Save Spots the goldfish and make balsamic pearls – check

Just the average day in the Stuart family, started with a melt down at 6:25 am, went on to broken bathroom lights, filling out kindergarten registration paperwork, making my first gellification and ending with another meltdown followed by the fish floating on his back.

Lets start with the gellification, I’m having some friends over for dinner on Friday and I decided to make a micro green salad with balsamic pearls. Because they can be made ahead I decided to spend the few free minutes I had before taking the kids to gymnastics making balsamic pearls. You start by taking the cheapest olive oil you can find and pouring it in a deep and somewhat narrow container. I used an old square vase I had gotten Mother’s Day flowers in. I got the cheapest utter crap olive oil I could find at Trader Joes. Now put that olive oil in the freezer for 30 minutes. Next heat balsamic with agar powder on the stove till it begins to boil. Now put it in an huge syringe and squirt it into the cold olive oil. Stir it around a bit, fish the stuff out with a strainer and put in water to rinse off the olive oil. Now you can put them in a container in the fridge and use whenever you want. They were fast and easy and made perfect shiny little black balsamic pearls that resemble caviar. Seriously the whole thing including prep took me less than 20 minutes and you can make a bunch and do tons of things with them. I look like such a rock star to my husband and it was so easy!

After my molecular success the day pretty much went downhill. It ended when I came back in the kitchen after putting Miley to bed to find her goldfish spots floating on his back. But much like in The Meaning of Life, spots wasn’t dead yet. Luckily he just had gas. Yes I have come to understand that fish fart and if they eat too much they can get blocked up and not be able to fart. So I gave spots a frozen pea for fiber and put out strick orders that nobody is to feed him for 3 days. Spots has been saved, the balsamic pearls are fantastic and all is well in the world.

Octo-fest!

Sorry i have been taking a mothers day break so I haven’t been writing and this has been sitting in my drafts folder all week.

Tuesday night 4 people devoured an entire 6 lb octopus. The conclusion is that 19 hours in the sous vide at 165 was amazing but next time we will stop some at 12, some at 14 and some at 16 to compare. 19 hours was so tender it was amazing in salads and just eaten cold but it presented problems on the grill. the skin had become so gelatinous it stuck impossibly to,the grill and the meat didn’t have enough left to hold up. We did carpaccio with sriracha and lime but it was so soft we could not get a true think carpacio. the taste was fantastic but presentation was off a bit. We served some cold on arugula salad, with lemon and olive oil. The best was thinly sliced with lime and sriracha rooster and sliced jalapeño peppers. I will be getting another octopus very soon. Sorry for the lack of pictures but we could not start till my four year old went to bed so it was dark and the pictures were not appealing. Fear not we will do this again and I will have better presentation and pictures.

Sous vide success !

The 19 hour sous vide octopus is a smashing success! We took out one of the yummy umami tentacles and simply sliced it over some lemon, sprinkled with paprika and chowed down. It is fantastic. Perfect texture! We also got out our sriracha and dabbed some on top because we thought it could use some heat. We have tons of ideas for this and we are having some friends over tomorrow to try our little experiment. Check out Wednesday for the update.

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Blame it on the Wine!

Last night I had my first big flop in molecular gastronomy. I wanted to make mozzarella spheres but I had a couple of problems. #1 we had gone out to dinner with the kids and had some wine, got my daughter to bed late and got started around 9PM after some wine and cocktails. #2 my scale died. Note to self – never ever attempt molecular gastronomy without a scale. I know it might seem intuitive that just winging it isn’t something you should do with anything starting with the word molecular but I really really wanted to do it and thought it would be a good experiment. Today my husband gave me a crash course in our sous vide supreme and we prepared a sous vide of octopus. I will post about that later. In the mean time I’ve got a little sodium algenate mess to clean up and a fridge full of liquid mozzarella.

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Best Ever Sous Vide Butternut Squash

IMG_7509When it’s chilly outside I keep plenty of this butternut squash lightly flavored with sage stocked in my fridge.  It takes minutes to prepare and the bags will keep a good month or even more in your fridge.  You can serve it as a side all by itself, put it on a fall salad, toss with some barley or farrow, add it to risotto or heat it up with some chicken stock and toss in the blender for a fast weeknight soup.

