Salt is salt?…Not!

Salt seems to be an ingredient we take for granted. What kind of salt do you have in your kitchen? A lot of us have forsaken “table” salt for other kinds of salt. A frequent response from cooks is “kosher”.  But what brand?

Most of us probably know that table salt and kosher salt, while both sodium chloride, cannot be interchanged when salt is measured by volume. But what about kosher salt?

This article, “The Kosher Salt Question” is a good discussion of the two major brands of kosher salt. Read it before you use a volume measure to salt a recipe.

A son gôut!

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Tuna, lovely tuna!

 

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those lovely tuna medallions

Wow! While skulking through Harris Teeter supermarket I noticed that they had beautiful tuna “medallions” for only $6.99 per pound.  The chunks are not a problem for me since if it were steaks I’d need to cut them up anyway. The main thing is the quality and the price. It’s time replenish my supply of tuna confit.

Since my last post on tuna confit, the recipe from that post, which was from Fine Cooking, I’ve been perusing sous vide recipes and have come up with some modifications for the seasonings, and the method. I’m using the method from ChefSteps this time around (with a little modification of seasoning and cooking time and temperature). One modification was to infuse the oil with some additional herbs suggested in other recipes, and then straining/filtering the oil before packing the confit (in Mason jars).

Tuna Confit (2017)

Ingredients

  • tuna (about 2 pounds)
  • salt and sugar (4:1 ratio) for the dry cure/dry brine
  • extra virgin olive oil, about 4 cups (enough to cover) the tuna

Infused oil ingredients

  • extra virgin olive oil (about 4 cups)
  • Turkish bay leaves (2 or 3 depending on size)
  • sprig of thyme
  • sprig of rosemary
  • smashed garlic cloves (about 3)
  • black peppercorns (about 2 teaspoons)
  • red pepper flakes (just a dash)
  • zest of one lemon (removed with a vegetable peeler)

Preparation

  • Infused oil:
    • Place the oil in a slow cooker or multifunction pot on the warm setting and add all seasonings.
    • Allow oil to infuse for several hours (a temperature of about 150°F) then cool the oil to room temperature.
  • Tuna:
    • dry cure/dry brine the tuna for about 30 minutes then rinse, transfer to plate and let it dry.
    • put the tuna into 500  mL jars, pouring oil around each piece, adding enough to cover the tuna in the jar
    • cook in a multifunction pot on the warm setting for two hours
    • cool tuna and refrigerate

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When I tasted the oil, the flavors were a bit strong so I diluted it with an additional cup of extra virgin olive oil before using it to pack the tuna. Since the oil had lemon zest added during the infusion–I didn’t add lemon zest to the cans as the ChefSteps recipe had suggested. I think that would have been just too much lemon for even me–and I do like lemon!

My “medallions” were a just little thicker than the usual tuna steak so I allowed them just a bit of extra time with the dry cure (about 45 minutes) before rinsing and allowing them to air dry. There was a big difference in the firmness after that short period of dry cure.

After rinsing and patting dry with paper towels, I left them sitting on parchment paper for about 30 minutes to air dry, turning them over just once, then packing them in 500 mL Ball/Mason jars, adding oil to the bottom of the jar, and then after each piece of tuna

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The ChefSteps recipe suggested cooking the tuna at 113°F  for 1 hour and 30 minutes. My experience has been that, even though I love sashimi, I like my cooked fish cooked just a bit more. Part of the reason for making confit is not to eat it immediately but to be able to keep it longer as my replacement for “canned tuna”–so I’ve opted for a higher temperature–actually a lot higher temperature–more in keeping with the original recipe.

The jars of tuna in olive oil were put into the slow cooker on the warm setting which should give me about 160°F. I know that’s not going to be as lush and velvety as if it were cooked at a lower temperature. But preservation is part of the objective here (I mean, that was certainly the original goal of confit). I want this to last (in the fridge) for a bit.

Jar size was a bit of a problem–three of the medallions were simply too large to be sure that they would remain submerged under the oil, even allowing for shrinkage with cooking. Since the jars were going to be sealed, I didn’t want to take the chance of having to open them to add more oil. So–extra room in the jar with only two medallions in each.

No matter how this turns out it will be hands down better than most canned tuna (unless you spring for the really expensive stuff) and a lot easier than doing it on the stovetop or even in the oven.

 

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dry curing

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air drying after curing

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starting with oil in the jar

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add tuna

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leaving some headroom in the jars

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it’s tuna confit!

