Archive for the ‘Charcutepalooza’ Category

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay and the Final Challenge

Here it is. My last Charcutepalooza post. The challenge for this, the final month in our year of challenges? Show off a little. Basically, have a party, invite a bunch of friends and feed them until they are ready to burst.

Of course there were a few more guidelines than “just feed people”. A list of items (using at least four) that our meal needed to include: something smoked, cured or brined, something made with pork belly, a pate or terrine,  rillettes or confit and sausage of some kind.

I pulled out all of my trusty charcuterie books. For days I pored over them, considering my menu. A few items easily made the list (my buffalo chicken rillettes and pork belly confit) but some needed more consideration.

Finally, after days of adding something to my list only to replace it with something else two hours later, I settled on the following menu:

To start:
• Scotch Eggs
• Baguettes topped with Bacon Jam and Tomato Confit
• Buffalo Chicken Rillettes
• Baguettes topped with Goat Cheese and Lonzino

• Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay (based loosely on the version found in Charcuterie, recipe follows)
• Brined Pork Loin with Cured Lemons (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home)
• Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Maple Syrup and Pecans
• Jim Drohman’s Pork Belly Confit with tender and bitter greens, mustard vinaigrette and sous vide eggs (pork belly recipe from Charcuterie)
• Polenta with Parmesan

And of course there was dessert (I served a nut tart I picked up at Will Bake for Food) and many plentiful cocktails (including a take on a lemon drop that included lavender and rosemary)

Ninety percent of my friends (and my husband) work at a the corporate office of a major corporation that does not allow anyone to take the day after Thanksgiving off work. So, that is the day I settled on for my gathering. Guests started arriving as they got off work and I started feeding them right away. And then I kept feeding them for the next four hours.

It was a glorious night of gluttony. Think about it, how often do you get to eat pork that has been prepared six different ways. The pork belly confit, which was cooked with cinnamon, cloves and allspice than deep fried was my favorite dish of the night, though the still-pink and meltingly tender pork loin was a close second. But then again, those brussels sprouts were pretty good too. Oh, and the veggie terrine…

I’m sad that my year of Charcutepalooza challenges has come to a close though I’m grateful for the new skills I’ve gained and the community of meat-enthusiasts that I have found. I plan to continue my learning and experimentation. Making my own bacon, grinding and stuffing my own sausage, whipping up a rillettes, just because. And now that I’ve got my curing chamber up and running, cured muscles and sausages are again within my grasp.

Vegetable Terrine with Goat Cheese Inlay
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
This vegetable terrine was a welcome addition to a very meat-centric meal. Add or subtract other vegetables as you see fit, just be sure to think about color transitions as you layer them in you terrine. Make sure to season each vegetable as you prepare it.
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 4 red pepper
  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • 1 handful green beans
Goat Cheese Inlay
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 6 ounce Goat cheese, softened
  • 2 Tablespoon fresh soft herbs (parsley, basil, etc)
  • salt and pepper
Gelatin Vinaigrette
  • 2 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 3 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices. Shake of as much liquid as you can. Spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven for 2-3 hours or until the tomatoes are dehydrated. Once cool, cut into ¼ inch pieces. (This step can be done 1-2 days in advance)
  2. Heat the grill or preheat the broiler.
  3. Slice the eggplant, zucchini and squash into ⅛ inch slices. Toss the slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and grill or broil, turning once until tender. Set aside to cool. Repeat the process with the mushrooms and green beans. Roast, peel and deseed the red peppers, leaving the pepper pieces as large as possible.
  4. Stir together the diced tomatoes, herbs and goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper then spoon the goat cheese onto a piece of plastic wrap and use it to form the goat cheese into a log shape the same length as the mold you plan to use.
  5. Heat the water in a small saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin over it and allow it to bloom. Heat the bloomed gelatin over low heat until dissolved. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Add the bloomed gelatin to the vinaigrette and set aside in a warm place.
  6. Line a terrine mold with plastic wrap leaving enough overhang on the two long sides to cover the terrine. Lay the eggplant slices over in the mold so that the ends hang over the sides. Brush them with the gelatin vinaigrette. Repeat the process with the zucchini. In the bottom of the terrine add a layer of green beans, followed by mushrooms, and red pepper, brushing each layer with vinaigrette. Spoon the goat cheese in a line down the middle of the terrine. Layer green beans and squash along the sides of the goat cheese. Add a layer of red pepper. Fold the zucchini flaps over, brush with vinaigrette and then finally fold over the eggplant flaps, brush with any remaining vinaigrette. Fold the plastic wrap over and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Remove the terrine from the refrigerator. Open the top flaps of plastic and turn the terrine onto a cutting board. Remove plastic and cut into ¾ inch slices.


