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Microwaved Steamed Broccoli, a Probe Thermometer, and the Best Pork Loin Ever

30 Dec

I didn’t really plan on posting anything today, but dinner has inspired me to write!

We’ve been eating out…a LOT.  Now that it isn’t quite so hectic around our house, we’re getting back into cooking meals for ourselves.  We had to run out to the store today and just foraged for ideas for dinner.  I found a pork loin I liked, and bought some broccoli and red potatoes to go with it.  I didn’t really know what I was going to ultimately make at the time (uh…other than pork, broccoli, and potatoes), but it seemed to have potential and it gave me an excuse to use my super cool new digital probe thermometer.

I found this really great recipe on Allrecipes for roasted pork loin (it was actually the recipe of the day, which was convenient) that I used as a basis for dinner.  Since my pork loin was only about a pound, I mixed about 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, 2 mined garlic cloves, 1/2 Tbsp. dried rosemary, and olive oil until it was pasty, then smeared that all over the pork loin and put it in my trusty cast iron skillet.  I put in my probe thermometer and set it to 150 degrees then stuck the whole thing in the oven set to 350 degrees.  How long did I cook it?  I’m guessing about 30 minutes, but I didn’t need a timer.  I have a super cool new digital probe thermometer!  

While the pork loin did it’s thing in the oven, I put a pot of red potatoes on to boil (in salted water with 3 garlic cloves).  After they were fork tender, I used a hand mixer to blend them together with 2 Tbsp of butter and some milk.  I added salt and pepper to taste and that’s it.  Mashed potatoes are so easy!

The thing that makes this relevant to The Modernist Cuisine is the fact that I made the steamed broccoli in the microwave.  It’s so easy I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it this way!  I just cut my broccoli florets off the stalk and put them in a microwave safe casserole dish.  I added some salt, pepper, and a little lemon juice to the broccoli and then put about 1/16th of an inch of water in the bottom of the casserole.  I then covered the dish with plastic wrap and put in the microwave.  Overall I ended up cooking it for about 3-1/2 minutes on high, but I checked it a few times to make sure I didn’t overcook the broccoli.  While really nothing special, the broccoli came out great and I’ll definitely be steaming veggies like this in the future.

As a side note, here’s a handy thing to do with the broccoli stems!  Instead of throwing them away, cut off the fibrous pieces and cut the broccoli hearts into sticks.  They make for great snacking!

The real star of this show was the pork loin!  I have made pork any number of ways over the years, and while this seasoning mixture wasn’t the best I’ve ever used (that award goes to Ina Garten’s Loin of Pork with Green Peppercorns), the end result was absolutely fantastic thanks to the thermometer.  I cannot believe I haven’t been using one of these things forever!  I mean, I’ve heard various chef’s (though I’m mostly looking at you Alton Brown) talk about how awesome they are, but I guess you never really appreciate what you’re missing until you’ve experienced it for yourself.  Seriously, it was the easiest thing ever.  I set the alarm to go off at 150 degrees, and the loin coasted to a perfect 160 while it rested.  I’m not sure what more you could ask for.  It was the juiciest, tenderest, most delicious texture I’ve ever had in a pork loin.  Even after I was full I wanted more!  Please, trust me on this, never cook another roast without one!

So that’s it for now.  I’m very excited to test out my new pressure cooker for this week’s Modernist Cuisine recipe, Caremelized Carrot Soup, but more on that later.  Until then…

Bon Appetit!

Hiatuses and My Christmas Haul!

28 Dec

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and I may have added a few bricks to that particular road by trying to cook and blog so close to Christmas.  Sometimes life happens and I don’t always get to do things exactly as I had planned.  And I suppose I might have forgotten how busy the holiday season can be.  However, Christmas is over now and it’s back to the kitchen with me!

What’s great is that I got some really cool kitchen stuff for Christmas that will help me in cooking from The Modernist Cuisine!

First up, I got a very nice digital scale.  This is the third digital scale I’ve owned, and I hope this one lasts.  The first one had a good run and finally gave up.  The second had a cruel run-in with our toaster.  Apparently it warps and stops working if you leave it on top of the toaster oven while toasting.  I don’t plan on keeping this one on top of the toaster so as to avoid that problem in the future.  Eventually I would like to have another digital scale to handle very small quantities, but this one will handle most anything I can throw at it for now.

I also got a digital probe thermometer.  This is really awesome because I’ve wanted one for what seems like forever!  I haven’t had an occasion to use it yet but I’m very excited to test it out!

Lastly, and most awesomely, I got a pressure cooker!  To be honest, I have never in my life used a pressure cooker nor do I remember anyone in my family ever using one.  However, this one piece of equipment opens up a world of possibilities for modernist cooking.  I got a stovetop model, not an electric one, but that suites me just fine.  With a small kitchen, the last thing I wanted was another piece of equipment that has to plug in and sit on the counter.  While excited to try this one out, I’m also terrified that I’m going to blow up my house!  It has safety features and whatnot though so maybe this isn’t such a big issue.  🙂

The other thing that I’ll say is that I bought some sodium citrate online.  Another new ingredient for me!  I didn’t have much luck finding it in stores around here, which isn’t much of a surprise.  Actually, Kyle (the hubby) asked about it at our local pharmacy per some advice I found online.  The lady there looked at him like he might be a terrorist!  He had to, very quickly, explain that he only meant to make macaroni and cheese, not a bomb.  Hopefully we’re not on any kind of watch list now.

