Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fanatic Falls For a Flight of Fancy: Duck, that is.

Ok, so were gonna have to do this one in stages. Feel free to send in any ideas you might have or things you would like me to try with this stuff. I don’t know what I am doing with it all. I just got a bug in my bonnet and had to have it. Here we go:

That’s my darling husband. (I purposefully cut off his head so he could stay incognito and so I could get you to focus on the box.) That’s the box sent to me after I placed an order with Hudson Valley Fois Gras. I was surprised that they just left it at the door and did not even ring the bell. Thank goodness I was home and watching for it! They make you pay for overnight delivery cause the stuff is really fresh. Needless to say, I didn’t have any issue with this.

That’s what the contents looked like before I unloaded the packages from inside of the styrofoam cooler which was inside of the box (who gave his father two zuzim). I was expecting, at least, some dry ice inside of that. But nooooooo, it was only Nordic Ice (a cold pak to you and me). Know what the Ruttles said when the learned that Leggy Mountbatten had left for a teaching job in Australia? Repeat after me in your best Liverpudlian accent: They were “shocked and stunned.”

After I unloaded the stuff, this is what the contents looked like:

So, what’s a girl to do??????

Coming soon to a blog near you: Sous Vide Duck Breast

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Filed under Cooking, Duck, Fois Gras, Sous Vide

One of many reasons why I came to be known as a fanatic when it comes to food

This is not funny. This article explains some of the reasons why I try very hard not to eat meat from factory farms. I picked this article up off of Twitter and if I knew how, I would give credit where credit is due. But, I think I will be forgiven for telling you about it here:

http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/perdue-sued-for-polluting-chesapeake-bay/

I believe that we are all, each and every one of us, responsible for the state of the world today. One of the things I do, one of the little ways in which I try to help make it better, is I avoid eating CAFO food, as much as I possibly can. What CAFOs and the businesses associated with them (i.e. processing plants, among others) have done and continue to do to our home (this earth) is disgusting. I hope that if enough of us can do this, at least some of the time, we will put some of them out of business!

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Food Fanatic Joins the Society for the Preservation of Lemons

Sometimes I get a hankering to try something out in my own kitchen even though I have no idea at the time what I am going to do with the end results.  The fruits of this particular experiment, fortunately, should have a very long shelf life, thanks to our friends, Mr. Salt and Mr. Acid.

I have noticed that lately many cooks are flavoring things with preserved lemons. For instance, a little while back, I had some incredible octopus at this fabulous little tapas bar  that was served in a broth with potatoes. The broth was marvelously complex but the most pervasive flavor, other than sea salt was preserved lemon. (As an aside, if I were a betting woman, I would wager that the octopus had been cooked sous vide, slow and low, before being set afloat in that broth.) On another recent visit to a favorite local fish restaurant, I ordered a beautiful steamed shellfish soffrito which featured fantastic giant prawns, succulent muscles and tender clams, floating in a preserved lemon and tomato sauce. The preserved lemon imparts a very exotic citrusy flavor to whatever it touches. Lets just face it, I love exotic!  

In my personal library, I found two recipes for preserved lemons. One in Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and the second in Preserved by Johnny Acton & Rick Sandler. I am sure I could have found others elsewhere but I decided these two versions were enough for a first try. I’m not sure how many preserved lemons a girl needs, anyway.

The recipes, both very simple, were similar except in one you were instructed to juice half of the lemons and slice the the other half into 8 wedges per lemon. These wedges are placed in the jar between layers of salt and spices. In the end, the lemon juice gets poured in the with the other fruit and fills all of the spaces. Ruhlman, on the other hand, tells you to put a bed of salt into a vessel and then to shove as many lemon halves as you can get in there, too. Next, throw in the spices and cover it all with a whole bunch more salt – much more than is called for by Acton/Sandler. I had a little lemon juice left from the first recipe so I put it into one of the two Ruhlman jars. You cover the jars and hide them in a cool dark place for one month. Supposedly, voila, you have the exotic flavoring element that I have been enjoying lately all over town.

I’ll let you know how it goes when I open them up the first of April!

