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Posts posted by DocDougherty

  1. While flatiron steak is naturally tender, it does not suffer from spending 24 hrs in a 133°F water bath, especially if you are going to roll it up. Refrigerating overnight after you have glued it together will give the transglutaminase time to act and I generally wrap it in plastic before vacuuming to hold the shape. You can torch it before or after you slice it.

  2. In general vegetables don't tenderize unless subjected to temperatures above 180°F, so I have given up on sous vide for vegetables. On the other hand I have had great luck with pressure cooking lamb shanks. They do need to be fully immersed in liquid in order to dissolve the connective tissue. Usually I torch two shanks, put in a bottle of cheap shiraz or merlot, a cup of lemon juice, a can of tomato paste, chopped celery, carrots, onions, spices of your choice, and enough broth or water (~2 cups) to cover. Bring up to temperature and pressure cook at 15psi for 40 min. Let it depressurize naturally (~15-20 min). Shred the meat, defat the sauce, serve over (brown) rice.

  3. I buy dried chickpeas for $0.99/lb at my local Hispanic market and soak them overnight. Then I pressure cook them for 30 minutes at 15 psi to get them soft. After that I grind them in an Indian stone wet-grinder for 40 minutes with all the other ingredients to get it smooth. The beans are cooked with hot red chili and bay leaf in the pressure cooker. They are ground with lime juice, tahini, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, and a little guar gum (plus enough water to get the consistency right). It takes a day for the flavors to mellow, then it is good for about two weeks if it ever lasts that long. Makes a great bed for poached salmon. Top with a few capers.

  4. Get out your handy blow torch (the TurboTorch if you have one), chill some fresh Hatch chile, in a cast iron frying pan (just to protect your kitchen) char the skins . Burn the waxy outer layer until it is fully charred (when you put the flame back on a spot that is fully charred the surface will instantly glow red). Toss the torched chile into a bowl of water and submerge them for a minute or two. Use your hands or a tooth brush to remove the char and reveal the crisp green flesh (you first refrigerated them so that they are still crisp after being charred). Slit open the side and remove the membrane and seeds, stuff it with something good, bake it, microwave it, or batter and deep fry. Or, put the stuffed pepper on an oiled cookie sheet, top it with beaten egg whites and bake until brown like a souffle. Serve with a good red sauce or molé.

    For a video of the process (but using a bell pepper) see:

  5. Turtleboom,

    Assuming that the core temperature was above 59°C for 16 hrs, you have run the bacterial count down by over 12 orders of magnitude (decimations). The decimation time for some of the most virulent thermo-tolerant bacteria is about !:15 at 59°C. Unless the meat was putrid when you started, it was sterile at the point you lost power. Seven decimation times is usually sufficient to drop the CFU count well below one per gm.

  6. There is a design trick that produces a serrated edge on a single bevel blade every time it is sharpened the correct way. The back of the blade (the flat or concave side) is ground or etched with micro-grooves which become the teeth of the serrations when the opposite side is beveled and polished. The depth of the grooves determines how aggressive the serrations are. The issues are educating the user on how to cut with a single sided edge, and how to sharpen the blade correctly. It is a very dangerous blade.

    For a consumer knife, there is the issue of stocking left handed and right handed blades, but it might also open up the opportunity to design a non-symmetric handle.

  7. The photo above is of the micro-bubbles that form on the surface accompanied by a few larger bubbles at the edge of the bowl that are not related to the accelerated fermentation. (I ran out of editing time before I could get this into the revised post though the photo was added)

    The photo was taken after soaking for ~2 hrs @ 93°F. The dal had been washed once in warm, chlorine-free water.

  8. After some further experimentation I have observed that I get a more reliable fermentation if I soak the urad gota in warm water, covered with plastic wrap, and left in the sun (so that the soaking temperature is perhaps 100°F or higher). Less washing is probably better, but I generally wash once in warm water. When the soaking is done in a warm place, I observe patches of very small bubbles collecting on the surface of the water, and the more small bubbles I see, the better the fermentation after grinding. So perhaps the lesson is that for those who live in cool climates, you still need a warm place (in the kitchen or elsewhere) to both soak the dal and ferment the idli. Another advantage of a warm soak has been that four or five hours is sufficient soaking time to fully hydrate the dal.


