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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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Halloween Cake Recipes: Pumpkin, Dirt and more!

posted by Foodie-E
October is here! Which means it's time to start thinking about what fun Halloween treats to create for those parties you'll be invited to (or hosting!). I've only recently started getting more creative with my holidays since I've had my daughter, but I've realized that I probably should have started long before that. It's really kind of fun.

So far, I've made filled cupcakes, dirt cake, a decorated Halloween cake, and a 3D pumpkin cake - all Halloween themed. As I started making these treats, I discovered that you can make anything holiday themed as long as you had some imagination and some food coloring.

Filled Cupcakes

The first thing I'll talk about is the easiest. Filled cupcakes. Who doesn't remember eating Hostess cupcakes? You peel the chocolate frosting off the top and then split the cake in half to reveal the fluffy white creme filling. Yum. Now it's awesome if you have the time to make both the frosting and the cake from scratch, but I'm a working mother of a 2 year old with a life outside the kitchen. Needlessly to say, I do not make my cake or frosting from scratch often and if I do, it's only for my family, not work functions. If you've read any of my previous posts about cake though, you'll know that I whole heartedly defend the usage of boxed cakes. Enough of that.

You can use any flavor cake and frosting that you like. I have used yellow cakes with vanilla frosting and chocolate frosting or chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. It's really up to you and what you feel you want to make. Although I haven't tried it, I imagine that lemon cake with vanilla, chocolate, or lemon frosting would be really good too.

You really can't get any simpler than this. Put the cupcakes in the oven, while they're baking, make the filling. Once the cupcakes are done, take them out and when they are only slightly warm, fill your cupcakes by inserting pastry bag/cake decorator fitted with a large round tip. Squeeze until the top of the cake puffs out a little. Then take it out and frost once the cake is completely cool. DONE. Here is the recipe for the filling.

Cupcake Creme Filling

1/3 c. Evaporated Milk
1/2 c. Granulated Sugar
2/3 c. Crisco
1/4 t. Salt
1 Tbs. Vanilla
1 Tbs. Water
1/2 c. Powdered Sugar
a few drops of food coloring to color creme as desired

INSTRUCTIONS: In a mixing bowl, put milk, granulated sugar, Crisco, salt and vanilla. Beat for 10 minutes. Then add water and powder sugar: beat until fluffy.

YEILD: Makes enough for 3 dozen.
There are some tricks to filling them that I will mention and hopefully save you some heart ache.
  • If you are using a zipper lock bag as a pastry bag to put the filling in, you'll have to squeeze harder or hold the bag in a fashion that the bottom of the bag barely moves. Otherwise you won't get enough frosting in.
  • Make sure you keep an eye on the top of the cupcake to watch it puff up. If it starts to crack, you may have too much creme inside.
  • If you don't want to go through the time of making cupcakes, you can make your cake in a 9x13 pan and then randomly inject the creme filling all over the cake and then frost the entire thing. It's a great surprise in the plain old generic office cakes everyone sees so often.
  • You can easily split the recipe after it's been made and dye them in separate bowls so you have different colors.

Dirt Cake

Halloween Peeps on a Dirt Cake
The dirt cake and the decorated cake are just slightly harder, but not by much. For the dirt cake, all you have to do is follow the recipe, dye the cream cheese mixture orange, layer it in a 9x13 pan, and finish it off with some spooky candies like Peep ghosts, pumpkin shaped Mellowcremes, and Nilla wafers (write RIP on one half and stick it in the dirt cake for a tombstone). You can get really fancy and pipe vines off of the pumpkins for vines.

Dirt Cake Recipes

Dirt Cake on Foodista
-OR- Dirt Cake Recipe

Orange Halloween Polka-Dot Cake

The decorated cake is a fun way to get some kudos from your friends with minimal effort. Make two 8" layer cakes and trim them so they're fairly flat. Place the first cake with the cut side up on your serving platter and frost the middle with the frosting of your choice dyed orange. (I've been playing around with a butter cream frosting recipe that I really like.) Place the second layer of cake cut side down on top of the frosted half and make sure it's flat on the top and straight vertically. Frost the rest of the cake with orange frosting and make it as flat as you can on all sides. Using a piping bag with a star tip, pipe a border at the base of the cake. Change the tip to a small round tip and pipe dots that are equally spaced all around the cake. Next, all you have to do is collect the compliments


1 1/2 cups shortening
1/2 cup butter
8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons regular vanilla extract
6 fluid ounces heavy cream

1. Beat the shortening and butter together until it looks fluffy.
2. Add sugar and continue to cream until it's mixed well.
3. Add salt, vanilla, and cream, mix until blended.
4. Beat at high speed until the frosting is fluffy. About 5-10 minutes.
5. Add gel food coloring if desired.

3D Pumpkin Cake

3D Pumpkin Cake
If you are feeling a little craftier, you can try a 3D cake. I made one for my team last year and they loved it and I couldn't believe how easy it was. Bake two bundt cakes and 2 cupcakes using two cake mixes. Just fill a cupcake mold 3/4 of the way and pour the rest of the batter into the bundt pan. Once the cakes are cool you can start frosting the cake. Place one of the bundt cakes with the rounded part down on your serving dish and frost the top of it (the flat part only). This will be the middle of your finished cake so you can take this opportunity to dye your frosting a different color or get really creative with a filling.

