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  1. project

    Beef stew failure

    From my struggles with beef stew, especially trying to make stew from chunks of beef bottom round roast, I can see two likely problems: (1) Time. To make the final stew pieces soft, flexible, moist, and 'succulent', have to cook long enough to soften the collagen. Have to do this somewhere near 160 F, and it takes time. Even starting with chunks of USDA Choice chuck roast you will need ballpark two hours. For more details, say, for pork shoulder BBQ, can use 18 hours in a 220 F oven. There is a long 'stall' near 160 F, that is, a period of some hours where the temperature increases only very slowly. After this stall period, the temperature will start increasing again to, say, 180 F. (2) Temperature. If get the temperature of the beef much over 180 F for very long, then the lean fibers will shrink, lose their moisture, and become stiff and brittle. Your chunks of beef will be shrunken, hard, brittle, and dry. Then I will absolutely, positively, 100% iron-clad guarantee you that more cooking will NOT give soft or tender chunks. Instead you will just move to something with texture somewhere between wood and charcoal. Been there; done that; got the T-shirt: After 96 hours, I gave up -- those hard, dry, brittle chunks of wood were NOT going to become succulent stewed beef. Period. Stewing chunks of USDA Choice chuck roast is a piece of cake and nearly fool proof if just stay within the lines of traditional techniques. E.g., for the initial step of browning, make that FAST so that the interior of the meat does NOT get very hot. In particular, my guess is that your initial browning step got the meat too hot and ruined it -- your stew was a failure then with no possibility of recovery. If try to do something even a little outside the traditional techniques, then need to consider the remarks on time and temperature above. Someday when I get a good constant temperature water bath, maybe I will try to make beef stew from even bottom round roast, grass fed (more collagen, less fat), less good than USDA Choice, but I already know it won't be easy. Likely here on eG user NathanM has more information. E.g., as at http://modernistcuisine.com/about-modernist-cuisine/table-of-contents/ consider Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet, 'Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking', and there in particular Volume 5: Plated-Dish Recipes Chapter 20: Tough Cuts 40 * Braised Short Ribs * Modernist Pot-au-Feu * Hungarian Beef Goulash * Osso Buco Milanese * American BBQ * Cassoulet Toulousain (Autumn and Spring) * Historic Lamb Curries * Sunday Pork Belly Yes, there is the common, old remark that stewing will make any tough chunk of lean meat from an old cow or bull succulent. Nope: That's just a myth. The easy thing to do with such meat is to leave it whole, roast it or braise it as a whole piece (does better at keeping in the moisture and have better protection against overheating), and then slice it very thinly across the grain. For more, do what Escoffier recommended, grind it!
  2. project

    Pot Roast Recipe?

    Blether: Thanks! You discussed salt concentrations! Yup, I was thinking about being more specific about salt! So I did the investigations and arithmetic I reported above. And while I was doing that arithmetic, you reported: "For something like chicken legs I will use 1/4 - 3/8 tsp per lb. For boneless red meat, 3/8 - 1/2 tsp. I find this is the amount to give the 'correct' level of salt, no matter how long it soaks in (that is, it'll never be too salty even when it has completely permeated the meat)." Yup, you did it! What you reported you found to be "correct" was well in the center of what I found by reading food product nutrition labels and converting food weight in grams to pounds and converting sodium weight in milligrams to salt grams and salt grams to teaspoons! So, we both found teaspoons per pound, and the concentrations we found agree! Your post reminds me of a point in Escoffier where he mentioned that mushroom peelings added to stock improve the stock flavor. Apparently he just found this, by experience, like you did for the salt quantities. Of course now we know that mushroom peelings have MSG! No wonder he was the King of Chefs! Your findings are in good company! Thanks! The Internet and eG can do some very good things!
  3. project

    Pot Roast Recipe?

    djyee100: Nice! Thanks! You wrote: "Many excellent comments already made about your recipe, & I have only a few things to add. If your dish overall seemed dull in flavor, and you couldn't taste all the good ingredients you put into it, that probably means you needed more salt. If the dish tasted flat or flabby, that means you needed to balance the fat in the dish with more of an acidic ingredient." Nice! Progress in explication of principles! Ah, one principle worth 1000 recipes! Above I did some arithmetic on salt so that I could budget salt for the whole dish and, thus, add salt all along without getting way too much or way too little at the end. And I've been wondering about more in acid, say, just 1-2 T of, say, red wine vinegar. Gee, with some information on pH could do for acid something like what I did for salt! To mention pH in cooking: Horrors ! For "The blood in the meat is already salty." Yes, I wondered about that and used that as one excuse to salt only the sauce and only at the end. But as in my post above and drawing from a USDA handbook, there are only 295 milligrams of salt per pound of boneless beef! Ah, the tyranny of quantities instead of qualities ! "To add complexity to this mix, you could substitute a little brandy for some of the wine" WOW! I'll have to look at the back of a bottom cabinet to see if I still have a bottle of cognac! I should have one since it is recommended for steak au poivre since I have some NY strip steaks, and all the Mouton Cadet Bordeaux I have should go well! You mentioned butter and that not much butter was required for its flavor to be noticed: I've used a butter-flour blond roux in sauces for fish, scallops, chicken, and lamb and beef pot roasts, especially as Boeuf Bourguignon, and recently got an example of how just a little such roux could do wonders for some chicken soup and, thus, confirmed your point. For this trial of pot roast, the strength of butter flavor would cause the dish to make a big jump into different, likely better, territory, but I don't understand the present territory very well yet! For "If you chop and saute a strip of bacon with the onions, you'll add a smoky note and a different meat flavor to the dish." Yes, and I've wondered about that. Commonly Boeuf Bourguignon recipes say to use unsmoked bacon. And pancetta, often recommended, as in this thread, would be another unsmoked bacon. Why such recipes are big on UNsmoked bacon, I don't know. I like bacon plenty well enough: Once the wife of a friend blew me away with some skinless, boneless chicken breast pieces baked with butter, bacon, and Mozzarella cheese! You wrote: "When making braised beef, my go-to wine is a red Rhone, sometimes a Beaujolais. I'm only looking for something fruity, without too much tannins or other off flavors." WOW! I need to learn more. I've been assuming that tannic wines would be better for beef. The last Rhone wine I had was an Hermitage, and the bottle is still on the kitchen counter, empty, helping to fence off the kitty cat from the mouse trap hidden away (I live in the country; there are mice in the garage and occasionally in the basement but rarely in the house; GOOD kitty cat!). Good to get your vote for both (1) add pureed vegetables to the braising liquid to make a sauce and (2) add fresh vegetables near the end of the cooking and serve those with the roast. Looks like I definitely should try that for the next trial. You wrote: "I wondered about the amount of garlic and tomato sauce you put into the recipe." Well, in the previous trial I had included 1/2 C of minced garlic; it didn't overpower the dish; it does seem like too much garlic, and I was trying to probe, that is, add until I could notice it and later cut back. This time I didn't want to take time to mince the garlic so just tossed it in. Yes, the volume is large, but, again, it didn't overpower the dish. For a final recipe I intend to cut the garlic back to something more standard. I was surprised that the garlic cloves all cooked to mush or whatever during the cooking and were not visible at the end. So, now we have a cute result: Just toss the garlic in whole and save the chopping effort! If can still see the garlic cloves at the end, then discard them or whiz them; else f'get about them! Either way, save effort! We're making progress! Ah, the Internet and eG ! For the tomato sauce, I thought that I could get more flavor with my flavorful homemade tomato sauce than with the usual tomato paste. The 2/3 C seemed only subtle and not excessive, and it was not noticeable in the final dish. One good point: Adding the cold tomato sauce to the hot pot contents released a burst of some of the aromatics I have in the tomato sauce and should have given a subtle addition to the roast! You are guessing correctly, I have been trying to make chuck pot roast a little "exciting"! The sauce I ended up with was a start: It was a nice sauce, dark, glossy, slightly transparent, nicely viscous, with a LOT of flavor. If I whiz the vegetable mush into the braising liquid, then I will end up with a better tasting dish and better comfort food but a less "exciting" appearing sauce! It could be exciting more easily if I had about a quart of really good beef demi-glace! Maybe someday, when I get my software written ! Could consider the sauce trick of adding a little red current jelly to the sauce! Thanks for your suggestions of accompaniments at the table; I would never have thought of either the idea or your examples. Given your idea, for one more example, maybe classic Cumberland sauce? I've had good versions and looked up how to make it but never have. The dish should be more exciting with the second batch of onions, carrots, and celery cooked with the roast and served not as mush. Another idea is to take white boiler onions, saute them (outdoors!) until slightly brown by rolling them around with a layer of oil and then baking them uncovered with some beef stock, white wine, and a bouquet garni until these liquids are reduced to a thick syrup coating, and let those onions be the onions served with the roast along with the carrots and celery. Maybe I should try the often recommended new potatoes roasted uncovered with a coating of schmaltz! The last thing I did with chicken used 6 chickens weighing a total of 29 pounds and using a dozen or so pounds of mirepoix; results included the chicken stock I used in the pot roast and also a lot of schmaltz! Otherwise have French bread, butter, broccoli, good red wine, etc. Follow with a light salad and then a light dessert (looks like I'll need a greenhouse for a good supply of good varieties of raspberries, strawberries, etc.!). Should be good enough unless the Queen of England drops by! Then I'd need cherry dining room furniture, a lot of white damask, sterling silver, stemware, various uniformed, obsequious servants, etc. and hold down on the beer and Buffalo wings for Hors d'oeuvres (horse's WHAT?) ! Thanks!
  4. project

    Pot Roast Recipe?

