Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Finally back

After a year of dental work I finally got my full set of choppers back at the end of February, then the world went to crap.  Now we're in the midst of a stay-at-home order and are practicing social distancing, bars and restaurants are closed for dine-in but some are offering pick-up and delivery to try and keep afloat.  I fear many of the small mom-and-pop places won't be able to reopen once this pandemic has run its course, all we can do is try to support them and their staff by ordering pick-up when possible and donating to the various funds set up to support the front of house staff who are trying to find ways to wait this thing out.

Since the last post I've added a few new toys for my Camp Chef DLX pellet grill that I haven't really been able to play with, the first being the Sidekick side burner.  It came with a griddle and will fit a number of other accessories, I later picked up their Grill Box for searing and was later pleased to discover that my 2Stone Pizza Grill seems to fit on the Sidekick pretty well.  I'm still debating on whether to use that for pizza of get the Pizza Oven accessory made specifically for the Sidekick, I htink the Camp Chef Pizza Oven Box would fit a bit more securely to the Sidekick so I'm leaning that way.

The other thing I've been working on lately is my pizza dough formula, I'm currently using a recipe based on one from Pizzeria Beddia I found on-line.  Mine's a little bit different than the original recipe in that I use a preferment.  The recipe I'm using is:

200 grams  Water
200 grams  Bread flour
0.5 gram     IDY

Mix together until combined and let sit overnight or up to 24 hours.  Sometimes if I have a recently emptied bottle of bottle conditioned or unfiltered ale I'll swish the water around in it to pick up any remaining yeast cells for the preferment, but if you want to have the same product each time that adds too many variables.

Once the preferment has prefermented I add:

155 grams  Water
8.4 grams   Sugar
0.5 grams   IDY
14.3 grams Olive oil
310 grams  Bread flour

Knead until the dough comes together as a shaggy mass, then cover and let sit for 30 minutes.  This autolyse step gives time for the flour to fully hydrate and for enzymes to activate.  Once the autolyse is done start kneading on low for about 2-3 minutes or until the dough starts to get smooth, ten add:

15 grams   Fine sea salt

Continue kneading for another 2-3 minutes to incorporate the salt.

At this point I'll portion the dough (this makes 2 - 3 pizzas depending on the size you want), round the balls and place them in oiled bowls or bags to ferment.  For same day you can let it ferment at room temperature for about 2-3 hours or you can put the dough in the refrigerater to cold ferment for up to 3 days.  In my opinion cold fermentation results in better flavor development and a dough that is easier to stretch but the warm fermented one is still pretty good!  I'm not sure how this dough will work with the higher temps possible with the Sidekick and either my 2Stone Pizza Grill or the Camp Chef Pizza Oven accessory, I may need to cut down on the sugar to prevent over-browning but that experiment will have to wait until it gets a bit warmer out.

Stay healthy!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Ginza Festival Teriyaki Chicken, Sous Vide

The Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago throws an annual Japanese food and culture event called the Ginza Festival.  One thing people flock to the Ginza Festival each year is their famous teriyaki chicken, unfortunately I was unable to partake this year due to some dental surgery a few days before the event so I decided I would make some myself once I was cleared to resume eating a normal diet.

The Midwest Buddhist Temple prints a recipe booklet for each year's festival and it always includes their teriyaki chicken recipe, originating from Chef Tony Naito it can be found online on local news websites and blogs.  Basically the recipe calls for marinating the chicken in teriyaki sauce overnight, then putting everything in a pan and simmering the chicken in the sauce covered for about 20 minutes.  Finally your finish the chicken on a charcoal grill while basting with the reduced sauce.  I decided to utilize sous vide to ensure the chicken would come out moist and juicy.

First step is making the sauce, the ingredients are...

3/4 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sweet red wine 
1" ginger, grated
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

The original recipe uses Mogen David Concord Grape wine but I didn't find any at the grocery store so I went with a merlot.

Put all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Allow to cool to room temp.

