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The Journey to Amman

Friday, Nov 14
So, I spent days and days packing and repacking. I removed items of clothing that I really wanted to take and tried to reconfigure everything. I bought those bags that you pack and suck the air out to make more room. I finally got it to a place where we were both tightly packed into one checked bag each and was worried about how to get the stuff we might purchase home. I know I won't be able to fit a baby camel in there but I was assuming I would buy lovely scarves, maybe some clothing, some lovely tiles etc.

The Week In Yum April 18-23 EastSide Social and Ki

EastSide Social 

Last week, we finally made it to EastSide Social in Lesliville , admittedly a little late to the party. People have been raving about this new east end eatery since it opened last summer but, for some reason, I had it in my head that this was going to be straight up Halifax cuisine and, this will earn me some death threats, I have never visited the east coast for the food. To me, I have memories of lobsters boiled to within an inch of their lives, weird tasting donairs that the locals go mad for and all to often, thick, gluey chowder. I have always loved the east coast for the people, the scenery and the ocean and just kind of resigned myself to the food situation.

Sous Vide Pork Souvlaki

I love the idea of pork souvlaki. I love the flavours, I love the charcoal flavour that the grill imparts and I love any meat that gets dipped in lots of tzatziki. What I don't love is dry, leathery meat and, unfortunately, that is almost always the case when people try to cook small chunks of lean meat over the grill.

Sous Vide Chicken Souvlaki Meatballs

The Kid's sweet 16 is upon us and we always kick off the birthday week with a family BBQ. We are going out for fancy pants Japanese on the actual day so i had thought a Greek mezes style meal would be nice and was planning to do my usual pork and chicken souvlaki but using the sous vide this time. The more I thought about it, the idea of doing two kinds of souvlaki felt kind of boring. I really wanted to sous vide the pork for souvlaki to see if it would solve the dilemma of dry pork, one of my pork souvlaki pet peeves (which it did, recipe coming soon), so that left the chicken. What could I do with chicken that would be easy to feed a crowd, that could be made ahead and just heated up before dinner?

As I stared at my tray of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, visions of meatballs began to dance in my head. What if I threw the thighs into the meat grinder and added all of the flavours that would go into the souvlaki marinade along with some ground mushrooms for good measure, a la blend and extend?

One search for "meatballs" on this blog will tell you that we love little balls of all the meats and, to be honest, I can't believe I haven't tried this sooner. The combination of using the sous vide along with the addition of ground mushrooms resulted in an almost unbelievably moist (I HATE THAT WORD SO MUCH BUT THEY WERE MOIST, DAMMIT) and tender meatball - you have to be careful when you use ground poultry for stuff like burgers and meatballs because it's easy to overcook them and they tend to be dry but the mushrooms add moisture and the sous vide ensures that they can't dry out at all. Perfection.

I may never make chicken souvlaki again.

Sous Vide Chicken Souvlaki Meatballs

Depending on the size of meatball you roll, you will get between 40 and 60 meatballs. This makes a large batch of meatballs so if you aren't feeding a crowd, you can just throw them straight into the freezer in the bag you cooked them in


900g skinless, boneless chicken thighs OR ground chicken
225g white button mushrooms, minced by hand or ground roughly in a food processor
1 onion, minced
5 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup panko
1 cup crumbled feta
juice of 1 large lemon
zest from 1 lemon
1 big handful of Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tbls dried greek oregano
1/4 cup chopped, fresh mint
2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
freshly ground black pepper


If you are grinding your own chicken, do that however you do that - I use my kitchen aid with the meat grinder attachment.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and brown the ground mushrooms until they release some liquid and start to colour before adding the minced onion and garlic and fry for a couple more minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

When the onions and mushrooms are cooled add them, along with all of the remaining ingredients in the bowl of your kitchen aid and stir on low, using the paddle, for about 45 seconds or until well mixed. You can also mix it all by hand. For the best results, refrigerate the chicken mixture overnight to really let the flavours blend.

Before you pop the bowl in the fridge, taste for seasoning by frying a small pinch of the mixture, taste it, adjust as needed. It will depend on how salty your feta is as well as your personal taste.

