July 10th, 2017

Holy Hot Sauce!

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Hot Sauce from the Subiaco Monks

A couple weeks ago we posted a Hot Sauce 101 blog discussing how hot sauces are produced and their cultural popularity. While doing on some online reading this week, I came across an article about the Subiaco Abbey Monks of Arkansas who make their own Habanero pepper sauce, which tied right into the Hot Sauce 101 discussion.

Monk Sauce

Hot sauce

Img. courtesy of www.countrymonks.biz

Aptly named “Monk Sauce,” this bright pepper sauce sold in varieties of red and green and is distributed via an online store both nationally and internationally. The product of Fr. Richard Walz, Monk Sauce comes from a recipe he developed while serving in Belize. Beginning in the winter months, Fr. Walz’s habanero peppers are grown from starter plants held over from the previous season. Meticulously watched over until they are ready for use, the peppers are harvested either green (peak growth), or red (full ripeness), to achieve a variation in sauce flavor and intensity.

The sauce is flavored with onions, garlic, and vinegar, balancing some of the blistering heat from the habaneros. Fr. Walz claims the Monk Sauce clocks in at 250,000 Scoville units, or about 100x hotter than the average jalapeno. I’m not one to argue with a Monk, so I’m taking his word for it, at least until my order arrives…

Check out the Subiaco Monks online store for Monk Sauces and Abbey Brittle.

 

Cheers!

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June 26th, 2017

Burgers or Bust

Posted in Food Trends, Trends

Food Trends: Burgers

Burger Trends

It’s no big secret that the burger is king in America. From classic cheese to quinoa vegan burgers, there’s something about the hearty sandwich that seems to whisper sweet nothings to our appetites.

Global market intelligence firm Technomic, Inc. reports that in 2016, $90.57 were spent on burgers in the U.S., representing 44% of total sandwich sales. Not only that, but they are predicting that these sales will continue to grow 3.4% from 2017-2019 due to our culture’s shift to off-premise dining and the burgers unique ability to travel well1 without dramatic loss of quality.

What does that mean for us in the culinary field? Well, it means that burgers offer us a ripe and broad ground for flavor experimentation. The breadth of this category allows us to take on flavors from all around the world utilizing lesser known sauces, garnishes, and seasonings while offering an assurance that there will be an adventurous demographic interested in trying new things. And with the burgers relatively low price point appeal, the risk is minimal to the customer.

Food trends - Burger

As more complex flavors, like Asian, African, and Mexican, continue to trend upward I believe this will begin to press into the burger market. We’re not far from seeing nationwide drops of Korean BBQ Burgers, Fiery African Harissa Burgers, or Smoky Mole Burgers. And when it happens, I’ll be right there in line ready to get the first bite.

Long live the burger!

 

1”Burger Boom.” Culinology, June 2017, pg. 44.
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June 12th, 2017

Hot Sauce 101

Posted in Trends

Hot Sauce

Let’s face it, we love hot sauce. Whether you’re a Sriracha-holic, Gochujang trend-setter, or Tabasco purist, (for me it’s Yellow Bird) it’s more than likely you’re hitting your pizza with some hot sauce pizzazz. At least we can all agree Buffalo sauce is great.

Since, as a planet, we consume so much hot sauce, I think we should have a better understanding of how it’s made. Therefore, I give you Hot Sauce 101:

Pepper Power

Pepper Sauce

When it comes to hot sauces, it all starts with the pepper. Sure, it seems obvious, but the flavor of the sauce is dictated by the type, quality, and ripeness of the pepper you use.

Once the pepper has been picked (presumably by someone named Peter)the stems are removed and the pepper is washed thoroughly.

The peppers are then mashed, chopped, or ground in preparation for the next step.

Of All the Flavors, You Chose Salty

Hot sauce 101

Now that we have clean pepper mash, it’s time to bring out depth of flavor. This is accomplished by adding salt in a concentration of 15-20% (or higher in some cases), thus beginning the fermentation stage. Remember two things, a higher salt concentration means a longer fermentation and a cleaner flavor, but a salt concentration under 9% allows for malolactic fermentation (like in wine), which creates an unpleasant flavor in pepper-based sauces.

The salted mash is placed in a breathable covered container and agitated periodically. Fermentation times vary by sauce type and batch size anywhere from 15 days to 6 months.

Once desired fermentation is achieved, peppers may be further processed and strained to remove seeds and fibers, leaving only a soft, fermented pulp.

Acid Trip

How to make hot sauce

Now it’s time to bring out the acid. Most hot sauces use vinegar in this step. Not only does the vinegar add to the flavor, it also helps protect the sauce from spoilage. The high salt and acid ratios mean many hot sauces are entirely shelf-stable.

Welcome to Flavor Town

Culinary Consultants

At this point, the sauce is ready to be customized for flavor. Onions, garlic, bean curd, spices and various other ingredients are added to the sauce to individualize the flavor.

It’s important to note, the addition of these ingredients increase the water activity in the sauce. It can very easily go from shelf-stable to refrigeration required with only a small amount of water. This water can come from garlic bulbs, berries, or other flavoring agents.

Keep it Safe

Even if you’re just making a sauce to enjoy at home it never hurts to play it safe. Place your sauce in sanitized jars with tightly closing lids that can be submerged in boiling water until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool the jar and store appropriately. In commercial applications, this step is accomplished in large batches in either pouches or bottles.

hot sauce

Unfortunately, more delicate flavors, like cilantro, can be degraded in a heating step. But for most sauces that rely on pepper mash and dried herbs for the flavor profile, this won’t negatively affect the flavor.

Hope you learned something! We love hot sauces over here so please drop a comment and let us know some of the great flavors or methods for production you’ve tried.

Cheers!

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May 29th, 2017

NRA 2017 – Top Trends

Posted in Consumer Trends, Culinary Conferences, Food Shows, Food Trends, Packaging, Product Innovation

Top Trends in Food from the
2017 NRA Show

Wednesday wrapped up a great week of learning and exploration at the 2017 National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, Il.

There was so much to see, touch, taste, and learn, but I’ll try to pick a few really popular trends to highlight for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Let’s dive in…

#1 – Cold Brew Nitro Coffee

Well if there was one trend that popped up more than any other, it was cold brew nitro coffee. On tap, artisan, slushy, and soft serve varieties available for whatever application you could imagine.

#2 – Go Nuts for Donuts!

Honestly, donuts haven’t really gone anywhere. Everyone loves fried dough. But NRA would show us that donuts, especially exciting, decadent donuts, are thriving. People are loving the idea of customization and seeing donuts in unique places like sandwiches and sundaes.

#3 – Compostables

All image above courtesy of PacknWood. Available at https://www.packnwood.com/home.jhtm.

If you want to take a stake in this millennial market you better be using compostable products. From plates, cups, straws, wrapper, utensils, to-go boxes, and even chopsticks, compostable products have become a must for any operation that wants to be a serious competitor.

Others

Other noteworthy trends included sparkling beverages, including coffee and kombucha, guacamole variations, atomization in the food process, and a continuing array of vegetarian and vegan food products.

If you’ve noticed any cool trends or were at the NRA 2017 show and saw something I missed, let me know! We’d love to hear from you.

Cheers!

 

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May 15th, 2017

Official Guide to Sous Vide Cooking

Posted in Food Trends, Tips

It seems everywhere I go lately I’m looking at sous vide cooking in some form or another. Whether I’m talking with fast casual restaurants or fine dining, sous vide is pushing in as a mainstream option for cooking.

And as sous vide technology becomes more accessible, why wouldn’t it? Sous vide offers an excellent opportunity for perfectly cooked, high quality foods to be finished quickly in restaurants reducing fire time and increasing customer satisfaction.

With that in mind, our friends over at SousVideWizard.com set up this excellent guide on sous vide cooking, complete with pretty much everything you need to know! So without further ado, Here is the Official Guide to Sous Vide Cooking.

Here’s Everything You Need To Get Started With Sous Vide!

April 11, 2017

If you are a chef or simply know your way around a kitchen, chances are that you have at least heard of Sous Vide cooking. However, if you have heard of it, but never tried it, chances are that you are a bit confused about how to get started with your new Sous Vide cooker. It can be difficult to determine where you should start and what you should try to cook first.This guide will provide you with all of the information you need in order to get started as a sous vide cook. Not only will the guide discuss all of the tools that you will need in order to get started, but it will also provide you with some basic recipes to try out. These simple recipes are delicious and will show you why this method of cooking allows you to do even more in your kitchen.

FIRST THINGS FIRST, WHAT IS SOUS VIDE?

What is sous vide

Sous Vide refers to a cooking technique that was developed by the French. Sous Vide translates to mean “under vacuum.” During this cooking technique food is first vacuum sealed within a cooking pouch. It is then heated up to a precise temperature using a water bath. Instead of relying on precise cook time, a Sous Vide chef relies on making sure that the temperature of the water bath remains controlled.

Just imagine the last time that you cooked a steak. Chances are that you know the exact texture and color or doneness of the steak that you like. Now think about how you prepared the steak and all of the techniques that you used in order to get it exactly the way that you want it.

When cooking a steak using the sous vide method you will simply set a pot of water to the correct temperature and time and you will get the perfect doneness every single time.

While sous vide cooking is just recently becoming more popular with home cooks, professional chefs and many restaurants have been using this method for many years. It is actually a relatively simple method that you can use in order to improve many of your favorite meals. This method allows you to remove the stress from cooking or at least the stress from making sure that your protein is cooked the way that you like it and allows you to focus on making more creative sauces, side dishes, or desserts.

HOW DOES SOUS VIDE WORK?

 

Now that you know what sous vide is, you may be wondering exactly how it works and why it is a better method than the more traditional methods that you are likely familiar with.

Here is a short explanation. When it comes to traditional methods of cooking the heat flows from a burner to the pan and then to the food or if baking something in the oven the elements from the oven will heat up the air around the food and cook it. Since the heat from the pan and the heat from the oven are much hotter than you want the food to be, cooking the food correctly will require you to take it out of or off of the heat at the perfect moment. If you take it out too late the food is overcooked, if you take it out too early it is undercooked.

When you cook using water instead of a pan or the oven, you are able to raise the temperature enough to get the food to the exact temperature that you want it. You can take the food out as soon as it has finished cooking or you can let it rest in the water until you are ready to eat. There is no need to check the oven obsessively or standing over the stove.

WHY CHOOSE TO LEARN SOUS VIDE?

Sou vide cooking

Now that you know what sous vide is, the question becomes, why learn to use this method of cooking? While the name sous vide may sound fancy, it is actually a much simpler form of cooking than the name might suggest. Sous vide cooking is really as simple as sealing the ingredients in plastic and placing them in a combi oven, water bath, or other type of cooker that is capable of holding a target temperature to within a degree or two. Once the food reaches the target temp or time, you remove it, finish it off, and then serve it to your guests. The process is really that easy.

