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Science and Cooking

Thanks to Khymos, I came across the wonderful public lecture series on Science and Cooking held at Harvard this fall. All the lectures are available on YouTube and iTunes for free.

So far, I have watched only the first two of them. Well, “only” in this case is a complete four hours of talk. Enough to spend your weekend with. However, these four hours never got boring and I am very looking forward for the rest of the series. I truly recommend these lectures to anyone who has a serious interest in food and cooking.

I am still here

I hardly find the time to write any new posts these days. Sorry for that. But here is at least a quick picture of one of my most favorite dishes. Tom yam kung – I adore it.

Who needs sous-vide?

You might remember my sous-vide experiments from some time ago. Experiments which did not really fail, but which weren’t exactly a success either. I was and still am lacking both a vacuum sealer and an adequate water bath, so sous-vide cooking is quite a technical challenge for me.

Well, there are two ways of coping with that issue. First, spending a lot of money to purchase expensive kitchen equipment. Or second, finding a different cooking method which yields comparable results. I decided for the latter.

When you boil sous-vide cooking down to its essentials, it is all about temperature. If you want your steak to have 55 °C, then cook it at 55 °C. That’s all.

And so I came to oven-poaching. Right now, most pieces of meat which are cooked in my kitchen, go through my oven at 50-70 °C. That’s quite a good compromise, although there are of course some cons to this method:

1. The thermostat of most ovens works rather imprecise at low temperatures.
2. Cooking in the oven takes longer than cooking in the water bath, since water conducts heat much faster.
3. As the food is not vacuum-sealed, fluid loss is probably higher.

But if you accept these minor drawbacks, than oven-poaching is your thing. If you want to add roasted flavors, sear the meat for a few seconds afterwards – just like you would do after sous-vide cooking.

Oven-poached salmon with sautéed porcini and rosemary froth

Serves 2:
500 g salmon fillet
Salt
200 ml milk
2 rosemary sprigs
300 g porcini
1-2 shallots
1-2 garlic cloves
2 tblsp. oil
1 tblsp. butter
1 lemon
1 handful parsley leaves

Cut the salmon fillet into nice pieces, rub with 3/4 tsp. salt, and let rest for 2-3 hours. Then cook for 20 minutes in the oven at 50 °C.

In a small skillet, heat the milk to 50 °C. Remove from the stove, add the rosemary sprigs and a pinch of salt. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Clean the porcini, cut them into pieces if necessary. Peel and dice shallots and garlic. Chop the parsley leaves. Heat the oil in a frying pan, sauté the porcini over maximum heat for 1-2 minutes. Lower the heat, add butter, shallots, and garlic, continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt, grate some lemon zest over the porcini, sprinkle with some lemon juice, and finally stir in the parsley.

Remove the rosemary from the milk, heat the milk again to 50 °C. With a hand blender, froth the milk.

Assemble salmon, porcini, and some of the rosemary froth.

A breakfast post

For as long as I can remember, my breakfast has always consisted of a jam sandwich followed by a nutella sandwich. Although I still love both, I have recently been looking for an alternative. The sugars from jam, nutella, and bread are absorbed into the blood almost instantly, which at first is extremely pleasurable. However, the effect lasts only short time. Insulin is secreted within minutes and subsequently lowers blood sugar back to pre-breakfast values. As a result, you feel hungry again after a short while. This is rather disadvantageous when the next possibility to eat something is several hours away.

In a job like mine, where eating breaks are sporadic and short, you rather need “sustained release food”, as I would like to call it. And so I discovered müesli with fresh fruit for breakfast. It is equally delicious as a jam sandwich, but it does last longer. And it is prepared within no time, which is quite important when your working day starts at 7.30 am.

The original concept of müesli was created by the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner around 1900. He soaked oatmeal in water overnight and then added sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, grated apple, and ground nuts.

Today, müesli comes in all varieties. I do prefer a very basic and straightforward version. First, I mix oatmeal with yoghurt. I prefer the Turkish one with 10 % fat, but I usually dilute with some milk. Finally, I add fresh seasonal fruit, and that’s it. I don’t add sugar, which I don’t find necessary, as only fully ripe fruit will find their way into my breakfast müesli.

You can use almost any kind of fruit you can imagine. And if you switch it from day to day, your müesli will never get boring. However, be careful with those fruit that contain a high amount of proteases. That is pineapple (bromelain), papaya (papain), kiwi (actinidin), or fig (ficin). Their enzymes break down the milk proteins, leading to bitter tasting short-chain peptides. It is no problem to have these fruit in your müesli, but you should eat it immediately after preparation.

Leftovers

For a few days now, a large piece of celery root has been waiting in my fridge for further use. It was left over from cooking a large pot of ragù alla bolognese, where celery was part of the vegetable soffrito.

Today, I decided to make celery purée from it. A very warming dish, especially when served with some browned butter. But at the same time much lighter than the usual mashed potatoes, since it’s lower in carbs. It was rather perfect on this cold and rainy evening in July.

Celery puree

Use about two thirds of celery root and one third of potatoes. Cut both in pieces and cook in salted milk until tender. Then strain, but reserve the cooking liquid. Purée the vegetables in a blender and add as much of the milk as needed to get a creamy purée. Season with salt and just a little nutmeg.

The purée goes incredibly well with browned butter. Fry some sage leaves in the butter until they are crispy.

As you can see from the picture, I had the purée with loin of lamb. If you like a vegetarian version, I suggest oven-braised tomatoes and garlic.

Salad time again

It’s 35 °C out there, much more than I can bear. I don’t feel like cooking any sophisticated menus these days. It’s definitely salad time. Today with seared tuna, which I complemented with a fruity salsa made of nectarines, strawberries, lemongrass, chili, and cilantro.



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