Monday, May 16, 2022

what is a "reverse sear"?

I explained the concept of reverse searing once before, but I'll do it here again. Traditionally, people cooking steaks would first sear the steak, allowing the outside to cook super-rapidly and develop a healthy crust. They would then finish the steak in the oven, cooking it to proper doneness. With a reverse sear, you cook the steak to doneness first, then do the sear as the last step. Sous vide allows you to control the temperature of the cook, and it ensures an even, edge-to-edge doneness to the steak. You then take the done steak out of the sous-vide water bath and sear it in a ripping-hot pan (in cooking videos, these pans are always described as "ripping hot"). This rapidly creates a crust via the Maillard reaction, which is what happens when you expose sugar and protein to heat (this is why bread browns when you bake it), producing a savory layer of flavor. Voilà: a done steak through a successful reverse sear! Just make sure not to leave the steak on the hot pan for too long, or your sous vide will have been in vain as all the meat proteins seize up, and you end up with a tough hunk of flesh.

Now, go forth and reverse sear!

O Holy God in Heaven

I pulled my sous-vide filet mignon out of the Instant Pot, fired up the Anbang smokeless grill (it works!), seared my steak after patting it dry, watched with joy as a bona fide crust formed after about 90 seconds per side (I seared the sides of the steak, too, but for less time), then split the steak open to see whether it was indeed at the proper medium-rare. It was. That had to be some the most amazing steak I've ever eaten. Kenji Lopez-Alt warns that you can't get as deep of a crust with the sous-vide-and-sear method, but he says the meat's juiciness and texture make up for it. No lie. Let me give you the visuals before I discuss this miracle. 

filet mignon, seared and basted with thyme butter

nearly perfect interior (was too impatient to let the meat rest, hence the juices)

absolutely delicious with chimichurri

I normally try not to be the guy who tells you how to live your life, but in this case, I'd say get yourself a sous-vide-capable piece of equipment now, then reverse-sear yourself some steaks! This is absolutely the most idiot-proof method for a nearly perfect steak. If a dumbass like me can do this, then you certainly can, too. I'd actually recommend you buy an Instant Pot instead of a Joule or Anova sous-vide device: those devices cost $200-$300 apiece (some off-brand devices sell for $140 or so, but I can't vouch for their quality). An Instant Pot will run you around $150 US, and it can do so much more than cook via sous vide. It's easily the better investment, considering its versatility.

So, let's go over how this went. First off: did the sous vide work? Yes, but not perfectly. This was partly because the steak I chose was actually broken into two pieces, and I didn't know this until I pulled the finished steak out of the sous-vide pot. Luckily, the break was approximately a 90-10 proportion, so we're talking about a small, runaway piece of meat. It wasn't consequential, and the little morsel was done to exquisite perfection, as it turned out. That renegade bit of meat was, in fact, the first piece of the steak that I ate, and I ate it with no dip and no garnish—straight from sous vide. It tasted amazing, and the texture was perfect. That said, the sous-vide process didn't heat the meat through totally evenly; some spots did end up slightly browner than others. I was shooting for a medium-rare steak, and overall, that's what I got, but the cook-through wasn't absolutely ideal. Still, I'd be happy and proud to serve such a steak to my friends, so I'm looking forward to Saturday.

I then re-coated the done filet in a thin layer of oil for the next step: reverse-searing it on my new Anbang smokeless grill. So—did the grill work? It gave off some metallic, new-grill smells when I heated it up for the first time, but the grill turned out to be super-easy to use, and the temperature shot up to the 560ºF range (I was aiming more for 400º-450ºF, or 204º-232ºC). Adjusting the temp was a snap, and I had my thermometer-gun nearby to check surface temperature. Once the temp was right, I put the steak on and heard a welcome sizzle, and sure enough, the grill's fan sucked almost all of the smoke off to the side and down. I was right under my apartment's fire alarm, too, and nothing happened. Mirabile dictu! 

Not wanting to burn any herbs, I elected to sear the steak first, then bathe it in thyme-infused butter afterward. This worked out perfectly. Too impatient to let the meat rest, I set up two dips that I'll be serving on Saturday: garlic butter and chimichurri. Both proved excellent. As I said, the steak was overall medium-rare, as steaks should be. Plenty of pink on the inside. No Donald Trump-style well-done steaks here! The texture was everything I could have hoped for, and while the result wasn't 100% perfect, I attribute that more to my being a newbie at this than to the process itself. I got the steak pretty damn near perfect on the first try, and all my new equipment worked just fine. What more could you ask for?

