Food Photography Credit: Monica Lo, @sousweed
Portrait Photography Credit: Sean Darko, @seandarko
At upscale restaurants, the high priced culinary experience comes with a long list of expectations — delicious food, creativity, impeccable service, and consistency, to name just a few. But in addition to trained chefs, long hours, and copious amounts of drugs, professional kitchens use a slew of tools and tricks to produce perfect steak and poultry every night. At the top of that gadget list is the sous vide technique, or cooking sealed portions of ingredients in a temperature-controlled water bath.
Once a sous vide machine brings a pot or large container of water to the perfect temperature, chefs pull out the same vacuum sealers and mason jars used by weed dealers across the globe, pack in the ingredients, and let it sit. The process evenly cooks meat without the guesswork of stoves or ovens, and allows for easy and contained infusions of flavor.
Of course, it was only a matter of time until someone figured out that the countertop gadget beloved by chefs everywhere was also the perfect tool to create perfectly-dosed cannabis edibles.
That’s where Monica Lo comes in. A medical marijuana user who discovered cannabis as a way to treat a herniated disc in her back, Lo was working at a sous vide machine start-up in California, helping to turn the pro tool into a household item. There, she quickly discovered that infusing her edibles with the sous vide method concealed the plant’s notorious stench from her landlord. After tweaking her infusions and developing a few best practice techniques, Lo decided to share her recipes with the world. Thus her blog, Sous Weed, was born.
Supplying instructions for infused oils and butters, and more complicated recipes to turn those fats into full dishes, Lo has carved out a niche as the foremost expert on sous vide edibles. In addition to her blog, Lo frequently collaborates with California cannabis companies to pair specific strains with complementary culinary infusions.
MERRY JANE reached out to Lo to learn more about her personal journey in cannabis, the sous weed method, and how to use a sous vide machine ourselves to create an out-of-this-world CBD-infused chicken & fennel salad.
Monica Lo’s Sous Vide Chicken & Fennel Salad with CBD Citrus Vinaigrette
Sous Vide Chicken Ingredients:
- 1 chicken breast, 1" thick
- Pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp butter
CBD Citrus Vinaigrette Ingredients:
- 1 tsp Sous Weed olive oil made with CBD-heavy strains, or favorite CBD tincture from your local dispensary
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 orange, segmented
- 1 Tbsp orange juice (from segmented orange leftovers)
- 1 Tbsp champagne vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Fennel Salad Ingredients:
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
- 1 romaine lettuce heart, torn into bite sized pieces
- 3 radishes, sliced thin
- 2 Tbsp fresh dill
- 2 Tbsp fresh mint, rough chop
- 1 Tbsp chervil (optional)
- 1/4 cup croutons (I used sourdough)
Directions for Sous Vide Chicken:
1. Preheat sous vide machine to 65°C (149°F)
2. Place chicken breast in a freezer-safe, zip-seal bag. Sprinkle on some salt and a pat of butter.
3. Seal the bag by slowly lowering the bag into the water, leaving the mouth of the bag open above the surface. This will cause the air to escape from the part of the bag that’s underwater, creating a vacuum seal around your food. Seal the bag completely.
4. Sous vide the chicken under water for 60 minutes.
Directions for CBD Citrus Vinaigrette:
1. In a small mixing bowl, gently toss all ingredients together and set aside to chill in the refrigerator.
Directions for Assembly:
1. In a large mixing bowl gently toss fennel, romaine lettuce heart, radishes, dill, mint, and chervil together.
2. Arrange mixed greens on serving platter. Scatter croutons on top.
3. Remove sous vide chicken from bag and pat dry with a paper towel. Slice the chicken breast into bite sized pieces and add to salad platter.
4. Take the orange segments from the vinaigrette and evenly distribute onto the plated salad. Drizzle the dressing on top and serve immediately.
Above, Sous Weed founder Monica Lo
MERRY JANE: How did you first discover cannabis personally, and when did you begin using it in your cooking? When did you start using the sous vide machine for your infusions?
Monica Lo: Sous Weed began as a passion project to document my cannabis-infused creations using the sous vide method. The interest first came from the need for holistic pain management when I herniated a disc. It was a struggle just getting out of bed, and I wasn’t responding well to the pain meds the doctor prescribed. I made the switch to cannabis because it was easier on the system and helped get me through my day-to-day tasks.
At the time, I had a strict landlord and I needed to be very discreet with the wafting scent of cannabis. So cooking on the stovetop was out of the question. I was the creative director of a sous vide startup and thought I’d put our machines to the test — and it worked! With the sous vide method, it was easy to make healthier cannabis infusions and save money by making less trips to the dispensary to purchase edibles. It’s been five years, my blog has since taken on new life, and now I get to create content with really fun brands in the cannabis industry.
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I took a lil hiatus but I’m back and connecting with peers in the #cannabisindustry with my #SousWeedTable project. I’ve found that sitting down to a home cooked meal with good herb leads to really great conversations. Last week I had @omedibles / @whoopiandmaya over for a lightly infused meal of #sousvide olive oil poached halibut and yuba pasta with wild mushrooms 🍄 Then she rolled me this beautiful joint 😍🌬
When we think of cannabis edibles, we often think of sweets first, but with Sous Weed you’ve also created tons of infused savory recipes. Has it been important for you to show a wide variety of what is possible with cannabis cooking?
My goal is to encourage people to use the plant as another superfood ingredient in the kitchen, not just an additive in a sweet treat. This means creating a variety of pantry items and cooking oils to use in your everyday meals. Let's be frank. If you live in a legal state, cannabis products are getting increasingly expensive, which means patients and caretakers are finding it difficult to get medicine in doses they need, at an affordable price. When you do-it-yourself, you have the freedom to dose your own meals to your personal preference.
Sous vide machines have been used in professional kitchens for years, but are still relatively new for most home chefs. Do you think that it will eventually become a common household appliance?
I hope so! And for those unfamiliar, sous vide is an increasingly popular cooking technique that calls for sealing ingredients in an airtight bag or mason jar and cooking them in a precise temperature water bath. Why sous vide? It offers a precise temperature control, meaning that babysitting a stovetop or slow-cooker is no longer necessary — you can set it and forget it! It is completely aroma-free during the infusion process. It makes it simple to infuse fats, oils, sugars, and alcohol, and you can save time and resources with the ability to make multiple infusions at once.
You often discuss cannabis as a fully-functional ingredient, and not just a boost of THC. Can you tell me about how the sous vide machine allows you to capture the plant’s entire flavor, and not just the psychoactive properties?
The gentle cooking temperatures of the sous vide method means that various cannabinoids, delicate terpenes, and aromas are left intact, making edibles that are delicious and true to the strain that you’ve chosen — rather than burnt and acrid. When the multitude of cannabinoids and terpenes from that particular strain are infused into your oil, they work together to boost the effectiveness of each medicinal compound in what we call the “entourage effect.”
When it comes to product selection for your recipes, do you cook with certain strains for their flavors and terpenes, or do you focus more on cannabinoid make-up, like THC and CBD percentages?
When it comes to my recipes, I work closely with my clients to select strains with terpene profiles that would work best with the dish I develop. On the flip side, sometimes I’ll build a recipe around a specific strain that the client wants to feature. You definitely want something that pairs well together — for example, a strain with a sweet berry or citrus aroma tastes better in a bright salad versus a savory meat dish.
Any big plans for Sous Weed in 2019?
2018 flew by and I didn’t get the opportunity to do any meaningful traveling. I’m planning to go on little culinary adventures throughout the year. I’d love to come back creatively inspired with a fresh perspective.
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