Friday, December 17, 2010

Sous Vide 'Fried' Scallops, roasted red peppers, onions, & green beans, crispy pan bread with parm cheese sauce

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Sous Vide pork chops

Above is a picture of pork chops I cooked sous vide. Without a doubt, pork is the most transformative of all things I have cooked sous vide. I'm a steak eater, so I tend to cook lots of Ribeyes and Tenderloin. However, I've now cooked pork chops and pork tenderloin two times each. What I've learned is that while you amy prefer steak to pork, pork by far makes the biggest difference with sous vide.

First i brined the pork chops in a 7% salt, 3% sugar solution. To be honest, I often eyeball this, but I do find that brining when cooking sous vide, or cooking period is a big help. Michael Ruhlman's book, "Ratio" is where I got the 7%-3% formula. I set my temperature controller to 145 degrees for about an hour and a half. I'm well aware that cook can be safe at as little as 130 degrees for a longer period of time, but I can't get past just how pinkish the meat looks. My pork is apparently like my wardrobe- I'm okay with just a little pink, but too much kinda freaks me out. As it stands, just the little pink that was there almost lead my Nanna to send it back and it was her favorite type of food- free. In all honesty, I think any misgivings that diners may have when eating sous vide pork with some pink are quickly washed away when they taste just how good it is.

It seems as though a great many people really like the flavor of pork, but cannot get past the over-cooked, often mealy consistency. Most are used to their mother's pork chops, cooked to remove all traces of pink. The first rule of most home cooks tends to be 'nobody dies on my watch.' For me it's a distant second, but I can't get past the aesthetics so I go with 145 degrees.

After removing the pork, I dried it, brushed it with some grapeseed oil and seared it off for the colored, Mallard effect. I couldn't believe just how tender it was and very flavorful. I served it with my standard roasted small asparagus, a simple recipe I love. If I'm cooking for more then just a few people, I find this a great go to. All the work is done for you while you can busy yourself cooking other, more labor- intensive parts of the meal.

1. get the tiniest asparagus you can find,
2. chop an inch or so off the bottom,
3. line a cookie sheet with foil,
4. spray with PAM or other cooking spray,
5. spread the asparagus on the sheet,
6. drizzle with olive oil, salt & pepper
7. put in oven at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes

Seven steps seems like a lot, but do this once and you'll be able to do it on auto- pilot forever. A nice, easy side vegetable dish, that presents well when plated alongside whatever else you're serving.

I also made crabcakes from an excellent recipe I found on epicurious. I have an application with recipes on it although I'm sure it can be found online as well. The recipe is actually from Bon Apetit magazine from April of 2009 called, 'mini crab cakes.' I ignore the mini and use full sized muffin pans instead. They're baked, not fried, delicious, and can be made ahead of time. I try to make them with risotto and use the leftover crab & cream cheese mixture together with leftover mushroom risotto (my other side, from the picture) to form a new, different form of crab cake when can be formed, par- baked and frozen. Not bad for leftovers!

Anyway, if you happen to stumble on a sous virgin who happens to already love pork in it's traditional, over-cooked form, make sure to sous vide some pork for them. It's nothing short of stellar.

I've also cooked pork tenderloin twice and will post on that as well.

picture posted on LA's #3- what i ate this weekend:,0,3465428.ugcphotogallery

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Auber Temperature Controller Arrives!

My temperature controller from Auber Instruments (pictured) finally arrived. (So did my calcium chloride & sodium alginate, but I'm going to wait on those until I get a scale that's accurate to the tenth of a gram).

First off, the Auber PID is sturdy. It's just one of those things that you buy, hold in your hands, and feel like it was worth what you paid for it (around $150 plus shipping). It also comes with a CD rather then an instruction manual, which I'm a big fan of. I plugged the controller into the wall then my crock pot into it and waited for the temperature to creep up to 137 degrees, my target for ribeyes.

This is where all hell broke loose. I don’t know whether my crock pot doesn’t jive with the temperature controller or what, but the crock pot kept kicking off around 130 degrees. I would notice that the temperature on the controller would reach a standstill- around 129 degrees and then stop going up. When I looked at the crock pot, I saw the power light mocking me- if in a cadence saying, ‘stupid....dumb.....moronic....purchase.’

I tried changing the crock pot settings, I tried my old strand by for fixing electronics (turning everything off, unplugging it, then turning it back on- I know, genius, right?), and I even called the crock pot companies for tips. They told me how to do a system reset, which I tried about 54 times, all to no avail. After extensive research (a google search), I found out that it’s a pretty common problem with this breed of crock pot. In the end, I had to hold down the button that turns the crock pot on to force it to stay heated.

Of course, this was a nuisance and exactly the sort of baby-sitting that I hoped my $150 sous vide investment would avoid, but I still needed to get through dinner that night. Given the severe case of nintendo thumb that I developed on my index finger from holding down the button, I only had the ribeyes at a buck 37 for around an hour- less then I hoped for. Given how much marbling there is with ribeyes, I wanted a good long cook so the fat would turn buttery rather then gristly. Oh well, I made it through, but the forced button pushing made the temp. ride high a little bit so it was less then perfect. I bitterly ate what was still a good steak, and vowed to get a rice cooker.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sous Vide Fried Chicken- can it be done?

