Technique: Sous Vide… What is it?

Sous Vide is magic.

It’s like a jacuzzi for meat.

What is sous vide [soo veed], really, you ask? Technically, according to www.epicurious.com it is “French for “under vacuum.”  Sous vide is a food-packaging technique pioneered in Europe whereby fresh ingredients are combined into various dishes, vacuum-packed in individual-portion pouches, cooked under a vacuum, then chilled. Sous vide  food is used most often by hotels, restaurants and caterers, though it’s expected to become increasingly available in supermarkets”

That is a boring definition. 

I would say that sous vide is the most exquisite way to cook a piece of meat. Picture this: You have 60 minutes left to live before the end of the world. Forget sex, calling your loved ones, or crossing off a bucket list item, you want to have your favorite last meal; perfectly cooked medium-rare, marinated steak on the grill. So succulent, juicy and flavorful, that you can die happy (am I projecting here?). Good thing, you miraculously have all the ingredients and equipment needed; a bad ass piece of beef, a really good marinade, a state of the art sous vide thermal immersion circulator, a vacuum sealer, and hot char-coaled grill.  We’re in business.

The sous vide method works like this: Steak, in a vacuum ready plastic bag. Marinade, poured in. Pouch, vacuumed. Sous vide in an immersion circulator, 125*F for 30 minutes.  Open bag, place on a high-heat hot grill, sear to perfection, 3 minutes. 7-10 minutes of rest.

Slice.

Eat.

Enlightenment.

59:59.

Death.

Ok, so it’s not really the end of the world, but forget 24 hours of marinating, or “overnight in the fridge for best results” With the help of one of these you can have a little end of the world, steak party for yourself.

Joking aside, using a sous vide method under vacuum pack eliminates most of the air, allowing whatever marinade or spices placed inside the bag to be absorbed by the meat and to lock in flavors normally lost when cooking.  Cooking in a water bath, or thermal immersion circulator, of constant temperature penetrates the protein from all angles and evenly cooks throughout. Overcooking is pretty much impossible considering the constant set temperature.

One disadvantage that can be easily fixed is the lack of a caramelized (maillard reaction) crust. Because the protein is being cooked so evenly and not over an extreme heat, there is no maillard reaction of the protein surface caramelizing.  One way to fix this is to sear  on a hot grill after sous vide cooking. This will give a juicy evenly cooked steak the crusty texture and char it deserves.

Lets not forget about vegetables! Using the sous vide method on vegetables also has its advantages.  This method will thoroughly cook  the veg while maintaining a firm to somewhat crisp texture, the cell walls do not get destroyed by high heat, and the gelantinization of starch in the vegetable can be achieved without over cooking!

There are a few food safety risks with using the sous vide method, in particular botulism. Duh duhn duhnnn. Don’t freak out! It’s not prevalent but like any other food safety and proper handling are important. To prevent this bacteria from happening always remember to pack food under vacuum pack below 38*F.  The means, don’t put a 45*F steak in the bag if its been on the counter for 8 hours thawing.  Time and Temperature safety- just like all other foods we handle. If you are cooking meat for a long duration, it must reach 135*F within 4 hours and be kept there in order to pasteurize the meat. For example, 48 hour short ribs.  Sound good huh.. tender delicious and botulism free if correctly heated!

Buying a sous vide machine will cost you a pretty penny ($400-$1000 +), but if you are an avid home cook and like exploring new cooking techniques this will not disappoint.  Also to learn more about this cooking technique, pick up a copy of Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure- you’ll be a pro in no time!

For accurate cooking times and temps here is a handy chart from TK; http://www.sousvidecooking.org/tag/thomas-keller/

Homemade Pork Gyoza

I love dumplings.

They are little presents full of happiness for your mouth and almost every culture has their version; pork, fish, beef, vegetables or sweets can be baked, fried, steamed, or boiled. What a versatile food! But when I think of dumplings, I think of Asian pork dumplings, my favorite.  Savory, spicy, and a tad sweet all in the same bite.  I didn’t realize until I started making them the other day that I’ve never actually had homemade dumplings; I usually just order them at restaurants. And lets be honest, they probably pull them from a cardboard box in the freezer.

I have this great little Sushi place a few blocks up from my apartment called Zen, and until the other day they had my all time favorite pork dumplings. Well Zen, I’ve found you out and I have an even better recipe. My dumplings have the same flavors, but with actual chunky ingredients, not a solidified ball of meat, which makes them a slam dunk.

Skip the take out tonight, and whip up these little pockets of love, you will thank me.

INGREDIENTS:

Blanching the Bok Choy:

  • 8 oz Bok Choy
  • 2 qts water
  • 2 tsp salt

In a small pot bring water and salt to a boil. Once a boil is reached, add bok choy stems and blanch until tender (about a minute).  Shock in cold water.  Next, add the bok choy leaves to the pot and blanch until wilted, about 30 seconds. (this will happen quickly so keep a close eye) Shock the leaves in cold water.  Remove the bok choy and pat dry on paper towl, set aside.

