biggreenmatt's Profile

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Sous vide steak safety?

Okay, either I'm dumb and should pack away my SV before I poison myself or we're getting things a little confused.

Query: what's the point of dipping the meat in 160F+ water? I mean, I get the point, because at 160F, bacteria is killed in less than a second, by why do you need to do it?

Paramount to SV cooking is consideration of the log reduction tables to make sure you don't accidentally give yourself food poisoning by not killing off all the microbial nasties that are out there. Simply, the log reduction tables say that if death is instantaneous at 160F, maybe it takes a minute at 155F, five minutes at 150F, an hour at 130F, or whathaveyou. For meat cookery, of course, provided the interior of the meat hasn't been punctured, there's no way for bacteria to actually get into the product, so we're really only concerned about surface bacterium.

If you put a thick steak in the sv for 2-3 hours at 130F, why should there be any real safety concerns (again, presuming that the meat hasn't been punctured)? While zackly didn't note how thick the steak was (and I'm going to assume a 2 lb porterhouse is pretty thick), I'm going to presume that even at 130F, there's enough heat exposure over 2-3 hours to kill off any bacteria on the thing.

If I'm wrong and it's not enough time (or it's on the borderline), I'm going to further assume that Good SeƱor Zackly isn't going to eat his beautiful porterhouse right out of the bag, but is going to sear it first, thoroughly, at temps way way way above 160F. So not only is the problem solved per the log reduction tables, but there's also a further safety assurance from the sear.

Am I crazy or does it sound about right? I'm guessing the real issues when it comes to SV and food safety isn't in the relatively quick dips, or the long dips (coincidentally, I put a 3 lb tri-tip in the water this morning, to be served tomorrow night), but in the medium-short ones, where there's not enough heat and time to get it really taken care of, but too much time to let the baddies grow.

Dec 19, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Wondering why all your previously read posts and threads are no longer marked as read?

Awesome- thanks for posting this!

Texas Sausage - concept & recipes

That's some expensive sausage.

Leslieville pubs or other casual dinner options

Brooklyn Tavern is worth taking a peek at. They're pretty under the radar, but a few of the things on their menu are quietly awesome- like the popcorn, of which I can happily eat buckets-full of.

Diwan at the Aga Khan Museum

Went for lunch on Sunday.

First off, it's a GORGEOUS room in a GORGEOUS museum. The architecture is stunning.

Lunch was good had a mix of mezze bites and the mixed grill with sturgeon (goddamn excellent) and kefta. It was good- very good, even, but I suspect dinner would be excellent. I suspect the difference between the two is solely my own prejudices- I think of Islamic cuisine (I know- can you get any broader than "Islamic cuisine", which would, in theory, stretch from Morocco to Malaysia, neverminding the dozens of countries with strong muslim minorities) and lunch as being more of a casual affair.

God I hope they serve more Imperial dishes, as well as more common, traditional recipes.

Service was excellent; a rare treat. Prices were very reasonable. Small, but serviceable, wine and beer list!

Put this place on your list of strange, but beautiful off-the-beaten-path restaurants to treat yourself to or to surprise someone who wants to be surprised with a good restaurant choice.

BRINING!? Good, bad or ugly?

In fairness, Kenji approves of brining, but in the form of dry-brining, aka: light curing, aka: salting, aka: just putting some salt on the damn bird.

Frankly, I suspect it doesn't matter a heck of a lot whether you brine or dry-brine. Unless you're cooking up a heritage bird, the standard industrial turkey is pretty bland by anyone's standard. 99% of people will eat it with sauce, cranberry sauce, or gravy anyways, masking the actual taste and hiding whatever texture issues may come with brining (as opposed to dry-brining).

While I love a pointless debate as much as the next person, I suspect that for all practical purposes, it makes zero difference at the typical table.

Also, I never understood why They call it "dry-brining" and not "light curing" or "salting". Remind me to ask They when I see them next.

Restaurant recommendations in Toronto---Chinatown

I dream of the barbecue pork at Kom Jug Yuen. Good call.

holding, reheating, and serving barbecue

Yeah, sounds like what I ate.

