iPot French Onion Cassoulet Soup … uh … Stew …

During yet another Atlanta snow day, I decided I wanted some soup. I knew I had onions, so French Onion soup was the most likely outcome. But I’ve had some Rancho Gordo Cassoulet beans sitting around for awhile waiting for the perfect time to use them. Since that time doesn’t seem to be happening, now seemed perfect.

However, a true Cassoulet is a decently “complicated” dish and would need many more ingredients like duck confit, different varieties of pork, etc. than I had on had during the life threatening blizzard we were being subjected to. After reading a Serious Eats article on the Cassoulet, I decided to improvise. Kenji takes all the “traditionalists” to task by reminding that the cassoulet is peasant food and therefore was made with what was on hand. Like all traditional tasty food, it is just food made at home.

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I figured I could start with a french onion base ( the carmelized onions from my previous iPot FOS recipe ) and then add the beans and stock to complete the soup/stew. The other ingredient that I had on hand was 1 lb of Conecuh Hickory Smoked Sausage. That would take care of the pork requirement.

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I started off browning the sausage using the saute function of the iPot. I added a little canola oil and let it brown while I sliced the onions. After the sausage browned, I removed it and deglazed with some dry vermouth.

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Melting the butter to incorporate all the sausagey goodness and deglazing liquid and sausagey fats. was the next step.  Then just carmelize the onions as in the iPot French Onion Soup recipe.

One idea I took from the Serious Eats article is to add unflavored gelatin to the stock prior to using it. This thickens up the stock to simulate using real homemade gelatin filled stock. Kenji suggests using 3 packs/quart of stock, but as this was the first time for me, I just used two. It worked out well.

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After the onions are finished, add the beans, sausage, stock and spices. Pressure cook for 40 minutes and let the pressure release naturally.

 

iPot French Onion Cassoulet Soup … uh … Stew …

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Recipe

  • 3 large sweet onions very thinly sliced
  • 1 lb Conecuh Hickory Smoked Sausage, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 lb Rancho Gordo Cassoulet Beans ( uncooked and unsoaked )
  • 32 oz Chicken Stock
  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin
  • Kroger frozen mirepoix blend ( or fresh celery, carrots, green peppers, etc )
  • garlic ( fresh or granulated )
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried oregano
  • vermouth or other liquid for deglazing
  1. Brown sausage in a small amount of oil in iPot using medium saute function.
  2. Remove sausage and deglaze with vermouth
  3. Melt butter in iPot the oil and remnants of sausage
  4. Saute onions in butter to coat. 
  5. Add baking soda, salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes.
  6. Cover and pressure cook on manual for 20 minutes 
  7. Add gelatin to stock to let bloom.
  8. Force relieve pressure after 20 minutes.
  9. Add beans, stock, seasonings, mirepoix blend, sausage and stir together.
  10. Cover and pressure cook for 40 minutes.
  11. Let pressure release naturally.
  12. Season to taste and enjoy!

 

**Note that I did not use the boullion pictured above.

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BOOP ( The R2-D2 )

Everyone’s favorite astromech, R2-D2, has saved the galaxy numerous times at great peril and expense to his metallic innards. But, other than a condescending pat to his dome, has he ever received any acknowledgement of his bravery? Of his sacrifice?

NO! He has not. Today, that travesty is corrected! Today, R2 will receive his reward! Today, R2 gets his drink!

You might think that a drink to celebrate R2’s achievements would be hazardous to the delicate human digestive system, but like everything that R2 does, he sacrifices his happiness so others can enjoy this drink. And to be honest, R2 is really attached to his Quaker State neat anyway.

The R2-D2 is based on a famous tiki drink that is named in his language, The Three Dots and a Dash, created by Don the Beachcomber. Three dots and a dash is the morse code for the letter “V” ( ···- ). As this drink was created during World War II, V is for Victory. This history makes it an appropriate inspiration for the R2 drink. R2-D2 is for Victory also!

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Recipe

  • 1 oz Clement Single Barrel
  • 1 oz El Dorado 12
  • 1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Curaçao
  • 1/2 oz Pimento Dram
  • 1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 3 dashes of Angostura ( and maybe a couple more in the ice head for presentation )

Combine all the ingredients in blender. I use a ninja and the single serve container.

