May – Sous vide asparagus

May – Sous vide asparagus

Yes, you can use your sous vide machine for vegetables. It isn’t the answer for all vegetables though, you do need to be selective. So far I have cooked carrots and asparagus with wonderful success. We usually grill or roast asparagus, and it is delicious that way. Asparagus cooked by sous vide is similar to steamed but with a wonderful crunch and intense asparagus flavor. All the vitamins are intact and that green grassy taste jumps into your mouth with every bite. And sous vide timing is very forgiving, you don’t have to worry if you are distracted for a few minutes. Roasted or steamed asparagus will overcook in 30 seconds; turning drab, mushy and unappealing. Limp asparagus is not attractive. Sous vide asparagus stays bright green and crisp, the stem just as tender at the tips.

Sous Vide Asparagus

Method:

  • Preheat the water with your sous vide machine to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
  • Encase the asparagus in a vacuum bag or large zip lock bag (you may want to put a teaspoon in the bottom of the bag first). Try to get the asparagus in one layer. If you need to use two bags, separate the asparagus by size.
  • Season as desired. For example lemon salt, butter, coconut oil, mint, slices of lemon, etc.

    Cyprus Citron Lemon Flake Sea Salt

  • If using vacuum, seal on the moist setting.

    Asparagus in Vacuum Bag

    • Once your water bath has heated to the appropriate temperature, add the asparagus to the hot water and set your timer for 10 minutes. Thicker spears may need to cook for longer, maybe 12 minutes. That is the reason for two bags if the spears in your bunch are different sizes. Squeeze the bottom of a spear to see if they are done to your liking.
    • Cut open the bag and slide the asparagus onto a plate. Or, cool in an ice bag for using cold or reheating later.

You may note that this bag does not have a teaspoon, big error. As the contents of the bag heat, the air expands, causing it to float. I had to put a weight on top to keep the asparagus under water. Next time I will add that teaspoon. Don’t make my mistake.

Sous Vide Asparagus

The photo is fuzzy because of the steam rising. We couldn’t wait for it to cool before eating. Yum!

May – Sous vide pork tenderloin

May – Sous vide pork tenderloin

Pork, like chicken breasts, is not something I cook very frequently. In my opinion, commercial pork has had the flavor bred out out of it with the fat. The campaign “the other white meat” did not make it popular in my kitchen.

From Wikipedia I found the following history and thought it was interesting.

“Pork. The Other White Meat.” was an advertising slogan developed by advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt in 1987 for the National Pork Board. The campaign was paid for using a checkoff fee (tax) collected from the initial sale of all pigs and pork products, including imports. In traditional culinary terminology, pork is considered a white meat, but the nutritional studies comparing white and red meat treat pork as red, as does the United States Department of Agriculture.

With a program promoting pork using the slogan as a lean meat to health-conscious consumers, pork sales in the United States rose 20%, reaching $30 billion annually by 1991.

Well, it didn’t work for our household. In fact, we mostly swore off pork as tasteless and dry. Until I discovered sous vide pork tenderloin and chops. Something magical happens in that water bath, a whole new world of cooking opened up. The pork was tender and juicy all the way through.

This chart came from the site Serious Eats, you can click here to see the original recipe.

Recommended Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin Temperatures

Temp and Time Doneness Result
130°F/54°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium-rare Buttery-tender; very juicy
140°F/60°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium Firm but still tender; moderately juicy
150°F/66°C for 1 to 4 hours Medium-well Fully firm; moderately juicy
160°F/71°C for 1 to 4 hours Well-done Dry, with a firm, tacky texture

I used 140 degrees F and cooked the tenderloins for 2 hours. To finish I have both browned them in a cast iron skillet on high heat, and used a hot BBQ. Both were delicious.

Pork Tenderloin finished in a cast iron skillet

And done the browning on a very hot BBG grill.

Pork Tenderloin finished on the BBQ

In all cases the pork was tender and juicy.

Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin

I served the pork with a fruit salsa on the side. You could also brush it with your favorite BBQ sauce while on the BBQ to further caramelize the outside.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 -2  pork tenderloins
  • Favorite rub

EQUIPMENT

  • Vacuum sealer or good quality ziplock freezer bags
  • Sous Vide machine
  • Cast iron skillet or BBQ

METHOD

  1. Preheat the water in your pot (I use a large stockpot) to the desired temperature with the sour vide machine
  2. Rub the pork with your desired seasoning. I used my home made fennel spice rub once and a purchased rub the second time.

