Monday, September 19, 2011

a scramble for an eggcellent appetizer.

So I never really liked plain eggs very much. I liked them scrambled and in omelets, cooked in a frittata or a strada, but plain fried eggs is not something I ever particularly desire. Yolk has always kind of freaked me out; I find it kind of chalky and thick.

Turns out, the sous vide machine proved me wrong again. Brandon had done all kinds of research on the "perfect egg," which comes from cooking an egg at the same exact temperature for about 45 minutes. By controlling the temperature, we can insure that the yolk is as runny, gooey or cooked through as we want, but also that the whites are the same consistency as the yolk.

(Also, we had friends coming over and our cheese selection was a bit thin. And dinner was running late. And we needed an appetizer.)

The steps to cooking the perfect egg include having your wonderful boyfriend make your loaves of bread during his free time. There is nothing better than coming home from a long day of work to your house smelling like fresh baked bread. (Also, it tends to make you feel guilty for about a millisecond about skipping your yoga class in the morning.)

The second step is to put the egg in the sous vide contraption. Let it sit for about 45 minutes to an hour. The yolk generally thickens at about 64.8º, so we cooked it at 64.2º.

Third, slice freshly baked bread. Then add olive oil that your lovely girlfriend brought you back from her trip to Sonoma and a little bit of sea salt.

Fourth, crack egg over the top of the bread.

(It probably won't do that. The majority of the time it ends up like...)

(But we'll use the pretty picture instead.)

Finally, garnish as you will. Our basil plant, Mr. Basil, has been flourishing recently, so we used a little of him. But we've used mushrooms, rosemary, bacon, etc.

And eat. It will be messy.

Oh and as it turns out, I now love yolk. And I like 'em really runny. But as an appetizer. Followed by a martini.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

man meal.

So we upgraded the trashcan, which really means we finally got our butts to Target to get a cheap plastic container. It looks a little better and you can actually see the meat inside of it.

Anyway, I have a part time job at a wine shop, which, while being a great second income, is really a phenomenal excuse to drink great wine and learn a ton. Through that, I’ve become very good friends with my coworker Tim and his wife Sue and they volunteered to be (or were duped into) guinea pigs.

On the menu was a seven-bone roast, a generally undesirable cut of meat full of fat and connective tissue. We marinated the meat with a little bit of vinegar, brown sugar and salt to help soften it up. Don’t use too much, though – a little goes a long way.

And after a solid 30-hour swim in our machine, the meat turned into a delicious and tender steak.

Brandon seared it to give it a little blackened crust. I think he just likes using his blowtorch tool.

Brandon is one of those guys who decides what foods he like and had decided many years ago that he doesn’t like polenta. So, as all good stubborn girlfriends do – I decided that we had to have polenta to mob up the juices under the steak. And with a little port reduction sauce to add some sweetness to the meal, it all tasted pretty wonderful.

We also picked up some Hazel Dell mushrooms from the farmer's market to sit in between the polenta and steak (cooked in butter, of course). I’m pretty sure this may be the manliest meal I’ve ever made.

And it was lovely! Oh, and Brandon asked for more polenta the next day. Score one for the girlfriend-knowing-what’s-best award.

Polenta Recipe:

(adapted from Alton Brown)

1 cup red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic (or more – we tend to way overdo garlic)

1 quart + 1 cup chicken stock

1 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons butter

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Some freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 315° F.

Be sure to use an ovenproof pan – stainless steal or cast-iron work well.

Heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté red onions. Let them sweat for a few minutes. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes. (And you know that nothing smells better than garlic and onions in the pan.)

Add 1 quart of chicken stock to pan and turn heat up. Let is come to a boil. Slowly add the cornmeal, a little at a time, whisking. Don’t stop.

Once all of the cornmeal is in, cover the pan and put in the oven. Cook for about 30-40 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. Don’t let it get lumpy. If it starts to get dry, add more chicken stock.

Remove pan from oven and add butter, salt and pepper.

Port Wine Reduction:

2 cups tawny Port

½ cup beef stock (and any kind of drippings from beef)

Fresh rosemary

Cracked black pepper

Bring port to a simmer. Add beef drippings and beef stock. Keep stirring. Don’t stop; it will burn really quickly. Let is reduce for about 20 minutes. Strain solids and pour onto meat.

Monday, September 12, 2011

trashcan cooking!

The sous vide machine is up and running! After many days of tinkering and covering our living room table with wires and switches, the contraption is here. Here’s a photograph. Please excuse the cheap Target trashcan in which we cook our food.

Brandon and I had been talking for months about a sous vide machine, a real water-immersion circulator, restaurant quality. The machine acts like a fancy slow-cooker. The product (meat, vegetable, etc.) is vacuum sealed and put in a water bath that is held at the exact temperature (plus or minus a tenth of degree) at which you want your meat to be. The bath circulates, slowly cooking the meat, allowing the fat to melt and the proteins to break down.

The sous vide machines that are readily available (around $300) don’t circulate, nor keep heat very well. By not circulating, the machine creates hot spots and the temperature varies from the top and the bottom. And because the meat isn’t perfect unless it is kept at an exact temperature, we couldn’t have that. But with both of us being in school and/or working for a startup, funds are not generally allocated for $2000 restaurant-quality sous vide machines. Enter: the engineering boyfriend. With a lot of researching (and worshiping of He purchased all of the parts off of the inter-webs and with the scent of burning plastic and soldering wires filling our apartment, a new member of our family was born.

These are the heating coils that are submerged in the water. It controls the water temperature.

This badboy is what controls the water temperature. Brandon tells me it is called a "thermo-controller." The green number is the temperature at which we desire the water; the red number is the actual temperature. 57°C = 136.4°F

The trashcan is only the container for the bath. It retains heat, which allows us to keep the water at an exact temperature, but that’s really all it does. The important parts are the heating coils and such that attach. And the machine is a multitasker (which is a must, considering our kitchen god is Alton Brown)! The tools can be used to control crockpots, toaster ovens, hot plates, etc. It ensures the perfect temperature.

The idea behind the machine is that we can cook a meet for as long as we want. There is no overcooking in this. Additionally, we can throw a crappy cut of meat – something tough, fatty, full of connective tissue – and by cooking it slow enough, it can come out tasting amazing. Currently we have some lamb steaks and a seven-bone roast sitting at 135.4 degrees. We’ll keep you posted.