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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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Pickled Hard Boiled Eggs…No, Wait! Where are You Going!?

Pickled Eggs. Oh, C'mon. Don't be afraid!

Pickled Eggs. Oh, C’mon. Don’t be afraid!

I started doing this awhile back, mainly because I was told that my father in-law liked pickled eggs.  The thing is, I realized that they are actually pretty good! I’m kind of picky though…I don’t just munch into one. I slice them in half and put a little salt and fresh pepper on them. Amazingly, months after you pickle them, the yolks are still like they are from a freshly boiled egg. The texture of the whites gets denser and takes on the pickle flavor, but not a very strong one.

I like having pickled eggs on hand for making a quick tuna or chicken salad, too! Easy. Throw in some mayo, finely chopped celery and/or pickles (sweet or dill), a squirt of mustard, capers, onions, whatever you like…boom!

Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

Some possible tuna (or chicken) salad ingredients

Some possible tuna (or chicken) salad ingredients

Now, I have gotten into canning over the last couple of years and I have some of my own pickles that run low and I refill those jars…I can even combine jars, if I need more brine in one. I have used pickled beet brine as well. It adds a distinct color and earthy sweetness. If you add a little beet brine to regular dill brine, you’ll get a lighter color and sweetness. If you aren’t canning, though, don’t worry. You can use commercial pickle juices, just as well.

This egg came from a batch with a small amount of beet brine. Look at how fresh the yolk looks!

This egg came from a batch with a small amount of beet brine. Look at how fresh the yolk looks!

This is a great way to salvage eggs that are approaching or just past their freshness dates. (Boiling works better with older eggs, rather than fresh!) Cover with cold water, add a tablespoon white vinegar and a teaspoon baking soda and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat, cover and set a timer for 13 minutes. When time is up, drain and transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking. Peel under some warm running water and drop peeled eggs into the pickling brine. Refrigerate practically indefinitely.

By the way, remember my blog awhile back about buying eggs already boiled and peeled, for deviled eggs, at the grocery store? Don’t want to boil and peel eggs, but want to try pickling some eggs? Did I say “Boom!” already?

No, really! They're good!

No, really! They’re good!

So, I may be picky about how I eat my pickled eggs, but don’t let me stop you if you want to just bite into a whole one…enjoy!!!

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Pumpkin Bread

Mini Loaves, just out of the oven...oh MY!!! You want it.

Mini Loaves, just out of the oven…oh MY!!! You want it.

Every now and then, I use someone else’s recipe pretty much as is; especially when it comes to baking. The recipe below came up along with a number of others on Pinterest when I searched for “pumpkin bread best ever”. Obviously, they can’t all be, but this one turned out so yummy, that I’m going to file this one and keep using it! Thanks to “Mom’s Menu with Cindy”! (see her link below) I have copied her recipe, as is, with the exceptions that are my notes, in parentheses. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

From: http://www.momsmenuwithcindy.com

1 3/4 cup fresh pumpkin puree*

Wet ingredients.

Wet ingredients.

4 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sweetened applesauce (I’m using homemade crabapple butter)
2/3 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon**
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg**

I half-melted the butter in the microwave. Used wire whip and it looks kind of weird, but it worked.

I half-melted the butter in the microwave. Used wire whip and it looks kind of weird, but it worked.

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves**
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger **
raisins and/or walnuts, optional

*Or substitute one 15-ounce can pumpkin puree or solid pack pumpkin

**Or substitute 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice for these individual spices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour well three 7 x 3-inch loaf pans. (I used 7 mini loaf pans that were about 3×5 and filled them ¾ full and it worked out perfectly.) In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, applesauce, oil, water, white sugar and brown sugar until well blended. (I blended the wet ingredients first, then the butter that I half-melted in the microwva followed by the sugars.) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (or the pumpkin pie spice). Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Do not over mix. IMAG1653

Add chopped walnuts and or raisins, if desired. (I had a handful of pecan pieces left over from a previous recipe, so I threw them in.) Pour equally into the prepared pans.

Mini loaf pans, ready for the oven. Do not over-fill.

Mini loaf pans, ready for the oven. Do not over-fill.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until done. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Since I used the mini loaf pans, I checked mine at 40 minutes. They were just right at 45 minutes.)

Good texture.

Good texture.

Slightly cooled loaf. You can only wait so long!

Slightly cooled loaf. You can only wait so long!

Update: 11/16/13     I made a double batch of Pumpkin Bread today. It produced 2 large loaves and 5 mini loaves. I had a little left over, so I sprayed inside of a coffee mug with the cooking spray that has flour in it. I could have greased and floured it, but this was easier! Anyway, I filled the mug about 2/3 full with batter and microwaved it for 2-1/2 minutes.

Poof! It's pumpkin bread microwaved  in a mug!!!

Poof! It’s pumpkin bread microwaved in a mug!!!

batter in a mug

batter in a mug

My microwave oven is a small, weak one. If you have a good and powerful microwave oven, 2 minutes will probably be sufficient. It also puffed well above the rim of the cup, so 1/2 full would have been enough, but it was very good. It doesn’t brown like it would in a regular oven, but tastes just as good!

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