Thursday, March 24, 2011

the great lamb experiment

so i've been meaning to post about this for a while, but tonight is the night! hurray!

so. the lamb. if you've run into me in the last few months, i've probably told you all about the lamb. i'm a little obsessed, both with the technique and the results. this lamb is probably the best lamb i've ever had. in fact, this lamb is probably one of the top five best things i've EVER made. seriously. not to be too self-congratulatory, but this lamb was incredible.

this recipe is wayne-approved.

so what makes this lamb so special? well, in short, it was my first experience with hacked sous-vide cooking. and let's just say that i am a convert. i love top chef and read a ton of food blogs, but it still took me a long time to wrap my head around the concept of sous-vide. this column on serious eats was the first one that i actually understood. and not only that, it came with instructions on how to do it at home. awesome.

so in case you don't feel like reading the post (but you really should, it's awesome), i'll go over the basics. when you cook meat, the level of 'doneness' corresponds to the final internal temperature in the center of the meat. when we cook meat in an oven or on a stovetop, we're transferring energy through the air. this is known as dry heat. when we boil something, we transfer the energy through the water. water is much more efficient at transferring heat than air is. the example used on serious eats is such: you can easily stick your hand in an oven at 300 degrees without getting hurt, but if you tried to stick that hand in a pot of boiling water (212 degrees) you'd have a pretty nasty burn.

so when we cook meat in an oven, we need to set it at a much higher temperature than our desired final internal temperature (otherwise it would take FOREVER). plus, since we're interested in the final internal temperature, the outer edges of the meat usually overcook and turn grey while we wait for the middle to reach the desired temp.

to put it very simply, the idea of sous vide is to use the efficiency of water's transfer of heat to achieve perfectly cooked meat. if you watch top chef, you've probably seen a contestant try this at some point. in a professional kitchen, the meat is vacuum-sealed in a plastic bag, then submerged in a water bath. this water bath is able to maintain a specific temperature for a long period of time. the meat is then left in the water until the entire piece reaches the desired final temperature. the beauty of this method is that the water is set at the same temperature as the desired final temperature. because of that, there is no way that the meat can overcook. the outer edges do not overcook while waiting for the middle to come to the right temperature. genius!

unfortunately those machines are crazy expensive. however, serious eats came up with a great hack - using a beer cooler to keep the water at the correct temperature. i didn't know this before, but beer coolers don't just keep cold stuff cold - they can also keep hot stuff hot. they're basically giant thermoses.  i had a rack of lamb in the freezer from my dad and my mom had gotten me a beer cooler for xmas - i really had no choice but to try the lamb.

so first i seasoned the rack of lamb with salt and pepper:

hey there salt pig!

then i filled my beer cooler up with hot water. we like our lamb medium rare, so the final temp would ideally be 125 degrees. the hot water comes out of the tap at around 115, so i just had to add some boiling water from my electric kettle to balance it out:

so then the lamb went into the plastic bags. i used freezer bags because i thought they'd be better than the regular ones. also, the recipe suggested i could put rosemary in the bags, but i figured for the first time it would be better to just taste the lamb.

so now the question of how to seal the bags? i don't exactly own a vacuum-sealer. the article suggested using displacement to squeeze the air out of the bags. i slowly lowered the bags into a bowl of water and the water displaced the air. i closed them up and surprisingly they had a really tight seal. the bags conformed to the shape of the lamb and we were good to go:

i put the bags into the beer cooler and checked the temperature of the water:


so then there was nothing really to do but wait. the lamb had to cook in the water for 45 minutes. i checked the temperature every so often to make sure it didn't drop below 125 degrees. it got close once, so i just added a little more boiling water from the kettle. also, i had some bread that was ready to go into the oven so i did that:

it came out pretty nice.

the only problem with cooking meat sous vide is that you don't get any of the delicious browning you get from putting it in the oven. the solution - sear it off in the cast iron pan!

mmm smoky.

annnd now time for the indulgent finished shots:

check out that crust!

perfect medium rare - practically no grey band.

so how did it taste? honestly - amazing. the meat was so tender that you could bite it without even pulling. plus, since the meat can't overcook in the cooler, you can hold it there for a while. so if you were having a dinner party or something (or you just wanted to wait until your stupid vegetables were finally done roasting), you could do all the work long before your guests get there. then, when you're ready you could just pull the meat out of the bags and sear it off.

so this way of cooking is awesome - ridiculously easy and also safe. i can tell you all about how the meat cooked this way is perfectly safe to eat, but it is kind of long and tedious to get into here. if you're interested, send me an email and i'll tell you all about it :)

i told my brother tommy all about this and offered to cook some for his birthday but noooo, he wants crab pasta. his loss.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

happy new year! lunar or otherwise!

