Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Chocolate-Baileys jelly dessert

A while back I went through a mini phase with jellies- from trying to turn everything into a jelly, as well as searching for the best jelling agent from geltain, agar and carrageehan. It eventually led me to this baileys chocolate dessert. I’ve never really enjoyed the texture of agar, gelatin has a much more melt in your mouth mouthfeel, but what intrigued me about agar was that it has a fairly high melting point (85C~), this led me to thinking that I could serve a warm, set jelly. but with a liquid center. As I was toying with the idea in my head, I was watching a video of Heston making a molten chocolate cake, in the video, he uses a block of set ganache in the middle of his cake to ensure a perfectly melted center, immediately the idea to use a chocolate ganache wrapped by a Baileys jelly started to form in my head.

I actually found trouble in an area where I least expected- I had trouble trying to get baileys jelly to set. After two failed attempts, I managed to succeed with a 2 parts milk to 1 part Baileys ratio. The milk is first heated over a pan and agar powder is whisked in, once the powder has dispersed(the mixture should start turning viscous at this point), baileys is immediately whisked in and poured into cold muffin mould that has been sitting in the freezer, only fill a small layer at the bottom of the mould, depending on the size of your cut ganache blocks. Put the muffin moulds in the freezer to set, then drop in a block of cold chocolate ganache and cover with more of the Baileys agar mixture(you may need to keep this on a stove to ensure that it stays liquid, do not boil). Its important to note that when you drop in the ganache, the top of the jelly layer shouldn’t be completely set, otherwise you will get two separated layers of jelly like in my photo, blasting it with a torch to melt the top portion helps with this.

Molten Chocolate lava Baileys Jelly, served with chocolate soil

Pros: It worked. You cut into it, the molten chocolate oozed out, exactly like a lava cake. The jelly had a strong hit of baileys, strong enough that you could taste the alcoholic fumes. Of course, the baileys and the chocolate worked well together.

Cons: I still hate the texture of agar agar. What could be worse? Warm agar agar. Apparently the only thing that made agar agar palatable for me was its coldness, the combination of warm jelly and alcohol was not a good one, I was struggling to finish the dessert.

Thoughts: Im glad I managed to figure out a way to make this, the idea had been stuck in my head for some time, but it simply didn’t taste good enough to warrant more experimenting, this is one dish I’d happily bury for now.

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Home Cooked

Sous vide pork tenderloin @55.5C

Sous vide pork tenderloin brine

(from Ad Hoc at Home)

3 T honey

6 bay leaves

2 fresh rosemary spring

1/4 oz fresh thyme sprigs

1 oz fresh flat leaf parsley sprigs

6 cloves garlic, crushed with the skin left on

1 T black peppercorns

1/2 c kosher salt

4 c water

I used a modified Ad Hoc brine, by modified, I really mean I only used whatever I could find at home. I left it in the brine for about 5 hours, before thoroughly rinsing off the brine. For those of you getting over salted meat whenever you do a brine, it could be beause you’re not washing off your brine properly. I rinse the meat under running water for a good 3-4 mins, then soak it in water for an additional 10 mins, with two water changes

Post Sous vide

Method: The tenderloin is rolled up with a few sprigs of rosemary, a few turns from the pepper grinder, wrapped in clingfilm(to maintain shape), then sous vide and dropped into a water bath at 55.5C for 4 hours. It gets pulled out of the bath and cut open,any juices are reserved, the tenderloin is wiped dry with paper towels and put into the freezer for about 20 mins.

While the tenderloin is chilling out, heat some canola oil and fry some rosemary leaves till crisp, make sure they do not burn or they will taste incredibly bitter, throw in a handful of pine nuts as well, this not only roasts the nuts, it infuses the oil with a subtle nuttiness and rosemary aroma. Remove the crisp rosemary and toasted pine nuts, reserve.