Listen, I'm no traditionalist on barbecue, or most else, for that matter. Not in the slightest. I'm all about having the right tool for the right job. If steaming works, I'm for it, and nuts to what the purists say.

Whatever the hell they did to it was terrible, resulting in an inedible product. Disgusting.

Strangely delicious, however, is leftover barbecue fried up with diced onions, peppers, and potatoes, then served up with an egg or two as breakfast hash. Delicious. And what you lose out on moisture (it's day-old anyways, right?) you gain in beautiful crunchy crispy bits, to be scraped off the bottom of the pan.

Which should really be the top of the pan, when you think about it.

Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt

Beats me! One way to find out, right?

Also, I'd be loathe to neglect the issue of seasoning the sauce at the end of it.

Dec 08, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

holding, reheating, and serving barbecue

Hey hey, all!

Went to a local place a while back and it was absolutely terrible. If you can believe it, both the chopped brisket and the pulled pork were watery, of all things (over and above being absolutely terrible). Leads me to believe that either they took the meat off the smoker and braised it (my belief), or they froze and thawed it (possible), or they held it on a steam table, and the moisture leached out of the meat, and it fell back into the meat. Bleah.

Begs the question, though: what's the best way to hold, reheat, and serve product that loses its heat very quickly- like pulled pork, for example, without ruining it? To reheat, I typically dump my product on a plate, cover with a wet paper towel, and microwave gently at 50% for a minute, check it, and then add more time. Paper towel keeps moisture in; 50% power gently brings it up to temp without as much shock as at full power. Still, I'm at a bit of a loss on how to hold it, for a party, for example, without losing too much heat.


Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt

Funny enough, I made the mac & cheese this weekend with old cheddar and blue. Extraordinary.

Suggestion: test out the acid/base theory by doing it again, at maybe a quarter amount of the recipe that you used the first time, using milk instead of wine. See how it affects the taste, to test my theory that it's all about the pH levels.

Oh, also, you're seasoning the recipe to taste, yes?

Dec 08, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

curing fish other than salmon?

The effect is: overcured, oversalted, inedible. Might try soaking it a bit. Might work.


Dec 08, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

barbecue "alternate" meats

Eh. Smoke and skin, in my opinion, just don't mix. Is it doable? Sure. Is it any good? Meh.

Much rather spatchcock the bird, roast it directly at 400F for what, 40 minutes or so, meat side down, then an extra five flipped over to crisp up the skin. With a BGE (which is basically a coal-fueled convection oven), it's like magic and turns out magnificently, every time.

curing fish other than salmon?


Yesterday morning I put down some trout to cure- 1:1 sugar/salt, with flavourings, and a splash of vodka. Intention was to let it cure for 24 hours, let the pellicule develop overnight, and smoke it tomorrow.

Like a boss, I completely forgot to take it out this morning, which means it's going to overcure by a significant amount.

Here's the trick- I'm not sure if "overcuring" is a thing. My initial thought is that once the curing happens, the salt/sugar goes in, the liquids come out, and after it's lost X amount of water (i.e.: after it's cured), it can't lose any more. It reaches (this is the wrong word, but I'll use it for illustrative, if not literal purposes) a homeostasis, and should no longer be affected by the cure. Put differently, if you add salt to salt cod, nothing will happen, because it's already where it needs to be. After a certain point, it's moot.

Are my musings correct? What's the effect of overcuring fish?

Dec 05, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Diwan at the Aga Khan Museum

It certainly seems counter-intuitive, but it begs the question as to whether or not the theme of the place is Muslim or if it's Muslim-world.

Obviously alcohol is forbidden in a strictly halal kitchen or restaurant, but there are lots of examples of wineries, breweries, and distilleries in the Muslim world. Off the top of my head, Morocco has wineries of varying quality, and arak is a classic middle-eastern/Persian liquor. Georgia, too, has a significant Muslim population, which may or may not have nothing to do with their very decent vineyards.

I note, with interest, that I didn't see anything on the menu or restaurant pages that indicate that the food is halal-compliant. It might very well be- or it might be halal-style (in much the same way that kosher-style restos wouldn't serve meat and dairy, or pork, but isn't 100% kosher-compliant). I'd be surprised to see pork on the Diwan menu, since pork is an ingredient that, religion aside, just isn't used (predominantly) in the Muslim world. There are enough examples of alcohol, however, to make a small, select wine list potentially a viable proposition.

