Sous Vide – Scallops and Chicken

Today, I went to a seafood market near the ocean and got about a pound of sea scallops.  Since this seemed a little on the light side, I also got a pair of chicken breasts out so we could have a combination dinner.

Before I started the proteins, I got carrots working again.  These carrots were somewhat thick, so I cut them in half to cut back on the thickness.  After cooking them, I ran into a sorta strange behavior on my Anova.  I ended up unplugging it, removing it from the water, and waiting about 20 minutes or so, I guess…  Then I tried it again, and it seemed to clear up the strangeness.  The carrots went into the fridge, as there was a lot of time left until they were needed.

I cooked my Chicken at 150 for probably a little over an hour, then removed that, lowered the temp to to 124, added back in the carrots (to warm them) and the scallops.

Somewhere in here, my daughter made a nice lemon sauce, and I started a pot of rice.

While the scallops were in the water bath, I seared the chicken and when the 30 minutes was up, got the scallops out of the water, dried them with paper towels, put a bit of butter in my skillet and seared the scallops.

As for the verdict…  The carrots seemed a bit less done than last time.  Perhaps it was the thickness.  Both the scallops and the chicken were good.  Previously, I think my chicken was a bit on the dry side, which seems odd since it was mostly cooked in water, but anyhow…

October 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Steak

Last Friday I made my first Sous Vide steaks.  They were flat iron steaks.  I set the Anova for 140 (or perhaps 130) degrees, and left them in the water for about 40 minutes.  After taking them out and searing one, I ended up with a pool of blood around it shortly after.  Cutting into one, I saw they were not cooked as much as I would have liked.  I finished searing them and popped them in an oven for about another 15-20 minutes.  Afterward, they were pretty much how I wanted them.  I think I should have left them in the water bath for a bit longer.  Ah well, live and learn.

Aside from that, I made some corn – good as usual.

October 15, 2016 at 6:03 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Salmon and Corn

For tonight, I decided to go with two sous vide items…  Ok, these are items that probably don’t normally go together, but hey – I wanted to try them…

The corn was shucked, washed, and placed into sous vide bags with about a TBSP of butter, 2 ears to a bag.  Note to self – in the future, add some silverware to the bag to weigh it down.

Bringing an entire Cambro container up to 183 degrees took quite a long time.  Once it made it there, I had trouble with the bags of corn floating.  I think I gave it about 35 minutes.

So, for the Salmon, I went with a brine for a half hour or so, then rinsed them, I think I patted them dry with paper towels, then dropped them into zip lock bags with some olive oil and let them chill in the fridge for a while.  I got the temperature back down to about 130 degrees, then put them in for about 35 minutes.

Aside from this, I made rice and a sweet sauce.

This was probably my most successful sous vide dinner so far.  The corn was very flavorful, firm, crisp, and sweet.  Not crisp as in raw.  It was some very, very good corn.  The salmon was good too, though the texture was different.  It was probably softer than any salmon that I’d ever had that was cooked at home.

Overall, a very successful dish.

October 2, 2016 at 7:32 am Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Tuna

Tonight, I made dinner yet again.  This time, I only made one dish Sous Vide, Tuna following this recipe.  Differences this week:  I bought a Cambro 4.75 gallon container with a sliding lid to cook in and an Ikea pot organizer (which fits inside the Cambro, allowing me to keep the bags separated).

I’m not having much luck with proteins cooked Sous Vide.  Perhaps it was that the Tuna I cooked was a flash frozen Tuna from a local warehouse club.   It was Ahi Tuna, and the color didn’t look as red as I expected.  I think it was more of a brown, but perhaps that was from the freezing process?

I set my Anova to 115 degrees, as I wanted it to be a little firm, but not to the point that it’s dry.  I think my Tuna steaks were around 1 inch thick, giving me a cook time of 30-45 minutes.  I took the first piece out around the 45 minute mark and proceeded to sear it.  I probably took the last piece out between the 50 and 55 minute mark.

What I ended up with, though it was only cooked to 115 degrees, looked much closer in color to the 130 degree image from the Serious Eats article.

I thought that perhaps my issue was with the Anova itself.  Perhaps it was not accurately reading the temperature of the water, making it heat it up another 10-15 degrees above the expected temperature?  I tested that theory by firing up the Anova after dinner and placing a large mercury thermometer in the water bath.  It showed about 109, matching the Anova.  A few minutes later, when the Anova had reached 115, the mercury thermometer also showed about 115 degrees.

So, since the Anova is operating as expected, I can only conclude that I either overcooked the Tuna by going to 45-55 minutes and should have removed it at 30 minutes, or that it was a quality issue with my Tuna itself.  Another potential issue that I just thought of…  Perhaps my intake and outlets of the Anova are getting partially blocked, making the Anova overheat the water?