    Okay, on salt, how much to add? Uh, I like salt, do know that (1) it raises blood pressure until the body excretes any excess, (2) also suspect that salt does not cause the disease hypertension, (3) know that it's easy to add salt but difficult to remove salt after adding too much, and (4) I could use some information on how much salt to add! Or, if I am going (1) add salt before cooking and all during the cooking but (2) not get too much salt at the end, then I should start the cooking with something of a salt budget, that is, just measure out about the right amount of salt to add, in total, to the dish, draw from that measured quantity, and use it all but no more. So, I did a little investigation and arithmetic and report here what I found. Here's the executive chef summary: Commonly canned foods have roughly 1 gram of salt per pound of food as sold. The common range is maybe 0.75 to 1.5 grams of salt per pound of food as sold. Hot dogs can be much higher, e.g., 7.23 grams of salt per pound of food as sold. Ordinary table salt has density 1.5 grams per 1/4 teaspoon. The salt in boneless beef as purchased is right at 295 milligrams per pound, which is close to negligible if want 1 gram to 7.23 grams per pound of food in the final dish. E.g., for a 2.5 pound chuck roast in a pot roast with vegetables to yield about 5 pounds of meat and vegetables and about 1 quart, or 2 pounds, of braising liquid, will have about 7 pounds of food. So for 1 gram of salt per pound of food, will want 7 grams of salt or 7 / 1.5 = 4 2/3 1/4 teaspoons or 1 1/6 teaspoons or ( 1 / 3 ) * ( 1 / 4 ) * 7 / 1.5 = 0.389 tablespoons of table salt. Can do similar arithmetic for 1.5 grams of salt per pound of food up to the hot dog level of 7.23 grams of salt per pound of food. So, can have a salt budget of just over 1 teaspoon to a little less than 3 tablespoons. Details and Sources Let's assume, easier than some other approaches I tried, that Campbell's, Progresso, etc. have already worked out at least roughly how much salt makes food taste good, read their nutrition labels, and start with that information. Okay, for a recent can of Campbell's Chunky Grilled Sirloin Steak with Hearty Vegetables Soup (which is a good reason for me to work on pot roast !) I see: net weight: 533 grams sodium: 890 milligrams sodium Daily Value: 2400 milligrams So, they didn't tell me how much salt, that is, NaCl! Uh, as I recall from chemistry, I should NOT try to separate out the sodium from NaCl and add the sodium directly, at least not until I have a kitchen on the other side of a large earthen mound with a remote control room in a blockhouse 100 meters (staying with the metric system here!) away ! So, how much salt is needed to supply 890 milligrams of sodium? Ah, Google to the rescue; find a good copy of the periodic table! They used to hang a big copy on the wall in chemistry class; did they do that in Home Ec ? So, the atomic mass of sodium is right at 23 and that of chlorine is right at, may I have the envelope, please?, 35.5, So, the fraction of sodium in NaCl is 35.5 / ( 23 + 35.5 ) = 60.68% and 0.6068 is also the number of grams of sodium in 1 gram of salt. So, the number of grams of salt needed for 1 gram of sodium is just ( 23 + 35.5 ) / 35.5 = 1.65 So, the salt needed for 890 milligrams = 0.890 grams of sodium is 0.890 * ( 23 + 35.5 ) / 35.5 = 1.47 grams, and that was for 533 grams of food. Back to pounds, how many grams in a pound? Ah, chiseled into my brain is 2.2 pounds per kilogram or 2.2 pounds per 1000 grams. So, 1 pound has 1000 / 2.2 grams. So, 533 grams of food should have 0.890 * ( 23 + 35.5 ) / 35.5 = 1.47 grams of salt so that 1 gram of food should have 0.890 * ( 23 + 35.5 ) / ( 35.5 * 533 ) grams of salt so that 1 pound of food should have ( 1000 / 2.2 ) * 0.890 * ( 23 + 35.5 ) / ( 35.5 * 533 ) = 1.25 grams of salt. That's borrowing from Campbell's. What we did for 890 milligrams of sodium in 533 grams of food will be the same if we let s be the weight (grams) of sodium, w be the weight (grams) of the food, and n be the weight (grams) of salt in 1 pound of food and write: ( 1000 / 2.2 ) * s * ( 23 + 35.5 ) / ( 35.5 * w ) = n Then we can apply this equation also to (raid my kitchen): Progresso Traditional Hearty Chicken and Rotini, s = 0.960, w = 538, n = 1.34 Bush's Best Original Baked Beans, s = 0.550, w = 468, n = 0.880 V8 100% Vegetable Juice, s = 0.690, w = ~340, n = 1.52 Ballpark Brand Beef Franks (gee, doesn't pork fat rule ?!), s = 0.550, w = 57, n = 7.23 Again, good data on why I'm working on pot roast ! Gee, hot dogs don't taste so salty to me! But from this data, looks like a dish with meat and vegetables might have about the right amount of salt for good taste at 1.5 grams per pound of food. Of course, if want to be like hot dogs, then can go to 7.23 grams per pound of food. So, there's a wide range. Hmm ...: The beans have low fat and the hot dogs have a lot of fat, so with more fat want more salt? Maybe. So, at 1.5 grams of salt per pound of food, 7 pounds of food would have 10.5 grams of salt. Okay, how to measure out 10.5 grams of salt? Ah ha! Back to the pantry for a box of Morton Table Salt where see that 1/4 teaspoon of table salt weighs 1.5 grams. Cute: For 1.5 grams of salt per pound of food want 1/4 teaspoon of table salt per pound of food! So, for 7 pounds of food, want 7 times 1/4 teaspoon or 7/4 teaspoon or just over 1/2 tablespoon of table salt. So, if I want to measure out salt for a pot roast salt budget and draw from just that amount of salt during the cooking, then for a pot roast of 7 pounds of food, to end up with 1.5 grams of salt per pound of food, 1/2 T of table salt should be enough. Still, if want to be like hot dogs, could use ( 1 / 4 ) * 7 * 7.23 / ( 1.5 ) = 8.44 teaspoons or ( 1 / 3 ) * ( 1 / 4 ) * 7 * 7.23 / ( 1.5 ) = 2.81 tablespoons. Hmm: How much salt is in the chuck roast when buy it? Ah, back to my old copy of The Big Red Book: Bernice K. Watt and Annabel L. Merrill, Composition of Foods: Agriculture Handbook Number 8, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 1963. So, in "Table 2: Nutrients in the Edible Portion of 1 Pound of Food as Purchased", in a footnote on page 73, beef, nearly any beef, without bone, has right at 295 milligrams of salt per pound. So, now we know! If we want 1 gram, 1.5 grams, or 7.23 grams of salt per pound in the final dish as served, beef as purchased has very little salt and needs, compared to what it has from the store, a lot more salt! Or the 2.55 pounds of chuck roast I bought came with 0.295 * 2.55 = 0.752 grams of salt, and that's about 1/8 teaspoon of table salt! Call this negligible! So, now can calculate a salt budget for a pot roast! For more insight, could compare with the salt concentration in brines, salt cured meats, and sea water, but this post is already long enough!
  5. project

    Pot Roast Recipe?

