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Just finished The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

Read Grace Unshakled, by Irene Huising. From Amazon’s page, it says: “In the year 2025, 17-year-old Grace Duncan finds herself in shackles because of her faith in Christ. An obedient daughter and stellar student, doing time in jail was never on her mental radar, despite the changes in religious laws [this takes place here in the United States] over the past few years. Through twists and turns in circumstances, Grace and a small band of Christians in Newport Beach, California begin a journey to discover what it means to follow Christ with unwavering faith in the midst of increasing persecution. Facing the potential loss of all her hopes and dreams, would Christ be enough?” We read this for one of my book clubs, and it’s a scary thought about what it could mean if we take God out of our country. The author is a friend of a friend and she attended our book club meeting to share about how she came to write this book. I don’t often share my faith here on my website, but this book made me stop and think about the direction our government is going, removing more and more our ability to worship God. Or to worship in any religion. Will this book ever make waves in the book world? Probably not. My copy may be a pre-edited version, as it contained numerous typos and formatting errors. But they didn’t detract from the subject, just the cosmetics. The book doesn’t come to a resolution; in fact it leaves you hanging, as some books do. It was intentional (obviously), but left me wondering about the “end of the story.”

Also just finished reading The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Read The German Girl: A Novel by Correa. It chronicles the story of a wealthy German Jewish family in Berlin, as the Nazis arrive and make life a living hell. The family is lucky (I guess you could say this) to be allowed to purchase passage on the M.S. St. Louis, a passenger liner, to take them to “the Americas.” The destination is actually Cuba. The story is told from two voices – the teenage daughter in this story, and from a current-day distant family member who is trying to learn about her ancestry. Of the 900+ passengers on the ship, only a few were allowed to disembark since the Cuban President decided he needed more money to accept them. Most families had no money left, as the Reich had taken nearly all of their assets. The daughter and her very eccentric mother were allowed to stay in Cuba.  The remaining passengers are rejected by the U.S. too, and eventually return to Europe, where most of the Jews end up dying in concentration camps. The story goes back and forth from the 1939 journey to current day as the link between the two women is slowly revealed. I had a tough time sometimes, tracking the people in this book, but the story was very riveting. It’s based on facts about the ship (see Wikipedia link above if you’re interested). A shameful chapter in history.

Recently finished reading a magnificent historical novel. Not new. Philippa Gregory has been a favorite author of mine for a couple of decades. You may remember her most famous book, The Other Boleyn Girl, published some years ago. I thought that was a really great book. I’ve read other books by Gregory, but most recently I read The King’s Curse (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels). The time period is the 1450s to 1541, mostly under the rule of King Henry VIII, the infamous womanizer and wife/Queen-killer. The man who cursed Rome (the Pope) – he wanted his first marriage annulled because Queen Catherine couldn’t produce a living male heir. And subsequently made himself the head of the church in England in order to do so. It was a Catholic country at the time. This story (it’s fiction, but woven with intricate historical detail) is from the voice of Margaret of York (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Catherine),  who was a Plantagenet in her own right (which is key to the later events in the book). Certainly I’ve read other novels over the years that dealt with Henry VIII, but not with this much breadth of info. What a wicked, sinful man he was. And did I say tyrant. Wow.  I could hardly put it down, through its nearly 600 pages. In the author’s notes at the end, she shares relatively recent medical info that suggests Henry probably suffered from a rare problem, Kell positive blood type, which can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and infant deaths IF the mother has the more common Kell negative blood type. And that in his later years, he may have had McLeod syndrome, a disease only found in Kell positive individuals. Around the age of 40 it causes physical degeneration and personality changes resulting in paranoia, depression and irrational behavior. All of those King Henry VIII had in spades. If you read the book, you might read the author’s notes (at the end) before reading the book. If you like historical fiction (I love any book about English history) you’ll just love this one. It’s interesting, though, as I think about the many books I’ve read covering this era in English history, that each book presented its hero/heroine as the most innocent and worthy individual vying for the crown of England. I remember thinking Anne Boleyn was dealt with so badly during her life (and certainly her beheading), and yet reading this book, I completely reversed my opinion. Anne Boleyn was called a wh–e by most people during the years she shared Henry’s bed. The “curse” from the title pertains to Henry’s inability or the curse on the Tudors, that caused him to fail in producing a male heir. In any case, none of Henry’s wives should have died for it – likely it was all Henry’s fault anyway. Just read this one, okay?

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Chicken, Sous Vide, on June 14th, 2017.

sous_vide_red_chile_chicken

I know most of you don’t have a sous vide, so just skip this one. But if you do, you DO need to try this recipe. It’s a winner.

