Fish may be the simplest ingredients to work on in the kitchen yet also the easiest to screw up. For me, nothing could get worse than overcooked fish. They just lose that very flavorful(uniquely sweet) juice once they cross and go beyond that thin line of perfect doneness.
The good thing with sous vide cooking is that you can cook your food, fish in this case, with perfect results that you can do consistently every single time. You just get a bigger window of time to make the fault of overcooking your food as long as you work within the appropriate cooking temperature.
I love milkfish. In fact, this may be my favorite fish coming next to salmon. It just has that naturally creamy taste, good amount of fat, and really fine flakes. The only downside with this fish would be is that it really has a lot of bones. If you don’t have the patience to eat through all those fine bones, well, they come deboned and neatly prepared too in the frozen section of most markets.
Begin by giving the fillets a generous seasoning of salt. This is of course up to your preference but we’re trying to make a sardine-like preparation in this recipe, which is typically a bit on the salty side. Leave the salt to work its way into the flesh for about 5 minutes.
Next, put the fish fillets in a sous vide bag with some olive oil, a few slices of garlic, some sun-dried tomatoes, a few capers, black peppercorns, a couple of bay leaves, and a pinch of chili flakes if you want a bit of heat.
The flavors we’re after if you’ll notice are typical of a traditional Spanish-style sardine. You can definitely go far from this inspiration and work your own twist of flavors into this dish. Put in tomato sauce in place of those sun-dried tomatoes. Some fermented black beans would also be excellent. A couple tablespoons of miso paste would work too. The bottom line is, work your own flavors in if you wish.
Set your sous vide bath to 140F using a high quality immersion circulator or decent water oven and get those bags in. Thirty minutes would be just right to get this relatively thin fish fillets perfectly cooked.
After 30 minutes, this milkfish confit would be good to serve. Don’t throw away that poaching oil in the bag. It’ll make for a very intensely flavored sauce which you’ll love over rice or soaked up with some crusty bread.
The meat came out really smooth, moist, and still delicately flaky.