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For those of you who “follow me” I realize there hasn’t been much to follow recently.
Sorry I’ve been MIA lately but our kitchen currently looks like this.  We are in the exciting (terrifying) process of rebuilding our home!  Oh the joy of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, the fights between our contractor and our architect, the money draining from our bank account at a startling rate.  I could go on for days, but of course you’re here for the food.

Butternut squash is pretty much at the end of the season but you can still find it in the market in some areas and for some reason Trader Joe’s never seems to run out of the stuff! Most conveniently they’ve got it already peeled and chopped into perfect cubes for you so by all means take the shortcut.  I like to make things more difficult than they need to be so I instead shlep to the farmer’s market for the squash and then peel and cut myself.  I also walk uphill in the snow the entire way.

I do these in large batches and so that I have a good stock on hand.  It’s my daughter’s absolute favorite side and I find it incredibly versatile.

Here’s the super complicated (and by complicated I mean my 7 year old could do it) directions:

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  1.  Preheat the Sous Vide to 180.  If you are serving right out of the bag and want them less firm cook at 185.  I like them more firm so that they reheat well.
  2. Chop the peeled squash into cubes
  3. Put them into food saver bags
  4. Add 1 or 2 leaves of sage
  5. Add a pinch of salt
  6. Add a very small drizzle of olive oil
  7. Vacuum seal the bags
  8. Put in the preheated water bath.
  9. Pour yourself a glass of wine and watch some TV for 45 minutes to an hour
  10. Remove from the bath and refrigerate till ready to use

 

Freaking fantastic sous vide asparagus

IMG_4968I had never even considered cooking asparagus sous vide.  After all it doesn’t need to be cooked for a long time, it’s easy enough to steam and I didn’t really see the need to infuse it with other flavors.  That all changed the other day when I was doing a large batch of veggies, it was time to cook dinner and I realized it would be easier to just vacuum pack my stalks and toss them in the pot.  I simply can not believe the difference in flavor.  They are more intense and more mild at the same time.  They actually taste fresher for lack of a better term.  I will not be hauling out the water bath every time I want to make some nice asperagus but if I’m already cooking sous vide I will certainly toss in some of these wonderful stalks and enjoy.

Step One – heat up sous vide water bath to 185

Step Two – Add asparagus, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt to a bag and vacuum seal.

Step Three – Put in the water for 15 minutes

Step Four – Plunge the bag into ice water for a few minutes.  Open bag and enjoy.  I grated some lemon zest over mine before serving.

Popping Grapes

20140110-085003.jpgMy wonderful husband got me an isi gourmet whip for Christmas and I decided it was time to play.  I had co2 cartridges and grapes so I made carbonated grapes as my second experiment (I made whipped cream the day after Christmas but I can’t post those pictures). The secret to carbonated is…owning an isi whipping syphon. That and cold.  Cold allows Co2 to get into food on a molecular level.  No cold, no fizz.  You need to chill both the whip and the grapes completely.   Then you need to put in 2 Co2 cartridges being sure to hold down the handle to expel gas after the 1st cartridge but not the second.  20140110-084914.jpgThis gets rid of the air at the top of the canister so that it is completely filled with Co2.  The  Co2 must now make it’s way into the fruit so you refrigerate the whole thing on it’s side.  Grapes take 8-10 hours to carbonate and last about 10 minutes so serve immediately.  Once we expelled the gas and pulled them from the canister they were sizzling and whistling with co2. They taste almost like fermented grapes. We paired them with some Pt. Reyes blue cheese, but we immediately thought…sangria!

 

 

 

 

 

Grandma ‘the butcher’

20130913-215408.jpgAfter a morning hosting my daughter’s 5th birthday party we did what most families do, we butchered a rabbit. Having purchased two wild Scottish hare from a restaurant food purveyor, we now needed to butcher the creatures and then sous vide the bunny parts. My mother is particularly good with a knife so we enlisted her help. I don’t think my daughter is scarred for life by the image of grandma shoving her hand into the bloody caracas of Thumper, but I might be. Don’t go up against grandma in a knife fight kids!

