Tomatoes are messy things. Purists tell you to drop them into boiling water until the skin splits. Then remove them and cool them, peel them, remove and discard everything except the outer flesh then use this in whatever dish you have planned.
That is far too much trouble for a midweek night dinner. But, I have found a solution. While on a recent trip to the north of Italy (To cycle the awesome Stelvio Pass. It is one of the world’s most beautiful and iconic climbs).
Our pre climb preparation usually involves a few libations to steady the nerves. On the night before we assaulted The Stelvio, we went into a local town and drank a skin-full of beer and wine. To afford myself some chance of cresting the mountain in reasonable shape, I took a break and did a bit of food shopping. In the town market, I came across a chap selling flaked tomatoes. They are dried tomato pulp and pack a huge flavour punch. A bag of them made it as far as Ireland, hidden amongst the smelly cycling shorts and socks. Here’s where I put some to use.
Sous Vide Italian Tomato Beef Fillet
As with so many sous vide “recipes” there is very little to this. The ingredients don’t warrant a list. I used two big beef fillets, flaked tomato, salt and pepper. I seasoned the beef with pepper then covered the top and bottom with a crust of tomato flakes. Then I vacuum sealed them before dropping into the sous vide for an hour and a half at 55°C/130ºF.
Side note on cooking beef fillet. Fillet is the most expensive cut of beef (You can tell by some of the names there are for it. The French “mignon” adds a bit of faux class but the phonetic “fill ehhh” irks me most). I like mine cut thick (expensive) and I like to hold the fillet together with kitchen twine, if I feel it’s needed. It was in this case.
Following the cooking, I seasoned with sea salt and gave them a quick go on a hot cast iron skillet. Half the sous viders amongst you might be getting all upset about my adding salt after cooking rather than before. Given the short cook, it makes no difference to the outcome. However, I do end up with nice salt crystals in the crust, so it’s worth doing it this way.
I served them with a very creamy mashed potato, achieved by adding an embarrassing amounting creme fraiche to the mixture. The unhealthy addition of lots of fat was offset by some broccoli. You can see it hiding behind the beef in the picture below. The eagle eyed amongst you wil notice the melting butter in the photo at the top of this post. I couldn’t help myself….
The result is that I have no beef with tomatoes. Both because this method produced a delightful flavour packed steak with a huge tomato hit and because we ate the lot. Delicious. So, if you find yourself in the locale of the Stelvio Pass, buy a bag of these delightful tomato flakes.
Footnote on flavour: We enjoyed the tomato flakes subsequently, flaked over some steamed cod. They bring a lovely freshness to the fish. If you get the chance, grab a bag. If I get my act together, I will post a recipe for it.