Best smoker for a dilletante?

Sigh. It's the time of year where I get crankier and snobbier, due to an acute need for vacation. I should've been kinder.

To my mind, I smoke (and cook) enough that investing in proper equipment is required. I stopped buying what I considered crap years ago. I don't need the finest of the finest, but if I'm going to lay out money on a product, I want it to work the way I need it to work, and I want it to last.

At a $200.00 pricepoint, who cares? Just buy it. I look at it and I wonder about heat retention of the thin walls, where it was manufactured, how long it'll last, but really, who cares? If you're dipping your toe into the pool to see if it's something you want to engage in, it's a great first step. If the smoker provides you with a couple of seasons of happiness, and does a decent enough job of smoking, then your investment is well worth it, and if it breaks down later or does a mediocre, but still credible job, who cares? For two hundred clams, you're laughing, and can later decide if you want to throw more money at the problem.

Best smoker for a dilletante?

Happy to be proven otherwise, but I think your requirements are diametrically opposed.

If you want "set it and forget it" smoking, you're talking about a pellet smoker. They're awesome. They're expensive. Two hundred bucks will buy you a good supply of pellets. That's it. I'm looking at a Memphis Grill pellet smoker. I'm getting ready to pay ~$2K CAD, for the privilege.

If you want something for <$200, you're talking about a Smokenator for your Weber, or a Big Poppa's Drum Kit, complete with vents and nozzles and fiddly bits. At that price point, there's zero heat retention on the walls of whatever you've purchased, which means you're going to have to fiddle a lot in order to keep it on even keel.

FWIW, here's my advice: until you're ready to spend some money on a proper smoker, you may want to just stick with the Weber.

Diwan at the Aga Khan Museum

Exactly that.

Since it's utterly impossible to get into Maha's without a two hour wait, Diwan looks like an elegant east-side alternative. I'm going next Sunday. Can't wait!

kosher cauliflower mash.

Kosher chicken stock would also moisten things up.

Schmaltz, I think, would be dynamite.

Dec 03, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

barbecue "alternate" meats

For likely similar reasons, I'm hearing the same things from my local Ontario butchers. Shame, in a sense (we love ourselves our brisket), but necessity, they say, is the mother of all inventions.

Excited to explore new "stuff"!

barbecue "alternate" meats

I have. Eh. I have a problem with smoking poultry, though I'll smoke turkey breast, from time to time, for the missus.

The problem is that smoking poultry ruins the best part- the skin. I like crispy, crackly, beautifully-rendered skin. Also, since poultry doesn't have the collagen-based connective tissue that land animals have, cooking it at 225F (versus a usual 350-400F) doesn't provide any advantage to flavour or tenderness- it just takes longer and likely overcooks the hell out of it.

Maybe I'll smoke some lamb or lamb shoulder. Or goat. Or something.

Diwan at the Aga Khan Museum

Wow- it looks really good. Really really good.

Guess I'm going to need to head up to Eg 'n DVP in the next little bit.

Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt

See below, but the beer, I think is the problem! The typical pH level of beer is in the low 4's, while milk is in the 6's. By substituting in a lower-pH liquid, there wasn't, I think, enough sodium citrate to raise the pH level enough to create the magical effect it has with milk!

Dec 02, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt

I lied- I think I've got your answer!

Sodium citrate is a magical ingredient, but in order to use it properly, you need to keep in mind how it works!

The typical pH level of cheese is between 5.1 and 5.7- mainly neutral, but slightly acidic. At this pH level, when cheese melts, it more or less solidifies into a typical nacho-esque, readily-solidifying form. Those beautiful bits of burnt, congealed cheese on the paper of your nacho tray is what I'm talking about. Milk, which is what the recipe calls for, is about 6ish, which is also mainly neutral, but very slightly acidic. Milk + cheese together is more or less a neutral pH mix. Adding sodium citrate (can't find the average pH online, but it's an alkaline base) raises the pH level of the milk & cheese to a higher pH level, such that it becomes more viscous and flows like Velveeta!