 

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Signs of spring

Shad Roe Sac

pair of shad roe

Sometimes it’s a bit dangerous for me to venture into the grocery store–I happen on to something that I hadn’t planned to buy. That happens especially with some seasonal specialties that appear without warning because you never know quite when they are going to be available.

So we’ve had groundhog day, and we’re looking toward the vernal equinox (20th of March, I believe)–all suggesting that spring is on the way. I have a particular sign of spring that I’m always looking for: shad roe. Today I made its unpredictable appearance at my local Harris Teeter fish market. I never know quite how I’m going to fix it once I get it home–but it usually comes down to something with brown butter and some other seasonings like lemon, or something very simple so that the focus is the shad rod itself.

Whilst skulking about on the web, I found this delightful post on The Garum Factory about its history and preparation that I want to reblog –I couldn’t do it  better.  This looks like a great way to prepare it. Another post worth reading if you’re new to shad roe is from the second lunch.

Now off to put my shad roe in the salt water!  I’m now ready to think that spring really is on the way!

George Washington Ate Here – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger from The Garum Factory appears below.

The Garum Factory

You will never see it on a restaurant menu.  The TV Food Network is unlikely to devote an hour to its history and preparation.  It is one of the great forgotten foods of American culinary culture.  I’m talking about the shad.  The sole remnant of its once mighty role in the diet of Americans is its roe, and for a certain segment of avid pescavores it’s the line in the sand between winter and spring.  This week we’re going where food blogs don’t usually tread – Shad Roe with Brown Butter, Capers and Ginger.   Believe me, it’s worth it.

There is a story–a fish story?–proffered by historian Henry Emerson Wildes in his book Valley Forge about the importance of shad to the revolutionary war effort.  In the spring of 1778 the tattered and hungry Continental Army was encamped in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where it had been since the onset of…

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A good home-cooked steak

Steak is not something that I order when I splurge for a meal in a fine restaurant; it’s too easy to do at home and good for single-serving cooking since it’s portioned when it comes home, and it’s easy to cook.

A good thick-cut, home-cooked steak is one of the things that I don’t mind having left over, since it’s usable as “roast beef” for a yummy sandwich.  (No, the roast beef from the deli simply does not do it.) My favorite way to cook the steak is from Cook’s Illustrated, 01 May 2007–it does take a little time and minimal effort, but it’s well worth it.

steaks in butcher caseMy usual choice of steak is a strip, or New York strip, cut 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches thick, with fat cap intact.  If I don’t find one lolling about   in the butcher case (you won’t likely find this in the pre-packaged section)  ask to have it cut the way you want it; my local Harris Teeter will cut to order but generally has thick-cut steaks in the butcher case.

This works fine with rib eye or with filet mignon, as long as it is thick-cut. Personally, I prefer strip or rib-eye to filet. Even with rib eye, it’s still not a substitute for real prime rib roast, but a good “second” so that I plan to have “leftovers”.

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless steak (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 inches thick (about 1 pound), strip or rib eye
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for searing

Preparation

  1. Adjust oven rack to  mid-position and pre-heat oven to 275 °F .
  2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel and season liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Place steak on wire rack set in rimmed pan and place in oven.  (Steak does need to be raised rather in contact with pan).
  4. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted in center of steak registers 90 to 95°F for rare to medium-rare, 20 to 25 minutes  (or 100 to 105°F  for medium, 25 to 30 minutes).
  5. Heat oil in  heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking.
  6. Place steak in the skillet and sear until well-browned and nicely crusty–about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistribute fat under the steak.
  7. Using tongs, turn steak and cook until well browned on the other side, about 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.
  8. Use tongs to stand steak on the sides and sear on all sides. (This really is worth the effort–and it really does not take long.
  9. Transfer to cooling rack, tent with foil, and let rest for about 10 minutes–this also is really worth the wait.
  10. You can prepare a quick pan sauce while the steak is resting, or simply add a pat of herb butter, horseradish,  or some blue cheese crumbles to the warm steak.

Add some simple sides like salad or baked potato. Now pour yourself a another glass of that luscious  red wine that was  breathing while you were cooking, and enjoy.

A son goût!

It’s turkey time–again!

At the risk of being considered heretical, perhaps even un-American, and definitely not in the proper holiday spirit, I’m going to come right out and say that turkey would be my last choice for the main course of a holiday feast.  I’d much rather have duck, goose, roast pork, prime rib, or even roast chicken, (unless we’re going to talk wild turkey).  The problem is that it’s an achievement to get a whole turkey to be edible (and I do have a friend who does that well, so I eat her turkey–it’s the best I’ve had when the bird is roasted whole). The problem is the turkey–not the cook!

