Friday, January 25, 2013

Pizza Fest: Playing with My New Baking Steel

After all the buzz on the interwebs, I couldn't resist spending some Christmas-present money on a new toy: the baking steel... It turns out all the hype is correct.  
(As you can see, I got the 1/2-inch version.) I tried three different crusts on my new steel, and every one of them blew me away with how amazing it turned out... 
Yum...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another Sous Vide Trick: Über-Caramelized Onons

I love caramelized onions, and I love them super-duper caramelized.  When I did this for Thomas Keller's French Onion Soup, it took about 8 hours of caramelizing (stirring every 30-45 minutes) to get the onions as dark as I wanted.  That's not really an option these days.  I've heard a rumor (which I believe) that you can't caramelize onions from raw using sous vide because the gases released by the onions will make the bag explode... (I didn't want to test this...)  Instead I did a bit of a hybrid technique.  While I was putzing around in the kitchen, I threw the sliced onions in a pot with a bit of salt over medium-high heat, covered.  
(This is how I always start my onions, since it forces them to release their liquid early and thus allows faster caramelization later...)  After a good amount of liquid is rendered, you can uncover and let it cook off, stirring every now and then.  Because there is so much liquid at this stage, there's minimal risk of burning so you can totally ignore the onions for the most part...
Once the onions had given off their liquid and that liquid had mostly cooked off, I tossed them into a vacuum bag, closed the top with a bag clip, and plunged them into an ice bath to chill (since hot things do not vacuum-seal well...).  After sealing, the onions can go into a 180-degree water bath until they achieve the desired caramelization...  A couple hours for moderate...
or overnight for super-duper-crazy-caramelized... 
Pretty awesome, yeah?  Again, this is just (regular, not sweet) onions with a bit of salt... and this is totally how my onions are getting caramelized for my next batch of onion soup...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Everyday Yumminess: Sriracha Salt

I bought my food dehydrator back in the day because I wanted to use it as a yogurt-making incubator.  While that remains its primary purpose in my kitchen, I like finding other random uses for it (e.g., prosciutto-powder).  The most recent application was to streamline a recipe for Sriracha Salt.

Everyday Yumminess: Homemade Tonic Water

This is something I'd been wanting to try for a while so, once I got a soda siphon for Christmas, it shot to the top of my queue.  Homemade tonic water (or, more accurately, tonic concentrate that is mixed with soda water to make tonic water) isn't necessarily going to save you any money over generic-brand store-bought versions.  This is a case where the DIY version is superior because it lets you tweak the flavors to your palate.  (I, for example, hate how sweet store-bought tonic water often is... so when I made my own I cut back on the agave the recipe called for and it was perfect...)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Badness...

I was planning to post something fun today, but yesterday had other plans.  Tara was acting strange on Friday, and then on Saturday morning she was despondent and wouldn't eat. We took her to the vet, and she had all kinds of problems. (Severe anemia, low oxygen, blood not clotting... They couldn't run diagnostic tests because they were afraid she would bleed out if they drew enough blood to test.)  After they did all they could for her, we brought her to the emergency vet to spend the night in their oxygen room.  They called at 4am to let me know that she had developed severe head tilt (with the accompanying vertigo and darting eyes).  At 8am they called to let me know she was gone. 
She was such an amazing bunny, and insane in the best possible way... She was only in my life for about three weeks, but she'd totally nuzzled her way into my heart. I'll miss her.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bunnies!

One major change in my household that happened on New Year's Eve was the introduction of this gorgeous bunny:
I took Jax to meet her on New Year's Eve, and she actually groomed him a couple times at the foster home, so we decided there was potential for love... Plus, look at them together:
I think that's more cuteness than most people would be able to resist...

A Couple Links plus What's Coming Up...

I saw a couple good sous vide links pop up in my Google Reader feed the other day and wanted to share.  The first is a fantastic explanation of why cooking sous vide rocks, from the good people at Modernist Cuisine.  I use my chamber vacuum almost every day, and I cook (or re-therm) probably 90% of my meals sous vide.  I agree with all of the things Nathan Myhrvold says in the post (honestly, I have a theory that if you disagree with Myhrvold on anything food-related, you probably need to re-think your position...), but one additional factor not mentioned is how much time cooking sous vide saves you in the kitchen.  Because of health issues, I need to confine my cooking to short bursts of activity these days, and sous vide is the best way to get perfectly cooked food that doesn't require constant trips to the kitchen to stir and poke and prod and monitor... I imagine that would come in handy for busy people without health issues as well... 

The other article is a review of budget-friendly sous vide tech from The WireCutter. I've played with systems using a slow cooker as well as the sous vide supreme and a home-built immersion circulator...  (I'd be happy to talk pros and cons in the comments if anyone is curious... otherwise I assume I'd be talking to myself...)  The best solution for you will depend on how often you use the technique and for what types of dishes.  I started with a slow-cooker version (with a controller built by one of my most nerd-tastic friends) for price reasons but, once I realized I would be using the technique for so many things, I knew it was worth the upgrade to the next step up in quality.  Your mileage may vary...

I acquired an epic collection of groceries yesterday, and spent several pockets of time in the kitchen today doing very basic prep (roasting bell peppers, caramelizing onions, breaking down a rib roast into steaks to vacuum-seal and freeze...).  I realized as I was thin-slicing 12 onions to caramelize just how much I've missed hanging out in the kitchen.  Kitchen-Exhausted-Emily would probably go ahead and use a food processor slicing blade or a mandolin to do those onions, but it felt kind of amazing to just sit there with my knife and my cutting board.  Funny how such a simple task can make you feel more like yourself after spending far too long away from the kitchen...

Speaking of time in the kitchen, a lot of the prep today was for a pizza-fest situation coming up... Three or four different doughs (including a test-run of gluten-free for a friend who will visit soon), four different cooking methods, myriad toppings and sauces... I've also got some duck confit starting up (for use in assorted applications) and some amazing homemade Thai(-inspired?) food in the queue for next week... Stay tuned...