Sous Vide Supreme: One Small Step For Cooks…

If you read this blog then you know (and probably agree with me), that some form of sous-vide device is going to be the next microwave oven. It seems weird and scary to the general public today, but my great grandkids won’t remember life before them.

“Great Grand Pa-Pa, what does overcooked mean?”

Ok, maybe a little far fetched, and, uhh, did my great grandkids grow up in Bavaria? But the first big step forward towards my utopian future will be available for pre-order on October 23rd. What is this, you ask?

Why it’s the Sous Vide Supreme, of course.

Sous Vide Supreme With Rack

Sous Vide Supreme With Rack

Introductory pricing is going to be $399, which puts it between DIY style PID Controller like the Sous Vide Magic ($140)/Rice Cookers ($0-100) combo’s and professional immersion circulators (~$1000). This price point is excellent news, because if a small company can produce them and make money at $449 MSRP, then when the Kenmore’s of the world produce them, the price will drop further.

Even though this is the first sous-vide appliance really aimed at the consumer market, I think PID Controller nerds types will have a number of potential reasons to upgrade:

  1. Better temperature regulation. The biggest issue I have with the PID controller today compared to an immersion circulator is the ability to precisely regulate temperature. It doesn’t matter too much for the home cook, but if you have a PID controller now, you probably aren’t your average home cook. All of this is, of course, assuming this isn’t a PID Controller glued to a rice cooker taped inside of a fancy case.
  2. Aesthetics/Ease of Setup. When guests come over and see your set up they should be thinking: “The Future Of Cooking”. Instead, they are thinking: “Meth Lab”. Also, the PID controller/rice cooker setup takes up a fair amount of space, and is kind of annoying to store.
  3. Built-in Rack. The lid has a rack builtin to it, making it a lot easier to keep bags that might float over time submerged under water.
  4. Reclaim your rice cooker. You can cook rice while making your 198 hour short rib!

One of the challenges I think the Sous Vide Supreme will have face is educating the consumer market.

  1. Changing The Way People Cook. Sous-vide is going to change the way people think about cooking, as well as change the way people prepare food at home. I give them a lot of credit already for the use of the term “water oven”. So much more friendly than “immersion circulator” or “temperature controlled water bath”. That being said, change is scary. That means we are going to see a lot of:
  2. Fears over health. Just like the microwave oven, there are going to be a ton of health concern objections. Long cooking time in plastic. Botulism. These were all questions that came up when I tried to learn about sous-vide, and I was actually excited about cooking.
  3. Additional Costs. A hidden cost for the average consumers new to sous-vide will be the vacuum sealer and bags, which adds to the cost of using the device. EAT should really figure out a way of bundling a vacuum sealer in the future.

Very promising snippet from their about page:

The Eades also consulted with world-renown chef Heston Blumenthal, who added decades of gourmet sous vide cooking expertise to the product’s research and development and ensured the SousVide Supreme would meet the highest culinary standards.

Besides their website, you should also check out this blog post from the folks bringing this to market.

Either way, I am really excited to see sous-vide march forward. And I wish the EAT team the best of luck. May your product succeed (and not suck).

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KISS Katz

On my walk home today, I stopped underneath Katz’s awning (or ledge, whatever that thing is) to get out of the wind and rain. Almost as soon as I ducked under the awning, a man with one of those secret service type ear things walked out holding a laminated sign. I watched as he tried to affix said laminated sign with some tape to one of the windows.

Did I mention earlier that it was raining?

Yah, didn’t work too well. He finally managed to kind of get it stuck to the window, giving me a chance to finally read it. My dreams that the secret services were forcing Katz’s to discount were quickly dashed as I read that they were filming Gene Simmons’ reality TV show. Looking inside, I saw people crowding around Gene, gawking and taking pictures.

While I was peering through the window to get a better look (never said i was better than those other gawkers), a guy leaves with his two sons. At least I hope they were his kids.

EXT. KATZ’S DELICATESSEN – NIGHT

It is raining Katz’s and Dogz’s as a PECULIAR MAN with a goatee peers through the gigantic windows, staring at the trainwreck formally known as GENE SIMMONS. His head tilts like a confused dog while a FATHER exists the famous deli with his two sons.

FATHER

Are people still taking pictures of him?

PECULIAR MAN

Yup.

FATHER

I don’t get it, he’s only been famous for a couple of decades. That pastrami’s been famous for like a hun’red years.

KID

(tugging on arm)

Daaaad. Let’s gooooooo.

PECULIAR MAN

Heh. Didn’t think of it like…

FATHER

Hey, where’s that knishery?

KIDS

(in unison)

DAAADDD!