Now that I’m a family of one, I don’t use my sous vide very often. My DH and I were just at the point of perfecting steak on the barbecue, but pre-cooked in the sous vide. I very rarely make steak for myself (alone), but if I did, I might try it again. Sometimes it’s just easier to use the older method (searing, then putting it off-heat in the barbecue, closed, until it reached about 120°, then quickly searing it again for a minute of so until it reached 125-128°F).

Anyway, I’ve subscribed to Milk Street, the new magazine from Chris Kimball (formerly the geeky guy from Cook’s Illustrated – he started the company many years ago). He got ousted by their board and started up his own, very similar business model. No TV shows yet, but they say it’s coming. The magazine is different than C.I. in that the articles are shorter, and it’s filled with color photos, which I like. It’s the identical format (shape, size and frequency of issues) and I also listen to the podcasts from the new Milk Street kitchens.

Image result for ancho chilesSo, anyway, the May-June issue had a double-spread about sous vide. In it J.M. Hirsch writes that you can make a perfect poached egg in 45 minutes at 145°F. I may have to try that one. There are much cheaper sous vide instruments (using your own container) than when I bought mine. Mine was several hundred dollars. New immersion pods start at $79 (Sous Smart) and $129 (Anova). And another new one that uses a phone app to run it (they liked that one a lot, called Joules) for $199. They perfected this chicken recipe and it sounded so intriguing I just had to try it. I halved the below recipe (using one packet of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Costco, which contained 2 nice-sized breasts) and I actually  used ordinary ziploc bags instead of digging out my vacuum sealer. You lower the filled bag in water until it reaches the zip portion (but it’s unzipped at this point), then press out all the air and zip it. Am not sure the zip tab type would work for this. Anyway, that worked just fine using Ziploc. Picture at left from chefsinfo.com.

sous_vide_chicken_in_bagI made one other change – I didn’t have any ancho chiles (dried) in my pantry. Anchos are dried pasilla chiles, which have such a very unique flavor. I need to get some, because I’ll be making this recipe again. So instead, I used guajillo, which are mild flavored and similar. Otherwise, I followed the recipe except for browning the chiles. Seems kind of redundant to me. The sauce you make is quite easy to do and it’s full of flavor, but hardly any heat at all. I refrigerated the chicken packets for an hour or two while I heated up the sous vide, which should have kind of marinated them. I have a rack for my sous vide and I used it to make sure the chicken packets were kept submerged completely. Timer set for 1 1/2 hours and then I made the sauce and cooked some fresh asparagus and my dinner was done.

Oh my. The chicken was SO tender, and absolutely perfectly cooked through and juicy. I could practically cut it with a fork, though I did use a knife. Loved the chile flavor, the smokiness of the dried cumin. Couldn’t taste the cinnamon. The chiles completely dissolve in the sauce (because you whiz it up in the food processor). The sauce was an absolute cinch to make and dinner was ready with a bit of cilantro on top. Don’t dilly dally once they’re done as the chicken is hot and you don’t want to eat it lukewarm. A definite make-again dish.

What’s GOOD: everything about it was good. The chicken was PERFECTLY cooked and as juicy as chicken could possibly be. Easy to do in the sous vide. You could easily make the marinade/sauce ahead of time and combine them just before cooking. I have a second packet left over and from the article I understand it will be just as tender and good as the first time. Loved the sauce – mild and very flavorful. Not hot because anchos or guajillos are mild chiles.

What’s NOT: not much unless you don’t like the hassle of cooking sous vide.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sous Vide Red Chile Chicken

Recipe By: Milk Street magazine, 2017
Serving Size: 4

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil — or canola oil
2 ounces dried ancho peppers — stemmed and seeded
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon dried oregano — Mexican type if available
2 large garlic cloves — smashed
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
SAUCE:
2 tablespoons butter — salted if available
1 tablespoon lime juice
GARNISH:
1/3 cup cilantro — chopped

