Monkfish sous vide

I’ve been thinking about sous vide cooking, reading about it, and I’m finally going to try it, especially since it CAN be done without any fancy equipment–except a beer cooler. That I can handle–in fact, I already have one–I just had not thought of it as a kitchen appliance.

I’ve been wanting to try sous vide cooking, especially reading about it Stefan’s Gourmet Blog posts. Being somewhat budget conscious, I’ve explored alternatives to the water ovens and circulators usually used in sous-vide cooking. I’ve looked at articles on how to turn your slow cooker into a sous-vide machine and discovered that requires some additional equipment and “hacking” to work; that’s also not for me.

There seem to be a lot of reasons for using this technique, not the least of which is to avoid heating up the kitchen and overworking the A/C! There’s also the appeal of the evenness of cooking and not being able to overcook unless you give a lot of attention to the actual cooking. All those advantages and some alternatives to expensive equipment or ones that require engineering know-how at least let me try it. One alternative I discovered was a big pot of water, low oven temperature–not an option in summer for me.  I found references on adding external temperature controls to rice cookers and multifunction pots, using the oven, and, of course, lots of ads for sous vide tools.

So what has precipitated this sudden fit of actually doing it? It’s the hot, muggy, humid, steamy weather we have here in the summer and the fact that I’m a serious fresh-air freak. If it’s at all possible I’ll have the doors and windows open–Frankie especially appreciates this. I want to cook without having all the extra heat–so I’m exploring all possible alternatives, including adapting recipes that normally involve using the oven for the slow cooker–looking for ways to beat the heat.

Krups rice cooker IMG_3796

For food safety temperature is important so I looked at lots of articles giving temperatures for various meats and fish, including on that considered using the keep-warm function on the rice cooker or multifunction pot. Next to the beer cooler method this looked like a possible one for me since I do own a Krups multifunction pot. To check that out I filled the pot with and checked the temperature on the slow-cooking setting–the temperature held at 185 ºF which looks as if it might work for some veggies and, perhaps, for tough cuts of meat. Switching to the keep-warm function and doing a temperature check two hours after I had switched to keep-warm function–but the water started at 185 ºF and I had absolutely no information on what the rate of cooling in the closed multifunction pot was. So–more data, please! I started with water at 110 ºF on keep-warm setting to see what happened. What happened was 165ºF.

So the multifunction pot (Krups) is out for just using the warm function, but I’ve discovered that if the pot is hot and then turned off, it hold a steady temperature for about two hours. Since I’m only doing sous vide for one and quick things, I don’t need a huge pot. This is going to take a bit more tending, but it would certainly be easier for quick things than a beer cooler (my laziness is showing, I know).

Searching for the best temperature to use for monkfish sous-vide produced an interesting array of suggestion. Always preferring data, I was glad to see Monkfish sous vide temperature experiment which tested throughout the range of temperatures that I found and gave a description of the fish texture at each.

From ChefSteps I also found the following temperature guide for fish and from Amazing Food Made easy temperatures and times in the range of 10 to 30 minutes:

  • Tender  40ºC/104ºF
  • Tender and flaky 50ºC/122ºF
  • Well done 60ºC/140ºF

For my monkfish, I think tender and flaky is a good option; for tuna, I might go for just tender–or even rare, depending on the grade. Now for time specifically for monkfish to be medium the general consensus seemed to be “medium” at 140ºF for 10 to 30 minutes. Since my tap water is at 140ºF with the beer cooler I should be good to go–though it seems strange to not have to be concerned about time but since it won’t go above the water temperature anything in that range should work.

For seasoning? Well, simple seemed good for my first try so I went with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and butter. I used the rice-cooking mode to bring the water up to 140ºF, put the monkfish in, closed the lid and crossed my fingers. It just seems too simple even though I’ve cooked other things by putting them in liquid and then turning off the heat and letting the residual do the cooking.

The results? The best monkfish I’ve ever eaten. Okay, so I’ve not had anyone else’s monkfish cooked sous vide, but it’s the best monkfish I’ve ever cooked. I cooked it at 140ºF for 30 minutes. Temperature check at the end of the cooking was still at 140ºF. The fish was tender and just starting to flake. I’m still trying to find some adjectives for it. If i have to pick one I think it will be just plain luscious!

Now that I’ve done all the temperature experiments on the Krups multifunction cooker (in slow-cooking mode and keep-warm mode), and on how it holds temperature, I see more sous vide in my future.

Related links:

Kitchen disaster. . .

. . . but a happy, tasty ending.

Cat looking into refrigeratorI’m feeling a cold draft–very cold draft–around my ankles!

I know I’m not dreaming though it’s the middle of the night or somewhere in the wee hours of the morning–I’ve come to the kitchen (without turning on the light) to get a drink of water. . . .

Cold draft? Really, really cold draft–on my ankles.

