Sorry, a post that I'd started composing accidentally got posted a few days back. The full post will appear shortly.
In the meantime, the name of the blog has changed to GastronautLabs -- expect a face-lift soon too!
I made salmon sous-vide the other night with a prototype of a product name I won't mention. I used Nathan's "free the olive oil first" technique to get the salmon poached in olive oil (if you don't freeze it, you will be buying a new vacuum sealer).
Adding a little dill, salt and pepper was all the seasoning required but I did add a slice of lemon for a little 'bite'.
If you look at the cooked pictures, you'll notice the salmon is pinker than normal for 'cooked salmon'. This is a facet of sous-vide cooking. What you don't see is that it's perfectly cooked and tenderly flakes!
Salmon is one of the easiest (and safest!) foods to cook sous-vide. Try it if you can!
Wow...I can't believe it's been so long since I posted!
There's a post on my trip to Peru and the "culinary fringe" items I ate there coming shortly. And I've also recently created a sous-vide discussion group which you can subscribe to here.
I will also be attending the Ferran Adria book-signing here in Toronto next month (the launch of his new book, "A Day at el Bulli" and will post pictures and possibly an interview with the man!
I made some Earl Grey tea "caviar" the other day. Not particularly eventful from an MG perspective, but cute nonetheless. I'd originally made the tea alginate to make ravioli with lemon ice cubes inside a la el Bulli -- but was having trouble with the technique.
Aren't those transparent plastic lotus spoons cool? :)
A small cardboard box arrived the other day. It had been the subject of many calls to a certain shipping company we'll call "FedUPS" trying to bring it through Customs.
Inside was "The Smoking Gun" from PolyScience. Yes, the same people who brought you constant temperature cooling/heating solutions have come out with a new gizmo that I'm pretty sure every chef on the planet will want: The Smoking Gun.
Resembling the marriage of a small battery powered fan and a bong, the Smoking Gun is a curious contraption. It comes with a metal stand which I found invaluable in supporting it while trying to light the sawdust that you place in the bowl. Once you've got the sawdust glowing, you can flick on the power an a concentrated plume of smoke will bellow out of the barrel and into or onto whatever you want to flavour with smokiness.
I immediately decided that cheese and tomato would both benefit from being truly "cold" smoked and made a small salad to test out the theory. The effect is quite ethereal -- the end product looks exactly as it did before smoking, registers no temperature change, but has a distinct and nice smokiness to it. Much better than using "hickory smoke powder".
Below are some shots from the salad experiment. I'm planning on smokin' some ice cream soon!
The Smoking Gun is US$49.95 from PolyScience +1 (800) 229-7569.
Whether you call it candy floss, cotton candy, or fairy floss doesn't really matter: you likely gorged yourself on it at some carnival or fair as a kid and distinctly remember the sugary goodness that melts in your mouth. I recently added a home cotton candy machine to my ever growing cupboard full of kitchen gadgets.
We made regular cotton candy but I'd been really intrigued by a post on ideasinfood where they made foie gras cotton candy. Literally foie gras flavoured cotton candy and not just a piece of foie wrapped with the sugary stuff a la Jose Andres of minibar.
To make foie gras cotton candy:
30g foie gras (grade unimportant)
400g granulated sugar
175mL corn syrup
In a small saucepan, render the fat from the foie gras until only liver type pieces remain. Strain fat and set aside.
Mix the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan and heat on medium-high until the mixture bubbles and reaches a temperature of 150-155c (hard rock candy stage). Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes before folding in foie gras fat gently. Pour into suitable metal containers (I used miniature bread pans) and cool in the fridge until fully set.
Break sugar into chunks and place in coffee grinder and grind to a consistency. Store resulting powdered sugar in an airtight container and use as directed with your cotton candy machine.
Below are some pics of the finished product, including a happy accident where the sugar came out as thicker crunchy strands. Next I think I'll try and figure out a process for making a balsamic floss ;)
I'm in love with sous-vide. Below you will find haddock wrapped in bacon done sous-vide over saute'd asparagus with homemade lemon mayonnaise. A bit of rosemary, cracked black pepper and lemon zest complete the dish. Okay, I admit that's a fancy lead-up to saying it tasted damn good. And I'm embarrassed to say this was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe, so don't tell anyone ;)
I also did lamb chops "sous-vide" which came out defying the logic that everything done sous-vide looks like it was boiled in a bag. The rosemary in the pic was lit just before service, which added an interesting touch.
Finally, there's a nice piece of black cod (a.k.a. sablefish) glazed with white miso before being finished with a blow torch and served with baby bok choy, micro mustard cress, tobiko, cold glass noodle salad on top of lime "fruit leather and with a sake/mirin foam.
I'm still working on the "build your own" sous-vide machine post and also feverishly trying to finish the commercial prototype. Sorry for the delays!
Even with global warming, it still gets pretty cold and snowy here in Toronto in the winter months. To keep both patrons and restauranteurs from feeling blue in late January/early February, the City of Toronto organizers "Winterlicious" (they also organize Summerlicious, but that'll be a post in about six months). Winterlicious mostly comprises of prix fix menus at a range of establishments for luncheon and dinner, with a few select events to tie it all together. What caught my eye this year was a molecular gastronomy event at a local art gallery.
The trek to Little Italy was harsh given the deluge of wet snow we had on Friday. We found the Vivian Reiss Gallery, a small gallery with ornate tiling, filled with fold up chairs and settled in. Apparently Vivian Reiss is an artist and a molecular gastronomy enthusiast and provided interesting artwork and food for the event. The dialogue in the form of a lecture was provided by her daughter, Ariel, who is a local psychotherapist.
Some of the MG "dishes" included:
- Violet candies that had no taste if you plugged your nose
- Red and orange coloured orange juice where most people found the red coloured juice "sweeter"; despite them both being the same flavour
- Chocolate truffles containing real truffle
- Pasta with pesto where the infusion of basil was from a piece wrapped around the fork
Photos in no particular order...
I buckled under pressure a few days ago and replaced my off-brand food sealer with a real honest-to-goodness FoodSaver. The Bay had the v2860 model for $249.95, which I know was more than I could have found a similar spec unit for on eBay or from Amazon, but there's something to be said for instant gratification.
On getting the aluminum and black plastic monster home I realized just what I'd been missing out on: this puppy sucks. But in a good way, of course. I will never doubt late night infomericals again.
So, on to business. What to cook? Steak seemed like a good next target and the king of tenderness is certainly fillet mignon. Off to St. Lawrence Market I went. A bit of a pet peeve of mine is fillet mignon wrapped in bacon, but I found some "Texas style" fillet mignon that was sans-bacon.
Mmmm....meat. Good colour, nice marbling.
All wrapped up and nowhere to go. (Other than into the DIY sous-vide cooker in my kitchen, that is). There's a little bit of Montreal steak spice in the bag as fillet mignon isn't always the most flavourful cut.
Two and a half, yes 2.5, hours later the meat was removed from the homebrew sous-vide machine. They were cooked at 59c so that a hard searing the meat would rise the internal temperature not much beyond rare (60c). Note: the browning is not actually due to the Maillard reaction as that would require a temperature ~100c higher and a dry environment, but rather the lack of oxygen.
After being well seared. (I forgot to take a picture before searing, but look back at my sous-vide duck post and you'll get the idea: not very appetizing!).
Final product as plated. Note the consistently rare colour and the strong searing delimitation. I had a bit of an accident plating the balsamic reduction, hence the big puddle. But I was always told "waste not, want not".
My girlfriend doesn't like her meat quite as rare, so this was seared quite a bit longer. Starting to look more like a pan friend steak around the edges. A bit heavy-handed with the balsamic this time around, too ;)
Oh, for dessert I had picked up some dragon fruit in Chinatown earlier in the day. Here's how to make a very light, refreshing dessert with it.
Dragon Fruit "Two Ways"
Using a large chef's knife or cleaver, half dragon fruit carefully inline with the stem. Using a tablespoon, carefully scoop out both halves of flesh in one piece. Clean and reserve the dragon fruit "husks" to use a serving bowls later. Place one half of the dragon fruit in a small mixing bowl and reserve the other half in the fridge.
Using a fork, gently break up the dragon fruit in the bowl until watery in consistency. Be careful not to grind up the seeds as they add to the mouthfeel of this dish. Add the 50mL of ice wine and work into the mixture. Add the 2.5g of freeze dried raspberry powder and work into the mixture. Finally, gradually work in first the xanthan and then the guar gum. Using a cappuccino whisk can help to break down any lumps that form without damaging the seeds. Set aside in fridge until ready to serve.
With the remaining dragon fruit flesh, cut across the fruit to create "ribs" and set aside in the fridge until ready to serve.
To serve, loosely place the ribs in the fruit husk and spoon the dragon fruit jelly mixture around them in sufficient quantity that they stand by themselves. Garnish with a sprig of mint and sprinkle more freeze dried raspberry powder onto the plate for decoration.
Yield: two servings.
Lots of people have been writing to ask me how to make their own sous-vide machine, or even if I can build one to sell them. There will be a post in the next few days on how you can both build your own and acquire a pre-built kit from yours truly.
So, I built a little sous-vide cooker using a Cuisinart 4-cup rice cooker (that I'd scratched the "non stick" bowl on, thus making it bad as a rice cooker as a little rust leaches into the rice during cooking). Adding a PID coupled with a platinum RTD and a solid state relay were all that were required to turn this into my new sous vide cooker.
So how well does this setup work? It works pretty well all things considered, although the temperature stability isn't as good as a Polyscience thermal circulator for sure. That said, I generally get +/- 0.2-0.3C stability and the temperature of the PID generally matches my "instant read thermometer". Given this setup cost me $50 in parts, I'm not complaining!
I've done some egg experiments with my MacGyver setup already, but due to the scale of that experiment it'll be posted later. However, I did buy some duck breast (Canadian of course, from the nice folks at Aux Champs d'Élisé in Quebec) and this posting is about cooking that sous-vide.
I must admit I'm a Philistine and don't like my duck breast completely rare; a bit pink is just fine and with that in mind I set my cooker to 54.5 celsius.
One of the advantages of sous vide is that you can cook the target (in this case: duck) "en situ" with spices, marinade or what-have-you. For this dish I included three whole star anise, a few fennel seeds, cracked black pepper, an orange slice, and some Welsh salt and a little bit of red wine in the bag. Below you can see how things looked pre-cooking and "vacuum packed" :)
My vacuum is provided by a cheap Rival unit right now and you can tell. While the bag is formed around the duck, there's not enough suction to totally remove all the air. the star anise still have air around them which is disappointing. I will acquire a FoodSaver shortly and the world will be a better place ;)
So, what did the sous-vide duck taste like? Actually, it was very good and I kind-of "get" the buzz about sous-vide after this experiment. Duck meat is very rich in myoglobin and the super-saturated red in the picture below shows that. However, also note that the red almost perfectly borders the meat that's gone through the Maillard reaction.
That said, I must admit I had reservations when the duck first emerged from the impromptu sous-vide device. First off, my crappy vacuum sealer meant that the bag actually expanded due to trapped air. Secondly; sous-vide meat comes out looking particularly unappetizing (see pic). I'd heard this little titbit before, but I can tell you I was uber worried about killing both myself and my girlfriend at this point as the meat almost looks the way it does when you leave it out on the counter for a few days.
So, I seared off the duck and something almost magical happened. The outside after a bit of searing with olive oil and a hot pan was beautiful, but that's almost to be expected. After letting the meat rest I carved it and was actually quite surprised that the grey exterior was a decoy and somehow the inside was a beautiful haemoglobin-infested protein-rich meat-fest. It was good. I liked it. My girlfriend liked it. See more below.
That's whole star anise and fennel seed. I have to tell you that star anise is my new favourite spice!
My vacuum sealer sucks. Or doesn't, as the case may be.
Sucking from a different angle. Note the scores in the fat and then look at the pic below.
This doesn't look like something I'd want to eat. Note: the fat didn't actually "melt", but did rescind somewhat.
Seared and served. Note the very thin delineation between the seared and rare meat. We served it on a base of saute'd red chard and nutmeg-parsnip puree.
More fun with sous-vide shortly. ;)