Thursday, May 24, 2012

Leftover Fusion

After Banh Mi's and JG's Fried Rice, I had leftovers.  What to do....What to do.  Let's start with the pork belly.  Cut into lardons.  Place in Wokpan and heat.

Add Momofuku Ginger Scallian Sauce.

Add Rice.

Top with 2 Perfectly Cooked Eggs.

This was some mighty fine fried rice eatin.  Why do we ever get Chinese takeout?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Attempting The Perfectly Cooked Egg

The Perfectly Cooked Egg is not an abstraction.  It's real, and even you can do it.  Let me rephrase.  Even you can attempt it.  Cause that's what  it's all about.  The attempt.  And the eggs.  You could go buy a thermal immersion circulator to pull this off, but that's easy (and $400 +).  Granted, then you would own a thermal immersion circulator and that's pretty badass, so if you want to go that route, go right ahead.  I'll admit I'm jealous.

If you look up The Perfectly Cooked Egg in google, most of what you get is instruction on how to hardboil eggs correctly.  While that's fine, a hardboiled egg is in no way shape or form The Perfectly Cooked Egg.  (Can we agree to call it TPCE from know on?  Good.)

Now, if you want to really get into the science, you could go read some Harold McGee and learn all kinds of cool things you never knew about eggs and pretty much anything else you might want to eat.  Mr. McGee is a much better resource than I am, so I'm telling you, go read his stuff, not mine.

Ok, so you can't commit to the hardcore cooking science that Harold drops.  No problem.  Here's the basics.  Egg whites thicken at 145 F.  Egg yolks thicken at 150 F.  When I say thicken, what I'm really saying is they begin to coagulate.  The proteins solidify and shortly thereafter begin to get tough and/or rubbery.  The egg is no longer perfect.  For a well cooked egg (not well done, but cooked well), you should never raise the temperature above 150 F, less you start to coagulate the yolk.  Anything above that temperature is going to overcook the egg.   Notice I did not say that is TPCE.  For the TPCE, you must make sure that the temperature never exceeds 145 F.  But that is not all.  You have to make sure the temperature does exceed 140 F, lest you end up with TPUE (The Perfectly Uncooked Egg).

Sound easy?  Good.  Let's keep going.  Not only do you have to raise the temperature to between 140 and 145, you need to hold it there for an extended period of time.  45 minutes is about right, but go for 2 hours or more if you're feeling confident.  This ensures that the egg reaches this temperature all the way through, but does not exceed this temperature anywhere throughout (particularly on the outside - by the outside I mean the inside part of the egg nearest the shell, lest you were confused).  Raising the temp to 140 for 5 minutes will kill off any salmonella that might be lurking around.  (I should take a moment to state that I am by no means an expert and most of what I say has the potential to be patently false, but I'm going to say it anyway.  If you're worried about eating undercooked eggs, keep on enjoying your sulpherous green-yolked hard boiled eggs.)  Also at 140, one of the proteins in the egg white will begin to coagulate.  Though it is but a small portion of the overall white (let's call it 12% of the egg white protein...let's also assume that I'm wrong about that, but not by much.  It's not all that important anyway.  What is important is that...) this will bind the egg together into creamy custardy white.  The egg white won't fully coagulate until somewhere around 180 or so.  Test this if you must, but first ask yourself why.  This is not the important part.   

Now, this is the important part.  You might be wondering how to pull this off.  New York Wunderkind David Chang taught me this trick.  Not personally, mind you, but I did read his book.  Mr. Chang convinced me that I could attempt TPCE (though he neglected to call it TPCE, preferring to refer to it a slow poached egg).  Anyway, fill the biggest pot you have (or if you have an excessively large pot, a large pot that would be representative of the size of the largest pot most people might have...let's call it 6 quarts and use your best judgement) with water.  Place on the smallest burner you have and start heating.  Drop in a candy thermometer, and better yet, a thermal probe.  Wait until it gets to 140.  Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile get some eggs.  Fresh eggs.  Happy eggs.  Eggs that just got laid.  If you're going to go through the trouble to perfectly cook an egg, you want it to be a pretty good egg to start with.  Old eggs tend to have large air bubbles inside and have lost some of their moisture content.  Really old eggs will float.  This is a bad sign.  If you can get eggs from a friend, farmer, or your own chickens, do so.  Only go grocery store if you must. I should note that throughout this article I am referring to chicken eggs.  That's a good point to make, lest you try quail eggs or duck eggs and get a different result.  If you do try other eggs, let me know how it works.  I'd like to know.  Also, if you want to try an ostrich egg you will probably want to use the excessively large pot I said earlier was unnecessary and cook your egg for well beyond 45 minutes.  I'll say 3 hours.  But trust me, I have no idea what I'm talking about.  Anyway, you've got your eggs?  Good.  Take them out of the fridge and let them start to come up to room temperature so they don't go into shock when you put them in the water.