Thursday, December 1st, 2011


I never imagined that I would have as much trouble with a Charcutepalooza challenge as I have with this last one. I’ve cured meat successfully already this year and I figured with my fancy new curing chamber (otherwise known as an old fridge with a bunch of gadgets inside) it would be even easier.

Sigh. Not so much.

The charcuterie challenge this month was to cure a whole cut. I was awfully tempted to try my hand at bresaola (because it is hard to find and I love it so) but I knew there was a high chance of failure on this particular challenge. I decided that if I did happen to have a failure, I would rather fail with a cheaper cut of meat such a pork loin then a more expensive beef round. I settled on Lonzino (air dried pork loin) and found a recipe (complete with video) on Matt Wright’s lovely blog.

This is where Twitter came in. My first question was for Matt (@wrightfood onTwitter) “just how funky are the casings you use”. I am extremely smell averse and I knew if the casings were too stinky I was in big trouble. He assured me that with a good soaking and a little vinegar I should be just fine. So, I preceded along my merry way, starting the pork loin in the cure, ordering the casing that Matt suggested and getting my curing chamber up and running (based on Matt’s setup).

A few days later it was time to get the meat into the chamber. When I trimmed up my pork loin to for curing, one end of it was pretty darn thin, so I made the decision to cut it in half so that I could put the thicker end in the casing and leave the thin end naked.

Before I added the meat, my chamber was holding nicely at 55 degrees with 76% humidity. Just about perfect. As soon as I added the meat the humidity jumped to 93%. I turned to Twitter again, asking Matt, Michael Ruhlman (@ruhlman) and the whole of the #Charcutepalooza community, “is this going to be a problem?”

Matt was the first to respond.

We Tweeted back and forth a few more times and basically he told me because of the size of my chamber, I definitely needed to add a fan to the mix (which was confirmed later by Mrs. Wheelbarrow). Of course being told you need to add a fan to the mix does not necessarily mean you have time to add a fan to the mix. As Matt had suggested, I had propped the door opened and that had helped with the humidity, but I had a feeling I was going to be in for trouble.

Four days later, trouble showed up. The end of the loin that I had put into the casing developed a few spots of black mold. I’d been expecting mold of some kind. It’s a frequent issue with cured meats but I’d always heard that mold could simply be washed of with a vinegar solution so I was a bit surprised when, after tweeting this:

I got this reply:

Okay I wasn’t surprised about that one, but I was surprised by this one:

Trash it!? But… vinegar… won’t that work?

Kill me? Um, no thanks.



With a little more Twitter discussion, I determined that the uncased end could possibly be saved. but after a couple more days in the non-fanned curing chamber I realized that my meat was not happy in there. It had developed a few spots of white fuzzy mold (which can be washed off with vinegar) so I made the decision to move the meat to a new spot. While not the ideal conditions, my pantry/liquor cabinet/laundry room would have to do.

Almost immediately my meat just looked better and it finally started losing some weight. My lonzino started at 360 grams so my target weight was 252 grams. After a couple more days of anxious waiting (and white fuzzy mold washing) my lonzino was finally ready to try.

I cut a few slices and gave it a try. Hmm, a little bit salty and a little too junipery, but not bad. I tossed a few slices in with some pasta and called it lunch.

Next I decided to serve it as part of my charcutepalooza finale dinner. I spread a little Chevre (Yarmuth Farms Chevre from Darrington WA to be exact) on a cracker and then topped it with a thin slice of lonzino and a little scallion. Delicious. The goat cheese masked the overly juniper taste and added a nice creaminess to the mix. I could have eaten ten of them (of course I was serving seven other dishes so I refrained).

