My Beef With Tomatoes – A Sous Vide Story

 

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.

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Latest comments
  • Or eBay! I’ve been buying tomato powder and flakes from there for years. I really must try this application though – it sounds Ffa!

  • They look delicious. I’ve been drying small Santa tomatoes (halved) in a dehydrator and the intense flavour is amazing. The Spanish have the easy method of getting tomato into a soup or stew without any fuss – they cut them in half and grate them. The pulp goes into the pan and the skin stays in your hand. Not so great for sous-vide though.

      • You should be OK, it’s not like using a mandolin!

          • It works best with soft tomatoes sliced in half. Hold the half towards the middle with the thumb and 3 fingers as you grate. I do it straight into the pot, but you can do it over a bowl beforehand.
            I’m generally more inclined to chop the ends off a finger with a sharp knife 😉

  • Butter is essential with mash. Looks lovely!

  • Saw Italian tomato flakes on this site for £6 http://www.piccantino.co.uk.

  • Er… Ffa? That was meant to be ‘fab’!

  • Wow, what a coincidence! I was in Stresa last week. Practically spittin’ distance from Stelvio Pass, by Texas standards. If only I’d known to look for tomato flakes! Found plenty of great beer, though. Flew back to Texas out of Milan on Friday.
    Anyhoo, I just checked Amazon for tomato flakes. There were a couple of choices. Did you purchase an Italian brand or purchase by weight? I eagerly await your reply. I can’t wait to try this recipe with venison (since that’s what fills our freezers).

  • Oh my goodness, this looks so delicious my nose is scenting the air just to catch a hint of aroma.

  • Brilliant! I always love it when an ingredient looks pretty too; it could so easily be a brown powder or some chopped khaki something or an anonymous beige paste. Probably why smoked paprika’s one of my favourite…

  • Pie-eyed from lack of sleep you would understand: well, we’re south to Nancy – not certain what is being harvested below the helos but, of so pretty ! . . .Must hunt around for tomato flakes which sound eminently sensible but will not make friends with a water-bath in this house 🙂 ! Looks tasty . . . if I can afford the ‘filet’ !

  • Have never seen those tomato flakes before. When I first saw your ingredient shot, I was thinking: what is Conor going to do with that jar of minced beef, and where are the tomatoes? That’s what I get for reading your posts on my phone — your beautiful photography ought to be viewed on a larger screen. I would go 50C/122F on the fillet, but that’s because I prefer it a bit more rare after searing.

  • i’ve seen these in Bolzano and in Merano on the local market …and they alway try to sell these … next time (september) i’ll take some and i’ll give these a try …. looks and sound great …. and that with a locla Lagrein (red wine) from Alto Adige … i’m looking forward …

    thankx for the good idea.

  • Tomato flakes was quite the find! I’m going to have to google it. I oven roast our tomatoes that we grow but I have no time to be boiling, peeling, etc. Such a pain. As usual, an amazing dish.

  • I need some of those tomato flakes!

  • I made it last night, but used picanha as that’s what I had, and added a little Aleppo pepper to the mix. I served it with my latest obsession – corn, tomato, feta, scallion and mint salad. It really was Ffa. Fab. Ffs!

  • I suspect that a sprig or two of fresh tarragon in the bag would have been a great match. Of course, I surely have no beef with it as-is.Filet + tomato is a wonderful marriage.

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