Cut the ends off of a small watermelon. Stand it up. Peel the watermelon using long, single strokes from top to bottom. This is difficult at first, but learning it will greatly save prep time in the future.
Patience is the key. Continue working around the watermelon until it is completely peeled. If there are a couple of little white traces, that is okay. Cut a thick slice from the center as shown. Don’t worry, none of the melon will be wasted. I, myself, snack on the remnants left on the rind!
Cut the thick slice from corner to corner. I left the little white spot on the upper left of the slice intact for a reason, as we can see below. I like to have a little fun with this so I trim it to look more or less like a center cut New York Steak (entrecote).
The little white spot represents that tiny bit of gristle that is usually left on strip steaks for the purpose of identification. The watermelon can also be shaped to resemble a rib eye steak, for example, but this is not necessary to the success of the dish. It’s just something that we do to interject a little whimsy into our day!
A chamber vacuum will give you this result. A channel vacuum like a Foodsaver device, will also work but may release water into the machine. This prevents a good seal. You can wrap the melon in a paper towel to prevent this. This result can also be achieved without any machine at all, but it requires cutting a particular shape that fits precisely into a special form with a caliper driven press. As you turn the handle of the caliper, it squeezes the melon hard enough to remove the air/water. I’m glad we don’t have to use them any more.
Remove the steak, er, watermelon from the bag, and cut into slices as desired. You will see that it is quite firm and easy to handle. This is how I did it:
There are no rules to the flavorings, but those who know me have heard me talk about putting salt and pepper on fruit. Chopped mint, parsley, even fennel seeds and mustard seeds create an interesting sensation. Gastrique is simply caramelized sugar with a little vinegar and some fresh flavor dissolved in it. I try to keep it around. Licorice root, rosemary, mint, lime, almost any flavor can be incorporated after first caramelizing the sugar and then carefully splashing a little vinegar into it.
Trim the thick slice of watermelon into a rectangle. Wrap in a towel, and process. This will give you an even sturdier, drier result. Meanwhile, I sliced some strawberries and pinched them into a pastry ring, which I then vacuumed.
The strawberries are in a random pattern, but they can be arranged into a “wall” around the outside, continuing towards the center and giving you a sort of pinwheel effect. Making a few is fun. Making two hundred for a banquet at the hotel: not fun.
As seen below, the thick slice of melon appears quite white on the surface, as a result of the towel absorbing a lot of moisture. But the wet towel does not turn red, it is quite clear.
I cut the watermelon just like I would cut the typical “London Broil,” on the bias. I then shingled it from right to left (always), and drizzled with all of my Pollockesque savory and sweet sauces–Ranch, French, Balsamic, etc.
I want to believe that this resembles some of the work of De Kooning, another great abstract 20th century artist. Like I said, I WANT to believe.
Maybe a little bit more like my grand daughter’s finger painting. She IS really good, though.
I just can’t seem to get Pollock out of my mind.
All whimsy aside, I’m sure the artistic among you can create some really great designs using these simple ingredients and colors. Myself, I am content to enjoy the amazing flavors and textures that accompany sous vide processing, whether it be hot or cold!
We still had a lot of nice melon and berries, so we are adding an alternate presentation! After compressing the watermelon and the strawberries (shingled into the same ring), we created one of those more old fashioned pinwheel/flower presentations. I thought about drizzling some balsamic syrup on top, but settled with a spritz of the red onion/mustard vinaigrette.
These are somewhat time consuming, but can also be made in a large form, and served family style, center table. The strawberries and melon are not really stuck together, so with some toothpicks, you can have a really fun conversation starter!