It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything non-technical, and needed to share a few notes from a cooking seminar–geared toward cooking healthy foods in small spaces–I presented at the National Heavy-Duty Truck Rally in Hutchinson, Kansas a couple of weeks ago.
First, let me start by saying that I’m no chef, by any stretch of the imagination. This is my second time presenting the seminar, but the first was as a stand-in for someone better (John). The second time was all me, and it probably shows in the more basic nature of what was presented–though I still think it turned out pretty well. This post will cover some of the recipes and equipment used. Apologies for the lack of pictures–I was talking and cooking the whole time, and food was being passed around the room as soon as it was ready.
Before I start talking about recipes, let’s talk about some of the equipment I used. Obviously, with sous vide recipes, a sous vide cooker was part of the mix. I used an older Sansaire cooker (about $160 on Amazon now), but you can get a little better deal on the Anova model (with Bluetooth and a phone app, which lets you look at recipes and send settings to your cooker).
I hadn’t really planned to talk about them, but a set of utensils I brought along got quite a bit of attention. The nesting set hangs from a stand with little magnets in the handle of each utensil, and there’s a ladle, spoon, slotted spoon, pasta fork, and spatula in the set. They get used all the time, and go through the dishwasher regularly. At about $20, it’s a pretty good deal.
This time around, we made two very simple appetizers–a caprese salad and a buffalo chicken dip.
What’s a caprese salad? Don’t worry, there’s no lettuce involved. All you need to get started are a couple of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, salt, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, arranging them in a row alternating between a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato. Sprinkle some chopped basil (preferably fresh) on top, and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Buffalo Chicken Dip
This one is pretty easy, but does require some heat.
- Buffalo wing sauce (I prefer the Hooter’s stuff, as it tends to mix better. You can get it at most grocery stores, but it’s also a good excuse to go to the restaurant!)
- Cream cheese (2 8-oz. packages)
- Shredded chicken (fresh chicken can be boiled, or cooked sous vide, or you can use canned chicken)
- A bag of Frito’s Scoops
Mix the wing sauce and cream cheese, and either microwave or simmer until the cheese is soft. Stir together, then add chicken. Best served warm, and can be easily reheated.
Meats, Sous Vide
It’s been a while, but I’ve talked about cooking sous vide a number of times before (here, here, and here to get you started). Working with an immersion cooker is really nice in an RV, particularly with meats that you’ve bought and frozen. I usually keep a full freezer, and it’s easy to pull something out, drop it in the water bath, and walk away while it defrosts and cooks unattended.
At this year’s seminar, we cooked two meats this way–a beef bottom round roast and some tuna steaks. Cooking this way, you can get a very uniformly cooked piece of meat, and especially with the roast, one that’s very tender without being overdone. In either case, season as you’d like before putting the meat in a bag.
For the tuna, all you need is 105-degree (F) water, and about 15 minutes of cook time. For the roast, you’ll cook for at least 8 hours, at about 130F, for a nice pinkish-red all the way through. If you have more time, it’ll just keep getting more tender, without turning grey.
Cooking bratwursts was a last-minute add-on to the seminar. The idea came from Gregg (who runs RVhaulers), who bought an immersion cooker after last year’s seminar.
It’s a really simple idea, and makes less of a mess (and less heat) than boiling bratwurst. Especially if you buy them vacuum packed, drop the bratwurst into 140-degree water for at least 30 minutes or so. The bratwursts will be fully cooked, and then you can toss them onto the grill or into a hot skillet to brown the outside. The flavor is richer, and they stay nice and moist.
- 1lb lean ground beef or turkey
- Onion (either chopped part of a fresh onion, or a couple of tablespoons of dried onion)
- 1 can of stewed tomatoes (do not drain)
- 1 can each of black and dark red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
- 1/2 of a packet of taco seasoning
- 1 cup of elbow macaroni (whole wheat preferably)
- Serve with sour cream and cheese on top.
In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and onion, but don’t drain off the grease. Toss in the tomatoes, with all of the liquid in the can. Add the rinsed and drained beans, taco seasoning, and the macaroni. Cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.
Serve in a bowl with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese on top.
Hopefully there’s something here that interests you. I’m planning on doing the seminar again at next year’s rally, so I’m looking for ideas and suggestions. The goal is to present things that are a little different and fairly healthy, but easy enough to make in a small kitchen with ingredients that can be found just about anywhere.