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Michael Leahy
3,937 followers -
Creator of TyphonRT™, Android / Java dev, DJ / producer / composer
Creator of TyphonRT™, Android / Java dev, DJ / producer / composer

3,937 followers
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Here's a little St. Paddy's day meal I put together trying for a bit of refinement. It's 48 hour sous vide corned beef glazed in a sauce made from the brining liquid along with a 4 hour sous vide cabbage wedge on top of asparagus mousse. Below the corned beef is a medley of caramelized onions and nettle leaves and fried sage leaves on top.

It certainly was quite tasty. In the sous vide bag for the cabbage I included beside butter and salt some chopped up peppermint leaves which was rather pleasant. 
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Well, we're all caught up now with food picts for the last ~2.5 months I've been back at it. Makes you wonder what else I've been eating on my diet; err... not much / major calorie restriction!

This past weekend of course was the game and I had a good time with friends, and this year was a dip challenge. Silly me I started coding around 11:30am and had a "quick" idea that turned into a 2 hour one as I always finish what I start, so I was late on getting started for the pre-prep at home. My dip and dish is a mouthful, but here it goes: "cold smoked extra sharp constructed nacho cheese". This along with homemade tortilla chips, guanciale, and a few other odds and ends. I also made a ton of fried fennel and calamari with a dark tempura batter made with stout as well cause why not!

So the constructed part of the dip involves using melting salts (sodium citrate and sodium hexametaphospate) to lower the pH and allow the fats in a nice extra sharp cheese bind to additional calcium in the milk with a 1:1 ratio in weight between cheese and milk. After heating throw in some homemade pickled jalapenos and blend and it's liquid runny golden goodness that stays liquid and emulsified when warm or chilled. The cold smoked part is a 15 minute exposure to mesquite chips using the smoking gun. It was kind of cool as one of the guests didn't see or smell the smoking gun, but definitely picked up by taste that smoke of some sort was involved.

I arrived late in the game (2nd half just starting) and by the time I had everything finally plated I had about 15 minutes to win over the crowd before voting began. I actually still got 2nd in the competition, but if I was there on time I'm sure I would have won over several others. With the first tally I actually got 1st when weighted the same as each ballot had 1st / 2nd choices. However there were some big 3-4 way ties for the rest of the field, so things got changed up to 2 points for 1st choice and 1 point for 2nd then alas I dropped down to 2nd. ;P

I did win the poker game! :D
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2/7/17
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Fry baby fry! So after hitting a major milestone of 40lb loss over ~2 months and enjoying some of the frying I did of some squid previously it was time to get my double fry on with some fish / scallops and chips + fennel along with a yuzu / white soy sauce dip. Simply put I rarely fry food for general diet concerns when cooking, but will be doing so a bit more in moderation. Double frying is basically first frying at a lower temp for a short period (2-3 min) then frying a second time at a higher temp (1-2 min). I used 325 and 365 for the fries and fish. I might lower things to 300 for the first fry when doing this again depending on what is being fried.

The results were fabulous and I can now say that I can create fantastic fries and other deep fried goodies.

Maybe one day I'll get a Gastrovac for even more low temp frying experimentation (along with a variety of other infusion based techniques), but w/ the price tag on that unit and lack of details on the web about a variety of applications I'll definitely need to get some hands on experience with it before acquiring that tool. 
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2/3/17
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So we finally are reaching "squidpacolypse".. I mentioned this occasion going down several weeks ago and here we are in all its tentacled glory! Mmmm Love me some squid. Braised and fried with fennel leak puree dipping sauce and rapini saute under the garnish. :D I'm going to be making the fried squid again for this weekends game and also throwing down in a dip competition (watch out for my cold smoked extra sharp constructed nacho cheese dip photos sometime in the future!) 
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2/2/17
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Alright, so I just realized I shouldn't have stopped after the slightly burnt festivus pie. The dinner that night was really good, but the host prepared a large ham that was pre-smoked / bought and as is the usual case was a bit on the dry side of things. So, I was inspired to make my own holiday roast mostly geared towards my diet as well; mostly veg sides though I did get a little off the reservation with some roasted parsnip and fried radicchio.

So I once again set out on a brining / sous vide adventure w/ a 65 hour brine followed by a 48 hour sous vide of two pork shanks. Now pork shanks are the bottom part of the leg where as your standard holiday ham is the top / wider part. Between the brining, sous vide followed by a quick 20 minute roast one can get a really juicy result; mmm mini-hams! This also was the first time I made a proper vegetable mousse with a new food processor that I picked up.

Indeed I'm investing a bit into my kitchen currently and am very lucky to have a Paco Jet. This tool has opened up my eyes and once again answered the wonderment of... OK that's how higher end restaurants do that... It basically pulverizes a container of frozen anything into fine crystals. In this case a container full of blanched zucchini and broccolini with a little bit of veg broth. Combine this with some fresh whipped cream (no sugar / but with salt) and wallah: vegetable mousse... Definitely can't do this with a blender or your standard food processor. This particular food processor is wonderful for a diet as it allows all sorts of creative applications including making gellato / ice cream for instance with very little sugar added among a myriad of other novel savory preparations.

