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Posts posted by DocDougherty

  1. Hmmm, I've had this grape starter recipe for a while and never tried it, now y'all have me thinking....

    The easy grape starter is this: get some red grapes from the market. Put them into a large plastic or glass (preferred) container, smash them slightly, add equal amounts of flour and water mixed together (I do a pint of each) and cover the container. Do not look inside and especially do not sniff the contents for a week.

    After the week is up, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove all the grape skins and seeds. Use a cup of starter as a cup of liquid ingredients in your bread recipe and replace that cup with half a cup of water and half a cup of flour. That's how you keep a starter going, you feed it.

    If a starter starts to smell bad, it is bad. Discard it quickly, because you won't like either the bread it makes or what it eventually mutates into.

    A much easier and much more reliable way to do it is to just buy one that sounds good from


    I have had two from Ed and a number that I started from scratch.

    I still use his SF every week and it performs well, even here in SoCal.


  2. Dave, help us with the diagnosis. What is the source of the water that you use?  Hard or soft? If hard, what is the source of the hardness (Ca, Mg, ...?). If soft, are you using sodium or potassium salts in the softener. Other minerals like iron at high concentrations? How often do you change it? How often do you cook in it? With a polycarbonate bath it shouldn't be reacting with the plastic.

    I use tap water in my bath, and I honestly can't say what its composition is, I just moved into a new house that is in the same town as where I had this problem before. I dont suspect the polycarbonate bath to be the problem but the actual bags. I try to change the water frequently, when it happened the water was changed shortly before I started the two day long cook(63C). I think im going to simmer a sample of each bag and some plain tap water in a stainless pot on the stove for a few hours each and see if if i can start ruling things out. I was just curious if anyone had ever noticed anything similar. The fact that it happened in two separate baths was just puzzling.


    Let us know what you discover. I use a similar bag and have not had a problem.


  3. So I bought a brand new Neslab unit on ebay and a food grade lexan bath and after a few weeks of using that the smell came back, exact same smell. I first noticed it after something had been in the bath for apx 35-40 hours, not as strong this time but the same exact smell, completely different food, completely different bath.

    Has anyone experienced anything similar to this?

    Dave, help us with the diagnosis. What is the source of the water that you use? Hard or soft? If hard, what is the source of the hardness (Ca, Mg, ...?). If soft, are you using sodium or potassium salts in the softener. Other minerals like iron at high concentrations? How often do you change it? How often do you cook in it? With a polycarbonate bath it shouldn't be reacting with the plastic.

  4. Does anybody have any data on differences between cooking highly marbled or very lean samples of the same cut?


    Not surprisingly, it varies a LOT. I did some tests of choice, prime, and "kobe" (American grown Wagyu). There was a big difference between them, as one might imagine from the price!

    An a concrete example, I get both regular flat iron steak, and "kobe" and the there is a big difference in cooking times to get the same amount of tenderness - about 12 hours different.

    A 50% reduction in cooking time is a lot. Do you think it is due to more (or more evenly distributed) fat, or to less connective tissue, or both?

  5. Sorry, I should have taken a breather.  In the time it took to take this picture, some color returned, and I started to recall a warning about the hemoglobins and oxygen.  Anyway, it's somewhat pinker now.  Thanks, Nathan.

    Looks really good. It might entice me to drop the temperature 4C on my next tri-tip. I have found that because sous vide does such a good job of tenderizing, I look for a piece of meat that is less marbled and more lean. Does anybody have any data on differences between cooking highly marbled or very lean samples of the same cut?


  6. We always shaped the loaves by folding the edges into the center, kind of like that new crunchy taco thing and they always formed nice big pockets when they cooked.

    It has been a long time since I made pita, but I remember using the same technique as for rolling chapatis except that the pita dough is leavened. Take a puffy ball of dough, flatten it with the palm of your hand on some excess flour, then use a tapered rolling pin. Press down on the right end and roll forward; press down on the left end and roll back. Repeat until you reach the size you want. The pita comes out round and slightly thicker in the middle than on the edges. The excess flour acts as a dry lubricant and allows the dough to rotate (counter-clockwise) as your roll it out. Once you get the hang of it you can do them quite fast.

