Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sous Vide Chuck Roast

I've cooked short ribs of beef sous vide and am pleased that the result tastes like very good roast beef. But having done it, it seems a little pointless to take days of cooking to make one expensive cut of meat taste like another expensive cut. So I decided to take an inexpensive cut of meat to see how sous vide cooking might transform it.

I read several blogs of others' experience cooking various beef cuts sous vide. Beef round roasts and steaks appear to be too lean to cook well sous vide, but chuck has enough fat and connective tissue to benefit from the cooking method. So I bought a supermarket boneless chuck roast and looked for a recipe.

I found a recipe entitled "24-Hour Melt-in-Your-Mouth Beef with Mushroom  Sauce" by Hillary Nelson and tried it. Her recipe provides good background information, photos, and detailed instructions.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, trimming the fat and silver skin from my 2 1/2 pound chuck roast. Removing the silver skin involved cutting into the roast and I ended up with 3 thick pieces, which I sliced in half, resulting in 6 pieces each about 1 1/4 inches thick. I put 2 pieces into the bottom of each of three 1-quart Ziploc freezer bags and added 3/4 cup of marinade into each bag, saving the unused marinade for the sauce. I sucked most of the air out of the bags using a straw, but wasn't concerned about the little bit of air remaining, since the beef was totally covered with the marinade. Cooked the chuck in my Sous Vide Supreme at 135℉ for 24 hours.

Continued with the recipe, making the mushroom sauce (the recipe says to "add onions to the pan" but didn't say how much onion, so I sliced and cooked one medium yellow onion). It took about 20 minutes to reduce the liquids down in a large frypan to a sauce-like consistency and didn't need any further seasoning.

Dried the beef pieces with paper towels and seared them in a hot pan with oil, as instructed, for 30 seconds on each side.

Although the pieces weren't very pretty, given their odd shapes from cutting the silver skin, they were reasonably sized servings.

The meat came out an appealing medium-rare and the taste was terrific! Texture somewhat like a beautifully tender strip steak and the marinade gave it a delicious sweet taste. I was so happy with the results that I decided to write up this experiment to share it immediately. The sous vide preparation turned my $3/pound chuck into a $12/pound steak; quite a deal!

Thank you, Hillary Nelson, for your recipe! My next trial will be with grass-fed beef from my Amish beef purveyor, now that the farmers market season will soon be starting.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

CERPP Conference Remarks: 2012

21st Century Knowledge and Skills:
The New High School Curriculum and the Future of Assessment
Perspectives: Media, Politics, and the
Responsibility of Higher Education

Roderick G. W. Chu
Chancellor Emeritus, Ohio Board of Regents

January 13, 2012

I delivered the following presentation and remarks in Los Angeles at the USC CERPP 2012 Conference.

