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Such a Buzz

Follow up

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post “Turbo Tea”.  There have been several questions I’d like to answer:

  • What kind did I get – I got two kinds so I could see what the difference is between them.
  • I got a $11 – 1 oz  – “The Republic of Tea” brand, Supposed to be ceremonial quality Tencha which I’m drinking today
  • I got a $32 – 1.06 oz Do Matcha Brand tea, Green label Organic  – which is what I had yesterday
  • tools – I didn’t get the whisk or the strainer but I used a metal whisk I had at home (you’ll need it)
  • I didn’t sift the powder, but I bet it would help dissolve it in the water
  • Could I tell a difference?
  • Yes, the expensive stuff has a more subtle interesting flavor – not quite as “dry” tasting, maybe a little sweeter?
  • The good stuff didn’t have the dry after taste that the cheaper one had.
  • I really hate to say it, but the DoMatcha Organic at $32 was way better than the Republic of Tea Ceremonial at $11
  • Maybe it is like “they” say, you get what you pay for, especially in Matcha Tea.
  

BuZZ

Yesterday I got the most amazing tea buzz from the Matcha.  It might have been a caffeine buzz from drinking the Lapsang first, but my increased energy level lasted almost all day, plus I was mellow and in control at the same time.  I’ll let you know if there is a difference between the affects from the cheaper one today.  FYI about caffeine.  Matcha tea  caffeine is on the same level as black tea, which is the strongest of the teas, but only about 1/2 as much caffeine as coffee and the affect is spread out over 6-8 hours because of the tannin in tea.

Conclusions

You really need to do your own experiments to determine which flavors you enjoy more.  I’m doing the Matcha because of the HUGE health benefits.  The flavor of Matcha isn’t what you’d call normal beverage flavor, but you can mix it in other things and I don’t think you’d ever taste the tea.  Consider that I like strange and different things, like peaty single malt scotch, etc., I enjoy the grassy flavor of green tea. 

Both of these tins are supposed to last 30 days.  If I stick to the good stuff, that would be a buck a day.  I’ve spent more to get less, so that isn’t terrible.  I like the energy boost, but I’m very sensitive to chemicals and my reaction might be more than someone else’s.  As I write this line I’m finishing the last of my first cup of the cheaper Matcha and I must admit, the flavor doesn’t compare favorably to the better tea.  I’ll be using the cheaper tea for coloring in mixed drinks and foods.   The experiment continues – Jug

Matcha Tea

Matcha Tea has been Acquired

I don’t think I’ll need a razor blade and a hundred dollar bill to consume this Matcha tea, but it looks like a green version of the stuff the “older guys” warned me about.  My first cup of Matcha – Green Tea is ready to be enjoyed as I write this post.  Generally my day starts with a pot of my favorite black tea, Lapsang Souchong  which is a very strong flavor, possibly tainting this review a little.

Matcha Tea Price

Yes, Matcha tea is expensive.  I just paid over $30 for 1 ounce of the good stuff.  I’ll let you know if the cheaper Matcha tea is a better deal when I do the math.  I only used 1/4 heaping tsp in my first 8 oz cup of tea.

Differences in Quality

My research has found at least two (2) different catagories of Matcha Tea with variations on those.

Ceremonial Grade and Culinary Grade matcha are the main Grades determined by the quality of the appearance, processing method and ingredients.

Within these grades inspectors look for, color, quality and texture density of the product.  Next the makeup of the powder is determined; e.g. was it made from stems or leaves or a combination?  Finally the coarseness of the powder is considered, the finer the better.

Once the quality of the product itself is judged, the handling of the product is considered.  Has it been exposed to oxygen for any length of time?  What method was used to grind it and how was it treated prior to processing.

Ceremonial Grade Matcha is the finest and therefore the most expensive grade.  It should not be mixed with anything else but enjoyed on its own.

Culinary Grade had five (5) levels within the grade.  It is a less expensive product making it more affordable to being used daily or mixed with other ingredients.

For a more complete description and explanation of Matcha and its grades, please visit “Epic Matcha” on line.

