The Perfect Pork Chop: Sous Vide


For years I have been reading about this fancypants sous vide cooking and the hyperbole about the resulting end product.
Phrases such as “The juiciest steak ever”, “The meat falls of the bone in a stiff breeze”, and “The closest thing to a sexual experience involving a knife and fork”.
The last quote was spoken by me to Sweetpea after taking a bite of perfectly cooked pork chop. I love a medium-rare pork chop though I’ve never been able to get but a medium-rare nugget in the center of the chop through any cooking method I’ve employed. With sous vide, the entire chop is medium-rare, side to side, top to bottom.

Sous vide means “under vaccum”. I have a vaccum sealer but chose not to use it in favor of Ziploc freezer bags and expelling the air by hand. The food is cooked at a very precise low temperature and takes many times longer than any cooking method I’ve yet tried. If you want a steak cooked rare, let it go for 2 hours at 131 degrees F. Want some amazng short ribs? 141 F for 2-3 days. Sounds wrong but it is safe and tastes so right.

Yesterday morning I got up and surfed around to see what I would make for dinner. I stumbled on an intro to sous vide cooking. Upon seeing the equipment I realized that I already had all the necessary equipment and was ready to go. I really lucked out as I had a laboratory immersion circulating heater from my days in bio-lab work. I also had a digital thermocouple thermometer and stainless probe. And finally, I had a 6-pack beer cooler. I added a lab ring stand base to clamp and hang the heater at the perfect position in the cooler. A test run showed that I could keep the temperature within 0.1F of my desired temperature! It was the perfect storm, from zero to a sous vide system in less than 30 minutes.

I was fortunate to have brought the circulating heater home from the lab many years ago. It turns out it is the method preferred by fancypants chefs and is the most accurate way of maintaining the correct temperatures. They’ll put you out $800 – $1,500 for a new one, $200 – $600 for a used one (eBay, LabX). Mine was being tossed by a research group that was moving to another university. Thank you wasteful scientists!

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For a basic primer on sous vide cooking see this.

Want to hack your own system using just a cooler and a combo of hot and boiling water? See this. It’s a great way to experience sous vide and decide if you want to take the plunge into the deep end of the gourmet pool and never come up.

If you’re a handy bugger you can make your own circulating heated bath for about $75 by following these instructions.

Enough with the tech, let’s move on to the food.

I started with boiling two eggs. I had read that the best boiled eggs in the world are only 60 minutes away and this was absolutely correct. I put the eggs in a Ziploc bag with about a cup of water and squeezed the air out.

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I then dropped the bag into the water bath at 148 degF and let them go for around 70 minutes.

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The eggs came out spectacular. I gently thumped them and poured them into a dish. Just like a poached egg but better. They weren’t raw, as a matter of fact they are fully pasteurized by this cooking method. The yolks were unbelievable; a silky, custard texture with the mouthfeel of, well, I’ve never had something so sexy in my mouth and been allowed to swallow it before. Yeah, that good. I don’t know any other way to cook an egg like this. It was perfect.

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The picture ain’t great but the egg sure as hell was.

After such a stellar success I decided it was time to grab my meat and get busy. I had a pork loin chop that was making dining room eyes at me all week. I decided to brine it in a salt & sugar brine for an hour. I put 2 Tbsp of salt and 1 Tbsp sugar in 2 cups of water and called it good. I suppose you could brine it overnight but my results were so good that I doubt I’ll try it.

I took the chop from the brine and patted it dry with some doubled paper towels. I then sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, that’s all. Into the Ziploc freezer bag it went. I dropped it in the bath at 141 degrees and let it go for 2 hours.

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After 2 hours it looked like this:

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Not very appetizing, is it? That’s why a quick pan searing or grilling is necessary. I heated my cast iron skillet to 5,000 degrees (actually, whatever the temp is on a medium electric burner) until I could smell the metal, slopped a spoonful of peanut oil into it, and slapped the chop down for 1 minute per side. This gives the outside that smoky and browned crust that we all adore.

