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Suddenly Sous Vide!

Suddenly Sous Vide!

Suddenly Sous Vide!

Chapter 2 in the epic saga of Chef Sean and bro-mance with the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.

Which Came First, The Chicken Breasts or the Hard Egg?

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The girls at the Jett Family Farm have been working overtime lately and providing 4-8 eggs per day. That puts us at a bit of a surplus, so it’s time to do some experimenting! I want to make that perfect hard cooked egg! We want that egg that is ideal. Fully yellow yolk with no green or grey and a perfect firm and tasty white.

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First things first. These are not yer mamma’s grocery store eggs. They are the real deal, fresh eggs. Before we can use them, we need to wash them. My hens leave a bloom on the eggs. It protects the eggs and allows them to remain fresh and viable for as many as two weeks until the hen is happy with the clutch she lays and starts the 21 day incubation process. This is why many home chicken folk will leave their unwashed eggs on the counter for a month and feel just fine about being able to eat them.

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Oh yeah, wash the eggs. Set your immersion circulator for your desired temp. I am going with a slightly cooler temp today of 160° F. That will leave the whites a bit more creamy and the yolk fully cooked but not grainy. The goal of these eggs is out of hand consumption. If you want the perfect egg for deviled or egg salad, run your temp UP to 167° F. Cook your eggs for 1 hour. Why did I set it long? I wanted to give myself some buffer room for cook times and hold times.

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After an hour, shock the eggs in an ice water bath.

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Pretty huh?

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Crack and peel. Again. These are not the perfect salad or deviling eggs, as they white is a bit softer, but the texture of the yolk and the white are fantastic for out of hand eating!

So you want to cook a chicken breast and they are ALWAYS SO FREAK’N DRY!!! Today we experiment with that most pedestrian of proteins. The humble chicken breast. Maligned and dreaded for its lack of flavor and overcooked and dry texture, we will use a bit of technology to improve both the flavor and the texture of this most dreaded of daily proteins.

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First you have to make it usable. Market form chicken breasts are MONSTERS! This beast is 14 ounces!!! The average human needs no more than 4 ounces of protein per serving, so we get to trimming! Trim the outside cartilage where the keel bone was, trim the excess fat around the tip, and trim the bone and cartilage around the wing joint, then remove the membrane that covers the breast and you are ready to portion it out!

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Rather than cut across the breast into odd size and shape portions, use your sharp chef knife and essentially butterfly cut the breast into approximately 4 ounce portions. So from the 4 breasts we started with there are 9 portions plus an extra 8 ounces of trim for the soup pot! Save your non trim scraps for the stock pot!

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Time to cook? Close. Time to bag ‘em Going to do two methods of “bagging” to test the systems. Vacuum bagging and water displacement with zip top bags. So why different methods? Not everyone has access to a vacuum sealing system, so I wanted to show that using zip top bags is a doable alternative. This recipe is a simple salt and pepper seasoning with fresh thyme and garlic. I am essentially butter poaching the meat so I am throwing in a half ounce of butter per portion. Vacuum sealing is obvious. Seal and go. The zip top bag, is one extra step, but far from difficult. Zip all but an inch of the bag and let out most of the air. Then when the water is at full temperature, immerse the bag, TOP UP into the water, allowing the water to force the balance of the air out.

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So, fresh water in. I am going with setting the oven to 149° F and cooking for 1 hour. Let the water come to temp. But wait chef, you say! 149° F? Isn’t that an unsafe temperature to cook chicken to? Good question! The standard minimum internal cooking temperature for chicken is 165° F for 15 seconds to safely kill Nontyphoidal Salmonella, so 149° F just does not seem like its warm enough! If you were ONLY cooking the food UP to a temperature of 149° F, then you would be correct, but in this case you are cooking the food to an internal temperature of 149° F for an hour. The USDA cooking guide for pasteurization of chicken breast at 149° F is to cook it at temp for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. In English? The food has been cooked to a safe temperature, even cooking it to UNDER the recommended 165° F!

Okay, we are done with the sanitation and safety portion of our presentation, so, the result? A fully cooked, butter and herb poached chicken breast. After we put a nice hard sear on the meat in a hot pan, we can cut it open and give it a try! The meat is VERY juicy, and the texture is a little different from the standard issue grilled or broiled chicken breast.   Texture wise is very tender and very much not dry. Normally, I brine chicken breasts, but this time, I ran without so I could get a good benchmark. Next time, we brine!

