Whoa nelly, that is a mouthful. It has been hot in the Seattle area. Hotter than most of us are equipped to deal with. With many stretches of days in the 90s, the idea of turning on the oven, and frankly even using the stove has been far from appealing. I have set up shop on our covered back deck and doing the vast majority of my cooking out there. We have a little plug-in induction burner that I’ve been using extensively. We also have the Weber grill and my somewhat ghetto fabulous styrofoam cooler lined with a black trash bag that I’ve been doing sous vide cooks in. It’s super efficient so we’re using a lot less power to cook stuff. As is my true summer style, I’ve been slacking pretty phenomenal at avoiding meal planning, and that has resulted in pretty sad improvised dinners and lots and lots of breakfast sandwiches (I haven’t told you about the new chickens yet, but we’ll get there).
I really needed to get back on the wagon and start pretending to be a grown up who is actually capable of managing their own life and feeding themselves and their family, so I came up with a meal plan for the week. One of my favorite make-ahead breakfast items is quiche. Crustless if I’m being lazy or otherwise avoiding extra carbs. Unfortunately, part of making quiche involves turning the oven on. Sometime last year I read post about making personal sized cheesecakes in jars. Makes sense, you use a water bath to regulate the temp of cheesecake in the oven anyway. I imagine that you’d get an even more even perfectly silky texture with a sous vide style water bath. That got my wheels turning and I decided to try my hand at making personal size crustless quiches in the water bath, and damnit, they are fantastic! They are creamy and custardy (totally set) but not dry or runny.
Sous Vide Crustless Quiches (Ingredients for one, easy to scale)
Ingredients (per quiche – if you have a calculator or basic math skills, scaling up is pretty easy)
Nutritional Breakdown if that matters to you:
I learned last minute that we would be celebrating a coworker’s birthday the next day. I just started at a new company a month and a half ago, so I am still in the phase where I’m doing my best to show them how incredible I am. Since this particular coworker eats satsumas and oranges all the time, I knew that my creamsicle cupcake recipe would do the trick. Unfortunately, I made it experimentally and didn’t do that thing where I actually noted down what I did, so to figure out what happened last time, I had to find old posts that I had made on chowhound to see if I had described how I made it. You see, orange curd is more difficult than you might expect. The acid in lemon juice is what is responsible for the thickening in lemon curd, and since I wouldn’t be using lemon juice, I had to come up with ways to thicken it. Gelatin is an option, but for something piped, getting a creamy consistency is a toughy. I used my super thick lemon curd recipe, doubled the egg yolks, and used orange juice concentrate. It came out thinnish, but useable as a cupcake filling. Usually when I’m baking cakes/cupcakes, I premake my cake and my fillings, then make the frosting the day of and go from there. I didn’t have the luxury of time, so I decided to go for it and cook the curd sous vide! I would call it a success, and I’m not sure that I’d make lemon curd on the stovetop again!
Sous Vide Orange Curd
Makes about 3.5 cups, or enough to fill at least 48 cupcakes
Instructions (Sous Vide):
I know, this sounds ridiculous. But I love my immersion circulator more than I can adequately describe in words (an interpretive dance would really be more fitting). I don’t use it as often as I probably should, so when I am thinking of making things, coming up with a way to use the Anova is always in the back of my mind. So when I decided to start making my own yogurt again, I realized that a sous vide setup is the ultimate way to produce yogurt, and was pumped to have come up with a new use for my second favorite appliance (my immersion blender ranks at #1). Yes, yogurt is so simple that it hardly requires a recipe, however there are many folks that are either just not familiar enough with the process or are nervous about keeping milk that they plan to eat in the “danger zone” for many hours intentionally. Let me assure you that if you practice clean food handling procedures, there is no need for concern. All of your favorite fermented products rely on warm temperatures for the bacterial growth to make them taste delicious. (I’m lookin’ at you, cheese!) So here’s what you need:
Ingredients and equipment for yogurt:
Container large enough for your glass jar to be at least mostly immersed
*You can use conventional milk here and it will work fine, but I personally don’t understand going to the effort of making yogurt with standard milk when you can just buy premade yogurt for cheap. Grass fed/organic/otherwise specialty milk is where this technique is particularly useful. Finding grass fed yogurt is difficult to begin with, and incredibly expensive.
