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My New Kitchen Toy: Sous Vide Cooker

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I’ve seen a few people doing sous vide cooking at home for awhile now, on some cooking forums that I follow. I’m not sure of the full potential, but I’m intrigued. With a little Christmas cash to spend, I decided to buy a portable sous vide cooker that I believe was a good buy. After a little research, I settled on a model made by Gourmia that seems to get good reviews. The model number is GSV-140. Amazon was selling it for $99.00…retail is supposedly $199.00, which I probably would not have been willing to pay. A Foodsaver vacuum sealer is handy to have as well, though you could get away with using zippered storage bags…they just would be a little more likely to leak, and the vacuum makes the sous vide process more effective, I think. I’ve had a vacuum sealer for 20+ years. Disclaimer: I am not in any way sponsored by or reimbursed by either Gourmia, Foodsaver, or Amazon.

Okay. So, the sous vide cooker arrived and I unpacked it, and read through the quick start-up guide and some other literature that came with it. I’m not going to cover the definition of sous vide, or all the technical stuff here. You can find tons of information online. This is just to document my experiments and share them, if anyone is interested.

I had a vacuum sealed bag of chicken drumsticks and thighs on hand and decided to make that my first foray into sous vide.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

Vacuum sealed chicken pieces.

It was pretty simple: follow the directions for clamping the cooker to a container (I’m using a stock pot), add water between two marks, using the bagged chicken to get the amount right with volume displacement. Remove the bag. Enter the time and temperature according to the instructions for the cut of chicken I used, and start. When the water is up to temperature, I added the bag back in, and clipped it to the side of the pot.

Dial in the time and temperature.

Dial in the time and temperature.

You will find that sous vide recipes often give a wide range of time for cooking. Without getting bogged down in the technicalities, what you are doing is a long, slow poaching; at a very accurate temperature. You cook for a minimum period of time required, to reach the target temperature throughout the product being cooked. At that minimum time, the food is safe to eat, but you can go to the maximum time in the recipe, without seriously affecting texture and quality of the product. Passed that time, some foods could get overcooked…mushy.

I set the temperature according to directions, at 158F. I cooked it for three hours. I could have stopped at two or gone for five, but I decided to do three hours. It was a bit unsettling that the juices in the bag were not “running clear”, like other cooking methods use as a gauge for chicken being “done”. They were still a murky, dark reddish color.

Chicken, unbagged.

Chicken, unbagged.

Cooked chicken

Cooked chicken

However, when I opened the bag and pulled a piece of meat apart, it was cooked through. It was very moist and had a good texture. At this point, I could have finished on a grill or in a saute pan, if I wanted to brown the meat. I decided to just eat one of the thigh pieces and put the rest into the refrigerator for a later recipe.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Checking to see if cooked through.

Day two, I have done some reading on sous vide cooking eggs. I’m doing four eggs currently at 147F for an hour and a  half.

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The result should be like an over medium egg, or a medium boiled egg. I like a set white…no slime, and a yolk that has begun to gel, but not solid. If I were cooking in a pan, the result should be a yolk that is starting to solidify on the outside and still runny in the middle…so that, when I cut it up, there is enough runny yolk to coat the cut white pieces…but not runny enough to pool on the plate. I get pretty specific about how I like my eggs…I know!  Will update later today.

Egg update: Holy mackeral. The egg yolks are perfect. The texture is creamy and amazing! The whites were a little underdone for my liking, but from my reading, I know that some may remain watery…and I was able to dribble that little bit off. So, now I just need to experiment with adjusting the temperature up a couple of degrees and/or try adding another half hour to the time. It was fairly easy to get the eggs out of the shells. I just cracked them on the large end and removed enough shell to allow the egg to be tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Tipped out into a small bowl.

Carefully opening the egg.

Carefully opening the egg.

After I checked the yolk texture, I gently lifted the eggs onto some awaiting toast, leaving that little bit of watery white behind.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Sous vise eggs on toast. Yum.

Yolk test...oh, MY!

Yolk test…oh, MY!

I will say that, while the whites were very soft, there were not what I would call “slimy”…that really repulsive stuff on eggs when someone under-cooks the whites. I would just like them set firmer. Overall, I’m very impressed. I have seen sous vide recipes for creme brulee and hollandaise sauce. I haven’t gone through them yet, but I’m betting the texture is remarkable. We’ll see!

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Is That Carton of Eggs Almost Out of Date?

 

Pickled eggs. Cue the banjoes.

Pickled eggs. Seriously.

Do you have a carton of eggs in your refrigerator? What’s the expiration date on them? If you’re within a few days and have no immediate plans to use them, what should you do? Pickle them! That’s right. Pickle them. I know, you’ve been in that little country store…dueling banjos playing in the background…and there’s a big  jar of pickled eggs on the counter. Right next to the jar of pickled pig’s feet. Have you ever seen anybody purchase either? Somebody has to be eating them, right?!  Well, I don’t know about the trotters, but let’s talk  eggs.

