Cooking engineering, pt. II

I’ve already talked a lot about how great crockpots are, particularly when you are busy and you want something simple that will yield delicious results. However, while the crockpot does not need supervision to give you an amazing dish, it does require one thing: to mind the time. And while yes, you won’t burn your food if you let it go overtime, you might end up with really dry chicken.

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Now, there are crockpots that come with their timer, and that’s awesome! However, mine was a gift from my roommate (he didn’t know how to use it) and it’s a pretty old model. Really solid, but you can tell it has been around for a while.

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The solution was pretty simple, I’m not even sure I can call it engineering: use a christmas light timer. So I prepped it for the amount of hours I wanted, and went to bed without any worries in my mind. When I woke up, my almond meal was ready.

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The recipe was from Chrissy’s book, Paleo Slow Cooking: shaved apple (to provide humidity), almond flour (I actually used almond meal for coarseness – it’s an oatmeal substitute!) and water, and cooked for six hours. Strawberries for sweetness in the end. =)

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Cooking engineering

I’m back! Well, that depends on how much I manage to stabilize my working schedule, but I should be back into writing something a bit more periodical and not that far apart.

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Jerky is one of the things I’ve been wanting to make on my own for a while because it’s a good snack. It has protein, it has fat, it is portable and it tastes delicious, depending on what was used to marinate it. However, most storebought jerkys include a lot of ingredients that are not compliant with the Ancestral Health or Paleo diets, which means they are usually off the list.

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The concept of this dehydrator (from The Dirty Carnivore is actually a pretty simple one: a lamp in a box. The idea is to create a warm environment, hot enough to drive air out and with it the humidity of the meat inside. Against what most people would think, you don’t need the air inside (or the meat) to reach 212F: just like a puddle of water ends up evaporating due to the air taking the water away, so does this system work. Therefore, you only need a lamp to create the movement.

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This was cheap. Really cheap. The most expensive bits were the worklight and the PVC pipes. It was also really easy to make: it took me most of thirty minutes, and that was mostly because I’m rubbish with a pair of scissors. And the jerky was friends and roommates approved!

Fermenting follies III: requirement for a carrot cake

I have to admit, when I decided to make Elana’s cookies, I actually had in mind to do (again) her carrot cake. I’ve already said why carrot cake holds a special place in my heart, and therefore it will be one of the recipes I write the most about.
But not poetic waxing! Ways to perfect it! I’ll be honest – before I moved to the States I would consume it just as a pound cake, without frosting or anything else, just carrot deliciousness and milk. However, just like my dear friend Nancy said, you cannot have carrot cake without cream cheese frosting, and after having tried Bill and Haley’s Ginger and Cream cheese frosting, I could not agree more. However, I am wary of what stores call Cream cheese because it is usually a concoction of chemicals and maybe milk, so I decided to look into Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and see what she said about Cream Cheese

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It turns out that she has a recipe for whey – to be used as an inoculator in lots and lots of her recipes – and cream cheese is a by product of it. Now, before I burn in the fire of a thousand suns, the internet tells me that technically it is not cream cheese (you’d need to start with cream for that) but rather “yoghurt cheese”. I am a bit confused about it, since I started with full fat milk and buttermilk cultures, not yoghurt cultures, but I am not expert in the subject. And yes, I reused one of my old pictures because I forgot to take a picture of the actual bottle.
Basically, yeah… just make the same preparations that were done for the buttermilk but instead of waiting one day, wait until the thing fully separates… which in my case didn’t. It clabbered, almost immediately, but after five days (I started the cultures Sunday, and decided to move with the project Friday) I had basically an even thicker buttermilk, and though you could see the whey it was very little and easily dissolved back into the milk.
But I didn’t give up! I took out a large pitcher and strained the thing. I tried to use coffee filters – mistake. The solution won’t filter. So just good old cheesecloth and wire strainers.
Around 24 hrs later, I finally had two phases perfectly separated – a creamy, if not exactly completely solid cheese, and a milky, watery homogeneous solution of something I believed was whey.

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I was half excited (I had cream cheese!) and half dissappointed (was the whey useless?) so I went immediately to the interwebz and read and read and read about whey. And I finally found from Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist that sometimes the separation doesn’t occur fully. As a matter of fact, I think I may have obtained Curds and Whey

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So instead of moving on immediately onto the next fermenting project or throwing it all I left it to settle. And now I have my whey. I don’t know if I’ll get to the curds though, it’s a lot of whey!

