Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >

opinionated.alchemist's Profile

Title Last Reply

Do you think veal actually has a taste?

Well, I guess it really depends on the feeding.
Usually Australian veal [at least here in Dubai] is grass/pasture fed - the meat is quite tender, but the taste reminds me very much to beef.
However Dutch veal [German or French] is usually milk fed. the meat doesn't taste at all like beef - very light taste... it is funny, but for me it taste more "controversial" than beef.
Obviously it could also be the age... not sure, how old Australian veals are or European ones...

Does anyone really LOVE sous vide?

3 years into the discussion...
Basically I can agree with some: Personally I don't "dig" sous vide fish. But basically it is the "least" sous vide preparation there is... and basically it is just, that I don't really fancy poached fish [and the sous vide method is just very close to it].
For meat it is just amazing. I don't make my chicken anymore with different cooking methods - all goes into the bag - but you have to know, what you are doing - chicken breasts need only 1 or 2 hours max. Otherwise you will have a mushy texture. However the legs and thighs can have a higher temperature for a longer time. But for both ways, the chicken taste so intensively like chicken [in a good way] - you don't even need any other seasoning than salt [and maybe pepper]!
Usually I like to fry it up after the water bath.
Beef is also great - but I found, there are also limitations: a very lean but rather tough piece of meat, becomes mushy [or stays tough] no matter what.
But if there is fat, there are the benefits.
For beef, the most important part is, that it will be cooked.
My problem with traditional beef is, that you have it rather rare [and often rare is really raw in the middle] - just because it becomes otherwise tough - or medium rare or medium will be already slightly overcooked [at least gradient from the outside to inside] - and often the center is still slightly undercooked. However if you are sous viding it, it is fully cooked but just has the right temperature. It sounds strange, but personally it is a huge difference.
I never liked a medium-rare burger - it was raw minced luke warm meat... but with sous vide, it is just perfectly pink, throughout and it is absolutely delicious... because cooked.

Yes - sous vide might be a bit overused by people, who don't necessary know how to use it properly. It is similar to new kitchen equipment, and they are experimenting with it [for the sake] and don't really know, how to use it effectively! But if you know, which temperatures and which timings are giving you which results, it is a magic technique.
Basically you should even not notice, that it is sous vided... it should be just perfect...

First bottle of cachaca--disappointed

Your comparison with whiskey is a bit stretched. At the end it is called Scotch Whisky [by the way - Scotch is no whiskey but whisky!]. And Irish and Scotch whiskies were there long before American whiskey.
Whisk(e)y is an extremely inconsistent and wide variety. There is not only a couple of exceptions. Plus - any whisk(e)y nation called their "thing" whisk(e)y.
However the Brazilians don't call cachaça 'rum'.

It is definitely a "problem" which arises, as different people have different "linguistic" and technical priorities. E.g. I am more a "technical" guy, who sees a product from all facets. Others are more pragmatic.

It is a philosophical question as well - which differences make a whole new product? Rum and cachaça have basically only in common, that the PLANT, which they are sourced from is sugar cane - and that both are distilled. However even the sugar cane product and distillation method varies totally!
Rhum Agricole? Also a different category [on Martinique they have also Rhum industrielle, which is basically Rum].
And yes - there are some exceptions to the rule in rum. Basically this happens, when a country is not a "real" rum producing country and doesn't have established laws.

The difference between rum and cachaça is:
• Molasses [or other heat reduced sugar cane products] vs. sugar cane juice
• Distillation of above 79% abv vs. distillation below 55%
• Mandatory ageing in oak vs. voluntary ageing - oak or domestic rain forrest wood.
• Dominant aromas of vanilla [brown spice], roast aromas, dried fruits vs. unripe fruit, vegetal aromas, green wood.

Apr 05, 2014
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

My Flirtation with Sous Vide

I really like this thread. But I just found it - so I am anyway replying.
Sous vide is a bit like the first PC's. Why do you need a PC to write a letter, when you have a typewriter?
Yes - it is a new generation. We are in the 21st century!
Fact is also, that with different temperatures, with inclusion or omission of liquids or fats in the bag, different "finishes" (torching, grilling, pan frying or keep it "naturell" you will have different results.
The initial chicken at 160F (which supposed to be around 72ºC] was far too high. I am usually cooking chicken at 63 to 66ºC and if panfried, even dark chicken meat is perfect!

