Widespread use of kitchen scales would alleviate many of the world’s problems. This is because most of the issues humanity faces are directly-correlative to doing math. If people had to do less math, they would have more time to focus on important, earth-saving tasks like planting trees (the environment), drinking wine (supporting farmers) and putting condoms on before sex (overpopulation).
Kitchen scales are great because you don’t need to worry about whether you scooped the measuring cup in three times or four, you just add flour until you hit the magic number called for in the recipe. You can also seamlessly switch from the convoluted measuring system the US uses to the sensible metric system found in the rest of the civilized world.
There are other reasons for using kitchen scales besides saving the earth; of course they are less important. Precision is one of them. A teaspoon to you might mean just under the line, whereas to me it is just over. With a scale, two grams is two grams, period. The style of cooking I do requires exact measures of small amounts of powders. 1.4 grams of sodium alginate versus 1.6 can be the difference between a perfect sphere of blueberry puree or a purple-colored bouncy ball not fit for consumption.
As I mentioned before, scales tend to operate in both metric and imperial. This roughly translates to you being able to cook more shit. It also translates to me writing jankier recipes because I tend to toggle between the two but I have adopted the habit of self-caning every time I accidentally do this. I figure if I wind up with enough cane-lashes across the shins, I will cease slutting myself out to two systems and marry the more pragmatic metric once and for all.
I hope you were able to wend your way through this extensive preamble because we’re now to the good part. Normally I am reticent to host giveaways, but I REALLY like scales. The folks at EatSmart have offered to send one of you one of their scales in the color of your choice IF YOU’RE AMERICAN. Normally I wouldn’t host a contest open only to Americans because we are a global society, after all, but in this case I’m ok with it. Americans are the dummies who can’t get with the program and use the right measuring system, so I will do anything I can do to help us as a collective populous see the light outside the cave and weigh things correctly.
In order to win this scale (which gets phenomenal reviews on Amazon, by the way), you have to leave me a comment on this post. You will get bonus points if you also tweet your comment to @SaltySeattle and @EatSmartScales and link to this post on twitter (naturally, you must follow us too). Not being a fan of No Child Left Behind, I believe all contests should be merit-based. We can’t all be winners or else no one would be left to pump the gas in Oregon. Therefore, no random number generator is going to choose the winner- I am (with the help of some likely-tipsy friends). All you have to say in your comment is what you will measure first with this scale when you get it into your bony clutches. If you want to go ahead and buy a scale that would be great too, as EatSmart is donating 100% of Amazon store proceeds this month and next to charity. See? Kitchen scales DO save the earth.
Now what does all this have to do with Sous Vide Sablefish and Shiso Gelee? Tragically, a lot. You see, I made this orange-brown sugar brined, tamari-laced sablefish, and it was stunning. Sadly, I failed to measure the ingredients and so not only can I not share with you, I also will likely be unable to replicate it. However, I did learn a few things along the way that I CAN share.
Sablefish, or black cod as it is also known, is a regal, buttery fish that is not really a cod at all. It is a sustainable choice, which is not to say you won’t feel guilty eating it since it tastes like pure gold. A remarkable thing about black cod is that the actual flesh- not the skin- of the fish tends to have slicks of black pigment in places, giving it a tattooed appearance. I brined the sablefish, which is not altogether necessary since it is a fatty fish not likely to dry out when cooked (especially sous vide). I did it anyway, because the brine also acts as a marinade, and the saline present in the brine maximizes the mass of the fish which equals unprecedented succulence.
If you come into possession of shiso leaves and you don’t know what to do with them, make gelee. I blanched them for 20 seconds in boiling water along with cilantro, and then I pureed the greens along with a Thai chili, lime juice and lime zest in simple syrup. Some gelatin and a hemispheric mold coerced them to sexily-solidify.
Gelled sauces on fish are worthy of a Mensa-induction. That’s because they provide flavor and viscosity without drowning the delicate nature of fish flesh. Consider for a moment, sex. When engaging in Kamasutral embrace, it is preferable that the monthly visitor, Aunt Flo, is not in the house. This is because she brings with her so much “rain” as to make things slippery beyond sensation. On the other hand, sex with an arid cactus would be prickly and painful. There is a middle-ground, and when you get it right it feels like a Slip N Slide on a summer day with a big finish into a splash pool. Gelled sauces provide the perfect amount of lubricant for fish with no mess. They add notes of spice without overwhelming the taut, delicate texture of a perfectly-cooked fillet.
In addition to the shiso gelee, I served the sablefish with Kabocha squash puree and macadamia nut brittle powder. The Kabocha puree laced the plate like a brilliant amber swath. With tones of lemongrass and coconut milk, it highlighted the succulence of the black cod.
Macadamia nut brittle is what they serve in business class when they serve peanut brittle in coach. The only time I’ve been in first class they served orangutan nut brittle because they were trying to be fancy. I found this altogether tacky (literally). If I wanted to eat a primate’s balls dipped in sugar, I could do that in the pleasure of my own bedroom, thank you very much. I’ll stick to the macadamia nut brittle- which is as pure and good as an altar boy with undescended testicles- and hope for upgrades to business class every time.
It was a dish for the history books, or at least the recipe book. There’s nothing to do but make it again-this time WITH A SCALE. If you have your own weighty project in the works and the only thing missing is the scale, get your thinking cap on and cleverly comment away. The contest closes Sunday, May 1st and I’ll announce the winner Monday, May 2nd.