Culinary Innovation

No this blog isn’t about pressure cooking, it’s about cooking product under vacuum. The term sous vide is a French term, meaning under vacuum. It is a cooking technique where vacuum-sealed food is immersed in a water bath and cooked at an extremely accurate temperature. This technique involves cooking food for longer periods of time at a lower temperature. The accurate temperature allows you to cook food to perfection, this also eliminates concerns about over cooking. This innovation in the culinary industry is extremely simple and fool-proof, and produces amazing results.

This innovation was developed in the mid-1970s by chef Georges Pralus. He was the chef at the renowned Michelin Three-Star Restaurant, Troisgros, in Roanne, France. He used this technique as a means of minimizing costly shrinkage of product and maximizing more bang for his buck. In the last two decades, sous vide has become more popular. It has enabled more chefs to use them as a tool to increase their own creativity. The technique of sous vide cooking relies on the ability of water to transfer heat to food. To cook in a traditional oven, in heated air or on a hot piece of metal, the temperature must be set much higher than the desired cooked temperature of the food. Because of this, timing becomes quite critical. With the sous vide method, because water transfers heat to and through vacuum/sealed food about 10 times more efficiently than air does, the food can cook gently and precisely at the desired serving temperature, without ever exceeding it. There is just one thing to remember, just because chefs are using this application doesn’t mean the ever day home cook can’t also use this. Many stores now sell this technology. Williams Sonoma sells a multiple variety of them ranging from different places (and yes I’m advertising for my workplace).

Why sous vide? It’s a new and unique way of cooking that yields different and better results. Products cooked sous vide develop flavors and textures that simple cannot be duplicated using any other cooking method. Yes these machines can be expensive but you get tons of benefits with them. The main benefits is that it’s easy and fool-proof and you get perfect results ever time. You get the gourmet taste that you get in a restaurant full of flavours. It’s also very hands-off cooking. You just set it up and walk away. You get additional nutrients from the natural juices that are retained in the sealed bag. And with spending the money to buy a sous vide you also save money because you tenderize inexpensive cuts of meat while stiff getting the expensive taste. It just takes 3 simple steps; season and seal your product, simmer your pouches in the water bath, and serve. The final step could have another step where you can give a quick sear on a hot skillet to get a beautiful golden colour and caramelized flavour.

This is a pretty awesome technological innovation in the culinary industry in my opinion. It always chefs to play a lot with flavours and colours. I know what I know from working at Williams Sonoma. We have a few sous vide machines and I’m able to help customers know more about it just because of how interested I am about it. You can cook so many things from steak and fish, to carrots and eggs. The ideas and recipes are limitless. The store also offers classes or demonstrations to people who are interesting in learning or buying product. We had a demo with the PolyScience machine that we sell where we did poached eggs.They were delicious and cooked perfectly. I can honestly say that when I get the smaller machine in stock or when I can afford the medium sized sous vide I will be definitely be buying one and inviting people over for gourmet dinner. In conclusion I firmly believe that the sous vide will not be a trend but an innovation that is here to stay.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/recipe/sous-vide-poached-eggs.html

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/polyscience-professional-sous-vide-thermal-circulator/

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Becoming a Vegetarian is a HUGE Missed Steak

This month, we were challenged to try out a diet for three days and record what we ate. As per the title, I went with a bit of a cop out and decided to try being a vegetarian; it seemed like an easy choice, what with having little time to research and design a meal plan. I certainly learned a few things along the way. For one thing, a vegetarian diet can definitely be healthier. Sure, you can be a vegetarian and eat nothing but cake, Coke, French fries, and salads slathered in dressing, but generally any restriction placed on a person’s normal diet will result in fewer calories consumed. Vegetarians also tend to steer clear of fast food and many calorie-rich restaurant meals. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet can be more environmentally friendly. Raising animals for meat is a major contributor to pollution, greenhouse gases, water waste and the depletion of fertilizers. Producing a single meal containing meat may take dozens or even hundreds more resources than producing a vegetarian meal.

 

In order for me to do this vegetarian diet challenge, I had to plan my days carefully, and be strict about what I ate from the Monday to the Wednesday. For breakfast, I made bran and rhubarb muffins Sunday night, which were a success. I had one every morning, followed by an apple. Lunches were always salads, something to get me through the day until I got home from school.

