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6 Unexpected Factors That Can Ruin Your Gelatin Desserts

When I do not want something to be as sweet, but it needs the sugar to develop properly, I often use invert sugar instead. Invert sugar is marginally less sweet than sucrose. Great information on sugar values is here:

How to Brown Butter

For those that have a problem seeing the color change, I find bringing the butter to between 120C and 135C (with 128-130C usually being perfect) hits the mark for perfectly browned butter every time. The larger range lets you control depth of flavor.

Also, adding additional nonfat milk solids lets you make a LOT of nibbles!

Stew Science: How to Choose the Best Cuts for Beef Stew

Oxtails are amazing, but they are steadily becoming absurd in price. I get it, they're becoming popular and their really is not a lot of oxtail available compared to the rest of the cow.

Quick tip on oxtail: braise & pressure cook! You can put an oxtail stew together in under an hour if you pressure cook them.

The Food Lab: Foolproof Onion Rings


Any chance that the type of cornstarch or flour you used was of a different grind? A finer ground would make it absorb more liquid, which plus packing too heavily would make you need to use substantially more liquid than the recipe calls.

Cornstarch and flour both come in many different grinds/weights.

The Food Lab: Foolproof Onion Rings


Any chance that the type of cornstarch or flour you used was of a different grind? A finer ground would make it absorb more liquid, which plus packing too heavily would make you need to use substantially more liquid than the recipe calls.

Cornstarch and flour both come in many different grinds/weights.

Sous Vide, Deep-Fried Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta)

I completely detach the skin from the breast. Kenji does the same thing,
5. Carefully roll of the turkey meat into a tight cylinder, using the skin to completely enclose it. Tie the roast tightly with butcher's twine at 1-inch intervals, as well as once lengthwise. Transfer the roast to a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 6 hours and up to 2 days. Follow the the slideshow here for step-by-step photos.
See Ready to Roll on the slideshow:

If you can find transglutaminase in a small quantity, it would be the best source. I don't have a specific source for it, I buy it in a large packet, fire up the dehydrator, repackage it with my vacuum sealer into usable amounts, and freeze the packets. They last about two years as a result.

Sous Vide, Deep-Fried Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta)

@Snead: It is not a typo. You remove the skin first, so you have a large square of it. You then remove the breasts as a single piece. Finally you remove the dark meat.

You then prepare the skin. I use transglutaminase, but you can use salt to do the same thing (just doesn't work as well). You lay the breasts onto the skin, prep the inside of the breast, put the dark meat on that, and roll it all up. I put transglutaminase inside the meat as well, to help it hold together, but again salt can do the job just not as well. You then roll it up.

I typically cook the dark meat ahead of time, just to ensure it is tender and fully cooked as it cooks at a higher temperature than the white meat. Last time I did it, I breaded and fried the dark meat, then put that in the core. It was tasty!

The Varnish's Milk Punch


Short answer --
Straining the way this recipe calls for would be a serious endeavor. If you let it set for at least a few days it will separate. The curds will float to the top and some trub will fall out to the bottom. I then put a siphon into the middle and siphoned off the punch, taking care to not disturb the trub or curds. Simple, quick, effective.

Long rambling answer with other observations --
The length of time you let it sit mostly mellows out the flavor. I noticed very little difference between letting it sit with the curds and trub in it versus not. The longest I took to filter was 6 weeks for one batch, and it turned out great.

For what it is worth, I found that the amount and quality of the trub was directly impacted by the type of milk I used. I cannot remember which of the homogenized-pasteurized or not combos worked best and cannot find my notes on it. However, my intuition is that homogenization makes the trub lighter because the fat globules are broken up in that process. In the batch that didn't work as well, the fat was super-light and would float at the lightest stirring of the jar. It was obnoxious, but I was still able to filter the batch.

After I siphoned off the main body of the punch, I dumped the remainder into a cheese cloth, put it over a bowl, tightened it down like I was making cheese, and let it strain into the bowl. I then passed that through a coffee filter.

The batch I did with, I think homogenized milk, was really hard to siphon. I ended up running the whole batch, which was mostly non-cloudy by then, through a coffee filter just to strain it out more.

However, filtering out that last little bit with a coffee filter really wasn't really necessary. I did get a few cups of fluid, but in a large batch it was a small percentage. I imagine in a small batch it would be worth doing.

For this large batch I tried a few variations on recipe, which resulted in six gallon jars. Next time I will probably just make one batch and do it in one of my brew carboys for a simple 5 gallon batch. It would be also be a lot easier to filter out in that scenario, as the separation would be more dramatic.