Eggs that are closer to their expiration are actually better candidates for boiling than fresh eggs. It’s a food science and chemistry thing. But if you boil a dozen eggs, are you going to use them before they go bad anyway? I don’t know…if you love boiled eggs or have a big party and plan on making deviled eggs, then maybe. If not, consider pickling them. Here’s the deal: a pickled egg practically lasts forever. The amazing thing is that the yolk stays practically pristine. The white eventually gets a different texture…less tender, more springy…and they pick up a little of the flavor from the pickling brine.

If you have several eggs, you can leave a few in the shell and refrigerated for eating or using in recipes in the next week. Whatever you anticipate will not be used that quickly can be shelled and pickled. Yes, you can eat a pickled egg, as is; however, you can use them in just about any recipe calling for hardboiled eggs. My favorites are tuna and chicken salads.

First, boil the eggs. My preferred method is to place the eggs in a single layer in a pan and cover them with cold water. Bring the water just to a boil, remove the pan from the heat, cover, and set a timer for 13 minutes. When the time is up, remove the eggs from the hot water with a slotted spoon or strainer amd submerge them in a bowl of ice water. When thoroughly chilled, refrigerate;  or peel and pickle.

For the pickling, have a clean quart sized canning jar ready with a lid and screw ring. In a pot on the stove, add 1-1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup white vinegar, a couple of garlic cloves, a pinch of red pepper flakes, dry dillweed, and dill seeds. You could use a fresh frond or two of dill, instead of the dry dillweed, if you like.bring everything to a boil and remove from heat and allow to cool.  Pour the brine and herbs/spices into the canning jar.  Drop the hardboiled eggs into the brine…you can fit up to about 10 large eggs in a quart jar. Put the lid in place and screw the threaded ring down to seal. Place jar in the refrigerator and store pretty much indefinitely. If you haven’t used them in, like, a year, you could toss them, if you’re concerned. I doubt that will happen, though. They’re so convenient!

To use in a tuna or chicken salad, I cut an egg in half and remove the yolk. I crumble the yolk with the tuna or chicken. I then chop the white and throw it in. Add a tablespoon each of dill pickle relish or salad cubes and finely diced celery. Add a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise (I like Duke’s!) and a pinch of salt and pepper. From there, you can be creative and add a little curry powder, some halved, seedless grapes, some toasted or candied pecans…whatever. Or, you could just cut an egg in half..salt, pepper, and eat! Enjoy!

 

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Cabbage, Corn and Bean Soup

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I had some leftover cabbage and wanted to use it somehow. Thinking back a looooooong time ago to when I worked in a restaurant chain, I used to make a simple Burger, Cabbage and Kidney Bean Soup. With that in mind, I came up with a vegetarian soup that is similar, but with a few added ingredients. It starts with simple aromatics and a roux and comes together very quickly. This soup can be made entirely ahead and served later or you can prep the vegetables in advance and store them in the fridge until you want to make the soup. Enjoy!

Cabbage, Corn and Bean Soup

Ingredients:IMAG1709_1

2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 c. Carrots, diced

1/2 c. Celery, diced (2 ribs)

1/3 c. Onion, diced

1-1/2 c. Cabbage, cut into 1”x1” squares

1 large clove Garlic (or 2 smaller), crushed

1 T. Chili Powder

2 T. All Purpose Flour

1 can Corn with liquid

1 can Kidney Beans with liquid

2 c. Vegetable Broth

¼ t. Crushed Red Pepper

Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste

2 T. Apple Cider Vinegar

1 teaspoon of Maggi seasoning or 1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

Directions:

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Add raw vegetable, except cabbage, in two minute intervals, sautéing/stirring after each addition, starting with carrots, then celery and onion.IMAG1710

Add chili powder, then stir in flour. Then add the garlic and crushed red pepper. IMAG1712

Continue stirring for a couple more minutes. Add cabbage.IMAG1713 IMAG1714Next, add the corn and beans with their liquids and the vegetable stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add  vinegar and Maggi seasoning or Soy Sauce, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or more. Serve hot! Can be cooled, refrigerated and reheated for service the next day and it will be even better! Taste before serving to adjust seasoning. If the cabbage makes the soup too sweet, you can add more vinegar. Another option is the vinegar with the peppers in the bottle, if you like it a little spicier. or  the hot sauce of your choice.

How about some salt-baked Yukon Gold Potatoes and some Garlic-Rubbed Cabbage Steaks to go with that soup?

How about some salt-baked Yukon Gold Potatoes and some Garlic-Rubbed Cabbage Steaks to go with that soup?

Note: This soup could be made non-vegetarian with the addition of some browned hamburger or leftover roasted chicken and you could substitute beef or chicken stock instead of vegetable stock.

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