I’m grateful for all the help (and the dirty jokes about meat, casings and more) I’ve received from Matt and the rest of the Twitter community over the last few weeks. This whole thing wouldn’t be nearly as fun without you.

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Rillettes


I was going to do it. I had every intention. I was going to take a chicken, pull its skin off like a disgusting, slimy sweater and then refashion the whole thing into something that people have said is delicious.

I’ll be honest though, I wasn’t really looking forward to it. For one, the galatine looks like old food (as in not modern) and something I wasn’t really interested in. Secondly it made a lot. I mean the whole idea of this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was to stretch a small amount of food into an amount to feed a group. I just didn’t want to make a bunch of food that would eventually go to waste and I just didn’t have enough free time this month to throw together a dinner party.

Then came the thing that made the whole point mute. I got sick. So sick. Nothing sounded good to eat and I had no energy for cooking.

Finally with two days to spare, I felt up to cooking, but, I still wasn’t up to full Jennifer strength. I needed my challenge to be easily completed in just a few hours. Galatine out. Rillettes in.

I’ve made rillettes before (I made the fantastic recipe from the Pork and Sons cookbook last month as part of my meal) but I’ve always made it with pork. I wanted to try something new so I thought I would use chicken. Then I started thinking about flavorings. I love the tangy flavor of buffalo wings and I thought that would be in interesting direction to take. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, I combined all the ingredients except for the chicken and the vinegar in a saucepan and heated it until the lard had melted. Then I added the chicken and brought the pot to a low simmer. I stirred it a couple of times, but there was enough liquid in the pot that I didn’t have to worry about it too much.

After an hour I added the vinegar and let it cook for another 45 minutes or so until the chicken was falling apart. Then, using a slotted spoon, I moved all the meat to the bowl of my stand mixer.

Using the paddle attachment I ran the mixer for about a minute until the meat had broken apart. I tested for flavor and consistency and added a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid and a splash more of vinegar.


Then I packed the meat into 3 half-pint jars.


While I packed the jars, the cooking liquid separated into layers with the fat on top, so I was able to easily spoon a layer of fat top each of the packed jars.


I stashed the jars in the fridge so the fat could re-solidify and the flavors could marry.

Since buffalo wings are often served with blue cheese dressing, I thought that a hunk of good blue cheese, along with some crusty bread and a few celery sticks would be the perfect accompaniments.

The rillettes made a delightful dinner. The “buffalo wing” flavor was subtle, but delicious. I could have used a little more heat (and maybe a little more tang) but overall, this recipe is a winner.

Buffalo Chicken Rillettes
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: three 8-oz jars
When checking the rillettes for seasoning, keep in mind that the flavors will not be as strong once the mixture has cooled. Season the mixture a little stronger than you think you should.
  • 5 ounces pork fat or lard
  • ½ Cup Frank’s Original Red Hot Sauce
  • ½ Cup Water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 1 Pinch cayenne
  • 1 Clove garlic, minced
  • 1½ Pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces, large veins removed.
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Combine all the ingredients, except for the chicken and white vinegar, in a saucepan and heat gently until the fat has melted. Add the chicken and cook over very low heat, stirring often for 1 hour. Add the vinegar to the pan and continue to cook until the meat shreds easily, about another hour.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the meat breaks into pieces. Adjust consistency by adding a few spoonfuls of the cooking liquid to the bowl (consistency should be spreadable, not runny or dry). Test for seasoning and add more salt, hot sauce or vinegar as needed.
  3. Pack the meat into a suitable jar or ramekin. Allow the cooking liquid to separate and spoon fat over the top of the meat to cover and create a seal.
  4. Serve with crusty bread, celery sticks and good blue cheese.


Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Country-Style Paté cooked Sous Vide


When I saw this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge I was excited. Really excited.

I. love. pate.

There, I said it.