    Nice comments, guys! I think this is progress! Doodad: For cutting roast into smaller pieces, I have a personal hangup about doing that! I struggled off and on for years making Boeuf Bourguignon or whatever want to call it from chunks of lean beef. Maybe with sous vide and very careful temperature control (as in laboratory constant temperature water baths as in the long eG sous vide thread) it could be made to work, but nearly all I ever got was dry, hard, brittle chunks of meat. Finally I wrote a beef industry trade group and got back a nice reply: "Use chuck roast". They were right. But somehow I'm still afraid that chunks have higher risk of going dry than a whole piece! In particular, in this trial, the chuck roast behaved great: I was not as careful about just the correct length of time and a just hot enough temperature as I would like to be, but still the texture of the meat was terrific. Thanks for the Keller suggestion: I wondered about that, but it seemed extreme to use two batches of vegetables, discard the first and eat the second. As I did it, the carrots were still distinctive but good; only the onions, celery, and garlic went to mush. But, those vegetables are there heavily as a form of in-place beef stock making, so likely should not serve them, but do want some vegetables to serve that have been cooked with the roast. So, likely Keller is correct: Two batches of vegetables is a worthwhile option. I did use celery; this is just from the traditional constituents of mirepoix. So far I don't mind the celery. You are also correct about a "brighter taste". One thing the final dish isn't very is bright. In color, everything, except the carrots, is essentially black until cut into the roast where the inside is gray. Also the flavor is not bright. Being brighter, in both color and flavor would help. For brighter flavors, some vinegar might help. I could add one teaspoon at a time to the sauce and see what happens. Or if I want to risk it, add 2 tablespoons or some such to the roast itself. I did notice sugar from the vegetables. Thanks. PopsicleToze: "With the olive oil and tomato sauce, were you going for an Italian gravy?" Not really: I use olive oil, just virgin, not extra virgin, because it works well in cooking and I like the flavor. Commonly when braising beef, it is suggested to put some tomato paste in with the stock and/or wine. I have about 5 quarts of my favorite, home made, flavorful tomato sauce in the refrigerator so just used 2/3 C of it instead of tomato paste. Somehow tomato gets used with beef, e.g., painted on beef roasted before making beef stock or in Sauce Espagnol to use an old term. "Pancetta and dried porcini mushrooms would be a good addition." I'm considering mushrooms. I've never used dried porcinis (except maybe in some Chinese cooking that didn't work well); maybe I should. And pancetta or any unsmoked bacon is a common ingredient and maybe for a good reason -- more flavor and fat. In recipe development, to overly dignify my effort, maybe it's better strategy to start with some minimal collection of ingredients and add instead of starting with a larger collection and subtract! "You have plenty of flavor components -- no need to cook the vegetables to death, but if they were, you could whiz with a handheld mixer or something then make them part of the sauce." I wasn't sure I had "plenty of flavor components" -- thanks for the judgment. Nice! Whizzing the vegetable mush is an alternative view to the Keller idea of discarding a first collection of vegetables and cooking and serving a second collection with the roast. So, could (1) use two collections of vegetables as from Keller, (2) use one collection but add the vegetables later so that they don't cook to mush, or (3) let the onions, celery, and garlic go to mush and blend into a sauce! Idea (3) would make a very different sauce, with more volume, body, and flavor! Could end up with maybe 2 quarts of sauce instead of 1 1/2 C! Also via the sauce have a way to get some fat into the final dish as served: What I did makes the dish so low in fat can feel too tired eating it; also more fat would bring more flavor. Cute idea! "It sounds like it tasted great!" It was good. Thanks to chuck roast, vegetables, wine, etc. But it could be better. Thanks. catdaddy: "My braises always turnout better when cooked at the lowest temps possible." Well, from long discussions on eG, etc., I agree. I cooked this one all on top of the stove and failed to control the heat as well as I wanted. The idea of bringing to a simmer on the stove top and then covering and placing in a low oven, maybe 250 F, is a much better idea. Thanks. Margo: "Rubbed a 4.75 lb. cross-cut chuck roast with kosher salt, black pepper, dry mustard, paprika, ground celery seed, and garlic powder." Sounds better than what I did. And generally it sounds like I should do more in seasoning the meat before applying heat. Could even consider a marinade. "Salted lightly, ..." Sounds like I definitely should add salt long before the end. Actually, thinking back, while the final sauce I got had S&P in good shape, the meat itself, and the vegetables, did not. For adding salt earlier, I was afraid of getting the sauce too salty, but I should include SOME significant but likely not too much salt early on and then set aside this concern of not enough salt. Also if make the sauce with whizzed vegetable mush, then too much salt in a reduced sauce would be not a problem. "Deglazed the pan with 2 12 oz. bottles Guinness Stout." That's 24 ounces! I used only 16 ounces of wine! "Covered the pan and placed it in a 250 deg. F oven for about 4 hours, turning every hour or so." Yes, I should do that next time! I cooked the thing only on top of the stove, and what you did IS better. Progress! Thanks. Blether: "It sounds like you know what you're doing, and it's always good to keep detailed notes when you're developing a recipe." I'm TRYING to know "what I'm doing". For keeping notes, that's a habit from my professional work, college courses in science, etc. "I especially like your 'about 2.55 pounds' of meat, which wouldn't make it in my kitchen. That's about 2 and a half, OK?" Yes, my 2.55 pounds is more digits than are significant! Uh, there were two roasts in one package; so from the label I knew the weight of total package; I estimated the larger one as 55% of the total, .... I have some scales accurate enough for such weights and should have weighed the roast. "Likewise, I hope your 250mg of chicken stock is really 250g" You are correct: That's a mistake. It was about 250 ml of chicken stock, because it was frozen as a cake in a standard, Pyrex 300 ml custard dish that was not quite full. "You mentioned 'surprisingly little fat' - but you trimmed the roast, and the only other fat that went in was some olive oil." Well, there were some streaks of fat in the chuck roast, and I was expecting it to melt and be visible at the top of the chilled braising liquid. But in the end you are correct: The fat I removed from the braising liquid was about what I had added as olive oil. I did not like throwing that fat away, but I didn't want to use it to make a roux, either, so didn't really know what to do with it. The sauce looked good; if I had carefully omitted all the cloudy sediment, then it would have had quite nice gloss and sparkle served separately. But the fat removal made the dish too low in fat. So, more fat would provide more food energy so that would not feel so tired eating the dish; and, of course, more fat would carry more flavor. Whizzing the mush vegetables into the sauce could let the fat be in the sauce. "If you look at the traditional recipes like Bourgignonne, they tend to have the beef barded with fat, or some amount of salt pork / bacon melted in the pot in the initial stages. This is always something you have to balance with the fattiness of the roast itself, but it's something you might think about. Of course there are other things like trotters, bones, calf's feet, to lend richness and body." I think that one of the better lessons from this trial is that you and the "traditional recipes" are correct: Need to get some fat in there, and do it carefully in amount and treatment. So, use pancetta, unsmoked bacon, bone marrow, or something. "A 6-year-old Mouton Cadet is a fairly nice wine. You said you'd tried another cab that didn't satisfy. Maybe it's a big leap to go so far in search of a cabernet sauvignon that'll make a good stew ?" Well, it was a small "leap" for me because it is what I had in my basement! It was six years old because it had been there about three years. I don't recall what I paid for it, but I bought it because it was not very expensive; maybe the shop had it on some special. It is a 1.5 liter bottle. Opening it, there was no doubt: It's a Bordeaux! I don't know if it's from the Haut Medoc or wherever, but it's definitely honest Bordeaux. For French reds, I prefer the Burgundies. Somewhere I have a Chambertin and also a Corton, but I didn't use those! But I should definitely go ahead and drink, instead of cook, most of the rest of the Mouton Cadet! I have one more dinner of the roast; so, should have a glass of the wine! Then, cook something with the tomato sauce and have Bordeaux instead of Chianti! I was surprised at (1) how little I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon (from South America) in the trial with the other piece of chuck roast and (2) how much better the Mouton Cadet made the sauce and the whole dish. One reason I did work fairly carefully making the sauce, and didn't add a roux, was to see what the Mouton Cadet would do! It was good! With all the cooking and reducing, any bouquet or subtlety of the Mouton Cadet had to be lost. So, what was left was different in, I don't know, more tannins, less sugar, some fruitiness that somehow stayed with the South American wine. Again, I was surprised by the difference. Sugar? Heck: There was plenty of sugar from the vegetables. Again, I don't understand the difference and was surprised. When I get my software written, I will get back to wines near Macon and from a little south of Beaune up to Dijon! And I will shop carefully for more appropriate reds for pot roast! You are correct about salt: I salted only the sauce and that only at the end. The salt in the sauce was fine, but the meat and vegetables could have used more salt. So, you are correct: I should salt before heating, "well in advance so the salt penetrates". For salting at the start, I was afraid of getting too much salt in the sauce, but that's not a very good excuse. Next time I'll salt and pepper, at least, the roast, put it in a freezer bag, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours, and THEN cook the thing. And maybe I should put some acid -- vinegar or lemon juice -- in there during the cooking. And maybe I should consider a marinade. "Edit to add: oh yes, and by 'browned the roast over medium low heat for 30 minutes on a side' Did you mean you browned the roast for 30 mins on four sides, i.e. you browned it for 2 hours ? Or something else ? Yes, I was not fully clear. I browned on only the two parallel, flat sides, 30 minutes on each of these two, 1 hour in all. I had the heat high enough that I did get browning, that is, didn't accumulate water based liquid, but so low that the browning worked well, not too much. I didn't try to brown the edges. Real progress! Thanks.
  6. project

    Pot Roast Recipe?