Reality gradually seeps into consciousness:  I’m standing in front of the refrigerator–which has a bottom freezer, which I have stuffed pretty full.. . .

Light on. Obviously I’ve stuffed the freezer a little too full or something has fallen out of place. The freezer door is very slightly ajar. Even in my rather sleep-befuddled state, brain clicked on. Several epithets which should not be printed. Open freezer door and palpate the front packages: kale, butternut frozen onions, kalesquash, chopped onions. Soft, but not obviously completely thawed, but destined to turn into a huge clump of re-frozen vegetables.The only meat even close was a game hen which was still hard as a rock.

I closed the freezer door and checked that it shut completely, and tightly. Back to bed, knowing that I would have to do something with those veggies in the morning. (The ice cream was far enough back and in a corner that it was still hard or I guess I’d have been compelled to eat it right then and there–hmmmmm, should I go do a careful check on the ice cream?)

Morning after: I’ve got work that that to be done NOW so spending a bunch of time in the kitchen or skulking through cookbooks isn’t on my agenda. It’s time for some improvisation: take chopped onions, chopped kale and cubed butternut squash. . . .add some bratwursts that are in the fridge. Add a portion of mixed grains (brown basmati rice, red rice, barley, rye berries) and one multipurpose rice cooker.

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’d resort to the rice cooker, given all the other things I have it to cook. Once you understand the physics of its function, it’s really easy to make it do what you want. So here we go again with the rice cooker.

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Kale, butternut squash with bratwurst

Cook’s note: first this is not a recipe–it’s an improvisational happening. Secondly, it’s recommended that you deliberately thaw the vegetables in the refrigerator or on the counter instead of the method described here if you wish to have them unfrozen. You can put frozen vegetables in the rice cooker without thawing unless you have a great big blob of frozen stuff. You can adjust the proportions of kale, onions, and squash as desired.

Ingredients

  • one standard-sized package chopped kale, thawed
  • one standard-sized package chopped onions, thawed
  • one standard-sized package butternut squash, cubed
  • 4 fresh bratwursts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups water (or amount called for in the cooking instructions of your grain)
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of oregano or herb of choice

Preparation

  • add olive oil to rice cooker bowl
  • add thawed onions and let sauté briefly
  • push the onions to the sides of the rice cooker
  • lay fresh sausages in a single layer and then redistribute the onions evenly over the bottom and partly over the sausages; they will brown lightly on the side in contact with the bottom of the rice cooker bowl
  • add 1 cup of grains
  • add kale and distribute evenly over grain and sausages
  • add red pepper flakes and herbs
  • add scant 2 cups of water; your rice cooker may need more or less, adjust as needed
  • close rice cooker and leave until it switches to “warm” function
  • stir contents (grains should be a bit underdone)
  • add remaining water
  • add butternut squash on top of greens, grain, and sausages
  • close rice cooker and leave until it switches to “warm” function a second time
  • check doneness of grain; if needed add a bit more water and wait again
  • when grains are cooked as you like them, serve!

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Despite the ridiculous circumstances that gave rise to this recipe, it was very tasty, and I’m sure some version of it will be made again. The combination of kale with the butternut squash was delightful. The combination of grains gives some interesting texture and flavor to the dish.

A son goût!

cat on kitchen counter

Pasta from the microwave?

Okay, you know I use my rice cooker to cook some kinds of pasta, but when Cook’s Illustrated  reviewed microwave pasta cookers and gave it a thumbs up, I had to try–I mean that should be even faster and easier than rice cooker, right?

from Amazon.com

I ordered the Fasta Pasta Microwave Cooker.  Delivered quickly, and needless to say, got tried out quickly. I’ve cooked both ravioli and capellini in it successfully.  Cooking times are obviously going to vary with the power of the microwave, but generally the times given on the included card have been very accurate.  It’s easy to move around as there are handles on both side.

The drain slots in the lid did not let the capellini slip through.  I’m really surprised–but I think that will be my method of choice for cooking pasta in the future.

(Image from Amazon.com, and should take you to page–however, I don’t have an affiliate association with them, so I get no remuneration if you order through here.)

Rice-cooker pasta with tomato sauce

Some days  a big serving of pasta with a simple tomato sauce is really necessary–it’s kind of attitude adjustment on a plate. On some of those days, it has to be really hands-off since I’m slaving at the computer with a deadline and just can’t be mucking about in the kitchen even though I want something to eat.

One of my favorite “comfort-food” sauces is the very simple one from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking–“Tomato Sauce with Onions and Butter” (p. 152).  Not even any garlic.

Krups rice cooker IMG_3796Even though it’s not complicated to make, I wanted it even easier since I had to meet indexing deadline.  I decided to try it in the rice cooker since that’s work well for other pasta dishes.  (I’m NOT kidding–you can cook  pasta in the rice cooker, been doing it ever since I first made mac ‘n’ cheese that way from the recipe that was included with the Krups rice cooker).  This is one where I don’t mind having “leftovers”.