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Next up? Pork Loin!!!!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Sous Vide or Not Sous Vide

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Sous vide, or not sous vide… That is the question !

Okay. I have been a BAD blogger. I have NOT been on the ball, nor have I been good about taking pictures, but times they are a changing!

So again. Sous vide or not sous vide ! I guess the question now is, what IS sous vide?

Sous vide is a technique that has been kicking around some of the finer commercial kitchens since the mid-1970s. It is a technique involving a very old cooking principal combined with new technology. The old thoughts of low and slow temperature cooking. Similar in concept to a braise or poach. The primary difference being that in MOST cases, the foods are cooked in a sealed plastic bag that has been immersed in precisely temperature controlled water. Until recently, that temperature control technology has been too expensive for the home based cook or small shop chef to be able to afford. This is no longer the case!

There are two primary home sous vide units out there for the home cook. The Sous Vide Supreme,  which is a self-contained unit, an insulated box with a lid and self-enclosed immersion circulator. The other is the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator, which is a standalone immersion circulator that you provide your own container to use. I went with the Anova unit, so I will be doing my reviews based on that unit over the next few articles.

Okay. Now for the first question. What can this do that I cannot do with my oven? Ovens, and stove top ranges cannot deliver the precise heat without fluctuations over an extended period of time.   What does that mean? Your oven generally runs hotter (175 and above) than most sous vide temperature preparations. AND, temperature control will not be precise. Why? When you set your home oven for a temperature, say, 200, that temperature will fluctuate as much as +/- 25 degrees to get a median temperature of 200 over time. The home range top has similar issues, and a serious lack of accurate temperature controls when you look at setting of Hi, Med or low, or 1-10.

So, you have decided to go head long, what is ELSE do I need? Water, a cooking bag and the protein that you desire to cook. I prefer to use a vacuum sealed bag similar to this Food Saver Vacuum Sealing System, but it is NOT required. You can use zip top bags and use the water displacement method of removal of air.

Next up? Cooking!!!!

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Blueberry Dutch Baby

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Ladies and Gentlemen!

After many posts requesting this, here we go.

Blueberry Dutch Baby:

Prep time: 2 Minutes, Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Equipment Required: 9” Iron Skillet, Blender

4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 teaspoon butter
1 cup fat free milk
¾ cup A.P. Flour
2 large eggs (about 4 oz.)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
¾ cup fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
½ cup plain, fat free yogurt

Pre-Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Heat Cast Iron Skillet over medium heat.  Melt butter in pan and swirl until the sides are covered.  Set aside.

In a blender bottle, place milk, eggs, flour, vanilla, canola oil, salt and cinnamon in the blender.  Blend for about a minute or until fully blended.

Place the pan back on the heat and let the butter start to bubble.  Pour the batter into the pan and place into the oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned all over.

Cut into quarters, dust with powdered sugar and spoon a 2 tablespoon dollop of yogurt on for service!

Enjoy!

Nutritional Information Per serving:
200 kCal
6 g. Total Fat
2 g. Saturated Fat
0 g. Trans Fat
6 mg. Cholesterol
132 mg. Sodium
27 g. Carbs
8 g. Sugar
1 g. Fiber
10 g. protein
112 mg Calcium

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Dinner Party Post Mortem.

Dinner Party Post Mortem.

 

As a small personal services business, sometimes we will do things to “show off” so to speak.  This last Friday I had the occasion to put on a show off event for some of my close friends and foodies.

I had a dinner party that consisted of a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairings.

The menu read as follows:

Amuse bouche

Oysters casino

Fresh Gulf oysters lightly broiled with herb casino butter and hickory smoked bacon.

First course

Chilled Avocado and cucumber soup

Lightly chilled soup with hints of citrus garnished with fresh cilantro and cucumber

Main course

Tournedos Rossini with Sauce Périgueux served with lobster potato foam and seared garlic broccolini

Seared medallions of beef tenderloin served with seared fois gras and a shaved black truffle demi glaze.  Served over warm potato foam made with lobster stock. With broccolini seared with garlic.