Blend for around 5 seconds. ( This is traditional, I usually go about 7 seconds by counting real slow )

Pour into appropriate glassware and garnish with ango dots, lime/orange wheels, or go traditional by spearing three maraschino cherries (dots) and pineapple cube ( dash ).

This is a little more bitter and alcoholic than the original. But this fits R2 also.

Thank you R2 for all you have done and will still do for us all.

 

iPot French Onion Soup

With all the cold weather we have been having in Atlanta, I really wanted to make soup. I also didn’t want to go to the store. Luckily, I usually keep onions on hand and some sort of premade stock also.

Using the instant pot, or the iPot as it is affectionately known in the circles I travel, makes easy work of French Onion Soup. Kenji at Serious Eats has a great recipe for Pressure Cooker French Onion Soup. This is a great site for regular recipes and techniques, not just sous vide. He has a tendency to make late night cooking youtube videos also.

One thing to remember when using generic pressure cooker recipes for the iPot is that the iPot cooks around 12.5 psi and pressure cookers are usually working at 15 psi. Sometimes, I just add a minute or two to the cook time. Other times, I forget or don’t worry about it… It seems to turn out fine anyway.

The only real issue with making french onion soup is slicing a bunch of onions thinly. I’ve had a Matler mandoline for years. I bought it prior to the plethora of inexpensive mandolines made it to the market. These do a great job and the adrenaline rush of potentially adding slices of hand to the onion pile can really amp up the appetite! You could use the slicer blade of a food processor instead, but they are usually a little thicker than optimal.  But don’t worry, it will still taste fine.

The generic recipe is pretty simple:

  • caramelize onions in pressure cooker with butter, salt, pepper and some baking soda for 20 minutes
  • reduce the liquid
  • add stock and seasonings

 

iPot French Onion Soup

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  • 4 onions thinly sliced ( 3 sweet, 1 yellow )
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 32 oz Chicken Stock
  • 2 BIG Tbsp Bettter than bouillon beef base ( may want to reduce to normal Tbsp )
  • 16 oz water
  • 1 oz cognac
  • 1 tsp fish sauce ( may want to reduce to 1/2 tsp )
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • bread butt
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  1. Set iPot to medium saute.
  2. Melt butter
  3. Add onions and saute in butter for a few minutes.IMG_1809
  4. Add salt, pepper and baking soda.
  5. Seal iPot and set to manual pressure for 20 minutes
  6. Manually release pressure.IMG_1813
  7. Saute onions and reduce all the liquid out.
  8. Add cognac and saute for 2 minute.
  9. Add Stock, bouillon, water and bay leaves.
  10. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  11. Turn off heat and add the vinegar and fish sauce.

Here is where “those that know best” will bring out the pitchforks and torches. I didn’t have any french bread in the house. I usually don’t. I didn’t have any gruyere or mozzarella or even any parmesan. I had sharp cheddar and it wasn’t event fancy sharp cheddar. I believe I mentioned that we were in the middle of freezing to death in Atlanta, so I wasn’t risking my life for the proper bread or cheese for my bowl of soup.

I do have a nice set of french onion soup bowls though!

So to finish the dish

  1. Lightly toast a piece of bread with some olive oil. I just wanted to get it stable enough to hold up to being broiled in the soup bowl.
  2. Fill soup bowl with soup.IMG_1833
  3. Artfully stuff the bread into the soup bowl like a top.
  4. Cover with cheese.
  5. Broil to melt the cheeseFOS_header
  6. Enjoy, but you may want to let it cool a bit.

Sous Vide Sir Loin of Roast

I saw that the Krobar had chuck roasts on sale right after Christmas, so I went to pick some up for the freezer. Unfortunately, they were all gone when I got there, but I did find a bunch of Choice Sirloin Tip roasts for $5/lb. So, I picked up a couple for future use. I bagged them with salt, pepper, granulated garlic and big sprigs of rosemary and put them in the freezer.