The KIDS grab their FATHER’s sleeve pulling him down the street (away from the knishery), leaving PECULIAR MAN to stand there… being peculiar.

TGRWT #19 Tomato and Tea: Round Up

Hi TGRWTers!

Tomato and Tea seemed to have pretty mixed results. I think there is a tremendous number of possibilities with these two ingredients, especially with tea. Black tea has a bazillion different varieties, which: can be used to smoke, can be steeped into a liquid, added to a crust or rub, etc.

Lapsang Souchong Tomato Bisque and Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini

Lapsang Souchong Tomato Bisque and Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini


Leanne Opaskar made a
Lapsang Souchong Tomato Bisque and Sun-Dried Tomato Crostini. She writes:

The soup is smooth, tomatoey, smokey, and pretty tasty. I’d like to play with the balance of flavors just a bit, because I’d like a little more depth with the clove and anise flavors. They’re kind of swallowed up in the smokey tea taste. This is very satisfying for a first pass, though.

The crostini are also tasty, but there’s really not much tea flavor to them. I’m not quite sure how I’d play with that to improve it, but they taste good as it is. I didn’t think about it at the time, but I should have saved the soaking liquid — it would have made a fascinating vegetable stock.


Black Tea Souffle with Caramelized Tomato-Plum Sauce

Black Tea Souffle with Caramelized Tomato-Plum Sauce

From Lab To Kitchen whipped up a Black Tea Souffle with Caramelized Tomato-Plum Sauce. She writes:

The souffles tasted really good (pretty much like tapioca milk tea in a warm and fluffy form), and so did the sauce (tartness of the plum, sweetness of the tomato). And did TGRWT? Overall, I thought this was an eccentric but successful pairing. When I first smelled the tomato and black tea together, I thought it made sense–it reminded me almost of a tomato and herb combination. Implementing it was more difficult, but nonetheless, I thought the bold and earthy black tea was offset well against the sweet and tart tomato-plum combo. The tomato here showed off its true “fruitiness”, being treated as such in the puree, but it also kept its distinctive “heartiness” in the aftertaste.

five o'clock bloody mary

five o'clock bloody mary


Anu Hopia, Elli Laukkanen and Kristiina Niemi over at molekyyligastronomia went to the bar to make us a tea infused bloody mary.

Tea and tomato worked well together & tea made tomato smoothie flavor rounder and also more complex. This is actually a nice version of Bloody Mary for those who prefer lighter drink for a change. The tea flavor was not too strong: if one does not know about the tea, it would be difficult to identify it from the smoothie. However, as we compared smoothie with hot water only, the difference was obvious and it was not difficult to pick the watery version out. The acidity decreased and the tea versions were significantly less acidic.

Chicken Breast With Tomato Tea Sauce

Chicken Breast With Tomato Tea Sauce


Linda Roberts wrote in to tell us about her Chicken Breast with Tea Tomato Sauce

First I simply sliced the tomatoes. Before taste testing them with tea I tasted them plain, with soy sauce, and with a blend of soy sauce and sugar (just a tiny tiny bit, don’t tell!). Then I tried sprinkling the instant tea powder on the tomatoes. I didn’t really like the results at this point, but I had a subtle sense of what this pairing could turn into.

At this point I dumped the can of tomatoes into the Vitamix machine (a food processor or blender would work as well) with a heaping teaspoonful of the tea powder. Gave it a whir. Guess what! That was IT! I really liked the results, the tea really did enhance the tomato flavor. So I served it up with my piece of chicken breast, added some nori flakes and sliced tomato for garnish – it was tasty! Even if I were not on the diet from hell, I don’t think I would want to add anything else to this sauce, but I think it might also go well with meatballs and pasta.

Rukiiset tomaattimuffinssit black tea

Rukiiset tomaattimuffinssit black tea


The Finnish blog, Sisters Cook, rocked it out with a Rukiiset tomaattimuffinssit black tea. I am pretty confident tomattimuffinssit means something akin to “tomato muffin”.

Was it then the black thanks to the tea or not? I think it is a bit difficult to say what proportion of the black tea is a taste of the end. Although the first to separate the black tea properly when the mouth is full of muffaria, after taste is clearly yes black tea aroma. […] Maybe Assamissa would have been even more taste and half-dried tomatoes would have emphasized better than this sekoitelmani fresh and sun-dried?