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When I cut it open I was greeted by a happy light pink color, the color that I’ve always wanted a chop to be, and it had that color through and through (except for a few millimeters on the sides I seared).
The chop was bursting with juices, the moistest chop ever! The texture was quite unlike anything I’ve ever had. It’s like eating a pork chop with the texture of a filet mignon or prime rib. I cannot adequately describe it.

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Go ahead, make your own beer cooler / hot water sous vide cooker and try this out. You will not regret it.

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Crab Stuffed Pork Loin Chops With Red Wine & Shallot Reduction Sauce


This is a long one but features a happy ending. No, really!

I was sitting around one night and wondering what kind of fancy-schmancy recipe I could crank out using a quick scavenger hunt through my depleted kitchen. I had some boneless pork chops, big ol’ thick and meaty ones, and wondered what to do with them. I’d always wanted to stuff a pork chop but never seemed to get around to it.
I’m also a lover of the lowbrow and much maligned canned crab so I decided to go with it.
Hmm, what else could I stuff in there? I had a quarter pound of monster crimini mushrooms, some onions, a lonely egg, and a nearly empty bag of panko bread crumbs languishing atop the fridge.
I also had a half bottle of Cabernet (from my burner friend Felony Arson) hiding in the back of the fridge which I thought would make a yummy red wine reduction to slop on top of the chop.

If you are going to make the reduction sauce, be sure to prep the ingredients when prepping the chop ingredients or at least before you put the meat in the oven.

Butterflying (I’ll be damned if that word don’t look totally wrong and it just plain stumped the spellchecker) a pork chop is a shiny way of saying “I almost cut it in half but got distracted at the last moment”.
Drop your chop on the cutting board, plump it up by slapping the sides inwards but not so much as to overdo it. Yeah, crystal clear, huh? Then, using a really sharp knife, start sawing at it in a horizontal direction bisecting it at the equatorial center. Heh. Keep going until you get to the last 1/4 inch and quit. I like a chop that has a strip of fat on one edge. Use this as the back or spine of your lepidopterous meaty treat. Now open up the chop like a book. Kinda looks like a butterfly but porkier, huh? Feel free to add color spots with food dye or whatever. I don’t but probably should.
Flip it over so the spine faces upward and pat it down pretty flat. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap that’s about twice as big as the meat. Get out a meat mallet (or a rubber body & fender mallet or even a chunk of 2×4 lumber) and beat the shit out the chop until each meat flap is about half its starting thickness. Beat it from the center of each flap and work outwards.

Crab Stuffed Pork Chops

2 pork loin pork chops, 1 inch thick and butterflied
1 6 oz can crab meat – well drained
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup bread crumbs (panko RAWKS!)
1 TBSP fish sauce or soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 half of a medium onion – finely minced
5 minced mushrooms

Butterfly the chops, cover with plastic wrap and pound out to half the original thickness.

Combine crab, bread crumbs, egg, fish or soy sauce, sesame oil and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.

Saute onion and mushrooms with just enough butter to lightly coat. Add a small amount to begin and add more sparingly. Saute until the mushrooms are somewhat soft.

Add the mushroom mixture to the crab mixture and stir it up. You might need to drain a bit of juice from it. I dumped mine into a fine colander lined with two paper towels and pressed it over the sink.

Open the chops and mound up some stuffing on one side.

Fold them up all tacolike and put on a greased greased baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. When ready, cook for 45 – 50 minutes.

Here’s the sauce for the top. It’s optional and sort of, but not totally, a pain in the ass to make but is soooo worth it.

Red wine & Shallot Reduction Sauce

1/4 LB Shallots sliced shallots (4 – 5 average size shallots) 3 TBSP Olive or peanut oil
1 Garlic clove, minced
1/2 – 1 tsp Rosemary
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Black pepper
5 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 Cups Red wine
2 Cups Beef stock or chicken stock – bullion granules work great 1 TBSP Salted butter

Wine. NEVER use cooking wine. Cooking wine is made of evil. It is not your friend. Do not turn your back on it. Ever.
The secret to cooking with wine is to only use what you would drink. If you wouldn’t put it in your winehole, why would you put it in your foodhole?

