Happy Valley Chow

gour-mand (noun): one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking

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PolyScience, Sous Vide & Quesadilla Burger...Oh my!

These past 2 weeks have been very exciting, I've partnered up with the great people over at PolyScience and I received two new toys to show off! When I saw the email, I seriously felt like a little kid Christmas morning. I've been really getting into Sous Vide cooking and cooking technology in general. PolyScience is the mecca of modernist cuisine cooking equipment, they make the best stuff from Sous Vide equipment to the Anti-Griddle™ (Which, unlike a conventional griddle, freezes food at -30 degrees F), to the Rotary Vacuum Evaporator...seriously their website looks like a distributor for a scientific lab rather than kitchen supplies. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out I was going to be working with them and receiving a CREATIVE Series Immersion Circulator and The Smoking Gun.

Immersion Circulator
The Smoking Gun
"With a wide array of cutting edge products, Philip Preston, President of PolyScience is inventing culinary technology that helps chefs to find new ways of expressing their creativity. His passion for futuristic kitchen gear has also captured the attention of America's top chefs, like Grant Achatz at Chicago's Alinea. With the impulse of Chef Achatz, Philip developed the Anti-Griddle. He never expected to build more than two units: one for Chef Achatz and one for himself. However, the excitement from other great chefs and the attention of the Food Network's Award for Culinary Technology made it a big hit in the world of culinary creative."

Sous Vide Professional™

Before we get into the actual machine, lets talk about the history of Sous Vide. The method, first described by Sir Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford) in 1799, was re-discovered by American and French engineers in the mid-1960s as an industrial food preservation method. The method was adopted by Georges Pralus in 1974 for the Restaurant Troisgros (of Pierre and Michel Troisgros) in Roanne, France. He discovered that when foie gras was cooked in this manner it kept its original appearance, did not lose excess amounts of fat and had better texture. Another pioneer in sous-vide is Bruno Goussault, who further researched the effects of temperature on various foods and became well-known for training top chefs in the method. As chief scientist of Alexandria, Virginia-based food manufacturer Cuisine Solutions, Goussault developed the parameters of cooking times and temperatures for different foods.

What is Sous Vide??
Sous Vide is a cooking method in which food is vacuum sealed in a plastic pouch and then cooked at a gentle temperature in a precisely controlled water bath. Compared to other cooking methods, it provides more control and allows for perfect, repeatable results every time. It is easy to learn and takes the stress out of cooking, because food can be held at a perfect level of doneness for a much longer time than usual methods allow.

What are the nutritional benefits of sous vide cooking??
Food cooked sous vide retains as much of the integrity and important nutrients as possible. Since they will not be lost to cooking liquids and the temperature is lower than with traditional techniques, more nutrients remain in the food. Fats in meats and fish, which can be easily damaged at high temperatures in the presence of oxygen, remain un-oxidized, intact, and more healthful.

How is Sous Vide beneficial for the home chef??
Sous vide eliminates all the stress and worries of overcooking because this technique offers a much greater window of forgiveness. With sous vide, overcooking is nearly impossible. It eliminates the guesswork! Perfect control guarantees that results turn out perfect every time. That gives even the less-experienced cook a chance to cook a perfect medium-rare steak or delicate fish filet. The Sous Vide Professional also allows preparing meals in advance and enjoying home cooked meals, without compromising quality, even on busy days.