1. Preheat sous vide to 145°F. (And yes, after 1 1/2 hours of immersion, the chicken breast will be perfectly cooked, even though the water temp is below the usually accepted cooked chicken temp.)
2. In a medium skillet, heat oil until it shimmers, then add chiles and toast until lightly browned, about 20 seconds (I skipped this step). Transfer to a food processor, saving the oil in the skillet. Process until coarsely chopped (I had to tear some of the pieces into smaller ones), about 30 seconds.
3. In a small saucepan bring the water to a boil. Add the chile mixture, oregano and garlic. Cover and remove from the heat and set aside for 15 minutes.
4. In the food processor combine the sugar, vinegar, salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon and the little bit of reserved chili oil from the frying pan. Add the chile-water mixture and process until smooth, about a minute, scraping the bowl as needed.
5. Place each chicken breast into a vacuum-seal bag and add an equal portion of the chile mixture to each one. Squeeze the bag a bit to coat the chicken evenly. Seal each chicken breast, then refrigerate for a few hours if time permits. If not, place breasts in sous vide. Chicken packets must remain completely under the water, not floating. Once the temperature reaches 145°F again (usually just a few minutes), set a timer for 90 minutes.
6. When chicken is cooked, remove from sous vide. Pour the juices from inside each bag into a saucepan and simmer until liquid is thickened slightly, about a minute or two. Off heat add the butter and lime juice. Serve the chicken drizzled with the sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Per Serving: 322 Calories; 15g Fat (42.5% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 84mg Cholesterol; 1484mg Sodium.

Posted in Chicken, Sous Vide, on December 19th, 2013.

chicken_tikka_masala_sous_vide

The last time I made Chicken Tikka Masala, I said it was the be-all, end-all recipe (from America’s Test Kitchen) and that I’d probably never try another one. And then I read this recipe using the Sous Vide Supreme PSV-00144 Promo Pack Cooking System. I know that most of you don’t have a sous vide machine, so I’m also including the same recipe done in the slow cooker. And this is surely the time of year when it would be so nice to throw something in the slow cooker, a fix and forget kind of meal.

Do I get cravings? Sure. Like most people, I presume. In #1 position is chocolate. Oh how I wish I didn’t crave it. Not every day, but almost. I do my best to grab about 6 chocolate chips and be satisfied with that. Usually it works. In #2 position is Mexican food. As I’ve explained ages ago here on my blog, growing up in San Diego I went to a favorite restaurant in Old Town (called Aztec Dining Room – long ago closed after the mamasita passed away and the daughter just didn’t want to run the restaurant without her). We, as a family, went there at least once a week. My mother never cooked Mexican food that I can remember – maybe she made cheese enchiladas once in awhile – and she made Tamale Pie. But, I grew up with a craving for Mexican food. In my 20-35 age range I didn’t always live in places where I could go to a Mexican restaurant or buy the ingredients. But once I returned to Southern California, I could happily and easily ease the craving for a good taco or chile relleno (my usual Mexican meal of choice) at our local Mexican places.

Then, probably in 3rd place is Indian food. I don’t cook Indian all that often. Maybe once a month. In between times we go out to a couple of our local restaurants for it.

As a cook who likes to make all kinds of ethnic food, if I have a craving it’s usually not a big deal to just make it myself. And we have several Indian restaurants nearby that do an admirable job; this time, though, I did make it myself. And  yes, I was craving Indian food. I wanted chicken in that wonderful creamy sauce – tikka masala. Really, tikka masala is so easy to do, and as I read the recipe at the Sous Vide Supreme website, it just sounded so good – and easy!

The joy of using the sous vide is that whatever you cook, it cooks long and slow at a temperature way below what you’d get on the stovetop or even in the oven. Chicken breasts cook at precisely 146° F. I’ve made lots of different meats in the sous vide, but I’d never done chicken breasts until now. And oh, was it easy and was it ever tender and juicy. They cooked for precisely 2 hours. I vacuum sealed them with just a bit of butter in the packet, and in they went. The sauce what whizzed up in the blender and consisted of crushed canned tomatoes, half and half, ginger, garlic, honey, paprika, cumin, turmeric, coriander and salt. That’s it. That was placed into a Ziploc (freezer) bag and was also placed in the rack in the machine. It sat there for 2 hours also. When I was ready to serve dinner, I removed the packages, poured the sauce, as is, into a pitcher, removed the chicken breasts to a cutting board and cut nice-sized thick slices and placed them on top of some basmati rice and drizzled the sauce over the top and garnished with cilantro. Was that ever easy! With a green salad, there was dinner.

The only thing in the sauce to give it heat (it did have a little) was the ginger. If you or your family are sensitive to heat, use a bit less, perhaps.

What’s GOOD: how very easy this was to make. Also, love-loved the tender, juicy chicken. Even our 2 teenage grandchildren who were here for dinner commented about how juicy the chicken was. For kids, that was interesting to hear them say – that they’d even notice! You can see from the photo – look at the chicken – it’s almost pink. But it isn’t. It’s just that perfect kind of done. Also loved the flavoring in the sauce. It was so easy to make in the blender and pour right into the bag. I had not a single dirty pan to be washed! Just the salad bowl, plates and silverware. How easy is that?

