Tuesday, April 6, 2021

A Tale of Some Oxtail (a sous vide adventure)

I love oxtail broth or stew, though I do not remember when I first tried it. I tried to make it once, on a stove top, without a pressure cooker, and it took too much time, too much attention, though it did come out delicious.

The fine fun folks at Lifehacker have a sub-blog called Skillet, that includes the topic Will it Sous Vide? and today's meat method comes from this article from a few years ago.

The TL:DR version: 

  • make an umami paste
  • coat your oxtail
  • bag
  • Sous vide for 24 hours at 185 degrees Farenheit, 85 degrees Celsius, 358 degrees Kelvin
It fell off the bone with almost no effort. I think I had to shake one piece off, but look how clean those bones are:

More specifics:

My first attempt at an umami bomb (or paste, but bomb is much more fun to say) failed. I used a lot of garlic, and unfortunately, while the garlic smelled fine before I smashed it (I love my mallet), when I tasted it, something just felt totally and utterly wrong. Into the trash it went. My second attempt was more saucy, but tasted much better. It still needs work, though. What I threw together:

  • 1 Tablespoon Better Than Bouillon mushroom flavor
  • 1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon garlic flavor 
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable broth
  • 1 Cup grated onion and its juice
I brushed the liquid onto the meat, and added a little more into the bags before I sealed them. When I de-bagged, there was a ton of liquid and I poured most of it into a medium saucepan, reserving some in a small pitcher.

To the pot I added:
  • 3/4 bottle of cabernet sauvignon (pour yourself a glass and dump in the rest)
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms (I had a mix of Crimini, which are sometimes called Baby Bella, and some amazing Trumpet shrooms that I caught on sale. Use your favorites)
  • 6 oz of pearl onions, whole
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley
  • 1 bay leaf (note to Kate: more herbs next time)
I let that simmer and reduce for about an hour. In retrospect, I should have spent the last hour the oxtail was cooking reducing the wine more slowly. It would have left more flavor. 

After the hour was up, I mixed some cornstarch with the liquid I had put aside to make a slurry, and added it to the pot. Once that was absorbed,  I put the meat in, then cooked some mushroom ravioli to serve everything on. My liquid was more stew than soup, so I used a slotted spoon and here is the final result:

I've got a lot of fat floated to the top in the leftovers, so I will likely use that to make a roux to thicken the rest. I'll also add more herbs to the next bit.

I give me an A-. The meat had such amazing texture. The connective tissue was completely broken down, and chewing was only needed for the sheer joy of it. The globs of fat, just melted in my mouth. If you have the time, the ciruclator, the counterspace, and you like oxtail, please try this. My ideal takeaway from this is we have an entry just from people sending me their umami bombs. 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

More winter comfort food: Oyakodon

Last nights dinner is something I was wary about trying to make myself, but the cravings got too strong and the delivery options at Paradox Place do not include something that looks or tastes by what follows.

Oyakodon translates as 'parent-and-child-rice-bowl,' something I was pleased to learn several years ago. When I lived on the West Side, there was a place that delivered them, and it was love at first bite. It was a frequent dinner until I moved to the other side of the island.

The chicken is simmered with onions in a savory broth, and then an egg is gently cooked with the chicken and the whole thing is served over rice. I lifted this one whole from Just One Cookbook, and I already have two more recipes from this site lined up.


For two servings (you'll be making these one at a time, unless you have two pans you can use at once)

  • 2 chicken thighs, cut into 1.5" (4cm) pieces
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 2 large eggs (you'll beat these separately)
  • 1/2 Cup dashi (available in Japanese food stores. I have concentrate that I keep in the fridge. It's a useful thing for adding umami, but I digress)
  • 1.5 Tablespoons mirin
  • 1.5 Tablespoons sake 
  • 1.5 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • 2 servings cooked Japanese short-grain rice.
  • Mitsuba for serving (or green onion, which is what I used this time)
  • Shichimi Togarashi for serving (I think this seven-spice blend is one of the most fabulous things on the planet)

I make my rice on the stovetop--living in a studio means I don't have space for a rice cooker, though there's a microwave one I have my eye on. Once I got it simmering, I got started on the oyakodon.

