Archive for the ‘Sous Vide’ Category

Sous Vide Short Ribs

July 15, 2010

Short Ribs in BBQ Sauce and Cut from the Bone

I cant recall ever eating beef short ribs in my life. When people talked of ribs it was always pork and when Dolores talked of ribs, she meant baby back pork ribs. This was all fine with me as I don’t have a cultural aversion to pork and steak once a week was more that enough beef. I decided to try sous vide short ribs in my continued experiments with higher temperature longer cooking time sous vide.

I decided to give it my best shot by doing a similar method to the pork ribs previously described.

Brine Bath for Short Ribs

The brine was simple and consisted of the following ingredients.

Beef Brine Recipe

16 oz water

2 Tablespoons salt

1 heaping Tablespoon Brown Sugar

½ tsp thyme

½ tsp rosemary leaves

1 full teaspoon crushed garlic

1 bay leaf

I only had time to brine the ribs for 2 ½ hours and think that was enough.

Ribs Rubbed with Spice Blend

The ribs were patted dry and then rubbed with the spice blend I had made for the pork ribs.

Vacuum Packed and in the Pot

After the short ribs were vacuum sealed, they were placed in the coffeepot and held down with a spoon handle. Water was run through the coffeemaker to bring it up to 170 Fahrenheit right away and the ribs were held at this temperature for 6 ½ hours.

Finished Cooking Without BBQ Sauce

You can see from the picture of the ribs as they were removed from the bag that there was the typical shrinkage from the bone and the meat was tender and moist. When cut from the bone as above (top), you can see that the meat had a pleasant pink color. They were smothered in my homemade BBQ sauce and served with potato salad.

These were good for a change of pace but I still prefer my swine.

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Lamb Sous Vide – La Quinta Motel

July 2, 2010

For those who don’t know and that is many professional chiefs in America, Sous vide cooking is low temperature cooking with the meat sealed in a vacuum bag.  It was all the rage of cooking blogs about two months ago but has dropped off the horizon.  I am still curious as to whether it is food fact or food fiction that it does a better job than traditional methods.

I simply haven’t had any success with low temperature sous vide because I have been busy getting my neck fixed and don’t think it would be wise to carry sophisticated electronic controllers through Customs and TSA. Still, I knew I would be bored and would do some cooking in my Hotel Room, but my first attempt at finding a rightsized cooker more traditional than a coffeepot was the small Crockpot which simply didn’t work as well. I like my coffeepot cooking in making “meals for one” because the food tastes the way it is supposed to and that is not always the case with sous vide.

When I was shopping for the Crockpot, I saw a fondue pot and started playing with the thermostatic control. I discovered it was a continuous dial with no fixed set points and when I turned it between off and warm, there was an audible click about half way between the two settings. I dint buy it right away because it was $30 and I didn’t know if it would work. With the small Crockpot a total failure incapable of making a safe stew or soup, I went back and bought my $30 “Sous Vide Egalitarian” Fondue Pot, a $10 digital thermometer, and a $2 dinner plate to use as a cover and to eat off of. My vacuum Pump and Vacuum Bags were Ziplock and the starter kit was under $5.00. Once again, the bags were allegedly Polyethylene but really didn’t feel like it. Caveat Emptor!

I chose a rather poor cut of Lamb, a shoulder chop, which has flavor but can be greasy when roasted or dry when grilled. I did this on purpose because it’s easy to cook a good piece of meat and if I’m going to buy new equipment or use new techniques it has to be special. The Picnic HamBBQ Ribs, and Turkey were special but can be done almost as well in normal equipment at normal temperatures and nothing else I did worked.

The review by Cara Parks claimed that cooking Lamb for one Hour at 134 was all that was needed and that it was excellent. My piece of meat was tougher and also I like my lamb about 140 at the bone so I choose 2 hours at 145.

It really wasn’t tough to set up the Fondue pot as a Sous Vide cooker. I put water in and heated it up. If it got too hot, I added cold water and turned down the dial. Two notches below warm was proper for 145 and it held very constant for the 2 hours needed to cook the meat without any adjustments or water added.