Saute the shallots in a medium saucepan in the oil on high for about 3 minutes until very lightly browned, keep it moving so you don’t burn them. If you don’t keep them constantly moving then they’ll end up deep-fried. You want them to remain quite wiggly and squiggly. Add the black pepper, garlic, and rosemary. Keep cooking another 2 – 3 minutes and stir continuously.

Add the vinegar and keep stirring until you’re left with a syrup.
CAUTION! Do not hold your face over the saucepan or sniff it while reducing the vinegar. You have a mighty potent homemade crowd control agent stewing in there!

Add the wine and reduce by two thirds. This might take 10 minutes or maybe a bit more.

Add the stock and return to a boil. Reduce this by two-thirds to arrive at around 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups. It will be a thick, chunky sauce and not too runny.
The shallots will make up the bulk of the sauce and have little free liquid left. Add a pinch of salt if needed but the stock should be adequate. Stir in the butter and you’re done!

You can serve this immediately or set aside and reheat when ready to serve. It is also fantastic when cooled to room temperature.

As the picture shows, I sliced up a large crimini mushroom and sauteed it in butter. I laid a few of these slices over the top before spooning sauce over the chop. Don’t be lazy, just do it. I guarantee this will get you laid… See? There’s your happy ending.

Pot Sticker Meatloaf


A while back I had a hankering for some down home meatloaf. Meatloaf: The dish people say they hate but love to eat. Stop the hate! Eat the loaf! I didn’t have any ground moo but had a pound of ground oink in the freezer. The pork got me to thinking about making pot stickers. While good they’re also a pain in the ass to make. Takes forever and they disappear too quickly. I love the taste and texture of the filling in those li’l funbags and figured I’d make an eastern style loaf of goodness to put in my tummy. I searched out a recipe for the filling and found that they all called for napa cabbage, which I didn’t have, poo! Not a problem, I left it out. Over the course of a few loaves I tweaked the ingredients until I figured out the perfect combination.

Pot Sticker Meatloaf

For the loaf:
1 pound Ground Pork
2 Eggs
1 cup Breadcrumbs (I used Japanese panko breadcrumbs)
4 to 6 Green Onions sliced thin
8 cloves Garlic, minced OR 4 tbsp minced garlic from a jar
2 tsp Ginger, minced
1/2 can Water chestnuts, chopped finely
1 tsp Toasted Sesame Oil
4 tsp Rice Vinegar
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
½ tsp Salt
1 tbsp Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

For the sauce:
2 cups Chicken broth
3 tbsp Soy sauce
2 tbsp Sugar
1 tsp Ginger, minced
4 tsp Lime juice
2 tbsp Corn starch mixed in 2 tbsp of water
A dash or two of Tabasco sauce (optional)

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Thinly slice the green onions and mince the ginger and garlic.

In a big bowl mix up the eggs, soy sauce, sesame seeds and oil, vinegar, garlic, ginger, water chestnuts, and salt.

Add the ground pork to the bowl and break it up a bit.

Dump the breadcrumbs atop the whole mess and knead it all together until mixed pretty thoroughly. You don’t want to end up with a homogenous pink slime. Just mash it pretty good. Otherwise you’ll end up with a really dense loaf and give ammo to the meatloaf haters.

Throw it in a bread loaf pan. Mine is non-stick so I don’t bother greasing it. With the amount of grease that cooks out from the pork, sticking shouldn’t be a problem in anything. If you dont have a bread pan just use whatever you have on hand or shape it into a loaf and cook it on a foil covered baking sheet.

It’s shovin’ in the oven time! Immolate for 45 to 50 minutes or until it’s nice and brown on top.

While it’s baking grab a glass of wine and make the sauce.

Put the broth, ginger, sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce in a saucepan.

Heat it up until it bubbles a bit and the sugar dissolves. Turn the heat down and stir in the cornstarch water. Continue heating and stirring for a minute or so. You’ll end up with a slightly thickened awesomesauce.

