About sa.fifer

Lover of good, wholesome food and wine. Cooks for one and the cat. Likes to paint-- a frustrated botanical illustrator and amateur (photographer) and fledgling birdwatcher, beekeeper, and Kindle addict. Works as a freelance indexer.

Short ribs two ways!

It took me a while to join the Instant Pot (IP) cult, but I finally did and I’m glad that I did–I love my IP. Now I’ve added a new gadget to the kitchen: a sous vide immersion circulator.

I had tried some “jury rigged” sous vide (here and here) so I was sure it was a way of cooking I was interested in pursuing.

The Joule, from ChefSteps now has a place in my kitchen. We all also know that you can’t have a new kitchen toy without playing. So I had to decide what to cook first.

When I got my IP one of the first recommendations for something to cook was boneless beef short ribs. I’ve done short ribs as a braise in the oven (love them, but it’s a wintertime thing–not for summer when the A/C is working hard to fight the heat and humidity. As I was browsing amongst the cookbooks on sous vide I found a recommendation of something to try with sous vide. Yep, short ribs. There was even a recipe for them in the app on my smartphone (which you need to operate the Joule). An absolute no-brainer–short ribs by sous vide.

After reading the descriptions of sous vide meat, the scientist in me just had to do a little study of my own. I’ve really enjoyed short ribs out of my IP. Certainly they were not the same as the long oven braise that I would do in the wintertime, but for hands-off cooking and summertime, they are great. It seemed logical that I should cook something using my new sous vide that I knew so I could really get a feel for what sous vide really does. So, a little experimental design here.

I got a package of four very homogeneous-appearing boneless beef short ribs. Two of those went into the IP, and two into the sous vide according to the recipe on my smartphone. I seasoned both the same: garlic powder, onion powder, and salt then set to cooking.

The Joule app gave me a choice of cooking temperatures for ribs: 156°F, 167°F, and 176°F, with 167°F marked as the “fave”. Since I thought a good deal of experimentation had probably gone into those recommendation, I opted for the middle one for the recommended time of 24 hours. (Yes, really.) The other two went into the IP for 90 minutes that I’d previously used to get nice tender short ribs. (I’d tried less time, higher pressure but didn’t get the result I wanted. Less and there was just a bit too much chew to the meat.)

When the short ribs in the IP were cooked, I cooled them quickly, put them into a freezer bag and refrigerated them. (The freezer bag was because the sous vide ones and my IP ones would be reheated in the water bath.) At the end of the 24 hours, I chilled the sous vide ribs and refrigerated them too.

Instant Pot (left) and sous vide (right))

For the taste test, reheated both batches in the sous vide water bath at 140°F for 35 minutes and plopped them onto a plate and dug side by side and dug in. Was there a difference? Yes there was.

After all the descriptions of meat cooked sous vide I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The seasoning on them was just about the same so they were beefy, onion-y, and garlicky. The appearance was slightly different: the IP ribs were a bit darker. Both were very tender, but the “mouth feel” of the sous vide ribs was much moister than those from the IP.

I really like the sous vide ribs! Am I going to give up cooking them in the IP? Not likely since it’s also hands off, but it’s quick. Will cook more ribs using sous vide? You bet! I’ll certainly want to try some different temperatures, though. I perusing the Sous Vide for Everybody* cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen I found that their suggestion of time an temperature for braised short ribs was 160°F for 20 to 24 hours.

When thinking about sous vide you have to remember we’re talking precision cooking here–not hit or miss, or close. So it’s likely to take a bit to get the feel for just how I like things cooked using sous vide, but it should be an exciting journey.

A son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

*Note: If you’re skulking on Amazon for sous vide cookbooks, be sure to look carefully at the author or editors. There is another with the exact title except that it has 2019 appended.

–<o>–

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End-of-summer pestilence

It seems to happen in late summer, yearly: an infestation of fruit flies. It’s just a fact of life. I usually just use my homemade traps and I’ve gotten rid of them in short order.

I was (as always) glad to know that I’m not alone with this end-of-summer event, but surprised to see a test on the effectiveness of homemade traps. Even though I’m pretty satisfied with my method, curious minds must investigate the possibility that someone has built a better (mouse) trap.

From Kitchn (one of my favorites) comes a test of various do-it-yourself traps. What surprised me was which one was more effective.

