Archive for August, 2010

28th August
2010
written by scott

The 2nd Annual IFBC starts today in Seattle!  I’ll be tweeting like a maniac (follow me at http://twitter.com/seattlefoodgeek), but also highlighting some of the more important moments here. 

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If you want to keep up with the conference, just keep hitting refresh.

 

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25th August
2010
written by scott

Raw Smoked Salmon-1
Low and slow… it’s true for sous vide, and its definitely true for smoking.  And, if you live in Seattle, you probably know that one of the worlds best smoked foods is salmon.  Smoked salmon has a wonderfully rich and concentrated flavor, but unfortunately it also has the texture of wet leather.  For this recipe, I used a Smoking Gun – a remarkable little device that creates a cold, concentrated smoke that can be captured in a container, or in this case, a vacuum bag [Disclosure: the Smoking Gun I used was a demo unit provided by PolyScience.]  The result: instant smoky flavor.  Then, we delicately cook the salmon to just above rare, which retains the fish’s buttery texture.

Total kitchen time: 25 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 2 salmon fillets, about 15mm thick
  • 1 tsp. smoked salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

  1. Preheat your water bath to 45.5°C.  [Note: Consuming undercooked fish blah blah blah.  Some people will cook their salmon at 39°C, but that’s a little rare even for my taste.  If you’re squeamish, crank up the temp to 52°C.]
  2. Remove the skin from the salmon fillets (reserve for frying, if you want.)  Divide the salt and pepper between the fillets and coat both sides.  Place the fillets, together or individually) into vacuum seal bags, but don’t seal them yet.
  3. Prepare an ice bath large enough for the salmon fillets in their bags.
  4. Load a Smoking Gun with hickory wood shavings.  Insert the exhaust hose into the open end of the bag and fold over the open edge to partially seal the bag.

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  5. Turn on the Smoking Gun and light the wood chips.  Smoke the entire bowl into the bag, retaining as much smoke as possible. 
  6. Holding the open end of the bag up, submerge the bag into the ice bath for a few seconds to condense the remaining smoke.  Seal the open end in the vacuum sealer.
  7. Cook the salmon in the water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove and serve.

Given the soft texture of the salmon, I thought it would be good to pair it with something crunchy.  I fried kale leaves in grapeseed oil for a few seconds per side (look out for major oil splatter!) and roasted asparagus with olive oil and rosemary salt.  I also fried the leftover salmon skin until it was slightly crispy and used it to wrap the asparagus.  This is one of my new favorite salmon preparations, and I can’t wait to see what else I can instant-smoke!

18th August
2010
written by scott

I think we can agree that by now we all expected to fly around in jetpacks and watch porn through a plug in our skull.  Unfortunately, those technologies have not yet become commercial, so we’ll have to make due until modern science can sort out its priorities. 

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a little prediction.  By the year 2020, you’ll be able to purchase the following items anywhere that also carries a George Foreman Grill.  These devices are way out there now – only the most adventurous (and well funded) chefs are using them, but they’re headed to a kitchen near you… along with those jetpacks.

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What the hell is it?
A centrifuge.

What does it do?
It spins little vials of liquid around really, really fast. 

What say the white lab coats?
Centrifuges are used for separating out the parts of a liquid by density.  Your doctor probably uses one to separate your blood cells from plasma to, um, look at them and stuff. 

You put food in that thing?
Although centrifuges have already been used for years in industrial food processing (separating cream from milk, separating sugar crystals from their mother liquor), they’re just now starting to appear in the geekiest restaurant kitchens.  Chefs use centrifuges to clarify stocks, sauces and even lime juice.  Even the finest mesh strainer is no match for the separating power of the sedimentation principle, so the next time you’re making consommé consider your centrifuge instead of your chinoise. 

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What the hell is it?
A rotary evaporator.

What does it do?
It extracts solvents from substances.  Kind of like a moonshine still, but designed by robots from the future.

What say the white lab coats?
By creating a vacuum inside the glass chamber, the rotary evaporator reduces the boiling point of a compound liquid.  Then, through gentle heating and turning, solvents dissolved in the liquid are evaporated and removed.