So my goal, on Saturday, is to do a surf-and-turf service. This will consist of a filet mignon served with a small salmon steak plus some jumbo shrimp—all of that on top of a bed of mashed potatoes that will be surrounded by an asparagus purée. For the veggies, there'll be pan-fried asparagus topped with bacon crumbles on one side, and pan-fried button mushrooms on the other, balancing out the plate in yin-yang fashion. With three proteins, asparagus two ways, and mushrooms (technically not a plant, so technically not a veggie), that ought to be more than enough for the main course. Charles is making both bread and cake to bring over, so his bread will accompany the meal, and I'll have butter ready for that.

I'm really ecstatic at how well the steak turned out. I've prepped asparagus, mashed potatoes, shrimp, and salmon before, and making an asparagus purée is a no-brainer (so is cooking bacon). The only question is timing because everything has to come together at once. I'll be making the mashed potatoes and asparagus purée first, then keeping them warm on Saturday by using my two slow cookers (I may have to unplug them or turn them off when I fire up the smokeless grill, but that shouldn't be a problem). I'll cook the asparagus, shrimp, and salmon in advance, right before my guests arrive, and keep them all wrapped up and inside my oven (on very low heat). I'll be cooking the steaks via sous vide so that they'll be done when the guests start coming in. I'll cook the steaks in front of my guests and put everything together in what I hope will be a decent-looking presentation (oh, and I can't forget the bacon crumbles; I'll make those in advance as well).

One bit of trivia before I leave you: as you see in the above pictures, my filet cut is pretty fatty. Korean meats are more marbled in general; I first noticed this with brisket cuts. If you want an American brisket cut from a Korean butcher, you have to ask for it specifically. American brisket looks like solid meat with minimal marbling and a substantial fat cap, plus one big layer of intramuscular fat dividing up the brisket's muscle groups—the point and the flat. Korean yangji—their term for brisket—is more or less the same cut of beef, but it's way more marbled. The same seems to be true of the filet I got from the local meat guy: it's quite marbled. I hope my guests will be okay with that.

Man, I'm looking forward to Saturday. Tonight's test run was amazing.

I am currently cooking a steak sous vide

sous vide = \ su vi:d \  n., adj., adv. French for "under vacuum"—a method of cooking vacuumed-packed food (usually meat) in a temperature-controlled water bath to achieve nearly perfect edge-to-edge heat-through of the food.

I haven't mastered the smokeless grill, but figuring out the Instant Pot's sous-vide function wasn't too hard. The guy who cut up my meat basically had to guess at the relative weight of each slice he made, so some slices are much lighter than others. I chose the runtiest of the filets for this test; we'll see how it performs. I'll know in about 90 minutes.

One hitch: I don't have a vacuum sealer, so I'm using a Ziploc bag and what's called the displacement method to vacuum-pack my meat. The displacement method involves slowly sinking your open-bagged meat into the water bath, allowing the water pressure to close the bag up. Almost all bubbles should escape during this process, but the method isn't perfect, and all it takes is one bubble to keep your meat annoyingly afloat once you seal and release the bag. I took a metal "hot pad" (basically a trivet) and placed it over my floating bag of meat to keep the whole thing under water. I want everything to cook as evenly as possible.

The Instant Pot's design is such that the heating element is located at the bottom of the pot. In sous-vide mode, this makes the Instant Pot different from other sous-vide devices like the Joule. Regular sous-vide devices contain internal heaters; they suck the water from the water bath into one side, heat the water, then eject it out the other side. The effect is constantly circulating heated water that somewhat mimics the effect of circulating air in a convection oven, resulting in even heating. With the Instant Pot, such even heating isn't possible because the heat emanates relentlessly from the pot's bottom, so I'm not sure the result will be even cooking. If I end up disappointed in the pot's sous-vide function, I'll shell out, later on, for a real sous-vide device and use the Instant Pot for other things like pressure cooking, making stews, and so on (there's even a yogurt-making function).

Anyway, in an hour and a half, I'll pull the filet out and sear it in an oiled pan, adding butter and herbs at the very end (since I didn't have any fresh thyme to put in the Ziploc bag before the sous-vide process began). Expect photos.

Sunday, May 15, 2022


Tangy and a bit spicy, it's chimichurri—Argentina's steak sauce! And it's based on a recipe I can no longer find online, forcing me to rely on what I wrote on this blog! ¡Olé!

what exactly is America's policy toward Taiwan?