The flavor is so intense - it is great. However I prefer skin on chicken, which taste far better.

Honestly - I am not a big fan of sous vide fish [but I am anyway not a big fan of cooked fish]. And yes - egg yolks are amazing [however I pass on the eggwhites].

How to avoid sous vide?

Sous vide is usually not... blah. The problem is also, that you can achieve big differences, when you are finishing a dish.
See, a sous vide chicken breast [or thighs] finished in a frying pan with very hot oil is blistering juicy and not overcooked - though supercrispy outside. It will taste intensively like chicken [without being chicken'y - if they use good fresh chicken]. Then you can have a sous vide veal, which is just sous vide and is soft and tender as a poached tenderloin.
You could have sous vide cooked food, which went very short [45 minutes to 1,5h] in the bath and it will have the original texture - only being properly cooked [for tender meats], or you have a very long cooked piece of meat, in which the tough tendons and other parts became gelatinous and juicy [e.g. shortribs].
The varieties of textures from SV dish to SV dish can be huge!

From the health risk, if only normal hygienic standards and common sense was applied, you should be pretty save. Yeah- not the recommended temperatures were used, but these would anyway lead to overly dry meat. And the longer times [compared to traditional cooking] will make sure, that the product is surely pasteurised.

The only thing, which I came across, which I definitely didn't like is SV fish. I tried different temperatures, different times, and while it is always juicy, it is also very soft - often mushy.
There are also some other things, I could not get right: e.g. venison [which tasted "oily" and didn't really improved].

Overall sous vide is the cooking "method" of the future [or better said of the present] - as it controls the cooking variables exactly. There were few things, even a seasoned chef could not 100% pull off and with sous vide even a not so experienced chef can do now.
On the other hand, some chefs are just overdoing it a bit. And they do everything the same [which make no sense - different cuts and different dishes would need different temperatures and different times].

I am actually doubt, that you could "taste" a proper cooked SV dish [that it is cooked sous vide]. Meat always supposed to be tender, not overcooked... and if it is mushy, it is clearly overcooked [in SV not temperature but time]. But if it is on the spot, it can be magical.

First bottle of cachaca--disappointed

This is ridiculous! It has something to do with the limitation of the English language! Should I say "real" brandy?
The term pomace brandy is very much comparable with terms like apricot brandy [which is not brandy at all - but a fruit liqueur]. Brandy comes from the old brand [which is burning] - that means, it is distilled.

I don't argue here, for the sake of arguing. Off course you can interpret different classifications. But you might think about, what makes sense. If a product is completely different produced, except of the ingredient - we are not talking off the same category. By the way - the Brazilians also producing rum [real rum].

The denomination rum, is unfortunately not internationally protected, but most of the time in the origin countries. And then the points make a lot of sense! You won't find a product out of a country with significant production of rum, which doesn't age their rums, which doesn't make rums out of sugar cane byproducts or which doesn't distill rum rather to a high proof.

Rhum agricoles again is a completely different story. And yes - Haitian rum is even a hybrid.

Dec 12, 2013
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

First bottle of cachaca--disappointed

No it isn't. Analogue grappa isn't brandy!
It shares only the base ingredient: sugar cane. But after that the similarities stop. Other sugar cane spirits are: aguadiente, rhum agricole...
Rum has following necessary points to cover: made out of molasses (or other heat treated sugar cane juice), has to be always aged in oak barrels for at least 6 years up to 2 years (depending on the country), distilled to a rather high proof (>70% abv). For cachaça not one point is always applying (not by law) - hence it is not a rum!

It was only called rum due to the import to the US and the inflexibility of the respective bureau!

There are many other examples, that the same base ingredient makes a different end product.
By the way, cachaça was in no other country legally called rum besides of the US - and if I am not mistaken, this also is no more applying as it has its own category!

Dec 12, 2013
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

First bottle of cachaca--disappointed

Cachaca isn't rum! Rum is made out of molasses - cachaca is made out of fresh sugar cane juice. Rum is always aged in oak [white rum is then filtrated through active carbon]. Further rum is usually distilled to a much higher degree.
Artisan cachaca has a lot of similarities to tequila. Both are shorter aged than rum [however cachaca can also be aged in domestic Brazilian rain forest wood, which gives it a unique aroma]. Both are distilled to a very low alcohol point [which need careful distillation which is lower and slower].