Not only is the method quite simple, but it provides you with results that are almost impossible to get when cooking using a traditional method. It is easy to overcook many types of meat including steak, ribs, pork of any kind, and even chicken. When you use the sous vide method you are going to get perfect entrees each and every time. Not only will the food be cooked perfectly, but it will be perfectly tender and moist, just the way that it should be.

Meats and seafood are difficult to cook properly as there is a short window of time and technique that has to be used in order to get it perfect. For example, when frying fish the flesh has a narrow temperature range. The cooking temperature of the pan is going to be much hotter than the ideal temperature of the fish, which means that the edges are going to end up being much more cooked than the center when you are pan frying it.

Poultry products need to be held at a certain temperature in order to kill pathogens and make the food safe to eat. When cooking poultry using a traditional method it can be difficult to get it to that perfect temperature. However, when using sous vide you will be keeping the poultry at a target temp for a specific amount of time. This process pasteurizes the poultry, making it safe to eat.

Cooking and preserving food in a sealed package is actually an ancient technique. Throughout history food has been potted in fat, wrapped in leaves, sealed inside animal bladders, or packed in salt before it is cooked. For many years people have known that isolating food from the air can be accomplished through vacuum sealing and can lower the amount of decay of the food. In addition, using these packages will prevent the food from drying out.

Sous vide as mentioned translates to mean under vacuum. However, the main feature of this cooking method is not the vacuum sealing or packaging, but rather accurate temperature control. Using a computer controlled heater will warm the water to any temperature that is set and can keep the temperature for many hours or even days.

There are several advantages of using uniformity of temperature and temperature control when cooking. First, this will allow you to cook the food to an even doneness the entire way through. There will be no dry edges and centers that are rare. Secondly, the results are highly repeatable.

One more reason to cook sous vide is that the bag will create a fully humid environment that will braise the food. The ingredients cooked using this method are more tender and juicier. Sous vide does not provide a brown edge, but this can easily be completed by searing off the meat once it has finished cooking.

WHAT TOOLS YOU NEED TO GET STARTED

Now that you know what sous vide is and why you should consider learning this wonderful method of cooking, it is time to take a closer look at the essential tools that you will need in order to successfully perform this method of cooking.

IMMERSION CIRCULATOR

The immersion circulator is the device that is used to keep the water at the temperature that is desired for cooking. There are 2 main types of immersion circulators. The first type is one that you actually submerge into the pot or container. These look similar to a hand mixer or wand and they are simply clamped to the edge of the pot or container that you are using.

Research chefs
The best sous vide circulator
Anova Precision Cooker
This immersion circulator is accurate, incredibly easy to use, and compatible with more vessels than other sous vide cookers. The addition of Wi-Fi makes it possible to set the unit remotely.

The other type is essentially an all in one piece. The immersion circulator is inside the container that you are using to cook with. This stand alone unit can be a great choice if you have the room to store it. The wand type takes up less room and can be used with any type of container that you may have.

Immersion circulators work by heating the water to the desired temperature and then spitting the water back into the tub. The immersion circulator both heats up the water and circulates it around at the same time.

Quality immersion circulators have a degree accuracy that is within a single digit. These devices used to cost thousands of dollars, but now they can be purchased for less than $200. However, the top cookers are going to cost a bit more and are typically worth the investment.

The Anova Culinary Precision cooker is one of the best choices when it comes to immersion circulators. It offers highly calibrated circulators, which result in superb temperature stability. It can be used with any type of pot that you have in your kitchen.

Another option is the Sous Vide Supreme Demi. This is a good choice for those who are looking for a self contained sous vide machine. This fully self contained unit has a lid that prevents water evaporation and it also offers great temperature stability. The machine is quite compact so it will not take up much space in your kitchen.

You can find a list of some of the other top sous vide immersion circulators here.

CAMBRO CONTAINERS

How to sous vide

If you choose a wand immersion circulator you are going to need a pot to use with it. While you can use immersion circulators with any type of pot that you have, it is recommended that you use a cambro container. There are many sizes of cambro containers available, from small ones that hold 2 to 4 packages to larger ones that hold many more. A pot is not ideal for sous vide cooking as a cambro container because plastic makes for a better insulator.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BAG

sous vide cooking

When it comes down to it, one of the most important aspects of sous vide cooking is the bag that you are cooking the food in. The best sous vide bags will ensure that your food will remain fresh while it is in the freezer or refrigerator. This extends the life of the food and ultimately will save you money.

Sous vide bags come in many shapes and sizes as well as different styles. It is important to note that there are some bags that are only compatible with certain types of systems, so make sure that you find bags that are compatible with your machine.

VACUUM SEALER

cooking with sous vide

If you do not want to invest in a vacuum sealer at first you can simply choose to use freezer bags that have a zip lock. It is important that you choose freezer bags because the seal on the thinner bags will degrade through long cooking times and then your meal will be ruined.

If you are planning to use the sous vide method of cooking often you are going to want to invest in a quality vacuum sealer. There are many different types of vacuum sealers available and it is important to choose one that is of high quality. Here you will find reviews of some of the top vacuum sealers available.

Chamber vacuum sealers are the top of the line way to vacuum seal your food to keep it from going bad. A chamber sealer will allow you to store food for much longer than you thought was possible and it is very easy to use.

When choosing a chamber vacuum sealer it is important to choose the right one. Here you will find reviews of some of the top chamber vacuum sealers on the market.

