Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Walk

So Ber has been on me for months about going to get a checkup and talk to my Oncologist, it’s not like I haven’t had the time but I’m one of those people that thinks no news is good news.  If I don’t get a checkup and I feel fine then everything is ok, right?  I was long overdue for my 6 month checkup so today I got blood drawn, got the testicle groped, and got orders to get a chest x-ray …fun, fun, and more fun.

I went to the treatment area while I was waiting and talked to some of the nurses that helped me through my chemo.  It was good to see them again but at the same time looking at the people currently going through it brought back some not-so-fond memories.  Which leads me to the subject of this quick entry.

On April 29th-30th the “Relay for Life” is at Foothill High School from 6pm on the 29th to Noon on the 30th.  For those that don’t know this is a 18 hr fundraiser to raise money for cancer research.  As you can imagine this is something I’m pretty passionate about.   To donate you can go here: My Donation Page 
Amber got a head start on fundraising so I thought I would make something to sell for donations to try and catch up.  So unless I come up with a better idea I will be selling pulled pork sandwich plates with baked beans and slaw that night.  So feel free to come down and support the team, eat and hangout, or walk with us.  It’s a great time, look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Redneck home-cook tries fancy french cooking

So if there’s one thing that cancer patients going through chemo need it’s PROTEIN, chicken is a great protein with many other added vitamins that help with the immune system and also help nausea.  In addition it can be cooked using a variety of cooking methods, quick and easy or slow and long…whatever suits you. Today we’re going to talk a little about a great (but expensive) cooking method and how I did it cheap and redneck style. 

Every year from January to March I cook ‘healthy’ because Amber has her company weight-loss challenge.  I have always been meat and potatoes kind of fellow with a little bit of deep-fried anything thrown in for good measure.  This year I got to thinking about my food lifestyle and thought why cook 3 months out of the year like I always should?  Ber and I talked about it and decided that cooking healthy year round wasn’t really a sacrifice.  She likes the dinners I make just as much as any other time of the year and wasn’t missing anything. I’ve found ways to make baked foods with the same texture and feel as deep fried; I’ve found ways to make lean meats taste more like fatty ones.  I’ve started making my own pasta with whole wheat flour.  In general I’ve discovered how to cut down on fat and calories without sacrificing taste and flavor.  So I’m changing things around and trying to shed some of these 40lbs I’ve gained.  One way to do that is chicken, it’s lean, it’s healthy and done right it’s yummy.  The problem is how to make it taste good without it being dry or flavorless.

So in my recent research on chicken breast and the culinary arts I came across a cooking method called ‘sous vide’ which is French for ‘under vacuum’.   This method, now used in all high-end restaurants, involves vacuum packing  then poaching food at VERY precise temperatures that is now the standard for restaurant chicken breasts.   The benefits of this method are consistent, juicy, tender, and uniform cooking that yields very repeatable results with no guesswork. The only problem is that professional sous-vide machines go for $1,500-$2,600 and lower-end “home” versions are about $700.  I love my kitchen gadgets but spending $700 on ANY appliance bothers me a bit unless it’s a robotic sous chef.  So how do I get similar results without selling a lung?

This is the ‘Sous Vide Supreme’, it holds a water bath at a precise temperature within .1 degree..very precise.

This is what I used to replicate that method.

WHAAA???  That’s right kiddo’s no fancy $700 machine here, just a cooler, a digital thermometer, and water…WINNING!  So I brought the water up to the temp I wanted which for chicken breast was 140 degrees and then dumped it into the cooler (which also works as a warmer).  I used a Ziploc bag and a straw to make a vacuum seal then let it cook for an hour and voila ‘Sous Vide Chicken’.  Doing chicken sous vide makes the tenderest, juiciest chicken ever.  The downside is lack of flavor and color.  The color problem I solved by searing it after cooking in a smoking hot pan for about aminute per side.  The flavor problem I solved by putting aromatics in the bag while cooking, I used rosemary and cilantro and it helped a lot. 

I think this method of cooking has a lot of possibilities and is definitely something I want to explore more.  The day after the chicken I did a rib eye steak the same way and it was good, nice full beefy flavor, perfect medium rare and every bite was as good as the last.  That’s the good thing about sous-vide is it’s impossible to overcook, you want a medium-rare steak you put it in at 130 degrees for anytime between 1-5 hours, great for restaurants.  But the good news is it also works for entertaining home cooks because of the wide time variance, guests are an hour late, no problem.

I think eventually I may come up with a way to keep the water temperature more consistent for a longer period of time but for now the cooler works fine for chicken and steak…trying pork chops next.