air fresheners, back when that was the thing.
  • Up to then, I liked rosemary, with lamb, with Italian stuff.
  • Our friendship ended, and not well.
  • Since then, when I smell rosemary in a kitchen, or taste it in something, I feel like I’m eating soap.
  • This happens.
  • On the same, parsley littered, egg white residued board, put the potatoes.
  • Again, sprinkle with flour.
  • Roll them around on the board, there’s enough egg white there to coat them.

  • Sprinkle with S+P.

  • That’s the way I like it.

  • And more parsley.
  • Yeah, like that.
  • Put the potatoes on the sheet pan with the ribs.
  • Put the ribs and the potatoes in the 350F oven for one hour.
  • Meanwhile…
  • Lay your beans out there, I like to cut them all to an equal length, but it’s not necessary.
  • Pretty easy though.
  • Again with the flour.
  • Put the egg yolk that you saved on there.
  • We waste nothing today.
  • Again, with the little kid act.
  • Sticky, play with it, don’t be afraid.
  • Push the beans off to one side, and dry off half the board.
  • Doesn’t have to be clean, just dry.
  • Sprinkle some bread crumbs on the dry side.
  • See what I did there?
  • One by one, or whatever, lay the beans into the breadcrumbs.
  • Wet, but not dripping.
  • Dry your hands well.
  • Do this.
  • Push them around.
  • Until you get this.
  • Very important.
  • Let them rest.
  • Transfer them to a plate or something so that they don’t get piled up.

    Okay, NOW you can clean the board!

  • Put some of the Cranberry Ketchup in a little cup and put it on the plate.
  • When the hour is up, pan fry or deep fry the beans.
  • 350F, just until they’re brown, handle them carefully, so the stuff doesn’t break off.
  • Take the ribs and potatoes out of the oven.
  • Set the beans on the sheet pan with the ribs and potatoes.
  • Smart
  • Don’t worry about them getting cold.

  • Cut the potatoes in half, or not.
  • Your cutting board should be either in the sink or the dishwasher by now, so don’t sweat it.

  • Arrange the beans around the Cranberry Ketchup, like they do it downtown.

  • Do something like this.
  • Altitude.
  • Attitude.
  • Gratitude.
  • More Parsley.

  • That looks cool.

  • And crunchy.
  • Nobody is gonna eat this and say “I can tell you didn’t expose the meat to sodium ions before you applied this amazing coating.”

Don’t forget the Parsley.