failed clear ice balls

The ball on the far left was made from plain tap water – never boiled, never filtered.  The 2nd ball from the left was made from tap water which I boiled for 3 minutes, then cooled, then boiled again.  The 3rd ball was made from water I filtered through my Brita then boiled once.  The ball on the far right was made from filtered, double-boiled water. 

Can you see the difference in clarity? Yeah, me neither.

My goal was to make clear ice – that is, ice that is totally transparent without any haziness or white fissures.  I know that commercial ice makers use fancy processes like upside down freezing, but several websites propose that you can make your own clear ice just by boiling (or double boiling) water before freezing.  I put this to the test, and as you can see, my results were less than stellar. 

The complication may have to do with the ice ball molds I was using.  The molds are sealed, so it’s possible that some gasses (or evil spirits) weren’t able to escape during the freezing process.  I’ll try again with regular cubes or blocks, but for now, I’m a little pissed that I’ll have to chill my morning gin with cloudy ice.

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thermometer in ice water
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably got a handful of thermometers dancing around your drawer of miscellaneous kitchen tools.  But, are they accurate?  If you’re roasting a turkey, a degree or two of inaccuracy isn’t going to make a dramatic difference.  But, if you’re making caramel, tempering chocolate, cooking sous vide, grilling a steak, or doing any number of other tasks that require a precise temperature, having a thermometer you can trust is clutch. 

Calibrating your thermometer is quick and easy.  Many analog and digital thermometers allow you to offset the temperature to adjust for the calibrated value.  However, if your thermometer doesn’t offer an offset function, a piece of blue tape with the delta will work just fine. 

Method 1: Ice Water

  1. Fill a glass with ice cubes, then top off with cold water. 
  2. Stir the water and let sit for 3 minutes.
  3. Stir again, then insert your thermometer into the glass, making sure not to touch the sides. 
  4. The temperature should read 32°F (0°C).  Record the difference and offset your thermometer as appropriate.

Method 2: Boiling Water

  1. Boil a pot of distilled water.
  2. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, insert your thermometer, making sure not to touch the sides or bottom of the pot.
  3. The temperature should read 212°F (100°C).  Record the difference and offset your thermometer as appropriate.
    [Note: The boiling point of water will vary with altitude.  Use this handy water boiling point calculator to find the right temperature for your elevation.]

Now that you’ve got a thermometer you can trust, go forth and cook with confidence!

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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.

    DSC_0416

  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!

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