    Introduction Did a pot roast starting with a beef chuck roast. Used onions, carrots, celery, red wine, and some good chicken stock. The result tastes good, but how would one make it better? Braising Steps Started with a boneless chuck roast, well trimmed of fat, that weighed about 2.55 pounds. In a 5 quart classic Farberware pot, with virgin olive oil, sauteed 2 1/2 pounds of thick rings of large, yellow globe onions The weight of each onion as purchased was about 1 pound. Got rings from three such onions. From each onion, got four disks of rings. The plane of each disk was perpendicular to the line from the root to the top of the onion. Did the saute at high enough temperature to get some browned fond and some browning of some of the onion rings. Cooked long enough to have onions softened. Removed the sauteed onions and placed them, to drain, in a colander set in a bowl. In the 5 quart pot with the bottom coated again with olive oil, including oil drained from onions, browned the roast over medium low heat for 30 minutes on a side. Removed the roast. Added ~1/2 C peeled, fresh whole garlic cloves and cooked them a little. Right away deglazed with 16 ounces Mouton Cadet 2004 red Bordeaux wine Reduced by about 1/2. Note: In an earlier trial had used some red wine, also from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape but not from France, and did not like the results. Added 2/3 C own flavorful tomato sauce 2 bay leaves 50 twists of black pepper Added 250 mg of frozen white chicken stock that had been reduced to a light syrup and was made with a lot of mirepoix Added roast, onions 1 1/2 pounds chunks of carrots 1 pound celery chunks The 5 quart pot was nicely full. Covered. Simmered over LOW heat. When onions and celery nearly cooked to mush and carrots nicely cooked, put vegetables in a colander set in a bowl. Could not find the garlic cloves! Used spatulas to move roast to a dinner plate. Sauce Steps Wanted to make a sauce out of the braising liquid. Poured braising liquid through a strainer and put strainer contents with vegetables in colander. Put roast back in 5 quart pot, covered, and chilled. After a few hours, vegetables had drained; added vegetables to roast, covered, and chilled. With braising liquid drained from the vegetables and also from the strainer, got about 1 quart. Let chill for 2 days. Got surprisingly little fat, about 200 ml. Removed and discarded fat. Chilled liquid was softly gelled. There was some sediment at the bottom. Otherwise the liquid was brown but nicely clear. Reduced braising liquid, with some of the sediment, rapidly to about 1 1/2 C, to a light syrup. Added salt and pepper to taste. The result was a good sauce: Could notice the wine, the beef, sweetness from the vegetables, maybe some of the chicken stock syrup. Chilled, the sauce gelled firmly. Serving For a meal for one, reheated the sauce in microwave, put about 1/4 of the roast and vegetables a bowl, heated for 8 minutes at full power in microwave, poured over about 1/4th of the hot sauce, and ate with soft toast. It was good and very filling. Carrots were nice. Other very soft vegetables were also good eating. The roast flavor and texture were good. Make it better? Add vegetables to the braising later so that onions and celery remain distinct and not mush in the final dish? Reduce braising liquid to 2 C instead of 1 1/2 C to get more volume with slightly less intense flavor? Serve with good French bread instead of soft toast, maybe also with some butter -- the roast itself is a bit low on fat? Serve with a side of broccoli with, say, olive oil and garlic? Serve with a glass of good red wine? Follow with a Romaine salad with a light vinaigrette? Maybe somehow include some sauteed mushrooms? Note: In an earlier trial, used 20 ounces of large, fresh, white button mushrooms that had been in refrigerator long enough to start to shrink and turn dark. Here was hoping that the idea that older mushrooms have better flavor is correct. The mushrooms tasted awful and seriously hurt the flavor of the final dish. So, be careful when using old mushrooms; mostly don't try.
  7. I just finished poaching six chickens, total weight just over 29 pounds. Did the work in clumsy ways and, thus, washed too many pots, bowls, and tools, and hands are just now recovering! I poached the chickens two at a time in a 12 quart Vollrath stainless steel stock pot. I started with 12 pounds of mirepoix of 6 pounds of diced yellow globe onions and 3 pounds each of diced onion and carrot. Poached at 185 F until vegetables were soft, about 3 hours, strained, discarded the solids, returned the resulting vegetable stock to the pot, added two chickens, feet up, covered with water, and poached. When these two chickens were done, did two more in the same pot and stock, then the last two. Note: Chickens give up some liquid and, as keep poaching chickens the level of liquid in the pot rises! When the chickens floated, they were about done! So, I didn't try to hold them under the liquid. I never skimmed the stock. I did let it stand, chilled, then covered and chilled for four days. Then had a fat cap of about 2 C of fat. Removed that. The rest was a nice clear red except for cloudy sediment in the bottom. I heated to sterilize, filtered through cloth, and poured into 5 quart stainless steel bowls with narrow bottoms that let the sediment concentrate to smaller diameter, let these bowls chill until gelled, then removed the gelled stock with a kitchen spoon. From the sediment, had about 2 C of cloudy stock never could get to separate and, then, just discarded. The rest of the stock was red but clear. Reduced it. During the reduction did get a thin, brittle film on the surface which I removed with a standard stock skimming tool. Used some of the stock for 7 quarts of chicken soup, with 8 pounds of new mirepoix and 2 pounds of chicken, and reduced the rest to a syrup of 2 C, now frozen in three blocks in a freezer bag. I need to work on the steps, flavors, timing, measurements of yield, and a standard reduction, i.e., known number of pounds of mirepoix and chicken per cup of reduced stock. The resulting reduced stock can be useful in a kitchen: E.g., with three ice cubes of reduced stock from an earlier trial, made a pan sauce for a NY Strip Sirloin steak: Over low heat with only a little olive oil, cooked about 3/4 pound of wide rings of yellow globe onion. Removed. Cooked the steak with a lot of pepper and removed. Deglazed the pan with about 1 C of good Chianti wine and the cubes of stock. Reduced to a syrup. Added 2 T of butter and combined with the onions and some drained, canned mushroom slices. With the steak and some toast, it was good! With a standard, reduced stock, can be more precise about such a recipe.
  8. Why not just use a good vinaigrette? My current favorite is: 1 egg boiled 10 seconds 1 T Worcestershire sauce 1/3 C red wine vinegar 1 1/2 T finely minced garlic 3 T Dijon mustard 1 t dried basil 1 t dried oregano 2 T dried parsley 1/2 t salt pepper One 2.0 ounce can flat anchovies packed in oil, minced, with oil 1 C olive oil Combine all but last two ingredients. Whip. Add last two ingredients slowly with whipping. Tonight for dinner had about 2 quarts of washed, chilled, crisp Romaine lettuce with about 1/2 C of this dressing, a lot of freshly ground black pepper, about 2 ounces of freshly grated Italian Pecorino Romano cheese, and six slices of softly toasted bread. The best part was the vinaigrette on the bread! It would be pretty good with the lettuce missing and just the rest with the bread! I usually make a triple recipe, eat it all, give up on it for two months or so, come back, and am amazed at the first taste again.
  9. "Easy"? This thread is awash in claims of it's "easy". I conclude that the existence of this thread shows that "easy" is largely not correct. There is a remark from violinist Nathan Milstein on passages in music few could make sound good something like "It's not easy or difficult. Either you can do it or you can't." His suggestion was that, with a lesson and some work, a violinist COULD do it. Well, for the topics on this thread, maybe mostly if one knows how to do it, then it's easy; if one doesn't know how to do it, then with a lesson and some work one can learn and then maybe it's easy; but in the meanwhile one doesn't know how to do it, and it's not "easy". I come to eG to learn how to do it. I was among the first 1000 members, and I'm still struggling to learn how to do it for a huge range of kitchen tasks. My rate of learning is slower than the movement of tectonic plates. I want to LEARN. Mostly I'm not learning. I'm eager to learn, willing to learn, wanting to learn, waiting to learn, working to learn, but I'm mostly not learning. I have to rate computer scientists as among the worst expositors of their work anywhere in academics; computer programmers as several steps lower; most cooks, several steps lower, etc. E.g., yesterday on the TV program 'America's Test Kitchen' Julia did a 'ranch dressing' for use with boiled potatoes or some such. Her measurements were fine until she got to garlic and then said "one clove", and I screamed in agony. Then she measured something else even more important with still less precision, and, after I peeled myself from being one molecule thick on the ceiling, clicked away. Maybe she just wants to toss out vicarious, escapist, fantasy, emotional, experience entertainment instead of instruction, but she's no Marilyn Monroe in 'Gentlemen Prefer Blonds', and her instruction is sloppy. I'm sure both God and Julia know what she did, but I don't know, and in six months only God will know. Just today I saw a video clip of a chef making creme fraiche. He started with pasteurized (not ultra pasteurized) whipping cream and heated it to "tepid" or some such. In efforts to be more clear he kept saying "tepid" or various synonyms. I'm sure he knew how hot he was heating his cream, but he definitely was NOT telling me how hot he was heating his cream. Gee, maybe someone should invent something, call it a 'thermometer', and get rich selling it to chefs!!!!! As earlier in this thread, I just recently made my first decent chicken soup. I've been trying to make decent chicken soup off and on for decades. One trial had me go through about 30 pounds of chicken. BAD soup. For this soup success, I gave up on any instructions for chicken soup and just improvised from more general lessons I've picked up: How to make mirepoix, a blond roux, a veloute, a vegetable stock, a chicken stock, how to keep a stock relatively clear, how to take the fat off a stock, how to strain a stock, etc. With a lot of the poached chicken, I 'shredded' it and made a lot of chicken salad, my first ever, and it was terrific: 1 C finely diced celery, 3 C lightly packed, shredded, poached chicken, 1 C Hellman's mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste, served as a sandwich on toast. It's GOOD. Right: I should weigh the chicken, weigh the amount for one sandwich, count calories, etc.; will next trial. In my queue is how to make a good pan sauce from a saute of a 1 pound ground beef steak. I'm working with some of: The pan drippings, own chicken stock, white or brown, canned beef stock, beef base, dry, astringent red wine, red current jelly, crushed black pepper corns, vinegar, butter, flour, whipping, cream, Cognac. So far my best efforts would run a restaurant out of business in one evening. "Easy"? EXcuse me. And I believe that the martingale proof of the strong law of large number is easy along with an iterative application of linear programming to a problem in nonlinear, multi-objective optimization, and how to do multi-variate, distribution-free hypothesis tests to monitor computer server farms. In my cooking, when I get a dish done, I take measurements and make careful notes. Net, in cooking (computer programming, computer science) there's a big, HUGE communications problem so that far too many things are not "easy", and threads like this will be less important when cooks who do know how to do it write, with careful measurements of weights, volumes, times, temperatures, HOW to do it. Come on guys, say HOW to do it so that it's "easy".
  10. Three examples where homemade is MUCH better: (1) Pizza: As in http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=77282&view=findpost&p=1087260 buy a box of frozen pizza dough balls, 24 ounces per ball, each in a plastic bag. For a pizza, let a ball thaw and rise in refrigerator for a few days. Flour and roll out to about 12" diameter. In hottest oven, bake on cookie sheet until puffed and lightly browned, maybe 3 minutes. Take favorite homemade tomato sauce, put about 2 C in a wire mesh strainer, use a table knife and fork to cut chunks and drain. Dump drained sauce onto pizza and spread. Top with frozen, shredded Mozzarella cheese, about 1/2 C. Slide onto oven rack and back until done, maybe 3 more minutes. (2) Salad Dressing: 1 egg boiled 10 seconds 1 T Worcestershire sauce 1/3 C wine vinegar 1 1/2 T finely minced garlic 3 T Dijon mustard 1 t dried basil 1 t dried oregano 2 T dried parsley 1/2 t salt pepper One 2.0 ounce can flat anchovies packed in oil, minced, with oil 1 C olive oil Combine all but last two ingredients. Whip. Add last two ingredients slowly with whipping. I usually make a triple recipe. I keep it in a plastic tub in the refrigerator. So far I've kept this dressing for months with no sign of deterioration. Use on crisp Romaine lettuce with some toast, and have enough dressing also for the toast. Can also top the salad with freshly grated Italian hard cheese; I use a Pecorino Romano. (3) Chicken Soup: Vegetable stock: In a stock pot, add 8 pounds of finely diced mirepoix of 4 pounds of yellow globe onions and 2 pounds each of carrots and celery. Add water to cover. Simmer until soft. Strain. Discard solids. Poach. In the vegetable stock, poach two frying chickens. Remove and chill. Cover stock, simmer to sterilize, refrigerate for 48 hours, remove fat. Stock should be nicely clear and quite red. Take 2 C of stock, reduce to 1 C, combine with blond roux of 1/4 C flour and 1/4 C butter, add 1 C of milk. Now have a little over 2 C of chicken gravy (volute). Shred chicken. Reduce stock to a light syrup that will gel at room temperature. Stock should have marvelous flavor and be quite sweet. In a 3 quart pot, add 3 pounds of mirepoix 1/2 C of water for steam, and 1 C of gelled, reduced stock, cover, steam until soft, about 20 minutes, add volute, 1-2 C of the shredded chicken, S&P, mix, heat through, and serve. My first good chicken soup, by far the best chicken soup I ever had, one of the best soups of any kind I ever had. Above is first trial; will refine. The mirepoix is magic.
  11. project