At the festival they use 1/2 chickens, but since bone-in, skin on chicken thighs were on sale at the local supermarket I opted for those.  The chicken and cool teriyaki sauce were vacuum sealed together using my VacMaster VP215 Chamber Vacuum Sealer.  Chamber sealers have an advantage here because they make it much easier to seal liquids in the bags, if using a suction sealer like a FoodSaver you could freeze the marinade in ice cube trays and just seal the frozen cubes up with the chicken.  Once the marinade cubes thaw you would just need to massage the bags to make sure the marinade is well distributed.  The bags of chicken were then put in the refrigerator to marinate over night.  The next morning I filled up a 12 quart Cambro  with water, attached my Joule immersion circulator and opened up the Joule app to set the bath temperature to 163°f.  Once the bath was up to temp the bags of chicken went in and the timer was set for 3 hours.  When the time was up the bags were removed from the bath and chilled down before going in the refrigerator until later in the day.

It was a dark and stormy day, so I had to finish the chicken indoors instead of on the Weber as I had intended.  The chicken thighs were removed from the bags and patted dry.  I drained the purge in to a saucepan and put it over medium heat to start reducing.  This stuff is pretty high in sugar so it'll boil over if you don't keep an eye on it.  A separate non-stick skillet was put over medium high heat and filmed with a little oil.  Once the oil was shimmering and just about to start smoking the chicken thighs were put in skin side down to brown.  They only took about 2 minutes for the skin to get browned and crispy, they were then flipped over and the now reduced marinade was added to the skillet to get everything warmed through and for it to reduce a bit more.  Once warmed through the chicken was turned over in the sauce and then put skin side up on a rack over a sheet pan, the rack was then put in a 400°f oven for a few minutes for the teriyaki glaze to set.

The chicken turned out pretty well.  I would have preferred to finish it over charcoal or even in the pellet grill to get some wood flavor on it but the weather gods had other ideas.

I used low sodium soy sauce this time by request, but I think it turns out better with the regular stuff.  When I made this chicken previously it turned out WAY too salty, but I think that was because I used a bottle of soy sauce that had been in the back of the pantry for a long time and had concentrated quite a bit due to evaporation.  Next time I'll just buy a new bottle of good soy sauce.
 Simmering the sous vide cooked chicken in the reduced purge from the bags helped heat everything through quicker and resulted in a nice, sticky glaze on the chicken thighs once they were put in the oven to set.  I used a lower temperature for the water bath than I had seen suggested on line (163°f vs. 167°f) so I wasn't too worried about overcooking the meat during the finishing process.  I probably could have gone with a bit of a higher temp in the water bath to get a more traditional texture in the finished product but the lower temp/longer cook helps ensure the chicken stays nice and juicy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Pellet Grill Pepperoni Pizza

One of the ways I'd seen people using their pellet grills was as a pizza oven so I wanted to see how using it for usual pizza recipe would affect the final product.  I started with my usual dough recipe, which is supposed to be a clone of Mellow Mushroom's dough.   finally had a chance to eat at one of their restaurants when I visited family in Florida in June and decided to make a few changes to see if I could get a bit closer.  First thing is that their dough seems to have less molasses than mine so I swapped out half of molasses in the recipe with honey, that seemed to work out well.  The other thing I did was try to use up some 00 flour I had from when I tried a clone of Roberta's Pizzeria dough recipe, that didn't turn out as well.  I replaced about 1/2 of the regular bread flour with 00 flour and made the dough as usual.  After kneading, portioning and rounding I coated the dough balls with oil and put them in the refrigerator to cold-ferment for 2 days.  On the day of the cook a dough ball was removed from the refrigerator and allowed to sit (covered) at room temperature for ~ 90 minutes to come up to temp, when you form cold dough in to skins and bake them off you end up with huge bubbles so tempering the dough is critical.  I then set up the Camp Chef pellet grill by placing a pizza stone on the grates and filling the hopper with Treager Signature Blend Pellets, I thought the blend would work better than the cherry pellets I had used for the pulled pork cook a few weeks earlier.  About 30 minutes till cook time I turned on the pellet grill and turned the dial to 11 (the dial says "High" but I read that as "11").  The temperature at high got up to around 465° which is close to the temperature I use for this particular dough in the inside oven.  Now it was time to form the skin and get the pizza ready for the grill and it was here that I learned that the 00 flour I had wasn't the same as the 00 flour I had used for pizza dough in the past.  The dough didn't have a lot of gluten development so stretching it out by hand resulted in the dough tearing, I eventually had to settle on rolling it out with a pin.  Once I finally got the skin stretched out it was placed on parchment paper which was trimmed so it wouldn't overhang the pizza stone and placed on a pizza peel for dressing. 
Toppings were kept simple, sauce I had on hand, whole milk mozzarella and pepperoni on top.  I wasn't sure how long this would take to cook properly so after loading the pizza on to the atone and closing the lid I set a timer for 5 minutes and waited.  After checking and seeing it wasn't nearly done I repeated checking after 5 minutes until the cheese on top was beginning to brown, took a total of ~ 15 minutes.  After removing the pizza and putting the pellet grill in to shutdown mode it was tie to eat!