You now have three choices: You can pre sear and then sous vide, sous vide and post sear OR bake in the oven if you don't have a sous vide.

Pre Sear:
Roll the chicken into golf ball sized meatballs, heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan over med high heat and sear the meatballs, in batches, until nicely browned. Remove from pan and set on a rack over a baking sheet until they are all done.

Using ziplock freezer bags, arrange the meatballs in the bags so that they are not touching, insert a thin straw into the bag and zip the closure all around the straw. Okay, now comes the part that will make you think I am crazy:

bend down and suck out all of the air in the bag through the straw and then quickly remove the straw and seal that last little bit of closure so it looks like this:

The reason for this is so that you avoid squashing your meatballs down to flat discs by using the vacuum sealer and it works really well.

Preheat the water bath to 63.5C (146F)
Put your bags of meatballs into the water bath and cook for 1 hr.
Remove after an hour and either serve right away, straight out of the bag, lifting them out and discarding the juices in the bag OR put in an ice bath to cool off quickly and remove to the fridge or freezer until you want to eat them.

To reheat, drop the bags back into a bath that is just slightly below cooking temp (140F/ 60C) for about 45 min (reheating takes about 45min per inch plus 30 minutes if cooking from frozen)

Post Sear:
Roll all of the mixture into meatballs, place on parchment lined baking sheets and freeze for at least 2 hours.
Now you can use your vacuum sealer to bag them up, not touching or repeat the Pre Sear method for the ziplock freezer bags.

Drop the bags into the 146F/63.5C water bath and cook for an hour and a half to 2 hrs (they are frozen so they need a bit longer than the pre seared)

When they are done, remove the bags and either heat some oil in a big frying pan and sear them to serve them right away, or follow the previous instructions for cooling, refrigerating/freezing, reheating and THEN sear them to serve.

Conventional baking:
roll the meatballs and bake for about 15-20 minutes in a preheated 400F oven on parchment lined baking sheets.

serve as an app with tzatziki, throw them in a wrap or a meatball sub or serve with lemony Greek roasted potatoes

The pros and cons of pre searing and post searing when you sous vide
Pre Searing and them serving them straight out of the bag is the quickest and the easiest when you are having a big meal or serving them as part of a big buffet style meal. They won't have a crisp crust but they are delicious and still enjoy all of the other benefits of searing.

Freezing, sous viding them and then giving them a sear right before you serve them also taste just as delicious with the added benefit of having a bit of a crispier crust. This is better left to smaller family meals when you aren't getting 20 things ready to go on a buffet table all at once.

The Week in Yum April 11-17 Road Trip to Montreal Right After Eating At Chris Jerk

You know how you can go eat somewhere that you haven't been for ages and then remember why you used to eat there all the time in the first place? That would be Japango in the Beach for The Kid, right now. After our tasty Easter Sunday dinner last week, we returned for more unagi sushi pizza to end the week.

Sous Vide Char Sui Pork and An Intro To Yummly

I have added a new feature to the blog, right over there ------------>
It's a yummly button so that you can save my recipes straight to your yummly box. I have been using yummly, myself, forever and for some reason I just never got around to adding The Yum Yum Factor to their gene pool. If you aren't using yummly to search for recipes, it's time to change that so go over there and check it out but first, go straight to The Yum Yum Factor page (don't worry if there isn't anything there yet - this is a new venture so it will take time to get it going)

So, let's move on to something to eat, I am starving.

Char siu is that sweet, sticky Chinese BBQ pork that you see hanging from hooks in the window of any decent Chinese restaurant. I make my own version of char sui all the time at home so it made sense that my first attempt at doing some sous vide pork tenderloin would be a batch of this stuff, right?

I didn't really change anything, apart from the measurements because I made a double batch and instead of roasting it in the oven, I used my sous vide cooker.

Okay, this was probably the most tender pork I have ever cranked out of my kitchen and I am not sure I can ever go back to roasting it in the oven. The meat was so soft that you barely need a knife to cut it. Don't be put off by the pink tone of the meat either - it is fully cooked. In fact, I cooked it 5 degrees F higher than most of the recipes I found online called for.  It is done in 2 hours but I left it in closer to 3 hours just because at the two hour mark, I wasn't ready for it. How much do I love having that kind of timing wiggle room?