The Ceremony

As with many of life’s guilty pleasures, half the fun is the ceremony.  The cigar has it’s ceremonial clipping, smelling and lighting.  Wine has the ceremony of viewing the label, smelling the cork, decanting the bottle, “nosing” the wine while swirling the glass and looking for it’s “legs“.  The older guys tell me about a ceremony involving a white powder chopped with a razor blade and snorted with a rolled 100 dollar bill, but I digress.

The Matcha Tea ceremony is no less involved.

 

First Impressions

I think I was expecting a very strong green tea flavor.  You know, something that may be an acquired taste, but that isn’t the case.  I taste a somewhat grassy subtle undertone on the front of my tongue with that familiar green tea full mouth taste.  Reviews say that Matcha tea is naturally sweet. That may be so, but the sweetness isn’t sweet like sugar, it is more like the sweetness of coffee with just a little cream in it.  The flavor I detect is really more the lack of bitterness more than sweet.

Finish Notes

As the Matcha tea cools off, I detect a stronger “grassy” flavor.  I’ve just noticed that even though I used a whisk to mix the tea there is still at least 1/2 of the 1/4 teaspoon on the bottom of my cup undissolved.  Note to self – stir Matcha tea for longer than 15 sec in the future or use the stick blender.  I do notice that unlike some tea that tastes like tea in water, Matcha tea has the full body of a beverage that stands alone and doesn’t taste watered or dissolved in water.

Final Impression

I LIKE it.  I may even love it considering that the health benefits of Matcha tea are said to be equivalent to 170 + cups of regular tea.  I’ll give you more in-put over time, but for now, I’ve stashed my tea in its air tight can and put it in the refrigerator. – Jughandle out

 

Things NOT to put in the Freezer

This is a short FYI on what things you shouldn’t freeze.  As always I explore ideas that I have little knowledge of or would like to be more well informed about.

Dairy

You can freeze:

  • hard cheeses – to give them additional life, but usually they last pretty long anyway.

Don’t freeze:

  • eggs in their shells- they lose their consistency and can crack.  If you want to freeze eggs break them into a freezer bag and scrabble them.
  • milk or cream – they can separate

Spices

Apparently some dry spices with change flavor and get bitter if they are frozen.
Don’t freeze:
  •  pepper corns
  • cloves
  • garlic
  • green pepper
  • imitation vanilla
  • onions
  • paprika
  • celery
  • sage
  • salt

Fresh Vegetables and Fruit

Most vegetables and fruits have a high content of water that will break down the cell walls when frozen and get mushy and brown when defrosted.
Don’t freeze:
  • fresh lettuce
  • fresh spinach
  • fresh cabbage
  • any leafy vegetable
  • potatoes – they get grainy and soft
You Can freeze:
  • cooked vegetables

Canned foods

Never freeze canned food in the can.  It breaks the seal and can contaminate the food
Fish and Meat

I can’t find any fish or meat products that can’t be frozen but be aware that freezing does NOT kill harmful bacteria, it only slows the growth.  So never refreeze fish or meat that has defrosted or has been frozen before.  You can cook it, then freeze it again.  The cooking process kills the bacteria and gives you a fresh start if cooked properly.

Do freeze:

raw fish over night before eating as sashimi or sushi, because the freezing kills the parasites in the flesh.

Other Stuff

Don’t freeze:

  • Fried foods, especially deep fried foods, they will taste stale
  • Gravies and sauces with wheat in them will tend to separate
  • Cooked pasta will get very mushy
  • Crumb toppings on casseroles will get soggy.  Wait to add the crumbs until you are ready to reheat to serve
  • Soft cake frostings will get tacky and might separate
  • Artificial sweeteners (why would you want to eat them any how) will lose their effectiveness when frozen.
Remember when you do freeze stuff, to wrap them well, removing as much air as possible and to cool them before you freeze them.  A full freezer is more economical to operate. Label your food packages. Happy eating Fat Farmers – Jughandle

 

Matcha Green Tea – Super Tea?

Matcha is a fine ground, powdered, high quality green tea and not the same as tea powder or green tea powder.  Matcha is also used to flavour and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi.  Blends of matcha are given poetic names called chamei (“tea names”) either by the producing plantation, shop or creator of the blend, or by the grand master of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grand master of some tea ceremony lineage, it becomes known as the master’s konomi, or favoured blend. – from Wikipedia


Production

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves.  Several weeks before harvest, tea bushes are covered to prevent exposure to direct sunlight.  This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids that make the resulting tea sweeter. Then only the finest tea buds are picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder which is known as matcha.