Namiko Hirasawa Chen does a good job of writing recipes, in my opinion. Very easy to follow, very clear. 
  • Combine dashi, mirin, sake, soy sauce in a bowl or a liquid measuring cup.
  • Add sugar and mix all together until sugar is dissolved. Depending on the frying pan sizes, you may not need all the broth. You can keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  • Thinly slice the onion and chop mitsuba (or green onion). Beat one egg in a small bowl (you will need to beat another egg when you work on the second batch).
  • Slice the chicken thigh diagonally and cut into 1.5" (4 cm) pieces. I recommend using “sogigiri” cutting technique so the chicken will be equal thickness and create more surface area for fast cooking.
  • Divide your ingredients in half
  • Add 1 serving of the onion to your pan in a single layer. Pour roughly ⅓ to ½ of the seasonings mixture (depending on the size of your frying pan, the amount may vary). Pour just enough sauce to cover the onion.
  • Add 1 serving of chicken on top of the onion. Make sure the onion and chicken are evenly distributed. Turn on the heat to medium heat and bring to a boil.
  • Once boiling, lower the heat to medium-low heat. Skim off any foam or scum if you see. (I didn't have much at all) Cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and onion is tender. (My stove took 6 minutes or so)
  • Taste the broth and see if you need to adjust. Slowly drizzle the beaten egg over the chicken and onion. Cook covered on medium-low heat until the egg is done to your liking. Usually, Oyakdon in Japan is served while the egg is almost set but runny.
  • Add the mitsuba (or green onion) right before removing from the heat. Transfer the chicken and egg over the steamed rice and drizzle the desired amount of remaining sauce.
I used a bit too much broth in mine, but the rice absorbed it quite nicely. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

It's not too sweet


A few weeks ago, a friend I met through gaming posted an orange chicken recipe that I thought had some potential.  Since I prefer things less sweet and a little more spicy, I'm going to post what I did because there were several changes that worked for me, though you may prefer the original, which is I think resembles what you'll get from a heavily Americanized Chinese restaurant. Please feel free to kick me right in the assumptions and correct me if your experience differs.

For the sauce (add spices a bit at a time and taste as you go):
  • 1 Cup low-pulp orange juice (this is being increased to 1.25 cups next time)
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce (thinking of trying tamari next time)
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 dried chiles--the type you typically buy in a jar in the spice aisle in the US. I'm short and these were about as long as my little finger--ground to powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
  • Zest from one (Navel) orange
You'll notice a couple things if you compare recipes. I eliminated the sugar and the cornstarch. I just didn't think they were needed. Orange juice is plenty sweet. I also didn't dredge and fry the chicken like in the original recipe. Instead I used the sous vide method, which has the advantage of prep and being able to ignore for an hour. If you have an InstaPot, you might have a sous vide attachment.

I put everything but the zest in a small saucepan, and then put two chicken breasts in vacuum bags and into the waterbath, setting the immersion circulator to 147 degrees F, which works out to 68.9 degrees C and set the timer for 45 minutes, keeping the sauce on simmer the whole time and stirring occasionally.

Once the timer went off, I increased the heat on the sauce to medium (look for tiny bubbles) for fifteen minutes until it was reduced. After 15 minutes, the chicken was done. From there, I turned the heat off of the sauce stirred in the zest, de-bagged the chicken, patted it dry and cut it into bite-sized piece. I put the pieces in a large plastic container with a lid, added half the sauce, stirred, and then covered it (tightly) with the lid and shook it within an inch of its life, aka until evenly coated to my eyes.

This can go over rice, though I wasn't in the mood for rice. As sides, I put some mushrooms (a nice mix of shitake, maitake, and enoki was on sale), and some snow peas in a pan with a bit of oil and a bit of soy sauce. I'm really pleased with the results. 

If you try this, please let me know your variations!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Max Comfort Food: Herbed Potato Soup

Sundays are great for comfort food and it's been cold and snowy and I had some kind of bug last week. Covid-19 test was negative happy to say.

As a cancer survivor (I still feel odd saying that, since I was caught early and didn't have it that rough) I was urged to move to a vegetarian diet, which I find hard to stick to for more than a few days. Some advice I've seen even suggested vegan, but while I can do that for a meal or two, it's not a lifestyle for me.

The potato soup recipe I found on the Dana Farber site is the basis for this--heavy on the vegetable broth, light on the cream, but my full ingredient list went like this: (you will need a blender)

  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into pieces, no bigger than an inch
  • 3 leeks, washed, cut in half lengthwise, washed again, sliced, then rinsed one more damn time
  • 1 baseball-sized onion, chopped 
  • 1 large shallot, chopped 
  • 1 bulb of garlic, roasted (don't have time to roast? I would guess 5-7 cloves if you consider garlic  a vegetable or 3-4 if you consider garlic a condiment)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (low sodium if you wish)
  • 2 cups chicken broth (low sodium if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon of Herbs de Provence (no I didn't blend my own, but I likely will at some point)
  • 1/4 Cup cream
  • 1/4 Cup milk
Optional garnishes:
  • Chopped cooked bacon 
  • Chopped green onions
  • Sour cream
  • Shredded mild cheese. I used a Gouda.
Heat the olive oil in your stew pot on medium high heat until a drop of water spatters when you toss it in. Add your onions, leeks, and shallot (plus the garlic if you're cooking it from raw). Stir frequently until the onions are translucent. Add the salt and the Herbs de Provence, stir some more until the herbs are evenly distributed to your eyes.

Add your broth, roasted garlic if you're using, and your potatoes. Stir well, then add the pepper because you forgot it earlier (it can go in with the other spices). Bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-high so it's still bubbling, but the bubbles are small. If the bubbles are bigger than an American dime, turn the heat down. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes. In between stirring, clean the counter, and prep your garnishes. 

After the 30 minutes is up, check to ensure your potatoes are soft. 

Now the fun stuff. How do you like potato soup? Smooth and creamy? Chunky? I like mine mostly smooth with all the aromatics blended in, but with a few chunks of potato found here and there.

I use a stick blender, but a conventional blender works fine as long as you're blending in small doses, say a Cup (8 oz) at a time. If you like it chunky, just blend half. Ladle into bowls, garnish as you wish. I also topped mine with some additional black pepper for the picture. 

The recipe can easily be adjusted for vegetarians or vegans. All vegetable, various substitutes for sour cream and cheese. The Dana Farber site had coconut milk as an option.

I also had some rosemary crackers on the side while I ate. Decidedly comforting, very tasty, and flexible. Color me pleased.

Questions? Comments? Happy to hear them. See you soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Not Dead Yet or Chick pea pasta doesn't always photograph well

 Hello everyone. I hope you're doing okay. The pandemic has been calling for a lot of comfort food, though I haven't been really happy with a lot of the things I've been cooking of late until today. That is why you haven't heard from me in a while

I try to shop sales and this week, I lucked out to find some chanterelle mushrooms at a reduced price. Then an idea popped into my head to bring out that buttery flavor and mouthfeel and I came up with this:

  • 4 oz bacon chopped into 1/2 -inch pieces (pancetta could also be used here)
  • 8 oz dry pasta I recommend orchiette or something that will hold a creamy sauce. Shells could work, though when peas get caught in shells, they kind of look like eyeballs. That might not amuse everyone at your table.
  • 1/2 Cup heavy cream
  • 6-7 ounces green peas--I used canned 'very young' ones. They're nicely tender. If you're using frozen, I recommend thawing first and draining off excess water.
  • 4 oz chanterelle mushrooms, chopped into 3/4 inch pieces
  • One big shallot or two small ones, diced into 1/4 inch pieces (the big one was too big to enclose in my hand)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 3 oz Grana Padano cheese, grated. Parmesan works here, but Padano is more affordable much of the time. 
  • ground black pepper to taste

Rinse the mushrooms, pat dry with paper towels. Chop them into 3/4 inch pieces or thereabouts. Throw them in a colander and rinse. Since chantarelles have that fluted fluffy top, it's easy for dirt to be missed on the first rinse. Shake the colander up and down a few times to get more water out. Put them on a plate with paper towels.

Cook your bacon to desired crunchiness. I've always found it useful to start cooking bacon on low heat and then bringing it up slowly to medium/medium high. Remove from pan onto paper towels. Drain the fat, but don't wash the pan. Turn the heat to medium-low.

Melt butter and put in your shallots, stirring constantly until they begin to turn brown. You might want to have a glass of your favorite beverage handy during this step, this takes a while, but it's worth it.

Once your shallots are brown, add the mushrooms, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Slowly add the cream, then the peas, and keep stirring for another minute, then toss in your bacon.  Gradually stir in the cheese until it's absorbed.

Put the heat down to low and cook your pasta. Stir every once in a while. You're going to get a light red/brown because the bacon will color the sauce.

Drain your pasta. Add it to the sauce, stir well. Have pepper handy so it can be added to taste. Makes 3 servings.

The pictures I tried to take really didn't show off the ingredients, so we'll have to do without this time.

Note that there isn't any flour in the sauce. You really don't need it, it will thicken up of its own accord. If you're not eating a wheat pasta, this recipe is gluten-free.

This recipe is pretty flexible too. Easy enough to double if you want to cook a pound of pasta. The chickpea pasta I like comes in 8 oz boxes. 

I had a lot of leftover peas--it was a 15oz can. I threw the bulk of them in some leftover Indian food that will be eaten tomorrow. Not sure what to do with the rest. 

Next up: Cocoa Corner

Monday, August 31, 2020

Two-for-one special or Kate makes Greek-inspired recipes

Some people go down YouTube bunny trails and suddenly find that they've lost a few hours. I'm more likely to do that with my favorite fictional universe's wiki ('favorite' here meaning 'whatever I'm consuming at the time'), and I'm also highly likely to do this when looking for recipes.

