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Posts posted by Renn

  1. For someone who is just beginning to explore sous vide cooking, the only bit of fancy equipment that you need is a decent digital thermometer. Although you expand your possibilities with more robust equipment, for basic cook-to-temp, you can get by with very little added investment. Besides, better to see if the technique really does have a place in your kitchen before breaking out the checkbook, right?

    My "sous-vide" setup consists of a large pot of water on the stove, ziploc freezer bags, and a thermometer. Sure, there's a learning curve associated with regulating the temperature (flame/ice), but over time it becomes less and less of a chore. I have not ventured towards cooking times greater than 3-4 hours...but I've learned plenty with what I already have on hand.

  2. I have 8 and 9, and I'd say that it covers more and goes into greater detail than say, Art Culinaire. It's also pricey, but I'd say it's worth it for the pictures alone.

    I'm pretty anxious to get my hands on the first English issue...

  3. If I had to consider the new fall offerings all together, I might say that the Big Fat Duck Cookbook takes the most holistic and in-depth approach.

    Alinea goes to great depths to talk about the restaurant, the motivation behind the cuisine and explains how they execute that cuisine. Under Pressure, takes a very specific slice of what they're doing at TK's places and it showcases myriad elaborations, meanwhile sprinkling hints of many other techniques in use without additional explanation. One Day at El Bulli places the greatest effort into describing the creative process, and the physical components of that focused process.

    But with just my quick browse of Heston's Book....the depth of it is just blowing me away. I've never seen a book with such in-depth commentary on the thinking behind a dish, nor have I seen such a wealth of discussion on so many topics pertinent to the dining experience. He certainly dedicates the most space to understanding how a diner perceives a dish...and he even manages to temper in-depth technical discussion with very artfully created pages throughout the whole book.

    I don't mean to be dismissive or even the least bit judgmental about the other new books to come out this season as we're all fortunate that these chefs even share their thoughts...but at this point in time, I think this book will be the one that keeps me up at night.

  4. Not to point out what has already been mentioned as "critical" but yes, the thickness of the steak is paramount.

    Since I only had a 1in grass-finished rib-eye on hand, that's what I went with. And while the method did produce a very nice crust (and lovely potatoes to boot), alas, it did cost me the interior. I tried to compensate for the thickness of the steak by going straight from the fridge...but that was not enough. Perhaps I should've gone with lower heat on the stove? Next time I'll shoot a thermometer at it to quantify "medium" heat.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking method though...I've definitely learned a bit more, even in failure.

  5. One process that I have not had much success with yet, though I am getting closer, is cooking the perfectly poached egg. I have tried cooking them at 147ºF, cracked into a covered ramekin, but have yet to achieve the runny yolk along with the cooked whites. Each time I have done it, I have left them in the CVap overnight.

    Any theories as to why this is such a challenge? It certainly doesn't seem intuitive given your experience thus far.

    Just as a point of comparison...here's an egg that I tossed into a regular oven at 150F for approx 2 hours. Given the heat transfer characteristics of normal ovens...I'd guess that it's what you might be targeting in terms of the final texture (i.e. 147F)?


  6. Does anyone know how to cut kal bi? I'm no so interested in the "LA cut" done across the ribs, since they're readily available from most markets in that form. What I'm trying to figure out is how to make the beautiful roll cut Kal Bi that I see from time to time. It's basically a long sheet of the short rib with a single bone attached.

    I've played with zig zag butterfly cuts, but looking at the grain structure, I don't think I'm on the right path.

    Can anyone tell me the secret?

  7. Fast talking got it...vacuum chamber machine. At home, your best bet is either:

    A) Food Saver with the canister attachment

    B) letting the liquid sit for hours to settle...this is not effective with stable foam forming mixes

  8. I'd like to add that it does not take any fancy equipment to par-cook the potatoes...and you certainly don't have to sous-vide them....you don't even need ultra-precise temp controls...a decent thermometer and a pot of water is all you need.