After the top is frosted, place the other bundt cake on top with the flat side facing down. If there are decorative lines on the outside of your bundt cake, now would be a good time to line them up. It's not an extremely necessary step, but it will make your cake look better depending on your frosting skills.

The next step is to frost the top of the two layer cake with orange frosting. You don't have to go all the way down on the outside, but make sure you get the inside of the hole a bit. Next you'll drop one of the cupcakes (if you used a paper liner for the cupcakes, you need to take them off first before using them in your cake) into the hole with the top facing up and frost the top of the cupcake with orange frosting. Turn the second cupcake upside down and place it on top of the already frosted cupcake. This is your pumpkin stump, so you'll want to frost it green. Be careful that it doesn't shift too much while you're frosting. If it does move a lot, you can use 3 or 4 toothpicks to hold them together. Carefully frost the rest of the pumpkin with orange frosting and pipe on the jack o' lantern face of your choice with black frosting and you're done!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Subscribing to blog updates

posted by snekse
I apologize that we haven't had a new post here in a couple of weeks. August is always an extremely busy month for me, so I find myself with little free time to post. That, however, is a great excuse to post a little technology "How To" for some of our readers. If you are already familiar with RSS and Feed Readers, there's not much for you here. But if those terms are new to you, let me introduce you to a whole new way to keep updated on news and reviews from Gastronomic Fight Club and all of the other cool blogs (and some news sites) you read.

Understanding RSS

The first thing we need to do is become familiar with what RSS feeds are. There's no better or more enjoyable way to learn the subject than to watch this short video:

Subscribing and Reading RSS Feeds

Once you have an understanding of RSS and you've determined the location of a site's RSS feed, you'll need to pull it into a feed reader. My favorite is the Google Reader seen here:

That's it! Now whenever a new article is added to this site, you'll see it appear in your feed reader of choice. If you're not keen on the whole feed reader thing, we also provide you with another option - to subscribe to email updates.

I hope that has made your day a little more interesting.

RSS Feed for all Gastronomic Fight Club posts
Subscribe to email updates from Gastronomic Fight Club
RSS feed for Snekse's Food related bookmarks on
RSS feed for Snekse's Food related photos on

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Friday, March 21, 2008

RECIPE: Homemade Kahlua

posted by snekse
So you want to learn how to make Kahlua. I know there are lots of Kahlúa recipes out there, but this is the one we use. I can't say how this recipe stacks up to the others, I can just tell you it's good. Very good. And it gets oh so much better with age. Like aged balsamic vinegar; Both go well over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. And homemade Kalua makes a great holiday gift.

The ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 Cups of sugar
  • 2/3 Cup of instant coffee (preferably Yuban)
  • 2 Cups of boiling water
  • 2 Cups of brandy
  • 1 vanilla bean - split
  • Cheese Cloth
  • 2 sterilized bottles - 1 liter each with resealable lids


Mix the sugar with the instant coffee in a large bowl.
Add the boiling water to the sugar and coffee mixture.
Stir until dissolved.
Add brandy to the mixture in the bowl, stir, then wait 5 minutes.
Use cheese cloth to strain the mixture into a second container. Preferably one with a pour spout.
Pour the strained liquid into the sterilized bottles.
Leave room at the top of the bottles to allow you to shake the liquid and reclaim the sediment.
Split your vanilla beans and add half of the bean to each bottle.
Let it age for at least 3 months.

That's it!

Do you have a Homemade Kahlua Recipe? Share it with us.

Step-by-Step Photos: How To Make Kahlua
Kahlúa Coffee Liqueur - the real deal
HOW TO: Make Wonton Soup - A photo recipe
HOW TO: Make Joong
HOW TO: Make Clarified Butter v2.0
HOW TO: Make Salt Steak

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

HOW TO: Make Joong - a photo recipe

posted by snekse
As a supplement to last week's article, "HOW TO: Make Wonton Soup - A photo recipe", I'm posting another tutorial with the help of my mother-in-law.

Joong is basically a form of sticky rice, wrapped in waxy leaves with edible goodies, that's been boiled for several hours. Tastes much better than it sounds.

Or if you want Wikipedia's definition:
Glutinous rice (Oryza sativa var. glutinosa or Oryza glutinosa; also called sticky rice, sweet rice, waxy rice, botan rice, mochi rice, and pearl rice) is a type of short-grained Asian rice that is especially sticky when cooked. It is called glutinous in the sense of being glue-like or sticky and not in the sense of containing gluten; on the other hand, it is called sticky but should not be confused with the other varieties of Asian rice that become sticky to one degree or another when cooked...

Zongzi (pronounced "joong" or "choong" in Cantonese) is a Chinese dumpling consisting of sticky rice and sweet or savoury fillings wrapped in leaves which is then boiled or steamed, commonly eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival.
This recipe isn't quite as in depth as the wonton instructions, but it will get you where you need to go.

