Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Turkey Roulade

With Thanksgiving approaching I was compelled to do something special with all these Turkeys staring at me at the local QFC. My inner voice kept screaming cook me eat me. This went on for about two weeks. When I say two weeks I mean two weeks of constant gobble gobble on the brain. "Turkey, to be or not to be that is the question". I work a lot of crazy shifts and I was not sure I would have time to pull off a crazy dish.

I frequent the QFC 5 days a week and sometimes 6. I almost have nothing frozen and never pre-plan any meals (my wife's biggest complaint BTW).

I am an impromptu instinctive foodie which means I end up roaming the QFC isles waiting for inspiration to kick in. I always make an effort to cook, not for sustenance mind you but for the pure joy of achieving a nirvana food high. I never want to waste a culinary moment meaning even a sandwich can be a masterpiece.

Sometimes my spur-of-the-moment ideas end up being impetuous, though I just love it. This time the idea was not impetuous because I had two weeks of pre-planning and a head full of great ideas. 

I just love Thanksgiving and I will admit its because of the Turkey and the fixings. All year round I crave Turkey but of course you have to go without unless you want a frozen bird and I am not a fan. Most stores don't carry nice fresh Turkeys until the middle of Oct and only a little past Thanksgiving. So with that being said and the availability I had to act on my foodie visions. 

My Turkey Roulade was more or less a nostalgic food epiphany. In Sept of 1991 I foolishly decided to cater my Wedding rehearsal (35 guests) and although it turned out magnificent I did all the work from a small apartment kitchen. I remember saying to myself NEVER again. Extremely overwhelming catering from an apartment kitchen. 

Did I mention my garbage disposal back up and I had a vegetable flood in my kitchen. Yea I had to take apart all the pipes during this stressful time and clean them then resume cooking. For a whole year I found green stuff all over my small kitchen. OY!!!

Anyhow I cooked several dishes for my wedding rehearsal but one that really stood out for me was my chicken Roulade stuffed with Spinach and other goodies. During one of my very frequent trips to QFC I saw a perfect fresh Turkey breast on the bone staring at me and I knew exactly what to do (exactly meaning it took 2 weeks to decide). The genesis of Turkey Roulade begins. 

What to do? You need a very sharp boning knife and a lot of patience. Ultimately you need to remove the whole skin from the breast without tearing it. Using your hands and knife and working very slowly remove skin without puncturing or tearing. This is not an easy thing to do. If you make a few mistakes not to worry. When it's put back together it will mend well especially using the Activa (more on this later). 

Mission accomplished!!! Remember to remove any excess fat from skin and anything that looks unappetizing. 

Using your knife carefully remove the wishbone. Start removing all the breast meat. I won't go into all the details on how to do this but remember not to cut your self. You can remove most of the meat with your hands with just a little help from the knife. 

Next step is easy. Cut off residual fat and anything that does not look appetizing like sinew. Now you have to decide whether you want to keep the tenderloins that are attached or use them for another dish. Keeping them on will make a very large Roulade and the skin might not cover the whole breast. You can always use the tenderloins for something else. I kept the tenderloins on and made a huge roulade. Go big or go home I say. Using the Activa made it easy to bind everything.  More on this later. 
Butterfly your breast open and score the breasts. You can see by the picture what I mean. Take your favorite Turkey seasonings I.E salt, pepper, sage, Thyme, Rosemary and fresh garlic and puree into a paste. I like to add a little fresh onion too for flavor and additional moisture. Rub into the breast getting into every nook and cranny. This is basically a dry rub and the benefits to the breast are huge. To learn more about dry rubs click this LINK. You can see by the picture that leaving the tenderloins in took up most of the skin and it will be difficult to tie. 

This next step is completely optional but this is what I did. During this next step I used Transglutaminase Activa RM to bind the meat together. I wanted the Turkey Breast when rolled to become one solid muscle. I applied the Activa by sprinkling it on top of the skin and on top of the muscle. 
Transglutaminase, also called meat glue, is an enzyme that can be used to bind proteins to make uniform portions of fish filet, tenderloins, etc. that cook evenly, look good and reduce waste. Transglutaminase can also be used for creative applications in modernist cuisine such as making shrimp noodles, binding chicken skin to scallops or even making checkerboards with different types of fish.  How can you do such a thing? Simply apply some transglutaminase on each side of the protein to bind, press the sides together and let it rest refrigerated for a few hours
Transglutaminase ‘meat glue’ was introduced into the modernist kitchen by Heston Blumenthal and is currently being used by some of the world best chefs such as Wylie Dufresne to:- Make uniform portions of fish filet, tenderloins, etc that cook evenly, look good, and reduce waste.

This next step is very important and I wish I had taken pictures of the process but with only two hands and one assistant (my darling daughter) I was out of luck. Lay out plastic wrap two times larger than breast. Using the plastic wrap to aid in the rolling I rolled the breast up very tight. Secure ends with butcher twine!!!

This next step is also optional. I was unsure if the Activa was going to hold the meat secure because of the added herbs and such so I tied it on the outside of the plastic wrap with butcher twine.