I don’t get to eat it very much. And it’s so rich I really wouldn’t want to, but I was excited to get to make my own. I started my research, first with Ruhlman & Polceyn’s Charcuterie, then The Art of Charcuterie. The “charcuterie challenge” specified making a paté en croute (paté wrapped in pastry) but as I started doing my research I thought that pate might be well suited to sous vide cooking. So, although I’ve been doing the charcuterie challenges so far this year, I decided to go with the “apprentice challenge”, making either Paté Campagne or a Paté Granintée (paté with an inlay, such as a pork tenderloin). As I read through a few of the recipes which featured inlays I noticed that the pate in them was generally smooth, and as I am still a little mad about grinding $36 worth of beautiful short ribs into a paste to make hot dogs, I decided a country-style paté was the way to go.

Something about the recipes I’d found so far just weren’t doing anything for me. I turned to a couple more of my cookbooks for inspiration and finally found some in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook. The recipe I came up with is really a distillation of three recipes from each of the cookbooks I used as sources. Flavoring and wrapping it in caul fat came from Les Halles, the use of a panade came from Charcuterie and the idea of using chunks of meat and fat as “garnish” came from The Art of Charcuterie. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, I ran just the pork shoulder through the grinder using the large die. I took about 2/3 of the ground meat out and set it aside, then combined the rest of it with the liver, fat onions and garlic. I ran this through the grinder using the small die. I stashed this in the fridge …

… while I mixed together the brandy, cream, eggs, parsley, salt, flour and a wee pinch of allspice to make a panade.

In the bowl of my stand mixer I combined the ground meat with the panade. Pretty much all of the recipes that I read said that I should mix this together for a couple of minutes, until it became tacky. Thing is, mine was really loose, not tacky at all. I felt like at this point I had no choice but to venture onward, so I tossed my large chunks of pork fat, smoked bacon and pork shoulder into the mixer for just a few more spins.

I don’t have any fancy terrines, so I pulled out a Pyrex loaf dish and lined it with caul fat. At this point I should have had to carefully pack the meat into the dish but mine, instead, poured right in.

I further wrapped the caul fat around the top of the paté …

… then sealed the whole thing in a vacuum bag.

I had a bit of a hard time settling on a temperature for the sous vide. Whole cuts of pork only needs to be cooked to 145° but I couldn’t find any definitive information on a temperature for the liver. All of the pork paté recipes that I’d seen called for cooking to an internal temperature of 150° so I decided, for safety sake, to set the sous vide at 150° and call it good. I left it in the water bath overnight and then carefully retrieved it first thing when I woke up. As I pulled the pan from the water I had a momentary panic thinking that my bag had sprung a leak and the whole thing was ruined. Luckily, the juice in the bag was just juice that had been exuded by the paté.

I put a weight on the paté and let it cool for a couple of hours on the counter before moving it to the fridge to cool completely. Then the torture started. Days of waiting. Not only for the flavors of the paté to meld and develop a bit, but also for my guests to arrive. You see, the last couple of Charcutepalooza challenges have been a terrific excuse to throw a party.


                                                                                                        Photos by Dawn Jeffries

We dined on the best of the late-summer produce that I could find. Zucchini preserved with garlic and herbs in olive oil then tossed with pasta and fresh basil. A potato and corn salad with pesto aioli. A take on the classic Caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and nectarines. Cucumbers quick pickled in sweetened rice vinegar (just like Grandma used to make). Sangria with plums, melon and nectarines. And Pork Rillettes (which will be a blog post of their own some day soon because, yum).

And of course, the paté. Turns out sous vide is a terrific method for cooking paté. Moist and flavorful and full of delicious porky goodness. I served it with crusty bread, spicy dijon mustard and sour grapes. The grapes were very easy to make, basically filling a mason jar with grapes and a few sprigs of tarragon, topping them with apple cider vinegar (with a little sugar and pickling salt) then letting them set for about a month, and they were a terrific foil to the fattiness of the paté.