so apparently i am bad at blogging. i had a feeling that i would be, but i thought that i'd at least get a few posts written before i fell out of the routine. it's officially been two months between my first two posts - blog fail.

but i'm back! with tons to write about. i think i'll use this one to hit a few highlights of the last two months without being a drag (hopefully).

so first of all, moonchild, my sourdough starter that i introduced you to last time, is dead. i am apparently as bad at being a starter mother as i am at blogging. i thought it was a pretty cool name (from the neverending story) but i guess that wasn't enough to save it from my complete inattention and lack of regular feeding. wayne wouldn't even let me try to salvage the mason jar it was in. we finally threw it out about a week ago. whoops! i'll try it again in a few weeks - i am determined to make homemade sourdough bread before spring comes and it gets too hot in our apartment to even think about turning on the stove.

so the holidays happened! they were pretty fun. not much else to say about them, but here a couple cute family pictures:

wayne and his mom

bunch of brats :)
fat bandit loves her christmas hat

'bigstrom' looking like he owns a team
 kyleigh and me :)

so then things went back to normal. 

it snowed. alot. 

i watched the shining. it was pretty scary. 

wayne and i went to atlantic city.  and i have two things to say about that:


tons of fun.

since a big part of this blog is ostensibly about my year of service, i guess i should talk about the martin luther king day of service event. the concept - mlk day should be a 'day on,' not a day off. there's a nationwide americorps project on mlk day to hand out fire safety information to at-risk populations. we chose a neighborhood in harlem with high rates of fires, and actually were able to get into some of the nycha housing locations. we handed out over 1400 fire safety door hangers and 'be red cross ready' pamphlets. it went really well, and people were surprisingly receptive to the information. we made it to the main page of the website and i was even quoted. it ended up being a really awesome day, which was really great considering all the work we put into planning it. here's a picture:

all the americorps members looking at a different camera - good job photographer wayne

so i guess i'll wrap it up by talking about my most awesome christmas present - broken social scene! wayne got us tickets for the show in january at terminal 5, and it was pretty much an awesome night all around. we went to blue fin first for some dinner and it was ammmmmazing. i've been trying to keep the food pictures out of this post (because they're getting their own post next) but here are a couple of our ridiculously indulgent dinner:

"i'm a delicious prawn! wayne ate my friend's eyeball!"

some kind of awesome cured yellowtail with cocoa nibs

top tier - king crab, lobster, shrimp ceviche, salmon tartar
lower tier - mussels, littlenecks, oysters, shrimp

so yeah, dinner was incredible. plus we had a bunch of great drinks, and it was really nice to see wayne's friends from his old restaurant. then off to the show we went, cheerfully full and buzzed. the band was crazy good and played for basically forever. also, unlike the national, they played all the songs that i yelled at them to play, so that's always good. here are some crappy pictures of the band:

great stuff. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

first post woo!

hello there! welcome! this is my blog. it is shiny and new. i've been kicking around the idea of starting a blog for a while now. i figured that joining americorps would be a great way to start one and give it some focus. of course, i started americorps over a month ago, so it seems like i'm right on schedule (for me anyway). i don't think it would be all that interesting for me to just write about americorps, so for now at least, the blog is going to be about whatever i feel like writing about. so there will probably be alot on here about food that i'm cooking (and wayne is eating). i also just got a shiny and new camera, so hopefully i won't be lazy and there will be tons of fun pictures on here (again, probably mostly of food). here's one to start:

that's my sourdough starter! i'm playing along with serious eats' sourdough starter-along series. i'm pretty excited about it since i've never even tried to do a starter before. that picture is from day one, when i mixed together 1/2 oz flour and 1 oz of water.

this is my starter today (day 3):

look! bubbles! also, it smells terrible. but that's ok, soon it will turn into delicious sourdough bread. or so they tell me. also, i apparently need to name my starter, so any suggestions are welcome. i hope that jamie will read this and provide me with a dorky/cool biology-inspired name, because i certainly don't know any.

and just to put up a picture of something that isn't fermenting (i hope), check out our new lamp!

pretty cool huh? we got it at this awesome thrift store, and we even haggled. she pretty much gave us a good price because it was a huge pain to get down and she didn't want to have to put it back up on the ceiling. it was awesome and it just makes the apartment feel so much homier. i like it.

so yeah, this is my blog. and as they teach you never to say in public speaking (or at least mr. ris did), i guess that about wraps it up. thanks for reading my rambling!