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Everything posted by alwang

  1. Hmmm, this is very interesting. Makes me wonder what I should do for steaks this summer when grill season starts up: maybe the best of both worlds would be cooking steaks CSV to 53C, and then finishing them on a really hot charcoal grill for the crust and smokiness. Gonna have to give that a try... -al
  2. I'm thinking that would cause some texture issues. As water content in muscle tissues expands during freezing it can break the cell wall leaving a puddle of liquid in the bag. Some of the newer vacuum sealers on the market will allow you seal wet. Like this one for example : Food Saver. ← I actually didn't mean freezing the steak, just freezing the oil into a solid, then sealing it with the steak. It's something folks do to seal liquids with the cheaper FoodSavers. -al
  3. The marbling on those Flannery steaks is amazing... Couple of other questions about how the vacuum marinating was done: - That's a really deep-colored oil: is it grapeseed? I'm curious what brand, and how much you're using: I usually only use a tablespoon or so of oil, but you seem to have more in each bag: did you have to prefreeze it to get the bag sealed? - do you plan to remove the thyme and laurel from the bag prior to CSV? I find that when I leave whole herbs on the meat during cooking, they get embedded into the surface in a way that's a nuisance to remove, and isn't very attractive (although I have been wondering if there are ways to use this embedding creatively, for an interesting visual presentation). Or will the searing obscure all this? Thanks, -al
  4. 3 inch thick new york strip...dammit, it's 8:15AM and I want me some steak. Thanks for the answers.
  5. I'm curious what the marinade's going to be? It seems like a better comparison to keep the flavors relatively similar across the three methods... Also, do you usually do steaks CSV for that many hours? Unless these are seriously thick steaks, it seems it wouldn't take nearly that long for the core temp to reach 53C: even a 2" steak will only take about 2.5 hours. I understand the advantage to longer cooking times for cuts with a lot of cartilage that needs to be broken down, but that wouldn't seem to be the case for a NY Strip. Eagerly awaiting the results! I'm still trying to refine my own techniques for steaks CSV. -al
  6. also cause he only ordered one non-Japanese item at Bouley Upstairs. ← For the record, both the lobster and the oysters were non-Japanese. I guess you could argue that the oysters were an appetizer, but given that they were more expensive than most of the entrees, i'd say it's kind of hard to make an appetizer/entree distinction in that sort of place. I'm not sure what I would have ordered that would have given me a better feel for what Upstairs can do. The Italian dishes sounded good, but pretty traditional. Ditto the meat dishes (burger, steak, roast chicken, etc.). The fish entrees sounded interesting, but if they were new-paradigm, it would have to be explained to me. Actually, for me, the Japanese dishes were the highlight of the evening, and they were closest to the spirit of this new paradigm, in that the menu of non-sushi Japanese offerings changes a lot from day-to-day (we walked by and checked out the menu on Saturday), while the rest of the menu is fairly static. One other thing I'll mention about the oysters. The dish was supposed to be half bluepoints and half kumamoto, but the waiter did tell us that they only had bluepoints for the evening, and we were fine with that. In hindsight, that raspberry dressing that I wasn't fond of might have paired better with the sweeter kumamoto. I don't blame Upstairs, as they fully informed us up front, but I have a suspicion that if a similar situation arose at Ssam Bar, they simply wouldn't offer that dish at all: just a little more emphasis about the right ingredient for each dish. -al
  7. This weekend, I managed to grab meals at a couple of the places mentioned in this discussion for the first time, so I thought I'd add my thoughts on the experience. I apologize in advance for being long-winded. I had dinner at Upstairs at Bouley on Friday night, and I loved the concept of marrying a casual eatery with a high-end bakery and market. I found the dining room itself cozy and warm, and would be curious to find out if they make good use of the open-kitchen "cooking class" area. We sat at the sushi bar and started with the raw oysters, which came with three sauces: a miso-yuzu sauce which was excellent, a rasberry vinagrette with pink peppercorns which looked pretty but tasted flat (I didn't taste any contribution from the peppercorns), and a tomato coulis which was okay, but much better when I juiced it up with some fresh wasabi that I added on my own. Curiously, the plate came with no implements to apply any of the sauces (we didn't have spoons or forks at our seats, only chopsticks): I don't know if they were expecting us to dip the oysters in the sauce, but to me, losing the liquid from the shell would have been a waste of a perfectly good raw oyster. All in all, pretty average. We then ordered a couple of pieces of sushi, asking the chef's recommendation. It became clear from both the conversation and watching the subsequent preparation that this is not a place I'd go for sushi: they weren't particularly willing to discuss what they thought was fresh and tasty, and the craftsmanship was pretty mediocre. For "main" dishes, my girlfriend ordered the lobster, and