1. The Case for Change from Within

As Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents (the state coordinating board for Ohio’s public and private colleges and universities), I lived at the interface among the worlds of K-12, higher education, and politics, so I’m delighted to reiterate some of what I learned from our conference speakers and participants, to offer a few observations of my own, and to hear those my fellow panelist, Scott Jaschik, representing the Fourth Estate of the press and media.
Before getting into the topic, however, I need to ask: Why change? Harry Brighouse kicked off this conference with his though-provoking challenge regarding the purpose of education. Yet mine is a serious question, because in many ways, the school curriculum fundamentally hasn’t changed for about 100 years.
Indeed, our agrarian school calendar hasn’t changed for over 200 years, despite the fact that less than 2% of our population – and virtually no kids – work on farms and many students lose 70% of what they’ve learned in the school year during their summer breaks.
Despite the local control authority of over 10,000 school districts, our industrial one-size-fits-all model of education has persisted, in the face of students who learn different subjects better at different times and in different ways – the age-graded instead of ability-graded system that Morgan Polikoff mentioned yesterday – and of cognitive research that has found that our model successfully educates mainly the 25% of students who are abstract learners but not the 75% who are contextual learners.
Why do we continue to educate kids for our past, instead of for their future?
NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote so persuasively on the impact of globalization and the Internet in The World is Flat – now almost 7 years ago. He brought popular attention to the fundamental sea changes that have occurred in the past decade.
At this conference 2 years ago, I noted forces driving change because of state policies. Since then, the impact of the Great Recession has settled in.
Per capita state funding in constant dollars for public colleges and universities has shrunk to its lowest point in 25 years and hefty increases in tuition has barely kept resources level, in the face of the highest enrollments in history. [SHEEO SHEF 2010]
Yet things continue not to change much, driving higher education further down the death spiral I described then of inadequate higher education funding resulting in graduates without the requisite capabilities to produce growth, leading to economic and social decline, producing further shortages in funding for education.
As one who has been tweeting the pearls of wisdom I’ve picked up during this conference, I am hopeful that a tipping point of public understanding on the critical need for dramatically improved educational outcomes may come about through the social media.
For example: this excerpt from the viral YouTube video, Shift Happens.
It has become clear to most Americans that the objective of making students college-ready is critically important economically – since an educated populace is the key to winning in a world of global competition, and a knowledge and creative economy – and continues to be the main defender of a free and democratic society. But it’s also becoming clear that we need to re-ignite the American Dream that Jaime Aquino spoke of so passionately last night – of enabling future generations to do better than the current one, socio-economically.
On the political scene, I see a continuing building of the Perfect Storm. Because of a muddling economy in most states and communities, there will be a continued inability and political unwillingness to invest what’s needed to dramatically improve educational attainment with 100-old strategies, techniques, and attitudes. Further, increased public demand will pressure politicians to transfer the heat they’re feeling, resulting in their demanding better performance and greater accountability for results, while at the same time, they continue not to invest more in the education of our children and adults.
The educational establishment will continue to do what it’s proven itself best at doing: resisting change. Millions of the K-12 teachers and college and university professors who will be retiring in the next several years will deny there’s a need to change, hoping to ride out this perfect storm until they retire.
Tristian Stobie’s graph yesterday Accelerating Change Demands Different Skills reminded me of Al Gore’s graphs in An Inconvenient Truth. Yet educators seem to be very much like those who deny global warming and their need to do something to contribute to a solution. Where is our Union of Concerned Educators, crying for action by our own colleagues to rescue our future?
So what hope is there for change? Will the Academy recognize higher education’s responsibility for school reform?

(continued ➛)

2. Higher Education's Responsibility for School Reform

Despite my gloomy introduction, I’ve always been tremendously optimistic about the ability of our higher education institutions to change the future.

After all, we in higher education have the privilege of working with the single biggest concentration of intelligence our country has!

If we adopt 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey’s habit of focusing on our circle of influence (what we can do), rather than our circle of concern (what we need to rely on others to do), we can reignite the American Dream for vast numbers of Americans!

Of course, changes to the Ivory Tower will be required. Higher education needs to take some responsibility to instigate and facilitate change. The Academy needs to become the change it wants to see in others.

For the first time in 900 years, the Academy no longer has oligopolistic control over the transmission of knowledge, as demonstrated by the Khan Academy and Sal Khan’s thousands of video instruction clips on YouTube, and MIT’s Open Courseware initiative.

For the Academy to remain relevant, it must become more than transmitters of knowledge. It must generate graduates who are critical thinkers and synthesizers, who can and do – as Trevor Packer stated – employ their thinking skills to translate knowledge into action.

But even if the Academy is willing to accept its responsibility as a collaborative partner in K12 curriculum reform, the challenge will be enormous.

We need to bridge the K-12/higher education divide.

  • The K-12 world has mainly been about authority and control, not results.
  • Our education colleges are now seen as our institutions’ cash cows rather than creators of colleague educators.
  • Higher education faculty disdain what’s being taught in their disciplines in K-12 schools, yet do little to change this sad state of affairs.