The problem you had, I think, was that you substituted in white wine, which has a typical pH level of 3.0-3.3! You inadvertently lowered the pH level of the mix too much, such that the amount of sodium citrate wasn't enough to create the desired effect! Hell, you might've curdled the mixture! No wonder it didn't taste right!

Try it again without the wine! I'm confident you'll nail it and have a perfect, meltable treat!

Dec 02, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt


Not sure. I use the original MCaH recipe and it works perfectly every time. Check it out:

Dec 02, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

Globe Review of America in the Trump Tower

If a little precious.

Sodium Citrate -- First Attempt

I use sodium citrate all the time and swear by it.

Sounds odd. Could you link the recipe?

Dec 01, 2014
biggreenmatt in Home Cooking

barbecue "alternate" meats

So there I was yesterday, in my backyard, smoking 8 lbs of the finest South Carolinian-style pulled pork, thinking about barbecue.

I live in Toronto. "Southern" barbecue has been "in" in Toronto for the last year or two, and a bunch of BBQ restaurants have popped up, accordingly. The worst of them are inedible and intolerable (in point of fact, the week before I'd had the worst brisket and pork I'd ever tasted- bad enough that I sent it back). The best of it is within spitting distance of some of the best BBQ I've tasted in the South- a mighty compliment.

The issue is this, though: it's goddamn expensive.

A pound of pulled pork from one of the better places is $17/lb (in contrast, my 8 pounds of pork cost just under $25 total). Ribs are expensive. Brisket is expensive. Hell, never mind eating out- raw brisket's now at over six bucks a pound, which means a substantial packer'll run you over seventy dollars.

This, to my mind, is insane. Barbecue, like so many of the most magnificent cuisines, has its roots in poverty. Poverty required the use of crappy cuts that the gentry didn't need, want, or like. Poverty required the refinement of new techniques that would transform coarse, fatty, collagen-rich cuts into beautiful, succulent, tender morsels of heaven.

Today, in Toronto, the only affordable traditional barbecue meat is pork shoulder, which I find astounding.

And so we get to my question to the collective.

Let's go beyond the boundaries of traditional Southern barbecue. What other cheap, amazing, undiscovered, yet readily-available cuts are there out in MeatLand that might substitute in for the beautiful cheap cuts of yesteryear? Dark meat turkey? Beef shoulder? Lamb neck?

Opinions, backed with intelligent and insightful evidence, warmly appreciated!

Tunnel Bar-B-Q sauce (or Valerie's) in shops?

Good find, YD, but I suspect the original poster of the recipe, while having good intentions (and may, in fact, produce a good sauce!), isn't the Real Deal. The recipe looks like a modified South Carolina mish-mash sauce- and nothing wrong with SC sauce, mish-mash or otherwise!

I would drive from London to Windsor during as an undergrad to get my hands on those ribs, which were of no particular Southern provenance- they were just really, really good.

I have a copy of what I believe to be the actual recipe at home, banging around somewhere. The reason I believe it to be the one is that it's got a jillion ingredients in it, including (IIRC) oregano and mint.

Why does a jillion ingredients, including oregano and mind, make me believe it's genuine? Because the original owners of TBBQ were Greek and had zero formal culinary training, never mind Southern barbecue training, and in typical zero formal culinary Greek tradition, the sauce had a jillion ingredients, all of which one would find at-hand at a typical Greek greasy spoon type place. Including things like oregano and mint.

It's banging around somewhere at home. Let me see if I can't track it down, and I'll post it for CH'rs consideration.

Russian Federation cuisine (or former Soviet Union cuisine) in Toronto

Aragvi is tremendously, shockingly good, provided you can get a place to sit and can trek up to Keele/7.

Retro Room (is it still open- Dufferin/Steeles) is mediocre at best for most of the stuff there- with the exception of their pelmeni. My good god, their pelmeni. Their pelmeni are utter perfection, made by some old, wizened Russian granny who's been making them for the better part of 80 years. Ridiculously good. I could figuratively eat a billion of those little suckers, or literally until I couldn't eat anything more- not even a wafer-thin mint.

But for the geographic area specified. No idea. You need to head north, young man. North.