Turn the heat up to high, pull out the tenderloin from the freezer and wipe the surface once again, sear the tenderloin in the hot rosemary-pine nut oil, continuously baste the tenderloin, the oil should sizzle over the exterior of the meat as you baste it

Create a basic balsamic vinaigrette, squeeze in some mustard and whisk in the reserved pork juices from the sous vide bag, dress a over greens and cut up peaches

Cupid shot a pig and a peach tree on valentines day

Pros: The pork tenderloin retained a lot of juiciness, 55C is a very nice temperature for a tenderloin(the 0.5C is just a food safety precaution, even though my immersion circulator seems to be fairly accurate), and a nice temperature for most tender cuts of meat including beef. Needless to say it was tender as well. The brine seasoned the meat nicely an there was no need to re-season before sous vide. The effort taken to dry out the exterior of the meat and baste it with smoking hot oil gave the tenderloin a really nice, slightly crisp crust.

Cons: None that I can think of really, I used a non stick pan which didn’t get as hot as I would have liked, but I just bought a cast iron skillet so I’ll be trying that next time.

Thoughts: Pork and peach are a match made in heaven, the sweetness and freshness of the peach balances out the rich meatiness of the pork. Mustard and pork are another classic combination and the spiciness from the mustard made the vinaigrette ‘livelier’. I think freezing the meat definitely gave the meat a nicer sear and overall crust(credit to Americas test kitchen), I will be incorporating it into my workflow for tender meats. It might have been better with a sauce, but to be honest I don’t think it needed one

Home Cooked

Sous Vide turduckloin and a Christmas dinner

During christmas of 2010, I made a sous vide beef wellington with duck fat mashed potatoes for my family, a year later, I had the ridiculous and ambitious idea of cooking a christmas feast for a bunch of friends. I have had it in my mind to make a sous vide version of the turducken for quite some time, but I never got around to doing it, Christmas seemed to be a perfect excuse to cook it, seeing as to how I would need an army to finish the beast. But because I have a strong inability to follow recipes word for word- I often try to add in some component that will make it a little more challenging, I eventually settled on stuffing a beef tenderloin in a chicken in a duck in a turkey, oh, and of course, there would have to be bacon in there somewhere.

First try with meat glue. No bueno

String fixes everything, trust me, Im an engineer 

Figuring out the turduckenloin was a lot more complex than I thought. I wanted to cook as many components using sous vide as possible. After thinking long and hard about it, doing mini experiments- including one with meat glue, my final plan would be- starting from the inside out, I would sous vide the beef medium rare, sear it, and then freeze it. After which I would sew(meat glue just wasn’t strong enough) the chicken around the tenderloin, sous vide the chicken to about 62C, freeze the chicken/tenderloin, then sew it into the duck, sous vide the duck to 60C, then immediately wrap it in a crisp bacon wave and sew the duck/chicken/tenderloin into a turkey, before finally roasting it in an oven. This would mean that the oven only needs to cook the turkey, not the duck layer onwards, making sure that most components would remain moist and evenly cooked. If course, this was only the plan I had for the dish, there would be many issues I did not and could not forsee.

 Baconga Veneta Fall/Winter 2011

I’m on PETA’s most wanted list

Since I had made the offer to cook for everyone, I needed other dishes for the feast as well. About a month before Christmas, I decided on four: The turduckenloin, sous vide beef shortrib tacos(with grilled corn salsa), macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork, and brownies. This was going to be quite a huge task, on top of that, I am in no way ‘organized’ in the kitchen, which is somewhat embarrassing considering that I am an engineer and people have this impression that I am very methodological(sorry to disappoint). I often have 4-5 different things running around in my head at the same time and I knew that I would be restricted by equipment- I have one oven that barely fit the turkey I bought, and the container I use to Sous Vide can only hold the size of a duck, figuring out how I would put out 4 warm dishes at the same time was going to be a challenge.  Hence, for the first time since starting cooking, I worked out a timeline that i needed to follow to make sure that the food would go out as planned

Saturday 

Buy ingredients(Short Ribs, turkey, etc)

