Every once in a while, it’s nice to be able to sit down to something that’s less science experiment and more… well, comfort food. Alton Brown’s curry chicken pot pie is one such dish. Back in the States, G and I would buy a Costco roast chicken just so that we could have breast meat to use for this recipe. Since there isn’t exactly a plethora of Costco’s or cheap (western) roast chicken, I haven’t had a chance to make pot pie until recently when I was “gifted” 4 kg of turkey breast. But that’s a story for another day.
It’s been awhile since I’ve had time to cook/bake anything of interest. Truth be told, G and I have been so busy with the baby countdown and personal to-do checklists (buy baby stuff, clean baby clothes, change jobs, more baby stuff) before D(elivery)-Day that we’ve eaten out a bit too much (also on our to-do list: top 10 ramen joints, Andre…). Still, I did find some time last week to try and make a more “local” macaron.
Kaya is a spread (made from coconut milk, egg, sugar, and pandan leaves) that is great with butter on toasted bread. The first time I ever tried it was actually back in SF. G was so excited to find it available at our local Ranch 99. Here in Singapore, there are definitely more varieties of kaya that range in taste and color, from brown to green. I’m not enough of a connoisseur to tell you where to find the best kaya, and so I normally just reach in the fridge and grab whatever is available.
I made a duck breast confit ala sous vide the other night using some leftover duck fat (more on that in a future post). This was the first time cooking the breast meat (as well as deboning an entire duck), and it couldn’t have turned out better. The meat was evenly cooked, incredibly juicy and tender. Normally picky cousin L ate half of the plate for her dinner, and G skipped the sauce that I made. This will definitely be a repeat dish.
Instructions: Dry rub duck breasts with salt, pepper, and thyme for 24 hours. Sous vide 57.5 °C for two hours in duck fat. Then pan fry to crisp the skin. Enjoy!
I was planning to sous vide another batch of pork belly when G pointed me to a (then recent) post on making sio bak (aka siew yuk) from I Eat I Shoot I Post. Hmm… same meat and cut, can brine with the same spices, and both are superb in part because of the texture contrast. Hence the birth of the sous vide roast pork (烧肉) frankenrecipe. The end result is a roast that is incredibly moist and buttery soft ala sous vide combined with the crisp crunchy crust of a traditional siew yuk.
Wholly unnecessary? Probably. Oh-so tasty? Definitely!
To familiarize myself with how to make traditional siew yuk, I did a quick search to learn how others approached this dish. It turns out there are more home recipe variations than there are dialect names (and spellings) for this roasted delicacy. In the end, I stuck with I Eat’s directions because of its elegant simplicity (though the photos for this other recipe are damn inspiring).
… you take the opportunity to experiment. Scallops (specifically Hokkaido-originated ones) are at the top of G and I’s favorite seafood list, so it was with mixed emotions that the family was recently “gifted” with a large bag of frozen jumbo scallops. As fans of Top Chef might recall, this particular shellfish is a very different ingredient to work with frozen, and taste-wise they just can never compare to the “fresh” alternatives.
A quick search for “chawanmushi recipes” yields thousands of results that have one thing in common: vague cooking instructions. The actual recipes themselves are more or less the same: 3 parts dashi (with mirin/soy sauce) to 1 part beaten egg, plus additional ingredients. Steaming the mixture however, is an entirely different matter. Most of the recipes found on the first page have vague descriptions, like steam for 10-12 minutes on medium heat. One helpful recipe explains that low heat is important for creating silky smooth chawanmushi (doesn’t overcook, less bubbles). The problem is that terms like medium heat, or test with toothpick means plenty of trial and error. Continue reading
Inspired by a conversation last evening with the always entertaining T & A, I did a bit of follow-up research on a topic near and dear: sous-vide and meat. A mentioned that a chef had said that searing helps to trap juices and improves flavor when cooking with sous-vide. It’s a widely debunked myth that searing hels to seal in moisture. In fact, experiments show the opposite to be true. Furthermore, one of the advantages of sous-vide is that it can cook proteins at the optimal temperature to help retain most of its juices, thus making searing for this purpose redundant.
What I did wonder however, was whether searing first before sous-vide had any benefit to the flavor. Afterall, the real reason to sear meat is to give it that wonderful caramelized crust and flavor (via the Maillard reaction). Fortunately, thanks to the internet and Serious Eats, my question had already been answered. In short, no. Searing, pre-cooking, has no noticeable impact on the flavor of the meat, and since you’ll want to sear it after the sous-vide, there’s doubly no reason to do the same thing twice.
And there you have it – searing is still great, but you should just do it at the end.
Additional resources on sous-vide:
This was one of my earlier experiments using the Sous Vide Supreme- veal shank ala osso bucco with vegetables and a mashed potato. What I liked about this dish was that this and other similar ones could be made into quick and easy meals for those busy workdays. You could cook a batch in advance and then toss the individual portions directly into the freezer (already vacuum sealed) for easy reheat later. Since meats cook at a lower temperature than vegetables, you can toss your veggies and broth in without worrying about overcooking.
This pork belly is based on the Heston Blumenthal sous vide technique for making 36 hour Pork Belly. The brine I used is a simplified version of a recipe from a cooking class at ToTT taught by Stephan Zoisl. Unfortunately, there is no online recipe for the brine, but a quick search on “pork belly sous vide” will return a number of great posts and how-tos (two of which I’ve included below).
The general cooking process for tasty sous vide pork belly is as follows: brine the belly, sous-vide, sear/boil the skin, and serve.