When I got home the first night, I had ricotta ravioli with a simple tomato sauce. The ravioli were homemade by my Nonna, delivered on a trip down from Sault Ste Marie. (Picture bags of ravioli, tortellini, and pesto; it’s like Christmas!) The next night, we made pasta with saffron and broccoli. I have to apologize — I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of it — I was so focused on making and eating it that I forgot to! But I can say that it was delicious. Here is the link to the recipe:

http://www.lacucinaitaliana.it/ricetta/primi/pipe-allo-zafferano-con-broccoletti/?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=marketing&utm_campaign=lacucinaitaliana

For the final night, I prepared a zucchini risotto, simple and delicious. All you need is:

  • 3 tbsp. butter
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups vegetarian stock
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2/3 grated parmesan cheese
  • white wine

Melt 1 T. butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and zucchini, and cook until beginning to soften, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl. Bring 3 cups of broth to simmer in small saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep warm. Melt remaining 2 T. butter in reserved medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add rice and stir until opaque, about 2 minutes. Add any white wine you have in the fridge and cook off the alcohol. Once evaporated, add 1/2 cup broth. Adjust heat so liquid simmers slowly and cook rice until broth is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and creamy, stirring occasionally. At this point season with salt and pepper. Add zucchini and mix in cheese. Serve.

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One thing I noticed as I followed this diet was my increase in snacking and consumption of starches. I think, because my body is used to eating meat, I was left still feeling hungry without it. I also felt more bloated from the carb overload. I think I could be a vegetarian if I was able to come up with more unique and filling dishes, but I don’t think I could continue with this particular diet. I do feel like I could benefit from incorporating more vegetables into my diet, once I’ve added more vegetable dishes to my repertoire. I’m sure that, once I’m in the industry with a completed degree, I’ll know much more about different diets, and how to accommodate them and enjoy them myself.

Nonna Knows Best

For this blog, we were given the task of trying to cook a new meat that we had never worked with before. I really didn’t want to stick to your regular beef or chicken, so I decided to cook game meat instead. I asked around to see if anyone in the family had any game lying around. Turned out, my Nonna Marsha had some moose in her freezer from last year. She decided that she would finally teach me how she makes her spezzatino.

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Spezzatino is an Italian stew; it usually has potatoes in it, but we decided to keep it plain, in order to let the moose really shine through. We got the meat from one of my Nonna’s friends: it likely came from either the shoulder or the rump. Moose is a lean meat, so we cooked it low and slow.

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Nonna’s recipe called for: two carrots, one celery stalk, one onion, two cloves of garlic, all in the mini chopper. With the vegetables prepped, throw all the ingredients into your pot, with three tablespoons of oil. Once browned, add half a cup of pureed tomatoes and half a cup of white wine. When all is simmering, add two bay leaves and two sprigs of rosemary. (Make sure to tie the rosemary into a bundle so that you don’t lose leaves.) Reduce the simmer, leaving it with the lid on for an hour, or until the meat is tender with a fork. Serve with a side of polenta and a slice of friulano cheese. If you don’t have moose available, deer or beef can be substituted.

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I chose this dish because, for all intents and purposes, I was raised on it. When making this dish, you should make a point of embracing your inner Nonna and have a glass of wine at the same time.

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Enjoy!

EH, WHAT’S UP CHEF?!

I’ve always loved soup. When I was younger, it was usually pasta for dinner, and soup made a rare appearance. If we did happen to have soup, it was either a chicken broth with pastina (small pasta), or a potato-based soup. But now that we are older and I’m cooking a lot more for the family, soups are a more common occurrence during the week.

Carrot-Garlic Soup

  • 2 Heads of Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • 2 Cups Carrot
  • 2 Medium Potatoes
  • 6 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • Salt and Pepper

After potato leek soup, carrot garlic is my favourite. It’s a simple recipe that does not require much work. You being by cutting and prepping all of your vegetables, and putting your vegetable stock/broth in a pot to warm for later. Get your oil in a pan and brown your garlic; remove it once it is brown, and cook your onions until they’re soft. (This is my favourite part of the recipe, because your whole kitchen smells like garlic.) Add your carrots and toss your garlic cloves in whole. Cook until the carrots are soft; when soft, add your 6 cups of broth to cover your carrots. If you prefer to thin out the soup, since it is a thicker soup, add another cup of water. When it comes to a rolling boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-45mins. Once it’s cooked, season and use a hand blender or blender to puree your soup.

When working with this recipe myself, I made quite a lot of soup, so we had enough to last throughout the week. My mom took it to work; my dad had 3 bowls of it. The soup itself has a nice garlicy taste, with the subtleness of the carrot working to take the edge off the garlic. It’s a delicious soup; I hope those of you who try it enjoy it as much as I do!

