To sous vide or not to sous vide, that is the question

To sous vide or not to sous vide, well for those in a hurry and don’t want to read this great story, the answer is YES.

To understand what sous-vide is just type in sous-vide in any Google search and prepare to read about the swarm of new experts that will try to make the Wikipedia article sound originally theirs.

In a nut shell, it is low temperature cooking in a water bath with the food sealed in a vacuum pouch for extended periods of time.

Now I’m no expert, my brother, Skip asked me about it a year ago and I didn’t have a clue but when I read up on it I wasn’t impressed. I know how to cook a steak. Then my son, Trevor, a sous chef told me he just bought one, I read up more and after a bad experience with a Tri-Tip, I purchased one.

The sous-vide method cooks the food at its optimum finished temperature and without fear of continual cooking after the food has been removed from the heat. 129° is just that 129°. It also means that the food can sit in the water bath for a while after the perfect cooking has taken place.

A note of caution here, the long periods of time help the meat fibers break down so your steak is more tender than if just cooked over a flame. But you can break down too much fiber and end up with a steak you can cut with the back of a spoon, yuck.

My son purchased the Anova and loves it, My brother and I purchased the Joule from ChefSteps. The joule has more power, 1100 watts compared to the Anova’s 900 watts of power. But both do the same job in the same amount of time once the water temperature has been reached. The Anova is available bluetooth or wifi for using the app to control cooking. The Joule is wifi only, and has probably the best app available. The latest upgrade includes not only the recipes but what to expect if left in the water too long.

The Joules’ greatest weakness is that you need the app to use it, where the Anova can be turned on by a temperature set via buttons.

 

The T-Bone steak pictured here has been pre-seasoned with a small coating of ghee between the meat and spices (salt and pepper with a little savory). The ghee could be any oil or butter, very sparsely used only to hold the salt off the meat until cooking starts.

If you follow the picture story I have here, you will see that the great steak (a 1 1/2 inch T-Bone) looks pretty sad after it has been removed from the bath. I used a propane torch to sear the fat and Lodge’s Panni pan set. Lodge makes some of the best cast iron cookery available and their enameled coating is as good as any other I have seen.

On the subject of enameled cast iron, this stuff, if taken care of, will serve you, your children and then your grandchildren. The two middle sized dutch ovens I use are made by DescoWare of Belgium. At the end of it’s life the DescoWare trademark dropped and the rights and formulas for the patented enamels were sold to Le Creuset. Mine were handed down from my grandmother to mother to me.

Put pan and lid directly over the highest flame or temperature setting. When they start to smoke turn the heat off, put your steak in the pan and set the lid on top. Finally, get a small fan to clear the smoke detectors. When the sizzling ends or after 2 maybe 3 minutes remove the steak and be wonder struck.

You now have a steak as good and probably better then you will find in a high end steak house. Cooked perfect top to bottom with a beautiful sear on the surface. We served it with roasted Brussels sprouts.

Cooking the steak as I have outlined here shows what can be done with a sous-vide. The turning point in my deciding to buy the sous-vide was a six pack of Tri-tip I purchased from Smart Foodservice.

The Tri-Tip was my first cooking experience with the sous-vide, and it was just wonderful. Tri-tip is oddly shaped and varies in thickness, I have cooked more that I can remember and the best were usually seared then baked to TRY to get an even cooking to no avail, Tri-tip also isn’t known for it’s buttery tenderness. The sous-vide version was wonderful, perfectly pink on both ends, seared on the BBQ over a flame for a minute on each side.

I then tried to cook a couple of whole artichokes and after the recommended time the heat sealed bag had unsealed and the artichoke wasn’t even close to being cooked (185° water bath), and I had to put it in the pressure cooker to finish. So where the sous-vide may have its place; it won’t replace everything in the kitchen.

Just wait till I tell you about the 1 1/2 inch pork chops finished with a drunken hazelnut crust.

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Louisiana Andouille Sausage, making your own or that store bought stuff

Hopefully the title will tell you what I think about that packaged stuff. In the past I have purchased off the shelf and it has always been disappointing. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that we decided to start making our own sausage, not just andouille but kielbasa, breakfast patties, stuffed pork sausage with jalapenos, the list goes on. Sure, you have to deal with casings, grinding meat and stuffing away, but the end results are sure worth it.

Sausage days are either when it’s gone and we need it or holiday meat sales. I was in the local supermarket and they had pork shoulder at $1.49 a pound, an okay price but to sweeten the deal it was buy one, get one. 2 little piggy’s came home with me.

