Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chai Chicken

Bhakti Chai is a local company, and I was recently treated to a tour of the facility thanks to Sprouts (a grocery store chain, if you're not familiar).

As soon as I sampled the product at the factory, I thought it would make a great marinade for chicken. Maybe I was just hungry.

Yeah, I know. it's a drink. It's not a marinade. But the ginger-forward flavor just wanted to be used in cooking. So ... we got to take some samples home, and after having a little pick-me-up, I decided to give Chai-Chai-Chai Chicken a try.

But, being me, I didn't actually do a marinade. Nope. I bought some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and I cooked them sous vide.

I know I post a LOT of sous vide recipes ... but that's because they're so easy and hands-off. Most of the time, I finish the recipe with a quick sear on the stove or maybe a broil in the oven, but that's all I have to do. With the chicken breasts, I just sliced and served.

Let me say here that sealing a sous vide bag that has a lot of liquid in it can be a little tricky. I didn't add a LOT of liquid, but if you're skeevy about having any liquid at all to deal with, just freeze some of your marinade mixture - in this case the chai - and put that into the sous vide bag.

If you've got a giant thick hockey puck of frozen stuff in your sous vide bag, you might want to extend the cooking time a little bit, but if you froze a 1/2 cup in a baggie so it's thin and flat, it's going to thaw pretty quickly. And seriously, you don't need a lot of marinade or sauce or whatever in the bag.

You can cook each chicken breast in its own bag (which is great if you're adjusting flavors to people's personal preferences) or cook them all together in one bag. Just make sure the breasts are in one layer in the bag, if you're doing a bunch of them together, so cooking is even.

Bhakti Chai Chicken Breasts

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Bhaki Chai Concentrate (I used the original version)
Let's assume we're doing just one chicken breast, okay?

If you've got those giant chicken breasts, one breast might be enough for two people, depending on what you're serving with it. If it's really huge, feel free to add another 15 minutes to the cooking time.

So, put the chicken breast in the sous vide bag and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the Bhakti Chai - depending on how comfy you are with dealing with wet ingredients in your sous vide bag. If you were smart enough to freeze some of the chai ahead of time, you're so much smarter than me.

Add a pinch of salt, if you like.

Vacuum carefully and seal. Use the wet sealing feature, if yours has that option. If you want to be extra sure you have a good seal, wipe the recently-sealed end of the bag to remove any moisture, and seal it again on the end.

All done? Good.

Set up the sous vide for 150 degrees. Chuck that chicken in there and set for 1 hour (or a little longer, if it's one of the huge breasts that they sell these days).

Now go and do something fun.

When the chicken is done, remove it from the bag. Slice and serve.

That's it. No muss, no fuss. I didn't even bother browning the breast afterwards, but you can do that if you like. This was also great cold ... try it on a salad with an Asian-style dressing and some bean sprouts and snow peas - or maybe some of crispy fried wonton skins. Yum!

About Bhakti Chai

Bhakit Chai is a great example of a small business started by one passionate person. The original Chai product still exists, but the company has expanded the product line to include more flavors, a ready-to-drink line, and some fizzy chai drinks as well.

The fizzy drinks might have been my favorite, since I'm a fan of ginger ale and similar fizzy drinks that are less sweet and more refreshing.

But that doesn't mean I didn't like the others. The ready-to-drink iced chai is perfect if you just want to grab one and go. That's them, in the photo on the right. Lots of options, including one coffee-chai drink.

The concentrate is what you need in the fridge for drinking at home. I've been making mine with about 1/3 chai concentrate and 2/3 with either milk or almond milk, but of course you can adjust that to your preference. And you can drink it hot or cold.

If you're me, you can also use the concentrate in recipes. I was thinking that rice with a little chai would be really really nice with a stir-fry dinner. And chai rice pudding is awesome. Simmered down to concentrate the flavor even more, it would be a nice sauce for either sweet or savory.