    Brown Sauce Texture

    paulraphael: With my math hat off and back to a beginning cook trying to learn, I'll swing at your roux versus starch issue: Yes, I read the part in Escoffier where he explained that he wanted to cook the sauce until everything in the flour except the starch was skimmed or some such, all that was left was the starch, and that it would be better just to use a source of starch to begin with. Back when I was doing trials adding various thickeners to water to see what would happen, I concluded that corn starch and arrowroot had similar effects but that a flour-butter blond roux was much different. Yes, it is possible to use just flour, and I concluded that the effects were closer to those of corn starch than a blond roux. Yes, Chinese cooking is big on using corn starch. But I concluded that quite broadly for the sauces I do, the blond roux gives a much different and much more desirable texture than just starch. Also, somewhat relevant, a sauce thickened with corn starch can break -- suddenly thin out from, as I recall, too many changes in temperature or too much in additions after the starch has done its thickening, and I've never had that problem with roux. E.g., my favorite roux thickened sauce gets, after the roux, milk, cream, egg yolks, and lemon juice but doesn't break! Net, I had to conclude that Escoffier's conclusion that the only part of a roux desirable was the starch in the flour was wrong, that, in his effort to be modern and scientific, he had been taken in by some overly simplistic views of chemists who didn't cook! What is going on at the molecular level need not be simple and maybe is not: E.g., my usual technique is to (1) have the stock bubbling, (2) make the roux and, with no delay at all, have it bubbling, (3) again with no delay at all, dump the stock into the roux all at once, (4) right away whip rapidly. This way, I get a great texture each batch! But, once, I made the roux, let it cool off heat, did something else for maybe 30 minutes, heated the roux again, and continued. When I dumped in the bubbling stock, the roux did next to nothing! I was shocked! Why I don't know, but since then I make sure to have no time delays in the four steps above. Also at times I have made a roux of flour and cooking oil instead of flour and (common US) butter, and the effects of the flour-butter roux are much different and better. Net, I conclude that what a roux is doing is not as simple as kindergarten children holding hands on the way to recess! Look, Ma, no calculus!
  12. project

    Brown Sauce Texture

    Shalmanese: I should interject, my uses of i, j, m, and n in the post require some editing but, sadly, the editing is now no longer permitted. I anticipated that editing would be permitted for 24 hours but apparently that is not true. Basically table A has one row for each measure of texture and one column for each ingredient. It is best to use alphabetical order, that is, have i, j go with m, n so that i = 1, 2, ..., m and j = 1, 2, ..., n. Then it is standard to use i for rows and j for columns. Then table A has m rows and n columns. Then there are n ingredients and m measures of texture; j indexes ingredients and i indexes measures of texture. Actually, there are not many changes, and none are difficult. For your "You only need to bring the full brunt of linear programming to this problem if there are significant interaction effects which I'm not convinced there are." No, that is not correct: To see this, suppose there are n = 5 ingredients that affect texture and m = 4 measures of texture of interest, say, hot viscosity, cold viscosity, dynamic viscosity, and static viscosity. Well, easily enough, without interactions, we can still expect that each of the 5 ingredients affects each of the 4 measures of texture. So, the table A with 4 rows and 5 columns has no zeros. This basically pushes us into general linear programming because there can be some conflicts, that is, ingredient 1 can improve texture 2 but give too much of texture 3. Then to save texture 3, have to adjust some of the other four ingredients. So, the ingredients are fighting with each other. The problem is we want to get good results on all four measures of texture with just one "mixture" of 5 ingredients. So, we have 4 'objectives' which in general, even without interactions, can be in conflict. There is a cute result: At each iteration, since there are only 4 measures of texture, we will need at most 4 ingredients to do as well as we can, for any weights we select. How 'bout that! If there are interactions, then we will see that in the function f being non-linear. Well, the function f likely is non-linear over part of its domain anyway due to saturation and/or law of diminishing returns. If the function f were linear, then we wouldn't need the iterations but would still need linear programming. That is, basically the problem is, even without interactions, non-linear, multi-objective optimization but we attack it with iterations of locally linear, multi-objective optimization, which should work with or without interactions. Of course, cooking has done such problems essentially only from experience and intuition. However it may be that in some food technology lab working for some big company such techniques would be of significant value or actually already in use. Whatever is done now in cooking, these techniques were invented for problems of essentially this kind: Adjust some 5 inputs to do well on all of some 4 outputs at the same time. Whenever cooking finds such a problem challenging enough and/or wants to take it seriously enough, these techniques are among the best non-intuitive techniques there are.
  13. project

