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Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

What is Sous Vide

posted by snekse
Sous vide (pronounced sue–veed) is French for "under vacuum". In culinary terms, sous vide is a cooking method in which food is vacuum sealed then immersed in a water bath and cooked at a very precise and consistent temperature.

Sounds simple, but there's much more to it than that. This is not meant to be a definitive guide to sous vide. Instead, this is meant to be a brief introduction along with some links to help you find more authoritative resources on the web, in print and elsewhere (including right here in Omaha!). This is also the first part of a series of articles we'll be doing on sous vide over the next week.

To start off, we interviewed Dario Schicke, of Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], and asked him to explain sous vide and the training he received. Then he gave us some demonstrations in preparing food for cooking sous vide, as well as texture modification and flavor injection using the vacuum chamber. We also left a SousVide Supreme™ with him for several days to get an experienced chef's opinion of the product. Our review and his thoughts on that will be posted later.

An explanation of sous vide cooking

A conversation with Dario Schicke, Chef/Owner of Dario's Brasserie in Omaha, NE, about sous vide cooking. We discuss what sous vide is, what it's uses are, the training he received and the viability of the method for the home cook.

Beef Tenderloin Cooked in the Sous Vide Supreme

Dario Schicke, Chef/Owner of Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], walks us through cooking beef tenderloin sous vide, while helping us test out the SousVide Supreme.

Compressed Watermelon

Dario Schicke, from Dario's Brasserie (Omaha, NE), demonstrates compressed watermelon in a vacuum chamber.

Flavor Injecting Under Pressure

Dario Schicke, from Dario's Brasserie [Omaha, NE], demonstrates texture modification and flavor injection by infusing apple juice and Calvados apple brandy into sliced Asian apple pears, using a high pressure vacuum chamber for some beautiful and flavorful results.

I'll leave you with two interesting quotes about sous vide, then some resources.

Thomas Keller, Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide, on the benefits of sous vide: "For one, it's a new toy and we all love new toys. And two, sous vide definitely goes beyond cooking in a bag. It's used for precise, à la minute cooking. When you order a steak medium, that's the temperature in the very center, but the outside is cooked well done and the next layer is medium-well, et cetera. But with sous vide, that piece of meat is medium from edge to edge. Before now, few people have had a short rib rare."

Eric Ziebold on the down sides of sous vide: "Sous vide takes craft away from cooking. You know it'll be a perfect medium-rare every time. You don't want to lose that emotional contact with food—like when you smell duck fat cooking, that does something for us.

Right now, we have turbot cooked sous vide and then brushed with preserved lemon. But we'll never have everything cooked sous vide. Just like we wouldn't have everything grilled..."

Sous-vide on Wikipedia
A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas Baldwin
Sous Vide: Recipes, Techniques & Equipment on eGullet
Michael Voltaggio (from Top Chef) explaining sous vide and using a microwave to do it.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

INTERVIEW: Chef Jessica Joyce - Confluence Bistro

posted by snekse
Chef Jessica Joyce, of Confluence Bistro (which closed Dec 31st, 2009) in Bellevue, NE, recently won the Comfort Food Classic challenge.  This year's challenge was to create a gourmet potato dish.  Chef Joyce won with a Gnocchi poutin. She has agreed to share her winning recipe with us which we'll be publishing later this week, but first we wanted to share our interview with her. Enjoy.

20-ish Questions with Jessica Joyce

You won with potatoes; What should the next Comfort Food Classic Challenge be?
Ice cream or soup! When I am feeling the need for comfort I lean one way or the other.

Had you made your winning dish before? Can you tell us more about your background with the dish?
Yes and No, I had made all of the components before but had never combined them. I’m an expert on eating poutine and try to grab a bite every time I am home. My favorite poutine comes from Johnny’s Fish and Chips on High Street in Sutton Ontario. The chips are huge-- skin on, the sauce is thick and as dark as molasses, the curds are perfect and every table has a full bottle of malt vinegar and ketchup!

Did you cook growing up? What inspired you to become a chef?
I took classes in high school and held jobs in restaurants since the age of 15. The yearning to know how to make everything really pushed me into the direction of formal training

Where did you gain your experience and training (Schools, jobs, etc)?
3 influences have had a major impact on how and why I cook the way that I do today.

1)The Institute for the Culinary Arts equipped me with a wide range of tools and skills, professional development and established a significant culinary community.

2)Travelling and experiencing food opened my eyes and my palate. Being exposed to eateries all over the world ultimately helped me to develop my culinary preferences and style.

3)Darwin Bistro, the team, the success and the expertise and guidance from Executive Chef Paul Urban fulfilled a dream and really showed me where I wanted to be.