While you can find some of the Bhakti Chai products on Amazon, you probably want to just go look for them at the grocery store, since they're a perishable product. Like, you know, go to Sprouts and buy them there.

One of the best parts about going to tours of different companies is seeing how things are made. here's a super-short video of the bottling line at Bhakti Chai. It was cool watching it work. Yum, chai!

Thanks to Sprouts for sponsoring and arranging the tour and to Bhakti Chai for being such a great host (and for the samples!).


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mango Mousse

Let me be honest. I have a love-hate relationship with mangoes. When they're good, I love them. Totally love. But it seems like I also sometimes end up with mangoes that are mealy or that just taste ... weird.

I have a better track record with peaches, plums, and all their relatives.

Also, mangoes are not the most fun thing to peel. So I dragged out my mango splitter. I don't use it often, but it has its place in my drawer full of things that I don't use often, but I use enough.

That said, the little yellowish mangoes tend to be more successful for me, and when I saw them on sale, I grabbed a few of them. And then as I was browsing through a cookbook that just appeared from a publisher - Farm-to-Table Desserts by Lei Shishak - I found a recipe for mango mousse that looked pretty intriguing.

Most of the mousses I've made have been chocolate, and they've been rich and calorie-dense. This mousse is much lighter.

I figured I'd make it as written, and if it worked, I could certainly adapt it to other fruits. Like peaches. A peach mousse, in season, would be pretty awesome.

So anyway, the book's tagline is "80 seasonal organic recipes made from your local farmers' market." Well, mangoes don't grow here and it's only May as I write this. We had snow not that long ago, so there aren't a lot of local crops at all.

But that's why we have grocery stores. That carry in-season fruits and vegetables that are in season in other parts of the country. Otherwise, I'd be fruitless at this time of year, and still living on root vegetables and petrified winter squashes from last season.

So anyway, the mousse was really nice. Fruity and soft and silky and and just sweet enough without being overly sweet. I think it would make sense to make this in a larger quantity, for best blending in the blender and also to have more mousse for dessert.

I think my mangoes were a little smaller than what the author imagined, so what I ended up was probably not four servings. I didn't put it into individual ramekins, as suggested, because I thought one container in the fridge made more sense.

This is one of the easier recipes in the book, which has a nice range of recipes from simple all the way to ones that are a little more of a project. There are baking recipes, ice cream recipes, and some that are uncooked. And kettle corn, too. Lots of variety.

Mango Mousse
Adapted from Farm-to-Table Desserts by Lei Shishak

1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons water, divided
2 medium mangoes, ripe
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup yogurt (she suggested Fage, so use a Greek-style)

Sprinkle the gelatin over 1 tablespoon of water and set aside while you wrangle the mangoes.

Peel the mangoes, cut the fruit away from the pit, and cut the fruit into chunks. Or use a mango pitter, then use a spoon to slide the fruit out of the skin.

Put the mango pieces and the lemon juice in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Add the softened gelatin to a small pot and add the sugar and the remaining tablespoon of water. Heat on medium, stirring, until the sugar and gelatin have dissolved. At first, this will look like you don't have enough water, but it will be fine. Pour the gelatin into the blender and pulse to combine.

Strain the mango mixture into a small bowl. If you have a super-powered blender, you might not need to do this, but I found that it was even smoother after straining. So, your choice. Whisk in the yogurt.

Chill the mouse for at least 2 hours. You can divide it into individual servings before chilling, or put it into a storage container and scoop it out to serve.


I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Small-Batch Brownies

I really love to bake, but it seems sort of ridiculous to make a whole layer cake just for me. Fortunately, I have wonderful neighbors who are always willing to take in homeless baked goods. Still, a whole layer cake is a lot of cake, even when I have help eating it.

I usually look for recipes that make a single layer, or I cut the recipe in half, which isn't all that much fun when it uses 3 eggs. So, when a publisher offered me a copy of 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes, I knew I had to try it.

Cake for one or two? Count me in. Don't worry, neighbors ... I'll still have plenty of goodies for you!

The first recipe I decided to try was for brownies. I love brownies, and they have the distinct advantage over other baked goods in that I like them when they're chilled, unlike many cakes that are best at room temperature. Storing them in the fridge gives them a longer life, so I can take my time eating them.

I was quite pleased to see that I had six different brownie recipes to choose from, including a white chocolate brownie with cranberries and hazelnuts. I chose a somewhat classic recipe that had nuts. It called for walnuts - which is pretty typical - but I used macadamia nuts, since I recently got some from a friend in Hawaii.

It's good to have friends.

One thing I thought was complete genius in this book was the way they handled pan size. They didn't suggest going out and buying some weird-sized pan to make the small batch in brownies. Instead, they use loaf pans. Wow. I never thought of that! And heavens knows I have enough loaf pans around here.

The recipe I chose made brownies that were a bit soft and cake-like and also a bit fudgy, but I think they would be more dense at sea level.

These don't include any leavening except the air beaten into the batter when the eggs are whisked, and that sort of whipped-in air tends to expand more up here in the mountains than it would where most people live.

The recipe was easy to make - I didn't even need a hand mixer. The ingredients all include metric measurements as well as US, so you can use whichever you prefer, and it also makes it easier if you prefer to weigh your dry ingredients rather than measure.

The recipe includes frosting, but I didn't make that. I prefer my brownies unadorned.

Chocolate Walnut Brownies
Adapted from 175 Best Small-Batch Baking Recipes by Jill Snider

2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I used macadamia nuts)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x5 loaf pan with parchment paper (I made a sling that covered the bottom and long sides) and spray with baking spray.

Put the chocolate and butter in a microwave safe bowl and heat on medium heat in 30-second increments, stirring after each heating, until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until light and frothy (they might be easier to whisk in a larger bowl, but a medium bowl is all you need to hold the ingredients). Gradually add the sugar while whisking, until the mixture is thick. Whisk in the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Add the flour and walnuts and stir them in.

Bake in the preheated oven at 350 degrees until just set, about 20-25 minutes (mine took a bit longer). Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before removing using the sling.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Did you miss me? Coming Soon!

So ... I haven't been posting a lot lately. mostly because I've been so freaking busy with other things. I've been writing a lot, but I also spent some quality time at the International Housewares Show, where I put a lot of miles on my sneakers and I saw a whole lot of amazing cooking gadgets.

I'll be writing about some of the things I saw at the show, both here and on my gadget and review blog. I'm still sorting through photos and press releases and whatnot, but I'll have posts soon, I promise.

But for now, I'll leave you with this video of a new gadget coming this fall from KitchenAid.

What can you do with thinly sliced apples? Well, at the show they made wraps using a length of the apple as wrapping material, but this thing isn't just for apples. You could create long sheets of potatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers ... lots of different vegetables.

The options are endless.

This thing will be in my shopping cart as soon as it's available.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do you need an Instant Pot? And here's some soup.

The Instant Pot sure as heck has become popular these days. But do you really need one?

First, let's clarify a bit. Instant Pot is a brand name. And it's a brilliant brand name. Who wouldn't want instant food?

The Instant Pot that most people talk about is an electric pressure cooker. There were electric pressure cookers on the market long before the Instant Pot arrived. But for some reason, the Instant Pot folks made an old appliance popular.

Because there were stovetop pressure cookers long before there were electric ones. Your grandmother might have even had one.

Now, the company has branched out and they're making other cooking devices as well. But we're not going to talk about them, okay?

The Instant Pots have a bunch of different buttons for poultry, meat, yogurt ... a newer model has a button for cooking eggs. Those buttons are all shortcuts for foods that people cook a lot. But you don't really need those buttons. I seldom use them. Instead, I use the slow cook mode, the pressure cooking mode, and the saute mode. Then I set my own time.