 With the exception of the dough not being up to snuff the pizza was really good, the smoke flavor was there but not overwhelming.  Next time I try this I'll keep the 1/2 molasses and 1/2 honey change to the dough but use all bread flour instead of cutting it with 00 flour (unless I can find some locally that specifies it's for pizza).  That should allow me to stretch out the skin the way I like with a really thin center with a good puffy edge.  The bottom of the crust was a little over-browned for my taste, but not burnt.  Rather than just letting the top brown from heat radiated down from the grill lid I may break out my Searzall next time and use it to brown the top once the bottom of the crust is cooked to my liking.  Lots of room for experimenting here!

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

First cook on the Camp Chef PG24 DLX Pellet Grill

This past weekend was the first day since being cleared to eat regular food again (due to dental surgery) and with no rain forecasted so I took the opportunity to finally use my new Camp Chef PG24 DLX Pellet grill.

A few days earlier I had stopped by the local grocery store and found whole pork shoulder butts on sale so I grabbed one of those and a salmon fillet for the non-carnivores in the house.  The rub was made with whatever I could find in the cupboard, mainly kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper and paprika with brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, ginger powder, chipotle powder and cayenne pepper.  Very early in the morning I debagged the pork shoulder, patted it dry and coated it with yellow mustard, then liberally encrusted it with my rub mixture.  I let that sit while I set up the smoker.  After adding what I thought were enough pellets I set the dial to "Hi Smoke" and turned on the power, once the smoke started and I knew the pellets were lit and could close the lid to wait for everything to reach temp (Hi Smoke is ~ 220°f).  At around 5:30 am the pork butt was loaded on to one of my old Bradley Smoker racks for easy transport and placed in the pellet grill, the temperature probe that came with the pellet grill was plugged in and inserted to about center mass of the pork.  By pressing a button on the controller to have it display the probe temperature instead of the chamber temp it was easy to keep an eye on things from inside the house.  I let it go on the Hi Smoke setting for about 3 hours spritzing occasionally with a mixture of apple juice and apple cider vinegar before turning the temp up to about 250°f.

About this time I added the salmon fillet seasoned with a little of the rub and topped with thinly sliced lemon, I didn't want the skin sitting directly on the rack so it was placed on a piece of parchment paper before being loaded in the smoker.  I was looking for an internal temp of about 135°f.  When the salmon was done the internal temperature of the pork but was around 160°f so it was time to wrap, it was placed atop pieces of aluminum foil with some extra rub, butter and honey added before wrapping it up tightly, returning it to the smoker and reinserting the temperature probe.  Now it was just time to wait until the internal temp came up to 205°-210°f.  At one point the flame went out because I hadn't added enough pellets to the hopper at the beginning, but this was caught quickly and I was able to get things started before things had a chance to cool down.  Total cook time was 11-12 hours.

After letting the pork butt rest for ~ 20 minutes it was removed from the foil and pulled, the accumulated juices from the foil were added to some store bought BBQ sauce and reduced down a bit before being mixed in with the pork.  Pulled pork sandwiches were served with hot pickles and mustard slaw, I also made a huge mess because I thought making hush puppies would be a good idea.  The salmon also turned out excellent.

Some observations about the cook:  The Camp Chef produces thin, blue smoke for the most part which from my understanding is what you want to see and is probably more appealing to my neighbors than the acrid white smoke my electric smoker produced.  The pork butt had a distinct smoke ring, but the smoke flavor was less pronounced than what I got from the electric smoker I had been using for the past several years (which was a little too harsh in my opinion).  I may look in to getting a Pellet Smoker Tube for future cooks which is supposed to help increase the smokiness, but first I'll probably just try not wrapping the meat for the last half of the cook.  Adding some hickory pellets will also result in more smoke flavor than just using the cherry I had for this cook.  So far I'm enjoying this pellet grill, not sure what I'm going to do next but seeing as how it can be used as an outdoor wood burning oven I'm thinking I'll throw on a stone and see how my standard pizza recipe works out on the new grill.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

It's Here!: Camp Chef PG24 DLX Pellet Grill.

