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

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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.

Uncategorized

Review: Sous Vide app for iPhone

Pros:

Menu is very intuitive and easy to navigate.

There is a surprising large amount information for various cuts of meat and vegetables/fruits, even lesser used cuts such as sweetbreads and pork spleen; and usually 2-3 different combinations of temperature and time for each cut.

You have the ability to add a certain cut to your ‘favourites’ menu, making it easier to select, say…. “pork belly’ almost instantly, if for some strange reason you want to cook pork belly everyday for a week.

It costs S$1.99, which is pretty cheap for a wealth of sous vide information.

Lots of good background information like food safety, intro(how sous vide is beneficial), a ‘how to use this app’ section(pretty similar to the intro), and sous vide resources (mainly the more infamous sous vide links). Although to be fair, all of this can be read on 1-2 webpages online.

Some pretty informative writeups on different cuts of meat, such as chicken breast; talking about how well it benefits from the sous vide technique, the difference in textures between cooking it high and short, and low and slow. (Not all cuts have such informative writeups, more on this later)

There is a tiny column for you to add your own notes underneath each cut of meat

Cons:

The menu is very minimalistic, which isn’t a bad thing for me, but some may find the application a little ‘visually bland’

In the rare instances that they use photos in the app, the photos aren’t very appealing or flattering to the food

As I mentioned earlier, some cuts of meat have very informative writeups, while the majority of others use a pretty standard template, meaning they don’t really describe how the different temperatures and cooking times affect the outcome of the meat, which I personally think is the most valuable information.

Overall:

I was pleasantly surprised with this application to be honest, I had expected minimal information on the more common cuts of meat, but there is quite an extensive list provided with the application. Everyone seems to have a different idea on which temperature and time combination to use for any particular cut of meat, and each yields vastly different results. This application takes out the searching element for you, it tells you the possible combinations; but where it falls short is telling you how each combination affects the outcome of the meat. You often get combination headings like “Rare”, “Ideal”,  and “Traditional”, which seem pretty cryptic because everyones intrinsic value to what “ideal” and “traditional” should be can be completely different. Very often when I’m cooking sous vide and Im tasting the final product, I know its good, but I’m not entirely sure if I’m doing it right- Yes this is a delicious duck confit, but is this what the duck is supposed to taste like after being cooked at 75C for 9 hours? The application lacks the information to clear this up.

Also, while most of the temperature/time combos I agree with, some seem to jump out in a bad way. “Rare” chicken breast is cooked at 57.8C for 1-4 hours, that strikes me as being incredibly low and unsafe. Every blog that I’ve been to on sous vide has never gone below the 60.0C mark for chicken, it really makes me wonder where the app is getting their combinations from.

That being said, $1.99 is a very small price to pay for all the temp/time combinations provided, if you’re too lazy to run a google search for that cut of meat you are about to cook, and cross check cooking temperatures and times between 4-5 blogs, then this app is definitely for you.

 

Home Cooked

Sous Vide Garoupa @ 60.5C

It’s been a while. I’ve been committed to serving my country and it has completely drained my energy and willingness to get into the kitchen, but I haven’t stopped having ideas and questions about food. The most prominent ideas I’ve been toying with in my head involve using Sous Vide to recreate Asian dishes-Asian Flavours infused into meats, then cooked sous vide.

Seeing a gigantic garoupa at the wet market, I knew that this was a prefect place to start. As far as I remember, salmon is the only fish I’ve cooked sous vide, at a very very low temperature, to a texture unlike anything that can be achieved through normal cooking. But there are some who find its texture disconcerting, and I completely understand why. So I decided to go with the highest temperature listed in the Sous Vide Guide for fish – 60.5C.

Prep:

Roughly chop peeled ginger, peeled garlic cloves, and spring onions

– Add sesame oil to pan and lightly saute ginger, garlic, spring onions. Add Thai fish sauce, Thai lime juice, light soy sauce, teaspoon of sugar, 2-3 small chillis, and a handful of chye poh(Salted radish)

– Blend everything into a paste

– Rub the paste all over the fish, and into its flesh

– Sous vide the whole fish with lime leaves, let flavors infuse

– Cook at 60.5C, time depends on size of the fish, mine took about 3 hours.

– Soak more chye poh in water, drain, dry as much as possible, then deep fry

– Remove liquid in sous vide bag when the fish is done, bring to a boil and it reduce a little, then mix in some sesame oil

– Serve fish with sauce, garnish with spring onions and fried chye poh

What? Negative marks for presentation?