There are definitely two main categories: industrial cachaca - most are pretty bad and distilled with adventurous methods [your Cachaca 51, Pitu or other cheapos] - but there are also good ones like Sagatiba and Agua Luca.
And then there are artisan cachacas, which are amazing.

If you doesn't like it, it doesn't mean, that something is wrong with you or the cachaca. Some don't like tequila. Or gin.

I would not say, that Caipirinhas need a cachaca which "has a bite". I really strongly dislike Pitu or other cachaca in its class. But Agua Luca or Sagatiba are definitely ok for the job.

Dec 12, 2013
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

Is Jack Daniels Bourbon?

Basically the lengthy discussion here is screwed because of semantics.
You first of all have to concretise.

Lets try, to ask a more concrete question:
Could Jack Daniel's be considered as a bourbon?
Yes - it could. All necessary procedures and standards are met, which would classify Jack Daniel's [or George Dickel] as Straight Bourbon Whiskeys.
The difference is the regional denomination. If you have a product, which comes from a small distinctive area - off course you are using the small and exclusive denomination and not a bigger one.
It is true, that JD and GD are both filtered through sugar maple charcoal. This is pretty unique - but if another bourbon producer would decide, to do the same, he could [Heavenhill filter some of their bourbons through charcoal - but it is not sugar maple - as well as some other producers].

In menus, it is off course not completely right, to list it under bourbons. But then [with all the new products like straight ryes, wheat whiskeys etc it makes sense to leave the bourbon header completely and use US whiskey or US Straight Whiskey]. But it is also not completely wrong... it depends on your pragmatism.

Dec 08, 2013
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

Cask Strength Bourbon and Scotch

Cask strength whisk(e)ys are great - however you need to understand them and to use them correctly.

Like the other commenters I make big differences in Scotch and American Whiskey. Scotches are showing just more their true nature - and most of the time CS malts are very special whiskies. However you need to add water - and more than the drop of water, you usually add to malts.

American Whiskies [Bourbons and Ryes] are great at higher strengths. If maybe not cask strength but higher strengths like 50% abv they are great on the rocks. Ice is diluting whiskey anyway and I usually feel, that a 40% or 43% whiskey is a let down. To have a stronger product from the beginning, will result in a much more concentrated [and I don't talk about strength - I talk about flavor] character.
I love cask strength bourbons like Booker's especially in Mixology. Making for example a homemade whiskey liqueur, an infusion or just using it in a drink, which has slightly more alcohol-free fillers would result in a drink, which still has the character of bourbon. Great!

May 04, 2013
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits

Food Blogger Rant

This seems a bit like: hipsters hate hipsters...

I think food blogs are great, because you don't have to follow them. There is a wide variety. You don't like the style of one blogger - read another blog - you don't like any blog - so don't read any!

For the recipes, I can't really follow you - there are so many recipe databases in the web, which just feature a simple recipe or a very short introduction... you might have missed them out?

I think it is definitely a topic of live and let live...

Stiff Medicine: Chartreuse Elixir Végétal

I have discovered Chartreuse EV around 7 years ago, when I've launched a new menu in a bar in Dubai. It really is a fantastic substitute for bitters - well it is not that bitter...

But yeah - it is difficult to get your hands on... even cooler but more expensive and more difficult to get are the aged Chartreuse V.E.P. .A must try!

Is Beer on Tap Really the Best?

I think this article is poorly researched. At the end it comes down to which form has the best product and which has the most disadvantages.
Disadvantages of bottles are the light sensitivity [glass is translucent] and the seal between bottle and cork - and off course the size [the smaller the quantity the higher the influences from outside]. Cans usually are great - the only disadvantage is style and size. The only big advantage of kegs is the size. However disadvantages are definitely the beer lines [either way dirty or residues of cleaner...], the size - as an "open" keg doesn't become flat, but just get worse. Great would be real casks, but they are rare, and you have to sell it over a couple of days, as they get flat.

I still prefer bottles, it is just more style. And you can "age" some beers in bottles; sorry I don't like cans. I know, that cans have the most advantages, but unless there is not a major redesign, I won't drink out of cans. I worked too long in hospitality, to prefer drinking tab beer!!!

What's "Wineglass Sake"?

I am not sure... never was about Sake. Maybe I never got a really fresh sake [before was working in Germany - where Sake is still quite small... now working in the Middle East, which has also not a better situation for fresh sake].

I always thought that Sake taste like feet flavored water... or something like that.
The problem with Daigingo is, that the aromas and flavors are even lighter, than more robust sake. A normal development in a society is, that it diverges from their domestic tastes towards more international taste - that is why I think that Daigingo is definitely not the future of sake.

I think rather the more robust, sometimes sweeter variants of Sake can attract international [as well as local] customers. However it has to be marketed right.

Your Signature Dish Sucks

I love this thoughts.

In bartending [my trade] it is even worse. There are lots of competitions, where all the youngsters can participate. The worst thing of all the competitions is, when all bartenders are thanked for their wonderful creations - the last two competitions I judged in the tasting panel, I had trouble to select the least worst drink - not the best! And even worse - most competition, don't have judges, who have an idea, what good drinks supposed to be - you end up with very random results...

And then they think, that they can create some drinks on work - however don't know the classics, have no clue about cost calculation, have no style, no idea about "mixology history"...

And they always feel that they are something better - don't even know, what they don't know; and tempt to call themselves mixologists, before they can do a decent Margarita.
I also react quite... allergic on these attempts, however usually I ask them a couple of question, which a seasoned bartender should know- explain them the answers [after seeing their blank expression] and tell them, that they can come back, if they know these kind of questions.

How Do The Chinese Restaurants Get Their Chicken So Tender???

The thread is quite old - but now we know maybe a bit more [with all this Heston Blumenthal in youtube :))

Cornstarch - I don't see that cornstarch is tenderizing the meat. Yeah, it will be a protective layer, which prevents, the chicken to overcook - but after all it is starch, which doesn't really change the structure of the meat.

Now bicarbonate of soda is very interesting. It is alkaline. Not sure about it, but the same as acid, it could actually change the fibers in the meat - strong alkaline solutions can do this - why not a bit weaker solution.

Marinating: I think most Chinese recipes are marinated. Marinating in soya sauce is analogue to brining [which is usually in a salty solution = soy marinade]. It not only flavors the meat, but also locks the water inside. This would actually lead to tender chicken.
Sometimes there is also acid [lemon juice, vinegar] in the marination - this would be a classic approach to tenderize meat: using acid [in Mediterranean cooking it is usually wine, citrus, vinegar, yoghurt, which has additional enzymes etc.].

Ginger is another tenderizer [especially known in Indo-Asia] - it has enzymes which breaks down meat.

And finally there is alcohol, which also breaks down meat. In Chinese cooking it is usually Shaoxin cooking wine.

I guess in a Chinese cooking it is the combination of the several elements. Often a marinate includes shaoxin, soya sauce, ginger and sometimes even citrus. No wonder, that the meat will be quite tender...

Vodka for a picky vodka-lover

It might be a bit late... but just for those who found this thread late as me....

Vodka is a marketing spirit. So it is the marketing you'll swallow and not actually the real spirit.
It is wrong to say, that vodka is equal vodka - but it is also wrong to say, that the brands differ very much [at least the quality brands].
Smirnoff for example is not that neutral; it is actually quite grainy; Stolichnaya is even a bit more grainy. On the other hand Finlandia is pretty much the most neutral vodka I know! Absolut, Grey Goose are in between.

it doesn't make sense, to break your mind very much, about the vodka taste. Think about more about the image.
If your uncle likes Smirnoff but dislikes the other brands, it is quite obvious, that he likes quite conservative products. Nothing too fancy, nothing imported and hell definitely nothing which connects to the communism era.
Tito vodka I guess is quite matching. Good American product, not too fancy.
Skyy or Hangar One or Square One might be too modern... but may be Blue Ice American Potato Vodka would also do.
Or 360vodka could also work or Silver Tree American small batch vodka.

The easiest thing, what you can do is, to grab a bottle of Smirnoff black - which is the company / brand / target group as normal Smirnoff, but is just a bit more premium [they say].

Definitely don't go for Cîroc, Zyr etc. - something "old fashioned" but imported which could work is Ketel One...

Dec 25, 2010
opinionated.alchemist in Spirits