Can you cook an entire meal Sous Vide??
Yes, there are two ways to cook an entire meal:
Foods with different foods cook at different temperatures
  1. Since food doesn’t overcook when holding at a lower temperature, one simply organizes the sequence from high to low temperatures. For example, first cook carrots and potatoes at 185°F/85°F for 45 minutes, then lower the temperature to 138°F/59°C for medium-rare beef tenderloin. Adding ice cubes helps to speed up the cool-down process.
  2. Pre-cook different foods, chill in an ice-bath and store in the refrigerator. Later re-heat all foods at the temperature that you’ve used for the food with the lowest temperature, which would be at 138°F/59°C for example when serving medium-rare meats. This especially nice, since you can basically cook any meal in advance, store it and simply reheat it. You'll have a quality product, cooked to perfection and the convenience factor is through the roof!
One-pot meals and stews:
  1. A Sous Vide Professional™  can be used like a slow cooker. Simply vacuum seal your stew into a bag or fill into a container that sits in the water bath and will be cooked by the surrounding temperature-controlled liquid.
How does a Sous Vide Professional™ precise temperature cooking system compare to other sous vide cooking systems on the market?
As an immersion circulator system, it is designed to control with excellent precision and to give you the most flexibility.
  • Clamp  Sous Vide Professional™  to any size tank with round or flat walls
  • Improved temperature consistency through circulating water versus still water baths.
  • Compact design makes for easy storage
  • Temperature control within 1/10th of a degree results in perfect texture throughout
The Smoking Gun
Is a handheld food smoker from PolyScience. Quickly finish food with natural, cool smoke. Surprise your guests by smoking ingredients that seem impossible to smoke: butter, oysters, cocktails, salads, chocolate, meringe, etc. 
This is the first time I have ever used a smoking gun before and I am blown away by the results. So far I have smoked the Quesadilla Burger (Recipe at the bottom of this post) and my Chicken Club Sandwich. The results were just incredible, I simply put whatever I'm smoking in a large ziplock bag, put the hose in from The Smoking Gun, fill the ziplock with smoke and seal it. Then after a minute or two, remove and serve. It leaves behind a beautiful, subtle smoke flavor. Onto the recipe!!
Quesadilla Burger

  • 1.5 Lbs Ground Beef
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 tsp Dried oregano
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese mix
  • 4 tbsp Salsa, homemade salsa recipe
  • 1 Large Egg, whites
  • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

In a bowl, combine all the dried spices and mix to incorporate. Put the ground beef into a mixing bowl and add in the spice mix. Gentle mix to incorporate spices being careful not to over work the meat. Divide the meat into 4 equal 6 ounce portions and form into patties. 

Conventional Cooking Method: Fry or Grill hamburgers 

Sous Vide Cooking Method: 

Preheat  Sous Vide Professional™  to 140 degree F

Place patties in individual sandwich-sized zipper-lock bags. Seal bags, leaving one-inch open at top corner. Slowly lower bags one at a time into pot of water by holding onto the open corner. Press air out of bag as it is submerged. Seal bag just before last corner is submerged. Add burgers and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. 

Remove burgers from bags and carefully dry on paper towels. Heat 12-inch heavy-bottomed cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat with vegetable oil until oil begins to smoke. Add patties and cook until well browned on first side, about 45 seconds. Flip patties and cook until second side is well browned, about 45 seconds longer.

To assemble Quesadilla Burger:

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan. Lay out your Tortillas on a work surface. Brush the edges of the tortillas with egg white. Add 1/4 cup of cheese, 1 tbsp salsa and the cooked hamburger to each tortilla. Fold the sides in on the tortillas so that they overlap, then fold down the top and fold up the bottom of the tortilla to enclose the hamburger, should form a box shape like a little package. When oil is heated add in burger folded side down and pan fry on both sides until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Enjoy!

Check out this video of the Smoking Gun in Action!

Taco Smash Burger

When making taco's last week, I thought "you know what?? I want to make a taco burger." So this, inevitably, is what I came up with. All the great taco flavors in a bun! Since I don't have a grill at my place, I decided to do these burger smash style. Where you basically make a big meatball instead of a patty, put it on a hot griddle and then literally smash it down. You can of course cook the burgers any way you would like. Enjoy!