My choices of sides seemed to go well this evening, though they were not Sous Vide, so I am not going to go into them here, at this time.

Not sure what I’m going to make next Saturday.

September 24, 2016 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide – Going both barrels

Since I had just bought my Anova, I figured I’d try to cook an entire meal using it.  A main dish, two sides, and a dessert.

Main dish:  Boneless Chicken breast
Side #1:  Garlic Cheese Risotto
Side #2:  Carrots
Dessert:  Individual Cheesecake

Yes.  All four items made Sous Vide.

I started Friday night by making the Cheesecake.  I basically adapted a recipe based on one I found on-line (linked in the Will it Sous Vide article on Skillet.  Spoiler: Yes, it will!).

My adapted recipe made 8 individual cheesecakes in mason jars, with some graham cracker crust mixture left over, I believe.

Saturday came.  My plan was to pre-cook both the Risotto and the Carrots placing them in the fridge, then cook the Chicken.  When the Chicken was ready, I’d take it out and start finishing it, dropping the Risotto and Carrots into the water bath to warm up.

Risotto – I followed this recipe pretty closely from the Sous Vide supreme website.   Everything looked pretty good when I took it out of the Sous Vide and placed it into the fridge, though I didn’t look too close.

Carrots – I followed this recipe pretty closely from ChefSteps, except I didn’t use the fancy seasonings they suggested during the finishing step.  (It too went into the fridge and was warmed back up while finishing the chicken).

Note:  Since both of these cook above 158 degrees, I double bagged them in Ziploc freezer bags.

The Chicken – Serious Eats is another great looking resource for Sous Vide, so I followed their guide on Chicken, though my chicken breast was boneless.  I chose the 150 degree temperature, as I figured that would be a good start for my family.

Results

When I pulled the chicken out at the 2 hour mark, I took the temperature with an old meat thermometer.  It measured in the low 140s, I believe.  Being new to sous vide cooking, and still be concerned about salmonella, I moved the Anova up to 155 and put it back in for about 30 minutes.  I was able to then finish it a skillet, browning both sides a little.

When we ate it though, I was surprised that it seemed dry.  I was expecting something more moist than we are used to, but I am not sure what happened.  Perhaps my old meat thermometer needs to be retired and replaced.  Perhaps the extra 30 minutes was the issue?  In any case, it was not what I expected.

The risotto, well, it did not turn out well at all.  It’s like the rice broke down.  The flavors were there, but it was just wrong.  This may have been due to the reheating I did.  Perhaps it was the ingredient – the grocery store Arborio rice?  I’ve not tried again to see if it’s better when eaten fresh, or if perhaps 45 minutes is a few minutes too long.

The carrots were a surprise hit.  Everyone who had them really seemed to like them.  The flavor seemed to be concentrated.   Though I went to the farmers market to try to find nice carrots, it looked like they just had monster carrots, so I used the normal ones my wife gets from the grocery store, and they were terrific.

The cheesecake was also well liked by everyone, which I pretty much expected.  I mean, it’s cheesecake – what’s not to like?

Final Tally:  2 winners, 2 losers

So, for cooking the protein, what Sous Vide is supposed to excel at, Sous Vide failed me, or perhaps I just failed.  Perhaps I should have trusted the technique, but it may have been a bad idea to try chicken as my first Sous Vide protein.

Risotto looked promising, but my result was disappointing.  I do want to try this again, as a method to cook risotto via Sous Vide would be great, as it is normally a labor intensive process.  Unfortunately, I think that the time-insensitivity that Sous Vide is famous for probably doesn’t hold true with rice.

 

September 24, 2016 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

Sous Vide Cookery – Intro

My day job and the sort of things I enjoy doing in my free time seem to be technology based.  I’m not very into sports anymore, and I’ve slowed down on my woodworking, as it’s a pretty expensive hobby.  Relative to stress, it was recently suggested that I should get a hobby, so I’ve chosen one.

I’ve enjoyed cooking breakfast for my family on Sunday mornings for years.  There are also a few other meals I cook from time to time.  I don’t think I’ve ever been a great cook, but I do enjoy the satisfaction of cooking a good meal and seeing my family enjoy it.  I’ve recently read a bit about Sous Vide, and thought that sounded like my kind of cooking.  More relaxed and laid back, not the critical to the second cooking like you see on reality cooking TV shows.

My wife was on-board, as I offered to cook dinner on Saturdays.

I spent a little time reading about it.  And my wireless carrier sealed the deal for me, when they stopped allowing contract extensions to get you a subsidized iPhone.  My iPhone replacement budget category provided the seed money for my new hobby.

Enter the Anova Precision Cooker, a device that is relatively inexpensive ($199), easy to use from display of the device, and connects via Wi-Fi to you phone, allowing control and such there.  The Wi-Fi is not entirely necessary, but it’s a nice addition.  You could save $20 and get the Bluetooth only version, and you’d probably be perfectly happy with it.