Vacuumed sealed.

Unsure of the seal so I Vacuumed sealed it twice. 
I cooked the Roulade at 150 degrees for four and forty five minutes which not only cooked the breast but also pasteurized the very center. How do I know this? I use this very cool app called Polyscience Sous-Vide Tool Box.  Take a look at this Turkey Breast....very unappealing don't you think.  Sous-Vide has one problem NO maillard reaction aka browning. This is easily solved by browning using another source

I used a Butane torch to brown the outside however I could have used any source of high intensity heat. I could have used a BBQ, Skillet or a deep fryer. 

My Review

Overall the Turkey Roulade came out fabulous. I think I could have done a better job though of trimming more fat off the skin. The flavors were spot on but to be honest I think salt and pepper would have been sufficient. I am going to do this again but this time I will do a dry-brine on the whole breast and remove the tenderloins to create a smaller Roulade. I think the Activa worked well but could have been better had I not scored the breast. Out of a possible 10 I give it a 7.5 star rating. 


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Poor Mans Prime Rib (Shoulder Roast)

I have Sous-Vided almost every cut of beef with exception of the chuck shoulder roast. Why would I choose such a tough piece of meat to cook? I like to experiment so why not I say. This dish or experiment is not unlike my other dishes which are spontaneous. I just happen to be at QFC and they had some beautiful shoulders are sale. I normally go with the more tender cuts like Rib-eyes, Porterhouse and or New Yorks but when I saw this cut I became curious. 

The shoulder roast is one of the most flavorful and economical cuts and if cooked accordingly is flavorful and tender. This 1.68 lb chuck roast cost me $8.38. Note: some assert that the Chuck Roast is more flavorful. Of course the downside to this cut of meat is it's tough connective tissue and the dreaded gristle. The traditional way to cook this roast is a long braise but that was before Sous-Vide. Cooking Sous-Vide can take an inexpensive piece of meat and make it taste like prime. Well that's my goal anyway. 

The Sous-Vide method of cooking can yield some incredible results which can only be described as sublime. It's almost impossible to achieve results like this by traditional cooking techniques. Braising is a traditional way to cook tough meats but in most cases if you are not careful the meat will dry out. I know what you are thinking how can meat sitting in liquid dry-out. Take my word the meat can and will dry out if braised to long and especially if not carefully supervised. There's a fine line between producing tender chunks of meat that melts in your mouth and meat that is too dry. 

Using Sous-Vide as the cooking method can mitigate these cooking faux pas. Don't get me wrong if you choose the wrong temp and time you can ruin a piece meat with Sous-Vide but its unlikely because your time time frame has a lot of wiggle room. 

Things to consider. The higher the water temp the more moisture will be squeezed out of the muscle fibers. You have to find that right temp and time that creates that perfect piece of meat. For me a great prime Rib-eye is cooked at 128.1 F for about 4 hours depending on the quality but a tougher piece of meat like a Flat Iron steak or Tri-Tip needs to be cooked at 133 degrees in my opinion for at least 6 hours. I like my Short Ribs cooked at 149 degrees for 48 hours. So in a nutshell to maximize moisture cook long and low. But wait lets say you prefer a textually drier piece of meat. What do you do?  The technique here would be to raise the temp up a bit but reduce the time. Oy-Vey this can get confusing and complicated fast. Well for me its easy because I like to experiment. Everyone has a taste and texture preference. So like I said before 128.1 F for Rib-eyes for 4-6 hours but 133 F Flat Irons for 6 hours. Consider this; a flat Iron cooked for 12 hours at 133 degrees will render a piece of meat that is moist but is soft and slippery. Many people love this but not me. My textural preference is different.  

So what to do for the Shoulder Roast? I am going to try 133 F for about 48 hours. This meat reminds me of a cross between a Short Rib and a Flat Iron. If I don't achieve the results I was hoping for I will do it again but of course with different temps and time. I kept this recipe extremely simple because it was truly just an experiment only to determine the optimum time and temp for this cut of meat. I covered the meat in Montreal Steak seasoning and vacuumed seal for 24 hours. I will then Sous-Vide for 48 hours at 133 F. 

The meat was given an ice bath and refrigerated overnight after the 48 hour thermal bath and seared off the next day. 

One thing I forgot to mention. After removing the meat from the cold refrigerator I submerged the vacuumed sealed bag in the Sous-Vide thermal bath for a couple of minutes to warm it up a bit and then seared it off to produce that beautiful (Maillard reaction) brown look we all come to love. 
Over all the it was delicious however I think I would have ended up with a better texture if I would have Sous-Vide it for 24-36 hours instead of 48. I prefer more of a bite in my meat. Some people might like extremely tender meat and most of the time I do too but in this case I would have liked more tooth or bite. Again there is a fine line. Some question that I must ask. If I Sous-Vide only for lets say 30 hours will this be adequate to render down the gristle and connective tissue? I am not sure. In the end it's all about the love of food and the willingness to experiment and come up with something new and exciting. 

Update- 133 f at 40 hours is just about perfect.