  • 1 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 3 Hamburger buns
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 6 slices Colby-jack cheese
  • Happy Valley Salsa, or your favorite brand
  • Frito's
  • Shredded Lettuce
  • Guacamole 
  • Taco sauce

Mix the ground beef with 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning, trying not to over work the beef. Separate into even, 1/3 lbs, meatballs and refrigerate until ready to cook. If you are going to grill your burgers, form them into patties and skip the smash steps of this recipe. 

Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Lightly butter each side of the hamburger buns and grill, face down, until golden brown. Put the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil on the griddle and coat evenly. Place the meatballs onto the hot griddle and sear for about 1 minute. Flip the balls over and smash down with a metal spatula until it's flat. You can also use a cast iron pan and work in batches. When the burger is almost done, place two slices of cheese on top of each burger, cover and melt the cheese. 

For assembly, spoon a little taco sauce  on the bottom bun (I used Taco Bell fire sauce, I always ask for extra packets). Then on the top bun, spread some guacamole and sprinkle shredded lettuce on top. Place the burger on the bun, top with a spoon full of Happy Valley Salsa and some Frito's. 

**Note: Only smash burgers when cooking this way. Do not, smash, press or over turn your burgers when grilling. I know it's tempting to keep flipping them and make big flames shoot out of your grill. But, you will be losing all those great juices in the meat if you do. You should only have to flip your burgers once!!**

Song of the Recipe

Such a fun group and definitely on the list of bands I want to see live. Just another group that makes me want to buy and rock out on an accordion! 

Father's Day Extravaganza

As most of you know, Father's Day is coming up here in a few weeks (June 17th if you forgot). Here are a few awesome gift idea's, plus recipes that you can use with these gifts. I recently just got two demo products from the kind people over at Molecule-R and SousVide Supreme that would be perfect for the Father who loves to cook. 

Molecule-R is a Canadian based company with the purpose of bringing the molecular gastronomy world into the home kitchen. In recent years, molecular gastronomy has revolutionized the world of haute cuisine by pushing back the boundaries of creativity. Up to now, creating avant-garde dishes was reserved for a small culinary elite as amateur cooks simply did not have access to these types of  products. Be sure to check out their website for great gift kits!

SousVide Supreme has quickly evolved into a leading culinary brand for sous vide cooking, for both home cooks and culinary professionals, offering a full range of affordable water ovens, vacuum sealers, sous vide accessories and cookbooks. The products have received rave reviews from users around the world; the SousVide Supreme water oven itself was awarded "Best in Category for Cooking Electrics" at the 2011 Housewares Design Awards and was named a 2010 Best of What's New product by Popular Science Magazine. Be sure to check out their website for great gift ideas! 

Molecular Burger

Sous-Vide Burger Ingredients 
  •  24 ounces freshly ground beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 slices cheese
  • 4 hamburger buns
  • Ketchup & Mustard Spheres, recipe follows
Preheat SousVide Supreme to desired final temperature (120 degrees for rare, 130 degrees for medium rare, or 140 degrees for medium). 

Divide meat into four equal 6-ounce portions and gently shape each into a patty. Season generously with salt, pepper, and lay slices of garlic on top of each patty. Place patties in individual sandwich-sized zip-lock bags. Seal bags, leaving one-inch open at top corner. Slowly lower bags one at a time into pot of water by holding onto the open corner. Press air out of bag as it is submerged. Seal bag just before last corner is submerged. This is also known as water displacement method. You don't want to vacuum seal the patties because it will compress the meat to much. Add the burgers to the SousVide Supreme and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours (do not cook burgers longer than 4 hours if your temperature is below 130 degrees).

Remove burgers from bags and carefully dry on paper towels. Season again with salt and pepper. Heat 12-inch cast iron skillet over high heat with vegetable oil until oil begins to smoke. Add patties and cook until well browned on first side, about 45 seconds. Flip patties (add cheese as desired) and cook until second side is well browned, about 45 seconds longer. Place patties on buns, top with condiments as desired and serve. 