I ordered a couple of dishes from the japanese menu. I was prepared for the lobster to be small, but I was surprised to find it overcooked, and not particularly enjoyable. The accompanying puree (apples, parsnips, something else?) was nice, but certainly not "haute", and not paradigm-shifting. The two japanese dishes, IMO, were the best thing we ordered: tender steamed snapper resting in a little pool of flavorful broth, and a cube of succulent pork belly alongside bamboo and a potato puree. These were well executed dishes, but to my mind, they didn't stray too far from conventional Japanese flavors or ingredients, and the presentation, while attractive, was not what I'd call "haute". All in all, I would consider the meal enjoyable, but not particularly memorable. I certainly didn't feel that the food or environment was different from any number of small, ambitious restaurants: I'm used to the Philly dining scene, where I could name any number of excellent byobs that combine a casual atmosphere with quality ingredients and contemporary cooking. Yes, Upstairs' menu spanned cuisines, but I didn't get a sense that the diversity was really influencing the personality of the restaurant, and for the most part, the dishes didn't blend those influences in any really interesting ways. Finally, I didn't find Upstairs a particularly good value: yes, there's a lot of "entrees" <$20, but they'd mostly be better described as "small plates". If we're going to start listing tapas bars in the new paradigm, I think we're going to have a problem. Saturday night, we dropped into Ssam Bar, and were surprised to get seated after a short wait. Honestly, my expectations were low: partly because of my Upstairs experience, partly because I had been to Ssam Bar before during the day, and while I enjoyed my big, fat, Korean burrito, I didn't find it quite worth the hype. Well, after my meal this weekend, I'm sold. First of all, at least for now, the staff is outstanding. Casual, yet attentive and really well-informed about the food. This, to me, is as much of a new paradigm as the food. Ssam Bar's trained and hired the sort of people that food geeks respond to: someone to whom you can freely ask questions, and expect a knowledgeable and enthusiastic reply. I contrast this with our waiter at Upstairs, who had no idea whatsoever about any of the Japanese dishes on the menu, and responded to my questions with, "just try it". We didn't order a lot of food, but it turned out to be enough. We started with the brussels sprouts, which were completely fantastic. The Southeast Asian flavors were a perfect and unexpected pairing with the sprouts, and frying them till they were flaky and crispy was genius. Completely craveable. The presentation was pretty casual: I had no problem with that, but if by the title of this topic we're looking for "haute" on the cheap, this dish was not that. The chawanmushi might be Exhibit A of what we're talking about here: a pretty simple japanese dish elevated to a whole different level with luxurious ingredients like truffle oil. More importantly, it was completely delicious, and one of the best things I've eaten in a long time. I felt a little ridiculous paying $23 for a bowl of egg custard, but the experience was truly memorable. The rice cakes were pretty good, and once again showed some imagination, blending korean flavors with more herbal thai flavors, and with some pretty tasty pork sausage. I thought it was a little too salty (a common theme with most of the dishes I've had at Ssam Bar), and there wasn't nearly enough rice cakes for the amount of sausage, but overall, it was a nice dish. Also pretty rustic in presentation. Putting these dishes together along with the service, I don't think I've had a meal before quite like this one. I think trying to call it haute on the cheap isn't quite on the mark: what's different about what David Chang is targeting is that he's going after the foodies, not the expense account diners that most haute cuisine restaurants are selling to. He's created an environment that is catering to the discovery and enjoyment of new tastes and ingredients, and he's stripped out everything that does not support that discovery. The final bill was not cheap, but I thought it was justified and the portions were reasonable. I'll add another partial data point: Sunday night we went out to Kyotofu, a little dessert bar in Clinton. It hasn't been mentioned in this thread, but I bring it up because though I haven't been to Room4Dessert, it would seem the two dessert bars share some traits. Both are casual, dessert-only places with open kitchens and modern sensibilities. In Kyotofu's case, they're modern interpetations of more traditional Japanese desserts like sweet tofu. The desserts are tasty, the presentations are gorgeous, but I did not get the sense that this was something on the same wavelength as Ssam Bar. I'd be curious to hear from people who've been to both Kyotofu and R4D why one might be considered "New Paradigm" and not the other. (Doesn't seem like it would be the molecular gastronomy at R4D, since none of the other restaurants discussed on this thread really highlight those techniques). In summary, I don't know if we're witnessing a trend, but if so, it feels like this trend may have only one member. However, that one member is doing some really exciting things around food right now, and we food geeks should be excited about the possibility that with Ssam Bar's popularity, this sort of dining experience might catch on.