Overall, I spent about 30 minutes siphoning it all off, which would have been about 15 minutes if I had done it all in a carboy instead of separate jars. The filtering took about an hour, but it was truly optional and I simply set that up and ignored it: it did not require active labor. Next time I will probably skip filtering the trub and head.

For anyone who is curious . . . I made a valiant effort at trying to find something useful to do with the curds on top. They were stripped of all oils due to the alcohol. They were dry and nasty. I tried adding olive oil and a dozen other things to make something out of them. Nothing really worked. They had a good residual flavor, but were so grainy and dry it was not wort hit. If anyone finds something to do with the recipe's leftovers like that, I would be thrilled. I simply feel bad throwing away that many curds, but see no other real option.

The Varnish's Milk Punch

I made 5 gallons of this last year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Made it on Halloween, and proceeded to drink it over the next two months. It reached its peak right before Christmas. People loved it both hot and cold. Several variations on this as well, tastes differ.

The Food Lab: Foolproof Onion Rings

Adding some vodka (or other alcohol of choice) to your batter will reduce gluten formation, which helps you maintain a light batter even when overwhipped.

Basic Italian Meringue

First meringue: perfect.

Second meringue: perfect.

Third meringue: soup.

Fourth meringue: perfect.

Fifth meringue: soup.

Sixth meringue: soup.

No change in technique, definitely no oils, so why the heck is this turning to soup?

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Buttermilk?

Closest thing the U.S. has in stores to Laban is Kefir. Not quite the same though. However, Lassi is readily available at Indian restaurants, but it is sweeter. A salt lassi (my favorite) is much closer to Laban though.

As long as we are discussing yogurt drinks (it would be great to see a post on SE about this, maybe there is somewhere..) one of the oddest I have had is carbonated Dhoog from Iran. I am going to have to try it again, as my initial experience with it was less than positive, but I am not convinced that was the fault of the drink or the fault of the company I had.

Ayran is good too, very similar to Laban. Very similar to Qatiq, but doesn't seem to sour as fast.

Now Kumis, that is where things get weird, especially the places that make it out of fermented mare's milk or camel milk (which is called Chal instead). My first encounter with it was from a Mongolian client who brought me airag as a thanks.

Haven't tried Chalap yet, but would be interested in giving it a try as it's basically carbonated salty Qatiq.

And if you want to stay closer to Europe, try Iceland's Skyr -- mmm.

Not really certain any of those qualify as a buttermilk replacement though, although the North African form of Laban is similar to cultured buttermilk.

As for buttermilk, I prefer natural buttermilk over cultured buttermilk. Tangier and more delicious and a great ingredient in recipes. And sadly substantially harder to get because it spoils so fast. Easier just to make your own at that point.

Hey Chef, What Can I Do With Buttermilk?

What are blood cherries? Finding a few ornamental varieties called a blood cherry due to their leaf and flower color, but no blood cherry fruit.

How to Develop Your Tea-Tasting Palate

Thanks! Embarassing to see that I missed that post.

How to Develop Your Tea-Tasting Palate

@Max: A quick article suggestion for tea -- talk about the water. Some teas taste better with different waters. Just like brewing beer, brewing tea can really vary based on the profile of the water used. My favorite tea house (now closed) had a wall of different bottled (large bottles) water to brew its teas with. It may be fun to talk about the different water profiles by area where the tea comes and the water profiles recommended to drink it with.

How to Develop Your Tea-Tasting Palate

@Max: Good tip, I'll give that a try. Thanks!

By the way good article. :)

How to Develop Your Tea-Tasting Palate

I have a beautiful clay teapot . . . and frustratingly any tea I put in it starts to grow mold within 20 minutes. I assume it has somehow been infused with mold spores at this point. I have tried boiling it, vinegar, and dozens of other things, but none of them seem to fix it. I literally cannot make more than a single pot of tea in it and honestly with it growing mold I don't want to brew any tea in it!


Foolproof Cheese Fondue

I skip the starch and use 4% by weight sodium citrate. Amazing cheese sauce or fondue, never breaks, adds virtually no flavor, and comes out perfect every time. Add all the wine and lemon juice you want for flavor then and you are set to go. I also take my fondue to parties all of the time by simply throwing it in a furnace, it lasts for hours and I can pour out just enough to be used at a time.