Lamb in the "Sous Vide Egalitarian" Fondue Pot

The meat was seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and placed in the vacuum bag. Because of the fat, it floated until I placed a set of keys on the bag to weight it down. A lid was placed on the Fondue Pot to hold the heat.

Serving Plate Used as Cover

The picture below is the uncooked and unseasoned piece of meat. The one right below it is the piece after it was cooked for two hours at 145 Fahrenheit. Take note it is really cooked as the meat has broken away from the bone and the texture of the meat and fat has changed. Unlike high temperature roasted shoulder chops, the grease did not spread to the meat and the fat was easy to remove from the meat.

Uncooked Lamb

Cooked Lamb Chop

I would consider this a First Class win for Sous Vide that is pretty much unique to this style of cooking. A slow cooker is fine for tenderizing a cheap cut of meat, but only if you like eating all the grease and fat that come with the least expensive cuts.

So So Chicken Sous Vide & American Sous Vide

June 19, 2010

American Sous Vide

There is an old saying “To a man with only a hammer every problem looks like a nail” and therein lies some of the outrageous claims associated with sous vide.  I am working with higher temperature sous vide because it allows every cook who owns a crock-pot or a coffeepot a chance to try it.  The only other item needed is a $20 Renolds Handi-Vac device to vacuum pack the meal prior to cooking.  Just like I don’t expect that every meal will be appropriately fried, I don’t believe there is one cooking device that is perfect for everything but you can never tell until you try.

As previously reported, I liked the sous vide impact on Picnic HamBBQ Ribs, and Turkey.  However, this is the report on two disappointments. Since both of these meals will not be repeated, I am skipping the details.  The detailed pictures of brining and coffeepot sous vide are in the discussion of BBQ Ribs.

So So Chicken Sous Vide

So So Sous Vide Chicken with Hearty Sauce

The chicken, used the same brine as the Turkey Confit but the time was much shorter about 3 hours.  After removal from the brine, the meat was patted dry and peppered. This was placed in the bag with olive oil and vacuumed.  After removing it from the bag, I tasted it only to find it band. Instead of serving with rice, I heated the Rasta Pasta sauce and smothered the chicken in it to give the meat some flavor.

It seems when you cook the chicken with the sauce as in Chicken Cacciaore or Pot Roasted chicken, the end result is a moister and more flavorful bird.  Part of this may be to the higher temperatures and times that I am using for sous vide but I doubt it.  I did chicken at 1 hour at 160 and for 12 hours at 175 Fahrenheit. Neither is worth repeating.  I will still test a recipe at the low temperatures when I get well, return home and start another round of sous vide experiments.

American Sous Vide

I have never seen a recipe call for eye of the round steak in any culture and yet the cut of meet is prominently displayed and marketed in American Grocery Stores. Cooked in any normal recipe, it is dry, tough and grainy. But what the heck, I still had some left over from my low temperature failure so I figured I’d give it a go by brining, adding olive oil and cooking it in the bag for 14 hours at 175 Farenheit.  I new I was in trouble when no moisture formed from the breakdown of the meat so I fried up some mushrooms and onions in butter and smothered the meat when served.

Since I had been drinking rather heavily that afternoon with a tourist I met from Orlando, my sense of humor kicked in as I ate the overcooked dry beef with mushroom sauce.  I decided to smother it in ketchup. I mean what could be more American than smothering a piece of overcooked dried beef with a mushroom onion sauce with ketchup.

Well it was less dry and I had the post drinking munchies so I  ate the whole thing but would neither order it from a restaurant or cook it again.

Sous Vide Ham and Chopped Greens

June 18, 2010

Sous Vide Ham and Chopped Greens

I have throughly enjoyed all of the time I spent writing over the past few weeks, I shut down my wife’s dry cleaners because I can’t handle the physical stress of maintenance nor the mental stresses of human interactions. The goal of the doctors is to get my blood pressure down so that they can cut my throat. Sounds gruesome, but the throat area happens to be where your neck bones are and I prefer my description.