CAST IRON SKILLET

Sous Vide cooking process

Another piece of equipment that you will want to have on hand when you begin your sous vide cooking project is a quality cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets offer the best way to provide a deep brown crust on the meat that you cook sous vide.

Choose a high quality cast iron skillet to pair with your sous vide cooking and you will not be disappointed.

SOUS VIDE TORCHES

Sous vide guide

If you want to add a bit of fun to browning your sous vide food, consider purchasing a sous vide torch. The great thing about using a torch is that you will only sear the outside of the meat without affecting what is on the inside. This will allow you to cook a steak that is rare on the inside that has an outside with a perfect chair.

There are a variety of sous vide torches available. One of the best is the Bernzomatic TS8000. This torch comes with high recommendations from sous vide cooks around the world and offers many great features.

You can also learn more about some of the other top sous vide torches by reading this great article about the best torches on the market.

SOUS VIDE STARTER KITS

chef consultants

After reading the above you may be thinking that getting started cooking sous vide is going to be costly and you would be right. Getting the equipment that you need to start this method of cooking does not come cheap.

Finding the right sous vide system is only the first step. Next you need to find all of the other tools to go with it, including the right vacuum sealer if you truly want to do things right. The good news is, there is a sous vide essentials kit available that will provide you with what you need in order to get started. This kit comes with what you need to get started cooking using the sous vide method.

TIPS AND TRICKS TO HELP YOU GET STARTED

As you start cooking sous vide you are going to quickly learn some tricks that make the entire process easier. Of course, learning these tricks will take some time, so here are a few tips to help get you started.

WATER DISPLACEMENT AS A SEAL

When you first start cooking sous vide and have not yet invested in a vacuum sealer it is important to make sure that you get all the air out of the freezer bags that you are using.

You can actually use water to help you get the air out of your zip lock bags. The first thing that you will want to do is to close the bag, but not all the way. Leave a small space in the corner of the bag. Next, take the bag and slowly dip it into a bowl of water. The water is going to help push the air out of the bag through the gap. Submerge the bag as deep as possible, but before it is completely underwater close up the gap. You can then remove the bag from the water and all of the air will be out of it.

FLOATING BAGS

One common difficulty that people have with sous vide cooking is that the bags float. There are a few reasons that the bags are floating. The first reason is that the seal is not perfect. This means that there is air trapped inside the bag to start with. This is most likely to happen when you are using a Ziplock freezer bag.

Another reason that a bag may float is because during the cooking process vapor forms inside the bag as water is heating up and starting to evaporate. Air bubbles from the vegetables or meat can also escape and cause the bag to float. Another reason is that the food that you are cooking is not as dense as water, for example extra fatty bacon.

When cooking sous vide it is important that the bags stay submerged the entire time as this is the only way to guarantee that the food is heated properly.

As mentioned above, one of the best ways to make sure that your bags remain submerged in the water is to use a binder clip at the bottom of the bag. Place a spoon through the clip and the weight of the spoon will help keep the bags submerged.

DEALING WITH EVAPORATION

If you have something that is going to be cooking sous vide for a long time, chances are that the water in the container may dip to a low level and cause the circulator to stop. This will interrupt the cook time and can risk the safety of the food. There are several ways that you can prevent evaporation when cooking sous vide.

One way to prevent evaporation is to cover the water with aluminum foil or plastic wrap. You can also cut a hole out of a lid that fits over the pan that you are using. Another easy solution is to dump some ping pong balls into the water. The ping pong balls will float on the surface, which insulates the water. One of the nice things about this method is that the ping pong balls will conform to the container and they allow you to easily drop bags in or pull them out when necessary.

These are only a few of the things that you can do to improve your sous vide cooking experience. As you go along you are going to find that you will come up with different methods to improve your sous vide cooking experience.

WHAT TO COOK SOUS VIDE

PORK

Hoisin-Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Pork is a difficult meat to cook traditionally. It has a reputation of being dry and bland. This is not the case when you cook pork sous vide. It is easy to make some awesome pork entrees using the sous vide method. Some cuts of pork that work well sous vide include tenderloin, loin roasts, and pork chops. Cook pork at 140 degrees F for a little bit of pink. Up the temperature to 141 degrees F if you want no red at all. Here you will find a great recipe for sous vide pork tenderloin.

CHICKEN BREASTS

Chicken Breast

Another great piece of meat that is excellent when cooked sous vide is chicken breasts. Cooking chicken breasts using traditional methods can be difficult. This piece of meat is easy to overcook or even worse, undercook. Using the sous vide method to cook chicken breasts ensures that you will get perfectly tender and juicy chicken every single time.

Typically, chicken breasts should be cooked for two to four hours at 141 degrees F. This temp and time will provide you with great chicken breasts every single time. Once the chicken is cooked you can eat it straight from the bag if you prefer or if you want you can sear it off in your cast iron skillet.

Here are some great chicken recipes to help get you started.

SAUSAGE

sous vide sausage

Another meat that is difficult to get right when cooking with a traditional method is sausage. The timing of getting sausage to cook well on the inside with a nice brown outside can be difficult to get exactly right. Sous vide cooking takes the guesswork out and leaves you with sausages that are perfectly cooked.

Cooking time for sausage is around two to four hours at a temp of 140 degrees F. This temp and time will leave a bit of pink in the middle, but it will be safe to eat. This also provides a bit of leeway when you are searing the sausages off.