Right now on out patio we have a huge Front Avenue (by Charbroil) propane gas grill that hasn't been used in years, a really old built in Ducane natural gas grill that's small and underpowered, my Bradley Smoker and my Weber Kettle Grill.  Since it's just the two of us now I haven't needed to use the big Front Avenue Grill for years, opting instead to use the charcoal grill.  I've enjoyed my smoker over the last few years but began looking in to pellet grills after seeing them on TV and reading about them.  The more I looked in to it the more it seemed like I could replace the grills and smoker with one piece of equipment and give us a less cluttered patio.  When Woot.com had a Camp Chef PG24DLX pellet Grill up for a good price I pulled the trigger and ordered.

A pellet grill uses wood pellets as fuel, these pellets are loaded in to a hopper and moved via an auger to a fire pot within the grill.  A computer controls the rate the pellets are moved to the fire pot based on a temperature probe within the cook chamber allowing the pellet grill to maintain a fairly stable temperature throughout a cook with minimal effort.

After a few false delivery attempts (carrier says they attempted to deliver but 1, I was at home both times and 2, video doorbell did not record anyone trying to deliver) the box finally arrived late Tuesday.  The box was in pretty rough shape so I opened it up and didn't see any obvious damage.  It was too late to start assembly by that time so I had to wait until after work the next day.  When I started unpacking all of the parts I found a couple of pieces that were bent, the flange on the smokestack was bent back in several places and the side shelf mounting tabs were severely bent.  I went ahead and started the assembly anyway.  Assembly isn't too difficult, the main body of the pellet grill comes preassembles so all you have to do is attach the legs, some handles, the smoke stack and the side shelf.  Took about an hour or so for me to assemble everything by myself.  I was able to get the smoke stack put on, but the warping in the flange left a few gaps that will probably leak smoke and let water in to the cook chamber if it rains when the grill is uncovered.  The side shelf, on the other hand, was a lost cause.  Neither of the damaged parts makes the
grill unusable, assuming the weather forecast is accurate and we won't have any rain tonight I plan on taking the pellet grill outside and doing the initial firing to burn off any oil residue on the parts and to cure the paint.  The process is to set the grill to 350°f and let it run for 30 minutes at temp.  Once I had finished the assembly I could do I got on to Camp Chef's website and submitted warrantee claims for both the damaged parts, to my surprise I got a response in less than 20 minutes letting me know that they would be shipping out replacement parts asap.  That's pretty outstanding customer service if you ask me, they heard about a problem and rook immediate steps to correct it for the customer.  They also sent me a code for 10% off my next purchase through their website, which I may take advantage of as I'm seriously thinking of adding a sear box to my pellet grill.  Unfortunately I'm currently restricted to soft foods (for the next week at least) so I'll have wait on smoking some ribs, but there may be some smoked salmon in my immediate future!

Friday, May 17, 2019

It's Here!: Breville BOV650XL Compact Smart Oven

Been neglecting this blog for too long and since I have a new toy coming next week I thought I'd get started again.  For the past few six months or so I've been getting back in to reef keeping after a 20+ year hiatus and have been focusing my energy on that.  In my late teens and 20's I was really in to aquarium keeping having as many as 18 tanks set up at once, then I got a job as an aquarist at a public aquarium which effectively killed my joy of the hobby.  After spending all day cleaning exhibits the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was aquarium maintenance.  17 years after leaving that job I finally caught the bug again and jumped back in, though I don't see keeping more than 2 or 3 tanks at a time in my future.  May have to start another blog about that hobby since a lot has changed and I'm having to relearn almost everything.

This wasn't something I planned to purchase.  For some time we've been using a cheap, underpowered, small toaster oven at the house that took a VERY long time to get up to temp and was too small to fit much in besides toast.  A few weeks ago the door spring broke which gave me an opportunity to finally get something decent.  I wanted an oven that would fit in the available space (17-18" wide), has decent build quality and enough power to heat up quickly.  After spending a week or so reading reviews I finally settles on the Breville BOV650XL Compact Smart Oven.

