Tag Archives: carrots

Microwaves: The Coolest Appliance You Have

Microwaves are super popular. Nearly every home I’ve been in recently has one. People usually associate microwaves with convenience as they are far and away the fastest way to heat most food. Unfortunately, they’ve long been shunned by the culinary world. High end classically trained Chefs have turned their nose up at the notion of microwaved food on television. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen a Gordon Ramsay shame someone for even having a microwave. I’m not sure if this is done because old school Chefs do not understand how a microwave works or for another reason but its caused the general public to think microwaves are incapable of producing delicious food.

How it works

Microwave

Photo by Tech-Kid

Microwaves essentially work by producing electromagnetic waves that interact with polar molecules (mostly water) in food. By causing these polar water molecules to oscillate at a ridiculously high frequency, the electromagnetic waves increase the temperature of the food by using the food itself.

Microwave

Photo by Irvin Mai

Why its better

The classic technique for boiling or steaming vegetables or any other food item is to wait until the water is as hot as possible before dropping the food in. This is because the longer the vegetable stays in the water, the more flavour and nutrients dissolves into the water. In fact, slowly simmering bones or vegetables is exactly how you extract the most amount of flavour when making a stock. Water can only exist in a liquid state up to 100 degrees celsius so there  is a limit to how fast an ingredient can be cooked. Therefore, there inevitably is going to be some flavour and nutrients lost.

Microwave

Photo by Irvin Mai

Microwaves aren’t perfect but they cook food faster than any other method and the water that is cooking the food is inside the food itself so the flavour and nutrients is not extracted. This results in the most vibrant and nutritious result unmatched by alternative classic cooking techniques.

Defrosting

Defrost Microwave

Photo by Irvin Mai

Have you ever tried cooking something in the microwave from frozen? If you have you probably remember because the result is quite startling. If you haven’t, what happens is parts of the food ends up being fully cooked while other parts of the food remains completely frozen.

This is because of the fact that frozen water has a different atomic structure than liquid water. Frozen water does not interact with the microwaves. The liquid water ends up cooking food near these molecules very quickly while the rest of the food is untouched. The defrost setting is simply the magnetron in the microwave oscillating between being on and off. This allows for small increments in cooking around the liquid water molecules which in turn provide enough heat to melt the frozen parts of the food. This allows for more even heating than the standard microwave setting.

Hopefully this has shed some light on the microwave, an appliance that has been grossly misunderstood for years.

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Bò Kho | Vietnamese Stewed Beef

Every Saturday growing up I would wake up to a big pot of food that would last the weekend. The two most popular pots of food that I would wake up to were Pho and Mi, but every once in a while I’d wake up to Bò Kho (Vietnamese Stewed Beef). Usually it would be a big pot filled with tons of stewing beef with large chunks of potatoes and carrots enjoyed with freshly baked bread. Admittedly, stewed beef was always my least favourite of the three. I decided that I would try giving the classic a bit of a facelift while trying to keep as much of what made the dish a classic intact.

Stewed Beef

Ingredients:

  • 1kg – Beef Brisket (cut into chunks).
  • 1.5 L – Coconut Water.
  • 1 large onion (diced).
  • 5 cloves garlic (diced).
  • 2 stalks lemongrass.
  • 1 stick cinnamon.
  • 2 roma tomatoes (peeled and diced).
  • juice of 1 lemon.
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce.
  • 2 potatoes (julienned).
  • 4 carrots (julienned).
  • Chives for garnish.

Method:

  1. Brown the chunks of brisket and reserve.
  2. In the same pot add the onions, garlic, lemongrass and cinnamon.
  3. Cook the onions until translucent and then add the tomatoes.
  4. Add the brisket back to the pot and cover with all the liquid ingredients (fish sauce, coconut water, lemon juice).
  5. Simmer for 2.5 hours.

Meanwhile:

  1. Cut carrots and potatoes into little matchsticks.
  2. Fry the potatoes until crispy and golden.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and toss together and reserve.

I like to sit the salad of potatoes and carrots on top of the beef stew. The crunchiness of the potatoes and carrots adds some textural contrast to the rich and succulent brisket. I finish the dish with chives here but you can toss any herb you want over this. My favourites include thai basil, thyme, and cilantro.

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Timing

The tricky thing about cooking more than one ingredient is that they often do not take the same time to finish cooking. For instance, in this dish I serve carrots, asparagus, and potatoes along with the steak and all three cook at different times. This makes timing difficult as the goal is to have everything finish around the same time. This way nothing becomes dry or gets cold.

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Little things to note when calculating when to start what ingredient are things like the time it takes for meats to rest, the time it takes for potatoes to reach an edible temperature, etc. When everything finishes at the same time you get the maximum flavour out of every ingredient. Timing is often overlooked and underrated. Getting it right makes a massive difference.

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Sirloin on Risotto

I recently got a value pack of top sirloin. I have a similar story with carrots. This is why you might have noticed a theme in some of my more recently updates. I’m still a student so its hard for me to pass up such good deals.

Sirloin on Risotto

There are really only three components to this dish. The steak is cooked pink again. The carrots are cooked in a butter and water emulsion like in my last post as well. The risotto I cooked in some red wine and beef stock to reinforce the beef flavour of the steak.

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