Do you have any interesting/amusing kitchen incidents that you're willing to share?
I once got my hand stuck inside a can of truffle shavings and had to twist it out (slicing my hand in the meantime). I was so embarrassed, why I didn’t use a spatula I’ll never know! I guess I really wanted those truffles.

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?
Chef Paul Urban is the first person I call whenever I have a question.

Chef Kathleen Koesters, she was my first Chef in culinary school and she instilled values that I’ll never forget.

What is your philosophy on food and dining?
Taste everything. Don’t forget to enjoy it.

What advice would you give to aspiring young chefs?
Don’t forget the basics, check your ego at the door and seek out a restaurant that has a Chef who is willing to mentor you. A great mentor is invaluable.

What are your favorite dining spots and/or dishes in the city? Why?
Shucks because of their clam chowder. My mom would often make a gallon or so of clam chowder in a giant gray pot, 9 out of 10 times the pot never even left the burner. My brother, sister and I would eat 2-4 bowls each until that pot was empty. I guess their clam chowder reminds me of home. I am happy there.

What cities/restaurants/chefs have you always wanted to try food from?
El Bulli in Catalonia Spain. I became interested in their techniques in 2003 and have been really curious ever since. I simply just want to experience it.

Favorite kitchen tools or gadgets (besides your knives) and why?
Spoons!?! I use way too many during a shift just tasting tasting tasting. Every time I adjust I reach for a spoon and I taste.

Your 3 favorite knives in your bag (Brand, style, size, etc)?
8" Global cooks knife because it was my first knife and it fits my hand the best.
10" Shun cooks knife.
6" Wusthof carving.

Favorite or new food/spices/cuisines/techniques you're incorporating into your dishes at the moment?
Different vinegars/acids. They can really brighten a dish.

Any suppliers you'd like to give a shout out to because their product just blows you away?
Plum Creek Farm chicken, Branched Oak Farm cheeses and Rotella's for their delicious wheat berry bread.

What food/dish/whatever will never make it on your menu? Why?
Angel hair pasta because it makes me gag! Oh, and stuffed green peppers, for the same reason!

What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now (nationally and/or locally)?
I’ve seen a really big jump back toward local and going green. It makes me happy to see. However, I’ve noticed that consumers need some time to adjust to the higher prices, especially in this economy.

Do you read food blogs or forums? If so, which ones?
I mainly read gastronomic fight club and chowhound. I’ll often search for local products, see what is in season in Nebraska and check out other chef’s/restaurants/clubs on facebook.

What function do you feel these sites play in the food world?
They extend the culinary community and allow cooks to access information after hours, which is important in our field.

What are your thoughts on the Food Television Network?
After an exhausting day the food network provides us with a somewhat reiterative form of educational entertainment. Although often, it is simply there as a default channel.

When at home, what do you like to eat? Do you do the cooking?
If I am at home and just cooking something for myself I will reach for vegemite with peanut butter on whole grain toast. It is the best but I have to pace myself because it is difficult to get vegemite in the states so I have to consider how much I have left and when I’ll be getting my next supply. I love it and eat it often.

What might surprise people to find in your fridge or cupboards?
Way too many sweets! My roommate, Amy Ewing is a Pastry Chef and she’s always filling up the fridge with icing or icing related goodness. Also, my other roommate just made a killer tater tot casserole that we’ve been enjoying, with the addition of hot sauce!

Best piece of advice you would give a novice or home enthusiast?
Encouraging group cooking is a good way to keep things positive. The internet is a great tool as are books but there is nothing better than sharing ideas and food face to face with friends. Seriously, find some friends to experience food with. My boyfriend and I host "Top Chef Wednesdays" where everyone contributes, we eat, we watch Top Chef together and we talk about cooking.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

INTERVIEW: Chef Paul Kulik

posted by snekse
Okay, this is something I'm very excited to share. Several weeks ago, Gastronomic Fight Club joined forces with Dusty Davidson and Jeff Slobotski from Silicon Prairie News to do a video interview. The interviewee: Paul Kulik. The subject: Anything and everything - food, travel, Omaha, creativity, cooking, entrepreneurship, AFK and of course - The Boiler Room (and it's opening date). A huge thanks to Jeff and Dusty for allowing us to join them for the interview and a huge thanks to Paul for his time and a very interesting conversation.