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Channeling Tom Colicchio: Breast of Lamb Panini

So the meat from the lamb breast that came close to getting the better of me continued to be a challenge to my hopes of culinary greatness. Yes, it came off of the bones and out from in between the sinew very easily after a mere 48 hours in the 60C bath. Yes, it took the middle eastern flavors I placed in the vacuum with it like a Gyro takes to pita. And yes, that meat turned out to be flavorful, tender, succulent, and perfectly unctuous.

But still…what was I going to do with it?  I already told you that I could not find a single suggestion out there in the digital ether (Edit: see comments). I really thought something would come to me in a dream. So sorry. 

As I stood in my kitchen one morning thinking I barely had enough of this meat to put on a sandwich so why was I struggling over it so much, I spied a hunk of fresh ciabatta. Uhhh? Did somebody say sandwich? I immediately began to visualize Tom Colicchio and headed to the fridge. I grabbed a hunk of ordinary green cabbage that had otherwise been wasting away. With my mandoline, I thinly shredded it up. In a plastic container I put a couple of teaspoons of superfine sugar, some sesame oil and a healthy bit of rice wine vinegar. I hit it with some cayenne, stirred it till the sugar was dissolved and added the cabbage. By lunchtime, that cabbage would be lightly pickled and perfect for what I had in mind.

Thinking ahead, I brought out the lamb breast to let it come to room temperature. When my man and I were hungry for lunch, I sliced the bread and filled it with the meat topped with some sliced organic Fleur de Nord cheese from Whole Foods. This is an Edam type cheese with a medium creamy feel and a flavor strong enough to stand up to the lamb but not at all overpowering. I placed the sandwich in the Pam sprayed panini pan I got for free with my purchase of a bazillion dollars worth of All-Clad pots and put the press on top. Then I smushed the begeebers out of it for a good spell. 

I let it cook, turning once, over a medium-low fire until the cheese was nice and melty, the meat was plenty warm enough and the little bits of fat were gleaming.  Before serving, I stuffed the sandwich with as much of the slaw as I could keep between the two pieces of bread.

The sweetened vinegar dressing on the cabbage combined with the heavy middle Eastern spices to make a very tasty mid-day meal.

Next up: Quack, quack

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FANATIC FINALLY FINDS A FUNCTION FOR FORMERLY FUTILE CHUNKS OF LAMB (well almost)

A friend and I bought a lamb a while back. We each received about 25 pounds of organic, all natural, pasture raised meat from the animal. Yum, I love lamb! My half included 8 pounds of ground meat, 2 pieces of rack, 12 nice thick loin chops, 2 shoulder roasts, 2 leg roasts, 2 shanks, and two breast pieces (my friend gave me hers).

One of the not-so-good things about getting a big ol mess of meat like this is that you end up with parts you would never buy, let alone have any idea of how to cook. In the case of our little lamb, I got two pieces of breast. I looked at this meat like a blocked writer looks at a keyboard. For so long as it has been in my freezer, I’ve been looking at the strange, frozen hunks of protein and skipping right along to the burgers or the chops. I don’t have a dog anymore or I would have boiled it up for her. When I took out cookbooks looking for help, there was none. And, when I did what I do best, i.e., comb the internet, I found total lamb breast (aka belly) nothingness.

I have to be honest and tell you my bad attitude is tainted by having watched an experienced chef-who-shall-remain-nameless fail miserably at several different tries with this stuff. He could not tame this sinewy, only moderately meaty lump of lamb. He worked with the boned out version. He rolled and roasted it, he braised it, he cooked it slow and low in the oven. It was still a disaster. In fact, it was so bad the guests he fed it to were embarrassed for him.

In contrast to the breast pieces, I was anxious to cook up the lamb shanks, especially now that I finally had the Sous Vide Supreme. So what did I have to lose by throwing those breast pieces in there along with them?

I seasoned everything with some kosher salt, and then to the breast pieces added garlic powder, fresh rosemary and a whole mess of cumin. In envisioned a very middle-eastern sort of flavor. I used garlic, dried oregano, fresh rosemary and thyme for the shanks. I bagged up the two chunks of lamb breast and the two shanks, individually and placed all four pieces in the SVS at 60 degrees C. This would be a real adventure – we will see what tomorrow will bring. I planned to leave the shanks in for 24 hours and, having absolutely nothing to lose, I decided to go for 48 with the breast pieces. In that amount of time I hoped that the collagen would be all broken down and everybody would be nice and tender.