**You can use another brand of yogurt as long as it has live and active cultures, but in my experience, for whatever reason, your end result will be better with Fage. After an initial batch, you can use starters from your previous batch of yogurt, but to begin with, I advise using Fage. I often get it on sale for $1/tub.
Ingredients and equipment for crème fraîche:
Glass Jar(I like using a pint jar for this)
Container large enough for your glass jar to be at least mostly immersed
I assume that we must all do something similar to this, but in the off chance that I am incorrect, here’s my rundown on the “work” salad. The salad that consists of leftovers, stuff you dug out of the pantry, and random bits and pieces of tasty that have somehow gotten my attention. Throw a can of tuna or leftover chicken breast over the top, and you have a full meal deal. Here’s my salad for the day. It was huge, filling, and delicious. As I assembled it, I just started entering the items that I added and their approximate measures to myfitnesspal. It is an interesting way for me to determine where I could be “saving” calories, and what items I may want to add more of next time. In this case, I had some duck confit (yes, from our ducks) in the fridge that needed to be used, and Craig won’t eat salads, so this came to the office for work salads.
Yes. that’s a huge cottage cheese container from costco. It makes a great salad bowl that I am not concerned with forgetting in my car for 3 days or leaving at work.
I erred on the high side of everything for the salad. Going over the calorie breakdown, I’d probably use half as many cranberries and half as many pepitas, and toss a couple of boiled egg whites only on top to boost the protein factor.
In case you were wondering, I am a sucker for slightly fussy things. Not fussy like little paper wrappers on the ends of bones, but more fussy like process-intensive ways of cooking things for the ultimate in reliable and great end result. As such, I use the Serious Eats apple pie recipe. The trademark of this recipe, besides using the right kind of apples, is parcooking the filling to set the apple’s pectin, resulting in a firmer and more robust filling. It works. Their base recipe calls for pouring boiling water over the apples to bring them to 160 degrees, but I’ve never been much for adding water to my pie fillings, and I have the equipment to hold the apples at a steady 155 for an hour, so I vacuum packed my apple slices with a little apple cider, and sous vide cooked them for an hour at 155. After draining the extraneous cider off of them, I mixed in the other filling ingredients (I made 2 pies worth, I hate going to all of the effort and mess of making pies only to make one, so I made a second one for the freezer), and filled the crust, baked off the pie, and we ate it for Thanksgiving the next day. As you can see, the filling did not shrink, I don’t have a big gap between my top crust and the filling, and the apples are firm, appley, and bright.
This was delicious. But first, let’s talk a little about grass fed beef, and how it differs from conventional beef.
Conventionally fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are weaned and old enough to be moved to a feedlot, where they generally live in pretty deplorable conditions and are fed a grain mixture designed to help the steers put on weight fast. And they do. Feedlot beef are generally slaughtered between 12-18 months of age. And they have to be. The grain mixture that feedlot beef are fed is not what their digestive tract has evolved to handle, and the grains begin fermenting in their gut, and acidify things far more than they’re capable of handling. The grains actually slowly poison cows by making it so the lining of their digestive tract allows bacteria through into the rest of their system, and they get blood infections. As a result, feedlots generally feed prophylactic antibiotics to keep the cows from dying of sepsis prior to being slaughtered. So the steer are generally far less healthy overall. Add in to that the type of fat that they put on while eating a high grain diet is Omega 6 fats, which are not great for you, and feedlot beef is overall a really pretty awful option.
Grass fed cows are born and live on/in fields until they are ready to be slaughtered. Since they’re not being fed a mixture of grains designed to fatten them up(strange how cows have a tendency to get fat when they eat lots of grains, just like humans), it takes them much longer to get up to the desired weight. As a result, they live 2-4 years, and generally end up tougher, you know, because they are able to move around and use their muscles. The grass-based diet allows the cows to gain weight slowly, and the fat ratio (O6:O3) is much healthier, both for the cow and for the people who eat it. Anyway, how this affects the end product is fairly simple… the meat is tougher, leaner, a little gamier (think a combo of conventional beef and lamb) and the fat that it does have tends to be healthier.
