Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sous-Vide Equipment Review

Hi everyone, this is Nexx, and I've been a guest contributor a couple of times, and here's my first post as a contributor. Here's a short equipment review of the Sansaire immersion circulator. As Kate mentioned in the previous post, I'm a huge fan of sous-vide for many types of cooking. I Kickstarted this, but this fantastic gadget has been available on Amazon for some time.

TL;DR: this is a fantastic piece of kit, if a little expensive, but will pay for itself in many, many time-saving ways. I use it almost every time I cook everything, either for its intended purpose as an immersion circulator, or as a handy water pump for other purposes.

The Sansaire immersion circulator is extremely easy to use. Just plunk it in what will become your hot water bath, turn it on, spin the large, well-damped ring to rapidly set the target temperature, and the circulator will quietly do its thing. Quietly is pretty important to me; we live in a small apartment and there really aren't very many places for us to escape the noise.

It's not just useful when heating things; there are times when you have to arrest cooking in a hurry. Just dump the food into a water-tight vessel, put ice and water in the bath container, and let the immersion circulator run while the heating element is turned off.

One of the most underrated methods for cooking frozen chicken is to just freeze it with herbs and a little olive oil in the bag, and then when ready to use, just toss it in the appropriate temperature water bath. It's fantastic for lazy weekday meals, especially combined with frozen vegetables that we toss in the microwave.

Another underrated feature: being able to cook meat to the perfect internal temperature. There are ways to use this method to create something that cannot easily be made otherwise. I've recently made beef steak stew where the beef cubes were left at medium rare using this method.

The Sansaire is not without its flaws, however. I have the Kickstarter edition, and the fit and finish of the plastic cover over the heating element can be a lot better. I also wish it would notify me - audibly is fine, via an app would be better - when the water bath reaches the target temperature. Also, with a larger water bath, it can take a little while longer to reach a higher target temperature, but that can be ameliorated by using a large plastic tub with a lid instead of a stock pot.

Finally, it's not critical that a vacuum sealer is used; Archimedes method works perfectly well. However, if one is to be used, I own a predecessor to this model that seems to do the job. It's also a great stand-alone item.

All in all, the Sansaire immersion circulator is a great piece of equipment, worthy of inclusion in any kitchen. It's stylish enough and with a small enough a footprint to be left out, which means it will get used often if so desired.

The Good
  • The ergonomics is fantastic.
  • Not a unitasker!
The Bad
  • Fit and finish of the heating element cover could be better.
The Terrible
  • The clip to keep it clipped to the vessel is a bit fiddly.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Things to Do with Things in Jars

Hi everyone, 

Many changes over the past several months.  First and foremost, I have a new kitchen, which came with an apartment in a a very loud neighborhood in New York City. I have a little more room to work, which is nice. Counterspace! 

Another foodie change is my darling Nexx Kickstarted an immersion circulator, so there have been some interesting sous vide experiments. Expect more guest posts, but not a ton of them since that's quite the luxury item, and I certainly don't expect everyone to have one. Hopefully, you can expect more posts in general, as my average daily commute is down to 25-30 minutes instead of 90-110.

I get regular emails from a few culinary sources and recently saw one for enchiladas with tomatillo salsa. After a few reads, and some additional internet research I decided not to bother following any recipe and I could do it myself. My ingredients list:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1.25 pounds total
  • 1 jar tomatillo salsa (I see this in most grocery stores)
  • 3 Cups chopped onions (about a 1/2 inch in size)
  • 6 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic (or an overflowing Tablespoon of minced garlic from a jar)
  • 2 Tablespoons dried cilantro
  • 2 green onions cut into 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound of thinly sliced pepperjack cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic salt
  • 3 limes 
  • .25 teaspoon of powdered habanero chile (more on that later).
  • 16 8" corn tortillas

In a sautée pan (or a frying pan if that's what you have), heat 1Tablespoon olive oil on medium heat. Add your garlic and onions , and cook until the onions are translucent. Toss in mushrooms, and cook until the onions are starting to turn brown around the edges. Sprinkle powdered chiles, stir well, then remove to a large bowl

In the same pan, lower the heat slightly and heat another Tablespoon of olive oil. Stab your chicken with a fork a few times, squeeze half a lime, sprinkle with garlic salt and cilantro then place spiced side down in the pan. Repeat the stab, squeeze, and sprinkle on the other side of the chicken. Cook, turning frequently  until chicken is just barely cooked through.

If you have a meat thermometer, until the temperature is between 145 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove chicken to a plate, let rest for five minutes. Have a beverage, use the rest room, read your email, whatever. If you don't have a meat thermometer, cut into the fattest part of your chicken every so often and remove the second  you don't see any pink. I flip every 2-3 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350Fahrenheit 

Cut the tops of your green onions into 3/4 inch pieces and stir into your onions and mushrooms. Cut the chicken into small pieces, between 1/2 and 3/4 inch in size, and place it and any juices that accumulated into the onion mix. Mix well. Have a bite of chicken. Adjust spice level if you feel it's warranted.

I happen to have two 9x9 pans in my apartment, hence the 8" tortillas, so that's how I'll be describing the  next few steps.

Spread a thin even layer of salsa on the bottom of your baking dish.

Layer 8 tortillas with paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds. If you don't have a microwave, place then on a sheet pan (sans paper towels) in your warm oven for a minute or so. You don't want them cooked, just flexible.

Lay a slice of the pepperjack on a tortilla. Trim to fit. Hold the tortilla in your non dominant hand, curling up one side about 1/3 of the way. It should look like a letter J from the side (apologies for not having a picture, Nexx was getting his hair cut at the time and I still only have two hands). Spoon in 2-3 Tablespoons of filling. Gently, as if you were handling a small animal, roll into a cylinder and place seam-side down in the baking dish. 

When the baking dish is full, pour enough salsa to coat, cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, which will give you enough time to slice or chunk some avocados to go on the side. I also drained one can of black beans and mostly drained a can of low-sodium black beans and heated them in a small pot with a teaspoon of vinegar. Two enchiladas per adult worked well.

A few notes:

  • I ended up doing several pans. The first time, I put 4 enchiladas in each. The second, I managed to carefully stuff all 8 in the 9x9 baking dish. Well, mostly. I ended up folding the last one in half and putting it on top.
  • A little cooking spray in the baking dish would not be a bad thing. I just don't happen to have any at the moment. I use it so infrequently that the can I had when we moved had expired.
  • If you have larger tortillas, I would recommend laying them flat on your work surface to fill.
  • Nexx suggested more green onion flavor, and I think he had the right idea, so I will double it next time.
  • More salsa would not be a bad thing
  • I happened to have a jar of Dave's Smoked Habanero Powder. I have no idea where it came from. If you gave it to me as a gift, thank you very much! You could use cayenne pepper, if you don't feel like pulverizing a dried chili.  Alternately, chop a fresh hot pepper--I'm thinking Serrano--or if you want a touch of cumin, regular chili powder.
  • I'm really happy with the recipe in general. We ate a lot of it and I didn't get tired of the leftovers.
Thoughts? Ideas? Let me hear from you!