    I set them on a tray, covered them with a towel then with a plastic sheet to let them rise before baking - just until they are puffy. I used to make them on a gas BBQ when I lived in Arlington VA to keep from heating up the kitchen in the summer. Had some initial problems with getting them to puff, but with the right thickness, dough condition, and temperature (hot, hot as Bill44 points out) they were consistent every week.


  7. My plan is to trim it into a brick shape for more uniform cooking and easy carving.  I have a Jacquard, so I'll give it the twice or thrice over with that.  I've read through the 130F chart.  Sorry if I missed it, but what kind of time would you suggest for tenderness?  For bricks of about 3" x 3" x ? at 131F, I'm guessing somewhere around 10 hours?


    edit: added the bit about the Jacquard

    I routinely do tri-tip at 59C for 24 hrs and it comes out fork tender and medium. Seasoning is 1t salt per lb of meat + 2t pepper + 1t garlic powder + 1t liquid smoke (Wrights), all mixed together and rubbed onto the meat before vacuuming. I do not use a Jaccard, and I use the whole tri-tip usually with the flap folded back enough to make it uniformly thick, but it doesn't make much difference.

    If you want it less well done, then 131F is a good place to start, and I would still let it go for 24 hrs.

    If you chill it thoroughly before grilling to finish, I think you will need to do something to get the core temperature back up to where you want it without overcooking it. You might consider leaving it in the bag and bringing it up to 115F in the water bath before you grill. I have not done the calculation, but you should be able to figure out the timing from Nathan's tables.


  8. Well, I have finally worked my way through this thread from the beginning so I wouldn't be too redundant in my questions or suggestions, but I now have a thought experiment for whoever takes it on:

    When you retard an active dough, the temperature drops and the rate of proofing goes down, but I think it is for two reasons, not just the reduction in the metabolic rate of the yeast and LAB - but as the temp drops the solubility of CO2 goes up, so some of the gas being produced is absorbed by the liquid in the dough and does not contribute to the rise. When you take it out of the refrigerator and bring it back up to "room temp" the CO2 stays in solution and the additional proofing is a result of warming up the gas trapped in the existing bubbles (plus a little new produced gas).

    When you put this loaf into the hot oven, what happens to the dissolved CO2?

    Does it contribute to the oven spring?

    Is it the source of the surface blistering of retarded dough? (I think yes, but can't figure out how to instrument it to prove it.)

    Or does it just diffuse out during baking?

    Am I making something out of nothing? I have not found this topic discussed in any of the sourdough forum posts I have read and would be interested in your collective opinions.


  9. The milk is a good trick for browning.  A sweet sauce will also carmelize well - for example teriyaki sauce works very well.  Any other sweet sauce that will contribute sugar for carmelizing will work, such as a sweet barbeque sauce.  In order to get the browning effect you want the sauce to be thin - thinning with water works well.

    If these are skinless thighs that is a good approach.  If you have the skin on then you can brown with a very hot radiant broiler / salamander, or a blow torch.


    Actually in this particular experiment the chicken thighs were proxies for a turkey that is too big to bag and sous vide. The last time I tried browning a full size bird (12 lb) after cooking it for 8 hrs at 153F, it came out both tough and splotchy. The theory for this trail was that the concentrated pentose sugar and lysine in the evaporated milk would accelerate the Maillard reaction without having to carry a lot of extra residual sweet taste. This seems to prove true, but it is still possible to burn it (5 min @ 525°F will do that). With the high rate of convective heat transfer in the combi at 525°F I was able to get a fairly uniform color on the thighs (these were skin-on).

    As for checking the average temperature of the combi, a #2 can of water with a foil cap wired on will do a good job of averaging the temperature when the oven is kept below 210. Just measure it with your digital thermometer after two hours.



  10. Well I tried roasting the meat joint that I mentioned earlier in the thread. I roasted it at 55C in a roasting bag (as recommended by Nathan) to approximate a sous vide environment. I cooked it for 7 hours. The colour was a little darker than I would normally like but could still definitely be described as rare(ish). It was pretty moist still. However the big problem was that it was completely tough. Relatively tasty but far too tough to enjoy.

    What do you think cook for longer next time? 7 hours already seems a pretty long time but it was a thick (10cm or so) piece of meat.