What’s NOT: well, you do have to plan just a bit ahead, but only 2+ hours (or 4-8 for slow cooker). And, you do have to have a sous vide machine. Or, use the slow cooker – see recipe below. I’ll definitely be making this again.

printer-friendly CutePDF (sous vide)

Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tikka Masala Sous Vide

Recipe By: blackpeppercorn.com and sous vide supreme website
Serving Size: 4

CHICKEN BREASTS:
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons butter — (28 g)
1 pinch salt and pepper
TIKKI MASALA SAUCE:
1 can canned tomatoes — (about 2 cups/240 ml)crushed or strained
2 cups half and half — (480 ml)
1 inch fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves — peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons honey — (22.5 ml)
1 tablespoon paprika — (15 ml)
1 tablespoon ground cumin — (15 ml)
1 tablespoon turmeric — (15 ml)
2 teaspoons ground coriander — (10 ml)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt — (7.5 ml)

2 cups cooked rice — (320 g) for serving (Basmati preferred)
Fresh cilantro — for garnish

1. Fill and preheat the SousVide Supreme to 146F/63C.
2. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken breasts; put them and the butter into cooking pouches and vacuum seal.
3. Into a blender or food processor, add the tomatoes, cream, ginger, garlic, honey and spices and process until smooth.
4. Pour the sauce into a large (gallon/3.8 liter) zip-closure plastic bag. Lay the bag flat, holding zip closure edge up so the contents don’t leak out. Press most of the air out of the bag and seal.
5. Submerge the pouches of chicken and sauce in the water oven and cook for 2 hours.
6. To plate: slice the chicken and drizzle generously with the tikka masala sauce.
7. Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.
Per Serving: 515 Calories; 22g Fat (39.0% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 129mg Cholesterol; 1055mg Sodium.

printer-friendly CutePDF (slow cooker version)
Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click link to open in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Tikka Masala Slow Cooker

Recipe By: blackpeppercorn.com
Serving Size: 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups crushed tomatoes — canned
1 piece fresh ginger — peeled, about 1 inch, cut into chunks
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups half and half
4 tablespoons cilantro — for garnish

1. Add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, honey and spices to a blender and process until smooth.
2. Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.
3. Heat oil in a skillet and brown chicken. Turn after a couple minutes on each side, but do not cook completely.
4. Add the browned chicken to the slow cooker.
5. Pour in the blended tomato mixture. Stir so all the chicken pieces are coated in the sauce.
6. Cover with a lid and set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours (or 4 hours on high).
7. During last 10 minutes of cooking, in a saucepan, gently heat the half and half to just below a simmer (do not boil). Pour into the slow cooker and stir well.
7. Cover and turn off slow cooker; allow mixture to rest for about 10 minutes.
8. Serve on rice and garnish with cilantro.
Per Serving: 444 Calories; 24g Fat (46.5% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 113mg Cholesterol; 1096mg Sodium (this sodium amount can’t be correct . . . ?).

Posted in Sous Vide, on December 10th, 2012.

salmon_sous_vide_130_dill_sauce

You really don’t need a SousVide Supreme Water Oven in order to make this salmon dish. It’s just poached salmon,  served with an easy dill sour cream-mayo sauce on top.

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Posted in Grilling, Pork, Sous Vide, on April 13th, 2012.

boneless_pork_chops_sous_vide_131

Even using the sous vide, the prep work may require a couple of steps – as in this case. First I soaked the pork chops in an apple brine for 24 hours, then they went into the sous vide for several hours with some seasonings. Worth the effort for sure.

After several weeks, I’m still learning my way through using the SousVide Supreme Sous Vide Water Oven. The process doesn’t come naturally like stove top sautéing, or grilling or simmering. But I’m getting the hang of it. This time I pulled some pork chops out of the freezer that I’d already prepped. I’d bought one of those big packages of boneless thick pork chops at Costco. Here’s what I did to the whole batch:

  1. Soaked them in a big Ziploc bag in Tyler Florence’s Spiced Apple Brine. For 24 hours. I drained it, then . . .
  2. Put two small chops each into vacuum pouches (still left open at this point).
  3. Added to each pouch a little sprinkling of capers, about 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and kind of mushed it around on one side of the meat, about 1/2 teaspoon of fresh chopped rosemary and some pepper. Then I sealed them up with the vacuum sealer.

pork_chops_bagged_rackAt this point I froze them so it would be easy to prepare once they were defrosted, which I did 24 hours ahead of serving. The day of, I put them in 131° water in the Sous Vide, and let them cook for about 6-7 hours (the range is 5-8 hours – meaning they’d be done in 5 but they can hold at that temp for up to 8 hours). My DH fired up the gas grill and just seared them for about 1 1/2 minutes per side. I made a kind of a raita sauce on the side (sour cream, fresh chives, minced cucumber, lemon juice, a little jot of champagne vinegar, some fresh herbs, salt, pepper). I’d also done some of the pork in a curry kind of flavoring mix, but none of us cared for it much – so that’s why I made the raita style side. Raita goes mostly with Indian food (you can see the yellow curry in the upper pouch), but it was nice enough with this.