When cooking a grassfed steak to medium-rare, it can be difficult to get a truly tender end-result. Grassfed beef is great for long, low and slow cooking, but a quick and rare preparation will give you a tough shoe leather-esque meal, not good eats. An effective way to still get a tender result with a perfect medium rare is to cook it in a water bath, sous vide. You can hold it at 135 degrees for 6 hours, during which time, enzymes in the meat begin to break it down and it tenderizes, giving you a result quite similar to a conventionally raised steak, without any of the terrible feedlot baggage.
Sous Vide Grassfed Sirloin Steak w/ Loaded Baked Sweet Potato (serves 4)
1-1.5lbs grassfed steak
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 strips bacon, chopped and cooked until level of desired crispiness is achieved.
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 green onion, green part, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
*Liberally season steak with pepper (not salt) and vacuum seal (you could also add thyme, rosemary, etc to this if you wanted to get fancy.
*About 6 hours before you want to eat, place in a water bath set to 135 degrees, and let it hang.
*About an hour before you want to eat, preheat your oven to 400 degrees, scrub your sweet potatoes, half, and place cut side down on a lightly greased baking sheet (I used some avocado oil)
*Bake your sweet potatoes until tender, this took mine 45 minutes.
*Prep your toppings and enjoy a glass of wine or an apertif in the mean time.
*When the sweet potatoes are tender, turn over and cut a line down the middle of them. Split as much as possible and sprinkle inside with your crumbled bleu cheese. Return to oven until cheese has begun melting.
*Preheat a pan you don’t mind getting very hot over high heat. I like using cast iron, but a stainless or carbon steel pan would probably work like a champ as well.
*Remove your bag from the water bath, remove the steaks, and dry off using paper towels. Do not salt.
*Sear the steaks by placing in the (literally) smoking hot cast iron pan without any oil. Leave be for 30 seconds or so. When the steaks are seared enough, they should release from the pan and be easy to pick up. When this has happened, flip, and allow to sear on the second side. Remove to your cutting board. No need to let them rest, the juice is already distributed where it should be. Slice and salt liberally(remember, your beef hasn’t seen a bit of salt yet).
*To plate, place your potato half on a plate, top with remaining ingredients. Place your portion of steak on your plate, salt again (this is a great time to use finishing salt), add a bit of horseradish, and enjoy!
Craig and his friend Ian decided last year to try deer hunting. They spent 3 days in the freezing cold, and came home empty handed. It was disappointing for all involved. I only mention this to acknowledge the level of inexperience, and my fairly pessimistic outlook on the situation. I didn’t expect that they’d come across a deer this year either, especially after 4 days of waiting for them!
This year, they did a little more research and set up some game cameras in the place they were planning to try (near his parents’ cabin, which allowed for some creature comforts!) to verify that there were in fact deer present. Craig used the trip as an excuse to build a new rifle. Then they set aside 5 days and headed out to try to shoot a deer. On the second to last day, Craig was climbing a rock wall, looked over the top, and saw a buck, just hanging out. So he shot him. The bullet went through his chest and out his side, hitting the aorta as it passed. And Craig shot him with a 300 Win Mag, so it was a pretty effective round. The guys got it gutted and drug it out of the woods before giving me a call to make some arrangements for them. You see, there is a butcher shop not too far from us that offers the service of processing a deer that has been shot. When I received the call from Craig, I had been enjoying a leisurely morning of binge-watching a tv show while I drank coffee and applied a mud mask. I was just about to step into the shower with a crinkly and immobile face when my phone rang. I had to quickly get enough clay off of my cheeks so I could speak to the butcher. Then when I called, I got a long, and kind of crazy-sounding tirade about how they had gotten so many deer the previous weekend and how she was sick of working so many hours, that they weren’t taking any more animals. When I asked her if anyone else was processing wild game, she told me that there’s another guy that does it sometimes, but he is just as busy as them and not taking any either. It was an extraordinarily unhelpful conversation. So I tried to come up with a solution. One of our friends has done extensive hunting with his father, and knows his way around a deer. So I called him, and begged for his assistance in the matter. He gave me a list of what the guys needed to get done, and agreed to come over the next day and get the beast butchered.