Bill Trost wrote in to tell us about his lasagne making adventures:


Details on the lasagne: I made my own lasagne noodles using the pasta recipe from _La Tavola Italiano_, and throwing in a bit of homemade pesto. So much for simple! The pesto didn’t seem to add much flavor, but the pine nuts certainly added to the texture of the noodles. After spreading a thin layer of the tomato sauce on the bottom, I spread out a layer of noodles, a layer of ricotta thinned a bit with the tea so that it would spread easily, a thin layer of mozzarella, and a grating of parmigiano, and then the next layer of pasta et seq, ending with a layer of pasta, the bulk of the tomato sauce, and another grating of parmigiano. All told, it was about two eggs-worth of pasta, a pound of ricotta, a pound of mozarella, and a fair amount less parmigiano.

The lasagne I served at the dinner party was rather disappointing. The lasagne as a whole lacked depth, possibly because I didn’t bake it long enough or because I served it too soon after baking. The leftovers were much better. The sauce tasted like — well, roasted tomatoes, but the sauce never did develop any depth. The tea didn’t seem to have any impact at all.

What? You made it through the whole post? Well, here is my entry:

I made a vietnamese-ish summer roll, steeping the rice vermicelli in pot of a smoky tea (I think it was Lapsang Souchong). Then I took the tomato and just julienned it and rolled it up in rice paper with some fresh herbs, the tea infused vermicelli, and some fried tofu. The tea infused vermicelli was nice, didn’t necessarily feel any benefit for having used the tomatoes, or synergy with the tea. Also, not super inspired, but I was crazy exhausted.

TGRWT 19: Tomato And Black Tea

Special Note: We are extending the TGRWT#19 deadline to October 5th!

Hot on the heels of TGRWT18, Martin Lersch was foolish kind enough to let me host TGRWT 19. In case you’ve forgotten, They Go Really Well Together (TGRWT) is a challenge where you are encouraged to find creative ways of pairing flavors (that may sound unusual) but have one or more key odorants in common.

I’ve written and quasi-contributed to TGRWT several times, mostly cause I think it gets you thinking about food. If Michael Pollan is right, then now more than ever we need ways to inspire people to actually cook.

This isn’t a competition, as such there can be no winner and there will be no fabulous prizes.

But, maybe, just maybe, you can use this to get your creative juices going, and find your way back into your poor, neglected kitchen. I wanted to choose common ingredients that were familiar, seasonal and could still be exciting for people to riff on. I also wanted to choose things that would let our vegetarian/vegan friends contribute.

While you go and look at the fancy logo and the guideline, I’m going to go and enjoy a refreshing, venti tomato-chai latte. Ciao!

I am Jack's Fancy Logo (color coded with the ingredients).

This is how you can participate in TGRWT #19:

  1. Prepare a dish that combines tomato and black tea. You can either use an existing recipe (if there is any) or come up with your own.
  2. Take a picture of the dish and write an entry in your blog by October 1stOctober 5th with TGRWT #19 in the title. Readers will be particularly interested in how the flavour pairing worked out, so make an attempt at describing the taste and aroma and whether you liked it or not.
  3. A round-up will be posted here (with pictures). Please send an email to pablo.escolar.tgrwt@gmail.com with the following details: Your name, URL of blog, URL of the TGRWT #19 post and a picture for your entry in the round-up. If you don’t have a blog, email me your name, location, recipe and a brief description of how it worked out and I’ll be glad to include it in the final round-up.

prosciutto.

first things first. this is built on the shoulders of others.

prosciutto consomme

prosciutto consomme

fat’s rendered. stock’s clarified.

notes on prosciutto:

  1. Obtain Hocks.  ask deli person about the hocks.  don’t let them slice it.  also, sometimes you can get the superior quality prosciutto in hock form for the same price as the lesser ones. fortune favors the bold.
  2. Trim Fat and Render.  rendered prosciutto fat is amazing.  you also get prosciutto cracklings if that’s your thing. i popped the cracklings into the oven afterwards.
  3. Boyle ye meats.  you are going to think you want to add other flavors, but put the bay leaf down. be careful not to overcook. it goes from tasting like prosciutto to not in the blink of an eye
  4. (Optional) Clarify. i’m still weeks behind the interweb and using gelatin clarification.

risotto made with prosciutto stock?  sv or confit with prosciutto fat? infuse the consomme into melon? cook or pre-soak beans or pasta? serve with fish or ravioli?

Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch Reflections

Michael Pollan wrote a pretty excellent article on the rise of food related television programming contrasted with the decline of home cooking. You should read it now and then come back and finish reading this. I don’t even mind if you don’t come back.

When I read the article, I started thinking about how much of our cultural identities are passed down by home cooked meals. When families get busier (e.g. both parents working, single parents), we have the potential to lose our cultural identity. I have been thinking about what I ate as a kid, and I cannot remember a meal cooked by either of my parents that reflected our heritage. I remember baked sole, burgers, some kind of orange chicken dish, and tv/microwave dinners.