It can take up to one hour to grind 1 ounce of matcha.

Note that only ground tencha qualifies as matcha, and other powdered green teas, such as powdered sencha, are known as konacha.

The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.
The most famous matcha-producing regions are Uji in Kyoto, Nishio in Aichi, Shizuoka, and northern Kyushu.

Grades

Matcha is generally expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality. Grades of matcha are defined by many factors.

  • Location on the tea bush –  Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea bush is vital.  The very top would have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades. More developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavor is a result of the plant sending all its nutrients to the growing leaves.
  • Treatment before processing =  Tencha leaves are traditionally dried outside in the shade and are never exposed to direct sunlight.  Modern drying has mostly moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green also as a result of this treatment.
  • Stone grinding –  Stone grinding is an art form in itself. Without the right equipment and technique, matcha can become “burnt” and suffer degraded quality.
  • Oxidation – Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen can easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish green color.

Health Benefits

The health benefits of green tea and matcha are widely acclaimed. Consequently, matcha and green tea can be found in health food products ranging from cereal to energy bars. In 2003, researchers from the University of Colorado found that the concentration of the antioxidant EGCG available from drinking matcha is up to 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from other commercially available green teas.  Matcha is said to boost metabolism and not just because of the caffeine which is 1/2 the amount found in coffee.  It is known to also help reduce cholesterol levels when consumed regularly.   The aforementioned health benefits of matcha green tea can largely be attributed to the fact that the whole tea leaf is ingested, as opposed to just the steeped water in the case of ‘bagged’ green teas. This means that it delivers a much higher potency of catechins, chlorophyll, and antioxidants. Matcha contains more antioxidants than blueberries, gojiberries, pomegranates, orange juice, and spinach.

There is evidence from clinical studies that suggests that theanine, when consumed by drinking Japanese green teas, may help to reduce or moderate mental stress responses.

Research has also shown that the EGCGs which are a group of antioxidants called catechins, speed up the metabolism, helping the body burn stored body fat.  Not to mention it significantly delays the onset of cancer as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. 1  All antioxidants inhibit the aging process by restoring cell tissue and reducing inflammation.

As far as caffeine goes, Green tea contains tannin witch slows the absorption of caffeine into the blood releasing it over the course of 6-8 hours, unlike coffee.

Better to be deprived of food for three days than tea for one – Ancient Chinese Proverb

Matcha tea is now available from the Farm Store here.  Don’t worry, the price through the Farm Store is no higher than any other price from Amazon.com – Jughandle

 

 

De-Boning a Whole Chicken

De-Boneing and stuffing a whole chicken is from  Anna Maria Volpi   at www.annamariavolpi.com

Learn How To De-Bone A Whole Chicken

De-Boneing and stuffing a whole chicken has become a tradition for my family for Thanksgiving.
Before stuffing the chicken we must remove the bones.  Most chefs slice the chicken open to access the bones, then sew it back as with the video later in this blog.  The technique I’m going to describe here via Anna Maria Volpi different and most spectacular.  Her technique is a little more elaborate.
The bones are removed from the opening in the bottom of the chicken, without cutting or breaking the outer skin.  The result is the original chicken’s shape!
She learned this technique from her butcher father.  It is not easy, but worth doing for a special occasion.
The best result is obtained by using a chicken, about 5 – 6 lbs.

Widen The Neck

Widen the neck opening until you find the junction of the wing and the rib cage. Cut the ligaments with a sharp knife to separate the wings.
Using your fingers and a knife separate the wishbone.  After freeing the wishbone,

Cut The Cartilage Holding The Breastbone

Cut the cartilage that holds it to the breastbone.  Insert the hand in the neck opening, and separate the meat from the bones all around the rib cage and backbone.  Turn the chicken over as necessary.  Use a knife to cut the white cartilage from the skin.

Separate The Rib Cage

Separate with a knife the rib cage from the skin and the breast meat where necessary.