Deer butcher photos after the jump
|It helps to switch your lens back to autofocus, instead of assuming you hadn’t switched it to manual..|
I called the guys, relayed the list, and panicked a little, realizing that we’d have a deer in the garage before the day was up, and my night of making caramel popcorn and watching movies with Ian’s girlfriend, Laura, was not going to happen. But we had afternoon plans, so we got together a little extra early, ran to the store for a few deer butcher supplies, and went to the beer festival we had tickets for. By the time we made it back to the house, the guys had the deer hanging from the trusses in the garage and were skinning it. Laura and I decided to at the very least, follow through with our caramel popcorn plans, and by the time the popcorn had cooled, the guys were done in the garage and had started picking at the popcorn on the counter. Knowing that I had to cover phones at work the next day, I prepped everything I could. I sharpened both of the guys’ pocket knives, and 5 additional knives. I set out latex gloves, freezer paper, foodsaver bags, the huge plastic cutting board, and refilled the spray bottle of food-grade sanitizer.
Then I went to work fully expecting to come home just as they were finishing up, throw together dinner, and enjoy a low-key evening with our friends. That was not the case. Our buddy who has butchery skills wasn’t able to make it until about half an hour after I made it home, so they hadn’t even gotten started. Laura and I quickly got drafted to handle the meat that had come off the carcass. That meant washing, breaking down, attempting to identify, trimming, vacuum sealing, and labeling. To say we were in over our head was kind of an understatement. We were just getting hunks of meat and were supposed to decide how they’d be best prepared! Add to that, the first parts we got were the front legs, which were somewhat difficult to get apart without knowing the specific anatomy, and I didn’t know wtf to do with. I ended up saving one bone-in shoulder and one…. I think you’d call it a shank. That’s what we labelled it as at least. Through came a parade of unidentified meat, which went into one of a few piles: a) this looks like a cut I kind of recognize, b) there is little connective tissue or fat, this is getting sliced thin for beef jerky, c)stew meat, d)ground meat, e)meat for the dogs. Tenderloins and backstraps got processed and lovingly packaged. We decided that some of the meat looked like flank steak. It got labelled as such. We have several pounds of meat that will be turned into stew, a few pounds of beef jerky, both tenderloins, one of the backstraps (we gave the nicer one to our friend who came over and butchered the deer), probably 10-15lbs of meat to be ground (yay for tonight?), and dozens of pounds of meat that was either weird scraps, fat, or bloodshot meat that us humanfolk aren’t so interested in consuming, but the dogs will love.
So for 3-4 hours, we cut and packed and fussed. When the guys got done with the deer, and got the garage cleaned up, I was still chugging away at breaking down the meat. I tried to get Craig to take over the job. Watching him try to remove silverskin with a chef’s knife was a little nerve-wracking so when he begged me to take over, I did. And I had to con Laura into making the pasta. It turned out beautifully. By the time dinner was done, all of the “human grade” meat had been processed, bagged, vacuum packed, and frozen. So to let me eat, Craig took over cutting up the weirder scraps and bloodshot portions and sticking it in bags for the dogs to eat (it apparently needs to spend 3-4 weeks in a deep freeze to ensure the parasites that the deer may have been carrying are dead). Pictured below is the exit hole from the bullet.
Then came the monumental task of cleaning up both the mess from the pasta making, but also 3 cutting boards, 5 knives, the vacuum sealer, 3 sheet pans, etc, etc, etc. I was glad to have that spray bottle of StarSan. But this morning, I did like to wake up and have a freezer full of vacuum sealed, labelled, and dated packages of meat. And the dogs? I just labelled the bags of meat for them “DOG.” Now for some pretty serious research into recipes. I want to have everyone over for dinner and do a few different preparations of the venison.
And I’ll be (or course) weighing and inputting all of the various bits into a spreadsheet so I know what we have on hand!