So how was it? Wonderful! The meat was tender as could be – it was perfectly cooked through, pink in the middle too. If you are cooking pork from a raw state the USDA recommends you cook it to 143° to kill the pathogens. But using a sous vide, several hours of that slow cooking provides the same bug-killing at 131° (according to my sous vide information). In my sous vide cookbook, it indicates that pasteurization of meat (beef, lamb, pork) occurs  after 2 hours (1 1/4 inch thick meat). Thinner meat takes less time. So even though the meat was pink in the middle, it was completely cooked and safe.

What I liked: just how tender the meat was, and how flavorful the little seasoning in it was. Brining was definitely the way to go.

What I didn’t like: really nothing. I’d definitely make this again. I’ll likely make a different sauce.

printer-friendly PDF
MasterCook 5+ import file – right click to save file, run MC, then File|Import

Pork Chops with Spiced Apple Brine (Sous Vide 131°)

Recipe By: My own concoction
Serving Size: 4

30 ounces boneless pork top loin chops — about 1″ thick
2 T. Tyler Florence’s Spiced Apple Brine
3 cups water
POUCH SEASONINGS:
4 tablespoons capers — drained
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary — chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large Ziploc plastic bag combine the apple brine mixture (a flavored salt) and water. Add pork chops, seal bag and rest in refrigerator for 24 hours, turning at least once.
2. Remove chops from brine, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
3. Place 1-2 chops into vacuum seal bags and divide the seasonings (capers, mustard, rosemary and pepper) amongst the bags. Spread the mustard over one side of each chop. Seal bags using vacuum sealer. Pouches can be frozen at this point if desired. When ready to use, defrost for 24 hours in refrigerator (or put them in a bowl of cold water for about 3 hours at room temp).
4. Preheat sous vide to 131°. Place pouches in the water for 5-8 hours.
5. Remove from sous vide, cut open pouches and sear the meat on an outdoor grill (or on an indoor stovetop grill) for about 1 1/2 minutes per side, just to give the sides an attractive appearance. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 249 Calories; 9g Fat (35.5% calories from fat); 38g Protein; trace Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 96mg Cholesterol; 193mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Grilling, Sous Vide, on April 9th, 2012.

ribeye_steaks_sous_vide_131

Whether or not you have a sous vide, you could still make the deliciously spicy (horseradish) and pungent (Dijon mustard), yet sweet (honey) and herby (fresh mint) glaze that goes on the steaks. I loved the glaze and would definitely make it again. The steaks were good too!

steaks_stacked_in_rackWe had offered to take ribeyes to our son and daughter-in-law. For Sunday dinner. So, I decided to sous vide them, since I hadn’t done that before, with steaks. $35 worth of steaks (3 very thick choice ones from Costco) went into individual pouches (pictured left, in the rack that comes with the SousVide Supreme Sous Vide Water Oven. I cooked them at 131° for about 2 1/2 hours. The sous vide directions say you can cook these for 2 to 8 hours. What that means is they’re done in 2 hours, and you can hold them at that temp for a max of 8 hours. After 8 hours the meat will begin changing its chemistry (at least that’s what I think it means). I quick-chilled them in a big bowl of water and ice once I removed them from the sous vide and took them to our kids’.

Once we were about ready to eat I removed the pouches from the refrigerator, slathered on the glaze (more about that below), put them on a hot-hot stove-top grill and seared them. I’m still learning all these techniques – and I learned another one on this occasion. When you try to sear cold steaks that have been cooked sous vide, you need to leave them out at room temp for awhile. I seared them, cut into them and discovered that the searing (about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side) didn’t heat the meat all the way through, so the centers were still a bit tepid. I put them back on the grill for another 3-4 minutes total and they were just perfect. It would be ideal to open the cooked pouches (when they’re at 131°) slather on the glaze and put them directly on the grill. Next time I’ll do that.

mustard_horseradish_mint_glazeNow the GLAZE . . . it’s so very simple to make. Stir in a small bowl the mustard, bottled horseradish, honey, mint and pepper (I didn’t add any salt). The only thing you need to remember is that with honey in this glaze, it will make the steaks caramelize very quickly – long cooking would make the glaze burn. Soooo, if you make this glaze for regularly-cooked barbecued steaks, don’t put it on the steaks until they’re just about finished – like during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking. You could also put it only on the top (glaze the top after you’ve seared one side and turned it over). The sauce is piquant. Mustardy. Spicy and herby. This recipe came from Jason Logsdon’s sous vide book Sous Vide Grilling.