So between a new ingredient and several new pieces of equipment, I have plenty that I can write about!  I haven’t picked out a recipe for next week yet (I can’t make mac and cheese like I planned pre-Christmas until I get the sodium citrate) but I know I have a lot more to pick from just by having the pressure cooker.  If anyone has any requests or recommendations, by all means let me know!  Thanks for reading and I’ll post again soon!

The Microwave!

12 Dec

What can I say about the microwave?  The Modernist Cuisine says, “The microwave oven is simultaneously one of the most used and most underappreciated tools in the home kitchen.”  I tend to agree.  I use my microwave a lot, but not really for cooking.  I mostly use it for defrosting frozen meats and reheating previously cooked food.  I’d use it as a timer too, but my microwave happens to be mute so the timer doesn’t really do much for me.  Anyway, the point is that cooking real food in a microwave is a bit of a foreign concept for me, so the fact that MC has a whole chapter devoted to it is pretty exciting.  It’ll be nice for me to think of something that takes up so much space in my kitchen as something more than a thawing machine.

Microwaves have gotten a bad reputation in many ways.  I’ve seen chefs on TV flat out refuse to even own one, but most people just think that they cook unevenly.  I completely agree with this as well.  I, for one, know for a fact that I’ve reheated food and one bite will be refrigerator cold and the next will burn my tongue.  The problem there is cooking food in open containers.  According to MC, if you cover your food, it cooks a lot more evenly.  Problem solved!

Much to my amazement, microwaves also have multiple power settings!  I was wondering what all those extra buttons were for.  All joking aside though, depending on the wattage of your microwave you can get very different results when cooking food.  That being said, it’s important to know your wattage.  I confess, I didn’t know what the wattage of my microwave was prior to exploring the topic for this week’s postings, but I found this great article on eHow that details how to find out.  Luckily for me, the wattage information for my particular microwave was right inside the door.  Now I’m wondering how I’ve missed that for all these years.  At any rate, two wattages were listed…input and output.  For those not in the know, the input wattage is how much power it takes to run the microwave.  The output wattage is how much power is actually going into your food, so this is the number that matters.

The MC recipes are all cooked in a 1,100 w microwave.  Great…now what do I do?  My microwave is only 1,000 w.  Not to worry though!  I found another great site that has a conversion chart for microwave cooking.  This chart essentially told me that I just have to multiply the cooking time for a 1,100 w microwave by 1.1 and that will give me the correct cooking time for a 1,000 w one.  If you’re blessed with a higher wattage model, you can just cook on one of those lower power settings I mentioned earlier.

So that’s about it for microwaves for now at least.  This week I’m going to be trying out Microwaved Eggplant Parmesan.  I’ve had some bad experiences in cooking eggplant in the past so I’m a little curious to see how this turns out.  I guess we’ll see.  So long for now!

Part One: Stocking the Modernist Kitchen

30 Nov

Glancing through the contents page for Part One, I couldn’t help wonder how I was going to get all this stuff in my kitchen!  My kitchen isn’t all that big, and space is at a premium for what I currently own.  As I read through the section though, I figured out that I already have a lot of the countertop gear (things like a blender, food processor, mixer, and ice cream maker) and the major elements of the conventional cooking gear come standard in most kitchens.  I mean, who doesn’t have a stove?  And most everyone has a microwave!  Most of the other suggested gear are things that I either have owned before and for some reason no longer do or want.  The few things I’m not familiar with don’t have to be overly expensive and don’t look hard to use.

Owning some of the fancier equipment in this section is more or less a pipe dream for anyone in my income bracket (I’m looking at you combi oven!), but I’m hoping I can pull some strings at work to be able to cook a few recipes using commercial equipment.  Hopefully being a Foodservice Consultant will have it’s advantages here!

And let me just say that cooking sous vide may be the best idea for busy moms I’ve ever heard!  All the steps are pretty simple and the method offers lot of time saving opportunities for busy families.  It seems like it would be a great solution for singles as well too as individual servings of dishes can be refrigerated or frozen for later.  Even better, cooking this way doesn’t require fancy equipment.  For those of you turned off by the idea of cooking fish in your sink though, many options are readily available for upgrading your sous vide setup.  I’ll go through sous vide and all the rest of the gear as I cook in the course of this experiment.  I want to see see how each piece fits into the modernist style of cooking, test each technique, and figure out how practical each method is for an average modern family.  I’m sure there will be triumphs and failures but especially after reading through the entire first part, I’m very hopeful for more successes than disappointments.

The last section of Part One deals with ingredients.  While I agree that the freshest ingredients will yield the freshest food, the practice is not one I’ve adhered to in my personal life as much as I’d like to.  I’m going to take this opportunity to make going to the farmer’s market more of a regular event and finally check out some of the ethnic grocery stores I’ve seen sprinkled around Charlotte.  I’m definitely excited to try some new things!

That’s all of Part One!  You know what that means, right?  It’s time to get cooking!  I think it’s only appropriate to start off with something from the Basics chapter, so next week’s recipe will be pulled from there.  I thank you for reading, and hope you come back to see what’s cooking!

Bon appetit!