One went into the freezer for some smoked pulled pork and the other for andouille.

I start by cutting the meat into 1 inch strips after removing the blade. Save the blade and all other bones for making your bone broth. You don’t make your own bone broth? Save the bones anyway and find some that does. Maybe they will share with you.

We use the greatest multi-tasker made, the Kitchen Aid mixer and a host of their attachments. It’s a great machine for the home cook. Grind the meat with a medium cutter and it goes pretty quickly. After grinding you mix in your seasoning. We use a slightly modified version or Emeril Lagasse’s Essence. We use 1/4 cup per 2 1/2 pounds of meat. You should then add 1/3 cup ice water (we use 1/3 cup red wine) per 2 1/2 lbs meat. Mix well and put back into the refrigerator for an overnight melding of flavors.

I suggest you start with Emeril’s Essence and then modify for taste or any other good Louisiana seasoning recipe. The secret to Andouille is like all Cajun and Creole cooking. Use what’s available and season to taste.

We cook with wine a lot, some of it even goes into the food.

  • Ingredients for Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
    2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    2 tablespoons salt
    2 tablespoons garlic powder
    1 tablespoon black pepper
    1 tablespoon onion powder
    1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
    1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
    1 tablespoon dried thyme

Day 2, set up the sausage stuffer and load your rinsed casing onto the tube. Although one can do the job, two makes it easier. We do a limp stuff instead of filling the casing, this allows us to tie off separate links (yes, we can spin, squeeze and reverse spin but it’s hard to get separate links that way). To help the casing slide off the tube keep dripping water onto it.

I like links around 1 foot or a little longer. When using in a recipe the 1 foot link is just about right.

Next comes the smoking, this is what makes or breaks the sausage. In the beginning I smoked the links at around 200° but the sausage cooked too quickly with getting enough smoke. Now it’s set for 160° and takes about 2 hours to finish. Perfect

No respectable Gumbo is without a good, smoked andouille sausage. Andouille may be substituted for many recipes calling for a smoked sausage such as the Spanish Paella and Jambalaya.

This is a perishable product and we do not add nitrates so right into freezer for these.

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Roux the oven method, you won’t rue the day.

How to make roux; more arguments, accusations of blasphemy and down right name calling have been attributed to the proper way to make a roux. First off, what is a roux and why do we care? Gumbo is why, with roux you wouldn't have gumbo, well, maybe a few other reasons as well.

A roux is simply nothing more than heating oil and flour to make a thickener that also adds a layer of flavor. For classic French cuisine the roux will be a lighter color, a blonde. For Southern American cooking the roux will be darker, from a toasty brown to a dark chocolate color.

When used in Cajun or Creole cooking there are more opinions than cooks. The Cajuns use a lighter roux than the Creoles, what? it's the other way around. Irregardless of who uses what, we first have to make the roux.

I have for years cooked the oil and flour in a cast iron skillet stove top. This makes a wonderful roux that you have complete control over, start to finish. So when you burn it and start over you only have yourself to blame. This method requires constant supervision, continuous stirring and scraping the skillet with a wooden (my choice) paddle. Do not answer the door, do not answer the phone, let the children wreck havoc. The roux comes first.

I think there are five different ways to make a roux including the microwave. I have slid over into the oven camp. To me I have the same control as stove top, and even finish the roux on the stove top. Simply put equal amounts of oil and flour in a heavy pot, preferably cast iron and bake at 350 degrees.

Sounds easy and is easy. But a little more hands on than that. I heat the oil on medium high and slowly whisk the flour in so it’s silky smooth and slightly bubbling. I then move the roux to the oven at 350 degrees and set my timers for 15 minute intervals.

Every 15 minutes I check and whisk the mixture. The flour will always keep settling to the bottom.

I did 4 cups each oil and flour so I could freeze 1 cup in zip-locks, thus my roux took longer to get to my desired color. Once it did get to the milk chocolate color, I removed the mixture from the oven.

Now on the stove top, I finished my roux the old fashioned way, untill I reached the semi-sweet chocolate color. Actually I removed the roux from the heat before I got there because the hot pot will keep cooking the roux. Many a roux has been ruined in the last 5 minutes because the cook forgot it keeps cooking and can still burn even though the burner has been turned off.

Cooking this way gives you your hands and a burner for the next hour or so. Go ahead, chop those onions, celery and sweet peppers. Sauté them to perfection, you have time while the roux is in the oven.