This is probably a social indictment, and/or an indictment of my all too frail memory, rather than my parents. They raised 2.75 children (I was 1.75 of a child, especially when measured in units of trouble). We just don’t have time to cook. As a result, we lose a very critical cultural connection. Now being a mutt of irish, german, russian, eastern european descent, I used to think that I was spared from the bevy of boiled vegetables and cheap cuts of meat that I think of when I think of these cuisines.

Going back a generation, I remember my grandmothers’ both cooked from their roots. I don’t remember much, but I clearly remember my grandmother’s brisket, and I could swear it was served with these crispy, roasted potatoes. Of course there were religious events like seders, which carried along the standard seder flavors. We also had Hamantashen. Potato Pancakes. Gefilte Fish. Little chocolate coins. Matzoh and of course, matzoh ball soup.

Ultimately, it just makes me think: Should I regain this culture to pass on to my children (which at this time remain imaginary)? Or will I be feeding my children Frozen PB&J’s or Flapsticks (think corn dog, but sausage wrapped in a pancake).

The Molecular Gastronomy Nomenclature Debate

Molecular Gastronomy often refers to a form of modern cuisine characterized by use of newer ingredients, techniques and equipment. Many industry folks really dislike the name, preferring Technoemotional, Spanish Avante Garde, Modernism or more truthfully, not being labelled at all. Dave Arnold sums up the reasons for this, but I will condense it for you here:

  1. Offputting. Molecular gastronomy does not sound delicious.  I think this is also why most chefs that find themselves in this bucket don’t want it to apply to them.  Out of all the reasons, this one is of particular concern.  The term discourages people from trying the food, as it sounds like food with chemical additives and that’s scary.
  2. Too encompassing.  Many of the chefs that fall into this bucket.  Dave’s example is comparing WD~50 and Alinea.  Which I actually think is a bad (or good) example, because the average diner is not going to be nuanced enough to understand the different approaches Grant and Wylie have.  
  3. And yet at the same time, inconsistently applied.  Most of the techniques used by restaurants described as MG, are also found in many 4 star restaurants in NYC.  
  4. Inaccurate.  Molecular Gastronomy as a term to explain cooking is nonsensical.

This BIiF is such a sucking chest wound, that I am finding myself (like the flesh eating virus) sucked in to offering a counter-argument.  Not because I  disagree, but cause I am disagreeable.  While the term can be totally Offputting, let’s look at the 2009 S. Pellegrino List of 50 Best Restaurants:

  1. El Bulli, Roses, Spain
  2. The Fat Duck, Bray-on-Thames, UK
  3. Noma, Copenhagen, Denmark (Chef’s Choice)
  4. Mugaritz, San Sebastián, Spain
  5. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
  6. per se, New York, US
  7. Bras, Laguiole, France
  8. Arzak, San Sebastián, Spain
  9. Pierre Gagnaire, Paris, France
  10. Alinea, Chicago, US

I count no less than 5 of the top 10 list to fall under what most people would consider the MG umbrella. My simple counter would be to say that there is a fair amount of power in being associated with a style frequently encountered in the top restaurants in the world.

With regards to being Too Encompassing, I think that, to the average diner,  one could make an argument that Wylie and Grant’s cuisines are more similar than different.  One of the reasons I think that it gets Inconsistently Applied is because most of the 4 star restaurants that use these techniques already have a label, most likely of a regional origin.  Which leaves us with Inaccurate, where I really don’t have a counter point other than to say that sometimes the wrong word sticks.  There is certainly precedent for that.

Every time I hear the “Don’t call it Molecular Gastronomy”, I am immediately reminded of every awkward occasion a friend has tried to describe a relationship to me where they don’t call someone their girlfriend because they don’t like labels. I don’t know, maybe real money is lost because people won’t go to a place that has been labelled Molecular Gastronomy.  But I think it’s avoiding the core issue.  A lot people find new things scary.  The person that doesn’t find Methyl Cellulose or Transglutaminase appealing, doesn’t want to eat it at an “Molecular Gastronomy” restaurant, a “technoemotional”  restaurant, a 4 star restaurant or even McDonalds.  

Don’t get me wrong, I try hard not to call it Molecular Gastronomy (usually opting for “Modernism”) because I respect the people that don’t like the term,  but it feels like a tempest (*) in a tea-cup.  

(*) notice how I didn’t do something cliche like say tempest-foam (***) or a tea-cup fashioned entirely out of tempest.(**)
(**) i should lose all credit for bringing it to your attention
(***) just by conjuring up the word foam, I defeat my own argument