China Uncensored explores the issue of America's "strategic ambiguity" toward Taiwan:

a few shots from today's walk

Did an 18K walk down to Bundang his morning from roughly 5:40 a.m. to 9:30-ish a.m. Construction along the final approach to Bundang is getting serious, as you'll see in the pics below. I'm curious to know what the result of all this landscaping will be. More footbridges? There are plenty of those already. Better landscaping for the creek itself? Don't know. New spaces for benches and park-like areas? I have no idea.

The early-morning part of the walk was nice with the sun so low in the sky, but as the sun rose, temps went up, and I began to appreciate the shade every time I walked into it. It's about the time of year where I switch from mostly daytime walking, on weekends, to nighttime walking. Right now, when I walk at night on weekdays, the weather is super-pleasant. Alas, summer is coming, and in Korea, summer and winter are both four months long, leaving us with short-but-beautiful springs and autumns. When summer comes, even nighttime walking will be warm and humid. I'm not looking forward to that.

That said, today's walk was beautiful. It's disappointing to see so many people outdoors with their masks still on, but here's hoping that the conditioning will wear off in due time.

Enjoy the pics.

seen early in the walk

I normally use digital zoom to capture birds now that I understand how skittish they are.

This is a ggachi (magpie).

loud, squawky fellow

peck, peck, peck

plenty of flora

I've crossed over to the west side of the Tan Creek, alongside the air base.

Walls are necessary, people, and they work.

There were a few people on this side of the creek, but this side is generally quieter than the eastern side.

a "No Drones!" sign in the distance

The end of the dirt path coincides with the end of the air base.

a tributary

This is about where I have to jog left, then right, to continue along the creekside. (I don't cross the bridge.)

"Sharp turn—SLOW," says the sign.

Back to a normal bike path.

one of several jinggeom-dari (stone footbridges)

"Bike, Pedestrian Combined-use Path"

Guys, I found Derrick!

Here is that point where the trail finally splits into dedicated paths—one of pedestrians, one for bikers.
The sign bohaeng-no (보행로) means "pedestrian path" or "footpath."

Curious, I popped up to street level in search of shade, but the constant traffic drove me back down creekside.

Here I am going back down to the creek.

It's a nice, placid path, overall.

some sort of springtime veggie-garden thing happening here

with flowers between veggie gardens


The sign's top says, "Yatap 2nd District, Seongnam City Village-making Public Offering."
The second and third lines (large font) say, "Arongi Darongi City Farm." Near as I can figure, "Arongi Darongi" refers to two things that are similar but not the same, and they often appear in pairs.

These perspective paintings have been here forever, but this is my first time photographing them.

The walk to Bundang takes you under a lot of bridges. Again, I appreciated the shade.

Top line: "Walk right."
Bottom line: "(Take) long strides."
보 (bo) = step
폭 (pok) = length
넓 (neolp) = wide
게 (gae) = -ly

Way in the distance up ahead, there's an apartment complex named "Park View" in English. When that complex comes into view, I know I have only three or so kilometers to go in my walk.

digital-zoom closeup of Park View

These little manmade falls are important for aeration of the water.

This may be the first time I've seen this pond in its full glory. Lilypads!

More lilypads!

A jinggeom-dari barely above water.

I guess that's about 50 calories per kilometer walked. I still don't know where these distance markers start.
The Korean says 빠른걸음/bbareun-georeum, or "quick steps."

Here, we start to see the construction going on (up ahead).

It doesn't look very nice now.

This sign may partially explain what's going on. The text inside the blue field identifies the work as being done on behalf of the aquatic ecosystem. The red-font words say that the construction company is sorry for the inconvenience they're causing, and they'll do their best to finish as soon as possible. Looks to me as if they'll be working through the summer.

close to the final stretch

The writing on the right side says, top line, "Walk right."
Bottom line: "Look straight ahead."
So as you see, the path has been offering you tips on good walking:
look straight ahead, walk rapidly, and use long strides.

My favorite bridge along the way. You'll see why.

This bridge is called Baek Gung Gyo, or White Castle Bridge. So I think of burgers.


more construction

yet more construction

I guess the construction includes the stripping-away of the green-surfaced path I'm used to.

feels weird not to have pavement here

All things end, and my path ends at the 18K mark, right here at Jeongja Station.

Exit 6 is where I enter the station.

your final shot for the day

A good walk, all in all. I'm glad I got my ass up early and did it. I really need to get in the habit of waking up this early every day, but the dark side of the Force is strong, and I'm not habitually a morning person unless I'm walking across the country. Usually, during the week, I don't get to work until sometime around 12:30 or 1 p.m.—even later, these days. I need to straighten up and get back to a more normal work schedule, I think.

Hope you enjoyed the pics. Spring is beautiful in Korea.