Now I have my roux for tonight’s dinner as well as the next 3 dinners that require a good dark roux. And if you did the Trinity at the same time your next three meals will be a breeze.

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A very cool bar

What to do with an old sewing machine cabinet. This is a Model 22 Drawing Room Cabinet that held a Singer 66-1 sewing machine and the finish was in horrid condition. For the purist out there. The cabinet has a new use but has had absolutely NO modifications to it other than adjust the lift spring load

My mother purchased the cabinet and model 66-1 machine around 1960. It suffered from decades of old English furniture polish and served as a plant holder. I was able to bleach out the top surfaces and steel wool out the gray water mark damage. Although the pictures do not show the top, it’s as beautiful now as the rest of the cabinet. But I have no use for an old sewing machine.

I also don’t really have a use for a mini bar, but if I was going to keep this, it had to have some practical use.

Drink tray utilizes original sewing machine lift spring that has been adjusted for new tray weight. Also shown is the vintage 3 piece cane that has been attached to the drink tray to control the rate of vertical travel speed and to push tray back into cabinet. Drawers on the left hold bar tools, shot glasses and crystal tumblers.

The right side is a hidden door that allowed service to the drive belt. Here you can ‘hide’ the favorites.

When I first began the refinishing and conversion I researched electric lifts, hydraulic lifts etc. Besides being an expensive way to control lift, nothing I found would both fit and provide the needed amount to travel.  So I poured a nice one and decided that the conversion would have been done in the 1940’s to 1960’s, how would they have done it? probably adjust the lift spring tension, problem solved.

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Eating around the world

The 60’s were coming to an end, and the 70’s were a time of many life changes. One significant change was that I married and by the mid 70’s had fathered my first child, Eric.

Prior to that, I was in the California National Guard for six years and five years of that as a cook.

I wasn’t formally trained as a cook. I was trained as a Combat Engineer. It may seem a bit strange going from being an engineer to a cook but once you understand that as a combat engineer I was trained to build roads and bridges, which generally were built between our front lines and enemy’s front lines. Or I was to proceed slowly across an open field sliding a bayonet into the soil looking for land mines to defuse. I wasn’t really into that.

They say to never volunteer, but out of boredom I did. Twice. First time was when asked if I would like to help out in the kitchen. I said yes. The second time, a couple of years later, I was asked if I would like to cook for the California Military Academy. I said yes again. It helps to understand that if I went on maneuvers with my company I would cook in the California desert and sleep under a truck, or I could go to Camp San Louis Obispo on the California coast, cook in a mess hall, and sleep in a four-man hut that was never full. And if that wasn’t sufficient motivation, with my company I could travel to the desert sitting on a wood bench in a two and a half ton truck, ride back in said truck and spend many, many hours cleaning our equipment. Or drive my 48 MG TC and later my 68 Plymouth GTX to camp and back home. A no brainier.

 

Bill and Sally on a drive to Santa Barbara, 1970.
My last national Guard summer camp, Camp San Luis Obispo, CA. 1969. I was a cook and for summer camps I went to San Luis Obispo to cook for the Officers Candidate School.
My last national Guard summer camp, Camp San Luis Obispo, CA. 1969. I was a cook and for summer camps I went to San Luis Obispo to cook for the Officers Candidate School.

This pretty well started my journey into cooking. After getting married I wanted to cook in the home, not be the grill chef, but cook some of our meals. Here is when I discovered and joined the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook club.

Once a month they would send me a new set consisting of a Storybook with some recipes, as well as a spiral bound recipe book. Talk about an eye-opener, as well as trouble for the waist. I was a big reader and
every month I delved into the stories. The stories were as tasty as the food you created from the recipe book.

The really wonderful thing about the recipes is that most were from local regions. There weren’t any Celebrity Chefs or Signature dishes, just instructions on to how to cook and to eat some might fine food.

I will admit that there were regions that didn’t interest me but others got me salivating just looking at the covers. (Regions??? From different areas of the world?)

I have all 27 sets and since starting Jonesing Food, they have caught my eye again. I am thinking about traveling the world on a weekly basis, choosing a dish and preparing it along with a description of the cook as well as a taster’s critique. Don’t worry about honesty, there have been many dishes I have made I will never make again and I am not afraid to
tell you why they are ghastly.