    I have run a series of sous vide experiments with rump roast and settled on 59C for 72 hrs. It still has a nice pink color and is fork tender.

    I have also tried sous vide brisket at the same temperature and quit before I found a time long enough to get it tender. I finally decided that if I had to go beyond medium, I might as well braise it.

    For low temperature cooking in a combi oven I have done chicken thighs at 165F for 5 hrs @ 100% humidity after 20 min @ 320F to get them up to temperature. After they were cooked I let them cool off a little, dried off the surface, painted them with evaporated skimmed milk, and browned them at 525F and 10% humidity for 3 min. The sugar and protein in the milk enhances the Maillard reaction and you get a nice result without overcooking. Without the milk you get very little browning of the skin due (I think) to the high fat, low protein, low sugar surface.


  11. I love Lee Valley--they have great workshops there, too, if you have one nearby.

    Did you see the mortar and pestle on their website?  The pestle part (or is it the mortar part?) looks just like Fifi's little stainless steel mushroom, except it's made of marble is is bigger (and more expensive).

    But for those really wanting one of those mushrooms, this might be a good substitute until the mushrooms are produced again!

    I think you also don't want a marble mortar. Marble is really quite soft and you can grind marble powder off of both the mortar and the pestle if you are grinding anything hard (or just when the pestle runs up against the mortar when you have little to grind). On the other hand it won't hurt you and will add a little calcium to your diet. That also means you should not grind acidic materials in a marble mortar as it will form pits if not cleaned up right away.

  12. I think going with a 66C cook vs. 55C cook will give significantly different results.  The 65C is closer to a super low braise, I think, and gives that softer, braised texture.  The 55C method seems to maintain and concentrate the richness of the short rib while making the texture more akin to a good sirloin or strip steak.  If one just wants really soft short ribs, then a normal braise works well.  The sous vide process at 55C with that type of meat creates a texture that distinctly unique.  At 65C you probably won't get much of that attractive pink color.

    I was surprised, but at 66 C the color of the finished shortribs was still quite pink and the texture was that of med beef (firm), just not yet tender enough to cut with a fork. I didn't take any photos, and it is now all gone, but I have one bag of crosscut shortribs that I left in the tank for an additional 12 hrs so I will have one more data point. The first batch was cooked bone in, which made them about 2" thick, and from Nathan's charts perhaps they didn't get the benefit of a very long time at the final temperature, though perhaps it was the particular piece of meat rather than the process.

  13. Marc,

    I have tried brisket twice, and no amount of LTLT seems to get it tender. After 72 hrs at 59 C it was still too tough to cut with a fork. I finally took it up to 90 C for 2 hrs which overcooked it, so perhaps a little higher temperature (a low temp braise as described above) might be what is required. I am sure others have quantitative data to supplement this experience.

    As for tri-tip, I have had good success with 24 hr @ 57, 58, and 59 C, the only difference being the color and texture of the finished product. At 57 C it was clearly med rare, and at 59 C it was closer to med well, so this seems to be a very sensitive place on the temperature curve. Seasoning for the tri-tip is 1t/lb salt, 2t black pepper, 1t garlic powder, 1t liquid smoke, 2T cider vinegar.


  14. For those who don't have a vacuum chamber or a Seal-a-Meal, I have validated a simple alternate way to bag food for sous vide cooking that works quite well. Early in this string someone pointed out that you can cook in regular resealable bags but recommended double bagging as protection from leaks. I found that I can wrap small pieces of food (chicken breasts, single serving pieces of fish, ...) in Stretch-tite plastic wrap, then put it into a resealable sandwich bag with a handful of clear glass nuggets and squeeze out as much air as I can by immersing it in a pan of water and zipping the seal closed. There will be a little trapped air, but the glass is heavy enough to sink the bag; the air moves to the top allowing the water to fully contact the food, and the nuggets don't make dents in the food (as they do if you vacuum them inside a bag with the food). The Stretch-tite provides a second seal, keeps the glass clean, holds the food shape in a way that is not possible with a vacuumed bag, and does not add significant thermal resistance to the package.

    This may also answer Ruth's question about a way to introduce a marinade without prefreezing it - just pour it in with the food, add a handful of nuggets and squeeze the bag to eliminate most of the air.