Remove The Wing Bones

Free the wing bones and remove them.  Now all the the bones of the rib cage and the backbone are fully separated from the skin and can be removed from the bottom opening.

Separate The Skin From The Legs

Cut the skin around the end of the legs to separate it.  From the bottom opening scrape the meat from the thighbones and remove them.

You Are Ready To Stuff The Bird

The chicken is now completely boned and ready to be stuffed.
Thank you Anna Maria for such great information – jughandle

The following is a great video on the normal way to de-bone a chicken

Marinades, Brines and Rubs

Marinades

Marinades are flavor-infusing liquids best suited for tougher cuts of meat. In addition to herbs, condiments, spices, and oils, marinades typically include an acid, like lemon juice, wine, vinegar, even dairy.

Adding sweet ingredients to the marinade can help form appealing caramelized, crispy coatings on grilled meats.  The acids in the lemon juice, wine, vinegar, butter milk, etc will actually cook the protein in the meat by chemical reaction.

Always marinate in the refrigerator. And remember, if you’re basting with a liquid in which raw meat marinated, do not apply it during the last three minutes of grilling.

The good news:

Chicken, turkey and fish will take on marinade flavors much more quickly and effectively than red meats.  Fish only need to marinate for 30 minute to an hour.  Chicken and turkey 2 to 3 hours.  Red meats need at least 24 hours to work at all.  The more acid in the marinade the better and quicker it will work.

The bad news:

Marinades only penetrate the meat 1/8 inch at the most no mater how long you soak them.  Think of marinades as a sauce and don’t waste money on expensive ingredients for your marinades.  If you use sugar the sugar will tend to burn on the surface of the meat.  If you like charred meat, fine.  Don’t use alcohol either.  The alcohol will only cook the surface of the meat sealing it from further penetration of the other flavors.  If you use salt in the marinade then you are actually brining your meat.  See Brines below.


Brines

Brines are salty solutions that help lean meats hold their moisture so they stay juicy and tender during grilling.Brining is a popular method for preparing poultry, particularly turkey, and lean meats, like pork, that tend to dry out on the grill. Sugar, spices, and herbs are sometimes added to the liquid as well.Soak meats in a container large enough to submerge the meat completely without allowing it to float in the solution. Store in the refrigerator.

Before grilling, rinse brined meat to remove excess salt and dry it with paper towels.

Remember high school chemistry? Yeah, me neither.  But I do remember something about osmosis.  But I remember that in osmosis through a semi permeable membrane like the flesh of the meat, water or other liquid will flow from a lower concentration of salt to a higher one, back and forth until the concentrations are equal.  So first water flows out of the meat and salt flows in which starts to break down the proteins in the cells.  Additonal water will flow into the meat as the protein breaks down causing the meat to be more moist.

The brine can also be used as a vehicle to carry other flavors into the meat with the dissolved salt.  Hence the sugar (to balance the salt) and other flavors that will dissolve in water.

Obviously, there’s more going on than simple osmosis. It is true that salt enters the meat (it tastes more salty after brining). But why is it also more juicy? Well, when water flows out of the meat, salt flows in and begins to break down some of the proteins in the cells. In the broken down state, the molecules become more concentrated and the solute levels rise within the meat. This causes additional water to flow into the meat.

How Stuff Works has a short article describing osmotic pressure with a diagram that may be helpful to visualize the water flow.

What has happened is that through brining, we’ve caused a state change in the cells so that they will draw and hold more water than before. As we cook the meat, the heated proteins will begin to draw in tighter and squeeze out water, but, hopefully, enough water will remain to produce a juicy, tender piece of meat.

Always start with a cold brine.  Refrigerate or ice the meat while brining to prevent bacteria from forming.  Brine for 2 hours per pound of meat and cover the meat with a solution of 1/2 cup of salt per gallon of water.  The other stuff like sugar and herbs are just bonus flavors.

Rubs

Rubs are seasoning mixtures rubbed on meats before grilling to add spicy or smoky flavors. The best rubs enhance the flavor of the meat without being overbearing and are often blends of strong and mild spices and herbs. When oil or another wet substance is included, it is called a wet rub. A little moisture helps the rub adhere to the meat.

Rubs are an easy way to infuse the surface of your grilled meats with exciting ethnic flavors–from Cajun to Korean.

Setting aside rubbed meats for anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight allows the spices to permeate the meat as much as possible.

Rubs are most effective when used on slow cooking meat as opposed to a fast grilling method.  Slow cooking allows the meat’s juices to blend with the rub while high heat grilling only burns the rub on the surface.

 

Good luck with your flavoring methods.  Here at the Fat Farm we almost always use either McCormik’s lemon/pepper or just plain salt and pepper.  We let the meat speak for it self – jughandle


Beef Wellington – How to make it tonight

Want to make a killer presentation to your guests tonight try this –

Yes, it looks extremely difficult, but it isn’t.  Beef Wellington is beef tenderloin covered in a layer of prosciutto ham, a button mushroom paste then wrapped in a coat of puff pastry.  Easy.  This isn’t a soufle, you’ll get this right the first time.

At the Store

You are going to make Beef Wellington in a green peppercorn sauce with fingerling Potatoes and warm wilted winter greens.

Purchase:

for the mushroom paste

for the beef
  • 1 (3-pound) center cut beef tenderloin (filet mignon), trimmed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 thin slices prosciutto
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup of Flour, for rolling out puff pastry
  • 1 pound puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator – keep it cold
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • Minced chives, for garnish
for the green peppercorn sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  • 1 cup brandy
  • 1 box beef stock
  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 1/2 cup green peppercorns in brine, drained, brine reserved
Directions:
for the Mushroom paste
  • Add mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and thyme to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add butter and olive oil to a large saute pan and set over medium heat.
  • Add the shallot and mushroom mixture and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • This paste should be fairly dry so as not to make the pastry soggy
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
for the beef
  •  Tie the tenderloin in 4 places so it holds its cylindrical shape while cooking.
  • Drizzle with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and sear all over, including the ends, in a hot, heavy-based skillet lightly coated with olive oil – about 2 to 3 minutes if you want your meat med rare.  Cook 2 -3 minutes longer for med.
  • Meanwhile set out your prosciutto on a sheet of plastic wrap (plastic needs to be about a foot and a half in length so you can wrap and tie the roast up in it) on top of your cutting board.
  • Overlap the prosciutto so it forms a rectangle that is big enough to encompass the entire filet of beef.
  • Using a rubber spatula cover evenly with a thin layer of the mushroom paste.
  • Season the surface of the paste with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves.
  • When the beef is seared, remove from heat, cut off twine and smear lightly all over with Dijon mustard.
  • Allow to cool slightly, then roll up in the mushroom paste covered prosciutto using the plastic wrap to tie it up nice and tight. Tuck in the ends of the prosciutto as you roll to completely encompass the beef. Roll it up tightly in plastic wrap and twist the ends to seal it completely and hold it in a nice log shape. Set in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to ensure it maintains its shape.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the puff pastry out to about a 1/4-inch thickness. Depending on the size of your sheets you may have to overlap 2 sheets and press them together.
  • Remove beef from refrigerator and cut off plastic.
  • Set the beef in the center of the pastry upside down and fold over the longer sides, brushing the pastry with egg wash to seal.
  • Trim ends if necessary then brush the ends with egg wash and fold over to completely seal the beef – saving the scrap ends to use as a decoration on top if desired.
  • Top with coarse sea salt.
  • Place the beef seam side down on a baking sheet.
  • Brush the top of the pastry with egg wash to brown, then make a couple of slits in the top of the pastry using the tip of a paring knife – this creates vents that will allow the steam to escape when cooking. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until pastry is golden brown and beef registers 125 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. If the beef is a little low remember it will continue to cook while resting.  It is more important to not burn the pastry.
  • Remove from oven and rest 20 minutes before cutting into thick slices.
  • Garnish with minced chives
for the green peppercorn sauce
  • Add olive oil to pan after removing beef.
  • Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; saute for 1 to 2 minutes, then,
  • off heat, add brandy and flambe using a long kitchen match. Please keep your hair and face out of the flame
  • After the flame dies down, return to the heat, add stock and reduce by about half.
  • Strain out solids, then add 2 cups cream and mustard.
  • Reduce by half again, then shut off heat and add green peppercorns.

 How to Roast Vegetables