October 2013


This eatery occupies the spot long held by El Chico in this town, and is a more focused eatery than the stock Mexican chain. Their focus is fajitas, and they do a solid, not spectacular, job of providing this Tex-Mex staple.

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We came at lunch, and they plate a better lunch fajita than most do.

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As you can see, the fajitas are served in a metal liner on the wooden plate. Plating on metal is important, as it’s part of the presentation. A good shop will spray citrus juice into a hot liner before serving, so the dish arrives steaming.

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Chimi V’s manage to do a solid job with things like tacos and enchiladas as well. In all, Chimi’s is a respectable lunch spot, and can be recommended on those grounds.

Chimi V’s
2050 Old Minden Rd
Bossier City, LA 71111
(318) 741-3144

Chimi V's Fajita Factory on Urbanspoon

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I was shopping for meat at the supermarket, and not finding many bargains among the beef offerings. There were some interesting cuts among the pork, though. Hormel had these pork loin roasts for around $5.00, but they were as much as 30% water by weight. I wasn’t interested in buying water at 3-4 dollars a pound. There were also some pork loin roasts though, that had been priced reduced to 3.50 a pound and that sounded interesting. I picked one up.

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Looking around for pork loin sous vide recipes, the one I found first was this one, by Dan Gourmet. I will note he brines his meat overnight, and uses maple syrup as his sweetener. I’m diabetic, and I didn’t want to add anything too ridiculously sweet to the meat. Further, I wasn’t wanting to brine overnight, or for that matter, use any potent brining recipes (this one, for example, has a fair amount of negative comment on the web, if you’ll look around. See here, or here). I decided I’d find a simple basic recipe, and work from there.

A generic introduction to brining is this About.com article. This article on CookShack.com talks about brining in the context of smoking meats. (1) More to my purposes, two online resources that are good for simple brining formulas are found on food.com and thekitchn.com. The first resource, from food.com, is a generic brine for multiple meats, useful, for example, in plumping up a chicken. The second reference, from thekitchn.com and Emma Christensen, is a base brine plus some aromatic suggestions.

In terms of aromatics (spices) that might go well with a pork loin roast, a place to start is here.

As a sweetener, my wife has found Truvia to be reliable. With Truvia, 3/4 tablespoon of the product replaces 2 tablespoons of sugar. In terms of aromatics used in pork brines, Dan Gourmet uses peppercorns, and I saw another brine that used 3 cloves of garlic. Those were the aromatics I used. Often when infusing flavors through the brine, you will see recipes that use 1 part hot water (steep the aromatics in these), one part room temperature water, and then two parts ice cubes. (2) I didn’t do anything fancy. I started with cold water, and once my sugar and salt were dissolved, added my aromatics.

Used to make the brine.

Used to make the brine.

So, ultimately, for a pound and a half of pork, I used:

  • 1.5 quarts of water.
  • 3 tbsp of salt.
  • Truvia equivalent to 3 tbsp of sugar.
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • 1 tbsp of crushed black pepper, from a pepper mill.

A note: When dissolving salt and sugar, use the least amount of water possible to dissolve these two items, and then add the remaining liquid and aromatics.

This was just enough brine to cover the roast. I let the meat soak in the refrigerator for an hour and 45 minutes, and then removed it.

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I washed the meat under the faucet, dried it with paper towels, and then chose a couple spices to add to the meat once we bagged it.

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Along with thyme (pictured above) I added a bit more crushed black pepper and some onion powder. I made the working assumption that garlic flavor was imparted by the brine. This then was sealed and placed in the fridge for an hour or two, until it became time to cook.

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I cooked the meat in a sous vide apparatus at 140 F for 6 hours.

Pork in the pot.

Pork in the pot. Because of the algorithm used by the Auberge to control temperature, the temperature peaks above 140 degrees for a while.

Afterwards, we fished the meat out of the pot. The smell of the meat was fantastic. There are plenty of juices, so if you can follow Stefan Gourmet’s formula for handing sous vide juices, you can make a reduction from this liquid.