  8. Coincidentally, I picked up an eye of round roast at the supermarket this week, because, well, it was cheap. I cut a steak about an inch thick, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and cooked it sous vide at 130F for about 100 minutes. I then seared both sides in a cast iron skillet for ~10 seconds. There's no question: it's pretty tough. But I thought it was chewable this way, and the flavor was pretty good. I might have gone a couple degrees lower. A jaccard probably would have made a difference as well. I still have the rest of the roast, so I'll give that a try next week. -a
  9. Instructions for vanilla salt from Ideas In Food: http://ideasinfood.typepad.com/ideas_in_fo..._with_turn.html
  10. I'm finding that a fairly glaring gap in my home-schooled culinary knowledge is the utterly prosaic knowledge of how to best strain liquids (so prosaic, the generally comprehensive Jacques Pepin's The Complete Techniques fails to dignify it with a mention). After years of not really caring, I've now seen the light on how proper straining can really brighten flavors: I'm just not sure how to go about it efficiently and effectively. I'm hoping this thread can be a general-purpose clearinghouse for questions and answers on the topic, such as: - when do I use what strainer? When do I use a china cap? When do I use a chinois? When do I use a china cap, followed by a chinois? What about a tamis? What about an ordinary double-mesh strainer? - What do I look for when shopping for strainers? How much do I really have to pay for a serviceable complement of strainers that will let me do most tasks? What are some decent brands? - When do i let the liquid slowly work its way through, when do i tap the strainer, and when do I scrape the liquid through with a spatula or spoon? What's the proper technique in any case? - How do the techniques vary depending on what I'm straining, be it a thick puree, a sauce, a thick soup, or a clear stock? There have been a few scattered answers to some of these questions on the forum, but I find myself still pretty confused. I guess what I'd really love is a general overview, eGCI-style. Any advice or additional questions would be most welcome, though. -al
  11. I gotta admit, it never occured to me either, even though I do exactly the same thing with chicken broth: I buy both cans and the more expensive resealable boxes. Boxes when I just need a little bit of liquid to deglaze a pan, cans when I'm making a soup, or for a braise. -a
  12. Yeah, I think you need at least two months, and I imagine longer's better. The one time I did it, I think I went for 3 months. Definitely worthwhile, though. -al
  13. Not exactly answering the question, as I expect you need the extract promptly, but have you considered making your own extract, with a cheap liter of vodka and 10 or so vanilla beans? I've recently been enlightened to the purchase of vanilla beans in bulk on ebay: you get easily get 1/4 pound of Grade B Madagascar beans for under $10. Your end product won't have anything you don't put into it. Only problem is it'll take a good long while to make... -al
  14. Thanks to everyone for the replies. I think I probably do need to find some way to get the circulator off of the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, I'm starting to get used to falling asleep to the high-pitched buzzing emanating from my kitchen. You know, I tried getting one of those Brita on-faucet filters, only to read afterwards that only the Brita pitchers remove calcium and magnesium ions; the on-faucet filters do nothing for water softening. Oh well. A Brita pitcher would take forever to fill my pan, and a full water softening system is a little more than I'm willing to spring for right now. -a
  15. alwang

    Quotidian Sous Vide

    Slow-cooked eggs are a mainstay for me. Sure, they take long, but you don't have to do anything but plop them in, and they taste great. I'll eat them straight, or I'll put them on asian noodle soups. Sous vide is also the easiest and most consistent way to deal with boneless chicken breast. I'll buy a family pack, portion out the breasts into individual vacpacs along with some olive oil, seasoning, and herbs, and then freeze. I'll thaw one out the night before, and then when I come home the next day, I drop it in the water bath for an hour. The result is not revelatory, but it's remarkably consistent: perfectly cooked white meat, evenly through every time. Before SV, I had compeltely stopped buying boneless chicken breast: the meat has so little flavor that if you don't get the texture right, it's completely worthless. My main complaints right now with everyday sous vide are that my circulator is really noisy, and that the hardness of my water means preventing limescale buildup is a pain. I'm curious: how often do people change their water bath liquid? -a
  16. A couple more practical questions I have for the more experienced folks on this thread, mostly dealing with using immersion circulators: 1) I've been using a hotel pan that's about 6" deep for my cooking vessel: with my immersion circulator, that means that the bottom of the heating element is resting on the bottom of the pan. I'm wondering if maybe that's not such a good idea? I do have a large 16-qt stockpot that would be taller, but when I tried clamping the 10+ lb circulator to the wall of stockpot, it felt like either the stockpot wall or the clamp was about to give. Just curious how others are mounting their circulators. 2) I'm also getting a lot of noise and vibration from the circulator- I'm wondering if that's not partly due to the fact it's resting on the floor of my pan. I did buy my circulator used, and I have no idea how much noise it's supposed to generate. How loud are other people's units? 