It's up to you whether you use a blow torch or the broiler to finish it off at the end and to be honest, both methods produce a great finished product and I only lean towards the torch because it's more fun. Broiling it at the end with a couple of layers of reserved sauce works beautifully.

Sous Vide Char Sui Pork

2 pork tenderloins (approx 2 1/2 lbs)
1/4 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbls honey
3 tbls dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp five spice powder
1 1/2 tbls sesame oil
6 cloves of garlic
6 slices of ginger

Mix everything but the pork in a saucepan, bring to a boil and boil for a solid minute or so, stirring a few times, take off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Reserve 1/3 cup of the sauce and, halving each tenderloin, cover the pork with the remaining sauce in a container and put in the fridge for at least 6 hours and up to 24 hrs.

When it's time to cook, preheat your sous vide bath to 140F (60C).

Remove the pork tenderloins from the marinade but don't wipe off the excess and place them in zip lock bags, using the water displacement method. I didn't vacuum seal because they were still pretty saucy but you can try it using the pulse vac or gentle setting. I also use a clip to clip the bag to the side of the container so it's not floating around - if there is any chance that the ziplock seal is not 100%, this prevents water from getting into the bag. just make sure the water level is high enough that the meat is totally submerged in the water with the bag clipped to the side.

this binder clip works perfectly

Let the pork cook for at least 2 hours to ensure pasteurization and up to four hours.

Remove from the bags and set them on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment. **If you are not using them right away, put the unopened bags of pork in an ice bath to cool and store in the fridge until you need them. You can reheat them, in the bag, in your sous vide bath set to 140F (60C) for 30 minutes and then continue with the searing.

It's your choice whether you torch them or broil them.
If torching, brush some of your reserved marinade over them and begin to sear them with your propane torch, adding more sauce if needed as you go until you have a nice, caramelized crust. Slice and serve.

If broiling, set the pan under the pre heated broiler and broil, turning the pork from time to time and brushing more marinade as you go until you get a nice, caramelized crust. Slice and serve.

THe Week in Yum April 11-16 On The Wren and a Plate of Haggis, A Bottle Of Innis and Gun and an all Asian Easter

This week has been a bit busy but I kept my official food duties to a minimum since Shack was actually around in person for the first time in what feels like forever and I wanted to spend some time with him. Best meal of the weekend, as always, was enjoyed at our beloved Danforth joint, The Wren.  I tried a new cocktail, the Southwestern '75 - Cazadores anejo tequila, sugar, fresh lime and some cava is an $11 glass of heaven. Other than that , it was a night of old favourites; Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich for The Kid, The Wren Burger for Shack and Green Chili Chicken for me. The one new revelation was an order of Scalloped Potato Fries. Honestly. Bars of scalloped potato encased in panko, deep fried and served with a dilly dipping sauce. They can probably kill you but you will die with a smile on your face.

The Week In Yum March 27- April 3 La Cubana, Patois and The Dirty Bird Chicken and Waffles

my beloved Habanero Squid at La Cubana on Roncesvalles

It's Good Friday so I am going to make this brief. I had a few great meals this week so I will share that with you and maybe give you some ideas about where you can go and get a great snack over the long weekend.

Craig Wong vs Coconut

Craig Wong, A Boy and His Sansaire

Meet Craig Wong. If you have been living under a rock you may not have heard of  Patois, his Jamaican Chinese restaurant here in the fine city of Toronto. There isn't a "best of" list that he hasn't made since opening under one year ago and one of the things he is becoming increasingly renowned for is his brunch. I know, I know, Anthony Bourdin claims that brunch is only a way for the kitchen to use up the weeks leftovers to serve to hung over hipsters before it all goes bad but at Patois, this couldn't be further from the truth. His brunch menu relies on creative twists on classic dishes with everything made fresh for a menu that is truly a stand alone affair, with nary a repurposed leftover to be found.

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