CHUCK ROAST

sous vide chuck roast

Chuck roast is a meat that benefits from a long cooking time, which is perfect for the sous vide method. You can create a braised chuck roast by cooking it at 160 degrees F for around 24 hours or chuck roast steaks can be cooked at 131 degrees F for 2 days. Here is another chuck roast recipe that you can try.

CORNED BEEF

Corned Beef Sous Vide

A lot of times when cooking corned beef it can become very dry. Sous vide allows you to control the temperature and create a tender and moist corned beef that you are sure to enjoy. For a tender and somewhat drier corned beef cook it at 146 degrees F for several days. If you prefer it more moist lower the temperature to 135 degrees F.

BURGERS

Sous Vide Burger

There is nothing quite like a good medium rare burger. However, ordering a burger cooked to this temp can have some safety issues. One of the great things about cooking a burger sous vide is that you can cook the burgers long enough to pasteurize the meat, which will make it safe to eat at a good medium rare temp.

If you cook burgers for two or three hours at 131 degrees F and then sear them quickly you will end up with a great medium rare burger that is extremely juicy.

SEAFOOD

sous vide fish

Cooking seafood sous vide is simply wonderful. The great thing about using sous vide for sea food is that it does not take long and there are many great ways to prepare it. You can cook all types of fish and other seafood using your sous vide kit. Here is a great cod recipe to help get you started.

SOUS VIDE COOKBOOKS

Sous Vide Cookbooks

The above tips about cooking times and temperatures are just enough to help you get started. However, if you truly want to delve into the art of cooking sous vide you are going to need to invest in some quality sous vide cookbooks.

A good quality sous vide cookbook is going to help guide you through the ins and outs of using your sous vide machine to the best of its ability. After all, you do not want to break your sous vide machine simply because you did not use it correctly. In addition, you do not want your food to become spoiled or burned because you have pushed the wrong button. A good cookbook will provide you with the instructions that you need and teach you little tricks to use so that you enjoy your sous vide machine.

There are many different sous vide cookbooks from which to choose. Some of the best ones include:

  1. Sous Vide at Home: The Modern Technique: This book is written by Lisa Q. Fetterman. Fetterman is best known for founding Nomiku, which is the company that offered the first immersion circulator in the industry. The 288 pages provide information and guides to creating some great sous vide meals.
  1. Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide: this sous vide cookbook was written by Jason Logsdon. The focus of this book is on low temperature cooking and this book has long been thought to be the best choice when it comes to sous vide cookbooks. There is a ton of information available in the 284 pages.
  1. Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide: Written by Thomas Keller, this book came out in 2008, making it one of the first cookbooks of this type. The book is 295 full pages of information about sous vide cooking.

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT SOUS VIDE

Here are some of the common questions that people have about cooking sous vide.

What are some of the cons of cooking sous vide compared to a traditional cooking method?

After reading all of the benefits of cooking sous vide you may be wondering if there is anything wrong with this method of cooking. As with anything in life, nothing is perfect and there are a few cons of the sous vide method.

First, this method of cooking takes a long time. For example, to traditionally cook a steak it will take you about fifteen to twenty minutes to get it to the plate. Using the sous vide method to cook a steak is going to take well over an hour. Using a smoker for a pork shoulder will take six to eight hours, while cooking the same pork shoulder sous vide can take more than a day. It is important to note that while sous vide does take longer, almost all of the time is hands off.

Another problem is that no matter what the sous vide zealots say you are not going to be able to get the same sear on your meat as you can with traditional methods. The sear after cooking sous vide is going to thinner than that of a more traditional cooking method.

Finally, one of the big concerns and the reason that most people do not get started cooking sous vide is because of the equipment that is required. In addition to all of the traditional tools required for cooking you also need an immersion circulator and a vacuum sealer.

When do you season the meat? Can you add salt to the bag before freezing or storing?

When most people think of salt they think of it as a simple flavoring agent. However, it is much more than that. Salt can impact the texture of the meat as it will dissolve the muscle proteins as it is working its way inside.

Seasoning meat right before bagging it and cooking it will have very little effect. However, salting meat and storing it can dramatically affect the texture, turning it from being raw and meaty to becoming more firm over time.

Some people do not like the texture of meat that has been salted and stored, while others are okay with it. For meats that you would brine such as pork, fish, or chicken, salting is typically okay. If storing red meat and you want to avoid the harder texture you will want to season it right before you cook it or after you have cooked it sous vide and before you sear it.

How do you really know how long to cook food sous vide?

When you are looking at recipes for sous vide you are going to find that often times there is a wide range of times given for this type of cooking. The reason for this is because sous vide cooking is very forgiving. If you see a recipe that states one to four hours for the cook time the reason is because within that time range there is going to be very little to almost no difference in the safety or quality of the food.

If you cook it for longer than the recipe states there are no real health concerns associated with the food. However, if you cook it for much longer you will notice a difference in texture. For the best results do not cook the recipe for longer than the recommended time.

Is it really safe to cook in plastic?

The safety of plastic cooking bags is something that many people are concerned about. When it comes down to it, the bags that are made specifically for sous vide cooking are safe to use. Oven bags, many top brands of zip top bags, and stretchy plastic wrap are all safe to use for sous vide cooking as well.

These products are made from a product called polyethylene. Polyethylene is often used in containers found in chemistry and biology labs and it has been extensively studied. It is safe to use.

Avoid using cheap plastic wraps when you are cooking. Cheaper plastic wraps are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and heating this can present a risk of the chemicals from the plastic leaching into your food.