What I liked: I loved the sauce. I’d have liked it served at the table too, so I could have dipped each piece of meat into it. A lot of the sauce ended up on the grill itself, stuck to it (I used a ridged grill to get grill marks). The steak was tender enough (not the most tender I’ve ever had) but it was consistently pink through the whole steak, which I liked too. The sous vide approach went fine – I’d just make sure to take them out of the pouches and go directly onto the outdoor grill next time.

What I didn’t like: really nothing specific. I could have wished the steak itself was more flavorful – seems to me like some steaks you buy just don’t have a lot of beefy flavor anymore. Why is that?

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Smoky Ribeyes With Spicy Sweet Mint Glaze (Sous Vide 131°)

Recipe By: Sous Vide Grilling
Serving Size: 4

STEAKS:
2 1/2 pounds ribeye steaks
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon thyme — powdered or crushed well
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
GLAZE:
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons horseradish — bottled
1/4 cup fresh mint — minced
6 tablespoons honey

1. Preheat sous vide oven to 131°.
2. In a small bowl mix the chile powder, thyme and paprika together and sprinkle on both sides of the steaks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Vacuum seal the steaks individually and place in sous vide for a minimum of 2 hours, and not longer than 8 hours.
4. GLAZE: In a small bowl combine the ingredients and mix thoroughly.
5. Preheat outdoor grill (or use indoor grill or use a portable torch) to high. Remove steaks and slather with the glaze. Sear steaks on both sides just long enough to acquire grill marks or to brown the meat. Your aim is not to cook the meat any further – at 131° the steaks will be medium rare already – you’re just searing the meat to look more attractive.
Per Serving: 712 Calories; 18g Fat (26.1% calories from fat); 85g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 200mg Cholesterol; 568mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Pork, Sous Vide, on April 3rd, 2012.

pulled_pork_sous_vide_131

Another experiment with sous vide cooking. This time I made pork shoulder (pork butt), cooked it at 140° for 48 hours. And I served it with a very tart North Carolina vinegar sauce instead of the usual ketchup-based barbecue sauce that’s more typical. Mostly I did that because my DH is a diabetic and very rarely eats pulled pork because the traditional BBQ sauce just sends his blood sugar skyrocketing.

At least once a week I’m experimenting with my SousVide Supreme Sous Vide Water Oven. Not every dish I’ve made has made it to a post on my blog, as I’m not experienced enough yet. One pork dish I made was not very good (pork chops were too thin, I think, so it overcooked). I’m liking the long, slow cooking for more things – the less tender cuts. Not steaks and such – they are best with relatively little sous vide cooking. I had a big chunk of pork in the freezer – I’d purchased a gigantic pork shoulder a month or so ago, at a great price and cut it up into smaller cooking portions. But I didn’t have a sous vide cooker then. So the meat was just vacuum sealed with nothing whatsoever in it. I decided to just go with it that way. Nothing else in the pouch but the meat. No salt. No pepper. No onions or seasonings of any kind. I knew I’d need to doctor it up with seasonings later.

So I did some reading about barbecue sauces. Goodness, but there are a lot of different types. I knew there was a Memphis style, and St. Louis style, but that was about it. Referring to one of my Steven Raichlen books, Barbecue! Bible: Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes, I hunted through all the dozens of possible permutations, trying to find one that was low on sugar. We’re mostly tuned into such sauces containing lots and lots of ketchup. Then I read about the sauce that is the favorite with folks in North Carolina. It’s a vinegar sauce and has nary a teaspoon of tomato in it – like ketchup or tomato paste.

pig_picker_pucker_sauce_ingredientsSo here’s what’s in it – onions sliced thin, apple cider vinegar, water (not pictured), red chili flakes, sugar, salt and pepper. It’s not cooked. You merely combine the ingredients in a bowl (non-reactive) and stir it up. I made it ahead because I wanted the onions to soften a bit in there, which they did. Not only did they soften in texture, but the soaking takes away some of the fresh astringency from raw onions. I covered it and just let it sit out on the counter for several hours.

What you need to know about this sauce is that you combine it with the shredded pork and the meat just absorbs a lot of the vinegar sauce. No, it’s not sour (because the meat has a lot of sweetness to it). You’d think it would be sour. I was unsure enough about this sauce that I took a piece of pork and gingerly dipped it into the sauce to sample it. Oh my. GOOD. Amazing, I thought.