At 17" across it is small enough to fit in the space with some room to spare to allow heat to dissipate, it's also much deeper than the old oven which allows it to fit a 12" frozen pizza with ease.

The oven has 8 modes...Cookies, Reheat, Pizza, Bagel, Toast, Bake, Broil and Roast.  The rack has 3 different positions it can be placed in depending on the mode you will be using, the positions for each mode are printed on the oven door.  Once you set the mode with the top dial the bottom dial is used to set the parameters which will vary depending on the mode, for toast you select the number of slices and desired darkness and the oven will set the time.  The quartz elements heat up and cool down much quicker than the resistive elements found in cheaper ovens so the smart oven can maintain proper temperature much better than the resistive elements found in cheaper toaster ovens preventing the top or bottom of the food from becoming over-browned.  Other than the pizza, (which turned out pretty good for a frozen pizza) we've mainly used the toast, broil and reheat modes.  I recently picked up a small cookie sheet that will fit in the oven so we'll be trying out the cookie mode soon and I'm sure I'll be trying out the bake and reheat modes as well.  So far we've been very happy with this oven and hope the high price reflects good build quality that will mean this oven will continue to work for years to come.

The incoming toy is a Camp Chef PG24DLX pellet grill (I got the black one instead of the bronze), I'm planning on using it to replace my big, old gas grill that we never use anymore and the Bradley Original Smoker I've been using for the past few years.  The pellet grill is due to arrive next week but I'm restricted to soft foods until after Memorial Day so it'll probably be June before I really get a chance to play around with it and post a review.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Vacmaster VP215 6 week Check-in

I had the Vacmaster VP215 chamber sealer for about 6 weeks and have been using it quite a bit for vacuum compression and sealing up proteins for cooking sous vide.  I generally buy meats in bulk, season, seal and throw in the freezer, when it's time to cook I just pull them from the freezer and put them right in the bath.  Depending on the thickness of the protein I'll generally add 30-45 minutes to the total cook time and I'll usually throw it in the bath while it's still heating up.

I have been thinking about the best settings for various items and have found some resources online to point me in the right direction.  Vacmaster has a chart online that gives recommended vacuum, seal and cooling times for several models of the sealers, it can be found here.  For the VP215 is recommends a 30 second vacuum time for meat, fish and poultry, 20 seconds for fresh fruits and vegetables and 15 seconds for soups.  Out of the box the VP215 has a default setting of 40 seconds vacuum time, for some reason mine started out at 60 seconds.  The seal and cooling times depend on the thickness of the bags you're using, the chart doesn't indicate what types of bags the times are for but they're what I use for 3 mil bags.  Thicker bags and bags made of other materials (like Mylar) may require adjustments to the settings.

Dave Arnold from Cooking Issues and his company Booker and Dax (Searzall, Spinzall) wrote an interesting piece back in 2009 about an experiment he did where he compared the results of vacuum sealing three different proteins ate 5 different vacuum levels with and without oil in the bag for chicken and fish and oil in the bag for all steak samples, the article can be found here.  The vacuum levels he used were  90%, 98%, 99%, 99.9% and 99.9% + 15 seconds of vacuum and each vacuum level had one with and one without oil in the bag.  All  bags of each type of protein were cooked at the same time and temperature and in each case the one sealed at 90% vacuum with oil was the preferred product.  The VP215 only allows you to set vacuum by time rather than % vacuum so I'll have to do some playing around to try and get appropriate times to achieve 90% vacuum with and without the filler plates in place.

EDIT 9/27/18:  Was vacuum sealing some bacon last night to sous vide and played around with the vacuum times, with both filler plates in place it took 15 seconds to achieve ~90% vacuum.  That does leave a little bit of air in the pouch so floating was an issue.  The pouch sealed with 30 seconds of vacuum time looked to be 98-99% vacuum and did not need to be weighted down.  I'll probably stick with 30 seconds to package meats just so I don't have to worry about them floating during the cook.

Like I said at the beginning I've been doing a lot of vacuum compressing since getting the VP215 and have really enjoyed the results with honeydew melon and watermelon.  Recently someone suggest trying pineapple sealed with a little rum and it was fantastic!  Next time I try it though I may add a pinch of salt to make the flavors pop.  Might also be interesting to all some coconut to the mix to try and get a piƱa colada vibe.