    I use the technique often, and the potatoes are fine anywhere from 65-70C and the time is forgiving as well (since the key is to just make sure that the potatoes are to temp throughout). It's not as temp sensitive as say an egg or a piece of protein.

    For inch thick slices 30-45 minutes is fine. Thicker potatoes (like say if you want to cook whole potatoes in their skins) will take a good deal longer.

  9. It's been said in a number of other places (including the potato primer here on egullet)...but par cooking the potatoes at 65C and letting the starches retrograde before a final cook makes a world of difference....it also allows you relax the need to keep the potatoes hot and fresh from beginning to end.

  10. For the sake of experimentation...would you even need the aluminum sheet pans? Why not use the surface of the dry ice to cook with? I imagine it will pit somewhat quickly, but it should be doable for a course.

    Also, Nick mentioned that the first anti-griddle was just the back of a spatula sitting on a block of dry ice....Certainly enough to try things out!

  11. I'd say that the answer is both Zucchini and Asparagus...and the reasoning doesn't have so much to do with cooking times or water content, as with the solubility of the main flavor components. Asparagus and Zucchini both contain high amounts of water soluble flavor components and so blanching leaches out much of its flavor.

    On the other hand, Broccoli and Cauliflower contain a larger proportion of fat soluble flavor components...and so blanching is not as detrimental.

  12. To bring up an old subject....

    I've seen katsuo-bushi for sale at Boulette's Larder in the San Francisco Ferry Building. Now that I've learned to look for a metallic sound when selecting a piece...perhaps I'll try one out? They also sell the katsuobushi kezuriki...and I've seen the kezuriki at one other store in SF. I'm just wondering if there are any other places that sell katsuobushi in the SF/Bay Area?

    Also, other than looking for a metallic ring, are there any other particular ways to spot higher quality katsuobushi?

    Keep the tips coming!

  13. Not to go on too big a tangent...but a method that I'm loving more and more these days is to use a pain a l'ancienne dough from Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." To summarize, you make the high hydration % scratch dough under ice cold conditions (takes about 8 min)...to prevent the yeast from waking up. Then after a single overnight retardation, you take the dough out to wake up and finish fermenting then bake.

    I've also in the past made some way more involved poolish based pizza doughs, gone whole hog with the stone, starting from whole tomatoes, etc... and for the marked difference in effort, I'd say that the l'ancienne dough produces serious flavor (I actually went as far as conducting a blind tasting amongst unsuspecting friends =D)

    I've done this in a sheet pan with a piece of parchment and forgot to flour...the finished pie still did not stick and turned out well. Currently I'm playing with how much water to put in the dough as there's a balance between keeping it as wet as possible and making it even easier to handle. In any case...I'd highly suggest trying the method out....you can make the call as to whether it's easier to buy dough and let it retard for X days vs making a quick scratch dough and having a 1 night retard period.

  14. Might be worth it to ask more questions about the chickens you buy. Most if not all supermarket chickens are likely to be Cornish Cross hens which are bred for large breasts and tenderness...and typically are 7 weeks old at the most (possibly the largest contributing factor towards tenderness).

    A more artisanal meat bird producer is likely to be raising heritage birds...but again the most significant factor with regards to tenderness (and flavor) may be the age of the birds at slaughter. So far, I've found pastured 7-week Cornish Cross birds to have a good boost of flavor compared to conventional birds while still remaining tender.

    However, when I've managed to get some 3-month old Red Broilers, they are almost a completely different animal. The meat stays reasonably tender (not quite as tender as a cornish), but the bones are much much harder compared to the other birds, and the fat is a rich yellow vs the pale white of the more common birds. Still definitely not a stewing hen or rooster...but certainly very different from what is more available.

    It would be interesting to start compiling some data on the chickens we eat so as to get a better idea of what factors really make a difference and how they make a difference.

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