I cut up some green cabbage and put just a little bit of the vinegar sauce on it and served that with the sliders – to put onto the sandwich itself. The meat – so tender and juicy. I added about a cup of the onions and vinegary sauce to it and let it sit for about 5 minutes before I set out the slider buns, the meat, the cabbage. I let everyone make their own sliders. I also made a delicious cabbage salad which I’ll post in a couple of days.

What I liked: the texture and taste of the pulled pork. It was incredibly tender after 48 hours of sous vide. The vinegar sauce was outstanding. I loved it! For left overs I put out regular barbecue sauce (bottled) and some eaters had some of that too.

What I didn’t like: nothing. It was really, really good.

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Pig Picker Pucker Sauce

Recipe By: Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue Bible: Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, 2000
Serving Size: 12
Serving Ideas: This sauce is best with pulled or chopped barbecue pork (this amount will saturate about 4-8 pounds of meat). If desired, reserve just a little bit to pour and mix over some chopped cabbage (which you can pile onto the sandwiches). This style of tart sauce is from North Carolina, an area that has no interest in sweet tomato or ketchup-based barbecue sauces.

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup cold water
2 tablespoons sugar — or to taste (I used Splenda)
1 tablespoon hot pepper flakes
1 small onion — thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt — or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine all the ingredients in a ceramic or glass (not metal) bowl. Stir to dissolve dry ingredients.
2. Can be made ahead, but can also be made just before using. It’s best added to the meat and allowed to soak in some before serving. If it’s allowed to sit awhile it will mellow-out the onions a little bit.
Per Serving: 16 Calories; trace Fat (0.8% calories from fat); trace Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 706mg Sodium.

. . .This recipe hardly even deserves an entire recipe box listing – it’s just pork shoulder, vacuum sealed, done in the sous vide for 48 hours. Done.

Pulled Pork Sous Vide 140°

Serving Size: 8

3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder

1. Preheat sous vide to 140°.
2. Vacuum seal the pork and place in sous vide. Cook for a minimum of 24 hours, and up to 48 hours (do the 48 if you can).
3. Remove meat, trim away visible fat and shred pork by hand or with a fork.
Per Serving: 352 Calories; 27g Fat (70.2% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 0g Carbohydrate; 0g Dietary Fiber; 106mg Cholesterol; 97mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Sous Vide, on March 30th, 2012.

mustard_sauce_on_corned_beef

Even if you don’t own a sous vide, you could make this in your slow cooker on low. And in either case, make the microwave creamy mustard sauce to serve on the side.

It seems that the only time of year I make a corned beef is in March, near to St. Patrick’s Day. Otherwise if they’re available in the markets I just don’t “see” them. I bought mine at Trader Joe’s. And if you haven’t noticed, corned beef is mighty pricey! I was shocked. My small 3-pound corned beef was nearly $17. And it would barely serve 6 people. But I wanted to try cooking it in my SousVide Supreme Sous Vide Water Oven. For those of you who aren’t into sous vide, just skip down below to the sauce part if that’s what interests you.

Consulting a variety of sources about the sous vide corned beef (2 cookbooks and about 3-4 online recipes, plus a phone call to my sous vide expert, Russ), I finally decided to cook it for 10 hours close to 180°. By the time I decided what to do, it had gone past the point that I could cook it for 48 hours. I was down to 24, so obviously I did the 10-hour cook. Actually I set the temp to 178°.

To say that I had some difficulty would be an understatement. I’m new enough to sous vide that I was in alien territory when I came into the kitchen, 3 hours into the 10 hour cooking and found the lid of the Supreme standing nearly upright, tipped up at about 75°. At 8 that morning I’d pressed the corned beef into the Supreme’s accompanying rack, and placed the rack in Supreme, with the meat on the bottom rung, put the lid on top and left the house. In the interim time, somehow, fluid had rendered out of the corned beef which creates a gas, so there was a whole lot of air in the pouch. The gas/air was a lot stronger than the rack in holding the roast underwater and it had actually turned the rack upside down, hence popping off the top of the machine. So, the beef was more or less floating on top. Not exactly what sous vide is all about.

I had to manhandle the darned thing to get it turned back down-under, on went the lid and I put a bunch of book on top of the lid. No more mishaps exactly. BUT, after 10 hours I dismantled everything and lo and behold, the roast had come loose again and had pushed itself toward the top. About an inch of the roast was up above water line. Sigh. But, since I cooked it at 178° I knew the meat was done. No fluid had leaked out of the bag – at all – and no water had leaked into the roast. It’s a chemistry thing, though, about the gas. Next time I will have to figure out a way to weight-down the meat – something heavy that will sit on top of the meat and not have enough room to roll over when the gas creates inside. I have one particular casserole dish in mind that will probably work. Or maybe I’ll need to put a real honest brick, wrapped in foil and put into a Ziploc bag to place on top – except that a brick might turn on its side, so that probably won’t work. It would have to a a big cement paver just the right size as the interior of the Supreme!