Cheese course

Triple cream fromage St. André on a baguette crostini with quince paste and balsamic reduction

Triple cream St. Andre cheese served warm with quince paste on a toasted baguette crostini over a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Final course

Bitter sweet chocolate ravioli with sweet ricotta filling served with amaretto crème anglaise

Fresh made bitter sweet chocolate ravioli with almond and ricotta filling served with a warm amaretto cream custard sauce

 

I figure, if you are gonna go for it, go BIG right?

What goes into such an undertaking?  Just like with any menu, planning, planning, and oh, more planning.  Mise ‘en place is HUGE in doing something like this.  For the last 3 weeks, the prep for this event has been in the works.  We started with the menu and worked from there.

What comes after the menu?  Logistics.  Can it be done in the space allotted?  Sure, but only for 8 people, that means that we have to limit the guest list.  It went from up to 15 down to 8.  Next part of planning something like this is making sure your guests are firm and confirmed.  It would be a big problem to set a purchasing list and not have the right numbers of confirmed guests show.

Next step in logistics?  Making sure you have the flatware, china and glassware needed to pull this off.  Want to be washing dishes between service courses?  Not so much.  I set this menu up in with the idea of single cook execution and simplified plating execution.  Small plates with simple garniture.  We purchased a new set of plates for each of the courses.  Good thing is that they can all be used again.

Next stop?  Shopping lists!  You have to know where to source items, where to purchase for the bang to buck ratios, best quality etc.  Experience doing catering and event as well as private client work comes in handy for this step.  How does one set up shopping for an event of this style?  Run down your mise en place list.  Go line by line with each step.  Compile your needs and check your existing inventory.

Hard part about an event like this is that running single cook means all the pressure is on me to perform.  I spent the event day doing all of the shopping, and prep.  That meant that the menu had to be set up with items that were not too heavily needed for ala minute cooking (at the time needed).  I set my menu with the only prep at time item being the primary plating items.

The break down course by course:

Amuse Bouche:

Oysters Casino.  I added an item to this course.  It went from a strict hot item to an oysters 2 ways set up.  I purchased wild caught Gulf oysters for the casino and good quality Bluepoint oysters for the cold course.

The oysters fought with me, as would be expected when the pressure is on, but the quality was top notch from Central Market, and the course executed very well.  Nice opening item.

First Course:

Chilled Avocado and Cucumber soup.

Moved from a hot to a cold item.  Traditionally a pallet cleanser from the strong flavor Amuse course.  There was a slight hint of spice from the jalapeno but nothing overwhelming because of the base of Greek yogurt.  It was a very nice addition to the menu.  Very popular item.

Main Course:

Tournedos Rossini with Lobster Potato Foam and Garlic Seared Brocolinni.

The only course that was ala minute.  The tenderloin was butchered ahead to allow the tournedos to come to room temperature.  The potato foam was based on a recipe from el Bulli.  I should have stuck with the original recipe without too much derivation, as the foam base was a little too thick and did not stand up too well.  The lobster flavor from the stock came through and the texture was nice as an accompaniment to the truffle based demi glaze but I was a little disappointed at the lack of lift.  The brocolinni turned out to be broccoli rabe as Central Market was out of the other.  No big deal.  Same prep, just blanche and toss in to sear briefly with roasted garlic.  The flavor balance was spot on, and for the most part, the steaks were done just right.  I made sure to give myself the least appealing set up with the most overdone steak.  No need to give a guest an overcooked piece of meat.

Cheese Course:

St. Andre cheese with Quince and Crostini:

Simple and creamy.  I miss planned my plating diagram and had to make quick changes based on my purchases, but no big deal, just compress down.  The crostini was a bit on the tough side, but live and learn.  The cheese with the whipped quince and balsamic glaze was a very nice balance.

Final course:

Chocolate Ravioli with Ricotta and Almond Filling:

Not being mister pastry, this was the course that caused me the most pre event distress.  I have made pasta before, I have cooked with chocolate before.  I have yet to do the two together.  Thanks to Chef Michelle Brown at Collin College for the advice regarding the 00 flour.  The texture difference with the super fine cocoa powder made a difference.  The pasta was a bit stickier that other pasta that I worked with in the past, but the smell of chocolate filled the house when I was rolling it out!  The filling was fantastic, a perfect nuttiness and creaminess with the cheese and almond paste.  The crème anglaise was just the right note to finish with.  For my own purposes?  I will cook the pasta a bit longer or crank down the roller to a slightly thinner setting, as the pasta cooked a bit tough for my tastes.