Pasta with tomato sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5 ounce (411 gm) can of diced tomatoes (no added salt)
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (also good with olive oil, if you want to avoid the butter–or for a change)
  • salt to taste
  • grated parmigiano-reggiano (for the table)
  • 100 grams pasta of your choice
  • 200 (about 1 cup or 250 mL) water.

Preparation

  • Microwave the onion with the butter until the onion is soft and translucent. eat
  • Add the onions, butter, tomatoes (undrained), salt, and pasta to the rice cooker.
  • Turn on rice cooker and continue working until you smell it–about 15 to 20 minutes, and with a little minor adjustment, it should be ready to eat.

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The Krups rice cooker (with slow-cooking and steaming functions as well) is not one of the fancy “fuzzy logic” ones.  Just simple physics of boiling water–it turns itself to warm when the temperature starts to rise when the water has been absorbed and the temperature goes above 212°F.  Simple–and easy to manipulate when you understand how it works.

For this rice cooker, the ratio of liquid to pasta needs to be 2.5:1 for al dente pasta. If it’s not quite there, just add about 1/2 cup more liquid and turn it back on.  When the rice cooker switches to warm function, the pasta will be fairly dry since this depends on all the liquid being absorbed.  If you’re hanging about in the kitchen, peek in about 15 minutes later and check the pasta and the consistency of the sauce. –

I usually  add a bit less liquid –maybe 50 mL short–let the cooker switch to warm, and then add just a bit more liquid, stirring the pasta, to thin the sauce a little, give it a few minutes to heat, and  then eat!

I used spaghetti for this, but broke it in half since full length won’t fit in the rice cooker.  So far this has worked for all the pasta types I’ve tried–penne, conchiglie, farfalle, fusilli, gemelli, macaroni, orzo, and, now spaghetti.  (I’ve only tried “flat” pasta (read “noodles”) once and that has been the only time the pasta stuck together, though that might have been lack of oil during the cooking–or the difference in flour and eggs in the pasta.

It may not be fancy, but….a son goût!

Macaroni & beef with tomatoes

The sudden arrival of a day that is about 30 degrees cooler that what we’ve been having has sent me scurrying into the kitchen to make a serious, hearty ham and bean soup, maybe some chili, and something quick, warm and cozy for today while the rest of the weekend cooking is in progress.

I love the multiple flavors and textures of a 15-been soup, but one of the frustrations is how differently the various beans cook.  This sent me to Cook’s Illustrated for information on how best to soak my beans.

They recommended a brine for the soak:  3 tablespoons of table salt per gallon per 1 pound of dried beans.  (If you’re using kosher salt see Conversions page for equivalents).  So the beans are soaking!  I’m doing the full pound so that I can stock the freezer with bean soup for the winter since it’s a favorite meal.

Since I did not plan ahead I have wait for the beans to soak, I’ll have to cook something else for today’s cool weather food– mac ‘n’ beef sounds like good cool weather food.

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I found a recipe that looked easy and quick in Cook’s Country–a skillet version.  Only drawback was that I needed to be out running errands and wanted food when I got back.  Since I’d discovered that I can make a decent macaroni and cheese in my rice cooker, I decided to try making it in that.  The other thing I like with my macaroni and beef is chunks of tomatoes, not just some tomato sauce so I did a little modification of the recipe, and enjoyed my comfort food on a chilly day.

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces of elbow macaroni (or any small tubular pasta)
  • 3/4 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 10-ounce can of diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained reserving liquid
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 6 medium cloves of garlic, put through press
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of Hungarian half-sweet paprika or smoked Spanish paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  •  2-1/2 cups of liquid (juice of tomatoes brought up to this volume with water)

Assembly

  • Cook onion in the olive oil until just starting to brown in a skillet on the stove-top.
  • Add ground beef and break up, and brown.
  • Add garlic, paprika and oregano, and continue to cook until fragrant.
  • Transfer to bowl of rice cooker and add drained tomatoes and the liquid.
  • Add macaroni and mix well.
  • Set on the rice cooking cycle; it switches to warm/hold when done.
I got back from running errands and there was my mac ‘n’ beef ready to eat.  I have several more servings…a couple are destined to go into the freezer for future use.   Some will get reheated in the oven in the next few days (topped with some cheddar cheese and put under the broiler until it’s nice and brown).

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I don’t have a lot of specialty appliances in my kitchen, but one that has earned a permanent spot on my counter is my Krups rice cooker which also functions as a steamer and a slow cooker–and you can steam and cook rice at the same time.  You can also use it to cook pasta.

One of the things I discovered in the recipe book that came with it was a recipe for macaroni and cheese cooked using the rice cooking mode.  I was pleased with the results with a bit of modification in the ingredients.  The pasta does not overcook–just like rice does not overcook so I was inspired to try the macaroni and beef in it and it  worked well.