    Brown Sauce Texture

    Aloha Steve: What I outlined is not that difficult! For the mathematical notation, I just used what is available in just simple typing without trying to use subscripts and superscripts. If you wish, then regard the hat character as the start of a superscript and the underscore character, a subscript. Beyond mathematics, actually the notation is almost ready even for common computer languages. So, this notation can't be more difficult to read than source code in a computer language. And there are not many lines of code to read! For the linear programming, that is now sometimes covered in high school. Well? Perhaps not, but well enough for what I outlined. Really, the computing required is within what has long been available in common spreadsheet programs. What I posted is not intended to be a "recipe". Instead, the effort of this thread is to develop a new recipe, a "blend", that would then be a recipe that, if not proprietary, could be used many times by thousands of chefs, and my post was to aid in developing some new recipes. Right: At least 85% of cooks, chefs, etc. would not go through the procedure I outlined. Neither will they be running a three star Michelin restaurant or even inventing a fantastic new sauce for some chain of 10,000 restaurants. Getting something both good and new can be challenging, commonly is. Don't have to be "smart to know this stuff"; just have to have studied some appropriate directions in applied mathematics. That this mathematics might be able to make a contribution to some high-end topics in cooking could be good to know. So, now the world of cooking has been so informed! And, just think, eG has it, is maybe the first! Yes, for a while it looked like maybe eG was not going to have it, but at least for now it still does! For airport scanners, part of the problem is taking available data and, then, seeing if further investigation is justified. For this, an advantage is that there is a LOT of data on what peaceful passengers are like. So, given a candidate passenger, tentatively assume that they are peaceful, using the huge amount of data see what the probability then is for getting data like this passenger, and if the probability is unreasonably small, maybe 1 in 1 million, then reject the tentative assumption and justify more investigation. Could do this in stages, and that is an old technique called sequential testing which actually is an application of a topic called stochastic dynamic programming. But I doubt that there is any money in such work. A big reason is that would have to work with really big organizations, especially the US TSA, and that is a fast way to Excedrin headache 395,295,223 and going broke. Thankfully for US national security, one really big organization actually has been from good up to excellent at making good use of new, advanced ideas, the US DoD. Yup, that's where I started my career in applied math. But the TSA is definitely not the DoD. I'm working on something else, where I don't have to sell advanced, new technology to large organizations! To say more might further irritate some thread readers, so will let this be enough answer to your questions!
  14. project

    Brown Sauce Texture

    For some explanation: The problem posed in this thread is both challenging and general. We can see some of the challenge because a chef, clearly somewhere from good to excellent, has worked for "years" without a good solution. The generality is adjusting some n inputs to get desirable results on some m outputs, all at the same time. I like the problem: Currently I have some reduced blond chicken stock, from poaching two frying chickens in a vegetable stock from 8 pounds of mirepoix, and have stock that gels at room temperature, has some chicken flavor, a lot of vegetable flavor, but is surprisingly sweet! Also, diluted to usual strength, the stock is nicely clear. However, the color is surprisingly red. So, net, I have vegetable flavor, chicken flavor, clarity, color, viscosity, and, a surprise, sweetness, and some of these are in conflict! And this is just a simple chicken stock! Also, the goo won't freeze easily and, overnight in plastic ice cube trays, just becomes stiffer goo but won't pop out of the tray! So, the problem of this thread has to appear elsewhere in cooking and, say, blending, maybe wine, grape juice, orange juice, a new soft drink, etc. A broad area of applications should be getting a balance of flavors. More generally, we can seek inputs that do well on flavor, color, texture, and cost all at the same time. So, with the m outputs, there are what we can call m objectives. We are not nearly the first to see such problems. In part we are in the topic of multi-objective optimization. This topic is, for example, one research interest of the current President of Carnegie-Mellon university. The field of mathematical economics also encountered this problem under the topic of Pareto optimality. The main idea for balancing the possibly competing m objectives is to have a utility function, the u in the notes above. The axiomatic theory of utility functions was heavily the work of J. von Neumann and plays a major role in mathematical economics. Another approach to balancing the multiple objectives is to apply weights which are the W(j) in the notes above. The weights do not promise to do as well as the utility function without some additional assumptions; in practice the weights usually do nearly as well without the assumptions. In problems in cooking, likely the function f is fairly close to linear, as hoped, over much of its domain but, then, quite non-linear as some of the input ingredients reach saturation or the law of diminishing returns. Also if two or more of the ingredients interact in some ways, which may be the case in this particular problem in sauce texture, we can expect more non-linearity. But, however non-linear the function f is, it is almost guaranteed to have a quite accurate local linear approximation for a definition of local reasonably large in this particular problem. E.g., if we are putting in 50 grams of blond roux, then the effects of 49, 50, and 51 grams, with everything else held constant, should, for each result m, define three points all essentially on the same straight line (m straight lines in all). So, we have some significant local linearity, and this fact is enormously powerful, in particular, greatly reduces the number of trials we need to do in the kitchen, that is, because we can, as in the mathematics, at each iteration in effect extrapolate from the n + 1 kitchen trials (efforts, batches). But where function f is non-linear, we take a linear approximation, move cautiously from there (as in the parameter p), and try again. So, we are taking careful, small, linear steps on a non-linear surface. These steps, this iterative process, has some known, good properties, e.g., as explored in some of the work of D. Bertsekas at MIT. Our stopping criterion, without more assumptions, really only guarantees a locally best result, but in this problem likely we will get the globally best result or nearly so. However, there may be ties, that is, more than one "blend" of inputs that give essentially the same, best output. In this case, also considering cost should break the ties! The solution outlined involves a lot of work in the kitchen. However, as is too well known, a lot in progress in good cooking can involve a lot of work in the kitchen! E.g., my little stock making had me washing my 12 quart Vollrath pot, several 5 quart bowls, 3 quart bowls, measuring cups, strainers, cotton filters, etc. some of them several times, hauling some gallons of vegetable trimmings to the compost pile, etc.! At least some crows got happy! For a serious approach to getting all of texture, flavor, appearance, and cost in good shape all at the same time, the approach outlined may provide a practical solution, maybe the only practical solution, and maybe much less effort than other efforts attempted. Also this approach is a well defined procedure: Follow the steps, get the results, without a lot of guesswork in the interim. No, this approach is not good for getting the family dinner on the table some weekday evening in 20 minutes or less. But for getting a sauce good on static viscosity, dynamic viscosity, mouth feel, gloss, color, and flavor, all at the same time, the effort may be comparatively small and, in some contexts, very much worthwhile. And, with the final results, maybe with an extra 10 minutes the weekday dinner can have a fantastic sauce!
  15. project