Country-Style Paté cooked Sous Vide
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-14
In addition to using small chunks of meat and fat as a “garnish” in your pate, dried fruit or pistachios would be pretty and quite tasty. Experiment to find flavors that you like.
  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ pound pork liver, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • ½ pound pork fat, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 ounces brandy
  • 2 ounces cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2-3 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 pinch allspice
  • 2 ounces smoky bacon, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 ounces pork fat, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 2 ounces pork shoulder, cut into ½ inch dice
to wrap
  • caul fat
  1. Grind the pork shoulder using a large die. Remove ⅔ of it to a smaller bowl and set it aside in the refrigerator. Combine the remaining pork shoulder with the liver, pork fat onions and garlic grind the mixture using the small die. Combine this with the previously ground pork shoulder and set it aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Whisk together all of the panade ingredients and add them to the ground meat. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, mix until the panade is well incorporated. Add the garnish and mix briefly. Refrigerate this mixture while you line a loaf dish with the caul fat. Pour the paté mixture into the loaf dish and wrap the caul fat over the top of the mixture. Vacuum-seal the paté and place the dish into a sous vide water bath heated to 150°. Cook for 6-12 hours.
  3. Carefully remove the dish from the water bath and place a weight on top of it to compress it and remove any air pockets. After it has cooled for a couple of hours move the paté, with the weight, to the refrigerator to cool completely. Wait at least two days before consuming. Enjoy with crusty bread, spicy mustard and pickles.




Monday, August 15th, 2011

Tête Pressée

“She was a good pig. I used to pet her everyday.”

Yes, this is what I was told by the petite girl working the counter when I picked up my pig’s head.

This statement caused some very mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was happy to know that my pig was well loved and cared for. On the other hand, that statement really made me think. Sometimes (too often, I think) it is easy to forget that the meat I eat was a living, breathing thing, just days or hours before. But that statement was a reminder. A slap in the face of a reminder. Another creature has given its life so that I can have nourishment and enjoyment. It’s a sacrifice that needs to be respected.

~ ~ ~

As I worked in the kitchen, making jam and pickles from the rest of my farmer’s market bounty I thought about the head in my cooler bag. I was nervous to start with when I decided to take on this challenge (I was going to make something with trotters but my husband talked me into getting a head) but the more I thought about it the more nervous I got. I have a bit of a gag reflex and I just didn’t know how this was going to go down. Finally, I ran out of projects to procrastinate with and it was time. Well first, maybe a cocktail to steel my nerves.

For my challenge this month, I had decided to make a tête pressée (rolled pressed pigs head). The idea of head cheese (with it’s gelatenousness and all) did not appeal (I mentioned my gag reflex, right). The first step in my project was brining. So, all I had to do was take the head out of the bag, rinse her off, put her in a bowl and then pour the brine over the top. Oh yeah, and cut her tongue out and her ear off. The ear removal went fine, but once I started in on the tongue I saw her teeth. Don’t know why, but that sight set me off. It took great effort for me to finish up, but I did. Phew. Into the fridge for three days of brining.

Finally it was time for step two. Rinse her off and start her boiling. I tried, at this point to singe off all her little face hairs (p.s. this smells awful) but my torch ran out of propane. I decided to deal with them later and get the show on the road. Into the pot she went along with some mirepoix and water (and minus her nose because her whole head wouldn’t fit in the pot).

A couple of hours simmering later and it was time for the next step. I manhandled her out of the pot and set her aside to cool. Meanwhile I strained the stock and sauteed some shallots and parsley.

That feeling came back. The nervous stomach feelings of doom for what was to come. When researching this project I’d come across a post by Hank Shaw in which he was making head cheese. He called picking the meat off the head “grim business” and he’s a hunter for goodness sake. How was I supposed to deal with it?

Perhaps a little more liquid courage. Yes, that might help. I donned some gloves and dug in. The first problem was the hairs. Even the ones that I had singed off were still a problem. I ended up basically having to scrape and cut the skin of the entire head. That done I moved onto the real sticky business. First, removal of the eye. No, wait. First, one more drink. It gave me the courage but the process was still awful. There was gagging and deep breathing and much trying not to throw up. Not fun. But I persevered. Feeling my way through, separating the good from the bad. It’s a grim business indeed.

Happily, now, I was just left with the good stuff. Time to roll. The meat (fat) on my head was quite thick so I sliced it in half. I set out some cheese cloth and put half the head down then layered on the shallots and parsley mixture along with the tongue and all the other tasty meat that I had pulled off the head, then topped it with the other half of the head. Finally I rolled the whole thing up tight and secured it with some butchers twine.