  9. A dramatic turnaround! I made two small changes to the process and this morning I have batch of idli that has doubled after 13 hrs of fermentation.

    I used the same batch of urad gota that failed previously, but made a small change in the soaking/washing protocol; I soaked them in filtered water for ~3 hrs without washing them, then stirred and poured off the excess cloudy liquid, replacing it with more filtered water and continuing to soak for another ~3 hrs.

    The second change was to replace the 1/4t of guar gum with 1/4t of xanthan gum.

    Now I will have to go back and repeat the experiment twice, once with the modified soak/wash but using guar gum, and once using xanthan gum but not washing the urad gota.

    Happiness is a refreshed supply of idli, but I am more curious than ever about the underlying phenomenology that resulted in three sequential failed batches.

  10. Thank you Yajna. I am flying this afternoon so I will have some time at the airport to look into the India forum for the idli posts. There is much literature that provides guidance on the importance of amylose/amylopectin ratios to good quality idli. I have tried different varieties of rice and found that parboiled rice was consistent, and per Jenni's guidance, and following the principle that "if it ain't broke don't fix it" have kept that part of the equation constant.

  11. Jenni,

    Yes - 30°C is about optimum temperature for incubating bacteria of many varieties and of course the humidity and available nutrients further encourage them. But for the good guys as well as the bad it is always a race to see who wins, and doubling times at that temperature for many species is on the order of 90 min, so a 15 hr fermentation extended to 48 hrs provides for additional growth of opportunistic contaminants by a factor of about a 1,000,000:1. After 15 hrs it is usually clear whether the idli are progressing and the question becomes "is there something else growing here that is suppressing the leuconostoc. I have tried using a starter from a prior batch to speed things up (successfully) but I also discovered that you can't do that on a continuing basis for exactly the reason you point out - you are providing the absolute optimum conditions for the contaminants. In sourdough bread starters the pH drops below 4.5 and suppresses many competitors (including the notorious and pesky leuconostoc mesenteroides), but idli starts at around pH 6 and seems to rarely go below pH 5.

    I am looking for other sources of urad gota - just to see if I observe the same behavior in a different batch while trying to find the the government-mandated protocols for processing imported legumes. When I find a new source that works, I will run some thermal tolerance tests to see how long and how hot I have to heat the urad to get the behavior I am currently seeing. I have tried this with rice - subjecting it to dry heat at 80°C for 24 hrs produces no growth on agar.

  12. Thanks Jenni. I am consistent with your 3:1 ratio of rice to urad though I recognize that lots of people insist on less rice, and your addition of poha is actually going the other way. The amount of water has to match the grinding time to get the right viscosity in the finished batter. I have accidentally let the grinder run too long and had to add a little water to thin it out. I suspect that the poha would act to suck up some additional water and smooth out the final product.

    The guar gum is a good functional substitute for methi without adding any color so I get nice white idli and don't experience significant syneresis during what might be 12 hrs of refrigeration between when the batter is sufficiently fermented and when I steam the idli. You can also use xanthan gum which has no flavor but costs a bit more (I can't taste the guar at the concentration in which it is used here, though in more delicate applications I do switch over and use xanthan). I suppose I could try a batch without the guar just to see if is affecting anything but I am still using the same batch of guar gum that I got two years ago and it has worked just fine for all that time.

    I did have difficulty getting reasonable fermentation times with some early batches when I was using urad dhal (split beans) so, on a suggestion that I found on-line, I switched over to urad gota. I also have run tests where I washed the gota in one batch and did not wash the gota used for another batch and verified that the unwashed beans ferment more quickly, but the washed beans will still make a nice idli after a few more doubling times. I even ran one case where I sterilized the surface of the urad gota in 3% hydrogen peroxide for a couple of hours and I still got a good result (which convinces me that the bacteria are actually in the bean itself and not just on the surface).

    It is in part this persistent presence of the leuconostoc bacteria that makes me suspect that I have managed to get a supply of well-sterilized urad gota (and I have little confidence that


    PS - I am a big fan of yours.