This will be my last post for a couple of days until  I get relocated in Florida for my neck surgery. Obviously for awhile I had been  too busy cooking so even in Florida, I have work to do to get caught up on unpublished meals.

I am having fun with sous vide at the higher temperature of a crock-pot or coffeepot cooking new meals that I could not dream of a better way to make. My mother used to make many meals out of picnic ham because it was her way to stretch a dollar and get leftovers for sandwiches. It is tough to pick a good one without too much hidden fat, that is not too salty or cooks too dry but mom always worked her magic. I grew up with picnic hams  and frankly find the butt hams a rather tasteless uninteresting staple that is meatier, more controlled and less complex than smoked picnics. My mother used to spice up the smoked picnic ham even further with horseradish, mustard and cloves.

Over cooked leftover ham in a split pea soup is tender and delicious and I was curious about what effect sous vide would have on a soup style overcooked ham served with chopped greens.

I purchased a ham steak and cut it into thirds. I used to cook the whole thing, eat half and then eat the other half as my breakfast protein instead of tuna or sardines. Eating a third is obviously better. The procedure was easy and straight forward.

Portion Controll the Ham Steak

Recipe

5 oz ham steak soaked overnight in 16 oz water 1 ½ Tablespoons Brown Sugar

½ Teaspoon brown mustard

½ teaspoon horseradish

3 cloves

The soaking in sugar water removes excess salt without altering the picnic taste. The mustard and horseradish are mixed in a bowl then spread evenly over the ham steak and three cloves pressed into it.

Seasoned Ham Steak

The steak is carefully placed in a Handi-Vac bag and the air removed. The ham is then placed in the Coffeemaker and held in place with a spatula handle and 10 cups of water are run through the coffeemaker to bring the pot up to cooking temperature.

Finished Cooking

At the end of 8-12 hours of cooking the vacuum bag was still holding it’s own.

The chopped greens had no recipe, Salted water was brought to a boil. Two cloves of sliced garlic and a tablespoon of butter were added to the bot and when the boiled a second time, the chopped greens were added and done in about minutes.

This is not the prettiest meal I have ever made but it was excellent. The ham had all of the flavor of horseradish, mustard and cloves infused in every morsel. And the greens went with it perfectly. If I had cut the meat more carefully and selected the solid pieces instead of the piece near the bone with all the fat, it would have been prettier but then it would not have been the most sever test. As it was, I don’t know where the fat was or how it broke down enough to poor down the drain, but my ham steak wasn’t greasy at all and any fat left with the ham was easy to separate with my knife and fork.

Emperor’s Salad

June 15, 2010

Emperors Salad

I made a sous vide Turkey Confit salad tonight for dinner and it was great but I substituted olive oil for duck fat or lard and don’t know what to call it. Is this Healthy Turkey Confit or since it had artichoke hearts, black olives, arugula and roasted red peppers in the salad do I call it “Turkey Confit Sous Vide Ensalada Italiana” because Turkey is American, Confit and Sous Vide are French and the other ingredients are typically associated with Italian Antipasto.  I first called it the International Emperor’s Salad and then shortened it to Emperor’s Salad because few know about the Chinese version. And yes, there was a beloved and cherished American Emperor and to find out who he was jump to the last paragraph.

Once again I returned to the highly technical article on sous vide cooking by Douglas Baldwin for two main reason. He is the only sous vide cook I have stumbled on who talks about higher temperature sous vide and the first meal I built from his knowledge was excellent. I will mention his work a few more times before moving on and feel that it’s too bad his book got panned. The problem is, he is not a detailed recipe writer for novice cooks but a knowledge provider for the more experienced who just need a sense of direction to get started and do the right thing.

Brine Bath

Brine Ingredients:

16 oz water

2 Tablespoons Salt

1 ½ Tablespoons Brown Sugar

1 level tsp thyme

Bay leaf broke in Half

1-3 Slices lemon or Lime

The detailed pictures of brining and coffeepot sous vide are in the discussion of BBQ Ribs.