You put food in that thing?
Imagine being able to extract the essential flavor from just about anything into a highly-concentrated liquid.  Sure, you can go buy mint extract or even rosemary extract (if you know where to look), but what about the essential oil of bacon or saffron?  Chicago’s famed Alinea restaurant has been using rotovaps to distill the essential oils from herbs, and even chiles – all flavor, no heat.  So, when you’re baking cookies and the recipe calls for vanilla extract, don’t turn to the plastic vial from the grocery store; make your own!

XL_triaditemWhat the hell is it?
It’s a freeze dryer.

What does it do?
It freeze dries, R-tard.

What say the white lab coats?
Freeze drying has all the benefits of freezing, but without those nasty ice crystals.  The freeze dryer freezes the materials inside, then creates a vacuum and adds just enough heat so that the water frozen inside the materials converts directly to gas and escapes.

You put food in that thing?
It may not surprise you to hear that freeze dryers are used for culinary applications.  After all, this was the space-age piece of technology that brought us Astronaut Ice Cream.  But it’s not all about infinite shelf lives and lightweight transportation.  Ferran Adrià, often called the best chef in the world, has been freeze drying slices of fruit at his restaurant El Bulli.  10 years from now, when you want to make apple chips and jerky, you won’t be reaching for the dehydrator – you’ll be freeze drying!

11th August
2010
written by scott

General Tso's Chicken Pot Pie

Although this may be the antithesis of my own culinary philosophy, the idea was just too indulgent to let go.  But, to do justice to this masterpiece of American-Chinese-American fusion, I felt that I really needed to commit – so most of the ingredients are premade and can be found in the freezer section!  Is this dish the epitome of the bastardization of Asian cuisine?  Perhaps.  Was it actually, shamefully delicious?  You bet.

Makes: 6 ethnically-retarded servings
Total kitchen time: 1 hour

Shopping List:

  • 1 bag frozen Mandarin Chicken (available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 cup frozen “Organic Foursome” (carrots, peas, green beans and corn, available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 1 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 premade pie crust, thawed (available at Trader Joe’s) [Note: use 2 pie crusts if making individual pot pies]
  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  2. Prepare the Mandarin Chicken according to the package directions, reserving the sauce packets.  Set aside.
  3. Thaw 1 cup of frozen vegetables, and mix together with Mandarin Chicken, sushi rice and soy sauce in a large bowl.  Add the Mandarin sauce and stir to combine.
  4. You can prepare the pot pie in either one large round casserole dish, or in 6 medium ramekins.  If using one dish, spoon in the chicken, vegetable and rice mixture and push into the dish with the back of a spoon to compress.  Top with the pie crust and crimp the edges with a fork.
    If making individual pot pies, divide the filling between 6 medium ramekins and cut the pie crusts into rounds to cover.  Poke small holes in the middle of the crusts to allow steam to escape.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, or until crusts are golden brown.  Allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.

I’m secretly hoping that this dish sweeps the nation (well, at least the middle part) as the next big trend.  There is something delightfully Paula Dean-y about the combination, not unlike “chicken tempura with BBQ sauce”.  So, if you’ve got friends or family who prefer something semi-homemade and anti-culinary, why not pass this gem along.

04th August
2010
written by scott

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St. Germain is like the Samuel L. Jackson of liqueurs – it’s in everything these days.  If you haven’t tasted it (or you’re militantly hetero and won’t admit to tasting it) it’s an Elderflower liqueur – sweet, floral and quite refreshing.  Last weekend I was making butter recipes from the cookbook Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes.  One of those recipes was for a rum butter, but I didn’t have any decent rum in the liquor cabinet.  So instead, I decided to combine butter with just a splash of St. Germain – the result was unexpectedly good.  So here’s the “recipe”, although it couldn’t get much simpler.

Makes: 1/2 cup better butter
Total kitchen time: 5 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter (best if homemade), at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. St. Germain
  • 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
  1. Combine the butter and St. Germain in a small bowl using the back of a fork. 
  2. Add salt and stir to combine.  Add additional salt, to taste, if necessary.

So, next time you’re putting bread and butter on the table, consider making the party a little more interesting by getting your butter liquored up.  Your mouth will thank you.