Pros:

Fish was beautifully soft and moist, falling off the bone. The paste gave the fish very refreshing flavour, with acidity of the lime juice and freshness of the ginger, but it was delicate enough not to overpower the natural taste of the fish. Cooking it at 60.5C yielded the shortest cooking time possible, and cooking such a gigantic fish sous vide made it easier to deal with(Rather than moving the fish around in a pan, which agitates the flesh, moving it in a sous vide bag ensured that the fish didnt break apart, and when ready to serve, the bag is simply cut, and the fish is slid out)

Cons:

Despite being pleased with the texture of the fish, it didn’t really offer much difference from the steamed garoupas Ive had at Chinese restaurants, maybe thats somewhat of a compliment to my sous vide fish, but I guess I was expecting something a little more from the technique. Also, I found that the fish was cooked a little unevenly, the head portion was a little undercooked, the middle was perfect, and the tail was overcooked. A possible explanation for the undercooked head is, heat transfer is a lot slower through air, between the hollowed out portion between the head and the body. The tail being overcooked is pretty self explanatory, but it does highlight the importance on how long you leave your food cooking sous vide, as it can get overcooked. Possible future experiments: Sous vide Garoupa at lower temps? Maybe in the 58.0C range

Sous Vide Garoupa served with Crab and Olive Fried Rice



Home Cooked

Home Cooked: A Tale of two Ducks (confit)

I’m just going to cut straight to the chase because this is mainly for my own reference.

Prep:

– Brine duck thighs 7% Brine, consisting of orange juice, orange zest, a lot of dried thyme, some dried rosemary, garlic, a splash of liquid smoke, for a total of about 6 hours

– Remove and pat dry, vacuum seal with a tablespoon of fat

– One batch was cooked in a waterbath at 80C for 9 hours (Baldwin tables)

Other batch was cooked in a waterbath at 75C for 20 hours (Source)

Both ducks were crisped up in a searing hot pan with a little oil

– Duck confit was served with an apple sauce (Microwave chopped apples on high heat for 90 seconds, covered. Then blend with a little ham ju)

80C for 9 hours

Pros: The skin crisped up nicely. This was closer to the texture of a duck confit that I am familiar with

Cons: The meat was tough, I could tell the meat was tough just by touching it when I took it out of the bag. I wouldn’t say the meat was dry, but it was stringy. Also, meat was under seasoned.

Thoughts: Will probably salt liberally before sealing in the vacuum bag the next time, should also use more duck fat because the meat cooks vertically with my setup, 1 tablespoon of fat is not enough to fully submerge the entire leg while it is cooking. A sprig of fresh thyme should also be used, the dried thyme in the brine did not impart sufficient aroma into the meat.

75C for 20 hours

Pros: There was a significant difference in the texture of the meat, while it was still stringy, the meat was a lot more tender and moist. Meat had a nice pinkish center.

Cons: Still, the meat was stringy, I’m trying to think really hard about the last confit I had, which was at Osteria Mozza, it was good, very good, it was stringy but it was so moist and tender at the same time (which is why I said the 80C duck is closer to what a duck confit should be). I may have been expecting too much from the confit but I really thought that it would have that melt in your mouth consistency. The legs lost too much liquid for my liking, but again this could be an issue with the lack of fat in the bag.

Thoughts: More fat. More more more. Also, was 20h really necessary? I felt that a better consistency could be achieved with a shorter time, albeit more rare.

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Umami Butter: Shiitake & Kombu

I’ve been thinking long and hard for some time now on how to incorporate more umami into the food I sous vide. Being the incredibly lazy person that I am, my first instinct told me to google a product that captured the essence of umami flavour, I found 2 hits- Ajinomoto and Umami paste.

Ajinomoto has long had a “bad guy” reputation for their super seasoning that is MSG, while I’m not disputing the fact that there is a tremendous amount of umami present in MSG, I find that it leaves a drying and unpleasant sensation on the tongue, there had to be a better solution. So I delved deeper into this dubious sounding umami paste, a taste test done by this website seemed to indicate a strong preference for the umami paste over traditional MSG, very intriguing, but one problem- The paste isn’t sold in Asia. I guess if I were resourceful enough, I could get someone to send me a couple of tubes, but given my short attention span(ADD?), I was already digging through my kitchen cabinets for a solution. The answer came in a simple box of dried shiitake mushrooms.

I don’t want to go through the rest of the though process, but the I ultimately ended up with a Shiitake & Kombu seaweed butter.