3) I have pretty hard water in my area, and I'm getting some serious lime scale issues when I try for longer cooking times. I'm using a citric acid solution to descale, similar to what you'd do for a coffee machine, but it got me thinking: could I just regularly add some citric acid to my water bath liquid while cooking, to make it lightly acidic and prevent scale buildup? In theory, it shouldn't affect the food. I'll probably give it a try, but I'm curious what experiences others have had. Overall, I'm having fun experimenting. Slow-cooked eggs are a simple and gratifying success. I've done boneless chicken breast a couple of times, and the flavor is distinctive, though not radically so. I did a pork belly for about 48 hours, and then finished it off by roasting at low heat for another few hours, a la Shola from StudioKitchen: good, but I think perhaps I would have been better off with just a quick sear or broil. I tried to poach some Bosc pears with some lavender honey and nothing else: I don't think I got the temps or timing quite right, and the texture wasn't as soft as I was looking for (though the flavor was yummy). I'm going to try it again at a higher temp, coring the pear, and perhaps adding a little bit of liquid (tea? mulled wine?) -a
  17. I just picked up the CM 16-qt SS stockpot from Target on the recommendations in this thread. A couple thoughts: 1) The Target website lists it at $29.99, but my local Target sold it for $39.99. I noticed in tiny text on the Target website, it says pricing may vary by location. Still pretty cheap, but not a crazy-good deal. 2) I'm a little surprised at how light it is: it doesn't feel nearly substantial as I was expecting. It says it's 18/10 steel, .6mm. I wonder if they're now being made cheaper? 3) I like the shape quite a bit, as it's a good ratio of diameter to height. 4) The glass lid really doesn't seem to fit all that well, and is quite loose. In summary, I'm a little disappointed, but I'm still going to keep it. Why? It seems to be the only 16-qt pot at that price with riveted handles, and for a pot that large, you want to make sure the handles hold. I don't want to stir up the rivets vs. welds debate, but let's just say the particular welds I was inspecting on other similarly-priced stockpots did not inspire confidence. The only other one I was considering was this deal on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/MIU-Stainless-22-Qua...8&s=home-garden ...but the height of that thing would make it pretty tough to manuever in my sink. -a
  18. I have a Tojiro DP Gyuto, and it's a great knife. However, I'd definitely keep your old Henckels around for tough hacking jobs: bone, thick rinds, etc. I put a couple of chips in my Tojiro doing exactly those sort of tasks. I now keep a Henckels Santoku for the rough stuff. -a
  19. This is a great tutorial. For those who are lazy, or for those who don't want to smoke up your kitchens, I've been very happy with the pre-seasoned cast-iron wok that Lodge now sells: http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Pro-Logic-14-I...8&s=home-garden It weighs a ton, so it's harder to manuever than carbon steel, but it retains heat like nothing else. -al
  20. For those who've had more practical experience using an immersion circulator, is it preferable to have a water vessel that's tall and narrow (i.e, stockpot-shaped), or a vessel that's wide and shallow (i.e., hotel-pan-shaped), or does it not matter? I'm particularly thinking when you have multiple bags in the vessel, is it important that they are side by side, to maximize exposed surface area, or is it okay to stack them on top of each other? Thanks, -Al
  21. Thinking about dipping a tentative, vacuum-packed toe into the world of sous vide, but like many others, I'm trying to experiment on a budget. I'm curious whether anyone has had any experience using this product? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000Z4WV...d=324PZK555R091 Essentially a crockpot, but one with a thermostat-regulated temperature control that goes pretty low. Obviously no PID and non-circulating, so I'm not expecting the world, but I'm wondering whether it can hold a steady temperature well enough for at least some sous vide applications (seafood for relatively short times?). Hey, it's 35 bucks, I'll probably just buy one and test it for myself. Even if it doesn't work for sous vide, I could use a good crock pot. -a
  22. Out of curiousity, what's the advantage of an enameled cast iron grill pan vs. an unemaled seasoned cast iron skillet (assuming both are unridged). I understand enameled dutch ovens because they're convenient for things with liquids, particularly acidic liquids, but why grill pans?
  23. Anyone have any suggestions on how to best clean a fine-meshed strainer/chinois? I always seem to be left with a little residual gunk. -al
  24. This is unfortunately not near NY, but I'll throw in a plug for Terhune Orchards near Princeton: not only do they have great apples, peaches, berries, etc. for picking, but the farm store alone is worth a trip, with fresh produce, cookies, pies, and apple cider donuts that are one of my favorite things about New Jersey. http://www.terhuneorchards.com/
  25. alwang

    Roasting a Chicken

    The other issue I struggle with ingredients-wise is the size of the chicken. Both the Zuni Cafe Cookbook and Keller's Bouchon book seem to call for smaller birds, in the 2.5-3.5 lb range. The thinking is that the higher skin-meat ratio keeps things moist and juice-licious, and that makes sense, but I have trouble finding whole birds that small. Even my local farmer's market seems to only sell chickens ranging from large to gargantuan. -al
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