Foods of the World

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about The cookbook “Foods of the World”. For World cuisines, see Global cuisines. Foods of the World was a series of 27 cookbooks published by Time-Life, beginning in 1968 and extending through the late 1970s, that provided a broad survey of many of the world’s major cuisines. The individual volumes were written by well-known experts on the various cuisines and included significant contemporary food writers, including Craig Claiborne, Pierre Franey, James Beard, Julia Child, and M.F.K. Fisher, and was overseen by food writer Michael Field who died before the series was complete. The series combined recipes with food-themed travelogues in an attempt to show the cultural context from which each recipe sprang. Each volume came in two parts — the main book was a large-format, photograph-heavy hardcover book, while extra recipes were presented in a spiral bound booklet with cover artwork to complement the main book. The individual volumes remain collector’s items and are widely available on the secondhand market. The 27 volumes (in alphabetical, not chronological order) include:

1. American Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400332
ISBN-13: 978-0809400331
American Cooking by Dale Brown 1968 

2. American Cooking: Creole and Acadian;
ISBN-10: 0809400545
ISBN-13: 978-0809400546
American cooking: Creole and Acadian by Peter S Feibleman 1971

3. American Cooking: The Eastern Heartland;
ISBN 10: 0809400529
ISBN 13: 9780809400529
American Cooking : The Eastern Heartland by Jose Wilson 1971

4. American Cooking: The Great West;
ISBN-10: 0809400537
ISBN-13: 978-0809400539
American Cooking : The Great West by Jonathan N. Leonard 1971 

5. American Cooking: The Melting Pot;
ISBN-10: 0809400553
ISBN-13: 978-0809400553
American Cooking : The Melting Pot by Dale Brown 1971

6. American Cooking: New England;
ISBN-10: 0809400499
ISBN-13: 978-0809400492
American Cooking : New England by Jonathan N. Leonard 1970

7. American Cooking: The Northwest;
ISBN-10: 0809400774
ISBN-13: 978-0809400775
American Cooking: The Northwest by Dale Brown 1971 

8. American Cooking: Southern Style;
ISBN-10: 0809400510
ISBN-13: 978-0809400515
American Cooking : Southern Style by Eugene Walter 1971

9. The Cooking of the British Isles;
ISBN-10: 0809400383
ISBN-13: 978-0809400386
The Cooking of the British Isles by Adrian Bailey 1971

10. The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands;
ISBN-10: 0809400448
ISBN-13: 978-0809400447
The Cooking of the Caribbean Islands by Linda Wolfe 1970

11. The Cooking of China;
ISBN-10: 0809400359
ISBN-13: 978-0809400355
The Cooking of China by Emily Hahn 1968

12. The Cooking of Germany;
ISBN 10: 0809400375
ISBN 13: 9780890400379
The Cooking of Germany by Nika Standen Hazelton 1969

13. The Cooking of India;
ISBN-10: 0809400421
ISBN-13: 978-0809400423
Cooking of India by Santha Rama Rau 1969

14. The Cooking of Italy;
ISBN-10: 0809400855
ISBN-13: 978-0809400850
The Cooking of Italy by Waverley Root 1968 

15. The Cooking of Japan;
ISBN-10: 0809400405
ISBN-13: 978-0809400409
The Cooking of Japan by Rafael Steinberg 1969

16. The Cooking of Provincial France;
ISBN-10: 0809400294
ISBN-13: 978-0809400294
The Cooking of Provincial France by M.F.K. Fisher 1968

17. The Cooking of Scandinavia;
ISBN-10: 0809400316
ISBN-13: 978-0809400317
The Cooking of Scandinavia by Dale Brown 1968

18. The Cooking of Spain & Portugal;
ISBN-10: 0809400391
ISBN-13: 978-0809400393
The Cooking of Spain and Portugal by Peter S. Feibleman 1969 

19. The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire;
ISBN 10: 0809400324
ISBN 13: 9780809400324
The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire by Joseph Wechsberg 1968 

20. African Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400464
ISBN-13: 978-0809400461
African Cooking by Laurens Van der Post 1968

21. Classic French Cooking;
ISBN 10: 080940074x
ISBN 13: 9780809400744
Classic French Cooking by Craig Claiborne 1970 

22. Russian Cooking;
ISBN 10: 080940043x
ISBN 13: 9780809400430
Russian Cooking by Helen and George Papashvily 1969 

23. Latin American Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400367
ISBN-13: 978-0809400362
Latin American cooking by J. N. Leonard 1968 