Once again, the Brine is pretty straight forward.  The lime flavor was strong which I really don’t mind but I would probably only use two slices if serving to others.  Also, I don’t believe it is necessary to add additional salt to the meat before vacuum packing it.  The brine time is also a little difficult for home cooking.  Douglas  recommends a brine time of 3 to 6 hours plus a cooking time of 8 to 12 ours which makes for a long day if you are trying to work for a living or eat at a reasonable time.

For me the work around was simple and based on my sleeping habits.  I usually wake up about 3 am and then drift in and out of sleep for another 2 to 3 hours.  So I made the brine a day ahead and then when I woke up at 3 am, placed the turkey leg steaks in the brine and went back to bed.  When I left  for work at 7am, I put the steaks in my coffeepot sous vide cooker. I ate the meal about 8 pm

Sous Vide Cooking

When removed from the brine, the turkey steaks were patted dry, sprinkled with fresh ground pepper and placed in the bag with a Tablespoon of Olive Oil.

There are two deviations from traditional Confit, other than the use of sous vide, and both are basd on modern dietary constraints. Confit is a traditional preserving technique based on the preserving effect of salt and smothering the meat in Duck Fat or Lard.  I eliminated the salting after patting the steak dry figuring I could add it on the plate if it was really needed which it wasn’t.  The olive oil was included as a tenderizing and moisturizing agent because I simply couldn’t concieveg of running out to purchase a one pound block of lard for one meal so decided to make do.

The Antipasto surrounding the turkey steak confit was what I had in the house and looked good. There was locally grown fresh arugula, black olives, roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts.  I sprinkled Balsamic Vinegar on the vegetables and did nothing extra to the meat. The confit was perfectly done and melted in my mouth.  This was truly a salad fit for an Emperor and in my case it was a pleasant dinner

The American Emperor was Norton I, Emperor of the United States, Protector of Mexico, Joshua A. Norton, who reigned in San Francisco from 1859 to 1890.  He lived in a fine hotel, was well respected by his subjects and ate in all the finest restaurants for free.  I believe he would have loved Emperor’s Salad and believe you should pay tribute to the man by checking out his history.

Sous Vide Ribs – Nothing Better

June 11, 2010

Ribs for Dinner

I have been saying all along, that I would never use sous vide as a tool until I found something it does a lot better than the tools I already know how to use and the meals I know how to cook.  I already know how to cook chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and offal to perfection and also do a pretty good job on most cuts of pork and venison.

I have cooked ribs professionally for a hotel Ribs Night and roasted a whole pig for a hotel wedding that everybody loved.  I still cook an occasional pork roast or a tenderloin of pork and skip ribs because the results are inconsistent and it is too much of a culinary effort for inconsistent results.

My daughter has had the same mixed feelings about ribs and asked (told?) me before I quit on sous – vide, could I find her a decent way to make ribs and consistent London broil. Well when I started my search for a rib recipe, the highly technical article on sous vide cooking by Douglas Baldwin showed up and now that I had a working sous vide controller, I made an investment in time to skim the technical manual on sous vide.

As the author points out, sous vide means under vacuum it does not necessarily mean low temperature and he has published detailed charts of the interaction of time and temperature and meat thickness.

HOWEVER when it came to the recipe for ribs it was simplicity itself – He recommended 8-12 hours at 175.  Now that is my kind of cooking. It happens to be exactly the temperature range of a Crockpot on the low setting or my coffeepot. This is something my daughter will definitely try if it’s worthwhile as she already has a Crockpot and all she needs to purchase is a Handi-Vac for under $20. For those who care, the Reynolds Handi-Vac uses polyethylene bags which do not have Bisphenol A.

The first problem with the original recipe was the brine/marinade which called for 7-10% salt and 0-3% sugar. After a little calculation and adapting for the fact that I like the taste of Brown Sugar, my simpler brine/marinade recipe  was

Brine Recipe:

  • 16 oz. Water (2 cups)
  • 2 level Tablespoons salt
  • 1 Heaping Tablespoon Brown Sugar

Ribs in Brine

Mix the salt and sugar into the water, trim the excess fat off the ribs add the ribs and let soak overnight in the refrigerator. It is important to keep the marinade simple as there is no place to burn off volatile materials like alcohol or vinegar.