Prepare reduced red wine sauce(mirepoix, bouquet garni, red wine, worcheshire sauce, BBQ sauce, green tea powder, liquid smoke, cumin, thyme, garlic), then freeze

Sunday

begin defrosting turkey

Dust shortribs with cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, Mexican oregano, vacuum seal with frozen red wine sauce. Cook at 71.2C for 2 days

Tuesday

Remove shortribs and slice thinly, place into ziploc bag with some residual sauce and rapid chill. Then freeze

Wednesday

Purchase pork shoulder and misc other things

Purchase beef tenderloin, season with olive oil + beef stock cube, vacuum seal and cook at 56C for 2 hours. Then remove, pay dry, sear over high heat in garlic/thyme olive oil. Let rest, place in sous vide bag, seal, rapid chill and freeze

Debone entire turkey, reserve bones, freeze meat

Thursday 

Coat pork shoulder in flour, salt, brown sugar, sear in truffle oil

Braise pork shoulder (130C for 4 hours) in mushroom stock and root beer, with fennel, onion, star anise, brown sugar, bouquet garni, button mushrooms, carrots, stock cube. Remove, shred, freeze with some reduced braising liquid

Friday

Collect chicken and duck

Debone both birds, reserve bones. Place frozen tenderloin in deboned chicken, meat glue and sew shut. Chill overnight

Begin defrosting turkey in the fridge

Saturday

Roast chicken bones, pressure cook to create stock. Reduce stuck to intensify it. Then chill

Make brine for the turkey, let it chill

Sunday

Sous vide the chicken and tenderloin, drain liquid, then rapid chill and place in fridge

Meat glue duck, sew shut

Make brownie batter, place in fridge

Cook stuffing

Grill corn, mix in mint, chill

Brine the turkey in an orange scented brine

Monday

sous vide duck,chicken,tenderloin

Bake brownies(might need to move to Sunday)

Make bacon weave

Reheat stuffing

Cook Mac and cheese

Butter Breadcrumbs

Reheat shortribs and pulled pork

Combine bacon weave, stuffing, duck/chicken/tenderloin with the turkey, begin roasting

Finish Mac and cheese w pulled pork

Pulled pork on Mac and Cheese

This dish had alot of ‘firsts’ for me. 2 weeks prior to cooking the meal, I had never deboned a chicken in my life. I had broken down a few chickens(Breaking down: Separating the legs from the breast etc, Deboning: removing all the bone and leaving the meat as a single flat sheet), but never deboned. By Christmas, I had deboned enough chickens to the point where I felt I could debone a chicken blindfolded, hanging upside down and doing sit-ups. And since birds more or less have the same anatomy, I should, in theory, be able to debone the turkey easily, right? Wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for the scumbag that is turkey. Firstly, I bought a giant turkey, weighing in at a good 9lbs, the wing alone was a size of a huge chicken drumstick. When trying to separate the legs or thighs from the carcass, a chefs knife will easily cut through a chicken bone if you don’t hit  the joint at the right  point, but no such luck with a turkey, it’s bones are made of pure titanium and you really have to go at it with a snipers precision, right at its archillis heel(insert the knife between the two bones and wiggle, this point is alot harder to find on a turkey than it sounds) to separate it. This condensed video is about 45 minutes worth of me deboning this monster.

Roasted bones + water = Delicious stock

I’m not gonna write down the full recipe because alot of it was jus adapting and trying to deal with the countless problems I encountered, plus I really wouldn’t wish making this on my worst enemy. The first was discovering that the chicken  I had ordered  was not big enough to sew around the tenderloin that was already cooked, I recalled seeing some much bigger chickens at a nearby supermarket, but the store had already closed by that time, and I was already behind schedule, so I made a quick decision to invert the duck and chicken, the tenderloin would be covered with the duck and I would get a bigger chicken around that.