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I reviewed several online sources, but didn’t see anything really good for sirloin tip roast. Everything seemed to suggest somewhere around 24 hours at steak temperatures.  So, I heated up to 131.5 and put the frozen sirloin roast in early on a Saturday night. I wasn’t sure if it would get floaty or not. It didn’t seem a particularly fatty cut ( so is the 24 hour cook necessary? ), but I set up my restraining environment anyway.

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I let it cook for a little over 24 hours. I ended up pulling it out around 25 hours so I could time it to finish about the same time as the iPot French Onion Soup.

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It actually looks appetizing in the bag with the flash hitting it in the right light. But after debagging it and reserving the meat juice, I proceeded to give it a good torching.

 

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Luckily, I remembered to take off the twine that it came wrapped in. It would have livened up my Sunday night if I had caught the twine on fire, but I was juggling making soup at the same time, so no need for extra excitement.

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The roast ended up a lot more rare than the picture looks. It was really tender, but not as juicy as I expected. Looking at the separation of the fibers, I think it may have overcooked some. I am going to poke around more on the web before I cook the next one, but I am thinking of trying 10 hours next time.

I took the juices and reduced it with some mustard and garlic. I added a cornstarch slurry to thicken it up also. I had to strain the mustard seeds and “thick juice pieces” out of the sauce to make it look prettier.

It was tasty and also made some great sandwiches the next couple of day.

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I will consider this as test #1 and try to improve next time. I am going to find a chuck roast to try with this same recipe. I think the extra fattiness will work better with the 24+ cook time.

 

The Ewok’s Elixir

I noticed I had acquired a bottle of Cruzan Banana Rum from somewhere. In the interest of full disclosure and even though I am loathe to admit it, I am pretty sure I bought it for some reason. I am not a fan of flavored rums or vodkas even though some turn out pretty good. I noticed this bottle right after I bought the creme de cacao to make a La Florida ( thanks tiki recipes! ). I wanted to do a new Star Wars drink based on Chewbacca and thought these ingredients plus some Kahlua and half&half would be tasty ( and feed my Big Lebowski jones ).

It turned out a little too sweet and even though Chewie has his lovable moments, sweet is not really a good description. But I liked the drink. Enter the Ewoks. Creatures of the jungle like bananas, cacao and coffee. And they are the definitive sweet and cuddly Star Wars creatures.

But it was still too sweet of a drink. I figured Ewoks were pretty pissed about their portrayal as cute and cuddly teddy bears. I’m pretty sure they see themselves as fierce warriors, hunters born of the jungle, feared and respected throughout their home world. Not teddy bears. I used their bitterness to add a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters.

The Ewok’s Elixir

The Ewok

  • 1 oz Creme de Cacao
  • 1 oz Cruzan Banana Rum
  • 1 oz Kahlua
  • 3 oz 1/2 & 1/2
  • dash of Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients in a glass filled with crushed ice

Drink while listening to the Wicket Cast Album*

Sous Vide Bourbon Glazed Pork Loin

I found on a ridiculous sale on Pork Loin at our Krobar (yes, our local Kroger has a beer and wine bar inside. Even gets a DJ on Friday night to provide the party bar atmosphere). Pork Loin is pretty lean and normally a very reasonable priced cut, but this was $1.99/lb.  I picked up a couple of 5 lb loins to put in the freezer.

My opportunity to make one came for a recent Christmas break boardgaming day. Being a huge fan of the Sous Vide Everything youtube channel ( SVE ), I based my recipe on their version. The thing I like about using sous vide is the liberalness you can take in following directions. As not following directions is my strong suit, it fits my style nicely.

The basic steps are simple and similar to most sous vide recipes.

  1. Apply Rub
  2. Cook Sous Vide
  3. Apply Glaze
  4. Torch
  5. Eat

This Rub has quite a few ingredients. Often, rubs are simple mixtures of salt and pepper with maybe one or two other ingredients.  Since I had all the required ingredients from the SVE recipe, I didn’t diverge much from it. I just increased the recipe by converting tsp to tbsp so that I would have plenty.

Rub Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp hungarian paprika ( I was out of the smoked paprika )
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp McCormick Brown Sugar Bourbon spice mix ( I did have to buy this )
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

I mixed these all up and applied liberally to the pork loin. I ended up using about 2/3 or the rub. Then I vacuum bagged it and put it in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

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After letting it marinate, I decided to truss it, so I ended up doing it outside the bag as in the SVE version. I don’t normally truss things, but I think I will start doing it more often. It is pretty easy.

We were planning on a break in the gaming around 3, so I was going to head home to finish the pork loin during that break. I put the loin into the 142°F ( 334 K ) bath around 7:30 am to cook about 8 hours. Of course, we ended up starting late and running long, so I didn’t get back home until about 4:30. This is a good example of the advantages of sous vide, the extra 90 minutes didn’t cause any problems. I didn’t have to stop playing and run home to take something out of the oven. It was all fine.

After the 9 1/2 hour cook, I removed the loin and reserved the juices. I made the glaze and reduced it a little.

Glaze Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp brown sugar ( actually, I didn’t measure, just put in the rest of the bag. It was probably more )
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Buffalo Trace Bourbon ( I know you don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink, so I assume it is the same with bourbon )
  • 2 Tbsp Grandma’s Molasses

Just let the glaze simmer for a couple of minutes and make sure the sugar dissolves.

I torched the pork loin a little before I applied the glaze. Then I adopted a “baste a little, torch a little” philosophy. I wanted to get the sugar in the glaze to carmelize in light layers and not to cook the loin anymore. I tried to use a very light touch with the torch. This resulted in about 4-5 “layers” of glaze being applied before I was happy with the finished product.

I added the unused rub, glaze and drippings from the glazing process to the reserved meat juices and started reducing on medium heat. I adjusted the seasoning some with salt and reduced it by about half

ProTip – If this gets to boiling too vigorously, it will have a tendency to boil over and that will not be fun to clean up.

The end result was very tasty. It was moist, tender and met with rave reviews from the gaming crowd. There was very little pink in the finished product, which was fine. People don’t really have a good reaction to a lot of pinkness in pork.

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Recipe

  • 5 lb Boneless Pork Loin from Kroger

Rub Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp hungarian paprika
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 Tbsp McCormick Brown Sugar Bourbon spice mix
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar

Glaze Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  • 2 Tbsp Grandma’s Molasses

Recipe Steps ( see text for details )

  1. Apply Rub.
  2. Marinate overnight.
  3. Cook for 9 hours at 142°F ( 334 K ).
  4. Apply glaze and sear exterior.

The Tai Fighter

Thanks to the new cycle of movies, Christmas is the time of year when I get obsessed with Star Wars for about a month. I got Zelda a Porg chew toy for a present. I’ve got a new Porg t-shirt on the way. But even with my liking for the cuddly and curmudgeonly porgs, the Dark Side always exerts a strong pull on my soul.

Enter the Tai Fighter. I finally bought a bottle of pimento (allspice) dram and wanted to use it. First, I tried it in a traditional vehicle, but since it was a new drink recipe I didn’t really get the individual character of the dram. Not that it wasn’t a powerful addition, but there were other flavors going on also. This was pre-notetaking so I don’t remember what the drink was.  So, to get a better feel of the taste profile, I just added a bit to the basic Mai Tai recipe in place of the simple syrup.

I will give you a heads up about Allspice dram, like the spice, it is a potent flavor. I usually ignore 1/4 oz measurements and make them 1/2 oz, but this is an ingredient that I will start off with the recommended dosage and try more if it is not enough. After all, you can always have another drink!

The Tai Fighter

Tai Fighter

  • 1 oz Appleton Rare Blend
  • 1 oz Smith & Cross
  • 1/2 oz Orgeat syrup
  • 1/4 oz Allspice Dram ( 1/4 oz, I mean it )
  • 1 oz Lime Juice
  • 1 oz Pierre Ferrand Curaçao

Shake with crushed ice and strain into your favorite tikiware filled with crushed ice.

The tikiware in the picture is from the Horror in Clay 5th anniversary party at the Highlander. While the Highlander is not a tiki bar, I highly recommend a visit when you are in Atlanta. You can find the Horror in Clay products here.

Garnish with spent lime shell and mint.

I’m know my mint looks pretty sad. I made a pitcher of Mai Tais to take to a board gaming party the day before and took all my mint with it. I found this after scrambling around in the fridge for a few minutes. I felt bad spanking it.