24. Middle Eastern Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400413
ISBN-13: 978-0809400416
Middle Eastern Cooking by Harry G. Nickles 1969

25. Pacific & Southeast Asian Cooking;
ISBN-10: 0809400456
ISBN-13: 978-0809400454
Pacific and Southeast Asian Cooking by Rafael Steinberg 1970

26. Quintet of Cuisines;
ISBN-10: 0809400480
ISBN-13: 978-0809400485
Quintet of Cuisines by Michael Field 1970

27. Wines and Spirits;
ISBN-10: 0809400340
ISBN-13: 978-0809400348
Wines and spirits, by Alec Waugh 

Supplements:

1. Menu Guide & Recipe Index
stapled Pamphlet

2. Supplement Number One
stapled Pamphlet

3. Supplement Number Two
stapled Pamphlet

4. Kitchen Guide
stapled Pamphlet

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Red Beans and Rice, beans are beans and rice is rice, right?

Red Beans and Rice is not made from a can or box of seasoning.

I was 20 years old and visiting one of my friends and his Mother when the conversation turned to food.   Jim's mother told me she was from the south.  To me it was the 'south of what'? But she continued with stories about some great foods, and Red Beans and Rice in particular. Probably because that was what was on the table before us.

Now to me, beans were beans and rice was rice, but what I was eating sure didn't stop there as it was just something new and wonderful.  I never did get a recipe from Doris, and didn't really give a lot more thought to the subject, I just remembered how good it was.

A few years later after subscribing to the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series, the Creole-Acadian issue showed up and like fate it seemed to drop open to Red Beans and Rice. Oh ya, my interest was on high.

Now I can tell you that there is no short cuts to this meal. It takes forever to cook and tastes like heaven when you scoop a mouthful.

I see recipes for all kinds of short cuts from our Southern Celebrity Chefs and wonder how they can refer to a few cans of red beans and some andouille from a supermarket as Red Beans and Rice.

Now when put down some store bought sausage I need for you to understand that I live in Oregon. You may find some great Andouille in a southern supermarket; I mean you have Trappy's down there. We don't.

I think the major sausage makers in our stores make one sausage, a form of kielbasa and then change the label if they include some liquid smoke, oh the shame of it.

So why this recipe is so great, time and ham hocks. Lots of ham hocks with lots of marrow and the time to cook it out of the bone and into the dish, then at the end you take the back of a serving spoon and mash some of the beans to create a fantastic gravy.

Go for it, you will not be disappointed. Please don't take any shortcuts.

This recipe is straight out of the Creole and Acadian Time-Life Foods of the World series of cook books.

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.

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Cheap Steaks or Holiday deals

We all love a bargain, I especially love a great bargain when it comes to steak. The holidays always bring out the good sales and this Labor Day has been no exception. When I can save over 50% of the retail price for something I would buy anyway, I go for it.

We all can go look through the prepackaged product, make our selection and enjoy. But what you need to know is the butcher. You don’t have to be friends, have him over for dinner or even know his/her name. You need to know how to be polite and let them know you appreciate their trade. Many a time when making a selection I will ask them to point out the item they would buy, and if it looks as good as what my selection would have been, take it. The butcher will remember you. If you are a jerk, they will remember that as well.

So, my choice option was either a 4 precut family pack on the shelf, or to ask the butcher to take care of me. I chose the latter. In Oregon it seems that the steak name, Porterhouse, is no longer used, as they are all T-bones. So I asked the butcher to cut me 8 steaks, 1 1/2 inches thick with as large of a loin as possible (Porterhouse’s). I came back 10 minutes later (always let them know that they can take their time) and picked up what I have shown here.

Now these are big steaks, but a slow cooked thick steak will always be tastier than a thin steak, and these are big enough that my wife and I will only cook 1 and share it.

Okay, 8 big steaks, what’s next. If you’re like most of us, you will have to freeze the meat for future use. Between my brother and my son, I have been introduced to Sous Vide, the act of cooking under vacuum. I was a doubter until I tried it, and have changed into a supporter. Now some claim that Sous Vide can cook everything, well it might be possible but I still enjoy many other methods.

What I am doing is freezing each steak as if it is to be Sous Vide. This is preferable to defrosting and then repackaging. If I choose to throw the steak on a hot cast iron skillet and finish in the oven, or toss it on the grill or cook it in a wood pellet grill/smoker I can. The meat will be ready to go with some salt and pepper on it.