It seems to me that turkey is all about presentation, and NOT about cooking it to the best advantage. We’ve bred turkeys to have a huge chunk of breast meat, which really isn’t that flavorful. That white meat is attached to the legs, dark meat.  Now dark and white meat cook very differently, and here they are attached to the same bird, so that you have to cook them together–a real cooking dilemma.

Not to mislead you, some of the same problems exist with chicken, or Cornish game hen/poussin, though it’s easier to find ways to have both come out reasonably well on the smaller bird. The white meat still is not as flavorful as the dark, even on free-range chickens. I do use the breast meat–I usually cook it separately from the dark meat, but do sometimes roast a whole bird (French style in a dutch oven, in the Romertopf, or sometimes just uncovered in the oven). 

It’s not that I don’t like turkey–at least occasionally–even the white meat.  I just want it like I want all my food–to have the best taste and texture possible. It’s always seemed to me that when you have two things as different as turkey legs and breast, that you should not try to cook them together–neither will be at its best.  Cook’s Illustrated has provided a recipe for optimizing turkey, and it involves taking it apart, but it also provides for stuffing, and presentation, too. I’d like to try this out with a whole turkey to see how complicated it is to get it done.

I’ll buy turkey breast fillets almost any time for a quick sauté–just like I’d do chicken breasts, but I still like dark meat best. I’m actually glad to see turkeys in the market–especially the pieces–light and dark meat separately. While you can almost always get turkey breast and sometimes even the drumsticks, what I really like are the thighs–without the drumsticks attached. I was happy to find turkey thighs at Harris Teeter when I went to do my marketing yesterday.

roasted turkey thigh in roasting pan

turkey my way

Yes, even though turkey-eating season is about to get into full swing, I came  home with a package of turkey thighs–and tonight I had roast turkey–thigh that is.

It’s ideal for cooking for one–and inexpensive as well. One roasted turkey thigh will give me several meals: hot roast turkey, a cold turkey sandwich, and a serving of turkey soup.

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Since I was working on an indexing job today, I really did not get fancy with my turkey thighs. I just let the thighs sit for a couple hours in the refrigerator, uncovered, so the skin would dry.  I plopped them into the roasting pan with some wedges of potatoes, and salted the skin liberally so it would be crisp and golden brown. Then, into the oven (350°F) for about an hour, and out came my roast turkey.

roast turkey thigh partially carved

ready to serve

I let it rest just like a whole bird, and then carved off my supper. Since I was after as few dishes to wash as possible, I made a cabbage dish that I wanted to try, and had potatoes roasted right along with the turkey–no gravy or stuffing tonight. (Cook’s Illustrated did give instructions for making stuffing with the disassembled bird, and I do want to try to adapt that for my single-serving quantity–but just not today. It was an easy, inexpensive, and tasty meal.

I’d eat more turkey if I were able to get thighs year round.  I’m looking forward to more roast turkey in the next few days as I have another thigh that’s been roasted.  I suspect there will be more than one turkey sandwich, and some will end up in with the bones in some hearty turkey, barley or lentil, and mushroom soup from my tiny single-serving size slow-cooker.

plate of turkey

Serious, easy comfort food….

Surely one of the easiest comfort foods must be a baked potato. I don’t mean just any old baked potato. It has to be one that has never had aluminum foil mentioned in the same room with it, rubbed with oil, popped into the oven at about 325°F until the well-scrubbed skin is almost crisp.

Pulled from the oven, x-ed on top and smushed open, given a minute or two for steam to escape, just a tad of butter added–it’s so good!  Probably, in my estimation, the ultimate comfort food–even more than mac ‘n’ cheese.

Want to make it some seriously “gourmet” comfort food?  Add some fleur de sel, or another fine specialty finishing salt. For a great account of salts of the world, you should check out Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral by Mark Bitterman. Just a pinch of a finishing salt adds a very special touch.

Some truffle oil and/or butter, or shaved truffle over the lovely baked potato is awesome.  If you go so far as the truffle butter (or not) a glass of champagne goes well with it and helps induce an aura of comfort in a serious way.

If it’s a meal you want, rather than just comfort food, add some steamed broccoli, and maybe even some cheese–some pepper jack or Havarti will melt easily over the top–just lay thin slices over the hot potato–never mind making cheese sauce here.

Sumptuous but simple.

A son goût!