Finished.  The aroma is notable coming out of the pot.

Finished. The aroma is notable coming out of the pot.

The meat, sliced. Slices didn't last long.

The meat, sliced. Slices didn’t last long.

The meat itself was essentially white, was flavorful, and was really juicy. The word that comes to mind is amazing. The chunk of meat lasted about 10 minutes. We cut off slices and ate it on the spot. In terms of pleasing just about everyone in my family, this compares to a sous vide buffalo sirloin, and my wife much prefers pork to steak.

Notes:

(1) An important point made in this article is that the combined osmotic effect of both sugar and salt are important in “sugar” brines (i.e. brines that contain sugar). Both the amount of sugar and the amount of salt are important. This was not something I caught onto until after I had made the brine above, and probably affects the ability of Truvia to really replace sugar in a brine.

(2) Indian cooks “break open” spices by pan frying spices in ghee, and I can’t help but wonder if something similar could be done in a non-stick pan with a very minimal amount of oil or cooking spray. That’s an experiment for another time.

As football season arrives, Summit’s in Snellville is one of the better football options because of the beer, the food, the screens. Summits will put every NFL game up on Sundays. Their menus are seasonal, a base menu plus extras for the occasion, and as we’re smack in the middle of October, Oktoberfest options are available currently.

This is not the only eatery with Oktoberfest options in the region. Red Robin, in the Shoppes (formerly the Avenue) has an Oktoberfest burger, if you like that kind of thing. But Summit’s tends to provide both unique beers this time of year (for example, a plentiful supply of German wheat, or wit, beers), food options you don’t get any other time (a lot of sausage, or brat, options), on top of the seasonal football.

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One thing I didn’t know they provided were beer flights. This is a pre-selected set of 5 or 6 beers, starting around 10 dollars, that present a range of options to the drinker. The serving size is usually smaller, about half a normal serving per beer. Summit’s has three beer flights at this time, a light to dark flight ($10), an IPA flight ($15), and a high gravity beer (high alcohol content) flight ($25). In the photo above is the light to dark flight, which I had while watching football one Saturday. I recommend this flight. It’s not expensive, in bar terms, for the beers you get. The taste and flavor contrasts are worth the trouble.

Summits Wayside Tavern
3334 Stone Mountain Highway
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 736-1333

Summits Wayside Tavern on Urbanspoon

This is a chocolate shop that I’ve enjoyed for a long time. For many years it was a member of the Schakolad chain, but more recently they’ve gone independent.

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We like their spicy chocolates and we like their truffles. Truffles here cost about a dollar each (a box of 24 runs $30.00 I believe), and are well worth the trouble. I tried a dark chocolate truffle as a comparison piece. A di Amano chocolate starts out modestly and has flavors that build and then linger, it seems, forever. I like that, as it reminds me of the best hard cheeses.

di Amano Chocolate
1100 Hammond Road NE
Suite 430-A
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(770) 730-9770

Lamb shanks were a meat I picked up while picking up lamb chops. Dalia’s does a mean lamb shank, and I was looking for something straightforward to do with lamb, that didn’t involve a lamb steak style prep. Stefan Gourmet had a good looking lamb shank recipe, so I took his approach when trying to make this dish.

The meat itself came from Australia and was, to be plain, a little butchered. The pieces were nearly cut in two in the middle.

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We coated the meat in olive oil, the leaves of fresh thyme, salt, a pepper blend, a light dusting of garlic and onion powder and sealed the meat in a bag.

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This went into a sous vide pot and was cooked for 48 hours at 144 F. The smell of the meat after cooking was fantastic.

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Though plans had changed in the two days of cooking. I still went ahead and recovered the lamb juices. Since solids will form with unheated sous vide juices, these were poured into a pot and heated till solids formed. These solids were then strained, using a collander and wet paper towels, and placed in a jar for later use.

Solid forming in the lamb juices as they heat. The brown layer on top is later strained  off the juices.

Solid forming in the lamb juices as they heat. The brown layer on top is later strained off the juices.

The meat itself was very good, but very reminiscent of the kind of meats the Chinese favor. It’s as if the breakdown of all the connective tissue left it with a lot more gelatinous character. It also reminded me of meats that have been stewed for many hours, but without the water associated with that kind of treatment.

More gelatinous than I expected, very tender, and delicious.

More gelatinous than I expected, very tender, and delicious.

Because the meat had been nearly doubly cut, it never did hold up to much of any kind of post prep, falling apart easily. All that said, I’d do it again. Meats nearly cut in two shouldn’t be used as stand alone entrees, but perhaps as the source of meats for sandwiches, quick soups, or as a meat topping for a pasta dish.

Naan N Curry is an Pakistani-Indian restaurant on Breckenridge Road a block or so north of the Breckenridge intersection on Pleasant Hill Road. It offers an inexpensive buffet at lunch, one very easy to get to and get into. Just pick up a plate, choose your foods, and pay once you’re done. The clientele are mixed. There are plenty of South Asians here, and watching whole families show in traditional dress is visually exciting.

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Buffet items. Top and right has cabbage curry.

Buffet items. Top and right has cabbage curry.

The buffet has perhaps 15-20 choices or so at lunch, a salad bar that contains chutneys, among other things, and slices of jalapenos that have pretty reasonable spice to them. The buffet is notably clean, not as confused as the one in Asma’s Cuisine.

There was one notable dish out of the ones served here. The cabbage curry is quite good and worth your time and effort. Other dishes were lacking something, perhaps even disappointing. I’ve never had a single solid piece of beef when I show here. All I see in the beef dishes are plenty of bones. Outside of the cabbage curry, the dishes lack spice.

Asma’s is a spicier, more interesting buffet in my opinion, nor does Naan N Curry rise to the level of the buffet in Moksha Kitchen. Now, you won’t suffer from eating here, but if you’re wanting plenty of flavor, consider alternatives.

Naan N Curry
3083 Breckinridge Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 912-9924

Naan 'N Curry on Urbanspoon

My daughter wanted lamb chops, wanted to cook one herself and leave the other for me. I didn’t want to fight for the kitchen when she was using it, and I wanted a piece of meat cooked to the degree I wanted. Sous vide was the way to go, because I could start 2 hours ahead of time and just wait for my meat. I picked up some chops at the Publix on Pleasant Hill, the one near Fung Mei.

To note, Richard Blais has a fine sous vide recipe for lamb chops, up on the Sous Vide Supreme site. I was moving quickly with no time for marinades or fresh spices. So what I did was dry spice the meat before sealing it in the bag. I used dry rosemary and dry thyme, a large pinch of the spice on each side of the meat. I used a pepper blend instead of pure black pepper. The simplest version of the blend is cracked black pepper, crushed red pepper (i.e. the pepper flakes used on pizza), and a small amount of ground red pepper. Salt to taste, a dusting of garlic and onion powder and I sealed it in a bag.

Lamb chop, dry spiced and  ready to go into the pot.

Lamb chop, dry spiced and ready to go into the pot.

The finished meat. I added vegetables and ate it as is.

The finished meat. I added vegetables and ate it as is.

For purely idiosyncratic reasons, the meat stayed in the bag 2.5 hours at 131 F. I wasn’t interested in finishing on the stove, as I’ve found that thin meats in particular can go from medium rare to medium well before getting a decent crust. This chop wasn’t particularly thick. The chop was a fattier cut than most supermarket meats, and you have to get used to trimming sous vide meats before serving, because the fat isn’t rendered the way grilling or pan frying will.

I would say the chop compared well to other steaks I’ve cooked sous vide. I found my steak to have a little chew, and my daughter also found her meat to be chewy when pan fried. I’d consider 3 or 4 hours for meat of this quality.

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