Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cupcake Experiments

So I was having some people over for dinner and wanted to whip up a quick dessert.  I had some cupcake mix but that's so plain.  What else did I have in my fridge?  Lots of eggs and some cream.  So with inspiration from these pictures, what did I do but try and make some different styles of creme brulee cupcakes!

I decided that there were 2 different methods I was interested in trying:
1. Pre-baking the cupcake slightly and pouring the creme brulee mix on top
2. Pouring the creme brulee mix directly on top of the cupcake batter

Since the cupcake pan has 4 rows, I also tried a normal cupcake batter row and a normal creme brulee mix row.

Here we can see the different cupcake mixes.  The top row was baked for about 5 minutes at 350 degrees F.  The middle row and third row are just cupcake batter and the fourth row has nothing in it yet.

As for the creme brulee mix, I used the first few steps of Alton Brown's recipe (except I didn't have a vanilla bean so I just put in some vanilla extract).  I think it was a mistake to use a hand mixer because of all the bubbles created, but I didn't feel like beating everything by hand with a whisk, so oh well.

Here is after the creme brulee mix has been added to rows 1, 2 and 4.  In the first row it seemed that it mixed slightly but for the most part stayed on top.  If I were going to do it again I would have baked the first row longer before adding the creme brulee.  In the second row, the creme brulee mixed pretty well with the cupcake batter.  As you can see in the fourth row, the creme brulee mix was way too foamy.

Then I proceeded to bake the cupcake platter placed inside a cookie sheet that was half full of water, approximately 30 minutes, until the creme brulee in the fourth row looked set.

A very interesting set of cupcakes, indeed.  As would be expected, the second row looks most mixed.  The creme brulee mix doesn't seem to have sat on the top of the first row, though, probably due to not having baked the underlying cupcake batter enough at first.

A cupcake from the first row.  Oddly enough it looked like the cupcake batter floated to the top around the edges and at the bottom is more of a pure creme brulee mix.  Even though it might not look that appetizing it was quite delicious.

This is a cupcake from the second row.  Much better integration between the creme brulee and the cupcake batter.  This was my favorite by far.  It tasted like a creme brulee flavored cupcake and was super moist.

A normal cupcake from the third row.  I think baking it in a water bath created more steam in the oven, which led to a thicker, more pronounced crust on the top.  The crust also seemed stickier, like it retained more moisture.  Interesting, although I think I'd rather have a normal cupcake in this case.

Overall they were very delicious, as any concoction of egg, sugar, and cream is likely to be.  But I definitely preferred the row 2, mix all at once creme brulee cupcake.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reheating Sous Vide Beef

Because I've been using sous vide to cook a lot of meat lately, invariably there are leftovers.  So I asked myself, what's the best way to reheat the meat?

Probably the absolute best way would be to bring it back to serving temperature in a water bath.  But that seems like it would take too long.  And waste too many of my plastic bags.

Instead, I decided to try out 3 different methods:
  1. Microwave - quick and dirty method normally used for reheating a variety of foods.
  2. Pan fry - reheat and get some more crust, but will it overcook it?
  3. Blowtorch - reheat the outside very quickly and create additional crust, but will it warm the whole thing?
Here we have 3 pieces of meat straight out of the refrigerator.  You can see the congealed fat (yum!).

Here are those same 3 pieces after each has been reheated according to one of the methods above.  Can you guess which piece was reheated in which manner?

The microwave method took about a minute.  I was afraid of overcooking the meat before heating it to a good temperature since the slices weren't that thick to begin with.  After 30 seconds in a rotating microwave, some of the congealed fat still hadn't melted, so I did an additional 30 seconds.  I heard it pop the second time, so I'm thinking maybe 20 seconds, rest, 20 seconds might be a good amount in the future.

The pan fry method took about a minute on each side once the pan with some butter had been heated to medium low.  I actively pressed down on the meat a bit to create some extra crust.  It certainly smelled delicious.

The blowtorch method took all of 30 seconds.  I torched each side for a little while until it looked like the fat on the outside had all melted and the piece browned a little.

Which method did I like the best?  Surprisingly, it was a tie between the pan fry method and the microwave method.  The pan fry method had an amazing crust but the meat was a bit tougher on the inside.  The microwave method was super tender and definitely the juiciest of the three, but with no crust.

Sadly, the blowtorch method failed to produce a better crust than the pan fry method and also failed to reheat the meat entirely through.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sous Vide Tri-Tip Roast

I took a different (cheaper) cut of meat, a roast that you would normally (over)cook in an oven or slow cooker for an extended period of time to tenderize it and sous vided it for 24 hours at 146 degrees F.

The result?  Amazingly tender meat!  It seriously tasted like a good steak.

