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?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Vanilla Ice Cream

Click here for a coloring book version of this!
Vanilla ice cream might sound ... well, plain vanilla. But it's a good test of a new ice cream book. And just because I made unadorned vanilla ice cream doesn't mean I ate it that way. I had plenty of dulce de leche to use up from my recent sous vide experiments.

And to be honest, I like vanilla ice cream a lot. If it's made well, and it's rich and creamy, and it was made with good vanilla extract, it can stand on its own, without strong flavor covering the vanilla-ness.

Speaking of books, this recipe was from The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book by Robin Donovan. I got it from the publisher and immediately started to browse. The first thing that struck me was that many of the recipe used the same proportion of cream to milk to eggs - two cups of cream to one cup of milk to six eggs.

At first, I thought, uh oh, there are going to be a bunch of recipes that are all the same except one will have vanilla extract and another will have mint. But after looking more, that's not the case. That ratio happens to be a very good one for making a rich ice cream, so it makes sense that it's used over and over.

The funny thing is that I got another book recently (not an ice cream book) that had an ice cream recipe with the same ratio. Like I said, it makes good ice cream. And it's the right amount to fit into most home ice cream makers, so that's probably the reason it's so common.

The first chapter with recipes is called Classics and Standouts, and it's the more common flavors, from vanilla to mint chip to cookies and cream. The next is chocolatey flavors, followed by nutty, fruity, and party flavors, followed by a chapter of sherbets and frozen yogurts. It finishes with a chapter of cones, toppings, and other non-ice cream recipes.

I already have a couple of ice cream books, but it's always fun to try new recipes. The brown butter pecan is definitely on my list to try. Meanwhile, I was really happy with this vanilla. It uses a little less sugar than my standard for this amount - I usually use 3/4 cup, while this uses 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons. And I was perfectly happy with that level of sweetness, AND the texture of the ice cream.

Vanilla Ice Cream
Adapted The Homemade Ice Cream Recipe Book by Robin Donovan

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

The recipe suggests cooking this mixture in a double boiler. I've done that and I've also cooked it on the stove. And I've cooked it in the Kitchenaid Precise Heat Bowl, which is very precise and won't overcook the mixture. Do it any way you're comfortable - the key is to heat it slowly and never let it get so hot that the eggs begin to scramble, because that's just ugly.

Combine the cream, sugar, egg yolks, and salt in your preferred cooking vessel. Heat slowly, stirring continuously, until it thickens and reaches a temperature of 170-175 degrees.

Strain the mixture though a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add the milk and vanilla to the bowl and stir well. To speed cooling you can set this bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until it has cooled down. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.

Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. When frozen, transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

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


Monday, January 16, 2017

Sous Vide Beef Roast (and some Dulce de Leche for dessert!)

Click here for a line art version of this photo that you can color!
I've become quite enamored with sous vide cooking. It's foolproof (with a good recipe) and much of the cooking is hands-off. Just put the food in the bag (with or without seasonings or other stuff), seal it, and drop it in the pot. Set the and temperature, and you don't have to think about it until it's done.

Much of the time, I cook the food and then refrigerate it until the next day, when I sear or broil it to get some browning on the outside. And of course, this also heats it up to serving temperature.

This time, my sous vide cooking was inspired by a new cookbook, The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook by Chris McDonald. Since the recipes are soooo easy, you're getting both a beef roast and some dulce de leche.

I hadn't heard of the author before, so I was wasn't sure how reliable the recipes would be. Sous vide cooking isn't like any other method when it comes to temperature and timing, so that's why it's a good idea to start with a good recipe, before you wander off on your own.

In this case, I actually did do some wandering. The recipe was designed for a prime rib roast, but I cooked a New York strip roast instead. I figured it wouldn't be too terribly different, since it's a tender roast that could use the same kind of cooking. Turns out, I was right. It was just as tender as when I've done rib roasts.

The one thing that's a little different with this recipe is that you preheat the water to a hotter temperature, then lower the temperature for the cooking time. I've never done that before - I usually just put the food in the water bath and let it heat up to the cooking temperature before I start timing the cooking.

I don't know if this method made a difference in the final product, but it worked well, and it made sense. When the cool roast went into the hot water, the temperature dropped to close to the final cooking temperature, so it was ready to start the timing.

Sous Vide New York Strip Roast
Adapted from The Complete Sous Vide Cookbook by Chris McDonald

1 New York strip roast or boneless rib roast
Olive oil, as needed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the water bath to 190 degrees.

Meanwhile, rub olive oil over the roast and season with salt and pepper. You could also use another spice mix or rub. I actually used a seasoning that's made by my local butcher shop.

Place the roast in the sous vide bag and vacuum seal. Put it in the water bath, reduce the temperature to 134 degrees, and cook for 9 hours.

Remove the pouch from the water and let it stand for 20-30 minutes, then remove it from the pouch, pat dry, and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate fro 20-30 minutes.

Note: I just chucked mine in the refrigerator and seared it the next day. By the time it was browned, it was warmed to a decent serving temperature.

Preheat a grill to medium-high (I used a cast iron frying pan).

Put the roast on the grill and brown on all sides.

Transfer to a cutting board and slice against the grain.

Dulce de Leche

Click here for a line art version of this photo you can color!
If you've ever looked at recipes where you're supposed to put a whole can of condensed milk in a pot and cook it ... and you've wondered if that's a safe and sane thing to do, this method of making dulce de leche is pretty foolproof.

Just transfer one can of sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk!) to a sous vide bag and seal (don't vacuum it into your machine - just get most of the air out and then seal it).

I tried this method with plain sweetened condensed milk, and with chocolate sweetened condensed milk. Both worked fine.

Heat the sous vide bath to 200 degrees. Place the bag in the water and cook for 8-10 hours. I tried both 8 hours and 10 hours, and didn't see a difference. So cook it for however long is convenient for you.

Remove the bag from the bath and transfer the dulce de leche to a storage container.

I found the easiest way to get the dulce de leche out of the bag was to snip a corner and squeeze it out as soon as it was reasonable to handle. If you wait until it's room temperature, you can still squeeze it out, but it's pretty thick, so it's not as easy.

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


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Color Your Food - Adult food-themed coloring pages!

Why yes, that is a different-looking book cover!
I took a couple weeks off for the holidays and got a much-needed rest.

Okay, fine, I didn't take the time completely off. I read some books I'm going to review later, and I cooked some food.

Then I spent an evening watching a movie and doing absolutely nothing else.

I also indulged in that new and trendy hobby - coloring. It's relaxing. And fun. And it feels creative and artsy, even though I can't draw at all. Lines are very helpful for me.

And then I started wondering why I hadn't seen any coloring books with a food theme. I've seen animals, plants, butterflies, mythical creatures, mandalas, buildings ... just about anything you can think of.

I mean, if I searched hard enough, I might find a food-themed coloring book - but they're not among the popular themes at all.

But why?

Food can be pretty and colorful and artsy. So I started turning some of my photos into line art that could be colored.

Okay, maybe a plate of brownish muffins might not be as fun to color as something more colorful. Maybe that's the problem.

Maybe roast beef might be too monochromatic. Maybe chocolate ice cream might be boring.

But then I thought ... well ... you don't need to color them as they exist. I took my lovely brown naked muffins and added colored cupcake papers and then got creative with the tops as well. It might not be the most wonderful art ever created, but I had fun with it.

And that was the whole point.

Or was it?

As I started fiddling with the photos, I thought they might be a fun addition to my blog. I mean, why not offer coloring pages for anyone who wants to give it a try? I might not make line art for every single post I put up, because as I was fiddling with the line art, I found that some photos were more willing than others.

This Choloca chocolate ice cream from a recent post worked out pretty well, and it was fun to get creative with the colors.

Want to play?

Download the chocolate ice cream coloring page here.

Download the muffin coloring page here.

Download the Make Ahead Bread book cover coloring page here.

Soon, there will be a new tab at the top of the page where you'll find all the posts that have coloring book pages included as I have more of them to share with you. Have fun!