Wipe the Ribs Dry

The next morning, drain the ribs and wipe dry with a paper towel. At these temperatures, any excess moisture will vaporize, the bags will float and it will be difficult to guarantee uniform heating which is critical in very low temperature cooking. After the ribs are dry, use the Rub to add additional flavor to the meat.

Rub Recipe

  • 2 Tablespoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon celery salt
  • 1.5Tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1.5 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1Tablespoon table salt,
  • 1 Teaspoon dried oregano,
  • 1 Teaspoon ground ginger

Ribs with Rub Mix

The only changes to the Rub Mixture were to delete white sugar and cayenne and add the ginger which I doubt changed the flavor at all. Mix together and rub into the meat. Store the excess in the refrigerator until the next time.

Vacuum Packed Ribs

The rest is straight forward, carefully place the ribs in the vacuum bag so that no rub or moisture gets into the zip lock area, pull vacuum and place into the coffeepot and gently wedge against the walls. In a crock pot, you could use a wire baking rack to hold the ribs in place so they don’t float.

Ribs in the pot

You can pour water on top of the ribs or get a head start by passing 10 cups of water through the coffee maker to heat it up.  My $100 sous vide controller is totally unnecessary because 175 is pretty much the natural temperature in either coffeepot cooking or Crockpot cooking and is only being used to monitor the temperature.

Coffeepot Sous Vide

At the end of 12 hours the ribs are dumped into a colander and the excess juice went down the drain. If you are a fanatic, the ribs can be darkened with a blow torch, but I find that effete touch unnecessary – especially when the ribs are smothered in BBQ sauce.

Cooked and Drained

I served the ribs with my homemade BBQ sauce, corn and potato salad which were also made in my coffeepot. This was a fantastic meal of non-greasy, tender ribs that were very flavorful without being over powered by either the brine, the rub or the sauce which all worked together to produce the end result.

My son-in-law who is a perpetual Doubting Thomas wanted to know if it was really the sous vide or was it the care and ingredients used. I told him I din’t care as I did not stand over a hot pot or a smoky grill for hours to get an end result that was as good as any ribs I had eaten in my 65 years on earth. This recipe is the first step in proving that Mathematician  Douglas Baldwin is one heck of a good cook.  I will probably stick with his higher temperature suggestions and try a few more because of previous disappointments with beef.

The Literature of Sous Vide

June 11, 2010

Sous vide is a method of cooking that employs very low temperatures for very long periods of time. An at home sous vide cooker is between $399 and $1000 which is high for me if I don’t know if I will like it. My interest in this new in-vogue cooking method was initiated when my son, Andrew sent me an article that he had read at lifehacker..com

Now life hacker is not one to steal anybody’s thunder or claim the work of others so they included a referral. Unfortunately, this sort of left me as at a dead end because I was not about to stick a prime piece of meat in a zip lock bag and watch it carefully to make sure the water in the beer cooler was neither too hot or too cold.

Too hot a cooking temperature leads to overcooking and too cold could cause spoilage. The author was also using short times and very low temperatures of 115 Fahrenheit for fish which I found disturbing. This means on a hot day in Nevada you could put your salmon steak in a zip lock bag and lay it outside on a sunny picnic bench and eat it in about an hour

At this point, I was at a dead end but since we had discussed the method in Philadelphia a week earlier, my daughter-in-law, Lauren sent me an article from the huffingtonpost.com

Now Cara Parks liked many of her results but knew her guests would be appalled by the concept so she developed “Important Lesson Number One of the sous vide: do not let anyone see what you are doing. Bring out the finished results and let them wonder.” I could pretty much say the same things that she said about coffeepot cooking: Some meals are fantastic, some are OK,  I have the same advantage of flexible cooking times as sous vide and I probably should not let anybody in my kitchen to see what I am doing.