Sous vide- Fried Chicken

As always you may wish to see my original blog post for details on how I made a machine to cook sous vide at home. Instead of spending $500- $2,000, I did it with stuff I had at hand, and have done very well.

From everything I had read and experienced regarding cooking sous vide, fried chicken seemed to be a perfect fit. Sous vide makes meat more tender, you don't have to use as much oil to season, and the protein is cooked uniformly from top to bottom.

I thought that if I could cook chicken sous vide, dry it, bread it like a chicken finger or fried chicken wing, and finish it in a pan with just a tablespoon or two of oil you could create a pretty good replica of the original, greasy, calorie-riddled original.

I heated my cooker to 140 degrees, and brined my chicken breast. I love the taste of wings, but typically prefer the ease of eating something boneless. I brined the chicken in the fridge for half an hour, using a 5% kosher salt to water ratio. I zeroed out my scale, added 50 grams of water, then 5 of kosher salt. Once I took the chicken out of the fridge, I dried it and seasoned it with garlic powder, pepper, and kosher salt. Then I sealed it in the bag and put it in the cooker.

Next I took the chicken out of the cooker after a little over an hour- from what I read I could have gotten by with 45 minutes, but I'm always overly cautious with chicken, especially if a little longer won't dry it out (as it would in the oven or on the grill). I dried off the two chicken breasts and dredged only one of them with flour, but not the other (I wanted to see if no flour would help the bread crumb outer layer from flaking off when cut). I dipped the breasts in my egg wash- I used two eggs and beat them together with a quick squirt of mustard. While my pan was heating with vegetable oil, I breaded them with panko bread crumbs, which are always very crunchy.

I cooked them off in the pan on high heat. Because all I wanted was to brown the bread crumbs and make them crunchy it didn't take long. Also, given the brief time in a small (much smaller then deep frying) amount of oil, I reasoned the chicken should be far healthier then it's soaked-in-oil cousin.

The chicken came out great. Very juicy and tender with a crunchy outside. While the flavor of the chicken on the inside was slighly different from fried chicken, it was just about as juicy as if it had been deep fried. If I were to consider the difference in calories, I would definitely stomach the extremely small gap in taste. I also wouldn't say one is necessarily better then the other, only slightly different.

The only issue I had with this fried chicken is the same I've always had. When you put the chicken in the egg wash, then the break crumbs it does give a nice crunch to the outside but it's also a separate layer from the chicken breast. Whenever I cut into the chicken, sometimes a larger piece of the breading will come off as well. It still tastes fantastic, but I wish it would stick firmly to the chicken.

Skipping the flour on one of the breasts was not the right move. It didn't help the breading stick any better, it was actually worse. Next time I'm going to make a couple of adjustments. For one, I think rather then brining the chicken, I'm going to have it soak in buttermilk with salt. This is much the same process, but my hope is that the buttermilk will help to further replicate traditional fried chicken. I'd also like to locate a good list of seasoning for vacuuming the chicken. For example, what did KFC used to advertise- 17 herbs and spices? I'm sure I could have used paprika and countless others. I'll try to remember not to overdue it since it was very flavorful, but I hope this will also make it as closer to deep fried chicken. Oh yeah, I'll also remember to take pictures next time, although I have plenty more for my next post- steak again!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quick Update

While I still owe several posts and pictures, I just ordered a sous vide controller. I'm not sure how long it'll take to get here, but it is coming from Georgia and going to NH so I'm hoping for under a week. I can't wait.

I'm also currently looking for a place to buy sodium aglinate and calcium chloride. If I'm unable to find it today in person, I will order it online tonight. So, there may be future posts regarding molecular gastronomy and sous vide together. If anyone has any ideas on where to find these items, please do not hesitate to leave comments.

I ordered the powders and I'm obviously looking forward to receiving them. I've seen lots of recipes online for pea ravioli, cilantro pearls, or mango ravioli, but I'm most interested the things I haven't yet seen. I most curious about the ratio of the oil or liquid (melted chocolate, etc.) to the chemicals. I'd really like to do the things I haven't seen yet- could you make a ball of cola & another of rum and have them splash together over a scoop of vanilla gelato? What about chocolate and peanut butter? A cheese imullsification with one made of roasted onions or garlic? What I really need is a Michael Ruhlman-esque breakdown of the ratios of flavored oils, etc. to the chemicals. After that, I think the sky is the limit in terms of saucing and presentation. This blog will still primarily be about sous vide, but I'm simultaneously optimistic about using molecular gastronomy as a supplement.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Third Sous Vide attempt- roast of tenderloin

You may wish to check out my original post for details on how I made a crock pot into an apparatus that can cook sous vide for NO. ADDITIONAL. MONEY

As I stated in my last blog, while I was not bowled over by my first attempt at cooking a filet, I still wanted to continue down the same path. Tenderloin has a couple of characteristics that make it stand out from a piece of ribeye, sirloin, chuck, etc.. 1. because it's so lean it does not possess as much natural flavor as the other steaks. That's why you almost never see it served without some sort of mushroom, bearnaise, or other sauce. And 2. if it's cooked as traditionally recommended (seared in a cast iron pan and finished in an oven) it is typically cooked evenly. The 'bulls eye' effect is not as prevalent.

So it stands to reason cooking tenderloin sous vide would not have quite the transformative effect that others do. The delta between filet cooked traditionally and filet cooked sous vide is not as great as it is with other cuts of steak. I was certain that if I could only get the steak to the perfect amount of doneness (for me, i think this is probably between 137 and 138 degrees) filet would remain my favorite type of steak, regardless of how it is cooked.

Unfortunately I chose to cook an entire roast for family members. Some of them are even of the misguided mindset that their steak is perfect when it was cooked medium/well. I rid myself of that initial problem by extending the invitation only on the contingency that 'under no circumstances will your meal be cooked medium/well.' Out of generosity, I settled on cooking the roast medium (140 degrees)- my goal of getting it cooked as I wanted it (between medium and medium/rare) would not happen this time around. Blessed by a wonderful family, but cursed with one with poor taste in steak, I lunged ahead. Oh well- I don't see myself tiring of this sort of cooking anytime soon.

I spent a lot of time planning this meal. While I was frustrated I need to intentionally 'overcook' the steak, I was excited at the notion of cooking for others. I decided to serve the tenderloin 'two ways' as I have often heard on the cooking shows (although not truly two different 'ways,' just two different sauces). For one, I made a rosemary and roasted onion sauce. And the other, I made a smoked cheddar and roasted garlic sauce. I served the steak on top of homemade bread (another new hobby I've picked up) for the with roasted asparagus, and a roasted corn and pablano pepper slaw (one of the LA Times best recipes of 2009).

I seasoned the tenderloin with garlic powder, kosher salt, and pepper, vacuum-sealed it with the ziploc system, and refrigerated it. I brought it out of the fridge 45 minutes or so before i was ready to put it in for an hour and a half. When I brought out the tenderloin, I also fired up the crock pot on the highest setting possible and waited for the steak and the the sous vide cooker to warm up.

The crock pot reached 140 degrees and I put in the tenderloin. I find, depending on the size, that the protein may drop the temperature by a degree or two which this one did. I watched the thermometer religiously for the next hour and a half and shut it off at a couple points when it reached a hair over 140 degrees.

When I got the ten minute warning people were ready to eat, I turned on the grill as high as it would go, brushed the roast with grape seed oil, and seared it. I cut into it and it was perfectly consistent form top to bottom, but a little overcooked for my taste, even given my lowered expectations. I think those few moments when the steak grazed about the 140 degree mark may have hurt it just slightly. However, it was still succulent, consistent, and tasty. Everybody claims to have loved it, but they were all family members so who knows what the truth is.

For the next post I may switch it up and detail my first attempt at chicken and 'fried' chicken as well (I cooked the chicken sous vide, coated it, and finished it in a couple tablespoons of oil).

If anybody has any questions re: the tenderloin or other recipe, please comment! I'd also welcome any comments on if other people have tried a similar set up as me- did I luck out with this crock pot and the fact that it hovers on warm around 140 degrees?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Second time Sous Vide- Tenderloin is the night

Please see my original blog post for details on my home sous vide set up and how to do one yourself for $0-$55!

Cooking a 'garden variety' steak sous vide at home accomplished two things-
1. a fantastic piece of sirloin, &
2. the fast desire to sous vide with tenderloin, my personal favorite

I put the filet in a plastic bag and sealed it. This time, I used slightly more seasoning then I did with the sirloin because tenderloin isn't as flavorful. I popped it in my homemade sous vide machine and waited an hour to take it out.

To be honest, I was slightly underwhelmed by the filet. For starters, I let the temp creep up to 140 degrees once too often and it was just a little too cooked for my taste, although still plenty tender.

The other issue is that cooked properly in most any manner, filet is tender as is. I said to myself, "thus the name genius, 'tender'loin." Sous vide-ing it didn't change it quite as much as I anticipated. Still incredible, but not quite as transformative as it was with the sirloin and no doubt, other steaks.

While I was waiting for the steak to be done, I was struck by the time component of sous vide. If I had a full blown immersion circulator, I could use a sous vide much the same as a crock pot. Essentially, 'set it and forget it.' That would be fantastic- just throw in your protein when you get home from work (or at the beginning of the day), crack it open at dinner time, and enjoy. The Sous Vide supreme may be even more around the corner then I originally thought.

I still can't resist tenderloin. My next blog post will detail an entire tenderloin roast I did for myself and 5 family members. And this time, I remembered to take a picture. If I can figure out how to post it, I will. I cooked it 2 ways- one with a roasted garlic & smoked cheddar sauce and another with a roasted onion and rosemary sauce over roasted asparagus and alongside roasted corn and pablano pepper slaw.