Ketchup & Mustard Spheres Ingredients
  • 2/3 cup ketchup 
  • 2/3 cup mustard
  • 1/2 cup water, divided 
  • 2 sachets of Agar Agar, from Molcule-R Culinary Revolution Kit
  • 3 cups of vegetable oil, divided 
Divide vegetable oil (1.5 cups each) into separate containers, I used drinking cups. Place in freezer for 30 min.
You will need two small sauce pans, one for the mustard and one for the ketchup. In the first sauce pan place the Ketchup, 1/4 cup of water and 1 sachet of Agar Agar, whisk and bring to a boil. Repeat process for mustard. Make sure you whisk them to remove any clumps of Agar Agar. Once boiling, remove from heat. 

Remove vegetable oil from freezer. Using the pipette provided by the Molecule-R Culinary Kit, pipe up some of the ketchup mustard and add drops of the ketchup to the cold vegetable oil. The droplets will slowly sink through the oil and encapsulate. Using the provided slotted spoon, gently remove the ketchup spheres from the oil and put into a water bath to rinse. Repeat steps with remained Ketchup and Mustard. When dropping the mixtures into the oil, drop them from from a distance. This will help the spheres break the surface tension and drop to the bottom. Depending on how many sphere's you make, you might have to change the water bath. I found that residual oil gathered on the water surface make the spheres clump together when removing. Remove from water bath, drain as much water off as you can with the slotted spoon and use as needed.

Molecular "Egg Sandwich"
If your Father and/or Husband is a Nerd and loves to cook, he's going to love this and the Molecule-R Kits
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 Sodium Alginate sachet
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Agar Agar sachet
  • 2/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup Mango, diced
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp calcium lactate
  • 4 slices marble pound cake (I got mine at Starbucks)

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Line a broiler pan with aluminium foil, and position broiler rack on top of pan. Lightly coat the rack with the vegetable oil. 

Combine the brown sugar and cayenne in a shallow dish, stirring to incorporate. Press 1 side of each slice of bacon firmly into the spiced sugar to coat well. Arrange the slices of bacon on top of the broiler rack in a single layer, sugar-side up. If there is any sugar remaining in the dish, sprinkle it on top of the bacon slices evenly. Bake until the bacon is crisp and bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain briefly, then to a plate to cool. After bacon has cooled, transfer to a cutting board and large dice the bacon. Set aside, you can make this several hours in advance and serve either warm or at room temperature. 

Using either a blender or hand blender combine the 2 cups of water and sodium alginate sachet and blend. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 15 min. In a small sauce pan whisk the milk and agar agar together and bring to a boil. Place the yogurt and milk mixture in a liquid measuring cup (with a spout) and mix together to incorporate. On a large, flate plate or baking sheet. Pour a thing layer of the yogurt and milk mixture into the center of a large circular cookie cutter. Repeat this until you have 4 even circles. You may need to pick up the plate and tip it to make an even layer for the "egg white." Refrigerate for 2-3 minutes until set. Remove from fridge and add a second smaller circle in the middle of the larger, you're trying to get that egg white look with the raised center. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Place the mango, sugar and calcium lactate into a blender and puree until smooth. Remove the sodium alginate bath from the fridge and spoon 1 Tbsp of the mango mixture into the bath. Be gentle and try to make them look like an egg yolk. Repeat this to get 4 mango yolks. Turn the yolks making sure it is coated with the sodium alginate and let in bath for 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon, gently remove the mango yolks from the SA bath and transfer them to a water bath. Swoosh them around to remove the excess sodium alginate.

Take your same large cookie cutter that you used for the yogurt egg whites and cut out the circular pieces of pound cake. Plate the pound cake, using a pastry spatula gently transfer the yogurt egg whites onto the top of the pound cake, then add your mango egg yolk on top and sprinkle with the candied bacon. Serve and impress!

Song of the Recipe

Being a Father's Day themed post, I figured this would be an appropriate song. I love this version with James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti. Two amazing talents, but completely different. 

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