Once the water reaches temperature (140 remember), put something in the bottom to keep the eggs off of the bottom of the pot.  I rolled up an aluminum foil donut and placed a plate on top.  It worked great and held the eggs right in the middle of the pot.

This is it.  You've made it this far.  Now is the time on Sprocket's where we dance.

The water is hot, but not so hot that you can't put your hand in it to gently set the eggs down.  If you're more comfortable, use a spoon, just don't crack an egg.  The temp may drop slightly when you add the eggs (in the shell).  That's ok, let it come back up to temp.  Once it reaches 140 F start your timer for 45 minutes.  Do not let the water drop below 140.  Do not let the water exceed 145.  Control your burner.  Add an ice cube now and again if you need to.  Just keep it in control.  Aim for 143.  And don't overcompensate or you'll be chasing yourself every which way.  Just set it and monitor.  Only adjust if absolutely necessary.  Also, monitor the temp at the level the eggs are sitting in the pot.  The bottom of the pot is likely hotter than the point halfway up where your eggs should be sitting.

After 45 minutes you can safely remove the eggs.  Feel free to go longer.  As long as you maintain temp, there's really no harm, and what's your time really worth anyway?  Use immediately, or do like I did and place immediately into an ice water bath to cool rapidly.  Store in the ice water bath in the fridge for up to a day or two.

When you are ready to use, submerge the egg in very hot tap water for about 1 minute (if cooled...if using immediately you can skip this step).  This is where you get to show off.  Crack the shell.  Inside is a perfectly cooked egg.  Creamy white, completely liquid yolk.  Delicious.  Cracking an egg and opening it up to a find a poached egg is pretty cool.  Even cooler is cracking the egg tableside and dropping The Perfectly Cooked Egg right on top of your guests dish as the finishing touch.  

So now you've got The Perfectly Cooked Egg, or at least the best facsimile of one that you can obtain.  What the hell do you do with it?  Well, you can always just eat it.  Maybe a little bit of salt and pepper would go well.  Also, it's great for fried rice.  Along with the Banh Mi's I discussed previously, I served Jean-Georges Vongerichten's ginger garlic fried rice.  Basically, soften up some leeks in canola oil. Add cooked rice.  Rather than an egg over easy, I topped each with The Perfectly Cooked Egg.  Fried rice is better with a rich gooey yolk on it.   Sprinkle some crispy fried garlic and ginger on top and drizzle with a little soy sauce and sesame oil. 

Serve to friends and loved ones, or those that you wish to be friends and loved ones.  I'm sorry. I don't know what that means.  Just feed some nice people.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bad Pseudo Fusion Cuisine

For Christmas, Jamie got me a book called 'Buy This, Make That' or possibly something slightly more specific like 'Make Bread, Buy Butter'.  I do think it's the latter, because my immediate thought was that butter is so easy to make and turns out great, yet bread is a pain in the ass and never ends up the way I've intended.  I believe this is because I've not yet reached the point where I have a bucket of yeasty, fermenting goodness living in the basement that I feed regularly and show people when I want to frighten them.  I believe that one day, I will have such a creation and my bread will be better because of it, but until that day, I can make butter with great success.  Anyway, I immediately decided that I would set out to prove this book wrong.  But then I read it, and I sort of liked it, and felt there was a lot of good stuff that it said I should make that certainly sound like a good ideas.  Like Camembert cheese.  And bagels.  Though, that's sort of bread like, but the book sold me on it anyway.  Before I came around though, the book spoke of Banh Mi's.  This was in the buy category.  A $4.00 Vietna-Franco sandwich with lots of ingredients.  Why make is when it's so cheap to begin with and easy to come by.  Why indeed?

So, we went on a road trip up to Green Bay.  I told the kids we'd go up to see Lambeau Field.  Now Lambeau Field is a great football stadium.  The only problem is the team they let play there.  Though I didn't want to nurse the kids growing Packer affections, it was the excuse I needed to get them to Green Bay.  My real motivation was to go to Pho #1.  There, in addition to delicious looking noodles and soups, they had Banh Mi's on the menu.  So we had lunch.  The sandwich was delicious and well worth the trip.  But I wasn't convinced.

I'd been reading the Momofuku cookbook and looking forward to making ramen for the next dinner party.  Only, I needed to go vegetarian for the next dinner and didn't want to do veggie ramen.  So, ramen would have to wait.  But I wanted to do some pickling.  I had a blackened tofu concept that looked fantastic.  Then there was The Perfectly Cooked Egg that I'd been wanting to take a shot at.  And, oh yeah, a braised pork belly, so maybe not strictly vegetarian.