This monster broke my oven. True story

The duck came out beautifully, and when I begun sewing the chicken around it, of course, I realised it wouldn’t fit. I had a chicken that covered about 3/4 of my duck and I was just staring blankly at it trying to figure out how I managed to convince myself that a duck would fit into a chicken , I suddenly had a eureka moment- why not buy another chicken and  use both chickens to cover the duck?  I seemed to make sense in my head, so out I went to get another chicken, and on it went over the duck. I must have spent a good 45 mins trying to work it out before deciding that if there was ever a time to call it quits, this was it.  I ended up filled the  inside of the turkey with cornbread stuffing, sautéed sausages, fried rice, and two bacon weaves , before roasting the turkey to about 65C.

The works

So how was it? It was good, very impressive for everyone at the table when you cut it into it. But was it worth the effort? Hell no it wasn’t. It’s like a mash up of the bee gees and daft punk, both great on its own, but not so much when combined together(Im waiting for someone to prove me wrong and ruin this analogy).  I’m still glad I  attempted this and sort of managed to pull it off. I wonder what I’ll be making this christmas…

Appetizing-looking food is vastly overrated

PS I sewed the two chickens together with a bunch of leftover stuffing to form some kind of franken-chicken and grilled it. It wasnt pretty but turned out pretty nicely

Frankenchicken. Pretty sure this is one of Neil Gaiman’s characters in his version of hell

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Pulled pork shoulder sandwich

So right after I cooked the tenderloin, I was full of hype and eager to sous vide my next dish. I made my way out to mmmm(Meats, marinates and much more), and saw a beautiful chunk of pork shoulder. I had never cooked pork shoulder sous vide before and I thought it would be a good time to try it. I brushed the shoulder with a tiny bit of olive oil, before seasoning with a quick dry rub consisting of paprika, dried rosemary, dried oregano, pepper, and salt.

I set my immersion circulator to 57.2C (I got this temperature from the iPhone sous vide app), it started heating up and the pump started whirring. After about 3-4 minutes, it went completely silent. I checked the circulator, it was not turned on. I tried switching it off and on, I tried using another power cable, I tried changing the power outlet. Nothing seemed to work. The pork shoulder basically sat in the fridge for 1.5 days before I decided that I had better cook it before it goes bad. Panic started to set in, do I even remember how to cook without an immersion circulator? Or did I even know how to cook before sous vide came along?

By the way, I emailed Addelice, who asked me to ship my circulator to their warehouse in Hong Kong. No cost was mentioned, but we’ll see if a bill comes

Cheesy, porky goodness. Whats not to love?

One of the biggest things I miss about living in LA is having pulled pork on tacos or in burritos, I started to google recipes to get a feel for what temperatures I should be braising the shoulder in. I ended up with this quick and dirty fix:

– Heat an oven-safe pot on high heat (I would use a dutch oven, if only I had one)

– Add olive oil and sear all sides of the shoulder for about 7-8 minutes in total. Till it looks nice and brown

– Deglaze with the juice from 2 oranges, and a can of coke (I had to use 100 plus because I was outta coke, but trust me it still tasted good). The liquid should come up to cover about 3/4 of the shoulder

– Add in three crushed garlic cloves, 3 onions cut in half, some dried thyme, a teaspoon of liquid smoke, a beef stock cube(Again, Marco says its alright to use stock cubes in sauces and seasoning, just not for stocks, I like that theory) and a few good squeezes of Sriracha chili sauce

– Bring to a boil, cover the pot, then quickly transfer to an oven at 180C, set timer for an hour

– After an hour, turn the shoulder, and set the oven for another 45 mins (It should be an hour, but I was trying to coincide cooking this damn thing with my nap time)

– Remove the pot cover, cover the top of the exposed pork shoulder with aluminum foil so that it doesnt burn, and then cook for another 60 minutes (It should be 45 minutes). The sauce will reduce and intensify

– Shred the pork shoulder and store in a container, spoon in some of the reduced liquid so that when you re-heat it, it remains moist

