We have used the process of vacuum sealing meats, fish, fruits, vegetables and more to shape, form, infuse, marinate, compress, preserve and pickle. Something we did when we were solely using a FoodSaver was to vacuum marinate strawberries in a hard sided container. The pulling of a vacuum on the berries allowed the fast infusion and transfer of flavors without compressing the natural shape of the fruit. As time goes by we let this approach go. Why? I am not sure. It really was a great way to flavor berries in their apparently natural form.
I was reminded of this technique when we watched Andoni Luis Aduiz of Mugaritz restaurant use a Gastrovac to pull a vacuum on tomato slices sitting in mastic-tomato consomme. The release of the vacuum allowed the tomato to act as a sponge, drawing in all the flavor from the consomme while allowing a compression of cell walls, an intense color shift from raw to that of a cooked tomato and the complete retention of the tomatoes original shape. And yet no heat was applied. I sat in the audience watching this both dumbfounded and smiling. It took another passionate chef to reintroduce me to an approach we had all but forgotten about.
Currently we do not have a Gastrovac. Though we are able to replicate the process with our vacuum sealer. We can place fruits, vegetables--wonder about seafood as well-- in a high sided container in our vacuum sealer and then cover the ingredients with a flavorful liquid. At this point we just turn the machine on and draw a large vacuum on the ingredients in the chamber. When the vacuum is complete, the ingredients inside act as the sponge, sucking in all the flavors.
While my first attempt with this new old technique is planned with tomatoes and mozzarella water, I can foresee a new approach to transferring flavors while retaining shapes.