Sous vide is a bit of a misnomer. It means “under vacuum”. That was how it originally started but now it would really be more appropriate to call it something like precision cooking now.
Vacuum was first used as a way to remove air from around the food so that there was good contact with the water in the bath since air is a poor conductor. Now while it’s possible to use vacuum a lot of sous vide cooking is done using Ziploc freezer bags and removing air by letting water in the bath press the plastic onto the food. You can also do this kind of cooking in–you guessed it–mason or Ball jars although you’ll need to increase times just a bit since glass is a poorer conductor of heat than with the think plastic.
Note that I specifically used the Ziploc brand name. Those are recommended as being safe and holding up to the cooking temperatures and times used. Most recipes suggest gallon bags, and not ones with the slider. You want the double seal. Since I’m mostly cooking single-serving size amounts I’ve been using quart size, and a smaller water bath than is usually recommended.
Some of you might be cringing at the temperatures and the times you see. They are safe. Even the lower temperatures essentially pasteurize the food according to USDA standards. More on that later, but pasteurization is really a pretty fascinating process.
I’ve already cooked one thing in a mason jar–lentils. Cooking right in the jar makes one of the good things about sous vide even better especially in cooking for one: that jar of lentils (about 3 really hefty servings) could go in the fridge so there was no extra washing up. Awesome. I’m envisioning some other advantages to sous vide for doing single-serving cooking!
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!
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.)
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.
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!
Yes I love beets, and I think they are underappreciated, so I’m always looking for more things to do with beets. From Cook’s Illustrated the article on “Turn the Beet Around” has some suggestions: Charred beet salad among some others. If you search Kitchn for beets you get lots of recipes. Some look good, others, maybe not so good. I have found beet hummus in the grocery store (a reputable brand that does do good humus) and, explorer and beet lover than I am, I did try it. It’s good, and should I find it again (it’s since disappeared) I would buy it again, but make it? I don’t think so. Just as I’m unlikely to make pickled beets. However, chocolate beet bundt cake, might just be a possibility. I mean we do eat carrot cake, so why not?
However, cold beet soup is still a summer favorite, and easier now that it is possible to buy already cooked beets or frozen sliced beets. I’ve griddled beet slices and the caramelization that takes is a whole new level of flavor from them
My latest discovery of beets is poached beets. Yes, no kidding. I was reading my email from Mark Bittman’s eponymous website just a day or two ago and found an article titled “Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets. I don’t know why that struck me as so startling. I didn’t fire up the grill, but I did pitch some of these on my cast-iron griddle and they were really good!
While it may be controversial, I’m familiar with making vegetable confit and even vegan rillettes. After some thought this really didn’t seems so strange–maybe just that beets are underappreciated vegetables. So, beet confit! The recipes I’ve reviewed on vegetable confit suggest that if covered with oil they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three–yes, 3 months.
This seems like a great way to handle extra veggies when you’re doing single-serving cooking. So, controversial or not, I’ll likely be trying some more vegetable confit when the summer bounty is in the farmers’ market.
Summer weather is here. Hot, humid weather is here; that means that I’m terribly picky about what I eat. I don’t want hot food but I want more to eat than salads and cottage cheese, or even bean and/or pasta salads. As I’m sure you know from previous posts, I am easily bored with the same foods too many times in a week, and I don’t deal well with leftovers.
I’m a facultative, rather than obligate, carnivore but even in hot weather I do want something meaty (and not necessarily steak or ‘burgers). Ubiquitous chicken doesn’t fill the bill either; I wanted something special.
Finding myself with a surplus of pork spare ribs that were so incredibly tender, and having some excellent broth as well as the fat (yes, the fat) I thought that rillettes might be the answer to my finickey summer appetite for meaty stuff that could be enjoyed cold–and since I’m still trying to do the low carb thing, I thought rillettes might be quite palatable with crunchy green stuff (belgian endive leaves, or the heart leaves from romain (cos) lettuce.
My search for recipes lead me to some interesting web sites: The New York Times, Bon Appetite, Food & Wine, David Lebovitz, and serious eats, to mention some of them. There are lots of variations in the seasonings but the basic ingredients are simple: pork and pork fat. Most recipes called for shoulder or boston butt, but that’s not practical when cooking for one. All very interesting, but I do have a reasonable library of charcuterie books (both hard-copy and on my Kindle) so I thought I should also check closer to home before I made a decision. Plugging “rillettes” into the search function on my Kindle I found lots of other recipes as well. I was amazed at how many references I found.
I finally settled on a recipe was from Essential Pepin): simple and and it’s easy to pick up from where I left my pork spare ribs from the instant pot.
Recipe adapted from Essential Pepin (Kindle location 13172-13197). The instructions are extensive and I’ve merely abstracted the main points. If you’re going to do this, I’d recommend checking the source–even via a trip to the library.
3 pounds boneless pork chuck or neck (you should have about 75% lean and 25% fat, cut into 2- to 3-inch cubes.
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
In a large heavy saucepan, add salt, pepper, and enough water to cover by 1 inch.
Simmer very slowly over low heat for about 5 hours, adding more water as necessary.
After poaching, when the water is almost all evaporated and the liquid has started to sizzle, let it sizzle for about 30 minutes to give a roasted taste to the meat.
Transfer to a bowl and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
Crush the pieces of meat (with your hands, between thumbs and fingers recommended by Pepin) or use a flat beater on a stand mixer.
Put mean and fat in a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat; taste for seasoning. Overseason slightly since seasonings are muted when cold.
After the mixture is set, pack into small crocks and refrigerate.
Well sealed these will keep for a couple weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen.
I had about 2-1/4 pounds of pork left from my spare ribs. Since my pork was cooked in the Instant Pot using the pot-in-pot method, I started at step 3 by pouring off the broth and fat, then reducing those over medium-high heat until the sizzling started, when the broth was evaporate (as well as the splash of sherry that I decided to add).
I returned the meat to the pan and allowed a bit more evaporation, and did the 30 minutes of sizzling, and then followed the rest of the instructions. The sizzling part is really important for the best flavor. The pork flavor is good before this, but afterwards it’s really great. (Be sure to use a really heavy pan or you’ll have pork stuck to the bottom where the heat from the burner was. (This Calphalon pan wasn’t quite heavy enough so I had to do a little scraping to get all the browned pork to mix in.)
(While the sizzling was going on I use my Instant Pot to sterilize some mason jars to pack the rillettes in, even though it will be refrigerated. I did do a little crushing while this process was going on–easy with a wooden spoon since the meat was so tender.
After cooling it again, I used the hands-on method to crush the meat since I had seen comments on the texture you would bet if using the flat-flat beater method–OK, messy but texture is important here. I didn’t have quite the ratio of lean to fat recommended so I did a bit more of my own home-rendered lard. After a final check on the seasoning, the rillettes were packed into the jars, and stashed in the refrigerator.
Now I have something meaty for hot weather meals. Yes, it takes time, but it’s really not a lot of effort and the reward is so good. All you need now is some good bread, or if you’re trying the low carb thing some crispy green stuff like belgian endive or romaine leaves.