And what was just the icing on the cake of this deliciously prepared steak was the juice from the meat.  Pure goodness ... just like the jellied stock from the brisket post.  Except this time I simply served it on the side, meat au jus!

This meat was also accompanied by some vegetables (shocking, I know ...).  Some swiss chard sautéed with some of the au jus!

Green = good, right??

Finished meal:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sausage Casserole

Perfect for those lazy Saturday morning brunches!  I love brunch, btw, I think it's probably my favorite meal ever.  That or breakfast.

Necessary ingredients:

First, brown the sausage!

Then, mix the sausage to the frozen hash browns and add some cheese!

Stir with abandon!

I like to use the hot Italian sausage in this case because I feel it really adds a nice kick to the finished casserole.  Mmm!

In a separate bowl, scramble 4-6 eggs (also depending on how much of the hash browns you used - I think I used about 2/3rds of the bag) with some milk/cream.

Mix everything together and pour into a 9x13 casserole dish.  Bake covered for approximately 30 minutes and then uncovered until the top browns slightly (or until you think it's done ... there's plenty of room for adjustments)!

The biscuits are an optional but tasty addition, especially if you put the mixture inside the biscuit like a breakfast sandwich!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Quick Dinner and the 5 Hour Egg

So one day I got home and had approximately 20 minutes to make and eat dinner before I had to leave again.  What was I to do??

I opened the fridge and surveyed the contents ... pulling out the things that looked tasty to me:
- 1 bag of spinach
- 1 kielbasa
- 1 block white cheddar cheese
- 1 container teriyaki sauce

Then I set about combining the ingredients in a delicious manner:
  1. Slice the kielbasa - easy enough, right?
  2. Toss into a pan with a little oil over medium heat
  3. Rinse the spinach and put into a bowl
  4. Add the sauteed keilbasa
  5. Shred some cheese on top
  6. Drizzle some teriyaki sauce over the mixture
Total hardware used: 1 pan, 1 knife, 1 cutting board, 1 grater.
Total time used: ~5 minutes
Taste: amazingly delicious!

To me, this dish works because of all the contrasts.  The cool crisp greens and the warm tender kielbasa, the sweet tanginess of the teriyaki sauce and the creamy goodness of the slightly melted cheddar cheese.

Some Saturday after that, when I had more time, I decided I would try another extreme experiment, this time with eggs!  I had come across this post earlier and so I thought I'd try it.

It's pretty easy!

Oven -> 200 degrees or so.
Eggs -> into oven.

Wait 5 hours!

Very interesting flavors.  I could definitely taste the "nuttiness" and "browned flavors" that were talked about, but I'd say it's not worth 5 hours except as a novelty thing.

I'll have to try this again, except in more controlled temperature conditions - sous vide, perhaps?  =]

Maybe like this.  4 hours at 154 deg F, here I come!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beef Brisket Sous Vide

I think this is my new favorite meat dish.  It also doesn't hurt that Trader Joe's packages it in a vacuum sealed bag, which means almost no work for me!

Gotta love the pre-sealed meats:

I'm still experimenting with the time/temperature profile, but here's a few ways I've done it so far:

176 degrees F, ~36 hours.

Sorry, I didn't get any pre-sear pictures.  The meat was so falling-apart-tender that at one point when I was cutting it, it just fell apart rather than be sliced.  Slightly dry for my taste, actually, but still quite delicious.  Most of the fat had melted into the juices that were in the bag.

By the way, saving the juices and putting them in the refrigerator (once cooled) yields superb jellied stock (after you remove the fat layer):

The next time I tried to make brisket, I did ~12 hours at 176 F and another 24 at 146 F.  This was probably a step up from the 36 hours at 176 F, because the meat held together better and did not taste dry at all, but it had still melted most of the fat.  Sorry there aren't any pictures, I ate it too fast!

146 degrees F, 48 hours.  Perhaps the best one yet.

Here's what it looked like straight out of the Sous Vide Supreme:

There was plenty of juice in the bag to make a gravy.  At first I tried to pour it through the holes on the roasting pan I had, but that didn't work so well, so I just poured it directly into the bottom:

Here's the meat out of the bag, pre-sear:

I love this blowtorch.  A nice, strong flame.  Except that when searing the side of the brisket that had a layer of fat, the fat would actually burn and create some smoke, which is a bad thing for me since I live in a studio.  So, the fatty side did not get as much searing as I would have liked.

But I'm not really complaining that much.  Looks good, doesn't it?

A little slice of beefy goodness:

I think I let the stock reduce too much before adding some butter.  I only ended up with this much gravy (thank goodness it ended up being enough!):

Awesomely delicious!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Previous Experiments

So I thought I'd check out blogspot and see if I like it.  All of my previous experiments are located at my old blog.

Here are some good ones:
Here are all my posts on sous-vide cooking: