Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recipe: Celery Root and Cauliflower Soup

A lot of people aren't familiar with celery root, also known celeriac. It is a type of celery that is grown for the root rather than the stalks, so it's not the same variety that gets stuffed with peanut butter or served alongside hot wings. The root has a mild celery flavor and a texture a bit like a soft potato, and it makes a delicious and velvety puree. I wanted turn it into a soup, but I  needed to balance the flavor with something else. My original idea was parsnips but the store didn't have any, so I switched to cauliflower. It turned out delicious.

1 large celery root
1 head of cauliflower
1 bay leaf
4 - 6C low sodium chicken stock
1C heavy cream
2oz (1/2 stick) butter
salt and white pepper to taste
white truffle oil for garnish (optional)

6 - 8 quart stock pot with lid
fine mesh strainer

Yield: 4 quarts

  • Start by scrubbing the celery root with a brush under cold running water. They are knobby roots and they take some effort to get clean.
  • Next peel the celery root. This is best done by using a sharp chef's knife to cut away the larger knobby parts and the peel, followed by trimming with a paring knife. Don't worry if you can't get rid of all the peel in all the nooks and crannies.
  • Cut the celery root in quarters, then cut each quarter into 1" - 2" thick slices. Move to the stock pot and add enough water to cover. Set the burner to medium heat, add the bay leaf, and cover.
  • Remove the core from the cauliflower and separate the florets. You don't have to take them too small, just don't leave it in fist-sized chunks. Put these in the stock pot with the celery root, and add more water to cover the cauliflower.
  • Let the vegetables come to a boil while covered. Remove the lid and let them simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. To test for doneness, use the tip of a paring knife to pierce the stem of a cauliflower floret. If it slides off without holding, it's done.
  • Drain the vegetables into a colander and discard the bay leaf.
  • Put half the vegetables in the blender and 1C chicken stock. Put on the lid, removing the stopper on top. Cover with a kitchen towel and blend the soup until smooth. Add more chicken stock until everything blends smoothly.
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over the stock pot and pour the puree into it. Use a whisk to stir the puree around and force it through the mesh. Any lumps or fibrous bits will stay in the strainer.
  • Repeat with the other half of the vegetables.
  • Place he stock pot of soup over medium heat and add the cream and butter. Stir occasionally until it starts to simmer.
  • Adjust for thickness, adding more chicken stock or water if it's too thick, or allow it to reduce if it's too thin. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper. If you haven't used white pepper before, be careful. It has a lingering heat and is stronger than black pepper.

I garnished the soup with a few drops of white truffle oil because it echoes the flavor and aroma, but that is purely optional.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Folder Permissions requirements difference when upgrading from Office 2003 to Office 2010

At work we're in the process of upgrading from Office 2003 to Office 2010. The pilot users on Office 2010 were unable to edit spreadsheets on a network location while the Office 2003 users chugged right along. After a few days of troubleshooting we finally found the solution.

In order to edit files in Office 2010 the user must have Delete permissions for the folder with the document. For Office 2003 they simply required Update permissions. Hopefully our pain can be your gain.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

In memoriam - Glenda Joyce Robinson - December 29, 1942 to October 8, 2010

The song Seasons of Love from the musical Rent asks the question "How do you measure a year?" It makes the following suggestions:

In daylights - in sunsets
In midnights - in cups of coffee
In inches - in miles
In laughter - in strife

This is part of the larger question: "How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?" For the case at hand, that would be 24,755 daylights and sunsets but only 24,754 midnights. The cups of coffee (and packs of cigarettes) are uncountable. A lot of road was covered and there was a lot of laughter... and unfortunately even more strife.

The person of whom I'm speaking is my mother, Glenda Joyce Robinson. She died at approximately 10:15 PM on October 8, 2010, at age 68. I truly hope she found the peace she never knew in life.

I blocked comments on this post. I know everyone is sincere in their compassion and empathy, but I am just too raw emotionally to deal with it. I apologize for being selfish, it's been a common theme this week.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

the bastards ground me down

It seemed innocent enough. I was offered $20,000 to go to culinary school. What an amazing opportunity! Little did I know the toll it would take. I started classes in July. After the first week I was panicked because I didn't fit in, not even a little bit. My classmates were half my age and incredibly rowdy. Every class period was like a junior high lunch room, with people yelling, cursing, carrying on conversations throughout class (both with each other and on their cell phones) and engaging in horseplay. I'm serious about learning, passionate about culinary arts and respectful and professional. Few of my classmates share any of those traits.

I talked to some of them, explaining I hadn't been in school for twenty years so it was harder for me to concentrate when they were loud and. A few of them seemed chastened and behaved more maturely. A couple became belligerent and called me everything from uptight to a racist. Most just ignored me and kept on being disruptive.

Next I went to my teachers, who agreed it was out of hand and started shushing the classes when they got too loud. That wasn't very successful so it escalated to threats of ejection from class. Nobody got kicked out but the obnoxious behavior continued, so I went up the chain to the chair of my department. The next class meeting everyone was seated alphabetically. It took four weeks but this finally broke up the worst of the cliques and the Romper Room atmosphere was toned down enough for me to make it through my first quarter.

Monday night was my first class of this quarter and I walked into even more chaos than I had back in July. When I enrolled at AI I was told my kitchen classes would have no more than 15 to 18 students. Last night we had 26. We only have work stations for a maximum of 20 and the kitchen is stocked for about 15 students so we quickly ran out of everything. It was a mad dash to grab what you could, when you could.

When the teacher left to get more ingredients or equipment more than half the class would erupt into horseplay. The last straw for me was when I was helping a fellow student wash all the dishes. I was putting them away from the drying rack and there was a cluster of our classmates standing beside us in a circle doing freestyle rap while people would enter the circle and breakdance. I asked one of them to help me put away the dishes and responded, "You ain't my massa."

I withdrew from classes today. I simply can't endure another quarter like last one. It's not worth my time or effort when The Art Institute can't create an environment in which I can learn. Rather than being the pissed off grumpy old man I decided to remove myself from the situation. I appreciate the opportunity I was given by the Food Network. I sincerely wish I could have taken advantage of it.

I don't know what my next step might be. It probably won't be culinary school, at least for a while.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The best meal of my life

My (37th) birthday was Thursday, August 19th. Being mid-week we opted to delay the official celebration until Saturday the 21st. My favorite restaurant in the world is McCrady's, headed up by Chef Sean Brock, so it was the obvious choice.

I have met Chef Brock a few times, and about a year ago he said to let him know when I was coming in to McCrady's and he would do something special. I have the most over the top case of hero worship for Chef Brock that you can imagine. It would be like Geddy Lee offering to sing "happy birthday" to a Rush fan, or a tween girl getting a hug from Justin Bieber. So I was over the moon when he made this offer, but I was too timid to do anything about it. We dined in anonymity at McCrady's several times until I finally worked up the courage to e-mail Chef Brock and take him up on his offer. He responded and we exchanged a couple of e-mails so he could get an idea of what to do.

So it was with an incredible level of excitement and more than a little nervous anxiety that we arrived at McCrady's for 6:30 dinner reservations. We were seated and offered a wine list but no menus. The waiter knew Chef Brock had a special menu for us which was going to remain a secret. Our only choice was whether to do wine pairings, which we did.

What followed was a dining experience the likes of which I never imagined existed. We have dined at Providence, one of three Michelin 2 star restaurants in Los Angeles, and La Pergola, which at the time was the only Michelin 3 star restaurant in all of Italy. When we travel we seek out highly regarded restaurants around the world. I can say without hesitation that this meal at McCrady's set the standard for all future fine dining experiences I will have.

I didn't write down the courses and I didn't want to take a camera to interfere with the experience, so I don't know exactly what we had. As the courses kept coming we joked about which course we were on. We lost count somewhere around seven or eight. Chef Brock came out three times to do tableside preparations and explain dishes. The last time he asked if we knew how many courses we had already had. We guessed nine. "This is number thirteen, and there is only one more," he said with a wry smile.

The first time I looked at my watch it was 9:30. I think that was around course eight. We finally left a little after 11:00, making this the longest meal I have ever had, and it eclipses any other dining experience I have ever had. It wasn't just the personal attention and it wasn't just my hero worship for Chef Brock. The food and service were spectacular. The plating was breathtaking. The flavor, texture and temperature combinations were simply sublime.

And I have to give a very special thank you to my life partner, Myron. He treated me and one of my dear friends to this spectacular experience. It was not the most expensive meal we have ever had, but it is the best. I am glad I was able to share it with him.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Why I always brine meat

Normally meat loses about 30 percent of its weight during cooking. This is because as meat cooks the fibers bind to each other more tightly, which forces out moisture. Also, as the meat cooks and the proteins bunch up the meat shrinks. That's why it's important to rest meat before you serve it. It gives the protein time to relax and the juices flow back into the meat. You can exert some control on this process by brining the meat.

Here is what happens: The salt in the brine causes some of the proteins to break down, or denature. As the proteins denature the salt binds directly to them, which prevents the proteins from binding to each other when they cook. As the meat cooks and the muscle fibers tense up they can't grab other muscle fibers and wring out the moisture. The end result is a jucier steak, pork chop, chicken breast or piece of fish.

Did I just say fish? Why yes I did, because there is also an aesthetic reason for brining. Have you ever noticed when you cook meat -- but especially fish -- that some weird looking foamy white stuff comes out and looks like egg whites when it cooks? That's because it's the same protein that's in egg whites. As the muscle tenses up during cooking the albumin liquefies and gets forced out. This is the protein that brining breaks down. So if you brine your meats first this protein won't ooze out, giving you a nicer-looking end product.

Below is a chart showing some general guidelines for brining different meats.

I also brine steaks and roasts in a 10% by weight brine for 24 - 72 hours. That is 3.5oz salt to 1QT (32oz) water. (Technically it's 3.555 oz, I round down to make it easier on me. And yes, I use a scale.) You can add other ingredients to further enhance the flavor, such as garlic powder, onion powder, cardamom, cloves, tamarind powder, cayenne, preserved lemon, or just about any other spice. Just be careful about adding too much. Since it will get soaked into the meat you can end up with a very oddly flavored end result.

I find that meat brined in a lower sodium brine for longer is more tender and flavorful when cooked, but that's simply my observation. Your mileage may vary.

Image from http://www.finecooking.com/articles/why-brining-keeps-meat-moist.aspx. Check out that article for more information and tips on brining.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How not to do customer service

I order a lot of stuff from Newegg. They have good product selection, exclusive promos, and good pricing. On Monday of this week they had a 15% off promo on all keyboards. I had my eye on a Logitech G15, and the final price with the promo discount and shipping was $77. Considering it retails for $100 I felt good about my purchase.

On Wednesday Newegg had a new promotion: $20 off the Logitech G15 keyboard, with free shipping. This brought the final price down to $59. I was a little peeved about my Monday purchase so I did a web chat with Newegg to see if they could adjust the price.

In short: no. They offer no price protection and their policy is to not offer pricing adjustments. I explained to the customer service person that I could refuse delivery of the keyboard and order a new one, and even with the shipping charges and restocking fees I would end up saving money. We could avoid that situation -- and a lot of unnecessary costs and lost of customer goodwill -- if she would just offer the adjustment. Nope, that's not the policy.

I asked to have a manager call me, and she transferred the web chat to her supervisor. He copy and pasted the same policy to me. He did offer me $5 off my next order, which I never would have accepted, but by now I was pretty ticked off and found it insulting. I asked to have the order canceled and was told they couldn't do that since it was already shipped. I know shippers can recall orders from UPS, I've done it myself.

Unable to get any satisfaction from Newegg, I ordered another keyboard with the better promotions and put a note on my door refusing delivery of the first one. When it's all said and done I will have saved $9. At this point it's not the money, it's the principle.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Warning: SQL Server database files are not backwards compatibile

This is something I just learned the very hard way. Here's the scenario:
  • You have a database you created on SQL Server 2005 or 2008 SP1
  • You detach it from the SP1 server and attach it to SQL Server 2008 R2
  • You then try to reattach it back to the original server
  • You get an error about the server only supporting up to version 655 (or 612 for SQL Server 2005)
The reason is every version of SQL Server has its own file version number: SQL Server 2005 is file version 612; SQL Server 2008, either RTM or SP1, is file version 655; and SQL Server 2008 R2 is file version 660. As soon as a server touches a file it upgrades it to that server's file version. In this case once you attach the database file to SQL Server 2008 R2 it's version 660. SQL Server can read files that are at the server's version number or lower, so you can't take a SQL Server 2008 R2 database file and attach it to any prior release.

It isn't uncommon for a new releases of server software to have a new file format to support new features. The problem is SQL Server gives you no option to go back. You can't do a backup and restore, either, because the newer backup file cannot be read by the older server. At this point your only option is to create a new database and copy the data across. Due to customer outcry over SQL Server 2000 to 2005 migrations Microsoft added a scripting feature in SQL Server 2008 that can copy the structure and the data. For my 6GB database it generates 20GB of scripts that take nearly three hours to run.

For most people it isn't that big of an issue. I'm in the process of testing a migration from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008 and wanted to use the same data on both versions. Microsoft has made this scenario incredibly difficult.

Sidebar: Most Domino releases include a new file version, which is called the on disk structure or ODS. Domino does not automatically upgrade to the new ODS so you can decide when to upgrade. You can also downgrade ODS versions by using "compact -R". I would much prefer this to Microsoft's forcing the issue and not giving you any reasonable downgrade options.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tip for VMWare Workstation on Windows 7 Enterprise

I'm running VMware Workstation 6.5* on Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit. It works well but I keep getting the dreaded warning about the clock speed not matching. To fix this it's usually a matter of just updating the config.ini, as documented here.

Except that under Windows 7, you can't save the config.ini. In fact, you can't write to the C:\ProgramData folder at all. Not even if you change the owner of the folder to your account. So what do you do? You have to temporarily change the User Account Control settings to Never Notify.

Go to Start Menu -> Control Panel -> User Accounts and Family Safety -> User Accounts.

Select User Accounts

Select Change User Account Control Settings

Move the slider all the way to the bottom

Now restart your computer. Once it comes back up you should be able to edit the config.ini. After you are finished you should kick the UAC back up at least one notch.

* VMware Workstation 7 uses a different method for determining host CPU speed and does not need this manual adjustment.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Dining With Friends 2010 recipes

I have the recipes for this year's Dining With Friends event online. They're in ODT format, which should make some of you happy. I don't have Word or Excel installed on my home computer anymore. I was delighted to discover that box.net has a built-in file viewer for them. :-)

Dining With Friends 2010 - A Trip to Germany

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Massachusetts data security law

Have you heard about Massachusetts law 201 CMR 17.00? It went into effect on March 1, 2010, but seems to have flown under most of the reporting radars. If you store personally identifiable information (PII) about a Massachusetts resident, it affects you. It doesn't matter where you live. Here is how the law defines personal information:
A Massachusetts resident's first name and last name or first initial and last name in combination with any one or more of the following data elements that relate to such resident: (a) Social Security number; (b) driver's license number or state-issued identification card number; or (c) financial account number, or credit or debit card number, with or without any required security code, access code, personal identification number or password, that would permit access to a resident’s financial account; provided, however, that “Personal information” shall not include information that is lawfully obtained from publicly available information, or from federal, state or local government records lawfully made available to the general public.
If you do store this information get ready for some fun. The information must be encrypted end to end during transmission and even when at rest. If you store the information on a portable device the whole device must be encrypted. You must file a written statement with the Massachusetts state government stating that you have a plan for dealing with information security. You don't have to file the plan itself, just the statement.

The fines associated with this law are massive. Someone steals a laptop with unencrypted data on 200 residents: that'll be $1,000,000 please. If you are discovered to be passing PII in clear text that will cost $5,000 per resident's information exposed. Write down a Massachusetts resident's PII and don't shred it -- that's $5,000, too.

I will readily concede a lot of this is common sense, but some of it will be onerous for a small business to implement.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

SnTT: A LotusScript StopWatch Class With Nanosecond Precision

I was doing some work in Access and wanted to time how long it took to do something. I was doing a small scale test so the timing was pretty minuscule. After poking around a bit I discovered a way to use the Windows API to count CPU clock cycles. I converted it to LotusScript since virtually nobody who reads my blog cares about Access. :-)

Declare Function QueryPerformanceCounter Lib "kernel32" (lpPerformanceCount As Double) As Long
Declare Function QueryPerformanceFrequency Lib "kernel32" (lpPerformanceCount As Double) As Long

Public Class StopWatch
Private m_StartTime As Double
Private m_EndTime As Double
Private m_Freq As Double
Private m_Overhead As Double

Private m_Days As Integer
Private m_Hours As Integer
Private m_Minutes As Integer
Private m_Seconds As Integer
Private m_Deci As Long
Private m_Centi As Long
Private m_Milli As Long
Private m_Micro As Long
Private m_Nano As Long

Private m_TotalSeconds As Single

Public Property Get Hours As Integer
Hours = m_Hours
End Property

Public Property Get Minutes As Integer
Minutes = m_Minutes
End Property

Public Property Get Seconds As Integer
Seconds = m_Seconds
End Property

Public Property Get Milli As Integer
Milli = m_Milli
End Property

Public Property Get Centi As Integer
Centi = m_Centi
End Property

Public Property Get Micro As Long
Micro = m_Micro
End Property

Public Property Get Nano As Long
Nano = m_Nano
End Property

Public Property Get TotalSeconds As Single
TotalSeconds = m_TotalSeconds
End Property

Public Sub StartTimer()
QueryPerformanceCounter m_StartTime
End Sub

Public Sub EndTimer()
QueryPerformanceCounter m_EndTime

Dim ElapsedTime As Double

ElapsedTime = (m_EndTime - m_StartTime - m_Overhead) / m_Freq
m_TotalSeconds = Csng(ElapsedTime)

m_Days = ElapsedTime \ 86400
If m_Days > 0 Then
ElapsedTime = ElapsedTime - m_Days * 86400
End If

m_Hours = ElapsedTime \ 3600
If m_Hours > 0 Then
ElapsedTime = ElapsedTime - m_Hours * 3600
End If

m_Minutes = ElapsedTime \ 60
If m_Minutes > 0 Then
ElapsedTime = ElapsedTime - m_Minutes * 60
End If

m_Seconds = Int(ElapsedTime)
If m_Seconds > 0 Then
ElapsedTime = ElapsedTime - m_Seconds
End If

m_Deci = Clng(Round(Clng(ElapsedTime * 10), 1))
m_Centi = Clng(Round(Clng(ElapsedTime * 100), 2))
m_Milli = Clng(Round(Clng(ElapsedTime * 1000), 3))
m_Micro = Clng(Round(Clng(ElapsedTime * 100000), 6))
m_Nano = Clng(Round(Clng(ElapsedTime * 1000000000), 9))

End Sub

Public Sub New()
Dim mStartTime As Double
Dim mEndTime As Double

'First figure out the API overhead
QueryPerformanceCounter mStartTime
QueryPerformanceCounter mEndTime

m_Overhead = mEndTime - mStartTime

'Now get the frequency
QueryPerformanceFrequency m_Freq
End Sub

End Class

This LotusScript was converted to HTML using the ls2html routine,
provided by Julian Robichaux at nsftools.com.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

playing the hand you're dealt

To cut to the chase, I'll be starting classes at the Art Institute in July. Trust me, you couldn't possibly be any more surprised than I am.

By now you know I was selected as one of five finalists in a Food Network and Art Institutes scholarship contest, but I couldn't accept because the cost of acceptance was too high. The events that led from there to here still seem like a dream.

The contest rules state the scholarship can only be used for an associate or bachelor degree program, which cost $53,000 and $80,000, respectively. When I spoke with the contest coordinator I explained I couldn't cover the gap between the scholarship and the total cost of the degree. She took this back to the Food Network and AI, and they agreed to change the rules of the scholarship.

The Art Institute also offers a culinary arts certificate program, which is only three quarters long and only covers the core culinary classes. It also only costs $23,000, and I can cover $3,000 a lot more easily than $33,000, so I accepted the scholarship.

Even though I have known I was the winner for a while I was waiting for someone to pull the rug from under me. Stuff like this doesn't happen to me. As of yesterday, it's really official: Food Network Scholarship Announcement.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

what if 2000 characters could change your life?

In the Fall of 2008 Food Network aired The Chef Jeff Project. This show featured Jeff Henderson, a drug dealer and prison inmate turned chef who was trying to turn around the lives of six disadvantaged people in Los Angeles. The participants who completed the program were each offered scholarships to The Art Institutes culinary arts program. The Food Network also sponsored an essay scholarship contest for viewers, with a prize of $20,000 to the winner. I entered and never heard anything.

A year later, in Fall 2009, the Food Network was conducting their search for the next Iron Chef. In conjunction with this they did the same essay competition for another $20,000 scholarship to The Art Institutes. I thought back to my previous entry, and after seeing the ads for weeks I finally entered again. Weeks went by and I didn't hear anything, again, so I exhaled and went on with my life.

You can imagine my surprise when I got a call a few weeks ago and was told I'm one of the five finalists in the competition. Once I got over my shock I started looking more seriously at The Art Institutes. To be honest I had not looked at their curriculum... or their tuition costs. I was gobsmacked to learn that a two-year associates' degree program costs $53,000; a four year bachelor's degree is over $80,000.

The exorbitant cost made me take a hard look at what I want to do, as well as what I can afford to do. After a lot of soul-searching I finally decided not to pursue the scholarship competition. I appreciate getting as far as I did, I simply can't justify putting myself that far in debt.

I'm back to my old plan now, which is to pay off all my debt and attend culinary school in 2011. I'm going to continue experimenting and finding my culinary voice and point of view. Going through this got me thinking about how people are just as afraid of success as they are of failure. The first step truly is the hardest.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A cloud-based document sharing service that should be on your radar

I have been using box.net for a long time. They started out as another "me too" file sharing service. Over time they have adapted to the changing landscape and now have an incredibly compelling set of cloud-based document editing capabilities. I'm testing it out now and I'm very impressed. If you're in the market for cloud-based document sharing, box.net has an excellent toolset.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finding the cluster size on Windows iSCSI targets

We're preparing to extend our SAN at work and use the new space as an opportunity to clean up our earlier sins. We are using an HP AiO 1200R iSCSI SAN, which runs Windows Storage Server 2003. This is connected to our HP BLc-3000 via iSCSI. The BLc-3000 has six blades all running VMware ESX 3.5.

As we start the process of rearranging our storage, we need to figure out was how the AiO presents the storage to VMware. We can see the RAID volumes on the AiO, but they aren't assigned drive letters. This makes it difficult to work with them because most of the Windows disk management tools assume there are drive letters.

After a lot of fiddling around we finally found it:
fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo "c:\data volumes\[volume name]"
This syntax is necessary because the iSCSI volumes are mounted through junctions that are defined in the C:\Data Volumes\ path. There are two key things to note here. First, the folder names listed in the C:\Data Volumes\ folder have nothing at all to do with the volume names you'll find in Disk Management or diskpart. They are simply mount points and could be called anything. In the following image I have Disk Management open as well as the properties of one of my C:\Data Volumes\ entries.

You'll notice there is an entry in Disk Management called Data Volume but nothing with that name in C:\Data Volumes\. If you look at the leftmost dialog showing the disk space you can see this is a 1.93TB volume with the name Data Volume, which means it is mapped through C:\Data Volumes\Data Volume 2. I know it is confusing and it may be unique to our environment, but it caused us some frustration so I wanted to mention it. To match up the volume names you need to right-click the folder in C:\Data Volumes\ and select Properties, then click the Properties button beside Type: Mounted Volume to show the iSCSI disk properties. This will show you the volume name as it appears in Disk Management and let you match the volume names to C:\Data Volumes\ mount points. Just to be clear, it is the folder name in C:\Data Volumes that you want to feed into fsutil. Here is the output from my server:

C:\>fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo "c:\data volumes\data volume 2"
NTFS Volume Serial Number : 0xe0b404f1b404cc4a
Version : 3.1
Number Sectors : 0x00000000f85df672
Total Clusters : 0x000000001f0bbece
Free Clusters : 0x0000000006823dee
Total Reserved : 0x0000000000000000
Bytes Per Sector : 512
Bytes Per Cluster : 4096
Bytes Per FileRecord Segment : 1024
Clusters Per FileRecord Segment : 0
Mft Valid Data Length : 0x000000002b358000
Mft Start Lcn : 0x00000000000c0000
Mft2 Start Lcn : 0x000000000f85df67
Mft Zone Start : 0x00000000000ea960
Mft Zone End : 0x0000000003ed77e0

Secondly, and this is a lot simpler, don't use a trailing slash on the volume name.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recent cooking experiments

After the 42 hour pot roast I did two more. These were sirloin instead of chuck (they're from a different part of the cow). Sirloin has less connective tissue and is much leaner so it's often ground to mix with fattier cuts or cut up to use as stew meat.

The first sirloin roast went in for 21 hours and we ate about half of it, but it didn't have the texture I wanted. It was "done" but a little tough. I put the other half back in the bag and let it cook for another 24 hours, for a grand total of 45 hours. It came out with a texture like pastrami, which was great, but it was a little dry. Here were the final results:

After all this I finally decided that pot roast is just better done in a conventional oven so those experiments are over. Last night I put a chunk of boneless pork loin in at 58C and left it until I got home tonight. The total cooking time was about 20 hours. This was one of the best pieces of pork I've ever had. It was tender and succulent and had an incredible flavor. I browned it in a cast iron skillet after it was done to give it a bit of texture, and spooned some reduced apple juice over the top to serve. It was divine!

Right now I have some chicken breast cooking at 63.5C. I'll be sure to share how those go. I will be moving my cooking posts to a new site shortly and return this one to technical content. That way the people only interested in one or the other won't have to sift through the rest. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

How to cook pot roast in 42 short hours!

I did my osso bucco experiment this past Thursday. After I pulled that out, in went a 6 pound chuck roast. I put some salt and pepper on it, and thinly sliced a stalk of celery to go with it. I read online that said a beef roast should be cooked at 58C to 64C for four to 18 hours. I set the temperature at 58C, put in the chuck roast at 6PM on Thursday, and checked on it around midnight. It was still tough so I left it until noon on Friday. That was 18 hours, and it was still tough.

Frustrated I turned to the Internet to find out the why piece of the failure puzzle. I finally came up with what seemed like reliable sources that said you had to cook tough cuts between 64C and 68C for 12 to 18 hours. I set my cooker to 68C at about noon on Friday, and left it alone until noon on Saturday. Here are the results.

This was after cooking for 18 hours. The pot roast is in a regular non-vacuum-sealed Zip-Lock bag. I squeezed as much air out as possible, then inserted a straw to suck the rest out. It's kind of gross and I probably won't be using that technique again. We use the double-layer bags to prevent freezer burn and the two layers have air between them, so it kept floating. I weighed it down with some small plates to keep it submerged.

The final product after a total of 42 hours cook time.

Breaking it down for plating. You can see that there is still a bit of fat marbled in the roast, but it wasn't cooked at such a high temperature that it all melted out. It created a succulent and delicious flavor.

The definition of fork tender.

The final plate. Corn bread, hoppin john, whipped sweet potatoes, and pot roast with brown gravy.

The score is now tied 1 to 1. :-) Next up: poached pears.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My first experiment with my Sous Vide Supreme

For Christmas Myron got me a Sous Vide Supreme. The idea is you put food in vacuum sealed bags, then let them slowly cook to the proper temperature in a very precisely controlled water bath. It is widely used in high end restaurants because you can cook food to the desired temperature and it just stays at that temperature. You can cook a perfectly medium rare steak and leave it for days without hurting it.

My first experiment was veal osso bucco. This is a cross-section of the lower leg, and typically you braise it for two to three hours in the oven. The closest thing I could find in the cookbook that came with the Sous Vide Supreme was bone in pork, which said 58C to 60C for four to six hours.

I put a little salt and pepper and a small pinch of saffron on each piece of osso bucco, put two per bag, and sealed them. Then I set the temperature on the Sous Vide Supreme to 58C and dropped them in and left them for six hours. Here is how it looked before I pulled it out of the cooker. Yes, it is done at this point and yes, I know it looks like brains.

I made a sauce from sauteed onions and celery with a touch of browned butter, chicken stock and heavy cream, and served the osso bucco with honey glazed carrots with pine nuts and green beans with sherry vinegar. Here are the results:

So, how did it taste? The flavor was okay, but the texture was weird. Sous vide cooking doesn't create crispness or browning, so you have to try to get that after the fact. You run the risk of overcooking it, though, since it's already completely cooked. The other issue is osso bucco has a lot of connective tissue. After doing more research I have learned that 58C just isn't hot enough to dissolve it, you need at least 60C.

One experiment, one mediocre result. I have a chuck roast cooking now, and I'll follow up after I pull it out. I already know I started out totally wrong so now I'm hoping to salvage it. The joys of experimentation. :-)