    Mustard Mistress Rub

  3. Seal in a vacuum bag on the moist setting. Or place in a large freezer zip log bag.

    Pork Tenderloin

    Pork Tenderloin with Rub

  4. Once your water has heated to the desired temperature, place the pork in the water. If using a freezer bag, slowly lower the bag into the water, as you go you will displace the air in the top of the bag (be careful not to let any water get into the bag), once the air has been displaced, seal the bag.
  5. When cooked for the desired length of time, remove the bag from the water bath. If not using immediately, cool the sealed bag with the pork tenderloin in a cold water bath for an hour before refrigerating.
  6. If cooking immediately, heat your BBQ or a cast iron skillet on high heat. Add a little oil (grape seed recommended) to the pan and brown the pork before serving. Don’t worry, it will brown up nicely, it doesn’t look very appetizing when you first remove it from the bag.

    Sous Vide Pork Tenderloin

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

May – Sous Vide Chicken Breasts

Who doesn’t love chicken breasts? Me, that is who. Until I tried them sous vide. Oh my! They are an entirely different experience. If you have ever had a chicken breast in a good restaurant and were shocked at the perfect texture and delicious flavor (did you ask yourself “How did they do that?”), chances are that it was prepared sous vide. Sous Vide has been a standard technique in restaurant kitchens for years but the machines were far too expensive for most home cooks, costing in the thousands of dollars. Not any more. You can pick one up on sale for under $200 and even closer to $100 if you keep a sharp eye out. You will find my first post describing the sous vide wand here. I notice that Amazon carries a well respected brand, the Anova.

If you are watching your weight or health, here is the good part. You don’t need to add any additional fat or oil to take advantage of that wonderful flavor. Plus you can cook the breasts ahead of time (a couple of days), then finish them just before dinner. That makes them almost easier than a rotisserie chicken and better for you as they don’t have all those “additives” the grocery store or deli uses to keep their chickens moist. You will save money because you purchase the bone in, skin on breasts. Buy them when on sale, season as described below, put in individual vacuum sealed or freezer bags, and pop in the freezer. No need to defrost, cook them frozen, adding an additional 30 minutes to the time.

Once they are cooked, it is easy to strip the breast off the bone. Chicken cooked on the bone will have far more flavor than those you buy already boned and skinned. And they are much less expensive.

We just returned from two amazing holidays, two weeks in France and a cruise in the Caribbean. I had to celebrate my retirement, right? The result is that I haven’t spent much time in my kitchen, and am anxious to concentrate on healthy food before summer gets going in full swing. Too much delicious food and wine has added a few pounds and my clothes are tight…uncomfortably tight. Sigh. It sure was fun.

But, with this kind of food you don’t need to feel deprived.

I pre-seasoned the breasts (curry powder, 5-spice, fennel spice, chili, BBQ, slice of lemon, sprig of fresh herbs, etc.), vacuum sealed them in labeled bags (a good quality freezer zip lock bag also works), and cooked them while I was busy doing something else in the kitchen. They don’t need any attention. It only takes an hour but is forgiving enough to be left for two if something distracts you.

A few minutes before you want to serve dinner, preheat a skillet on high (cast iron works well). Cut open the bag with the chicken and peel the breast off the bone, it should come off easily. You may want to add a teaspoon of oil to the pan, use something that can tolerate high heat (such as grape seed) without burning. Add the chicken to the hot skillet, skin side down to brown. I press it gently with the side of a spatula. A good trick is to place the thicker edge against the side of the skillet so it will brown as well. Leave it for a few minutes to caramelize. Turn it over to briefly to brown and heat the other (bone, but now boneless) side. That’s all. Serve with a fresh vegetable and starch of your choice. Mashed potatoes would be excellent; double sigh, not for me.Sous vide chicken

This recipe is for 4 breasts, serving 4 – 6 (easily multiplied)

Sous vide chicken breast – basic method

  • 4 bone in, skin on chicken breasts
  • seasoning of choice. For example BBQ rub, fresh herbs, lemon slices, curry powder, etc.
  • Kosher salt

Method

  1. Preheat your sous vide water to 150 degrees F for moist chicken, still slightly soft. You will finish them in a hot pan.
  2. Season and seal each chicken breast in either a vacuum bag (seal on moist setting) or in a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag (you will use the water displacement method to remove most of the air).