Making the filling:

  • 1 lb Lean Ground Pork
  • 2 egg whites, whipped until frothy
  • 2 oz soy sauce
  • 1 oz sake (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1.5 oz sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup Scallions, diced
  • 8 oz bok choy, diced
  • 2 tbsp Ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp, pepper
  • 2 tsp, red pepper flakes

In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Combine the pork and mix in the soy sauce, sake, sugar, sesame oil, and mix well together with hands or a fork.  (*Having a box of disposable kitchen gloves nearby is good for a project like this).  After the liquids are mixed, add the ginger, scallions, garlic, pepper, red pepper, and bok choy. The filling is now ready.

Why make pot sticker wrappers when you can buy them! No brainer. A package of gyoza wrappers contains 40-50 wrappers and will cost around $3. Boomski!

To start making the dumplings, line your work space with a piece of parchment paper, this will minimalize the gyoza wrappers from sticking to the bare counter.  Also, place a piece of parchment paper in a sheet tray, this is where you will place your ready-to-be-cooked bundles of tastiness.

Lay out 5 or so wrappers to start on your parchment lined work space. In the center of each dumpling add about a 1/2 tablespoon of filling. This will be trial and error.  I started off with a full tablespoon and quickly found out that the wrapper could not encase that much, but 1/2 tbsp was too little.  You’ll figure it out. Using a finger, dab in a small cup of water and run it along the edge of 1/2 of the gyoza wrapper, fold in half and secure the seams with a few good pinches, pressing the dough together.  Try to make sure to get most of the air out. Reserve on the parchment lined sheet tray and begin the process again with the remaining wrappers and filling.

Cooking the Dumplings:

Flash steam/boil them 4 or 5 at a time in a saute pan filled with about 3/4″ boiling water. This will take about 1-2 minutes.  Pull them from the water and let sit on a parchment lined sheet tray. In a second saute pan add enough cooking oil to coat the pan, around 1/2 inch and heat just until the oil begins to smoke. Make sure the dumplings are fairly dry before tossing in the hot oil.  Scorching hot oil and water do not get along.  Pan fry until golden brown on both sides and serve with my dumpling dipping sauce.

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp ginger, finely minced

Let me know how yours turn out! Thanks for reading- xo, G

A pig’s tail…from head to hoof

This story begins with the few clicks of a mouse in a land called twitter, a far off cyber-realm where people share ideas, connect, promote, and exchange information.  Had I not been sitting in a nail salon, obsessing over Facebook, instagram and twitter simultaneously (yes I’ll admit it) while waiting for my pearly polish to dry, I might not have ever seen this tweet “@themightyrib: Boston foodies…if you’re interested in details about attending a Pig Roast @CitizensPub in the near future, pls DM me. Organizing a group”.  Without regard to my polish, I instantly replied and was greeted moments later by a friendly message from Kevin (@themightyrib) that I was in.  Awesome. Finally a dinner crew that will get down and dirty with some odd bits, and maybe a few people I can learn from. A couple of days later he got back to me with the date of Sunday Feb 26@2pm.  Juuuusst Great, iPhone calendar says I have a ski weekend planned, but what the heck, its been a bare bones winter so far.  The Pig wins.

6 weeks of anticipation led to this…

13 foodies

From all backgrounds

and  all walks of life

strangers to each other

came together with one common goal

…to eat. drink. and eat some more.  Did I just write a haiku or something?  anyway…

I am a carnivore and I have no qualms about it.  I like meat, I believe in meat, and our bodies were designed to digest it. I dig the veggies/vegans/pesca’s too and I am not trying to piss you off. However there is something special about nose to tail eating.  I know it’s becoming a little gimmicky but in concept and to actually be a part of it, is something sort of special.

I mean, we had a moment to bond with the little bugger. The chef brought him out in all his baked, crispy golden skin, ready to be hacked apart, glory.

We got to see the before, so that we could appreciate the after.

Whole Hog, 26lbs of goodness

After everyone arrived and beers had been served, we started with a nice 1st round of raw bar appetizers; clams, shrimp, and oysters.  Couldn’t think of a better way to start off a pig roast, if I do say so myself.

Oysters and Clams

For sides we were surprised with tarragon roasted beets, fried green tomatoes, and truffle oil sweet potatoes.

Gorgeous Beets

Killer Green Tomatoes

And it begins…

Pig Pickin'

Shoulders and Butt

My first plate

Crispy Pig Skin.. doesn't get much better! Pork Candy

Since this was brunch after all, the chef informed us that he had stuffed the pigs belly with chorizo, eggs, spinach, apples, onions, carrots, celery, potatoes and various aromatic herbs and spices.  It was fantastic and the flavors ran throughout the tender meat.

More Pig!

Stuffed.

After fully pigging out, the drinks started flowin’, and the bourbon punch started giving us a warm feeling in our tummys… liquid courage was building and the main event was upon us.