First, I chill the meat till solid and brush with a thin coat of ghee, this will possibly add a sweet butter taste or not. I don’t really care for everything buttered. But what it will do is provide a layer between the salt and the meat helping to preserve the natural juices and moisture already in the meat. I only started doing this since I started packaging it as if the product will be cooked via Sous Vide.

So now I have added 8 beautiful steaks and 4 packs of 4 each Tilapia fillets. This puts you ahead of the game, good food and good cooking shouldn’t be rushed but you can shorten the time to prepare a great meal by prepping ahead of time.

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Those glorious Shallots

Shallots are a wonderful alternative to onions and garlic, true or false? Well the answer is both. Onions, garlic and shallots are of the same family but all taste a bit different and affect your breath differently.

We have always been onion and garlic people and only played with the shallots. Generally because they are expensive, well at least compared to onions and garlic.

This past couple of years we have added shallots to out home garden. Year one was the learning curve. You plant the whole container (starts) in one place and they overcrowd and stunt each other, spread them apart (year two) and you get a nice crop. The picture of shallots on the patio table was 1/2 the crop of one box from the garden store. These where planted in an above ground 15 gallon flower flower pot.

Shallots have a very delicate flavor and I wouldn’t waste them in a heavy dish. Substitute onions with shallots in a gumbo or stew and you have lost what the shallot has to offer.

Where we use them the most is in lighter soups, sautes and thinly sliced and layered on top of a nice fillet of fish, either paper wrapped or baked. They also are wonderfull thinly sliced or diced in a garden fresh salad.

Shallots can be handled much the same way as you would garlic, a nice slow roast at about 425° for about 40 minutes. Use right away or store in the refrigerator and use in vinigretts and sauces. These shallots will be much sweeter because of the caramelizing

We have also been experimenting with drying foods as a way to extend their shelve life and shallots have proven to be an exceptional experiment. Our dried shallots are used primarily in soups, don’t bother to rehydrate them as the soup liquid will suffice. Give them a quick chop and toss them in.

For storage, store fresh shallots in a cool , dry location and do not store onions and shallots next to potatoes as both expel gases that will promote the other to spoil quickly. Our dried sliced shallots are stored in an airtight container, we prefer the Airscape containers as they have a valved insert that you press down over the shallots, limiting the amount of trapped air.

If they are new to you, then give them a try when preparing a more delicate dish, we are sure you will be pleased.

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The local farmers market

15 reasons why you should stop and check them out. Almost all small towns have them.

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

Sun dried tomatoes, well not really dried in the sun but close enough, besides no flies in the dehydrator or oven.

This is a pleasant way to spend some time outside and put the dehydrator to use after the herbs are dry and removed. Of course you can use your oven set to it’s lowest setting, generally 180 or 200 degrees.

Our pictures show us prepping Green Zebras, Dorthy’s Delight, Roma and Willamette tomatoes. Of all the varieties shown, the Roma’s have the least meat after fingering out the seeds. Tools needed, a couple of knives, one to cut the tomatoes into wedges or in half and the other, a pairing knife to remove the stem core. A long paring knife will work for all needs.

Wash the bird stuff off the tomatoes, slice tomatoes into desired sizes, use your finger (wash hands first) to remove the bulk of the seeds. That’s it. That was the hard part. Layer your dehydrator shelves or your cookie sheets if using the oven. Leave some room for air circulation (if using cookie sheets put a cooling rack inside to hold tomatoes off the sheet.

Herbs in the upper left being replaces with Green Zebra’s quartered and seeded.

Layers getting ready to be seasoned and then dried.

Tomatoes that have been dried to a leathery texture

Here is where you need to decide what you future uses will be. If to eat like jerky as a snack, you will want a little more salt. If to added to sauces and soups then less salt or you will over salt your dish right from the beginning.

You can also use finally chopped or ground herbs, or something like a salt less seasoning of choice. The choices are yours but a little preplanning will make the dried tomatoes more versatile.

Depending on method used, they will be dry when they get leathery. I prefer to remove all of them when most are dry and some are still with some moisture. I store them in a airtight container together and the drier tomatoes will draw moisture from the others. The tomatoes can also be stored frozen and if so, they can still be holding onto some moisture or less dry.

I re-hydrate in the sauce or soup they have been added to. I also do a coarse chop before adding them. I do not like sun dried tomatoes stored or re-hydrated in olive oil, they just seem oily and your adding more olive oil to your dish then may want.

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