Easy peasy.

But do you really need one?


First, pressure cooking is not magic. Some people try to use the Instant Pot for everything, and then they end up with some recipes that don't turn out well, or they take just as long to cook as they would in the oven or on the stove.

You don't need a pressure cooker for foods that cook quickly. Like fish. And a chicken cooked in a pressure cooker isn't going to have a lovely brown crisp skin, like you'd get if you roasted it.

But it's great for cooking things that take a long time, like tough cuts of meat or dried beans. One of my favorite things to pressure cook is corned beef. It turns out tender and juicy. Never dry or stringy. It's great for making pot roast and beef stew in a fraction of the time it would take on the stove.

Since I work from home, I usually don't find myself in that position where I have a short time to cook something before dinner. So, I'm less interested in that sort of 30-minute hurry-up cooking than I am in making things that turn out better in a pressure cooker.

Besides tough cuts of meat, I love making cheesecakes in it. And it makes a wonderful rice pudding.

Sometimes, though, speed can be a plus. Like this soup I made. I started with a rotisserie chicken carcass, used the Instant Pot's slow cooker feature to make a broth, then I strained that and added some sliced carrots and diced onions. I let that cook on slow cooker mode while I went out to run some errands.

When I got home, the vegetables were almost cooked, but not quite. But I was getting hungry. So I set the Instant Pot for pressure cooking mode for 2 minutes. Just a guess on the time, but it was a good guess.

I added a can of corn, a small can of tomato puree, and some leftover rice and peas that I had in the fridge. After it was all mixed, I gave it a taste. Then I added salt, pepper, and lime juice.

So, yeah, sometimes it's good for speeding up cooking a little bit.

But do you need an actual Instant Pot, or will any brand do?

Tough call there.

Instant Pot has popularized the concept, and they've got an active online presence as well as a Facebook group. But there are other Facebook groups that talk about electric pressure cookers made by any brand. And some of the electric pressure cookers out there are made by companies that have a longer track record in the market than Instant Pot.

So ... do you need an electric pressure cooker?

Maybe.  I love mine and I use it often. Only you know if you'll want to use an electric pressure cooker, though.

Does it have to be an Instant Pot? Not really, but so far I love mine, and I've put away my previous one that was another brand. If you're thinking about buying an Instant Pot, keep in mind that they've been coming out with new models pretty regularly. So be sure you shop around to make sure you look at all those options.

One other thing that can make your pressure cooking more successful is a good cookbook. I happen to like The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book, but there are others. Make sure the book covers electric pressure cookers, though. The timing and methods are different than when you're using a stovetop model.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Will it Bread Machine? Rich bread with eggs and milk

I'll confess. I use my bread machine a lot more than most folks would imagine.

As much as I love the process of making bread, I don't always have time, and there are days when there are so many other things going on in the kitchen that there's just no way to find an unused swath of kitchen counter space to make the process pleasant.

I have a few basic recipes that I know will work, and I even wrote some recipes a bread machine (this Gourmia bread machine), so I'm comfortable with creating recipes. But the one thing I learned from my long association with bread machines is that not every traditional bread recipe will work in a bread machine.

But sometimes I throw caution to the wind, like with this recipe from a cookbook. Once again I'm making recipes from a cookbook that's being passed around in a cookbook group I belong to. The book is Small Victories by Julia Turshen.

The recipe, as written was for raspberry jam buns, but the last thing I needed was a batch of sweet buns. There were variations (called spin-offs in the book) for cinnamon rolls, garlic buns, herb goat cheese buns, monkey bread, salami or prosciutto bread, and buttery dinner rolls.

I considered making the dinner rolls, but still didn't want to fuss that much, so I decided to just toss all the ingredients in the machine and let 'er rip. I didn't warm the milk, as the instructions said, and the butter was straight from the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. It all went in, as is.