Sous Vide, Deep-Fried Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta)

Congeals the juices so they do not go splattering everywhere when you put it into the hot oil.

Turkey Porchetta

@Old64: Activa RM Transglutaminase.

The Food Lab: The Best Way to Temper Chocolate

@shebakes: I would put a wire rack in the sous vide bath and then put the chocolate in a mason jar and put the mason jar in the bath. It wouldn't take much to weigh down the mason jar if you needed to.

Sous Vide, Deep-Fried Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta)

@Ken: No, just make sure you like the taste of turkey and prosciutto. I do have to say that the skin does not stick as well when layering another meat inside, but that can be fixed with salt and letting it set a day to readhere and for a stronger adhesion use transglutaminase.

The Food Lab: The Best Way to Temper Chocolate

@findingmykd: My stir plate is not heated. I built one, it's just an old computer fan with a magnet on top, put in a box, with a potentiometer to control the speed. Drop a stir bar into any pan and you are good to go, spin spin spin. Using an Anova would allow me to use it with something getting heated. I have the same problem as you otherwise, where to get a heated stirplate.

The Food Lab: The Best Way to Temper Chocolate

@S. Prince: I love that method of mousse. I use it quite often, although I have had it go horribly wrong without explanation a few times. I suspect it had something to do with temperature or ratio of water to chocolate.

@Kenji: Any reason I cannot use a canning jar in my immersion circulator for this? I can never get all of the chocolate off of the souse-vide bag, at least not as well as I can out of a glass jar. And that now tempts me to get an Anova, I could stick the Anova into a vessel set upon my stir plate, stick the stir plate rod in the glass jar, and then it would be self stirring! Hmmm...

Sous Vide, Deep-Fried Turkey Porchetta (Turchetta)

I find it to be less or equal work as cooking a normal turkey. The main distinction is you trade off hovering over it in the oven for hours, wondering if you are going to over or under cook it, with prep work.

As for the skin:
1) Spread the legs, then along what would be the front of the leg when turkey is standing, cut the skin.
2) Separate and peel the skin back, it should go easily.
3) Remove the leg at the ball joint.
4) Pull the wing back to identify its joint, break it out if you can (optional, but makes it easier), pull the skin back toward the breast, and at the joint cut the wing off, cutting the skin at the same time.
5) Square the skin off between the thigh and wing cuts, by cutting a straight line between them.
6) Now forget about the skin, it's irrelevant.
7) Remove the breasts and the dark meat.
8) If you are following the recipe, go ahead and remove the skin now. However, I leave it on, throw the whole breast, skin on, into a bag and put it in the fridge.

(optional) From there, I cook the dark meat confit and boil the carcass and odd bits for stock. Once the dark meat is done (24 hours sous-vide), I start it to chill (depending on timing, I may put it in the fridge for a night).

9) Remove the skin, by now it should be really easy to get off.
10) Salt the inside of the skin: this, as I understand it, causes the natural formation of transglutaminase, which will help it stick back to the breast. I have done it without salting and it does not stay in place as well when people eat it. (optional, just use transglutaminase on the inside of the skin: if you want to get crazy with the transglutaminase, this is your opportunity to put in a thin layer of something else, whether it is bacon, thinly cut dark meat, or my favorite pancetta. This is also an opportunity to split the roll into three or four sections, depending on people's dietary requirements (e.g., no pork, no salt, no garlic, no whatever)).
11) Lay the breast into the middle of the skin.
12) Flatten the breast out, find the thickest parts, and butterfly from inside to out so that it will spread open nice and wide.
13) Prep as per Kenji's instructions. -- Note, once I have the sage/garlic/salt on, I like to shred one turkey leg (I tried both once, wow that was a huge roll), and lay it through the core of the turkey. This does not always hold together well, last year I tossed in some transglutaminase and it held together great, this year I had a guest over hanging out who tweaked out at my using "unnatural chemicals". I compensated by adding more sodium chloride, which achieves a similar but not as strong result.
14) Vac seal and let it sit overnight in the fridge at this point, so that the salt (or "unnatural chemicals", whichever) can have its time to act and help glue the skin back onto the turkey.


Once I have done that, I forget about the skin. I then remove the breasts and finally the back meat. Since I cook the dark meat first, I then throw the whole breast, skin on, into the fridge in a large bag. Once the dark meat is done, I start it chilling. While it chills, I quickly remove the skin from the breast, which is really easy at this point. I then lay out the skin, salt the inside of it (which encourages the natural formation of transglutaminase so that it will reconnect to the body.