    The glass nuggets are available at craft stores or can be ordered from many sites, among them this one: (Glass Nuggets).

    There is probably an upper temperature limit for single layer polyethylene bags, but they are certainly good up to 70°C which is above where I want to cook most meat.


  15. speaking of nutcrackers, can anyone reccomend one that will crack walnuts without destroying the shells? 

    I want to have two perfect halves to glue back together after the meat has been removed. 

    I've done this in the past with the classic V nutcracker, but as I recall you get maybe one out of 4 nuts in good enough shape to use...

    The only nutcracker that does this right (and also gets whole Brazil nuts out of their shells) is an ancient one I inherited from my parents. It's got a cast iron holder shaped like the palm of a child's hand, with a flange at the bottom (with a hole in it to anchor the tip of the nut) and a screw-down cracker at the top with a conical end that fits over the top of the nut. It works easily and every time.

    I have no idea whether it's still made and would love to find a source for gifts.

    I am having a hard time visualizing this one. Any chance you could put up a photo? Brazil nuts don't fare well in my pecan cracker.


  16. After a series of experiments I settled on sous vide turkey thighs (about 16 oz each), 24hrs @ 165°F (actually 23hrs @ 165°F and 1hr @ 153°F, see below). They were cooked bone-in, trimmed, skin on, seasoned with only salt, pepper and a (very) little garlic. When they come out you can just pull the bone out and lift the skin off. They are so tender it is a good idea to use an electric knife to cut them up into chunks. They were a big hit.

    I also did turkey tenderloins seasoned with salt, white pepper, a little butter, and a pinch of poultry seasoning. They were about an inch thick in the bag so I cooked them at 153°F for 60 min.

    Four thighs and four tenderloins augmented a 15 lb bird that I did in the combi (with less satisfactory results) as the main course for 15.

    I think I am going to try doing a sous vide turkey in the combi.

    Does anybody have a starting point? Time, temp, humidity? Brown it first? Or at the end? Or let it cool off a little and then brown it just before serving? Or brown it first, go wet, low, and slow, then dry it out and crisp it up at the end?

  17. On one of the cooking shows, Joanne Weir uses a special "grill" for roasting peppers, etc., that fits right over the burner. It looks like it's made of the same "webbed" metal I've I have to grill vegetables or fish on an outdoor grill without letting them fall through the slots on the ususal rack. Only this one fits right over a single stove burner.

    It may be one of the dodabs that come with high end stoves. Does anyone know if this is available commercially as a stand alone? If I use the one I have it will cover too much of the stove's surface. I'd rather not take my hacksaw to it to make my own.  :rolleyes:

    I have a piece of stainless steel screen, about 10.5" square with all of the edges folded double and one edge bent up about 1/2" so you can handle it. It was intended to keep fish from sticking to the grill but it works even better for roasting chili peppers, though I prefer to use a heat gun for roasting bell peppers. My screen is about 170 mesh (13 wires per inch in both directions).

  18. Early in this thread somebody was looking for a way to contact Amco and couldn't find a link.

    I don't know if this is the right one, but it looks like Amco is a common name in India with many companies by the same name making all kinds of products. I found a link that has an 800 number for an Amco that makes stainless steel kitchen stuff. Look here for the kitchenkapers.com listing of manufacturers phone numbers: (Listing containing Amco phone number) for context. The given number for AMCO is: 1-800-621-4023.

  19. How about an electric torch (otherwise known as a dual temp heatgun)? This is a little above the $10 gadget price, but at $20 it is the perfect way to surgically roast a bell pepper (about 10 min, but hold the pepper in an OVE mitt to keep things under control), or brown the skin on a sous vide turkey thigh. On high it gets up to 1000F.

  20. Two days after it is soup: The bird bones take 24 hrs to give up their connective tissue to the stock pot, and another few hours to reduce to a concentration that will gel, then some time to chill and separate out the fat. Only then am I ready to make soup from the pickings. But it now has the flavors of curry and mole (it may sound strange, but it works if you focus on keeping it subtle), contains lots of turkey, bite-sized pasta and brown rice, and is served with some crusty sourdough and a crisp white wine.

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