Truffle Risotto

Dining date: 6/28/13

truffled risotto

Risotto is one of the rich, luxurious dishes associated with fine dining. The single most expensive dish I’ve ever eaten was a risotto, but it’s also something I’ve found to be fairly easy to make at home without costing a lot. I’ve definitely made my share of risotto dishes at home (my favorite thus far probably being this lobster risotto), and figured I’d make a truffled version (a classic pairing) when recently purchasing a fresh truffle.

This was my first time buying a fresh truffle, stumbling upon a black summer truffle at my local Japanese market. Unfortunately I couldn’t tell where it was from, but it looked/smelled as good as expected and the price was right…so I figured I’d buy it and give it a try.

Inspired by The French Laundry’s white truffle risotto, I sought out to duplicate Keller’s version at home, substituting my summer truffles for the white ones used in his recipe.

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Sous Vide Steak

Dining date: 4/13/13

sliced steak

While the most profound sous vide application may best represented in long-duration braises of the tougher cuts, breaking down connective tissues while keeping meat a medium-rare temperature, its applications for “simpler” cooking can be just as rewarding. For example, a steak can be prepared very well either on the stove top or seared and finished In the oven/broiler, but I often like to prepare one sous vide. There are a few reasons why.

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Sous Vide Leg of Lamb

Dining date: 3/24/13

sliced lamb

A few weeks ago, I came across a sale in the Bristol Farms weekly ad for boneless leg of lamb. I’ve made leg of lamb the ‘traditional’ way a few times, but figured it’d be a good time to see what would happen slow-cooking the meat in a water bath. Of course, I expected a nice medium-rare all the way around, but I wanted to see how much the long cooking time could break down the connective tissue to make some really tender meat.

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Christmas 2012

Dining date: 12/25/12

Christmas is perhaps the oldest family tradition I know of (well, maybe Chinese New Year). It’s a very similar setup to Thanksgiving, but we’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Lunch is at my aunt’s with my mother’s side of the extended family, while dinner is with my dad’s side at my grandmother’s.

curried curry squash

curried curry squash

egg rolls

egg rolls

lasagna

lasagna

yams

yams

sauteed green beans and carrots

green beans

BBQ pork ribs

pork ribs

meatballs

meatballs

chow mein

chow mein

fried wontons

fried wontons

quinoa salad

quinoa salad

bacon zucchini muffins

bacon zucchini muffins

chicken pot pie pockets

chicken pot pie pockets

breakfast sliders

breakfast sliders

hot dog buns

hot dog buns

beef sliders

beef sliders

ice cream cake

ice cream cake

pumpkin bundt cake

bundt cake

gingerbread house

gingerbread

coffee crunch cake

coffee crunch cake

coffee crunch cake

In the early evening, we make the trip across the bay into San Francisco for dinner, a more ‘carnivorous’ affair.

roasted quail

quail

roasted new york strip

roast new york

roast new york

turkey

turkey

stuffing

stuffing

asparagus

asparagus

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

gravy

gravy

squab lettuce cups

squab lettuce cups

chinese sticky rice

chinese sticky rice

dream cake

dream cake

dream cake

chocolate fudge pie

fudge pie

I was so stuffed by the end of this, seriously. Maybe moreso than in past years, from what I can remember. But with so much good food and family, it’s hard not to gorge a bit.

Thanksgiving 2012

Dining date: 11/22/12

As expected, Thanksgiving is a food-filled holiday in this household. Technically though, none of the food is consumed in our own household; we do lunch at my aunt’s (mother’s side) and dinner at my grandmother’s side (father’s). Each year the food served remains largely the same with a few new entrants – just the way it should be, I suppose. The food is probably what I would call Chinese-American, a mixture of two different cultures coming together for one (or two!) big feast.

country potatoes

country potatoes

yams with marshmallows

yams

green beans with sliced almonds

green beans

chicken pot pie

chicken pot pie

linguine pasta salad

pasta salad

chow mein

chow mein

chinese sticky rice

chinese sticky rice

stir-fried shanghai noodles

shanghai noodles

turkey

turkey

egg rolls

egg rolls

fried shrimp wontons

wontons

shrimp toasts

shrimp toasts

beef tri-tip

tri-tip

BBQ pork ribs

pork ribs

lumberjack cake and mango pudding

pies

ice cream cake (neapolitan & cookies and cream)

ice cream cake

ice cream cake

coffee crunch cake

coffee crunch cake

My grandmother handles the majority of dinner duties, though my aunt prepared the turkey and turducken.

roasted new york strip

roast beef

roast beef

lobster tails

lobster tails

turducken

turducken

turkey

turkey

stuffing

stuffing

vegetables

vegetables

mashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

gravy

gravy

chinese sticky rice

chinese sticky rice

yams

yams

dream cake

dream cake

Another Thanksgiving is in the books. As always the food is good but the company is the most memorable part. Living in Los Angeles, there are limited times to spend with the extended family so each one of these holidays is special.

Sous Vide Pork Ribs

Dining date: 9/5/12

glazed ribs

plated ribs

One of the things I’ve wanted to mimic using sous vide is barbecue. Cooking-wise, I could easily duplicate the low-and-slow practice with even more precision; the challenge would be imparting the smoky flavor. I remembered seeing an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they prepared pulled pork in the oven using liquid smoke in the brine. After dismissing the thought of using mezcal in a brine (a waste!), I was inspired to use liquid smoke as the key ingredient to imbue the smoky flavor. Realistically, I did not expect it to duplicate the natural smoke flavor perfectly, but thought it’d be a fun experiment nonetheless.

Unlike synthetically manufactured truffle oil (most of which never involve actual truffles in its production), liquid smoke is a natural product formed with the condensation of smoke similar to how water is distilled. It definitely smells like smoke.

I first started by brining my baby back ribs in an herb-infused brine. I don’t know if brining makes much of a difference when cooking sous vide (especially for extended periods), but I often do it anyways.

raw ribs

The ribs were patted dry and rubbed with my trusty Ad Hoc BBQ rub. The sauce would come from another notable place, San Diego’s Phil’s BBQ. I was convinced that I had all the ingredients for a delicious dish.

seasoning

seasoned ribs

The liquid smoke I used recommended 1/2 teaspoon per pound of meat; I had no reason to do any different and ended up using a full two tablespoons for the 6-pound rack. Instead of applying it in the brine stage, I opted to seal it with the pork for optimum smokiness!

The temperature was something I debated about a while. I’d seen as high as 80C for 8-12 hours, but I decided to go even lower and slower with 68C for 24 hours. I figured this would be high enough to break down any collagen and connective tissue, while potentially keeping the meat more moist.

I set my bag into the water bath and waited. After cooking something for as long as 72 hours, 24 really didn’t seem that bad. As with most foods prepared sous vide, the cooked product didn’t look very impressive.

cooked ribs

Brushing on a little bit of the BBQ sauce and caramelizing with a torch made the ribs look a bit more appetizing!

glazed ribs

Lastly, I sliced the ribs and drizzled with more sauce. Voila!

sliced ribs

plated ribs

I thought the end product was good, but nothing exceptional (definitely didn’t compare to the sous vide beef short ribs).  The meat was very tender, though not fall-off-the-bone tender, and moist but not exceedingly so. I definitely wouldn’t have called them dry, but I totally expected them to be more moist. I thought the pork flavor came through with the rub, but most of the flavor came from the accompanying sauce. Only a hint of smoke flavor could be tasted, so maybe I’ll have to use more liquid smoke next time? It was a fun experiment and I’ll probably play with it a bit in the future…but I’ll be sticking with beef short ribs for the time being.