The best part for me was a reference to another hack based on a temperature controller and a fish tank air pump. I thought the end result was unnecessarily expensive and over-designed by even including a forced circulation bath.

In the second article, there was also a reference to a free online reference by a Ph.D. in math, I skimmed it and quit because many ingredients were listed in grams and there’s a recipe for a brine bath calling for 7-10% salt and 3% sugar. But what made me really give up was the chapter on the mathematics of sous vide. I am not kidding, a screen shot of the page is shown below.

The Math of Sous Vide

Two points were important about this reference. First, I did not have a working sous vide machine so it was not meaningful at the time. The other point was discovered after I got a working sous vide machine and when you translate the recipes from Geek to standard form English, this is a very valuable source of knowledge.

Finally, a friend from high school solved the control problem when he posted a comment directing me to an article on sous vide control

The article included many pre-built crock-pot controllers but I searched on my own and got an un-wired setup and built it myself. I noticed today that the company has a pre-built unit for about $10 more. Oh well, it was a fun project using this old brain

When looking for HACCP plan (safe cooking plan) on sous vide, I stumbled on a fantastic but incomplete sous vide primer from http://www.cookingissues.com. From their expertise, “It is difficult to get a HAACP plan approved for sous-vide fish, and it is impossible to get one approved for fish below pasteurization”.

Looks like my knee-jerk reaction over fish was mostly correct. Seems like laying it out in the sun in a vacuum packed bag is safer than cooking fish in a sous vide machine at 115. Their solution is a Cvap machine, but that is another different way of cooking aside from sous vide or picnic benches in Las Vegas.

Faux Sous Vide – Coffeepot Style

May 13, 2010

Sous-vide is a French method of food cooking  introduced to me by my son, Andrew with some follow-up information from his wife, Lauren. The method is not likely to be adapted in  America for several reasons.  First, because the temperature of cooking is so low there is a risk of food poisoning, and because it is all below 145 Fahrenheit, it is illegal for restaurants to use it in most states. When I talked to my friends who cook professionally in America, none had ever heard of it.  The people in bookstores had, but none had tried the method.  However, the reviews to date are generally positive and refer to the tenderness and full flavor of the meat so I just had to try it. 

There are three elements to sous-vide cooking,  Sous-vide means cooking under vacuum, the temperatures used are low (under 130 Fahrenheit) and the time is long (24 hours or more). Naturally, I just had to try it in my coffeepot but I wanted to separate the variables of Time and Temperature.  I purchased one of those hand-held vacuum pumps and a supply of bags for under $20. 

The meat I selected was a tough piece of eye of the round sliced as a steak.  The reason is that it is easy to cook a great piece of meat on the grill but if this method really tenderizes, I want to see what it does for a very tough slice of meat. 

Coffeepot temperatures are around 165-170 which is far too hot for sous-vide so in the first try I tested cooking times of 1/2 hour (shown above) and 2 hours.  I seasoned the meat with Adobo (seasoned salt), pepper and Worcester Sause and put it in the bag, sealed it and pumped out the air. 

When finished, the meat was sliced on a bias because this tends to make a tough piece of meat like london broil a little more tender. This is the appearance of the meat after 2 hours.

In both cases the meat was more tender than I expected for a tough cut of meat but I wouldn’t serve it to company.  In both cases, the meat alone did not have much flavor so I might try an overnight marinade for my next attempt.  The half hour was the appearance of the way I like the meat to look (real sous-vide below 125 Fahrenheit) and the darker version is the way my friend Jenny likes it (145 F). Both would cook for 24 hours at these temperatures.

I am just curious enough to keep on playing with this method but I wouldn’t spend $700 on a home cooker quite yet – not until I tasted something which is better than what I can do in my coffeepot, stove or grill on a routine basis.  At this point I would admit that I have not given sous-vide a fair chance which is why this was titled Faux Sou-vide but I am still playing with the coffeemaker to try to bypass the temperature controls so I can get it to cook at the temperature I want and not 170 F.