    Brown Sauce Texture

    So, for some positive integer n, you have n candidate ingredients for thickening, e.g., gelatin, roux, arrowroot. For some positive integer m, you have m criteria for the qualities of the final sauce, e.g., hot texture, cold texture, flavor, static viscosity, dynamic viscosity. Suppose for each criterion j = 1, 2, ..., m you are able to give an evaluation on a scale from, say, 0 to 100 where 0 means awful and 100 means best could ever hope for. For one trial, for each ingredient i = 1, 2, ..., n you use X(i) grams of ingredient i and get results, for j = 1, 2, ..., m, Y(j) on your scale from 0 to 100. For more succinct notation, let us agree that X denotes the full list of n numbers (X(1), X(2), ..., X(n)) and similarly for Y. Let's regard X as having 1 column and n rows and regard Y as having 1 column and m rows. We say that X(i) is the i-th component of X and that Y(j) is the j-th component of Y. So, there exists some mathematical function f so that given X we have Y = f(X). That is, function f is a little like an old telephone book (assuming we have not used up all of those starting fires in the fireplace) where you look up person X and get back phone number Y. So, we want X so that Y = f(X) we like the best. Hopefully we can get Y(j) = 100 for each j = 1, 2, ..., m. Otherwise, for each Y, maybe we have u(Y) for how well we like Y. So, we seek X to make u(f(X)) as large as possible. Suppose we have some X^1 where we have done a trial and have gotten results Y^1 = f(X^1). Now suppose you do n experiments. On experiment i = 1, 2, ..., n, you increase ingredient i by, say, 20% and get list of ingredients X^1_i. Then X^1_i is the same a X^1 except X^1_i(i) = 1.2 X^1(i). Then we get results Y^1_i = f(X^1_i). So, to review, we start with our first trial with list of ingredients X^1 = (X^1(1), X^1(2), ..., X^1(n)) with results Y^1 = (Y^1(1), Y^1(2), ..., Y^1(m)). For each ingredient i = 1, 2, ..., n we have list of ingredients X^1_i = (X^1_i(i), X^1_i(2), ..., X^1_i(n)) with results Y^1_i = (Y^1_i(i), Y^1_i(2), ..., Y^1_i(m)) = f(X^1_i). So, now we have a lot of data to process. Now we drag out an assumption that works quite well in practice: We assume that f is close to 'linear'. So, there are mn numbers A(i, j), for i = 1, 2, ..., n, j = 1, 2, ..., m, so that we can get approximately f(X) = A (X - X^1) + Y^1, but here we have some undefined material. To make the definitions, first, A is the mn numbers in m rows and n columns where number A(i, j) is the number in row i and column j. Second, X - X^1 has i-th component X(i) - X^1(i). Third, A (X - X^1) is a special multiplication really the same as in linear equations in high school algebra. In particular, for each row j = 1, 2, ..., m we have A(1, j) (X(1) - X^(1)) + A(2, j) (X(2) - X^(2)) + ... + A(n, j) (X(n) - X^(n)) = Y(j) So, where do we get A(i, j)? Sure, from X^1(i), X^1_i(i), Y^1(j), and Y^1_i(j). In particular A(i, j) = (Y^1(j) - Y^1_i(j)) / (X^1(i) - X^1_i(i)) Yes, this is, for result j from changing ingredient i, the change in Y divided by the change in X. So, we are looking for the X that gives us the Y = f(X) we want. With our linear approximation using A, we have Y = A (X - X^1) + Y^1 We are willing to accept more, so we are also happy with Y >= A (X - X^1) + Y^1 where we mean that each component of the left side is greater than or equal to the corresponding component of the right side. Or A X <= Y + A X^1 - Y^1 or A X <= (Y - Y^1) + A X^1 So, one approach is to pick a desired Y and see if we can solve for X. Or, more promising, we pick Y so each component is only slightly larger than the corresponding component of Y^1 and see if we can get a value for X and then keep trying, increasing components of Y. Of course, we want all components of X to be greater than or equal to 0. A little more promising, for each j = 1, 2, ..., m, we pick a positive number W(j) and set Z = W(1) Y(1) + W(2) Y(2) + ... + W(m) Y(m) (Advanced readers: Think utility functions, u, and Pareto) and then ask for X to make Z as large as possible while A X <= (Y - Y^1) + A X^1 and while each component of X is greater than or equal to 0. What we have now is a well posed problem in the field of optimization called linear programming. So, we can get a solution using readily available software, e.g., in some spreadsheet software. If we look at the results and for some j = 1, 2, ,,,, m we want to do better on Y(j), then we just increase W(j) and have the software solve again. Suppose we get solution X. Then we can set X^2 = p X - (1 - p) X^1 for some number p between 0 and 1. If we are conservative and do not believe the linearity assumption holds very well, then we pick p close to 0 and let the next iteration be a small step. If we are optimistic, then we pick p closer to 1 and let the next iteration be a larger step. Yes, p = 1 is a candidate. With X^2 we return to the kitchen and find Y^2 and then proceed as above for one more iteration. When an iteration does not change X, we stop and accept the resulting X and corresponding Y. So, each iteration requires n + 1 batches in the kitchen. So, get a supply of each of the n ingredients, get a suitable spreadsheet file, make sauces with just a water base, and go for it! If after a few iterations the 20% seems a bit drastic, then lower it to, say, 10%, eventually perhaps even as low as 1%. Might do one iteration an evening. In a week or so should be done. The final X will be your proprietary "blend"!
  16. project

    Marinating Chicken

    Once I did a batch of Escoffier's Cooked Marinade. As I remember, it had a lot of parsley plus some of the usual suspects. If you want, I'll find the reference, for which I'll have to walk to the other end of the house and look in the 2-3 Escoffier books I have. Escoffier warned that the marinade was strong and was intended only for game. A "strong" marinade? Ah come on Auguste! We're in America, now! So, I used his marinade on some chunks, cooking calls these 'cubes', of lamb. Yup, win one for the king of chefs, chef of kings! It was STRONG! And with the flavor in the meat itself. No joke. My guess: The chunks of lamb had lots of surface area where the fibers had been cut and had the ends exposed. Such surface area may be crucial for letting marinade penetrate. Chicken, just cut into pieces, may have too little such surface area. Just a guess.
  17. Sony, Thanks. You mentioned marinating: Yes, the texture of the chicken could be improved, and marinating, with salt, that is, a 'brine', should help. I've never marinated chicken; maybe I should! Good news: The chicken chunks were not all hard and dry from over cooking. Bad news: The chunks were not 'succulent' or spontaneously separating along the muscle fibers. Marinating in brine, etc. might help the texture. Some long sous vide heating might also help the texture of the chicken, but for that I would need a constant temperature water bath and have yet to construct one! The step of saute of the chunks sounds promising: I omitted some data I got from some earlier work with chicken. Basically I took a 14" Chinese steel wok with about 1 C of cooking oil and, outdoors, on a propane fueled burner intended for deep frying turkeys (claims 170,000 BTUs per hour), did a light saute of cut chicken pieces (wings, drumsticks, thighs, breast halves, backs) and, separately, onion, carrot, celery, and mushroom pieces. Lessons: (1) When made a stock of the chicken pieces, got nearly no 'scum'. So, apparently the light saute in the oil was enough to 'set' the chicken proteins and reduce scum formation. (2) The oil got some unbelievable amount of flavor from both the chicken and the vegetables. Used some of that oil along with butter in the roux and got MUCH more sauce flavor. Broadly a suggestion is that such fat, used in roux, can provide much more sauce flavor than water based liquids. So, for the light saute, use the same butter will use in the roux! Also, soften the vegetables in that butter! Or, if suspect that chicken scum would contaminate the fat, then saute the chicken in just cooking oil and discard it and saute the vegetables in the butter to be used in the roux! For the present dish, I was poaching raw chicken chunks, and no doubt they wanted to throw off 'scum' which, in the procedure I used, I had no opportunity to skim. So, likely I have the scum in the final dish, and it may be hurting the flavor. So, if my lessons from the wok experience are applicable, doing a light saute of the chicken may 'set' the proteins, cause the chicken chunks not to release scum into the poaching liquid, and improve the flavor of the final sauce and dish. You mentioned garlic. I intended to include some with the vegetables but just neglected to do so -- an error. I agree that garlic might help. I didn't think of the paprika and nutmeg. They might be terrific. I was intending a light colored sauce, like I got doing much the same with scallops, but just accepting a darker sauce and paprika and nutmeg might be an even better direction. I don't know why the sauce color is so dark; my guess is the water from simmering the mushrooms. So, I've been thinking I should discard that water and just keep the cooked, shrunken mushrooms. I still have about 3 quarts of this dish for dinners (needs improving but is good enough to eat) over the next week or so but will need more and do another trial soon! From the shellfish poisoning, a month ago, have nearly fully recovered; maybe will fully recover. Thanks.
  18. Apparently last scallop trial got me a case of shellfish poisoning -- not fun. So, instead of scallops in a sauce, tried breast of chicken. Here's a picture: So, how to make it better? Here's what I did: Bought 5 pounds of "split breast halves" which was the breast parts from three chickens, that is, six pieces. Each piece had skin and ribs. Separated meat from the skin and bones. Put skin and bones in a 3 quart pot, covered with water, simmered about 30 minutes to make a chicken broth, and took 1 C. Diced the rest of the chicken (see picture). Prepared a mirepoix of 2 pounds of finely diced yellow globe onion and 1 pound each of thinly sliced carrots, celery, and mushrooms. In an 8 quart pot, added mushrooms and water just to cover and simmered until mushrooms were shrunken. Added onions, carrots, celery, to get a concentrated broth, without more water, simmered about 30 minutes to get mirepoix cooked. Took out 1 C of vegetable broth. In a 5 quart pot, added 2 C of Chardonnay, the 1 C of chicken broth, the 1 C of vegetable broth, 3 bay leaves, 1 t of dried thyme leaves, and 12 pepper corns. Added diced chicken, heated with constant stirring to 170 F. Dumped pot contents into a colander set in a bowl. Discarded bay leaves. Added poaching liquid in bowl to 5 quart pot and reduced slowly to 1 1/2 C. In a 3 quart pot, made a blond roux of 1/4 pound of butter and 10 T of all purpose flour. While roux still bubbling, added reduced, simmering poaching liquid all at once and whipped until smooth (sauce was quite thick). In steps, added 1 1/2 C simmering whole milk, 1 C whipping cream, and 4 egg yolks, each all at once, with thorough whipping after each step. After whipping cream, temperature was 140 F. Also added 1 T salt and 1 1/3 T lemon juice, both to taste. With constant whipping, heated slowly to 185 F at which time sauce was bubbling fairly vigorously. Removed sauce from heat. Sauce had good texture. In 5 quart pot, combined poached chicken, 2 C, drained, of the mirepoix and mushrooms, and sauce. Mixed. Got about 3 1/2 quarts. Heated slowly, covered. Served as in the picture. Eating the serving, concluded that could use more vegetables so added another 2 C, drained. Mixed, heated through again. Ate another serving; additional vegetables helped and were not excessive. Color is not so attractive (keeping the liquid in which poached the mushrooms may be part of the cause; don't keep that liquid?). The vegetables help the flavor. There's a lot of flavor. Apparently due to the heating to 185 F with constant whipping, the sauce with the egg yolks is relatively stable (that is, resists separating into butter fat, water, and cooked egg yolks) for such a hot custard sauce. But, in total, it could better in appearance and especially in flavor. Ideas?
  19. project

    Elusive combinations

    There is a very special, good flavor, I've achieved a few times by accident and tried to achieve a few more time deliberately, without success. The flavor is in some stews and may be from some combination, I suspect actually from some chemical reaction, involving some or all of red meat, garlic, tomato, and red wine. The last time I achieved the flavor was from a lamb stew with garlic, etc. Don't know what it is, but it would be good to find out and be able to do it consistently! For now, I'm on a diet, and working on software!
  20. project

    squirrel meat?