Can I cool and reheat food that has been cooked sous vide if the bag has not been opened?

If food is cooked at a temperature of 130 degrees F or higher and for at least several hours, the contents of the bag should be almost sterile. This means that chilling the bag and then reheating it should not pose a significant health risk.

However, doing this can affect the results. For a traditionally slow cooked meat such as a pork shoulder or chicken thigh, there is no real problem. However, for a quick cooking meat such as fish or other seafood, steaks, chicken breasts, and chops, cooling and heating the bag can cause the meat to dry out.

Note that any food that has not been held or cooked at a temp of 130 degrees F or above should not be chilled and reheated as the temperatures are not high enough to destroy any dangerous bacteria.

Can bagged food be cooked straight from the freezer?

One of the nice benefits of cooking sous vide is that you can vacuum seal your bags and throw them in the freezer to use at a later date. You can pull the bag directly from the freezer and put it in the water bath to cook. There is no need to thaw the bag first. However, you will need to make sure that you add a bit of time to the cooking. For a thick chop or steak it may take an extra 30 to 60 minutes. For thin chicken breasts or shrimp add about 15 minutes to the cook time.

CONCLUSION

Overall, sous vide cooking is a very forgiving method of cooking. The entire process is extremely simple and just about anyone can pick it up quite quickly and easily.

Once you have found an immersion circulator and a vacuum sealer to use, the possibilities are really endless. There are many great recipes available to help you get started and you should also consider a good quality sous vide cookbook.

The great thing about sous vide is that you can learn as you go. When you are starting out you are likely to make a few mistakes, but the nice thing is, most of the time these mistakes are not huge and you are still going to get a great meal to eat. Unlike using a traditional cooking method where you would throw the food out, sous vide allows you to easily cook a good meal with very little effort.

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April 24th, 2017

Restaurant Review: Kemuri Tatsu-Ya

Posted in Fire, Food Trends, Restaurants, Reviews, Smoke

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Reviews

Kemuri Tatsu-Ya Review

IRASSHAIMASE! Or, “Welcome to our place,” (roughly translated at best) is how every diner is enthusiastically greeted at Chefs Aikawa and Matsumoto’s new restaurant, Kemuri Tatsu-YA. Originated from the Japanese word for smoke, Kemuri is a thoughtful blend of Texas fare and traditional Japanese izakaya plates.

I was particularly excited to dine here, not only because I expected the food to be top notch, but also because it combines two national trends I recently wrote about: Fire/smoke flavors and the explosion of Japanese izakayas.

The restaurant itself lies on East 2nd St. in the Holly neighborhood, in what used to be the home of Live Oak Barbecue. The interior combines the street art loving design and flair of the Ramen Tatsu-Ya locations with a hodgepodge of Texas based pictures and knickknacks.

Enough of that though, you came here for the food, and there’s LOTS to cover. So, let’s get to it.

First Wave

Izakayas Austin

Marinated Jellyfish and Octopus

Marinated Jellyfish

Starting off strong! The raw jellyfish marinated in a tangy sweet and sour sauce had an awesome crunchy texture and great flavor balance. Perfectly simple, this turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the night.

Marinated Octopus

This raw octopus bowl was salty, spicy, slimy, and chewy all in the rights ways. Wonderfully unique and a textually bizarre.

Second Wave

Fries with Eyes

These fried whole smelt were served with a nice vinegary dipping sauce in which you are instructed to let the fish soak in for about 30 seconds. While this diminishes the crispy texture, it helps balance the robust fishy flavor of the smelt, leaving a tender, tasty snack. Not bad, not bad at all.

Chicken Liver Skewer

I won’t lie, while I like offal, I don’t love liver. What I do love is courage, especially the courage to put not one, but two liver dishes on a menu. While low on my list of favorites, the chicken livers were smoky and well-balanced with the sweetness from a caramelized onion garnish. This demonstrated a great use of binchotan.

Monkfish Liver

This one surprised me. Made into a pate coin, the monkfish liver was mild and smooth. The flavor profile was very subdued, which is saying something for such a pungent ingredient. Definitely worth a try.

Third Wave

Pickle Plate

A creative assortment of Japanese and Southern vegetables adorned this take on a pickle plate. Standouts were the mushrooms and collard greens, as well as the amazingly complex smoked daikon radish.

Green Tomato and Avocado Skewer

Absolutely nailed this one! Perfect texture, great flavors, and all around fun dish. The kewpie mayonnaise and sweet and sour sauce were excellent compliments to the tartness of the green tomato and fattiness of the avocado.

Fourth Wave (Getting Full Yet?)

Chicken Karaage

Pronounced KAH-rah-AH-gay (and yes we did triple check), these Japanese fried chicken thighs were a fastball down the middle. Crunchy, salty, fatty, and delicious. A can’t miss crowd-pleaser.

Crispy Onigiri

I won’t lie, this one disappointed me. I love onigiri, but this version was oily to the point of greasy, and absolutely required the pickled vegetable to be eaten along with it to balance out the unctuous flavor of the smoked fish stuffing.

BBQ Eel

Holy game-changer! Tender, smoky, flavorful, and extremely unique. This one-of-a-kind preparation personifies the overall theme of the restaurant in a single, delightful bite. Personally, I’d recommend pushing off some of that herb salad to make way for more of that tender meat.