Put some rice on to cook. I have a little rice cooker that I scored for 10 bucks at a discount store. I haven’t cooked rice on the stove for 15 years… This loaf goes really well with jasmine rice but use what you have. Plain white enriched rice is tasty too!

When the loaf is baked to perfection yank it from the oven and set it aside to firm up for 10 to 15 minutes. Cut into slabs as thick as you like ’em, set atop some rice, and drench it all with the awesomesauce.

Cooking with Foxfur: Junk Fried Rice


Fried rice, the garbage disposal dish. Got leftovers? Make fried rice. You can put anything in it and it will be a damn fine dish. Got a half chicken gathering flies? How about that pork chop you’re thinking of trashing? Your hubby and the rugrats didn’t finish their ham at breakfast? So much the better if they didn’t finish their scrambled eggs. Did the folks sitting next to you at the restaurant not finish their plates? Go scrape their plates! Their loss is your gain. Been there, done that more than once when I was a bachelor… I really like to make mine from scratch but when I have bits of vittles like left over stir-fry, that half can of Spam hiding in the corner of the fridge, or diced up whatever that I forgot to use for another recipe, I’ll dump it in the wok and recycle it into a new dish.

The biggest hurdle you might face is the rice. You pretty much have to use cold, not necessarily refrigerated, rice. 4 to 6 cups of cooked rice will do just fine. I toss 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water in the rice cooker and let ‘er go. When done I’ll unplug it and let it sit for an hour or three. If you’re in a hurry, dump it on a cookie sheet and spread it out to cool. Don’t worry about the type either. Long grain is what I like but I’ve used short grain, medium grain, sushi, jasmine, and brown rice. Hell, try wild rice, black rice, or Rice Crispies. Hmm, fried Rice Crispies… Some R&D is called for…

Remember: Cooking with Foxfur is primarily aimed at people who think they can’t cook. The other demographic is folks who worry too much about measurements. I’ll put an ingredient list below, BUT, please don’t follow it! Make additions, substitutions, deletions, and excuses as needed. You’re making dinner not rocket fuel. Just like tossing hand grenades, close is good enough.

So here’s what I started with:

A bewildering array epicurean detritus...

Foxfur’s Junk Fried Rice

  • A pound or so of meat
  • 4 – 6 Cups of cold rice
  • A can of corn, drained
  • A can of peas, drained
  • 2 eggs, scrambled
  • 1 Green onion thinly sliced
  • Other tasty scraps

If you’re using fresh uncooked meat, why not marinate it? I used dark soy sauce, mirin, and sesame oil. You don’t have to drown the meat. Use a tablespoon of soy sauce, whatever type you like, a tablespoon of mirin (sweetened rice wine) although sake, wine, beer, or fruit juice will do just as well, and a splash of sesame oil. Use whatever oil you have. Cut the meat up into fine pieces. I go with 1/4 inch cubes, but do what you want. This is where you get to stick it to the restaurant and get even for all the unsatisfying fried rice you’ve ever had. Were their meaty bits too teensy? Use gobbing hunks in yours. Too little meat? Add three pounds to yours. Whatever you want is what you should have. Throw the meat in a bowl with the marinade. Do this before doing anything else. I like my meat to soak for half an hour before I start playing with it.

Git yer veggies. Put a good teaspoon or two of oil in the pan and heat it up pretty hot. Throw the veggies in and stir ’em around real good like. You want them all to get a bit of oil on them. Cook ’em until they’re a bit past what most folks would consider done. Not burned but not too moist. That’s how I like mine, anyway. Peas are a good indicator vegetable. They should be a bit shriveled but not all pruney. Don’t worry if you get some burned or black spots on them, it’s all part of the goodness. The picture below shows how mine look when they’re where I like ’em.

Stop when they look like this.

When you cook a little longer you’ll concentrate the flavors. The corn will be a bit denser, the peas a bit firmer, and the flavor a bit better. Toss the veggies aside. I usually use the bowl I’m going to serve with or the container I’ll put the leftover product in the refrigerator with.