Young adult Thumper thumping his foot from Bambi
Young adult Thumper thumping his foot from Bambi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We looked up how to carve up the bunny on the internet and grandma went to town. My vegetarian sister almost threw up when she pulled out the heart, lungs and other bits.  We should have had a plan for those and cooked them up in some amazing gourmet interpretation of offal, but we had no idea what to do, so we just roasted them for our very lucky dog.

One thing to note.  Don’t start a process like this without a LOT of time on your hands.  We were really rushing things at the end and it was not ideal.   Here’s the thing,  bunny parts are small.  Very small.  They are hard to work with and for us non butchers hard to identify.  We had a little assembly line going with Grandma cutting up the parts.  My husband and I bagging them and putting in other ingredients then vacuum sealing with the food saver.

We put some in bags with wine, garlic, and rosemary.  Some got a beer and mustard mix with garlic.   Some just got salt and pepper and a dash of olive oil.  We put olive oil in all of them because the rabbit is such a lean meat.  Then we put in the sous vide.  We tossed it all in a bath at 145 (I think) but we left them in way way too long.  We left them in overnight  if memory serves but to be honest with all the present unwrapping and kids melting down I’m not entirely sure.  I somehow lost my notes in the process so I’m sort of winging it (did I mention that I’m a fairly shitty scientist?)   What I do know is that the taste was amazing but the texture was not.  Most of the parts were too soft although the legs and thighs were quite nice.  Turns out  it’s important to correctly identify the parts and cook them separately and at different temps.   Something called the “saddle” apparently doesn’t sous vide well at all.  I suppose I should have made a rabbit stew with all the bits that are too delicate to sous vide, but did I mention this was the day of my daughter’s birthday party?

Stefan’s Gourmet Blog did a great rabbit test  and he concluded that for farmed rabbit 8 hours at 165 was like a traditional braise.   Next time I will listen to Stefan!  I was cooking wild hare, not farmed rabbit so it would be more tough to begin with and would require more experimentation.  We had very very mixed results and because I can’t find my notes we’re going to have to repeat this the next time grandma comes to town and we feel like traumatizing my sister.

I’d chalk this one up to a fail…but a really tasty fail.  What I can say for sure is that the red wine, garlic and rosemary was fantastic as was the beer and mustard mix.  Both equally tasty and I’d do it again but only with the legs and thighs.

Molecular Mondays

I had these big grand ideas to have Molecular Monday, cooking and experimenting the whole time my daughter was at preschool. It was gonna be great. I had a list of things to experiment with and I just got some cool new supplies I had ordered at molecularrecipes.com. But of course I’m a mom so nothing happened the way it was supposed to. I mangled my foot and possibly broke a toe last week playing tag with my daughter in the house so I had doctor appointments to make. The dog has to get to the vet for her laser therapy and acupuncture. Yes I just said my dog is getting acupuncture. It get better. I’m seeing a board certified vet with special board certification in veterinary acupuncture and her office is 3 blocks from my house. Only in California! Then I had to give her a shot for her arthritis. Adaquan is a miracle drug! Then I had to clean the house and unpack from the Mother’s Day weekend we spent in Palm Springs. Then I had phone calls to make to get doctors forms filled out for school registration. I’m mildly panicked that I’m late to register for kindergarten at this point. Hopefully they have to take me because we are a block from the school. Then it was time to pick my daughter up and take her to therapy for her sensory processing disorder.

My box of additives and films to make clear ravioli are languishing on the counter. The recipes I have bookmarked are mocking me. I briefly thought about jumping in last night after my daughter was asleep but I had animals to feed, a kitchen to clean and lunch and breakfast to prep for. Sigh. I will try again tonight. My goal tonight is balsamic pearls and at least one cocktail. Wish me luck.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today I was treated to a full 15 extra minutes of rest…sort of. After my little angle came in excited to show me everything at 5 minute intervals my wonderful family got me something I bet was not on every mom’s list…popping sugar. I’m already looking up eclipse and will be back to the kitchen lab on Monday.

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