Before deciding on the Anova, I read about the Joule also.  It sounded very much like the Anova, with one big difference.  From what I can tell, it’s controlled through your smart phone only, so there are no manual controls on it.  I read this good comparison article and had planned to get the Joule.  It appears as though they have only recently started shipping the Joule, and they are apparently sold out of their initial batch. Basically, both of  these units are very good, and they are right there on price too.  Since the Anova was much more readily available, that’s the one I bought.

My impression of the Anova were basically in-line with what I had read about it.  I did a quick test and spent a little time planning my first Saturday night meal.

 

September 24, 2016 at 8:37 pm Leave a comment

Trying nYNAB again

It’s been almost 9 months since nYNAB hit the scene.  Not too long ago, I got an email from them letting me know that migrations were supported and inviting me to try again, so I took them up on the offer.

Migration…  Yes, it works, but because of the differences in the way YNAB4 handles things, your budget probably won’t look quite right when you migrate.  The best move may be to migrate your data in, so you have the data saved for the future, but then to do a fresh start.  I spent some significant time looking through my budget trying to figure out when things started to “go wrong”, but ultimately went to the current month and adjusted things there.  Don’t forget to check your hidden categories.  Even though they show a zero balance in YNAB4, because of the differences in the way things work, you may actually have a balance showing up in some of your hidden categories, which you’ll need to negate so you can budget that money elsewhere.

So, I spent some time looking around nYNAB.

Goals – I really like this new feature.  One thing I will miss from YNAB4 is the ability to go out many months in advance to see when a debt would be extinguished, make sure a savings goal will be met by a certain date, etc.  Goals basically gives you some of that ability, but in a simple and elegant way.

Age of Money – Mine shows up as 46 days now, but hit a peak of 91 days back in June.  I’m not sure this metric really tells me very much.

Credit Cards in nYNAB – I agree that the way they are handled now is more correct than before.  It makes sense that when you spend money on a credit card out of the Grocery category, for example, the money hasn’t actually left your account, so nYNAB moves it to a category to pay down your credit card.  Even though I have no issue with handling it in YNAB4, I sorta like this change.

Super Fast Reconciliation – If you check the boxes for all your cleared entries, hit the reconcile button, find that the number nYNAB is reporting matches your account, one more click and you are reconciled.  Easy and Fast.

I still have two issues with nYNAB.  I think I could actually live this one:

The Red Arrow to the Right.  I use this in YNAB4, and while I do agree that the YNAB team is right – your category balances aren’t right when you do this (as you are effectively borrowing from other categories)…  Well, I’m a big boy and I can handle it.  You can probably also “work around” this by subtracting the amount from the next month (in the same category), then budgeting that amount in the current month to “balance” it out.  One good thing about this “work around”, is that it does reinforce each month which categories you need to concentrate on fixing.

This one, however, is something I just can’t seem to get past:

Future Transactions in nYNAB.  Each month, I get envelopes for donations to my Church.  The envelopes are dated, and I write out checks for these envelopes, and put that information into YNAB.  In YNAB4, these transactions immediately impact my Tithing category and my Checking Account balance.  In nYNAB, they don’t impact anything until the date of the individual transactions.  I know that, in reality, that money is still in my account, but I’ve already committed to spending it.  For that reason, at the very least, I think it should immediately come out of my Category balance, and I’d rather it come out of my account balance as well, just as it does with YNAB4.  When I pay bills via my bank’s electronic payment service, those are all dated at least a day or two out as well.  If I’m paying a bill where they must mail a check, it’s probably 4 or 5 days in the future before it can be paid.  Say I’m paying a doctor bill, and I send a $100 e-payment for it, 4 days from now.  Lets say the Medical category balance is $125.  At that point, I have committed to spending $100 from Medical, which only leaves me with $25 left in Medical, though nYNAB doesn’t make that obvious.  If my wife is out and she decides to spend money from the Medical category, she may look at the mobile app and see $125 available, so she could easily overspend, since there’s really only $25 left.

If they could simply allow me to turn on an Advanced feature to make non-recurring future transactions take effect immediately, or even on a per-transaction level, allow me to right click on a transaction and “Apply Immediately” to the budget and account, that would even work.

Come on, Jesse.  The way YNAB4 handled future transactions was the right way.  Bring it back, even if only as an option.

In the web app, if you select a category, there’s a section of the screen that shows X Upcoming Transactions, and “Available after Upcoming”.  If there was the option to show the “Available after Upcoming” value on the main budget screen, instead of just the “Available” column, I might be able to meet you half way.  Give us some option there…

 

August 27, 2016 at 8:21 pm Leave a comment

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