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MUST BE JELLY, ‘CAUSE JAM DON’T SHAKE

As my sister and I were growing up, we often saw large amounts of fruits or vegetables being prepared to be made into jams, jellies, antipasti (vegetables in oil), or giardiniere (pickled vegetables). Restocking our cantina became a weekend event whenever our supply was running low.

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When the opportunity arose to pickle or preserve something, I wandered into the cantina to look for something we hadn’t had in a long time. I settled on Grape Jelly, reminded of my mom and her best friends making it in years past. Something as simple as concord grapes can be made entirely versatile. The trick: having fresh grapes. (And in my case, having a family friend that grows them by the tonne.)

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My mom and her friend took their time tweaking recipes to arrive at the perfect jelly. You need:

  • 4 cups of grape juiceJam (10)
  • 7 cups of sugar
  • 1 tsp of butter
  • 1 pouch of certo pectin

Because the grapes I was working with were as fresh as can be, I washed them twice, and made sure to remove any that were deformed or unripe. Then, you start to juice. The easiest way to do it is to put the grapes in a pot, crank the heat, and use a potato masher to squish the grapes. The fragrant smells the grapes emit at this point in the process are amazing.
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Once you’ve accumulated enough juice, you need to separate the juice from the skins. What I recommend using is a Jelly Bag: a filter that you can stretch across a juice jug, that separates the juice from the waste.

Once you’ve got 4 cups of juice, you want to add the sugar and butter into a pot and wait for the sugar to dissolve. Don’t add the pectin just yet; that’s the final step. While you’re waiting, you want to preheat your oven to 200°C. Set your jars to heat up, having the lips in a small pot of boiling water to warm up the seals. Once your mixture has come to a rolling boil, stir in the content of the pectin pouch. Keep the mixture at a rolling boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Then, remove it from the heat and skim the remaining foam off the top.

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Though the jarring process is very easy, I recommend getting someone to help you, for the sole reason that you work a lot faster with double the hands. You want to ladle the jelly into the hot jars, leaving ¼” or .5cm headspace. Cover the jar with the hot lids and screw the rings on: not too tight, just snug. Once a few jars have been completed, you find yourself with an impromptu concert, as the lids of the jars begin to pop, signalling that a seal has formed and you’ve successfully jarred your jelly.

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Best of Both Worlds

Hello again whoever is reading this out there. This week we were told to perform a sensory evaluation. For everyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s when we try something that we have never had before and describe the five sense. We do however go into more detail in taste.

Since I got this assignment I couldn’t really think of a “new” food that I have never tasted before. I didn’t want to pretend that I never had Parmigiano Reggiano so I could have the perfect sensory evaluation. And I didn’t really have the “balls” to go out and try bull’s testicles. I started working at William Sonoma recently and one day while working I found something called Mulling Spice. I read further into it and found out that you could use it not only to make apple cider but also to make Mulled Wine. So I thought I’d give it a shot and make mulled wine for my sensory evaluation. I chose a Ruffino Chianti which is a medium-bodied and fruity profiled wine. I tried it and found it to be sweet and dry. It was a perfect balance in my opinion, and I would suggest that if you are moving from white to red wines try this one first. After tasting the wine I followed the recipe on the back of the mulling spice but adjusted it to suggestions from people who have tried making it already.

Infusing the Wine

Infusing the Wine

Mulled Ruffino Chianti

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 5 tbsp of mulling spice

While simmering these ingredients you could really smell the fruitiness of the wine coming through. Closer to the end of the simmering process you could really smell the cinnamon, orange rind, allspice and clove. After 20 mins of simmering I was finally able to taste what I had been smelling. The best way to describe it was imagine drinking apple cider and red wine together. Since I chose such a fruity based wine it was just like drinking apple cider. You got the really earthy flavours from the cinnamon, allspice and clove. While you got the fruitness of the wine still there as well as slight hints of orange. I can say that this is an honest balance between the wine and the spice that come together to make something extremely enjoyable in warmer climates. I wonder if it would have a different flavour if served cold…too bad their was none left to try it.

Final Product

Final Product

To sum up this sensory evaluation I learned that by combining two things that I enjoy separately you can make something extremely enjoyable. I like wine like any Italian and I really like the spices found in the mulling spice. Who knew that combining the two flavour profiles you would elevate them to make an earthy and fruity blend? I know there are probably people out there that know this basic principle but for someone who loves to cook and is learning new things you start wondering if you could us these spices elsewhere. I already use my palate in trying to identify what is in dishes and figuring out how I can make it at home. What I want to take back from this week is how to perfect my palate in order to become better a determining flavours as well as a flavour profile.