Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sous Vide Supreme: Duck Confit Reducks

Earlier, I promised to come back with the results from the Duck Confit.  It was, of course, supremely easy to make and extraordinarily delicious.  I used Tom Colicchio's recipe as a basis for the recipe.   Here were the choices I made:
  1. Added 1 TSP roasted garlic powder.  More on that some other time.
  2. I let the duck sit for 24 hours and wiped away all the salt.
  3. Put the duck into the bag with 1/4 cup of rendered duck fat and tossed it into the Sous Vide Supreme at 178F until it was tender.
  4. Afterwards, I seared the confit in a hot pan.
The confit was served on a Lacinato Kale Caesar.  Best part is, I have enough confit left to make something else.  Like, oh I dunno, maybe some duck confit tacos!

ps: I am going to be wrapping up my SVS posts this week.  Should have a final eval post up early next week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Altered Tastes: Tacos

Previously on Altered Tastes, I discussed the joy of an amazing fresh tortilla.  the tortilla is ultimately a vessel for me.  a vessel to ferry meats, fish, shellfish and octopus, spicy salsa, salty cheese, fresh vegetables, broken glass, gravel, anthrax, etc.

My first day in Mexico had me stomping through the flooded streets of Cabo San Lucas.  They don't get a lot of rain in Cabo, so stomping through the flooded streets of Cabo means stomping through one part water, one part mud and one part raw sewage.   During our travels, we walked by many things, including a mattress floating down the street.  However, on a side street somewhere, I walked right by perfection itself.  The spinning pillar of roasted meat.  Tthe spinning pillar of meat is sacred.  Ancient and Carnal.   Since we were exploring town and the streets were running with dysentery we didn't stop.  But I knew I would be back.

Several days later I had some free time, while the rest of the crew was swimming with dolphins.  No one lets you eat dolphin.  Time to find my taco place.  Fortunately, Cabo is a small town.  After zigzagging through the streets, I finally found it:

Stepping inside, I found myself in front of a dude who was behind a festival of meats. The meats were on a heated griddle with a raised center.

The lower altitudes were where the meats rested and remained warm.  The dome was substantially hotter and when i selected my tacos (chorizo and carnitas), he would take some from each corner and put it on the dome to heat up.  Since I dont speak Spanish I would point at meats and he would scoop them into tortillas.  Just past the taco guy, I found a tiny fixin's bar with house-made salsas and miscellaneous vegetation.  Things got crazy confusing after that.  Pretty much like your first day of school at the cafeteria.

Where do I pay?  How do I get a drink?  Where do I sit?  None of this would make me anxious in a place where I speak the language. Fortunately, I made some new friends to sit with to make me feel comfortable:

Simply served, tiny, two-ply tacos.  amazing carnitas and possibly the best chorizo i ever had.

Is it sad when a plate of tacos is your BFF?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Altered Tastes: Tortillas In Mexico

Both Matt of mattbites and Ruhlman mentioned how fresh tortillas and salsas were his favorite experience during food blogger camp.  While I did not attend, I happened to be in a different part of Mexico around the same time.  I couldn't agree more.  The tortillas were unbelievably delicious.  I was in Cabo San Lucas, and even though everywhere I went I had completely different tortillas, they were all amazing.  During some of my adventures walking around town, I came across this place:

The folks at Perla were kind enough to let us take some pictures of there tortilleria operation.  Sadly, this is what I do on vacation.  These two women were what we first saw when we entered the factory.  They perform two really valuable functions: packaging and quality control.  You can see in the middle they have stacks in front of them as well as a pile of rejects.

The tortillas they were sorting were all coming out of this leviathan of a machine that is clearly cooking the tortilla.  I was trying to not be intrusive so I can't tell you exactly how this all works.  I do know that they were making both corn and flour tortillas.

This woman was pressing tortillas and tossing them onto a conveyor belt.  She was fast.  Like ungodly fast.  Like will not be replaced by a machine fast.  She always had a ball of masa in one hand and a tortilla in the other.  Every picture I have of this woman involves a tortilla blur streaking across it.

Eating tortillas in mexico totally schooled me.  I now know what a tortilla is supposed to taste like.   And now that means I can never buy packaged tortillas from a grocery store ever again.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Circulator Vs. Water Bath: Fight!

So, there are a lot of distinctions between different approaches to sous vide cooking appliances.  One difference between the immersion circulators and water baths (including classic PID controllers) is the ability to move the water around.  This helps keep the temperature of the water regulated more precisely.  Think of it like a bath.  You fill your bathtub up with hot water, then you get into the tub.  After some time, the water gets cold and you turn on the hot water tap.  The whole bath tub doesn't immediately get warmer, just the water near the heat source.  Usually, I start moving my hand around to equalize the temperature.

The fine folks at PolyScience did some testing to see what the actual impact of this was on food being prepared.  Their tests show that as water baths adjust to the introduction of cold product (e.g. refrigerated chicken breasts), they actually will raise the temperature of the water above the target setting.  My understanding of the experiment is that they put twelve chicken breasts in each 16L bath.  This resulted in the core temperature of the chicken to go 4 degrees over the desired temperature (about 2.5% over).   Another interesting tidbit was that the location of the product inside of the water bath (in the center vs. near the walls) also impacted cooking time and temperature.

What Does This Really Mean

This test is incredibly important if you are in a professional environment, where precision is critical and you are dealing with a lot of chilled product.  If I were in a professional kitchen I would definitely be looking to use an immersion circulator, for the reasons they mention in the blog post.

For the consumer sous-vide market, it is less important.  Their experiment involved adding a tremendous amount of chilled product compared to what you are likely to be doing at home, and you also might not care as much about the temperature deviation.    That being said, I would refer you to Jean-Francois' post on this subject.  He sums up Douglas Baldwin's and Frank Hsu's advice on food safety, which is important.  He also noticed that PolyScience tagged their post with 'Sous Vide Supreme', which could be an indicator that this is counter-marketing against the SVS.  Great catch :)

Post Video Watchin'

There is actually a video of the experiment that I just watched:

Crap, they use the same analogy I used with the bathtub.  Also, I think the video was just a recreation of the actual experiment, as the temperature on the PolyScience immersion circulator didn't get back up to 160 degrees, which is the temperature they said in the chart they were testing.

Sous Vide Supreme: Pulled Skate With Sauteed Chard

In the past I have eluded to a skate dish I had made that really coaxed the urine flavor out of this odd fish.  Since I served urine soaked skate to my girlfriend, I have been a little skittish about trying this dish again.  The dish in question?  Pulled Skate With Sauteed Swiss Chard.    Skate is naturally stringy, and pretty much looks the part of pulled pork.

Pulled pork is actually a low temperature, slow cooked chunk of pig.  Slowly smoked, the connective tissue converts into gelatin, getting all gooey and delicious.  Hand shredded and then slapped between bread or served over rice, this is an amazing experience.  There is a lot of barbecue religion in this country, but my personal favorite prep for pulled pork is Eastern North Carolina style (and yes, there is also a Western North Carolina style.  This basically means smoked and then doused with a thin tangy-peppery barbecue sauce.

When adapting this for sous vide and fish, I did take some short cuts.  No rub.  No smoke (although next time I think I will use some smoked paprika or chipotle).  I also didn't use any fat, making the skate pretty happy.  Also, instead of white bread I used a baguette.  Recipe after the pic.

  1. Preheat the Sous Vide Supreme to 150F.  Yes, it is a little on the high side, but we do want the skate to be a little stringier.    
  2. Since ammonia is a base, I started by putting the skate in acidulated water.   This was effective in neutralizing any potential pee flavor.   Acidulated water is really just an acid like vinegar or lemon juice (which is what I used) mixed in water.  I let the skate sit in the water for about 30 minutes.  This was probably a little too long, but after my previous experience, why take the risk.  
  3. While the skate pee is being neutralized, mix together the barbecue sauce.  It is basically 2 cups of vinegar, TBS brown sugar, TBS cayenne, TBS Tobasco and s&p.
  4. Remove the skate from the acidulated water and pat dry.
  5. Put the skate into a bag along with 4 TBS of the barbecue sauce.
  6. Cook the skate in the water bath for 25 minutes.  The skate I used was ~1LB and was bone-in, which I personally recommend.
  7. I sauteed the chard with chopped garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, s&p.
  8. Remove the skate from the bag and put it into a bowl.  Using a fork, shred the skate.  Then pour on a lot more bbq sauce.  season with salt and pepper.  You really want to taste the sauce here.
  9. Place chard and skate on bread or rice or whatever.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sous Vide Supreme: Octopus

I have written about this before.  But!

It is sooo awesome.  It is sooo easy.  It is perfectly tender.

Scared?  Don't be.

1. Buy whole and fresh from a fishmonger you trust.  You can have them do a first pass on the octopus and remove the guts, the beak and the eyes.

2. Use kitchen shears to break down the octopus into a head and tentacles.  I chuck the part of the octopus that connects the two (it is where the beak used to be).

3. Wash the octopus parts.  They generally chill out at the bottom of the ocean.  That basically means mud.  Mud is not delicious.  Make sure to get rid of all of the grit.  There is something about this step that makes me respect the fact that the octopus was a living creature.  A delicious, living creature.  The suction cups open up when you rinse them under the faucet.  The suction cups will also latch onto you.

4. Dry tentacles.

5. I mixed smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt, and pepper together and let all the goodies steep in olive oil for a little while.

6. Put octopus and oil mixture in the bag and pump air out.

7. Put it into a water bath at 180F.  I generally let it cook for a a couple of hours.  The end result is awesomely tender and delicious octopus inside of a bag full of octo-umami-goo.  You can take it and reduce it down for a sauce if you like.   I ended up taking the resulting octopus and added it to pasta one night. The next night, they were used for octopus tacos with chipotle, shredded cabbage, avo, pickled red onion stuffed into homemade tortillas.   Then stuffed into my gaping maw.

Just like mom never made.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sous Vide Supreme: Duck Confit

Go big or go home. That is what I always say. Actually I never say that. I think I say go big and go home. Which doesn't really convey the original expression. And really, I just want to go home.  And tomorrow I will be thinking about going home, because this bag of salt cured duck parts with smothered in rendered duck fat:

just got dropped into this:

Tick Tock.  Tick Tock.

I'll talk about Duck Confit and my results in the next post.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sous Vide Supreme: My Precious

Received a demo SousVide Supreme today. I am incredibly excited that I have the opportunity to test drive an appliance that I hope will mark the first major milestone for the adoption of Sous Vide for the home cook.

I invite you to join me over the next two weeks as I do a deep dive into the SousVide Supreme, exploring every nook and cranny.

Escolar: The World's Most Dangerous Fish

Escolar is the most controversial fish that you are likely to find in your fish market. This firm, white fleshed fish has an incredibly ric...