    Fennel Spice Rub

  3. Once hot, place the bags in the heated water. The vacuum bags should sink below the water level. For zip lock bags, gently push the bottom of the bag into the water displacing the air (without getting any water into the opening). Once near the top, seal the bag. Trick: if the bags don’t sink to the bottom, you can put a teaspoon into the bag with the food.
  4. Cook the chicken for at least an hour, as long as two is fine. My chicken breasts were quite large so I cooked them for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If frozen add another 30 or 40 minutes to the time.
  5. If you are not going to finish and eat them immediately, cool the bags in an ice water bath for an hour, then refrigerate. You want them to cool quickly to avoid food poisoning. If properly refrigerated the chicken will be fine for 2 or 3 days. I cooked mine the night before.
  6. When ready to eat, remove the chicken from the bag and gently pull off the breast bone. If they are cold this might take a bit more elbow grease but the bone should release from the meat.
  7. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Once very hot, add a slick of high temperature oil like grape seed and brown the chicken on all sides.

    Sous vide chicken breasts in cast iron pan.

  8. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing.

    sous vide chicken breasts

    Tender and delicious, juicy and moist without a bit of dryness, plus a crisp skin from the hot frying pan. It was a wonderful contrast of textures. Use the best quality chicken breasts you can find as the flavor really comes through. 

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #170 hosted by Angie.  The co-hosts this week are Monika @ Everyday Healthy Recipes and Sue @ Birgerbird. Click on the Fiesta Friday link to see all the yummy food other bloggers are bringing to the party.

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

February – Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe combines two of my favorite foods, chicken and tomato soup (don’t worry, it won’t call for that red and white can). Those flavors are especially welcome on a night like this, stormy and cold. We took the dogs for a walk on the beach just before the rain hit, the first drops fell as we were driving away from the parking lot.

Seaside Winter Beach

Seaside Winter Beach

Don’t you think a winter beach is special? It was empty of summer visitors, only the hardiest souls were out in the late afternoon. We only met two other couples, both with dogs chasing balls or sticks.  out. Our dogs were in heaven, excited by the wind, leaping into the air to catch the frisbee.

The beach was full of driftwood washed up by the waves onto the high tide line. I didn’t get a picture, unfortunately. The salvage groups have been out cutting up the logs.

Winter beach

Winter beach

I cooked this sous-vide, inspired by a post from Bewitching Kitchen for Chicken Korma-ish. But the dish could also be cooked in a skillet with the sauce. I will give instructions for both. Sous-vide means “under vacuum” and is a method of cooking in a water bath at a very carefully controlled temperature. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag, either under vacuum or the air having removed by displacement. Your food cannot overcook. It takes longer but the results are amazing. In this case, silky and moist chicken breasts.

I served this with both spiralized zucchini and pasta. Take your pick, it was delicious both ways.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless and skinless, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 tomatoes, sliced. I didn’t bother to skin them as I was going to puree them in the food processor.
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • thinly sliced basil or parsley, about 1/4 cup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • toasted pine nuts for serving
  • garnish of chopped basil
  • pasta of any shape or spiralized vegetable

If making this in the summer with wonderful vine ripened tomatoes, you may not need to add the tomato paste. Since these were February tomatoes, green house grown, they could use a little help.

Method

  1. If using sous-vide, heat your water bath to 150 degrees F.
  2. Melt butter or heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  3. Add the shallot and saute until starting to soften.
  4. Add the garlic, do not let either the shallot or garlic brown. Saute for a couple of minutes.
  5. Add the sliced tomatoes, cook until softened and starting to melt into the pan.

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

    onion, garlic, and tomatoes

  6. Add the tomato paste and salt, stir to mix.
  7. Put the contents of the skillet into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  8. Add 1/3 cup of the cream and process again.
  9. For sous-vide:
    1. Add the diced chicken to a food safe plastic bag.
    2. Add the second 1/3 cup cream to the bag and mix.
    3. Add the contents of your blender or food processor and mix.
    4. Immerse the bag in the water and squeeze out the air.
    5. Cook for 2 hours, 3 is ok if you need to leave it longer.
  10. For traditional:
    1. Return the contents of the processor or blender to the skillet, add the second 1/3 cup cream and mix.
    2. Pour the sauce back into the skillet and heat on medium until just under the boil.
    3. Add the chicken and turn the heat to low.
    4. Cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15  minutes. Test a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through.
Spiralized Zucchini

Spiralized Zucchini

There is a trick to using spiralized zucchini. Zucchini is mostly water. salting before using will help it retain the crispness. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt and drain in a colander. Then dry on paper towels or a tea cloth before using. You will be amazed at the liquid that is released (and doesn’t water down your sauce). You can then add the zucchini to the hot sauce in the skillet to heat.

