Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ceviche and batch cooling

This weekend was excrutiatingly hot. Saturday morning, I went to the farmers market in inwood, and then to arthur avenue to get fish, meat, and some produce. I needed something refreshing and cool for lunch. I made ceviche using scrod from Randazzos. Ceviche is a south american technique of coagulating fish in a citrus or acidic base. Usually, limes, lemons, or grapefruit juice is used. What happens to the flesh of the fish as it is kept in the citrus juice is that it coagulates the proteins, thus cooking (with no heat) the fish. Its also useful to mention that most (pathogenic) bacteria cannot survive in a highly acidic environment, which makes this somewhat raw application consumable. Here's my variation

Scrod, tomatoes, basil puree, chile, shallot, figs, lemon

I make a lot of chili at home. I thought it'd be useful to share a helpful solution to the problem of having to cool down a big batch of chili or any kind of stew. If you were to put a big batch of any kind of stew that's just been cooked into a container in the fridge, it will inevitably go bad. It won't cool down in time, and may alter the temperature of the fridge, thus ruining other things that need to stay cold. Solution: batch cooling. Rule of thumb no 1: temperature danger zone 41-130 degrees F (my chef instructors pounded this number into our brains). Bring food down to within the 80s (around room temp) within the first hour, and you can refrigerate it then. Rule of thumb no 2: The wider and colder the surface area, the quicker the heat will escape.Here's a quick demo:

First, make lots of amazing chili

Meanwhile, put two sheet pans in the freezer.

When done, pour the chili into the sheetpans and stir. When cool to the touch, store in an airtight container

This is also the method restaurants use for batch cooling risotto.

Basic method of making chili
2 lbs ground meat
2 or 3 cans of any beans
Can of crushed tomatoes
spices of choice
onion, diced
garlic, mashed
celery, diced
chiles, diced
dry chiles, rehydrated
handful baking chocolate

In first pan, sweat aromatics (onions, chiles, celery, garlic) until onions are transluscent and release their aroma. Add spices (I add paprika, cayenne, dominican oregano, pepper flakes, scant coriander, smoked salt, garlic powder if I'm too lazy to mash garlic). Add the beans

Meanwhile, in a smoking hot skillet, brown the meat using only enough oil to film the bottom of the pan. Brown meat in three batches. Deglaze last batch with a few drops of worchestershire sauce. Add meat to main pot.

Add dry chilies, and enough crushed tomatoes to submerge the entire mixture in liquid. If its not enough, add any kind of stock, or even water. Stir, and simmer for at least an hour (I simmer as long as I can, sometimes up to 4 or 5 hours to build flavor.

When done, add a handful of baking chocolate.
Batch cool as demonstrated.

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