– Re-heat the pork on a skillet some olive oil, add a little water if necessary. Throw in some chopped gouda cheese and mix it in with the pork as it melts. Spoon everything onto bread. Top with a sunny side up egg and finish with some caviar. On a side note, I just had this again today, but I used a smoked chedder- much better. Any good smoky melting cheese will go great with the pork

Pros: Despite my modified cooking times, the pork was actually really nicely cooked on the inside, it shredded easily using a fork, and stayed moist after a reheat. It was very very tasty. I think it would have a much deeper caramelized flavor if I had used coke instead of 100 plus, but I was in a rush and I had to use what I could find.

Cons: The meat was a little overcooked on the outside, I think if I could re-cook this, I would’ve topped up my braising liquid after the first hour, because a lot of it had evaporated/soaked into the meat, leaving a large portion of the meat above the liquid, which is probably the main cause for the slightly overcooked outer layer.

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin @ 55.5C

I was recently given a tenderloin(yes my family gives out raw meat as gifts), and I thought it’d be the perfect time to bust out the immersion circulator, seeing as to how it has been neglected during the last few weeks.

I always say a little prayer to the sous vide god before dropping it into the water bath

The grass fed beef tenderloin was seasoned using a beef stock cube, made into a paste with olive oil, and rubbed all over the loin(if it’s good enough for Marco Pierre White, it’s good enough for me). Then vacuum sealed, and allowed to rest overnight. It was then placed into a water batch at 55.5C for 2h and 40 mins, which is 0.5C above medium rare.

Pre-sear sous vide meat looks like a cow that came straight out of chernobyl

After removing from the sous vide bag, the beef was thoroughly dried, and then lightly brushed with English mustard, before dusting with a very thin coating of all purpose flour. Seared on high heat for about 3-4 minutes, then allowed to rest for a good 15 minutes.

The tenderloin post sear. Cheated a little with the flour, but it looks beautiful

I would’ve eaten the whole tenderloin in as a log, but noone wants to see that

Pros: the meat was seasoned very very nicely, and more importantly, it had really penetrated through to the center of the meat, and I like the heat and kick of of mustard to balance out the savory-ness as well. The beef was beautifully cooked medium rare, edge to edge. It should also be noted that the beef held up very well, compared to the previous time when I cooked it at 57C, it retained  more chewiness that I love in steaks, it was a little more moist as well.

Cons: the sinew within the tenderloin didn’t really break down during the cooking process and those bits were pretty chewy and inedible. I dont remember this being a problem the last time i cooked it at 57C. Other than that, the tenderloin was pretty much how I remembered, absolutely perfect. On a side note, I personally prefer the 55.5C tenderloin.

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Sous Vide Beef Wellington

I’ve always been interested in beef wellington ever since I started watching Gordon Ramsay videos, steak and pastry isn’t a combination thats common where I’m from, but the way Ramsay talks about wellington makes it sound so good, and his constant reminder that you should “never cut wellington too thin, it has to be at least an inch thick” has been stuck in my head ever since. Christmas seemed to be as good an occasion as any to try the dish out, after all, I’ve seen Ramsay cook it, how difficult could it be? I could not have been more mistaken, this dish was riddled with unforseen problems that only present themselves when its too late and you have to compromise. I did, however, turn this into a sous vide dish, it was a match made in heaven.

I failed arts and crafts in school

Prep

– Get a nice piece of beef tenderloin, this is where I met my first problem, on TV, Ramsay uses a perfectly beautiful cylindrical cut of beef. Reality? You’d be lucky to get anything remotely oval in shape. Oh, and it’s alot easier to work with a cut thats less wide (diameter), which of course, I didn’t realise untill I had bought the biggest one I could find.

– Season beef with salt and pepper, sous vide beef. I started out at 55C (medium rare), but pushed it up to 57C after about 1.5hrs because not everyone in my family enjoys overly bloody meat. Total cooking time was approx 4hrs.