Fifth Wave (Starting to feel it…)

Ramen Austin

BBQ Tsukemen

BBQ Tsukemen

A thousand times YES! Even with our rapidly filling bellies we were fighting over the next bite. No surprise here, but the broth was amazingly rich and flavorful with all the body of Ramen Tatsu-Ya’s fame and the flair of smoky mesquite and spice.

(Seriously!?) 6th Wave

What can we say? We’re gluttons…

Chili Cheese Takoyaki

Another slight miss. The takoyaki themselves were crunchy, gooey, and full of savory octopus flavor, but the chili sauce was just far too sweet. Points for a superb presentation though.

Smoked Edamame

Great flavor and seasoning, robust smoky flavor, and generous portion size, but the pods themselves were soft and uninspiring. I missed the familiar crisp of wok fired edamame.

Hot Pocketz

Brisket and Gouda stuffed between two pieces of fried cheese covered tofu… Nothing else to say. Eat this. Always.

7th Wave (Bring it on)

Culinarians

Sorry for the bad picture, we couldn’t wait.

Yuzu Pecan Pie

A great twist of a classic southern pecan pie. The citrusy yuzu played great with the crunchy pecans and Azuki bean whip. I especially enjoyed the mild sweetness here, making it a joy to eat while finishing my shochu flight.

Roasted Banana Pudding

Loved the miso caramel paired with the smoky roasted bananas. Great texture from the kokuto crunch, again not too sweet, and an all around great finish.

Final Thoughts

I know this has been a long one, so thanks for sticking it out. In the end, Kemuri set out a unique, courageous, and overall delicious spread. While I didn’t love every dish I certainly appreciated the risks they were taking. This is an exciting, satisfying dining experience that I would call a can’t miss. These kinds of bold leaps are what makes dining fun.

Rating: 9/10.

Location
2713 E 2nd St.
Austin, TX 78702
http://kemuri-tatsuya.com/

P.S. I didn’t cover the drink menu, but to summarize: We drank much, all of it was good.

 

Cheers!

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April 10th, 2017

Chef Tip: Saving Wilted Vegetables

Posted in Grocery, Healthy, Tips

How To Save Wilted Vegetables

It’s happened to all of us. As we rummage through the crisper we find that bunch of wilted vegetables or herbs we forgot all about.

As enlightened culinarians, we are swept by an initial feeling of regret over the neglect of these cruciferous crusaders and the resentment of having to put them in the compost. But fear not friends, there a chance we can revive that poor produce with a simple soaking method.

Cold Soak

Vegetables lose their perkiness first and foremost due to evaporation. Water is stored in the cellulose structure of the plant’s cell wall. As the plant ages and/or is exposed to heat the wall begins to weaken due to enzymatic activity and water is released to the atmosphere.

Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the best way to perk up sad vegetables is to soak them in an ice water bath. This slows enzymatic reactions and replaces lost water in the cell walls, leading to happy, revitalized produce. For most vegetables and herbs a soaking period of 15 – 60 minutes is adequate.

Wilted Vegetables

Image courtesy of Whole Foods Market

Now, it’s safe to say this won’t work with every bit of produce that has lost it’s way. Some will be too far gone, especially those that have succumbed to rot and decay. Cold water can’t heal them.

This trick also works great for simply maximizing the appeal of fresh produce. Soaking greens and herbs before serving in a salad or as garnish will give them extra vibrancy and crispiness. Fennel and carrots take to this method very well.

So experiment away and let us know what works and what doesn’t. Until next time…

 

Cheers!

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March 27th, 2017

Food Trend Series: Free the Fire

Posted in Consumer Trends, Fire, Food Trends, Smoke

Research chefs

The Flavors of Fire Reign Supreme

It would seem that the love of smoke and fire have finally been accepted by the mainstream. Need proof? Check out Little Caesars latest release of the Smokehouse Pizza, topped with brisket, pulled pork, and smoked bacon along with a smokehouse seasoned crust.  Arby’s serves a similar Smokehouse sandwich made with brisket and smoked Gouda cheese. Even Applebee’s has jumped into the mix with the roll out of their wood fired grills in select locations.

Menu development

Image courtesy of Restaurant Facility Business

Tracking menu insights from 3rd quarter 2015 and 2016 the market research firm Mintel placed smoked flavors atop their list of rising flavor trends(1).

Empirical evidence backs up these statements as well. Think of how common smoked salts, fire roasted tomatoes or chilies, and charred citrus have become. Menus show items like smoked butterscotch coffee, fire roasted vegetables, and charred artichokes. Heck, one of the best cocktails I’ve ever drunk was served to me last weekend and included freshly burnt rosemary and mescal.

We can also see these fiery flavors showing up in condiments. Chipotle ketchup, pecan wood smoked maple syrup, smoked onion marmalade, and smoked black pepper pickles to name a few. I have no doubt a simple Google query would bring up a slew of other products I haven’t thought of. 

Fine dining restaurants nationwide have long been pushing the flaming trend forward with the use of wood burning stoves. Local to Austin you can enjoy foods slow roasted over wood fires at the likes of Odd Duck or Dai Due, the latter using beautiful customized elevator grills. Nationally, you can find wood fire kitchens from coast to coast, but for our New York friends a stand out would be Lilia in Brooklyn.

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

Lilia Hearth, courtesy of Tasting Table

As chefs, we are stoked (get it?) by the fired and smoked food trend, as it hearkens back to the origins of cooking food with only wood and a spark. I feel a beard growing just thinking about it.

We would love to hear what you’re seeing out there in your culinary travels. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know.

 

Cheers!