    Where in NYC? Uh, did you try central park? Since I posted before reading this thread, I see now that I am maybe the 13th person to make this joke! Well, I live 70 miles north of Wall Street, and there are squirrels in my backyard. Also deer, wild turkeys, chipmunks (my cat catches), rabbits (my catches the small ones), etc. I could open a window a crack, rest a good hunting rifle, and, seasons and laws permitting, get a harvest. Ah, someday I'll get a much bigger backyard much farther north of Wall Street with much more wild life. Back to writing software!
  21. Sure. Whenever I have a recipe developed well enough to consider it done, one of the standard last things I do is calculate yield. E.g., back in August, 2006, I did a fake Memphis BBQ starting with a 10.18 pound picnic pork shoulder. After cooking for 16 hours in a 220 F oven and separating, I got right at 5 pounds of edible meat. Have done the same for roasting eye of round for roast beef sandwiches. Intend to do the same when return again to poached scallops.
  22. Uh, Tim, uh, at this point it's mostly my recipe! I don't have anyone else to blame! All the stuff on temperature is just from this thread and my trials and guesses. The books I have on French cooking -- Child, Diat, Pepin, etc. -- make it sound like France still has yet to discover thermometers! Similarly for timers! pH -- f'get about it! Of course, actually the French do great with technology -- e.g., J. Neveu in stochastic processes -- but apparently the exploitation of technology is not uniform! Poaching the scallops until the poaching liquid is 160 F is my guess. So far I've done this for only one trial. Always before I poached the scallops until the poaching liquid was simmering, and essentially always by the time the scallops were served they were overdone, that is, tough and chewy. On my last trial, I raised the poaching liquid with the scallops, started frozen, to 160 F so slowly that the internal temperature of the scallops may have been 140 F or 150 F, maybe even 155 F. I should take notes on how fast I raise the temperature! At this point, the scallop cooking looks pretty good. The main issue is the sauce. With your suggestion, with all the flour, with some comments elsewhere on the Internet, I will try cooking the sauce with the egg yolks to at least a simmer, say, 190 F or 200 F and see what how stable the sauce is. If the resulting sauce is stable, served right away or reheated in the microwave or oven, GREAT.
  23. Okay, I have more trials to do than I guessed! The recipe is Court Bouillon: 2 C Chardonnay, 8 ounces fish stock or bottled clam juice, 5 T minced shallots, and some usual suspects among thyme, parsley, bay leaf, pepper. For mushrooms, I just get sliced mushrooms in cans. In this case, for about 12 ounces "net weight", I include the liquid from the mushrooms in the court bouillon. Scallops: 3 pounds, thawed or frozen. It is easier to overcook the smaller bay scallops than the larger sea scallops. White Roux: 8 T butter, 10 T flour. Milk: 1 1/2 C Whipping Cream: 1 C Egg Yolks: 4 from Large eggs Salt, lemon juice to taste. In a pot of about 5 quarts, poach scallops to 160 F in court bouillon, dump pot contents into a colander set in a bowl of about 3 quarts. Dump colander contents into a bowl of about 3 quarts set in a bowl of ice water. Put the liquid that passed through the colander through a strainer and add strainer contents to scallops. In the 5 quart point, reduce the strained poaching liquid to 1 1/2 C. If heat is too high, can scorch the liquid. While the poaching liquid is reduced or nearly so and simmering, warm the milk and in a pot of about 3 quarts make a white roux of the flour and butter. When the roux is bubbling and the poaching liquid simmering, dump the poaching liquid into the roux all at once and whip vigorously. Add the simmering milk at all at once and whip until smooth. Off heat, add the cream and whip to mix. Add the egg yolks and whip to mix. Heat with constant whipping to desired temperature. Off heat, add salt and lemon juice, with whipping, to taste. Add the contents of the bowl with the scallops, along with the mushrooms. mix, heat through to desired temperature, and serve. So, what sauce volume do we have: 1 1/2 C poaching liquid, 1 1/2 C milk, 1 C cream, plus the 1/2 C butter and the 10 T of flour. So, we have about 5 C total, with quite a lot of flour. So, we have 1 1/4 quarts of liquid, 'volute', with 4 egg yolks and quite a lot of flour. In the past, after adding the yolks, I did simmer and whip the sauce. I found that the sauce would not separate if either (A) the temperature was rising and the sauce was being constantly whipped or (B) the temperature was falling. But reheating, say, in a microwave, in an oven, under a boiler, or just in a pot without whipping, the sauce would separate. Sounds like Tim is saying that I needed to cook the sauce more, that, with all the flour, I should be able to boil the sauce. Looks like I should try again!
  24. It is clear, including from your post, that until the recent trial using 160 F all the years I did that dish I was overcooking the egg yolks. E.g., when sitting while hot, the sauce would separate quickly. Cooking to 160 F, the sauce didn't separate while standing. It didn't separate while reheating except in some spots that apparently got too hot in the microwave. I heated maybe 10 ounces by weight (will measure next time) in a serving dish for 10 minutes at 20% power and got no separation but also not enough heating -- some of the scallops were still a bit below room temperature! Then 6 minutes at 20% power, rotating the dish, and 6 more minutes at 20% power caused some separation at some spots that got too hot and, still, not quite enough heating of the rest. So, for reheating, the dish needs work. One idea I want to try is just to keep the sauce and poached scallops separate, heat the sauce in a sauce pan where can keep whipping it to keep the temperature uniform, the add the scallops, heat with constant mixing, and see if that works. I have wondered: Maybe the sauce would be MORE stable if heated to 170 F or some such higher temperature, much less than 212 F. Heated to 160 F the texture is nice; maybe at some higher temperatures the texture would be still better. "More scallop trials, Ma!". Thanks for your input.
  25. Okay, Dave, thanks for the 160 F! I tried it! The trials need to continue, but so far your 160 F is a NICE improvement! I used the 160 F twice: First, I poached the scallops only until the court bouillon temperature was 160 F. That worked GREAT. By far the best texture of the scallops I've had with this dish. So, don't boil the scallops; don't even simmer the scallops; don't even think about it. Instead, stand there, apply heat slowly, stir gently but often to keep the temperature uniform, use a good thermometer, measure temperature often, and at 160 F QUIT. Dump the pot contents into a colander set in a bowl and then dump the colander contents into a stainless steel bowl set in a bowl of ice. Strain the liquid under the colander and dump the strainer contents into the bowl with the scallops. With the strained liquid, continue with the reduction step. For the poaching, I use an old 5 quart Farberware pot. Then I use that pot again for the reduction. Then when the reduction is done, I dump the boiling reduced court bouillon into the bubbling roux all at once, whip vigorously, add the milk, whip vigorously, and remove from heat. Then I add the whipping cream and whip. NOW the sauce is cool enough so that can just add the egg yolks all at once. Whip. Measure temperature and heat gently with constant whipping to 160 F and then REMOVE from heat. Add the salt and lemon juice to taste. With constant stirring and gentle heat, heat back to, say, 160 F. Then combine with the scallops and, with gentle heat and constant, gentle mixing, heat back to 160 F and serve. This way the sauce is stable. That is, the egg yolks are not overcooked and do not cause the fat in the sauce to separate out. The 160 F is hot enough to serve. The egg yolks give the sauce a nicer pale yellow color, And most important the yolks give the sauce a special and attractive texture. The condition of the sauce after reheating in my microwave oven is also improved, but I am still working on making that better. For serving another day, one candidate tactic is to store the scallops and the sauce separately, heat the sauce in a sauce pan, add the scallops, heat with mixing, and then serve.
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