Bourbon Lemon Tea Punch; deadly yet delicious

Offal; the nasty bits and odd parts. The grande silver platter arrived and I was excited, curious and a little grossed out all at the same time, but hey!  This is what I came for.  When else does one experience something like this?  I don’t think I’ll ever be on fear factor getting yelled at by Joe Rogan,  I sure as sh*t am not eating or preparing this stuff at school, and my usual dinners out with friends don’t get this interesting, so I’m going for it.

Brains, Eyes, Cheek, Tongue

Eyeball is interesting.  If it wasn’t for the bourbon tea plus some random foodie peer pressure I might not have done it, so it was a perfect combo.  With a few meaty parts of the head fat still attached I popped the sucker and chewed only slightly.  Tasted like pork, a little oily, and then an odd viscous feel on my tongue. I immediately grabbed for my beer and swallowed.  It wasn’t terrible, but I am glad to have just had the one.  First and last eyeball consumption I hope.

Pig Eye... not sure if it's the right or left

With that, followed brain on toast with a little kosher salt.  Comparative to an oily pate with a liver aftertaste. Not delicious.

Brain shmere. Brown strings are blood lines or brain veins. yuck

And finally, pig tongue- actually incredible!  Tasted similar to roast beef. If you ever have a chance, try it! Any normal meat eater would like it.

Tongue is just to the lower right of the snout

Look at Carol “I’ll try anything once” Glagola, eatin’ her brain toast like it ain’t no thang! She dug right in. You GO girl.

This was a perfect Sunday afternoon. I met a lot of cool people, heard some interesting stories, shared some laughs, ate some weird sh*t, and got cultured on nose to tail eating. If you want to do something out of the ordinary, sip on whisky, and have some good banter, head over to the Citizen Public House.

The…

End.

Honey Lime Chicken Wings

Who doesn’t love a good chicken wing?  If you’re looking to impress your friends this Superbowl weekend, then watch-out! These chicken wings will knock your sox off. Chicken wings are typically a very cheap buy.  Roughly $1.50 for an 18 wing package, this fowl limb can be done in hundreds of combinations. Here’s one way I particularly like to eat them.

Ingredients:  (double or triple recipe if feeding a large party)

  • 18 whole chicken wings, cleaned and split
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime zest
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoons of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

Fry Directions: In a large bowl, mix together the honey, lime juice, lime zest, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, salt and ground black pepper.  Reserve half in a separate bowl.  In a zip lock bag or shallow dish combine 1/2 of the mixture with the wings and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. When ready to start preparing, drain off chicken wing marinade and pat dry. Place the flour in a plastic bag and begin shake the chicken wings in the flour to coat (you could do this in batches).

In a large skillet, fry the chicken wings in hot, 1 inch deep oil until cooked through. Place the cooked wings in a bowl with the other half of the the honey/lime mixture and toss to coat well. Serve immediately and garnish with lime wedges.

Grill Directions: Season the  raw chicken wings with salt and pepper.  Arrange on the grill and cook until lightly browned and mostly cooked through, then begin to brush on the sauce.  Allow to grill about 10-15 minutes more or until a crispy amber crust begins to form.  Remove from heat and serve immediately with lime wedges.

Either cooking method will yield delicious results. Grilling is obviously the more healthy way but not always accessible or weather permitting.  Enjoy!

The best oven baked Ribs

A totally delicious accident.  I had never made oven baked ribs before, but with a fairly good idea of what to do, I started  throwing spices and liquids together.  I don’t see many rib recipes that incorporate Orange Juice, Espresso powder, and Ginger, but I did. Wanna wow your friends during your Superbowl party?  Give this recipe a shot.   I guarantee these won’t last longer than the first Doritos commercial.

INGREDIENTS:
2 whole slabs pork baby back ribs, silver skin removed

Dry Rub:

  • 8 tablespoons light brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced

Orange Juice Syrup:

  • 2 cups Orange Juice, reduced by half
  • 2 tablespoons, ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

DIRECTIONS:

In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Place each slab of baby back ribs on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Pack each side of the ribs generously with the dry rub, then wrap the ribs tightly in the foil and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours or overnight and up to 48 hours.

When ready to bake the ribs, preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Place the ribs (still in the foil packets) on a foil lined baking sheet and bake the ribs in the oven for 2 hours.

Remove ribs from foil and  brush with your favorite BBQ sauce or lightly glaze with the reduced orange juice syrup mixture. Place ribs on a shallow baking rack with drip pan. Line the bottom of the drip-pan with 1 cup of orange juice.  Cover tightly with foil and return to the oven for another 2 hours. After 2 hours, check the moisture level and add more orange juice or a OJ/Water combo if needed. Continue to cook until level of personal done-ness is achieved.  During the last 15 minutes of cooking crank up the oven to 425*F and baste again with OJ Syrup or BBQ sauce to give the ribs a crispy crust.  I like them falling off the bone, so I cooked mine for 6.5 hours.  Oven levels will vary.

Slow and low is the name of the game.