Interview: Paul Kulik - Boiler Room - Part 1

Interview: Paul Kulik - Boiler Room - Part 2

Interview: Paul Kulik - Boiler Room - Part 3

Interview: Paul Kulik - Boiler Room - Part 4

Inside the Boiler Room with Paul Kulik

REVIEW: The Boiler Room (GFC)
The Boiler Room at 11th & Jones St.
Meet Jesse Becker, Master Sommelier for The Boiler Room
Boiler Room Update - Interview with Paul Kulik and Jesse Becker
About Silicon Prairie News
brightmix - Smarter Software Development
About that last question - bread
OWH's Chef Chat with Paul Kulik

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Meet the Nebraska Brewing Company

posted by snekse
When I first heard about Nebraska Brewing Company opening in Papillion, I had serious doubts about the place. I've been to too many "brewery-restaurants" that seem to wade in the mediocrity pool and rarely impress. I had doubts until I met Paul Kavulak, principal owner of Nebraska Brewing Company.

Paul is a man after my own heart. An information technology professional with a thing for history and beer. And as I found out, a bit of an obsessive fanatic like myself. He doesn't just like beer; he's been home brewing for 15 years. In 1992, a co-worker introduced him to the craft and just a year later he entered his first competition with a Scotch Ale and won a People's Choice award. Paul was one of the original members of the OmaHops Homebrew Club and was the club Secretary for awhile. So this isn't just someone thinking a brew pub could make them a lot of money, this is someone who *really* loves beer.

This also isn't just someone who loves beer who happened to one day think "Man it would be cool to own a brewery". This has been a flame in the back of his mind for at least 10 years. As a matter of fact, Kavulak and some of his OmaHops friends were to be the owners of the Jones Street Brewery when it closed, only to be thwarted by a last minute change in the terms that didn't agree with his analytical mind [CORRECTION: The other people involved with the attempted purchase were Dean Dobmeier (the brewer at Jones Street Brewery) and Bill Baburek (Cresent Moon)] . That logic-over-passion thought process is yet another reason I am excited for this place to open. The research and planning that has gone into this opening is impressive to say the least. It won't guarantee success, but it certainly helps.

Finally, you may have asked yourself "Does Omaha need another brew pub?" While I've always thought there was room for another brewery in Omaha, I never really felt there was a need for one. After talking with Paul, I did realize that there are a few spots in Omaha the do NEED one, including Papillion. The next question is, how will NBC be different? I found the answer to this very interesting. One of the reasons Kavulak stopped competing was because he always brewed beer for his own tastes which meant that sometimes a Porter or Lager he brewed wouldn't fit within the "style guidelines" for that particular brew, thus big point deductions which kill your chances to really compete. A perfect example of that is when he entered the same Scotch Ale that won the People's Choice award into a different competition only to have it score poorly due to the 12% ABV - far outside the upper range of 10% for even the strongest Scotch Ales according to the judging guidelines. Showings like this took some of the fun out of competing, so he decided to stop and just brew what he loves. He will strive to keep that philosophy while trying to find that delicate balance with broad appeal. I also found it interesting that Kavulak, being the history buff he is, wants to bring back some of Nebraska's rich brewing tradition which was wiped out for the most part during the prohibition. I believe Omaha has room for a brewery like this.

So I bid an early welcome to the Nebraska Brewing Company.

The Nebraska Brewing Company
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Nebraska Brewing Company (Foodaphilia)

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

INTERVIEW: Thomas Keller

posted by snekse
Label for The French Laundry's Modicum Cabernet
No, I didn't get a chance to interview Thomas Keller. To be honest, even if I got the chance, I have no idea what I would ask him. Instead I thought I'd share a recent Wine Spectator interview with the owner of The French Laundry empire.

Chef Talk: Thomas Keller

What I thought was interesting, but obviously fitting, was the fact that they discussed The French Laundry's house wine - Modicum.

Modicum instantly became one of my favorite wines the first time I tried it. I remember being blown away by it's rich, but bright chocolaty fruit flavors with amazing complexity and balance. I've been a bit obsessed about it ever since.

It's very rare that Modicum gets more than a passing mention in an interview, so to eek out some additional information about this amazing Cabernet is exciting. In general, the details about this wine are minimal and not always reliable. Beyond the basics, it's been protected under a shroud of secrecy. Of course that, combined with the French Laundry name just adds to the wine's sexiness.

For a little peak under that shroud, here's what I have been able to gleam from various sources about the wine.
  • It's made from a single vineyard in the Rutherford district of Napa Valley
  • Bottled under the name Vita Morrell Vineyards, but all indications seem to point that this is bottled by Sloan Estate
  • The 2000 vintage *may* have been bottled by Colgin from their Tychson Hill Vineyard
  • It's very likely Mark Aubert was involved in the initial project launch because of his involvement with both Colgin and Sloan during the 2000 vintage.
  • For the same reasons, it's very likely that the vineyard was planted by David Abreu
With a pedigree like that, it makes me feel very fortunate that I was able to acquire a bottle of the 2000 vintage for my personal collection.