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

Tomato Cream Sauce Chicken with Zucchini

The chicken was fantastic!

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

I am adding this post to the virtual blogging party at Fiesta Friday #158 hosted by Angie. The co-hosts this week are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

February 2017 – In My Kitchen

I cannot imagine a more perfect place to make an announcement. I am officially retired, starting today February 1st! This is the very first day and here I am, posting after several months away. I am so excited! It has been a crazy 5 months at work, I was thrown directly into the fray when we returned from our Ireland hiking trip in September. It has absolutely consumed me. But, I don’t even want to think about work right now. Right now I want to talk about what is new in my kitchen and read what is new in your own.

If you’d like to write an In My Kitchen post, send your link to Liz of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things by the 10th of the month. And please stop by Liz’s blog to see and read the list of posts from kitchens around the world.

So, let’s get started!

To begin with, I have discovered sous vide. What is that? It is cooking under very carefully controlled temperatures in a water bath. Your food is encased in a food safe plastic bag and immersed in the warm water. You set the temperature of the water to the exact doneness you want the food, it cannot overcook. Sous vide translates as “under vacuum”.

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

Lamb chops, vacuum packed and ready for sous vide

You can then quickly sear the outside of your food in a very hot pan to brown and crisp it before serving.

Sous Vide

Sous Vide

I have wanted one for several years but they were terribly expensive, plus they were huge bulky appliances which took up too much space. This one is quite portable, clips on the side of any pot, and is easily stored. Even better the price has finally come down into the $200 range. I found them on sale before Christmas at $149, very reasonable. This small one is made by Joule, a company known for very high quality laboratory water baths. I have been experimenting with recipes, it is such a different approach. Don’t you think it is great fun to try a new technique? So far I have made a confit of chicken and duck with very little fat (and in only a few hours), chicken breasts which were marvelous (tender without a hint of dryness), lamb chops to die for, salmon steaks (no worry about overcooking), perfect carrots, and a few others. I will be posting recipes, so stay tuned. In the spirit of honesty I will admit to one failure, and the timing was unfortunate. I had volunteered to bring steaks to a holiday dinner party, the plan was to quickly finish them on the grill. They were not good at all although everyone was very polite. I know I shouldn’t try a new recipe when cooking for company, but I am entirely guilty of frequently disobeying the rule. I get so excited about a new recipe or method and want to immediately share it. Most of the time it turns out fine, not so much this time.

I think it was a problem with the steaks themselves. Expensive grass fed steaks do not always translate to delicious meat.

A second go was much more successful.

Joule Sous Vide

Joule Sous Vide

At our cabin in Fort Bragg, there is a new mini oven. Our old one gave up the ghost just before Christmas. It is very handy to have a second oven when entertaining. And, I find it is much more versatile than filling up the kitchen counter with a toaster and other appliances. It makes great toast.

New Breville Mini Oven

New Breville Mini Oven

In my kitchen I have tulips. It has been a wonderfully wet winter here and they are a sign of spring. I cannot grow tulips in the garden. They need more winter chill than we have, and the deer think they are a particular treat. These were a splurge when I saw them in the store. Aren’t they a lovely color?

Tulips

Tulips

In my kitchen, or rather on the kitchen table, we have plans and the beginning of lots of lists.

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

Plans for Fort Bragg Addition

These are plans for a new bedroom and bath at our Fort Bragg house. The remodel was stage one, this is stage two with construction scheduled to start sometime in February. We will need a break in the rain before they can begin.

In my kitchen I have a new cookbook, this one by Diana Henry. I know she has been popular for some time and I cannot believe I just discovered her. This one was a James Beard award winner.

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry

In my kitchen I have pu-erh tea. These little compacted teaspoons of fermented tea from China are individually wrapped. I love a dark tea but cannot drink English Breakfast without milk because it upsets my stomach. This tea is very dark and full flavored, but at the same time smooth and not tannic. One little cake will make an entire pot with refills.

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh tea

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh Tea

And lastly in my kitchen I have seed catalogs. The beginnings of a small spring garden now that I will have some time to nurture it.

Seed Catalogs

Seed Catalogs

What is new in your kitchen this past month?