Now grab yer meat. Heat up the pan with another teaspoon or two of oil. Throw in a bunch of ginger, either minced or cut into matchsticks. Drop a few cloves of garlic in as well. I like using the chopped stuff in a jar. I’d rather be outside in the yard setting stuff on fire than inside peeling and chopping garlic. Stir ’em around for 20 – 30 seconds and dump the meat in. If it clucked or snorted, cook the piss out of it. There ain’t no such thing as a medium rare chicken breast or a bloody rare pork steak that’s going to be good for you. Even if it’s beef, I’ll cook it til it’s well glazed and just a bit dry. Again, the flavor is concentrated and I love the firm texture.

Cook the pork (or other raw meat) with the marinade if using one.

Cook the meat until glazed with marinade.

Stuff your meat into the same container that your veggies went into.

The scrambled eggs are optional. I feel they’re mandatory. While I say to use two, I use three. There’s never enough eggs in the fried rice in any restaurant! It’s enough to make you want to bring a pocket full of eggs and sneak a handful in your bowl. When you beat your eggs, be sure to add salt, pepper, onion powder, milk, sugar, and whatever else you’d put in them for normal scrambled eggs. Drizzle a bit of oil in the pan, heat it up real good, and scramble the hell out of the eggs. It doesn’t matter if they’re not completely done as they’ll finish up when you mix them into the rice a bit later.

Now comes the part that stumps lots of people. An oft heard question is “How do I know when the rice is fried enough?” When you like it is my standard answer. It depends if you like your fried rice clumpy or grainy. I like mine with separated grains. I use 4 to 5 tablespoons of peanut oil for 4 to 6 cups of rice. Heat up the oil and add the rice. Stir and toss it around to get the oil worked through it. Break up clumps with your spatula or spoon. If it is clumping pretty bad or keeps reclumping, add more oil! Add a teaspoon or so, stir, bust up the rice clods and add more as needed. Keep stirring and flipping the rice for 5 to 10 minutes. I like mine pretty well done so I go for about 8 minutes. You don’t want the rice to be crispy or hard. Keep it between the lines…

Add 583,000 grains of rice.

Grab your bottle of soy sauce and shake some over it after 5 minutes or so. You might like a lighter soy flavor, I like a heartier, saltier flavor. Add a bit and taste it. Remember to keep tasting your food as you cook. Nothing makes me crazier than to see people cooking and not tasting! It’s like painting with your eyes closed. It’s the number one way to ruin your food as well as your reputation as a cook.

The perfect shade of brown.

You’ll notice above that not every grain of rice is brown. This isn’t a commercial or test kitchen. This isn’t a cookbook. This is Real Life! If I was going for a polished look the first thing I’d do is upgrade my shitty little point and shoot digital camera to something that actually renders colors appropriately. I’d rather spend my money on wine, ammunition, and fireworks.

If you really must have absolute uniformity, spread the rice out on a cookie sheet, fill up a Windex bottle with soy sauce, and mist the rice until all is right with the world. Be aware that it’s anally retentive people like you that make the rest of us look bad.

It’s time to bring it all together now. Grab your meatbucket and rain the meaty goodness down upon the rice. The veggies too! Be sure to add the scrambled eggs and green onions. Mix it all up good and thoroughly.

Add leftover fried rice to the next batch of fried rice.

There you have it, junk fried rice. For an even heartier flavor, add 1/4 teaspoon of MSG. Don’t listen to the pussies that would have you believe the stuff will kill you or it’s manufactured in Satan’s pants. The stuff is seriously good and no matter what the elitist foodies say, it’s a great way to boost the flavor of foods. It is no more cheating than adding salt or water to food. As a matter of fact, it’s much healthier than salt as the sodium content of MSG is far lower than table salt. Soy sauce, bullion, gravy, bacon, roasted meats, blue and parmesan cheese all have naturally occurring amounts of glutamate. It’s the reason savory foods taste the way they do. For you smart ones, you know the fifth taste: Umami, “pleasant savory taste”.

Whether you use it or not, fried rice made by your own hands will meet, and more likely than not, beat that which you find in a restaurant. Maybe not the first time but hey, you sucked pretty bad the first time you rode a bike, no?