The roast rested a bit while I made the veggies and the delicious mustard cream sauce. The meat was sliced (easily) and served on heated plates, along with some simmered potatoes, cabbage and onions. The SAUCE: it was quick to make – in the microwave. It’s all the usual steps to make a cream sauce (half and half and chicken broth for the liquid), but just requires opening the door of the microwave through several steps. It took about 4-5 minutes to make it, though. Easy enough.

What I liked: perfect texture, still moist, sliced easily, good red meat color. I’ll probably try it again at long, slow cooking, but I liked this one just fine. The SAUCE: oh gosh. Delicious. I liked it a lot as an accompaniment to corned beef. It was also just fine on the left overs.

What I didn’t like: nothing, really. I’d make them both again.

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Corned Beef Sous Vide 178°

Recipe By: From a combination of online recipes.
Serving Size: 6
Serving Ideas: Serve with mustard, or make a mustard cream sauce to spoon over the meat.
NOTES: This recipe assumes you’ll buy a ready-brined corned beef that’s already packaged with spices. No additional seasoning is necessary. If you prefer, buy a beef brisket and brine/season it yourself, allowing 3-5 days to do so.

3 pounds corned beef brisket — (brined by meat packer)
1 whole onion — peeled, sliced
VEGETABLES:
1 whole cabbage head — leave root intact
2 whole yellow onions — peeled, leave root end intact
4 whole carrots — peeled
6 whole russet potatoes — peeled
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth — use concentrate, diluted in water
salt and pepper to taste

1. Open and drain the corned beef. Wash under cold running water to remove all of the seasonings.
2. Place corned beef in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Add about a cup of ice to the water and allow to sit for 30 minutes (this purges some of the salt brine from the meat).
3. Drain and dry the corned beef with paper towels. Place in a vacuum bag and add the sliced onions, half on each side or along edges. Vacuum seal.
4. Meanwhile, preheat Sous Vide to 178°. Place sealed corned beef in the sous vide machine, making sure it’s held under the water securely.
5. Cook for 10 hours, remove and cut open pouch. Place on cutting board, lightly tent with foil (if you’re not serving it immediately). Use a knife to remove some of the more visible fat, if desired.
6. During last 30 minutes prepare the vegetables. Heat a large pot of chicken stock. When boiling, add vegetables. Cut the cabbage into 8ths, leaving part of the core attached so each piece will remain intact. Peel potatoes and half of quarter them. Peel and chop carrots into 1-inch pieces. Cut onions into quarters, leaving part of the root end intact as well. Add vegetables and cook until all are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Test potatoes with a fork. Remove vegetables and drain for about 30 seconds in a colander. Serve on heated plates with corned beef, sliced across the grain about 1/4 inch.
Per Serving: 609 Calories; 36g Fat (50.4% calories from fat); 47g Protein; 33g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 121mg Cholesterol; 358mg Sodium.

. . .

Microwave Mustard Sauce

Recipe By: From Sumptuous Sauces in the Microwave, by Patricia Tennison
Serving Size: 6
NOTES: Ideally, I’ve learned, that when cooking a roux, it’s better to have just a little bit more butter than flour – that way you won’t have any lumps.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I use a tiny bit more)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard — smooth, not grainy
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper — preferably white, but black is fine too

Note: all the timing mentioned here is a guess-timate – it all depends on your own microwave oven’s power.
1. In a 4-cup glass or microwave-safe container melt the butter for 30-60 seconds until it’s melted and bubbly.
2. Remove from microwave and whisk in the flour – making sure you see no visible white flour. Return to microwave and cook for about a minute, stopping twice to whisk again and break up any possible lumps, as the roux is bubbling furiously.
3. Remove from microwave again and thoroughly whisk in the chicken broth and cream. Return to microwave and cook for about 2 minutes until there are solid bubbles all around the edge of the sauce. Whisk again.
4. Continue cooking (you could lower the power level at this point, if you can) and watch the sauce very carefully until it’s boiling and thickens enough to coat a spoon. Taste the sauce for texture and thickness – continue cooking if needed, until it’s thick enough to your liking.
5. Remove from microwave and add the mustard, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve.
Per Serving: 122 Calories; 12g Fat (84.5% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 3g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 287mg Sodium.

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