So, ramen out.  Bi bim bap out. Banh Mi?  Damn straight.

Wednesday:   Julienne the carrot and daikon.  Mix sugar, salt, hot water and rice wine vinegar.  Cover veggies and place in fridge.

Friday:  Rub that pork belly with sugar and salt.

Saturday:  Day of reckoning.  Start braise early.  High temp, short time.  Low temp, long time.  Take out, wrap and place in the fridge.  Make mayo.  (I am just realizing now that mayo comes down on the make side in the book,  As it should.  But kind of goes against my original intent.)  Buy French bread (back on track!).  Press tofu.  Press tofu more.  And more.  Marinate briefly and coat in spices.  Slice chilled pork belly and heat.  Sear tofu and slice.  Chop cilantro.  Slice Cucumbers.  Make some Momofuku Ginger Scallion Mother Sauce.  Slice bread and heat until warm and crispy.

Assemble Sandwiches:  Bread, slather on mayo, add pickled daikon and carrots, alternate slices of pork belly and blackened tofu, place cucumber, spread ginger scallion sauce, sprinkle cilantro, and squirt on some sriracha.  Now that's a good sandwich.

So, buying a $4 sandwich is easy, and pretty good.  However, making your own is not all that difficult and even more delicious.  Feel free to mix it up.  Ginger scallion sauce is not a traditional accompaniment, but it is tasty.  So, I say buy this and make this, whenever you have the opportunity.  It's a win-win.  And if you are wondering about the egg....well more on that later.     

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Drawing Battle Lines

I may be the only one who realizes it, but there's been a battle brewing in our family.  I may have started it.  Several months ago I played a song for the kids as we were driving home one night.  That song was Zombie Delight.  And enjoy it they did.  Nevermind that the song is a novelty lark by the great Canadian independent rapper Buck 65 that basically describes the zombie apocalypse.  It's has some great lines like:

Why is this happening?
People are frantic.
The military's overwhelmed.
Widespread panic.
Cities are destroyed and the streets run red.
How do we contain this plague of the undead?
Weaponize yourself.
Call in the troops.
Zombies have the tendency to mobilize in large groups.
There's very little information, and no answers.
One weird thing is that they're excellent dancers.

Now, I realize that this is probably not appropriate subject matter for a 9 year old, and less so for a 6 year old.  I figured they'd largely ignore it and probably tell me to turn it off like every other time I've tried to play a song for them, but apparently after hours of Plants vs. Zombies, they have quite the infatuation.  They began requesting the zombie song every time they got in the car with me.

Shortly thereafter, I heard about a great new CD they had got at the store with mom.  I was then forced to listen to the Fresh beat band over and over and over and over every time we were in the van.  It was relentless.  Never mind the poor pitch and terrible lyrics, it's catchy as hell.  I waited for it to stop.  I thought it would subside, but they were asking for it before we even got in the car.  Eventually, I had to fight back.

The next time we were in the car, I suggested we listen to a band called the Groovie Ghoulies.  I figured the name would be interesting enough it just might get their attention.  Plus, I like the Groovie Ghoulies.  It seemed to go over well.  Next I pulled out some Mr. T Experience.  Realizing that they have no idea who Mr T is, I told how the Mr. T Experience once toured France and learned to sing one of their songs in French so that everyone understood them.  I knew my kids would find this impressive.  I soon began getting requests for the Groovie Ghoulies and Mr. T Experience.  They particularly like the song Dumb Little Band.  I think because they know they aren't supposed to say 'dumb'.  We talked about how they used it in a self deprecating, ironic way in the song, and they weren't talking about a person. Also they like Dr. Frank's Knock knock song, because what kid doesn't love a sing with knock knock jokes.  I haven't yet explained the difference between Dr. Frank the solo artist and MTX the band, but that can wait a while.

I am now trying to expand their musical horizons further. Here are their thoughts on some recent samples:

Screeching Weasel: "Dad, Screeching Weasel sounds like the Groovie Ghoulies and the Mr. T Experience."  True.  Overall this was met with relative indifference.  Unfortunately.

Waylon Jennings: "Dad, Is this music from the olden days?"  This wouldn't have lasted long, but I started telling them about the Dukes of Hazzard and they were interested enough in that to at least let Waylon get through 1 song. 

The Clash: "Dad, Do you think they should stay or go?"  A winner, especially once I told them that the Clash were from England.  (It helps to know your audience) 

Beastie Boys: "Dad, I don't like songs with more than 1 voice.  I like the Clash better."  Ok.  Back to the Clash.  I am ok with that.