All in all, my guests were VERY pleased with the results.  I cannot complain.

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Culinary 101

 

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This Week’s Client Menu…

What’s on tap this week for my private client group?

Grilled Tilapia Veracruz (tilapia with a Mexican tomato sauce) served with grilled zucchini and yellow squash with cilantro rice

Seared NY Strip Steak with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli

Roasted Chicken Quarters with quinoa pilaf and roasted asparagus.

You curious about menus for your own family?

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Menu Items

 

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Pantry Raiders 1. The Dreaded Little Jars

Venture bravely into your pantry one day and you will find a terrible and frightening things. Items so horrid, that Julia and August are ROLLING in their graves! What horrid things might they be?

Some canned this

Some tepid sauce that?

No, far worse!!! JARS OF HERBS AND SPICES!!!

Huh?

What can be so bad you may ask?

The answer can be found in a question. Do you remember during which presidential administration you purchased that uber tub of “Italian Seasoning” from your local discount mega club? How about that tiny and dusty little metal tin of ground nutmeg that hides in the back of your pantry? I bet you have no clue. Worse yet, just how much do you think you spent on those items?

Let me tell you friends. That it was too long ago and too much respectively.

Okay, reality check. There is nothing REALLY wrong with dried herbs, so long as you are not using the petrified and dead stuff that you happen to have purchased during the Carter administration. Dried herbs are a descent substitute for the fresh stuff when used properly. But what is your solution you may ask? Check out your friendly neighborhood “high end establishment”. Places like Central Market here in Dallas and Whole Foods Market on a nationwide basis, have a fantastic area of bulk bin dried herbs that you can purchase what you need as you need it. Here is the kicker. That $6 plus dollar jar of herbs will cost you cents on the dollar from bulk bin. You are paying a high premium for the fancy glass jar. I will spend no more than a dollar or two on a bag of dried herbs that can be as large as of not bigger than the glass jar “premium” brands at your local megamarts! PLUS, you know when you bought it!

Why is the when so important? Time! Open that bag of dried herbs. It smells pretty good huh? That aroma is the volatile oils that give the herb its flavor. What is volatile? It means that when exposed to air, it will dissipate into the atmosphere. In other words, your herbs will lose their flavor. Rule of thumb? I would not keep dried herbs in my pantry for any longer than 6 months. If you store them near your stove or oven, no longer than 3. Heat will speed the process of degrading the oils and flavors.

Now for their culinary bunk mates, spices….

They are a little different. When you buy the jar, 9 times out of 10 you are getting the ubiquitous brown powders. They pack a punch! The time rules that apply to dried herbs tend to play the same with pre-ground dried spices. Here is the exception. When you buy them whole, and I recommend that HIGHLY, you can keep them for almost an indefinite period of time. Why? The volatile oils are contained within the whole spice, and are not released until you break them down. Cool, huh? Added bonus? With whole spices, you can do cool stuff, like toasting! Why? Adding heat to whole spices like cumin or caraway will enhance the aromatic properties and deepen some of those wonderful substances that give those spices their depth of flavor.

Okay, so what do you DO with those whole spices? Invest in a coffee or spice grinder. They are not that expensive and can be used for most any whole spice to process down to whatever size powder you desire. Exception being nutmeg. Microplaners are handy tools that are relatively inexpensive and can be used in multiple applications OTHER than removing that fantastic fragrant powder….

Summary?

By small amounts when you need it. Don’t keep it long. Your food will thank you for it!

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2013 in Culinary 101

 

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How Do You Eat For Your Lifestyle?

How do You Eat For Your Lifestyle?

 

There are a HUGE number of factors involved in your weight loss journey.  What you eat, how you eat, how you exercise, when you exercise.  Did you know that there is more of a correlation between the two on a physiological level?

 

First thing you have to do to figure out how to lose weight is to get yourself a baseline.  There are any number of formulas that can be used to manually calculate these formulas.  Rather than go through that I have located a nice easy tool online that can do it for you.