Very soon again I'm going to brine several pork shanks and a bunch of pork belly for good measure as the super cool thing about the brine / sous vide approach is that you can store the prepared results in your fridge for up to 2 months and when the desire strikes pull a pork shank out and have a proper meal in ~20 minutes after a quick roast.

I should mention that there is a web site that kept popping up in my various food searches... ChefSteps.. They definitely have some great info for those interested in modernist techniques and probably the best to the point videos on prep. 90% of the content on their site is free. They do push their sous vide unit a bit and don't answer questions for long after posting videos / articles which is something they can improve on if they want to engage with a larger community, but the video / content is solid. Here is the inspiration for the pork shank part: https://www.chefsteps.com/activities/homemade-honey-glazed-ham
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2/1/17
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Alright... So we finally made it to the festivus dinner. I don't make many sweets or bake much. My oven absolutely sucks as it has been at the property for at least ~15-20 years (given that I've been here over 10 years) and probably was the cheapest one possible that the property owner could find way back then. The temp numbers are worn off the dial too!

So I made a pecan pie. The cheap temperature gauge that I had in the oven was unreliable so I was stuck having to open things up and stick a manual probe in every so often. I misjudged things by a couple of minutes. While things look a bit burnt everything tasted great still.

After this experience I bought some quality thermometer probes and found out that the oven when set at a particular temperature oscillates from plus 10 degrees over and minus 15 every ~2 minutes so a variable range of 25 degrees which is just silly.

I'm thinking about biting the bullet and upgrading my range and fridge at the same time which is also ancient (also need to get to -8F for some things now; current freezer stops at 5F).

So yes.. The festivus dinner was great! A pecan pie and glassy nuts... 
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1/19/17
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And now for some more pork belly yums! You know I don't know why I haven't brined anything before, but I finally got that sorted and figured out all the details regarding Prague Powder #1 & #2. Of course for brining use #1, but do be careful if you like pink Himalayan salt like I do. I always vacuum seal the package after use to make sure it's obvious what one is using.

So after a 48 hour brine of 2lb of pork belly it then got a 48 hour sous vide treatment. Portion it up and vacuum seal and store in the refrigerator or freezer for quite a long time and pull it out when a bit of belly is needed (often!) as it's just a quick sear or fry away from yums.

As far as the meal went we have some mixed greens and more smoked jalapeno -lime vinaigrette and a bit of feta cheese. I actually ate all 2lb of belly in a night; it almost was too much! ;P

If I cook at the Katabatik camp out this summer on Sunday night I'm going to do 60 servings of pork belly. One of the cool things is that all the brining and effective cooking (48 hour sous vide) can be done at home then the whole lot frozen in batches of 6 for convenient service. Up on the mountain the belly can be reheated via sous vide to a temp slightly below the initial cook then a quick deep fry and done!
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1/17/17
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So now the pork belly obsession starts.. Here is a 24 sous vide then deep fried pancetta cut up on a salad w/ pomegranate and shiitake mushrooms. If you can find it I highly recommend trying out Nopalito's (SF) smoked jalapeno-lime vinaigrette which pairs marvelously with the belly and gives that acid kick necessary to balance with the fatty belly. I'm certainly going to figure out how to smoke jalapenos and make it myself one day soon as it's a winning vinaigrette for sure!
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1/16/17
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So I've been using my sous vide unit for a number of years for steaks and more, but since I enjoyed the pork chop I made previously with all the components cooked in the pan I decided to give a filet mignon such treatment. Once again the cardoon makes an appearance; definitely my "secret" go to veg now. I got to say that when cooking for one and the steak isn't too thick, 1.25" or less, I'm pretty convinced that cooking in the pan can be a more tasty direction than the sous vide approach with the flavors developing for the whole time. I think a lot has to do with the extra sear while sitting in a bunch of butter! Normally I'll just use rice bran oil and a quick sear with sous vide steaks. Though cooking in bulk or steaks thicker than 1.25" then sous vide wins hands down. 
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1/13/17
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Alright... Now we are getting a little more fancy. This is the first dish I've made that I can say is straight forward, but more or less on par with what I had at a Michelin star restaurant and at that Jean Georges (3 stars). I was very lucky to eat at ~20 Michelin star restaurants while I did my last big contract gig in NYC. It was a mind opening experience for sure as I rarely do the same in SF preferring to save my funds for buying good ingredients to cook myself. This particular dish is a minor riff on the famous Turbot w/ Chateau Chalon sauce. I just happened to make my dish with sablefish. While I couldn't track down Chateau Chalon I just happen to live around the block from a French wine bar and picked up another type from the Jura region which honestly tasted practically the same in the final sauce as I recall from eating at the restaurant. This also happened to be my second favorite sauce from my gastronomic adventures in NYC; the #1 sauce experience came from Betony which I am sad to have just read was closed down at the end of 2016.

Now one trick I'm going to do in the future is use my new vacuum chamber sealer to get rid of any air bubbles in a sauce that is vigorously stirred before serving. It turns out you can put a container in the vacuum chamber and briefly engage it and it will get rid of any bubbles. I guess that would be the only persnickety point about these photos.
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1/10/17
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