– Brush the beef all over with olive oil, then sear it well with a butane torch

– Brush the beef all over with english mustard. English mustard, specifically requested by Ramsay, wellington is an English dish after all, you wouldn’t use none of that Dijon crap would you, you donkey.

– Get the biggest piece of cling wrap you can possibly get your hands on, this is serious business, it will make your life a lot easier. Because of the sheer size of the tenderloin I was using, I had to combine 3 sheets of cling wrap, which made it a lot harder to roll. Lay out Parma ham in a sheet on the cling wrap, to form a sort of plate. (Side note: I bought a really good piece of tenderloin and I was trying to save on the ham, so I used a mixture of bacon and Iberico ham, which I had lying in my fridge. You could use bacon, but be sure to render out as much fat as possible, the oil will seep into the pastry when its baking and make it soggy)

– Blitz mushrooms in a processor, then scrape the paste into a non-stick pan and cook out the liquid. Let the mushroom paste cool before spreading it over the parma ham.

– Place the tenderloin on the mushroom/ham, and roll using the cling film, similar to rolling a ballotine. Twist ends and chill for at least 10-15 mins.

– Roll out pastry dough, remove the cling film from the tenderloin, cover the tenderloin with pastry, sealing the ends with eggwash, brush the entire thing with eggwash before baking, and salt lightly.

– If you did it sous-vide, remember that you only really need to cook the pastry, mine cooked at 220C for about 20 mins, which was longer than I thought it would take, but I think it had something to do with the pastry I was using.

– Let the pastry/tenderloin abomination rest for 10-15 mins before cutting. And cut it at least 1inch thick at least.

Pros

This is a great dish to do sous vide. Look at the photos, the beef is perfectly cooked end to end. It looks a little more uncooked than it really is, it had a much less chewy consistency that I associate with rarer meats than I expected, but I’ll admit that it was very red. Cooking wellington raw also means that you have no way of telling how cooked it is untill you actually cut into it.

– Everything was delicious, the meat drew really great flavours from the mushroom and bacon, it had great depth.

Served with Duck fat-Chive Mashed potatoes

Cons

What a massive pain in the ass this dish was. I’d love to do this again on a smaller scale, but this is quite frustrating when you’re cooking a huge log of meat, having to vacuum seal it, make sure that the water bath is big enough to hold it.

-Sous vide does add a few extra steps to the dish, but it ensures that your meat is perfectly cooked, a small trade off if you ask me.

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Bacon and Chocolate Popcorn

Theres not much more to say about Chocolate and bacon that hasn’t already been said about chocolate and bacon. Two of the most delicious foods that seem to somehow make most, if not all things better; and there is not reason why they shouldn’t go together either. I constantly get weird ideas like these and I’m all too happy to be my own guinea pig, although to be fair, this was actually one of the more edible ideas.

Prep

Render bacon fat, reserve crispy bacon, and chop till fine

– Heat a layer of bacon fat in a skillet with 2-3 popcorn kernels on medium-high heat, when the kernels pop, remove from heat, throw in a handful of kernels, then cover. Leave for 20-30 seconds

– Place the skillet back on heat, when the kernels begin popping(it will happen all at once), begin agitating the pan to ensure that the unpopped kernels remain at the bottom of the pan, as well as to coat the popcorn in bacon fat. Repeat for about 3-4 minutes

– Melt chocolate either using a bain-marie or using the seeding technique in a microwave, then mix in bacon bits.

– Drizzle over popcorn and toss it with your hands, kind of like a salad, but infinitely more delicious

How much bacon you mix into your chocolate depends entirely on what you enjoy. I prefer a little more bacon, so that you bite into tiny nuggets after the sweetness of the chocolate subsides, flooding your taste buds with a sudden transition in flavour, from sweet to savoury. The bacon element in the chocolate is akin to adding a little salt to your chocolate, it sounds like a great paradox, but the addition of a little salt elevates the chocolate and brings out its  sweetness.