Saturday, July 7, 2012

Roast pork with grapefruit vinaigrette - my hubs has some cooking chops too!

You know what's great? Letting your husband cook for you sometimes. You can replace 'husband' with mother, roommate, boy toy, friendly neighborhood ninja, whatever you like. The reality is that sometimes, having someone else prepare dinner for you is the best thing in the universe. Especially when they're quite good at it!

Man Candy has learned a lot about food since we started, you know, hanging out. His dad, along with us, is a scientist, and picked up a laser chiller for us that was being thrown out.

well hello there, gorgeous

Doesn't sound cool? Well it is, and you might know it by its culinary namesake : a sous vide water bath. It's like the Rolls Royce of modern culinary technique, all rolled up into one giant 150 pound package that stays outside so it doesn't take up our whole kitchen counter.

For those of you who haven't heard of a sous vide, the basic idea is that a tub of water (or any other solvent) is held at a constant temperature for long periods of time. If you set that temperature to, say, the final cooking temperature of chicken, and then put a vacuum-sealed chicken breast in the water bath, after a long enough period of time, the breast will be cooked perfectly from edge to edge. The different from cooking in the oven comes in the constant temperature. In the oven, you use a much higher temperature, which cooks from the outside in. This can cause the outside of the meat to be cooked to a much further extent than the meat inside. Not so with a sous vide. The result is perfectly tender meat, cooked to the correct temperature.

When cooking fatty meats in the sous vide, you have to sear them after they are done cooking. This gives them a better texture and renders their fat. Mmm Maillard reaction. Trust me, I'm a scientist.


Sous Vide Pork
You want to get a final internal temperature of roughly 145 degrees F for about an hour. That's a nice medium well. So set your sous vide to 145. Alternatively, you can try this on the stove with the aid of a thermometer. It'll be difficult, but probably worth it. To make a ghetto fabulous vacuum seal, use a ziplock bag, fill with your meat and marinade, and insert a straw. Seal the bag up to the straw, and then suck out the air and in one quick movement, pull out the straw and seal the bag. Almost as good as a real vacuum seal!

After cooking, to sear, heat a pan over high heat until water sizzles wildly when tossed onto it. Place the meat, fat side down, in the pan. This will NOT take long : do not overdo it! You cooked the meat to the perfect temperature and you can overcook it if not careful at this point. A minute will do it.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Almost faster than store bought pasta

I came home last night right after doing a hard workout and immediately plopped myself down on the floor. I do this sometimes. For some reason, the hard floor and industrial carpet in our house feel really good when I'm really tired after a hard workout. Last night, Man Candy started asking me about dinner while I was lying there. I told him to take care of it.

I don't give my husband enough credit, seriously. I do most of the cooking in the house, but that's mostly because I love to do it. Sometimes I forget that Ben watches me cook and is quite a good chef in his own right. Most of the time, he's my willing sous chef and kitchen paparazzi, but every once in a while when I just want to cave and order a pizza, he steps up and makes his own kitchen magic happen.

Now, last night's dinner wasn't pretty. But I am gonna give you a tiny little recipe to make super easy pasta happen. It's almost faster than store bought pasta, and several thousand times better. It also lets you mix things into the dough like we did, with beets from our CSA box.

Look at those puppies. I don't even like beets, but they're stunning. Local, organic, sweet red dirt. I usually use beets as a coloring agent rather than for flavor, so that's what I did last night.

Once I pried myself off the floor, I through together a quick pasta dough and made these little pasta dumplings that are called cavatelli. They are super easy to make and the shape makes them hold sauce really well.

So for all you saucy kids out there, this pasta shape is for you.

Pasta - cavatelli (with or without mix ins)
makes pasta for 4, give or take your appetite

  • 2 cups flour (I usually do 50/50 semolina and all purpose)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Enough water to bind (probably 2 Tbsp or less)
  • Some kind of mix in if you want, but make it chopped small and pretty dry. We put our beet through a spice grinder to puree it for the pasta
Mix all ingredients, adding water until you form a smooth, not too sticky dough. Add more water (less than 1 tsp at a time please!) if there are oatmealy dry bits. Add more flour if the dough sticks to the surface badly. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.

Wrap the dough in plastic and rest in the fridge for a few minutes. Lets be honest, mine rested for approximately 5 minutes. I'm impatient. 

At this point, you can form any pasta shape you like, but if you have a gnocchi board around (it's a wooden paddle with ridges down the face), you should try cavatelli!

Cut the dough into 8ths or so, and roll into thin logs (one piece at a time). Cut the log into small pieces. They should be about 1/2 inch long and wide. Any bigger and they end up being gigantic pasta that take forever to cook!

Toss the pieces in a little flour to keep from sticking to the board. One at a time, press the little dough square onto the gnocchi board, pushing it away from you. Lift up your thumb and roll it up lightly until it forms a little shell. 

How about them blue nails? :)

Boil in batches in salted water. You'll have to boil for about 10 minutes, and then try. The center of these can take a few minutes to cook, so be a little patient. Clean the kitchen while you wait! 

Hopefully, by the time they're done you'll have a sauce, and grate some romano cheese on top. Enjoy!

Note : beet pasta does look awful with red sauce. Just a note.

Brioche warning : butter at critical levels

To be honest, I have NO idea why I made brioche in the first place. I have a wonderful book all about how to make bread, but every time I open it, I get turned off by the sheer number of steps required and the days ahead that I need to plan things to actually make any of the breads I really want to make.

Like the one time I tried to make a sourdough starter? And ended up with a gigantic breathing pile of mold and slop that was bubbling in the hallway? Yeah... that's why I stick to easier breads.

But as with all good things, it's time to branch out. So that's where brioche comes I suppose. I don't think I would make it again, simply for health reasons (it's basically a croissant bread but somehow manages not to taste like the least healthy food in the universe, which is SUPER dangerous). But Man Candy, my husband, loved it. As all men love butter and crap like that.

The recipe is from my book, Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas for Serious Bread Bakers, by Peter Reinhart, which is totally awesome. I'm not going to post the recipe, because I feel like I probably shouldn't, but you should try making brioche at least once. It was an... experience :)

This dough feels like... butter. Surprised?

if I space them, it looks like one complete photo!
I'm rolling the little logs of brioche dough into baby rolls. You make a shape like below, then poke a hole in the large part and pass the small end through it to form a classical brioche roll.

How cute! All risen up.

Brushing the dough with egg wash, love those cute little shapes!

After baking... this is why you don't leave your bread out - cat will bite on it. See the bottom of that roll? Yeah, I kill him. Note to self - don't wait 3 days to take a photo of the finished product because you're too busy eating the brioche to make it go away. It doesn't work out well.