I used Red Star Platinum Yeast rather than regular active dry, but otherwise I used all the ingredients suggested. If you're using a different brand of active dry yeast than Red Star, you might need to soften the yeast in liquid before kneading since some of the active dry yeasts from other brands have a larger granule size that won't dissolve if it's put directly into the dough. If you use Platinum, Red Star Active Dry or any rapid or bread machine yeast, you don't need to soften the yeast before proceeding.

Bread Machine Egg and Milk Loaf
Inspired by Small Victories by Julia Turshen

3/4 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Platinum Yeast*
2 eggs
3 1/4 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I suggest 1 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss it all in the bread machine. I'd suggest cutting the butter into at least 4 pieces so it kneads into the dough easier. If you don't have Platinum yeast, that's fine - just use whatever yeast you like to use in your bread machine.

I used the basic bread setting, 2 1/2 pound loaf, and a medium crust. When I make this again, I'll use a light crust setting so the crust doesn't get quite as dark on the bottom and sides. It wasn't bad, and it wasn't burned, but is was a little darker and thicker that it needed to be.

And that's it. Set the machine, wait until it's done, and remove the loaf when it's done.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Chicken and Mushrooms

When I got the book Stacy Lyn's Harvest Cookbook, I saw a lot of recipes I wanted to make. But, like many books that celebrate harvests, it called for a lot of fresh ingredients that aren't particularly wonderful at the grocery store in February. While I probably could have bought strawberries, I know they would have been sub-par, and that's not fair to the recipe or to the rest of the ingredients.

I paged through the book until I saw the Chicken and Mushrooms over Cheesy Grits. It sounded good, and the ingredients all made sense at this time of year. But the grits. Sigh. I adore grits, but I had just made a batch of rice with saffron. So I skipped the grits (waaaah, I love grits) and I served the chicken with the rice.

I followed the recipe pretty closely except that when I grabbed the chicken stock, it was actually turkey stock. Oops.

Oh! And I used all crimini (aka baby bella) mushrooms. I'm not fond of shitaki mushrooms enough to want to buy them. So, instead of 1/2 pound of crimini, 1/4 of button, and 1/4 pound of shitaki, I used all crimini.

The other adjustment I made was that after the chicken was done, I thought the sauce was too thin, so I removed the chicken, removed the lid, and continued cooking the rest until the sauce was reduced and it had thickened more. The instructions called for cooking it "partially covered" which is open to interpretation. I guess mine was more covered than it should have been.

I think if I make it again, I'll cook uncovered at first and cover it if I think it needs to be covered. While it didn't look like it was going to be too liquidy when I first assembled it, the mushrooms exuded a lot of liquid during cooking. But some folks might prefer more liquid, so it's not a fault with the recipe, it's just a preference.

Chicken and Mushrooms
Adapted from Stacy Lyn's Harvest Cookbook by Stacy Lyn Harris

4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots cut into 1-inch pieces (I had small carrots, so I used 4)
1 pound crimini mushrooms
1 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish, then coat the chicken with the flour. Save about 1 tablespoon of the flour remaining in the plate.

Put the oil in a large pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and cook until brown on all sides. Remove the chicken from the pan.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook for 2 minutes (I cooked mine a bit longer, until the onions were softened a bit). Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, then add the flour and cook for one more minute, stirring.

Add the broth, carrots, mushrooms, and rosemary. Return the chicken to the pan, along with any juices that came out of the chicken. Bring the liquid to a boil, then partially cover the pot and lower the heat so it simmers. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle and the vegetables are tender.

At this point, I removed the chicken so it wouldn't overcook, and I removed the lid and increased the heat to thicken and reduce the sauce. You might or might not need to do this.

Serve over rice, grits, or whatever you prefer.

About the book: There are a lot of recipes here that I'll try when there are more fresh fruits and vegetables in season. My one quibble about the book isn't the recipes, but the printing. It's a pretty book, no doubt, but a lot of the recipes are printed on pages that have colored, patterned backgrounds. It's certainly lovely to look at, but it makes the text harder to read. Not impossible, but not as easy to read at a glance as if the page had black ink on plain white paper.

I received the book from the publisher at no cost to me.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Sous Vide Rack of Lamb

While rack of lamb isn't something I make often, it sure as heck doesn't need to be saved for special occasions. I mean, everything goes on sale once in a while, and when that happens, I take advantage.

As far as cooking it, of course I cooked it sous vide. It's my favorite way to cook a lot of different kinds of meats, and it's particularly good when you want an exact doneness.

And, unlike when you're roasting, you get the same doneness all the way through. You don't end up overcooking the thinner parts or the outside edges. and you don't have to watch it like a hawk. If it cooks a little longer because you didn't hear the alarm, it's not going to get ruined.

This was insanely easy, and it was done pretty quickly, too. While this was a "just for me" splurge, this would be a great main dish for company. To make it even easier, you could cook the meat sous vide the day before, then sear it right before serving, to get that nice crust and to warm the inside.

Sous Vide Rack of Lamb
Depending on the size of the rack and what else you're serving, figure on 2-4 chops per person.

1 8-bone rack of lamb
Salt and pepper, to taste
Greek seasoning mix*
Olive oil

Heat the sous vide water to 135 degrees.

Sprinkle the rack of lamb with the salt, pepper, and seasoning, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to moisten, and rub the seasoning onto the meat.

Place the meat in a sous vide bag, vacuum, and seal.

Place the bagged lamb in the water and cook at 135 degrees for 1 hour.

Remove the bag from the water. Remove the lamb from the bag and pat dry.

Heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan until it's just about smoking. Sear the lamb, fat side down, until it's brown and crispy, then sear on the other sides.

Let the lamb rest for a few minutes before slicing into individual chops.

*Or use any spices or any spice mix you like. With lamb, I like oregano or rosemary with lemon, but feel free to use anything you like.


Monday, January 30, 2017

Sous Vide Shrimp - Perfectly Cooked for Shrimp Cocktail! Plus a Super-Quick Sauce!

Oh, look, another sous vide post.

Don't worry. It's not going to be all sous vide all the time. But I'm working my way through sous vide cookbooks, looking for the one that will be my go-to book. This time, the book is The Essential Sous Vide Cookbook by Sarah James. I bought this one because the author had a pretty good track record working for Instructables.

Raw, shell-on shrimp were on sale at my local grocery store, so I bought 2 pounds, then I decided to see if the book had any sous vide recipes. Yup. There was a very simple recipe, which was exactly what I was looking for. With sous vide recipes, my first concern is whether the cooking time and temperature will work. If that doesn't work, the rest of the recipe doesn't matter.

Shrimp is a good candidate for sous vide cooking since shrimp go from undercooked to overcooked in the blink of an eye. Overcooked shrimp are the most likely result because if you cook them until they're done, the carryover heat takes care of the overcooking. And then they're kind of tough and rubbery.

The instructions were simply. Put the cleaned peeled shrimp into a sous vide bag with a little bit of olive oil or butter so they'll fit in a single layer. I used butter.

Then, cook at 130 degrees for 15 minutes, drop the bag into cold water to begin the cooling process, then refrigerate. Then the shrimp can be used in salads, with cocktail sauce, or however you want to serve them. The interesting thing was that two recipes where the shrimp was served hot used a temperature of 135 degrees for 30 minutes, with no interim chilling.

But for chilled shrimp, I'm going to say this time and temperature was really nice. I also tossed some into hot leftover fried rice, and the were perfect for that, too.

Sous Vide Shrimp
Adapted from The Essential Sous Vide Cookbook by Sarah James

1-2 pounds of raw, peeled, cleaned shrimp
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter

Heat the water to 130 degrees.

Place the shrimp and butter into a sous vide bag so they'll fit in a single layer.

Put the bag into the sous vide water and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the bag from the water and place it in cold water to start the chilling process, then refrigerate until fully chilled.

Serve cold in salad, with cocktail sauce, or however you like. I even stirred them into some leftover vegetable stir-fried rice that I had left over. So yum!

Super-Quick Cocktail Sauce

This is pretty much the only cocktail sauce I ever had when I was a kid. We always used a brand-name chili sauce to make the sauce, but the folks at Kam's Kettle Cooked sent me some of their mild-flavored sauce as a sample(they make both mild and hot), so I used that instead. Their sauce has a slightly spicier flavor which worked perfectly well for my cocktail sauce.

To make the cocktail sauce, just mix chili sauce with jarred horseradish - whatever proportion you like. As horseradish sits around, it loses strength, so if you have a fresh jar, you might just need a tiny bit. If the jar has been hanging around a while, it will take more to get the same kick. If the jar has been around for a long time, it might have no life left, so it's time to buy a new jar.

If you make too much cocktail sauce for the amount of shrimp you have, mix it with some mayonnaise and a little bit of chopped sweet pickle or sweet pickle relish to make Thousand Island salad dressing.

About the cookbook: I've only made this one recipe from this book, so I can't really draw an opinion yet. I'll be making more recipes soon. The book was NOT free from the publisher. I bought this one.

And here's a bonus for you. Download the Shrimp Fried Rice photo as a coloring book page. It's free. No obligation, no need to sign up for anything. Here's my artwork:

For more blog posts coloring pages, click here or click the Coloring Book Pages tab at the top.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Sous Vide Scrambled Eggs

If you're scratching your head and wondering if I've gone off the deep end with all of these sous vide recipes lately ... well, maybe.

But also, I got a few cookbooks with sous vide recipes that I wanted to try. I recently bought Richard Blais's book Try This At Home, and when I browsed through it, the sous vide scrambled eggs caught my eye.

They're not really a recipe, I guess, but more of a side note about cooking technique. The actual recipe was Riley's Scrambled Eggs with Asparagus and Hollandaise.

I didn't make the asparagus or the hollandaise. But I used the sous vide method to cook some eggs.

The Recipe(ish):

Basically, you whisk together 4 eggs and a tablespoon of milk, along with salt and/or pepper to make you happy.

Preheat the sous vide water to 168 degrees, then drop the bag in for 10 minutes.

Fish the bag out, mush the eggs around in the bag (you'll see some very yellow uncooked yolk in the center of the eggs in the bag) and drop it back into the water for another five minutes, or however long it takes for the eggs to set.

The Results

The first time I tried this, there was a bit too much of the super-loose egg for my taste, so I decided to cook the eggs longer the next time. Then I decided I wanted the eggs a little firmer, too, so I increased the temperature.

Honestly, I'm still fiddling with this. It's not that the recipe is bad, it's just that everyone's taste in eggs is a little different. I think for me, the sweet spot will be somewhere around 171 degrees. Maybe 170. See, it's not that much different from his favorite temperature, but it does make a difference when cooking something like eggs where they can go from custard to curd in the blink of an eye.

As for the book, there are some recipes here than I'm pretty sure I'll make, a lot that I will use as inspiration or that I'll make one component but not the whole shebang, and then a bunch more that I'll probably try as-is.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Instant Pot vs. Sous Vide! A Saucy Food Fight featuring Baby Back Ribs

I've been doing a lot of sous vide cooking lately, trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. So, when I picked up a pack of baby back ribs, I decided I'd give them a try. I've cooked pork loins and pork chops with great success.

One thing I've found with many meats I've cooked via sous vide is that if I want to brown them after cooking, it works best to refrigerate the meat first to let it cool down. For me, this means I usually cook the food so it's ready the day before I actually want it, then I refrigerate overnight.