-Chris

1. Weisberg, Karen. "Flavor Advances: Top Trends for 2017." Culinology. December 2016: 10-17. 6 Mar., 2017.
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March 13th, 2017

Food Truck Series: Kebabalicious

Posted in Food Trucks, Restaurants, Trailer/Street Foods

Austin Food Truck Consultants

Kebabalicious

Modeled after the European style Doner Kebab carts, common street food through the U.K. and greater Europe, Kebabalicious successfully brings that savory flavor to Austin.

Listed on Eater as a one of the “20 Essential Food Trucks in Austin,” Kebabalicious maintains similar accolades on Do512 also. For this reason, and the fact that I ate kebab at least twice a week while I lived in London, I knew I had to give this truck a try. 

Food

Restaurant consultants

With a smart, concise menu, ordering was made easy for me. With the “Spoiled Brat” plate, the K-Fries, and a side order of the Ka-baam sauce I was able to taste almost all of the menu items.

Commercial food consultants

The Spoiled Brat plate consists of beef and lamb shawarma, seasoned chicken, crispy falafel, humus, feta, tzatziki, and red sauce on a bed of greens with tomatoes and onion.

The chicken was delicious. Moist and tender with and excellent seasoning. The beef and lamb was underwhelming. The flavor was fairly standard with nothing to denote fine quality or uniqueness. It was also cut so small it was closer to ground sausage than traditional flanks of shawarma. The falafel, however, made up for that fully. Perfect balance of crispy exterior with a soft, rustic center. Great color, aromatics, and seasoning.

Corporate chefs

The K-Fries were a fun addition, but also let me down. While the sauce was excellent and the salty feta worked very well with the fries, the fact that they were soft undercut the dish. I will say though, the zatar spice is the perfect complement to fries. With hot, crisp potatoes this would likely have been a real winner.

Sauces

Let’s focus on sauce for a minute, particularly the chile sauces. The Ka-baam sauce is a smoky blend of jalapeno and poblano peppers in cool cream cheese with lots of aromatics. Delightful against the strong seasonings and charred meats.

Their spicy red sauce, on the other hand, is closer to a harissa chile blended with red curry sauce. Balance this with some powerful aromatics like coriander and cumin, ramp up with coarsely crushed black pepper, and then tone back down with creamy mayonnaise and you may have something close to this delicious sauce.

Other

To finish out the humus was wonderful, rustic, and delicate. The tzatziki was overly sweet and missed the crucial cucumber flavor, but the pita was wonderfully thin and chewy, a refreshing change from the usually puffy, dense pitas served at many kebab shops.

Final Thoughts

Recipe commercialization

Overall I was pleased with my visit to Kebabalicious. The chicken is well prepared and hearkens directly to the doner kebab shops of Europe. I’d like to see a stronger cut of the beef and lamb, a more balanced tzatziki, and crispy fries, but these I’ll chalk up to a simple miss. I’ll have to eat there 3 or 4 more times before I’m sure of anything. Next time though, I know to start with the falafel.

Until next time, good eating Austin!

 

Cheers!

-Chris

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February 13th, 2017

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Posted in Consumer Trends, food tours, Food Trends, Grocery, Locally Grown, Organic, Recipes, Retail, Trends

Research Chefs

Good Eggs: More Than A Name

Founded in the summer of 2011, Good Eggs is an online market that delivers local, organic, sustainable foods and groceries to the San Francisco Bay area. With same day and next day delivery options, Good Eggs aims to connect people who love food directly with the people who make it.

One mission of Good Eggs, as my guide Angelica described during my site tour, is “to grow and sustain local food systems worldwide in order to change the supply chain from the ground up, making it better for everyone.” This noble and ambitious mission shines throughout the operation.

Chef Consultants

Unlike its online competitors (think Instacart, Amazon Fresh), Good Eggs receives their products straight from farmers and suppliers, rather than tapping into an existing market chain. They have established direct relationships with their producers and in turn have created a very efficient, mutually beneficial system of operation.

This direct relationship between producers and customers also puts Good Eggs in a unique position to see culinary trends develop in real-time. Angelica noted the popularity of local foods, especially produce, Korean ribs, ramen, the return of pasta, and bone broths in 2016 and sees no slowing down going into 2017.

Additionally, they’ve seen a push for easy weeknight meal solutions for busy families, especially those with young children. Dinners that can be prepared relatively quickly and without much fuss that still maintain healthful, natural, and craveable qualities are ideal. You can even get inspiration from unique, easy to follow chef developed recipes that are found on their website.

Restaurant Consultants

Good Eggs is working hard to drive away the misconception that natural markets are only within reach of those of a higher socioeconomic class by offering competitively priced groceries and a spectrum of comparable products. They’re also aiming to ensure that EBT and WIC benefits will eventually be allowed for use in their market.

In asking what one thing Angelica wished shoppers recognized about Good Eggs, she replied “We want customers to understand that Good Eggs is the simplest way to get groceries every week. That we’re priced the same as major markets, but we source directly so it’s as fresh as if you were getting them from a farmer’s market.”

Seem too good to be true? You be the judge.

Corporate chefs

If you’re in the San Francisco area give Good Eggs a try to see for yourself if they stack up. I can tell you first hand that after visiting their facility, I’m impressed not only with their food, but with their people. They truly believe in what they do and are determined to change the world.

Plus, where else are you going to find a whole pig’s head?

I can’t wait to see what they do next…

Culinary Consultants

 

Cheers!

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