You can now order Modicum from The French Laundry. Thanks to our anonymous commenter below for letting us know.

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Friday, March 09, 2007


posted by snekse
Paul Urban is the Executive Chef at Darwin Bistro & Catering. As part of what may become a regular feature here, I sent him a list of questions just to see how he'd respond.

If you'd like to see more articles like this one, please let me know. Next month I think we might turn this into a game. I'll post the questions and answers - you have to guess who it is.

20 Questions with Paul Urban

Did you cook growing up? What inspired you to become a chef?
i did cook growing up but it wasn't out of necessity. my mother and father are excellent in the kitchen. lot's of things inspired me to become a chef. i love the lifestyle and i love that it is a continuing art that is limitless.

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?
i can't really pick just one. i learned a ton of the business side from my boss, Darwin and i learned a lot of advanced cookery from chef john ursick [ED: Stokes Southwestern Grill] and chef tina powers [ED: Metropolitan Community College]

What is your philosophy on food and dining?
it feels silly to call food an art but at times it can be. dining is an enjoyment and when you can bring artful food into an enjoyable atmosphere i believe you have reached your goal

What are your favorite dining spots and/or dishes in the city? Why?
dicoppia was my favorite spot in omaha and it broke my heart when they closed up shop. i ate at their old location years ago and i knew i wanted to cook food like that. i love sushi japan because of the quality, i love la buvette because of the atmosphere, (plus their chef [ED: Paul Kulik] is a genius) other than that, my mom's food, whatever she cooks would be my favorite dish in omaha.

What cities/restaurants/chefs have you always wanted to try food from?
new york is an obvious choice, i was there this summer and really enjoyed myself. i am of course a fan of the big boys, ie: alinea, french laundry, nobu, el bulli, fat duck, etc. i'm planning on traveling to spain as soon as i can get a chance!

Favorite kitchen tools or gadgets (besides your knives) and why?
our big daddy immersion blender is a very good friend of mine as well as the robot coupe because it makes soups and sauces so much easier. the chinois and the tammy are my ultimate tools of refinement and i do love them as well.

Your 3 favorite knives in your bag (Brand, style, size, etc)?
my 10" shun chef knife, my henckel 6" utility and my henckel filet knife

Favorite or first cookbook?
my first cookbook was an old school julia child that i still use to this day. i'm of course a big fan of the french laundry, bouchon and escoffier

Favorite or new food/spices/cuisines/techniques you're incorporating into your dishes at the moment?
we staff a lot of very diverse and talented chef's at the bistro so i'm blessed with a lot of new and inventive input everyday. i hold a high respect for japanese cuisine and would love to incorporate it into the menu as well

What food/dish/whatever will never make it on your menu? Why?
i will never make beef wellington. my sister passed a few years back and it's the last thing i remember her cooking for my family. it would just feel weird

What was the last menu item to get the ax? Why?
the last item to get the ax were our smoked pork quesadillas. i didn't enjoy making them and they didn't sell all that well.

Where do you find inspiration?
i find inspiration from many different aspects. childhood memories with my family, watching my nephew make a bologna and dorito sandwich, my grandma's old school belgian food, grandpa's german food, etc. our front of the house manager, jessica is one of my biggest inspirations. we graduated from culinary school together and she has a brilliant mind that defines beauty. any time you can incorporate that into food, it's amazing. oh, and i love to eat

Do you read food blogs or forums? If so, which ones?
i read gastronomic fight club and chowhound

Restaurant reviews are a touchy subject for chefs and restaurant owners. What would be an ideal way to review a restaurant?
you've done a great job so far. everything is fair, good points and bad. chef's and restaurant owners like to think that they do no wrong. i want to know what part of a patrons dining experience was lacking so we can fix the problem

What are your thoughts on the Food Television Network?
it's turning the same way mtv did. less and less food, more and more gimmicks

Which Iron Chef would you choose to do battle against? Why? Any local chefs you'd like to do battle against?
i would like to go up against either mario batal or old school morimoto just so i could meet them after the show. they'd probably kick my ass but i'd go through it just to meet them

When at home, what do you like to eat? Do you do the cooking?
i eat ramen noodles and canned goods. i'm only home for about an hour before i fall asleep and ramen goes good with everything.

What might surprise people to find in your fridge or cupboards?
the lack of anything really good except for about 6 cases of diet dr. pepper and any leftovers from when i eat at my mom's.

Do you have a recipe you can share with us?
boil ramen noodles, add one tablespoon butter and one teaspoon soy sauce. top with two overeasy eggs and enjoy.

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