On the day I want to dine, I finish cooking. This way, I'm just searing the outside and warming the middle, rather than driving more heat into the meat, which could overcook it.

This might not be necessary with every cut of meat, but I also find it convenient, particularly for small, thinner cuts. The meat is fully cooked and resting in the refrigerator so I can have it on the table in a very short time when I decide I'm hungry. And these days I'm mostly cooking smaller cuts of meat.

Except when I go on a pork rib binge. That's totally different.

So anyway, After puttering around a bit, I decided to cook the meat three different ways. First, I cooked one batch in my Instant Pot, using my usual method. I know this method works, and I wanted it to be my control sample.

This isn't the same as cooking ribs on a grill or in a smoker, but it makes decent ribs. And crazy fast.

Then I started looking up sous vide recipes. I didn't care so much about spices or sauces, but I wanted to pick two different cooking temperatures and times, to test the results.  I settled on 165 degrees for 12 hours for one batch and and 145 degrees for 36 hours for the other batch.

I cut each rack in half to fit the bags, and for the fun of it, I put a little bit of sauce in one of each pair of bags. I don't know if that made a heck of a difference. I think a little bit of the sauce flavor did get into the ribs, but not so much that it made a huge difference once the ribs were sauced and broiled.

Next time, I might try a rub and see how that works.

When the pressure-cooked ribs were done, I slathered them with sauce, then broiled them to get the sauce all sticky and bubbly.

When the sous vide ribs were done, I let them cool slightly, then tossed them in the fridge, still in their bags. When I wanted to eat them, I took them out of their bags, got rid of the accumulated juices, slathered them with sauce, and broiled them just like I broiled the pressure cooked ribs.

And yes, I had two pots with different sous vide sticks set for different temperatures going at the same time. I know how to have fun!

The Results!

The winner, for me, was the sous vide ribs cooked for 12 hours at 165 degrees. They were slightly pink, very plump and juicy, and super tender. They still hung onto the bone when I cut them into single ribs, and when I bit into them, my teeth knew I was biting something.

They also fared well when reheated, which I find is pretty typical with sous vide meats. They don't seem to tighten up or dry out as quickly as conventionally cooked foods. Of course, the sensible thing to do was to broil as many ribs as I needed rather than broiling all, but I did have to reheat some and I didn't notice any quality issues.

12 hours at 165 degrees

The second best were the pressure cooked ribs. They were also plump and tender, but not pink and not quite as juicy, particularly when I reheated them. What, you thought I ate all of them in one big meal? And not quite as ... hmmm ... fluffy, I guess, compared to the sous vide ribs. Yup, the pressure cooked were just a little more dense than sous vide. Which is actually okay, I like that texture a lot, too.

I'm sure I'll still be pressure cooking ribs once in a while. It's so fast! I can bring home a slab of ribs from the grocery store and have dinner in a reasonably short time. The other advantage to the pressure cooked ribs, though, is that I save the stock and use it to make tomato soup.

Pressure-cooked ribs. Recipe here.

My least favorite (although not actually bad) was the batch cooked at 145 degrees for 36 hours. They were a little too tender for my liking. I had a hard time cutting them into individual ribs because as soon as there was slight pressure from the knife, they just slid off the bone. When I bit into them, it was almost like the meat flaked apart (kind of like flaky fish) rather my teeth letting me know we were biting into something meaty.

While the ribs at the thicker end of the rack fared better, some of them were verging towards being a little overcooked and dry, too. And some parts were pinkish while the thinner sections were more white. I might try the 145 temperature again, but this time limit it to a 24-hour cook time.

36 hours at 145 degrees
Of course, preferences for cooked-rib texture is a personal thing. You might like yours softer than I do, or you might not want to see any pink in the meat. Or you might appreciate more chew. Make 'em the way you like 'em!

Have you tried sous vide cooking yet? What's your favorite recipe? Or, if you're curious about it, is there anything you'd like to see me try?