 

http://www.caloriesperhour.com/index_burn.php

 

You can figure either your Resting Metabolic Rate or your Basal Metabolic Rate.  Both are essentially the same concept.  The number of calories that you burn just being you.  No exercise included.  From there you need to understand the terminology. 

 

Sedentary – 0 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Slightly Active – 30 minutes or less exercise 5 days per week.

Moderately Active – 30 – 60 minutes of exercise 5 days per week.

Active – 60 – 90 minutes of exercise 5 days per week

Very Active – 60-90 minutes or more exercise 5-7 days per week.

 

Understanding where you are in the activity scale will allow you to figure your caloric needs.  Clearly we are not all the same.  Someone that has a desk job, driving a cube, and does no exercise that is the same height and weight that I am has a Basal Metabolic Rate of 2,297 kCal, meaning if that person were to consume that kCal rate per day they would not gain or lose weight.  I am in the very Active category.  My Basal Metabolic Rate is 3,302 kCal per day.  If I do not eat this volume of kCal in a day, I will continue to lose weight. Using systems like my fitness pal and weight watchers you can enter those activity levels and get an effective level of calories per day that you will need to lose the amounts of weight that you desire.

 

What’s next you might ask?  I am eating what I am supposed to be eating but I am still not losing weight like I want to!

 

You could be eating one of the 5 foods that Dr. Michael and I were discussing that are absolute dietary black holes.  These foods can be caloric traps, or foods that are so processed and un-natural that they are inflammatory foods, or they are both!

 

Fruit Juice   Fruit Juice?  Really! What about all that fruit, and the vitamins?!?! Hmmm…  I can hear it already.  What is so wrong with not from concentrate juice?  When you take a piece of fruit, apple, cranberry, orange, grapefruit, etc, and squeeze the juice out, you are left with 2 things.  A glass of sweet and tasty juice, and a pile of all of the less tasty, but fiber and nutrient packed pulp, skin and flesh.  To get the full impact of a piece of fruit without dealing with empty calories that are contained in the juice, you need to eat the entire piece of fruit.  There are on average more kCal per glass of orange juice than there are in a can of soda.  Scary huh?

 

Margarine  I Can’t believe it’s not butter!!  It looks like butter, it tastes like butter, it is supposed to be more healthy right?  It does depend on what expert you talk to, but this is one chef’s opinion.  If you have to manufacture a product from a variety of fats and chemicals to replicate something that if you are lucky has 2 ingredients?  The human body has a problem with processing of processed foods.  There is recent research that suggests that manufactured foods can cause an inflammatory reaction in your body. 

 

Processed Wheat Products (GMO)  Wheat on its own is a fantastic grain.  Full of nutritional value, natural fiber, fats, and carbohydrates.  When used and or ground whole, the human body has no problems with processing what is needed and not holding on to the rest.  When you take that wheat berry and grind it, bleach it, and sift it to remove all of the germ, bran and fiber from the berry, you are left with the endosperm of the berry.  That endo-sperm is nothing more than pure starch and gluten proteins.  The bleaching and purifying process removes all of the nutritive value, so you will see “enriched” flour.  Why enrich the flour?  You are replacing the vitamin B compounds that are found naturally in the wheat.

 

Processed Soy Products (GMO)  Soy is another of those products that are touted as a super food and a fantastic human food resource.  Similar to the issues with wheat.  When you process out the good stuff, you are left with pure carbohydrate!  There is one hidden issue with Soy that has recently been discovered.  Soy contains phytoestrogens known as isoflavon.  This is a plant based estrogen compound that has a similar effect in the human body to human estrogen.  While these compounds can be effective in treating symptoms of menopause, that is not such a good thing for guys.

 

Corn (GMO)  Corn is pretty much in everything.  It has a very high ratio of calories to nutritive value, and in its current and highly processed form is a very high factory of inflammatory problems in the human body.

 

In the next day or so I will tackle the next part of this equation.  Now that you know what not to eat, and what your activity level is, its time to set this all up based on what your body type is.

 

Next week on the radio show, Dr. Michael and I will be discussing how to survive holiday eating!

 

Want to hear the long version of the radio show?  Check us out http://www.blogtalkradio.com/drmichaelharris/2013/03/21/how-do-you-eat-for-your-lifestyle

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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