I was able to get a really good seal around the lamb pieces even though they are shaped so irregularly. The pros put down the Foodsaver because it does not get as strong a vacuum as you might like. But most of us at home have neither funds nor space for a chamber-type vacuum sealer. The plebian version will just have to suffice. You can get a good enough seal out of the Foodsaver by using plenty of plastic and manipulating it to hug the contents as the vacuuming is taking place. The breast is curved so I held the plastic tight along the curve so it would keep good contact with it.

It was the shank of the evening (I was dying to say that) 24 hours later when I reached into the water bath with my bear fingers and pulled out these puppies. I was I little nervous. I have braised (osso buco style) many a lamb shank slow and low in my oven and it was always a challenge to keep the meat on the bone. But when I took these sous vide, slow cooked shanks out of the plastic, nothing fell apart. To tell the truth, I really did not expect it to fall apart but it is still an amazing thing when you first experience this.

The meat was soft, extremely flavorful and a beautiful medium rare. There was very little juice in the bag but definitely more than with the chicken. I poured this juice (from both bags) into the sauce I was preparing for this fantastic meat. The sauce, made from a base of veal stock, had San Marzano tomato paste, mirepoix (sweated first with butter and then deglazed with red wine) and a little salt, had been simmering for about and hour. It was rich and aromatic but when I added the juice from the meat, it came together beautifully. 

I was getting very excited about this experiment – I could tell it was going to be good. I pulled most of the meat from the bones with my fingers and the rest had to be tamed with the knife.   

Then I strained the sauce through a chinois, put it back in a clean pot, reheated it with the meat.

I was very careful to only briefly reheat the meat, not wanting to do anything to ruin the wonderful texture and flavor it had right out of the SVS. I made up a pot of creamy polenta (thank you muse Lydia for suggesting I add bay leaves to the pot when making polenta) to serve the meat on top of. I was going for a kind of Mediterranean comfort food.

Here is the finished product. It was was fabulous food – a meal we would have happily eaten at our favorite bistro:

 

Ok, so I’m not going to tell you what happened with the breast, quite yet. It was good! Come back soon!

Next up: Formerly Futile but now Finger Food – Breast of Lamb Panini…Really

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Filed under sous vide cooking, Sous Vide Lamb Shanks, Sous Vide Supreme, Uncategorized

Fomenting Food Fights????

If you have trouble, as I sometimes do, growing and changing with these 21st century times: what with social networking, linking in, tweeting and so forth,  this will give you some fine food for thought, at least insofar as the subject touches the food biz. Oh, by the way, the FFF went Twitter today. Now I have to figure out how to use the effing thing.

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A FAR LESS THAN FANTASTIC FEAST

First off, I need to make a confession before I get too far down the bloggy road: I am terrible with a camera. I have no idea why it is that other people can just point and shoot and get great photos and mine simply suck. I know that FOOD PORN RULES here in the blogosphere so I am bound and determined to get better at it (unless I become instantly famous and am able to hire an all-purpose live-in photographer and chauffeur). So, please have patience with my photos or the lack of them.

Second, I’m sorry to say that I am not yet ready to tell you about the lamb shanks. Soon. But I have a small consolation prize:

I just happened to find a flank steak at the winter farmers’ market this weekend and I was so excited that I had to cook it in the SVS. I am also here to tell you that I am mortified and humiliated by the results. It was TERRIBLE. All the resources I could find on the subject of flank steak said to cook it for 24 hours at 55C . Well that seemed rather extreme to me but I am a novice – who am I to buck authority? So I followed the instructions I had. Don’t try this at home, kids.

No photos of the flank, either folks. No need – it looked totally ordinary after I gave it a quick sear in butter. And frankly, I just want to forget about it. I seasoned it in the bag with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Actually, it came out disgustingly mushy and falling apart, in addition to being completely flavorless. Next time I do a flank, I will do it for 4-6 hours at 55C. Unless some other authority tells me otherwise and convinces me that my prior experience was a fluke!

Soon com mon: Lamb Shanks (which came out yummy, BTW)

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Filed under sous vide cooking, Sous Vide Failures, Sous Vide Supreme, Uncategorized, water oven