The last time I did this, I found a recipe for avgolemono, a soup I've seen on many a Greek menu, but never tried. For some reason, this weekend seemed to be the perfect time to try it, and this recipe worked like a charm. It was easy, and tasty, and felt nourishing even as it felt light.

  • 7 cups chicken stock (I used store-bought, 4 cups low-sodium, 3 cups regular. I am considering switching out a small amount for some vegetable broth for a bit more depth, not more than a Cup, more likely half of one. Alternately, I could make my own stock again. As soon as I have room to store it. Ha! #studioliving)
  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 3 eggs
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (this worked out to about 1/4 Cup)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • Lemon slices, to garnish

  • In a large pot, bring the stock to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for five minutes. Turn off the heat. (if you have an electric stove, also move it to another burner).
  • In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then add the lemon juice and one tablespoon of cold water. 
  • Very slowly stir in a ladleful of the hot chicken stock, then add one or two more. With the heat still off, add the egg mixture to the pot and stir well. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, garnished with lemon slices and fresh herbs
I was nervous that the stock was still going to be so hot it cooked the eggs when I added the first ladleful, so I gently shook the ladle over the egg mixture with one hand and kept stirring with the other. This seems to have done the trick. I hadn't grabbed fresh herbs when I went out to get lemons, so I kept it simple and added some dried parsley.

It was delicious and I managed to keep myself from eating it all. I did have a couple accompaniments. Half a pita and some hummus and a red pepper/feta dip.  (note: I used a food processor)

I'd made the dip before following a recipe that I didn't bookmark, but I wanted to play around a little. I'm only going to be able to give you approximations for starting. This is a taste you want to customize. 

  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • approx 8 ounces roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup Calabrian chiles  in oil (also from a jar). I didn't drain, de-seed, or de-rib them.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano (which totally got lost)

Put everything into the mixer's bowl. Mix/blend until the color is consistent. Add peppers in small amounts until you achieve the balance of flavors you like. Service with pita or pita chips, and sliced cucumbers. A few olives on the side aren't bad either.

A couple notes:

If you don't have the chilis in oil, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. If you're using a stand blender, I recommend putting the peppers in first so the cheese doesn't all clump around the bottom and clog the blades. I'd also advise using the pulse function and scraping the sides often. I didn't get a picture of the dip, but I'll be making it again soon, I'm sure. Maybe I'll make hummus again too, it's been a while.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Duck Breasts Were on Sale

I love duck and the time I cooked them previously was an unmitigated disaster. They came out like mush. Like an idiot, I did not write down what the mistake was, but mush in a sous vide incident tends to mean it was cooked too long. 

This time, I did more research. I didn't follow everything in this Serious Eats guide, but it was enough to give me a very juicy  meaty duck breast. 

For a sauce, I took a mental inventory of what I had in the pantry/fridge. Duck often goes well with fruit, especially orange, but I don't keep marmalade around as a rule. One of my favorite sweet condiments, on the other hand, is black currant jam. I also usually have red wine on the rack and thought this would work pretty well . I did a quick search and found several recipes, so obviously I wasn't the only one with this idea.

This was one of those cases where I looked at a bunch of recipes and winged it from there. Let me tell you about the duck first.

The duck was simply seasoned with salt  & pepper and cooked at 132F  for about 55 minutes. I timed myself using an episode of Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me. Like noted the article, at least 45 minutes. I was a bit paranoid about overcooking after my last venture (don't ask)  Afterwards, I put it in a cold pan, and then put the pan on high to crisp the fatty side. Serious Eats said 5 minutes, it really took 10 to get the fat golden brown and I'm not sure I don't want more next time. I need to experiment with this a bit. I also need to let the duck rest a bit longer. Duck jus went all over my kitchen when I was slicing.

For the sauce, I went with this combination:
  • 2 T minced shallot
  • 1 T butter, divided in half
  • 1 Cup red wine
  • 1 Cup mushroom broth (some of the recipes I saw said chicken, some said beef. The chicken broth I had in the fridge had expired, and I didn't have beef, but I always have mushroom bouillon in the house)
  • 2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 heaping Tablespoons of black currant jam

Melt the 1/2 the butter in a small pan on medium heat, then add the shallot, cooking until translucent, about 4 minutes. Slowly pour in the wine, and let reduce for about 15 minutes, then add the broth. Continue to reduce, until the volume is down by about half. Stir in the jam, and cook on low for another ten minutes. Keep warm until the duck is ready. Stir in the rest of the butter right before serving.

I served the duck with baby potatoes, that I cut in half. When I had cooked the duck's fatty side for a few minutes , I threw the potatoes in the same pan and kept them there for another 5 minutes while the fat cooked and then another five when the duck rested. 

I also cooked some snow peas--real easy. Boil water, thrown in peas for about 5 minutes until they are bright green  and they will be tender and crispy.

The final result: