It needn’t end when the party’s over.
We had a party, an event, a “thing.” In fact, we named it “The Thing in Clackamas” when we devised it, and it eventually came to be referred to as simply “The Thing.” The intention was to promote sous vide methodology in general, and sous vide syzygy specifically; the alignment, the integration, the combination of sous vide and more familiar approaches to cooking. Also, to have fun. Fun is a big part of thing.
Sous vide doesn’t mean abandoning all that is familiar in favor of a reinvented wheel. Sous vide means that you can do everything that you did before, while greatly improving results, shelf life, versatility, and safety. We wanted to demonstrate just how true this is.
And so we did, and it was a great success, a lot of happy people, and one very tired chef at the end of it all. I told people that I felt like I went hunting for a Polar Bear armed with a pocket knife. At least, I GOT ONE! That day, we killed the bear.
No matter what happens…
Entertaining people with food is a no brainer. People will do things for food that they would never do for any other currency. Good food is the great equalizer, it can cross any cultural barrier. Add some wine, and you may be elevated to star status. It helps to know how many people you are feeding. This is why restaurants demand the exact number of people in each party before they accept reservations.
It’s not only to make the seating well organized, but, in the case of a special menu, you must NEVER run out of food. Running out of food reverses the positive effect that you have on people, and can turn you into the enemy of the mob state. There is nothing like the expression of disappointment on a guest’s face when you tell them that your are “OUT” of something.
Gratitude must always exceed expectation.
We really didn’t know how many people to expect. We had invited the entire membership of our FB group, which is about 15K now, but we urged them to let us know if they were coming. Oregon is distant from many places, and this is not vacation season, so we expected only a tiny fraction of the membership to attend. Besides, they knew the event would be well documented in the group.
We were expecting guests from as far away as Norway, and once neighbors notice the traffic, they tend to come over and complain about the parking situation. Once the realization of free food sinks in, they magically forget what they were upset about. Good times. So, we MADE SURE that we would not run out of food. There may be a line at the bathroom door, but we will NOT run out of food. And that’s the kicker.
If I never see Duck Prosciutto again…
When you commit to having plenty of food, you are most likely going to do just that. Many people are prepared to write this off as the cost of doing business, etc. Restaurants, however, cringe at the prospect of excess. Your chef can only come up with so many daily lunch specials to clear out all those “leftovers.” But sous vide, and the philosophy behind it, changes the whole paradigm of the leftover.
With sous vide, and well informed sanitation practiced before, during, and immediately after your event, there is no longer any such thing as a leftover. Leftovers simply become prepared food, which is what you offered your guests in the first place. No longer need today’s steak, chicken, or pork chop deteriorate into a shrunken, dried out relic only vaguely reminiscent of its original incarnation. As we will see.
Have chicken, will cross road.
Even though chicken wings appeared on all the versions of the prospective menu, I had a punch list of items to skip over, just in case. If a mob shows up, a ton of tasty wings will at least slow them down. If the group is manageable, you skip forward to the Venison, Lamb, and Water Buffalo. If you can make sure the wings are safe at all points in time (the basis behind HACCP systems) they can be served later without putting any one at risk. And that’s what it’s all about, Berber. Safety trumps everything, even art and flavor. Concurrently, if food is handled safely, it’s going to look and taste better. Imagine.
Two days before the party, I processed ten lbs. of the overpriced party wings, 140F/60Cx6 hours. I shocked them to 70F/21C in ice water, before refrigerating them, so as to avoid temperature contaminating that ton of food I already had in the fridge. This could have been done a week in advance, as long as the seal on the packaging wasn’t cracked. Even longer, because of…that’s right…the wings are pasteurized. Like a carton of milk from the store.
This one goes out to Louis. Pasteur, that is.
Expiration dates notwithstanding, if you don’t break the seal on that carton of milk, it will last a long, long time. Pasteur was a great man. One note, I’m old enough to remember BEFORE wings were hip. They were practically given away, and chefs would throw them in the stock. Only the Chinese would even try to do something with them. Yup, that was a REALLY looooooong time ago.
The day before the party, I laid out half the chicken wings in a flat pan and sprinkled generously with my fried chicken mix, flipping them and repeating the process. If I had planned to finish these the same day, I would have used egg white to attach the coating, but with 24 hours ahead of me, the egg whites are not necessary to make the breading cling–it will do so on its own.
The day AFTER the party, I decided to turn those wings into our dinner, along with some other ingredients that we had “left over.”
- These wings are perfect for deep frying.
- I suspect my wife gets tired of all my vessels of oil accumulating, and yesterday was a long day.
- I decided to do the oven fried thing.
- Lay the wings out on parchment, you will be glad you did this. Especially if you are the one washing the dishes.
- Shake a little flour over them, to dry off a few wet spots that occasionally appear.
- It’s too early to call this a money shot.
- We’re not going to pretend that this is a low fat dish.
- But deep frying, even ersatz style, is not necessarily as fat loaded as some people fear. Cooked properly, fried food need not be greasy.
- The operative phrase is “cooked properly.”
- I drizzled generously with 1/3 cup of oil.
- You’re just going to have to trust me.
- Not drenched, but you can’t skimp if you want desirable results.
- It’s that simple.
- Into the new Kitchenaid oven they go, so proud.
- 375F/191C, convection if you have it.
- Come back in half an hour.
- *sigh.* So much to share. Pickles are a thing, but I don’t want to digress.
- We will have to do a separate pickle feature.
- Anyway, I made some vacuum pickles, also for the party, also not used.
- Pickles keep.
- These were minimalist, it was always my intention to adjust the flavor profile depending on the circumstance.
- Most people don’t realize that you can do this.
- I drained the juice.
- I then added a pinch of sugar, and some of my improvised seasoning blend with 8 parts salt, 1 part ground pepper, and a pinch of whatever I feel like.
- Nutmeg, thyme, fennel, dried parsley, things like that.
- I actually had some shells “left over” from some mac and marinara that we had over the course of the prep schedule.
- It’s weird, you’re making pate foie gras at $60/lb. and what you really want to eat is a hot dog and a beer.
- I added some of the pickle “relish” to the macaroni, right there in the bag, why waste another container?
- There’s no fat in pickles, so I added some EVOO from my brother-in-law’s small orchard in California.
- Tuscan style, very good.
- Not for sale.
- Agitated, the chili flakes add some sparkle.
- Keller made quite a splash when he started vacuuming watermelon.
- This is a variation, but I call it Salt and Pepper Watermelon, for obvious reasons.
- The process of vacuuming transforms the texture of the melon, but I find the descriptions lacking.
- I heard it described once as steak-like, but I think that’s a little over the top.
- It’s just different.
- Firmer, softer, drier, juicier, all at the same time.
- Like I said.
- Just sprinkle a little seasoning on there, and you can serve right away or wait a few days.
- The curing continues, the texture continues to change.
- After removing it from the bag, I drained it on a towel.
- You can see the seasonings.
- The juice is delicious, but I don’t want a puddle on the plate.
- Watermelon has a tendency to crumble when you try to cut it into small pieces, the curing prevents this.
- It’s been squeezed, but it doesn’t look like that.
- Drain the shell salad, again, avoiding the puddle effect.
- Portion the melon and pasta salad on plates, I like to use flat bowls for this.
- I boldly sprinkled a little more of my seasoning mix on the shells.
- I drizzled some dill/mint gastrique on the melon.
- Gastrique is simply caramelized sugar, with vinegar and some herbs added at the end.
- Stand back, it likes to steam violently.
- The more vinegar you add, the thinner it will be.
- It doesn’t take much.
- Just add a little and wait a minute.
- If it seems too thick, add a little more and heat it up a little.
- You can elevate your pinkie if you like. Optional.
- Let them get nice and brown, and don’t be afraid to use the broiler function if you like.
- Don’t walk away from it.
- I keep the oven door open when I salamander.
- Take those bad boys out of the oven.
- Be careful, you will realize that most of that grease stays in the pan.
- It’s hot. If it spills, it might burn you.
- That’s like money.
- Drain on a clean towel or screen, give them a minute.
- Shingle them out on top.
- No puddle.
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Two days later, the remaining oven fried wings are subsequently deep fried. Not flash fried, not quick fried, deep fried as if they had never been finished in the first place. Extra crispy, yes. Dried out, definitely not. Not because of me. Because of safe handling practice. In Baldwin we trust. See below.
- Romaine with Umami Vinaigrette, tomatoes, and vacuum pickles.
- Just as wholesome as ever.
- Trying to find an unflattering angle.
- It’s never over.