Frankly, I’ve been lazy and simply put out the cider vinegar mix in any small container even without the funnel or the lid with hold punched in the top and it still works, and add to that, for only once a year I don’t want lids with holes poked around the kitchen! In my simple open-container method (yes, lazy) the dish soap seems to really help advance the mass slaughter.

Celery-Walnut-Parmesan Salad

When doing single-serving cooking there is always celery needing to be used. This sounds like a great recipe.

Zest4Food

By Angelika Hanna

A Barefoot Contessa inspired recipe. Celery salad is an Italian classic, which I recently learned from Ina Garten in her TV show on the Food Network.

This salad looks like summer on a plate. I placed my celery salad on a lettuce bed which adds more green shades and flavors to my salad plate.

I followed the Barefoot Contessa’s celery recipe, however, I left the anchovy paste out because of personal taste.

Recipe:

Prep Time: 15 min

Total Time: 1 hr 15 min

Yield: 4-6 servings

Cuisine: Italian

Author: Angelika Hanna /Zest4Food

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups thinly sliced celery hearts, tender leaves included, sliced on an angle (approx. 12 stalks)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
  • 2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp freshly pressed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp shallots, minced
  • 1 tsp celery salt
  • Kosher salt…

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I love my Instant Pot…

Warning: it’s a rant on a pet peeve!

Note I’m using the Instant Pot as an example because that’s what I own, no slight or promotion of any other brand is intended–and I get no remuneration or consideration for this. It’s strictly personal opinion.

I did finally succumb to the lore of the Instant Pot; I glad that I did because it is a wonderful tool in the kitchen. I love my Instant Pot (henceforth the IP); however, this rant is not directed to the IP per se, but to out expectations of a kitchen tool promoted by uncritical acceptance of advertising and overzealous adoption with unrealistic expectations. (Okay, perhaps the hot weather has made me a bit grouchy, maybe even bitchy, but then, lots of ads do that to me anyway since so many are insulting to our intelligence.)

I’m tired of seeing ads of the ilk “the IP can do everything” or “anything”. Not true. Then to read complaints that it doesn’t do what was claimed. We need to consider it a tool. Think about it. Screwdrivers and pliers are also tools, but we don’t expect one of them to do everything. They are quite different in the tasks that they perform and no toolbox would be functional without both (and even so more specialized versions of each one.)

Pressure cooking is not new, but we are fortunate to have the IP (and other electric pressure cookers) make pressure cooking much easier and less frightening. I’m not denying that there are many things that can be done in an IP (or the equivalent). It does work even for cooking pasta, steaming veggies and fish, and making hard-cooked eggs. But it does not do everything.

In using a pressure cooker you are cooking in a humid environment (and the same really applies to slow cookers) that requires an adequate amount of liquid and does not allow evaporation, so there are some things that just won’t happen inside the IP or slow cooker as they will in a low oven or even with stove-top cooking. Although hot weather keeps me from doing oven braises, there’s still nothing quite like a long, low-temperature, braise of some beef in red wine or in beer. The evaporation of liquid and browning that takes place during that process just can’t be duplicated in a pressure cooker. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to use a pressure cooker for a faux boeuf bourguignon or carbonnade ; it simply means that my expectations are different–both can be very tasty.

During hot, steamy weather I’m thoroughly enjoying by beef short ribs (from my IP and maybe quickly run under the broiler or grilled to add the browning). So, enjoy your IP or slow cooker for the things that they are really good at doing. (Unless I were to regress to college dormatory I can’t imagine any reason why I would use it for making popcorn but a son gôut!

—Ô¿Ô—

Beekeeper’s woes

If you were wondering, it’s more the writing than the bees that have been neglected. This is a rather delayed hive report because of business travel and work–in other words, vocation interfering with avocation. Imagine that!

From 22 April 2019: I just finished putting empty supers on both hives. Unfortunately, I have to be out of town for about 5 days and I think that one hive will have swarmed by the time I get back.

The one that I anticipate swarming is being a problem. To put it bluntly, these girls in one of my hives are bitchy at the best of times, and by the end of my inspection today there’s so other way to describe them than royally PO’d.

I’ve tried two times before today and been resoundingly defeated. The first time I barely got the inner cover off before they started being quite angry. The second attempt had the same results. Immediate buzzing around the hive and particularly at my head. On both these occasions the weather was less than optimal and there had been mowing and other machinery noises fairly close to the hive so I was inclined to give the girls the benefit of doubt about meanness.