So why Shiitake and Kombu? No good reason, simply because both ingredients have high amounts of glutamates, which the tongue perceives as umami, and because I just so happen to have found both ingredients lying around. There are tons of other ingredients high in umami- tomatoes, Dashi, parmesan cheese, fish sauce, soy sauce, ham, and so on. You can use all these ingredients, but be aware that they will impart their own flavour into whatever you are cooking it with. For example, green tea has good amounts of umami in it, but that doesn’t mean that you should be sprinkling green tea powder into every meat dish you cook right?

Why incorporate it into a butter as opposed to a stock or an oil? I use a lot of butter in Sous vide cooking. Firstly, it stays solid longer than duck fat(2nd most used fat in sous vide), making it easier to work with. And secondly, because I don’t have a professional vacuum sealer, I cannot have any liquids in the sous vide bag when I vacuum seal it, otherwise it will get sucked into the vacuum pump. Butter also adds a certain unctuous quality to whatever its cooked with, you don’t get that with olive oil. Thats a win-win-win situation. (I hope someone gets this reference)

I don’t really have a recipe because I pretty much guesstimated everything, but this is the crux of the process

– Cut the mushrooms into halves, dry out the seaweed and mushrooms in an oven. Low temp ~70C for about an hour. Test the texture- if you squeeze the mushrooms, they should crumble

– Finely grate the Shiitake into a powder, and finely crush the Kombu. Pass everything through a sieve to make sure that there are no large chunks.

– Put the soft butter in a mixing bowl with a whisk, run it at low speed and slowly add in the Shiitake/Kombu powder mixture, allowing it to incorporate (I was unfortunately too lazy to do this and I used the back of the spoon, you’ll see that my butter isn’t very well mixed)

– Use cling film to mould the butter into your desired shape, then set in the refrigerator.

Use as you see fit. Note that if you use salted butter, you should adjust seasoning accordingly.

Home Cooked

Home Cooked: Sous Vide Chicken Breast with Truffles 61.5C for 90 mins

This is inspired by a dish served at Eleven Madison Park in New York. I knew way before I got my immersion circulator, during the days when I used a rice cooker to cook sous vide, that chicken breast was one of the meats that really benefits from sous vide cooking (Even though I didn’t give it enough time during my first attempt and parts of it were inedible) I recently saw a video of chef Daniel Humm preparing chicken breast sous vide, and I immediately put it on my “to-sous-vide” list.

Prep:

– Shave truffles into thin slivers

– Use your finger to gently separate the skin from the breast meat, but stop pulling when you reach the center so that the skin stays connected to the breast

– Place a layer of truffles in between this pocket of space between the skin and the breast, do this for both breasts, thats what she said.

– Slice a knob of butter and place it on top of the truffles, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper (Just sprinkle onto the truffle/butter)

– Flip the breast over, season the meat with salt and black pepper again, coat with a thin layer of herbs, I used rosemary and thyme

-Place the breast on a piece of cling film and roll to form a roulade, the cling film I used wasn’t big enough and I had to use two pieces, no biggie

– Let the chicken sit in the fridge overnight, then vacuum seal the whole thing(with cling film) in a vacuum bag

– Cook in a water bath at 61.5C for 90 mins

Pros: I had high expectations for this, and I wasn’t disappointed. Easily one of the moistest breasts I’ve had(At least 25% of the content in this post is probably illegal in some countries), an instant hit with everyone at the table. Meat was well seasoned, herbs really shone through, and the truffles added a nice subtle earthy-ness to the dish. With something cooked sous vide like salmon, for example, the meat achieves a completely different texture- its pretty close to sashimi, and yet the meat still flakes, something that completely defies logic, and not everyone can appreciate this seemingly new texture. But chicken breast is one of the meats that is hard to argue against doing sous vide(I may have confused myself with this double negative), the product is just incredibly moist and meat isn’t stringy, it isn’t something that you can achieve with traditional cooking methods.

Cons: I can’t think of any issues with the meat, but the truffles I used were the size of grapes and were pretty cheap, you get what you pay for, because it didn’t flavour the meat as much as I thought it would. Ideally, when you slice across the roulade, you get a nice circular chicken breast, a contrasting outer layer of black truffle, and the (almost) invisible chicken skin; all that was lost because the truffle I used was already physically handicapped, and I had also sliced them very thinly, a thicker truffle would have added some visual appeal to the dish

Thoughts: I had actually wanted to use a lower temperature, I know Heston Blumenthal uses 60C for chicken breasts, but I was in a rush and decided to increase the temperature, plus I had no idea how long I was supposed to cook them for. Would 1.5C make much difference? That’s something I definitely want to find out, maybe the next time I get my hand on some  fresh truffles….