Cooking With Joy: Update #4
For my fourth update in the adventures of my 2013 resolution, I made 2 new recipes from The 4-Hour Chef and would like to revisit a couple things from the past. The two recipes I did from the book were Sexy-Time Steak and Gazpacho. They are split up in the book by a dinner party, but since I have already done that (and successfully I might add) I skipped it here. I did however use a note from the section on throwing a dinner party to help with preparing the steak for my whole family. Before we get to the main recipes I'd like to talk about my scrambled eggs experiments and revisit last week's Bittman Chinese Chicken with Bok Choy.
Scramble Eggs and Flavor Combinations
At this point I've pretty much come to the end of the flavor combinations that I'm going to try at the moment. I haven't tried all of them, but the ones in bold are all taken care of. I just thought I would share some of my favorites that I have already come back to often.
France, Italy, Greece flavorings - These olive oil based flavorings are all very similar and very light flavorings compared to some of the others. As I said in last week's post, this helped me get past boring pasta noodles with the kids.
Vietnam flavoring was a surprise win for me. A simple mix of fish sauce (which I had never used before) and lemon. Not only does this make the eggs I've been experimenting taste good, but they make the color of the eggs, if you make them as recommended in this book, an amazing yellow that just makes you want to eat them.
Some other win flavorings that I'm a fan of are, in no particular order; Chinese, Nepal and Mexican. Let me know if you'd like the very simple combinations to make these flavorings. I'd be happy to share.
Leftovers and Bittman Chinese Chicken
I still had some leftover fake confit sauce from last week and I had to cook dinner for just me and my son who loved the chicken dinner we had then. That was an easy enough dinner to do so I did it again and this time used regular bok choy instead of baby bok choy. First off, not having to make the sauce again made this dinner extremely simple. My recommendation for anyone else following in my footsteps, make too much fake confit so that you have to make it again soon. The chicken was just as good as I remembered. The regular bok choy did make a difference though. It was still a decent looking garnish to make the dish look good but it wasn't something I found very edible. The baby bok choy was.
On a side note with more info to come later, I a little more chicken than I needed for just the two of us. I also, still had a little extra fake confit sauce left over. I just put the chicken and the sauce together in a Lock & Lock container with plan to have that for myself. I'll let you know how that turns out in a future post. If you'd like to find out sooner, watch my twitter feed.
The new meals
Before I get to notes on the new meals a couple important notes. I knew the steak would be a major undertaking as there were many importantly timed steps. The only reason I decided to go with 2 recipes is because gazpacho is served cold and could easily be made the night before. With this I got to do the early prep for the steak at the same time as all the work for the gazpacho.
In The 4-Hour Chef this is paired with roasted garlic, which I didn't do. Because of this, I only got to do one of the 2 skills in this section. It was a good skill though, immersion blender. My newest kitchen toy needed to be put to use and that was probably the bigger push for me to do this recipe this week. Though the immersion blender is the biggest part of this recipe there is more than that which I got out of it.
First of all, my knife speed and accuracy is improving. For this recipe I had to cut up the cucumber and bell pepper. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability at both. I have been focusing a lot on proper technique when I've been cutting things with a knife all week. I also got a chance to teach my six year old about what a garlic press is for. It was interesting to him, but he didn't want to taste the garlic by itself.
Before I start with the immersion blender bit I'm going to write something up front that I wish was written up front in the book. Do this in batches, don't make the whole recipe at once. Make half the recipe at a time. I made the recipe as written and my chopper attachment was just a bit too small, even with my ultra precise measuring, and I made a mess. This led to the following twitter post and a response by the twitter account of an immersion hand blender.
— Daryl Ducharme (@diacre) February 3, 2013
— CSB-76SmartStick (@CSB76SmartStick) February 3, 2013
Okay, so making a mistake is a great way to learn. So achievement unlocked in that area. The immersion blender worked like a charm and had no problem blending the diced tomatoes, sliced cucumber and chopped bell pepper. I've got a good idea on how far to fill the chopper attachment for future soups and sauces. Fun note about this recipe, it calls for the use of the kitchen scale to get about half the weight of tomatoes for your bell pepper and cucumber. I was very proud of myself for getting exactly half of both ingredients. All that pride went away with the leaking all over the counter that I had to clean, and clean, then clean some more because of the oil in the recipe.
Not surprisingly, gazpacho didn't play wonderfully with the family. Both kids tried it and stopped eating it after that. The flavor was strong so I can't completely fault them on that. My wife did find it interesting and ate quite a bit more than I expected. She abhors bell peppers so I didn't let her know the ingredients right away. Not a big deal, its a back pocket recipe that doesn't take much to put together. I could make it in a pinch for something different.
This recipe was there to teach the skills of dry brining and using the probe thermometer. Dry brining is nice for 2 reasons. The first, it allows you to brine your meat without the chance of it getting water logged. Second, I was able to do this step without even touching the meat by using the 3 fingered pinch of salt method to put salt on the meat. I still washed my hands though because I did touch the steak wrapping.
Dry brining is pretty cool, however this might have led to me nicknaming this salty-time steak instead of sexy-time steak. Probably not the brining steps fault, but there is a pickup step where you rub the steak with half a garlic clove then put some pepper and salt on the steak. In the part about putting salt and pepper on the steak he writes, "If you want to get all sciency, use 0.5%...Personally, I just coat the sucker. It's hard to overdo it." He's wrong. It is easy to overdo the salt. Next time I make this recipe I'll leave out the salt on this step and see if that solves my problem.
The next part of this steak recipe has you elevating the steak on plates. He recommends using a cake rack(which you might have from a previous recipe) or pencils. I had one cake rack and I wasn't going to use pencils under raw meat (I like pencils, they are useful) so I looked around and came up with a good idea if you've ever been to an Chinese or fast food restaurant. Chopsticks and strong, thick straws work just as well as pencils for this step. If you've been collecting them when you've gone out, now is the time to use them.
The recipe in the book really talks about making just one steak. Probably to be split between you and your date from the way the chapter is written. However, I have a wife and 2 kids so I had to be creative and cook 4 steaks. For the kids I got thin sliced steaks. I probably could have just done 3 and and cut the one for them in half and timing the meat would have been easier. I used a throwaway sentence from the section on throwing the dinner party to help manage it all though. I ended up using the two parts of my dutch oven for double the surface area to make the extra steaks all at the same time.
Final note on the recipe related to the skill of probe thermometer. For my experience, the temp he says to cook it at has the meat extremely rare. Probably too rare. He does write that it is best to plan on under cooking the meat as you can always cook it longer. That's what I ended up doing so that mindset worked well. Overcooked steak is very unsatisfying.
Despite the length of my writing and the amount of time it takes to dry brine the meat, this steak technique is still fairly simple. I was easily able to adapt it to feed more than 1 or 2 people. I wouldn't do much more though. I will definitely be making steak again in the future. Hopefully reducing the amount of salt used in the brining and freezer drying steps will help the saltiness factor. Gazpacho is a strongly flavored dish that I probably won't make too often. However, I did learn a valuable lesson about using my immersion blender and that's what I was supposed to learn in that section.
I missed a couple things I wanted to make this week: Roasted garlic and The Eggocado. I hope to make these during the week and will write about them in my next update. If you can't wait, follow me on twitter as I'll probably say something about it between now and then.