Today I started with the smaller hive and had no problems. I guess I might have said that they were a little nervous by the time I got down to the deep (brood box).

From there I approached the “big” (three supers and the deep). At least today I got the inner cover off before these girls got angry. I got stung more today than I’ve been stung before in my entire beekeeping career. Not only stung while working right at the hive but stung when some of them followed me to my front door–about 50 feet away from the hive. Not only did they follow me, but a few continued to hang around the door for about 15 or 20 minutes. So, after this experience I’m going to make a judgement that I’ve got a mean hive.

Despite the experience, I’m not giving up on the bees! I certainly won’t share the pictures of me after this foray into that one hive. Of course, when you have to go to a national conference, do a presentation, and appear in public, the bee stings were not in any place unobtrusive–how about scalp and hands–fortunately none directly on my face. Needless to say, there were lots of questions about why looked like I did.

(And yes, before you ask, I was using smoker, and a jacket and veil, and even gloves.)

—Ô¿Ô—

Pork with peaches

After read the post on Gammon with Roast Peaches on Mrs Portly’s Kitchen and practically drooling on my keyboard; since I didn’t have any serious ham at the time, I tried it with pork confit; it was really good! Peach season is here now, and I do want to try some with country ham before good peaches disappear for another year.

I suspect that my variation of this may end up on my cast iron griddle, rather than the grill because I’m such a wuss about the heat and humidity here, but I’m sure it will be good!

Country ham

More rillettes

You already know I’m not a fan of hot humid weather, and that I’m a picky eater as well. I use a lot of salads (egg salad, tuna salad, etc) during the summer. This year I’ve added pork rillettes to the summer standby list. I’ve known what rillettes was for a long time–I’d just not thought of making them myself, although I’d do confit.

The pork rillettes* were so tasty that I decided to explore other possibilities; I know duck rillettes are heavenly, but what about chicken or turkey–other cooked meats.

While I was exploring I found salmon and tuna rillettes recipes (and other fish). This might be a possible way enjoy food in the summer, especially since I had my homemade tuna confit as a starting point. These cannot be had around for an anytime snack like the pork rillettes that I made earlier–recipes using butter and oil suggest three days in the refrigerator.

pork rillettes

I thought that tuna rillettes might provide a welcome break from just “tuna salad” no matter how you make it so the search for recipes began. One possibility came from The New York Times food section. These use olive oil as the fat, and should be quick an easy to make. Another variation that I found used butter as the fat. Both these recipes start with canned tuna, so my tuna confit fits well into either of these. I did find one recipe that started with raw tuna (to be baked) that used creme fraiche instead of olive oil or butter.

Searching for tuna rillettes (naturally with other links and Google help) lead to exploring salmon rillettes. Though I’m not a real salmon fan some of these recipes look possible for summer food. One that began with salmon fillet (from Food & Wine) sounded like a possible, especially since I don’t really like canned salmon. Again from the New York Times (Martha Rose Shulman) produced a likely sounding recipe–and a link led me to her article ” Pâté From the Sea” with more links for seafood based rillettes. And…more links to David Lebovitz’s eponymous website and more rillettes recipes for salmon rillettes using butter and for sardine pâté or spread which is right along the same path as rillettes. (So many things to explore!)

More links led to chicken rillettes from Epicurious and Bon Appetit, and buffalo chicken rillettes from Saveur. The recipe from Food52 was much like the pork rillettes recipe from Essential Pepin; I think this is going to be next on my summer food list–a welcome change from my usual chicken salad!

Just as I thought I had reached the end of by browsing I found a link to–turkey rillettes! I don’t know why I was surprised–it’s meat and it can be confitted, so why not rillettes as a way to deal with leftover turkey although I suspect the best result would be from cooking the meat in some way other than roasting! But, there were smoked turkey rillettes (recipe from The New York Times), turkey rillettes made from purpose-cooked legs and thighs (Culinary Anthropologist), and grilled turkey rillettes from Nils Bernstein (Wine Enthusiast). Despite these recipes, I doubt that I’ll be trying turkey rillettes. (See Turkey Rillettes on Plant & Plate. That sums up what I thought about turkey rillettes–not an experience I need. If I’m going to use that much duck fat, I’ll make duck rillettes!

(Note: * Though some of these recipes use the term loosely, rillettes are not pâté! Pâté translates as “paste” so the texture is usually different from rillettes that have more texture. It’s sort of a continuum!