Why chicken is so easy

Borrowing from my previous recipe, I decided to use thyme, lime juice, pepper and salt on my usual roasted chicken. So I melted them into the butter.

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And did the usual procedure: rub the chicken inside and out with salt and pepper, insert some cilantro and garlic into the cavity, tie it up and then rub it generously with the herbs butter.

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The taste was different – the lime and thyme brought a much fresher taste for the skin, and the flesh was juicy and tender. It was a nice variation to the mustard I tend to use, but I have to admit that I am much more used to that.

Red stew

One of the things I’ve been trying to use more is my crockpot. I mean, technically all I have to do is prep some ingredients and I will have a perfectly cooked meal with minimal effort, right? What throws me off is the fact that, well, most of what I know I can cook in a crockpot is stew, and stew meat is not cheap (well, not for me – it’s always between eight and ten bucks a pound for grass finished meat) so I tend to forget about it. Yes, yes, I know there are several chicken and pork crockpot recipes, but I forget! And speaking of that, I’ve never seen a fish-in-a-crockpot meal, have you?

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So I decided to modify this stew that I saw at Chowstalker a while ago. Instead of using half and half meats I went all board and used two pounds of ground beef, which I cooked in ghee (I haven’t finished that batch I made three weeks ago) and condimented (except for the coriander seeds – I don’t have an extra mill, and breaking those things with a pestle is a p

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Like the recipe mentions (sorry, couldn’t find the author’s name, but I’m assuming she’s a girl due to a picture posted on the site) the most problematic portion of this recipe is the mise en place: chop the onions, slice the carrots, panic for not having chipotle en adobo and use roasted peppers with basil instead (again, leftovers from a previous recipe), open the tomato cans, have everything ready before you turn on the stove. After that, is quite easy to just turn on the stove, cook the meat with the spices, and then dump everything into the crockpot and cook it overnight.

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Waking up you have a very hearty stew – no, the lack of stew meat didn’t turn it into a chili, it had too much liquid to be considered one. Mine, however, was a bit too oily – maybe I used too much ghee when cooking the meat, maybe I shouldn’t have poured the meat cooking liquid into the crockpot as well – but the taste was awesome.

Marinating the spring

In case you haven’t noticed, I usually don’t cook pork. Not because I don’t like it – as a matter of fact I love pork; but because I never know anything about the pork I get from the store. My best bet tends to be always Whole Foods, and even there it only reaches a Step 2 in their Animal Grading scale.

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However, reading this I decided to give it a go and have some. After all, once in a while won’t kill me, and it would be a welcome change from all the chicken and beef I’ve been getting lately. So I got me some pork chops and slit their fat, so they would not curl up when cooked.

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With my pestle I crushed some pepper, thyme and salt. I added this mixture and half an onion, chopped, to a mix of lime juice and olive oil.

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And I marinated the chops in it.

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While 45 minutes seemed like enough, I actually prepped these pretty late so I let them marinating overnight. In the morning, I took a couple out and cooked them in my cast iron s

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Since they were too thin for my thermometer, I went with the how does it feel method to tell if they were done, and served them with a side of roasted cabbage.

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Boy that was easy. Recipe from Lemon Squeezy

Multiple lines of work

Not only a good practice to save time, multiple batch cooking also saves energy. In this case, I cooked my chicken (a concoction of coconut aminos, ginger, onions and paprika marinating chicken drumsticks) with a braised cabbage (from Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint Cookbook) in order to save both. The chicken I explained yesterday, the cabbage a while ago, but since I had done it horribly wrong, here’s my attempt to make it right.

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I quartered the cabbage, and then halved those quarters in order to get eigths. I spread all the wedges in two baking dishes and added carrots and onions to them. The dishes were lightly oiled with olive oil, and then I drizzled more oil on top of the veggies. Since this is a braise, I added chicken stock.

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I wrapped them in foil and stuck them in the oven at 350F (on purpose lower than the 375F the recipe mentions) for an hour. After that, I took them out, and carefully flipped them over so they would cook evenly.

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I reintroduced them in the oven, with the chicken so it would cook for an hour at 350F (see? On purpose!)

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An hour later I took them out and drizzled Balsamic Vinegar all over the veggies. I didn’t returned them to braise at an open fire because, well, it started to char a bit, and I thought that was enough cooking. Apparently I was lacking in the amount of chicken stock used.

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Definitely a good pair, chicken and cabbage. Well spiced both of them, but a great pair!