HOW TO: Make Joong - A photo recipe
HOW TO: Make Wonton Soup - A photo recipe
HOW TO: Make Clarified Butter v2.0
HOW TO: Make Salt Steak

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

HOW TO: Wonton Soup Recipe

posted by snekse
Taking full advantage of the fact that my mother-in-law is in town, I talked her into making wonton soup and talked my wife into photographing it step-by-step.

Since it's a photo recipe, I've hosted it on Flickr. You can see the photos and instructions in my HOW TO: Make Wonton Soup set.

Luckily she made it just in time for the "Soup, Glorious Soup!" event hosted by A Veggie Venture

My thanks to The Amateur Gourmet's "70 Steps To Foie Gras Torchon" and Pim's "Pad Thai for beginners" for inspiring this post.

So that covers the soup portion of our slogan. Mischief and Mayhem are slated over the next couple of weeks.

HOW TO: Make Joong - a photo recipe
HOW TO: Make Joong
HOW TO: Make Clarified Butter v2.0
HOW TO: Make Salt Steak

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Friday, January 12, 2007

How to Make Clarified Butter v2.0

posted by snekse
The Iowa State Fair Butter Cow
I've always had soft melted spot in my heart for clarified butter, but it can be a pain to make. I usually use a gravy separator to extract the butter fats from the protein layers, but GaryProtein has shared a way that might be a little simpler using a zip lock bag. Read about it over at Cooking For Engineers

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

RECIPE: Grilled Salt Steak

posted by snekse
Our little experiment making Salt Steak AKA "Newspaper Steak". [Recipe(s) below]

Preparing the dry ingredients

That's a lot of salt

Rock salt*, Peppercorns, Lemon Pepper
*Course Sea Salt actually

Pardon me....

This is an implied provision

The setup - notice the newspaper

Yeah, that's me

And that's just HALF of the mustard!

The slather

The rub

One side down

More mustard

More "rub"

All set

And now to wrap it

A little tape....

A little more....

Okay, a lot of tape...

Hmmm, got my self a little buoy

Not a problem, just grab a plate

.' '.
/ \
\ '=' /
/ |

We forgot to take pictures of the wrapped steak cooking on the grill, so this is my rendition of the event

After being unwrapped; ew, looks a little boiled!?

Scrape off the mustard and salt

.' '.
/ \
\ '=' /
/ |
Put'er back on the grill

Mmmmmmmm, S-T-E-A-K

We used the recipe below, but this recipe (found after the fact) is a little more complete.

Salt Steak (Serves 4)
1 T-Bone 1 1/2-2 inches thick
2 jars lemon pepper seasoning
2 jars peppercorn
2 jars Grey Poupon mustard
A roll of masking take 1/2 inch thick
5 sheets (whole) newspaper (black & white)
Bag of Rock Salt (8.82 oz. Tidman Natural)

Mix dry ingredients together. Take steak and lay on paper. Rub entire jar of Grey Poupon on one side of steak. Take handful of dry ingredients. and place on Grey Poupon side. Take steak and flip to other side (so Mustard side on paper). Repeat on other side with mustard and dry ingredients. Fold like a present. Tape entirely with tape and soak (submerge) in lukewarm water for 10-15 minutes. Place directly on med. hot coals until paper catches fire - flip over so other side catches fire. Take off coals. Remove paper and all salt and mustard off steak. Place steak on grill rack until done. Approx. 8-10 minutes. It sounds bizarre but this steak is great!

NOTES: Taping the entire steak in tape is unnecessary. The second recipe I found stated to use the tape more like "
ribbon on a Xmas present". I think wrapping the entire thing is more for effect then anything else. Next time I try this I may just use chicken wire and/or butcher's twine. I'm sure you could just use aluminum foil too, but where's the fun in that? Hmmm, maybe cardboard....

As for the taste, it was delicious. One of the better steaks I've had. Very succulent and tender. Personally I thought the mustard was understated and the salt was a tad overpowering, but overall, very good. A slight mustard crust would have been tasty. I might have been too zealous on scraping the toppings off before the final grilling, but I think scraping everything off and actually basting a little mustard back on is the way to go.

Some garlic (fresh, dehydrated, or garlic salt) would have been a nice addition, though I'd probably omit it if I added Worcestershire sauce as the second recipe did. And I'd put rosemary on anything.

When it comes to procuring the ingredients, give yourself some lead time. Food grade rock salt is not easy to come by. We actually used granular sea salt which is a much smaller grain the rock salt. As for the steak, a T-Bone is too small, even at 2" think. A porterhouse, maybe - the point being that a larger diameter is certainly needed such as a
sirloin or ribeye. Anything that is 0.5 lb per person (or more) should suffice. You could use something like Omaha Steaks, but I think it defeats the purpose here since your adding so many other flavors to the steak.

Overall, a great recipe, and a perfect recipe for Memorial Day and Father's Day. I mean can you think of a better grilling for Father's Day recipe than one that involves MacGyver a steak and throwing directly on hot coals?

Happy Grilling :-D

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