  13. I have been successfully making idli for a few years but have had problems lately that I don't fully understand. My recipe uses 64g of urad gota (decorticated whole black matpe beans), 192g of parboiled rice, 1-1/4t salt, and 1/4t guar gum (as a tasteless, colorless substitute for the methi seeds which according to a researcher at University of Mumbai act only as a thixotropic agent). The beans and rice are soaked separately for 6 hrs (the rice is washed the urad not) in RO filtered water (no chlorine, mineral content< 10ppm). The soaked beans are then ground (with water to make a total dry beans + water weight of 256g) plus salt and guar gum for 5 min in a stone grinder, producing a very smooth paste. The soaked rice (dry rice plus water to make 550 gm) is added and ground for 11 min until the particle size is like coarse sand or idli rava. The batter is then covered with plastic and fermented at 30°C (86°F) until it at least doubles in volume.

    When it works, it works fine, taking about 13 to 15 hrs to double. The batter is then steamed in greased idli pans for 13-15 min, cooled slightly and served or cooled fully and frozen.

    The problem I have been seeing is that the batter does not ferment (after 48 hrs it just picks up a pink bacterial growth on the top surface that stinks but does not get foamy or rise). I have an active hypothesis that the beans I have bought were treated with heat or radiation to kill insects before they were imported and that the process also killed off the leuconostoc mesenteroides bacteria that is the active agent for the fermentation.

    Does anybody have any insights that support or refute the hypotheses? Or is there something I don't yet fully grasp that is essential to the making of these wonderful fluffy little steamed dumplings?

  14. I do tri tip at 59°C for 24 hrs and it comes out medium all the way through and fork tender, so I suspect that 60°C is a bit low. My next step up is 165°F for 24 hrs for turkey thighs but that is almost confit and probably too much. So 70°C for 24hrs might be a place to start. I will be interested in what others suggest.


  15. One of the cost-saving measures for the Demi is replacing the stainless tank and bottom grill of the regular Sous Vide Supreme with anodized aluminum.

    Somebody can always find a way to make a product for a little less, and there will always be a market for it. Whirlpool has been selling Kitchen Aid mixers in that environment for many years and is losing repeat customers as a result. I suspect the same thing will happen with sous vide equipment. Circulators are expensive to make and somebody figured out how to get rid of the pump by letting free convection substitute, at some loss in temperature uniformity.

    Thanks for pointing out this particular design flaw. There are coatings (other than anodizing) that will work, and there are aluminum alloys that are more resistant but perhaps harder to work and more expensive and thus less desirable from the perspective of the manufacturer. Products will evolve in the face of market pressure and the sous vide market is still quite small and young. This kind of discussion probably accelerates change.

  16. How long are you cooking it for and at what bath temperature?

    The juice doesn't surprise me, just a byproduct of the protein denaturing and releasing liquid (I think).

    If you are expecting the core temperature of the meat to come out at the temperature of the bath, you need to allow at least 3 thermal time constants and preferably 5 (see Doug Baldwin's book for the tables or maybe Nathanm's tables are still around this forum someplace from 5 yrs ago). In addition the decimation time for the heat tolerant strains of ecoli O157:H7 at 55°C is over an hour and you want at least 5 decimation times at temperature to assure food safety. So for a 1" thick piece of meat and a 59°C bath, you need to cook it for an hour to get it close, then 5 hrs to get the bacterial kill so the food safety timing will assure that the core temp is where you want it to be. If it is a steak, where the concern is surface bacteria the time requirements can be somewhat relaxed since you are dealing with surface bacteria rather than bacteria that got incorporated at grinding time and has been multiplying ever since - which is the case for ground beef - unless you home grind it just before you cook it.

  17. Some thoughts:

    For some semblance of pink you want the meat to be down around 59°C (or below), so you need to take into account the effects of thermal soak back after you take it out of the bath (assuming you are cooking in a tank that is above 60°C), and the effect of torching it (if you are in fact browning it after you take it out).

  18. As an amendment to the post above (two up): my practice has evolved to use less batter from the prior batch and a lower fermentation temperature; I now add 1/4 teaspoon of the prior batch to the dal soaking water, the fermentation temperature is 30°C (86°F), and I use the dal soaking water to fluidize the batter in the grinder. With six hours of soaking, 30 min of preparation time (7 min to grind the dal, 12 additional minutes to grind the rice) and 12 hrs of fermentation, they come out just fine.

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