An example: Prof. James Loewen’s revealing picture of the sad inadequacy of K12 history texts and instruction in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me. Yet, as Trevor Packer noted, until faculty are recognized for helping their K12 colleagues, most won’t invest their time doing so.

In general, most colleges and universities don’t work effectively with elementary and secondary schools, despite their inability to successfully remediate the academic preparation of entering students in most disciplines, let alone the needed non-cognitive skills we don’t try to remediate.

Perhaps one reason for this failure of engagement is that we have competing objectives:

  • Some seek authority and control;
  • Others focus on job protection and salary increases;
  • Most faculty are concerned with professional regard,
  • research and publication, and
  • creating the next generation of professors.

Will the enlightened self-interest that David Conley mentioned – or public or political suasion – convince K12 and higher education that we must work together and agree on the primacy of one objective: Educational Equity, Excellence, and Success for All?

As Jaime Acquino challenged last night, America’s colleges and universities educate our nation's educators and we are somewhat culpable for their shortcomings. We also educate many of our local, state, and federal policy makers, and, I shudder to think, we are somewhat responsible for their shortcomings as well.

Higher education has claimed to be about developing critical thinking and synthesis abilities in our students. As we’ve heard throughout this conference, we need to be about more – about nurturing dispositions and the ability to act effectively on the knowledge we have imparted.

As Allison Jones and Christyan Mitchell noted, we need to define what students need to be life-ready and help them acquire these skills. We also need to help politicians, as Doug Christiansen mentioned, by declaring the achievement level required – cut scores on assessments – to do college-level work.

If “it takes a village,” we need to get out of our ivory towers and work with others in our villages to define and develop the needed knowledge and skills, attitudes and beliefs, motivation and behavior for many, many more to succeed.

We need to get beyond eduspeak and express cognitive and non-cognitive standards in terms students and their families can understand. If we want them to take responsibility for their own education, standards need to pass the “refrigerator test”: be in language and succinct enough to put up on the refrigerator door, so students and their families can work on and monitor their attainment progress.

As a former businessman, I was heartened by Carolyn Adams’ observation: Educators need to work with the employers of our villages. For when we do, we’ll find their standards for career-ready employees are the same, academically, as those for college entry. Actually, as Patrick Killonen just reported, recognized workforce needs are greater than those for college entry, since workers must have non-cognitive skills and dispositions not required to enter college:

  • Interpersonal skills such as teamwork – which, as I noted yesterday, schools call “cheating” – and
  • Intrapersonal characteristics, like integrity – in an era in which 70% of high school graduates admit to have cheated in school.

Getting American education out of our death spiral will take far greater wake-up calls than a former chancellor can muster. Perhaps the cries of public opinion and a greater exposure to the new realities from respected members of the media can help.

With that hope, I’ll turn the session over to Scott. Thank you.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Happy New Year!

Few Chinese Horoscope books contain overall prognostications for the year. In my large collection of these books, one of the few that does is the first edition of Theodora Lau's The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes, published in 1979. Unfortunately, in the later editions of this book, her overall predictions for each year have been removed.

To provide my friends with this interesting information, here is Ms. Lau's overall forecast for the Year of the Dragon, plus her predictions for how individuals will fare this year, given the animal that represents their birth year. (To determine what animal you are, see my table of animals for birth dates.)

 The Year of the Dragon 
1/23/2012 - 2/9/2013

A magnificent comeback after the recuperative year of the Rabbit. We will throw caution to the four winds and roll up our sleeves for all sorts of grandiose, exhilarating, colossal, overambitious and daring projects. The indomitable spirit of the Dragon will inflate everything to larger than life size. Somehow we will find ourselves bubbling with excess energy. It will be wise not to overestimate ourselves or our potentials in this combustible year. Things appear better than they actually are.
On the brighter side, business will be good and money can be generated or obtained easily. It is the time to ask your bank for a loan. Big spending and lavish plans are the rule of the day. The mighty Dragon sneers at the prudent and penny‑pinching. He gambles for all or nothing. He will stimulate us to think and act big, even overstepping the bounds of caution.
Orientals consider this to be an auspicious year to get married, have children or start a new business, as the benevolent Dragon brings good fortune and happiness.
However, this is also a time to temper our enthusiasm and look twice before taking a plunge. For although the lucky Dragon showers his blessings indiscriminately on all, he disappears when the time comes for making retributions for our errors. Successes as well as failures will thus be magnified. The Fire Dragon (January 31, 1976 to February 17, 1977) is especially feared, as he wreaks more havoc than the Dragons of the other elements.
In the Dragon's year, fortunes as well as disaster will come in massive waves. This is a year marked by a lot of surprises and violent acts of nature. Tempers will flare the world over and everyone will be staging some real or imaginary revolt against constrictions. The electric atmosphere created by the mighty Dragon will affect us, one and all.

How you will fare in the Year of the Dragon

Rat              A very good year. Excellent business and romantic prospects. The Rat will have a smooth time with financial gains or promotions. But while the Rat could be recognized for his achievements this year, he must also be on guard against newfound friends who tend to use him.

Ox               A moderate year as many changes and unexpected troubles keep the Ox busy. Plans will be realized but not as quickly as he wishes. He will have to work hard although he will come in contact with helpful and influential people.

Tiger           Not much in store for the Tiger this year. He will find it hard to raise money or he may be influenced by others to make unwise investments. Some unhappiness foreseen, such as separation from a loved one or a break in partnership. He finds it difficult to adjust to changes even when they are for his own good.

Rabbit        The Rabbit can expect a moderately happy but busy time at home and in his career this year. Things may be mixed or mediocre money-wise, but the Rabbit will still find it easy to be congenial and contented as his overall gains will exceed his losses. He may make powerful new friends who will prove useful.

Dragon        A very good year for the Dragon native. Numerous benefits in store and he could gain recognition or make fantastic progress in his work. Success comes easily to all his undertakings as this busy and exciting year keeps the Dragon very occupied and alert.

Snake          A difficult year in store for the Snake. No sizeable gains can be expected in business or career. He must beware of malicious gossip and jealous associates. The worst of his troubles will be over by summer and the cold weather should bring some welcome news. A year to avoid extravagances and hold on to his money.

Horse         A mixed year. Many unsteady and unsettled affairs try the Horse’s patience and worries weigh upon his mind, causing health problems. He must not expect the worst. The storm will blow itself out and there may not be as much damage as predicted. A time to look to the bright side of life, cultivate friends and placate enemies.

Sheep          Hectic but sober year. The Sheep’s gains will be marginal and although there may be numerous disputes he is fortunate not to face any major calamity. The Sheep will find it hard to accumulate money at this time, but he should ride out the storm admirably if he does not gamble or make drastic changes in his life.

Monkey      Gains this year for the Monkey will be in the form of knowledge or technical know-how. The benefits he receives will not be tangible or immediately realized. Troubles and unsettled differences cloud his mind and he may have to spend his own money or savings to push his plans through. A year to watch and learn. He must not speculate.

Rooster      A very good and prosperous year. Success shines on the Rooster this year as he is able to occupy leading positions or is given the power to shape his own destiny. Home-wise and health-wise, there may be frustrations that make him tense and tired. Birth or marriages in his family.

Dog             A difficult year in store. The Dog will have to strive very hard to maintain his former status and may have to fight off the competition constantly. People take advantage of his weak position and he is susceptible to infections and contagious diseases. A time to lie low and join forces with others instead of acting independently. He will receive good news in the winter.

Boar            A smooth year. The Boar will win the support of powerful people and be able to please his superiors. He will gain the recognition and respect of his coworkers. Family life is smooth but he could expect some health upsets or loss of personal belongings.

From: The Handbook of Chinese Horoscopes by Theodora Lau, First Edition, 1979