The roll went back into the stock which was then left to cool in the fridge. The idea being that the gelatinous stock kinda gets into the nooks and crannies and holds the whole bit together.

Happily, when it was time to serve, it did just that. I had been so worried that the whole thing would just fall apart when I sliced it (and yes, a few slices did) but for the most part, it worked out great.

I served the tête pressée with thinly sliced red spring onions and spicy Dijon mustard which definitely help to cut the richness of the meat. Best described as unctious, the tête pressée was a wonderful part of our warm August dinner party.

Friday, July 15th, 2011

The $5.77 Hot Dog

We are mid-way through the year of Charcutepalooza challenges. Each month, as the new challenge is revealed I get excited about what new thing I will get to try. This month, however, that was not the case. Emulsified sausage. Nothing about that sounds sexy.

Because I call myself a chef, I’ve been sticking with the Charcuterie (rather than the apprentice) challenge each month. That meant this month I needed to make either Hot Dogs or Mortadella (basically bologna). The thing is, Mortadella has to be stuffed in beef bung and, as I have a low tolerance for funky smells (and I have experienced the funky smells associated with beef bung before) I pretty much immediately decided that Mortadella was out.

That left hot dogs.

Sigh. Hot dogs.

Hot dogs are boring. While I’ll eat the occasional hot dog, it’s nothing I get excited about. Faced with the choice, I’ll take a bratwurst over a hot dog any day of the week. But, I soldiered on.

The recipe in my edition of Charcuterie calls for 2 1/2 pounds of short rib meat (which, according to the recipe would require about 4-5 pounds of bone-in short ribs). So, off to Whole Foods I went. I bought 5 pounds of the most beautiful short ribs (and quickly thought that I would much rather sous vide them then turn them into hot dogs) which totaled $36.

Thirty-six dollars! These had better be worth it.

Then I got to work. First, grind the meat through the large die and mix in salt and curing salt. Then wait. For two days. Next, mix in the seasonings and stash the mixture in the freezer. Then wait. But only for 30 minutes this time. Then regrind the mixture using the small die and stick it back in the freezer. And wait, another 30 minutes or so. Finally, puree the mixture (in batches) in the food processor until it is a paste (yeah, that’s just what I want to look for in my meat, a paste texture).

I chilled the mix again and then (with the help of the husband) stuffed the mixture into casings. Finally, I put the dogs on the grill for smoking (and then popped them into an ice bath for chilling).

So. Many. Steps. These had better be worth it.

I grilled up a couple of dogs, dressed them with sweet onion and mustard, then took a bite.


I figure (very conservatively) that I spent about 6 1/2 hours making these hot dogs (which does not include all the time spent waiting). Using Washington State minimum wage as a guide, my time adds up to $56.35. Add to that the $36 spent on beef rib meat and the (conservative) cost for each of my 16 hot dogs is $5.77.

Totally not worth it!

Yes, they are very good hot dogs. I will be happy to take them along on our big-ass camping trip this summer and feed them to our friends. But, I can easily say I will never make hot dogs from scratch again. Way too much time, money and effort involved for an end product that was good, but didn’t blow my mind.

I’ll stick with sausages.

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Five-Spice and Cherry Chicken Sausage

Years and years ago. Back when cooking was a hobby, not a career, I asked my husband to get me the pasta extruder attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. At the time, rather than being an attachment all its own (like it is now), you first had to buy the meat grinder, then you bought a separate plates for the pasta part of the process.

Happily, my husband granted my Christmas wish. Unhappily, after using the extruder just a couple of times, I gave up on it. the pasta came out all clumpy and I was certain the effort involved for the mixer was sure to burn out the motor.

In the years since, even though I still had the meat grinder, I had only used it once or twice to grind raisins for my grandmother’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I never really thought using the meat grinder as a meat grinder until Charcutepalooza started. Now, I’m using it all the time.


This month’s challenge was to not only make my own sausage (specifically a poultry and fruit sausage), but take the process one step farther and stuff that sausage into casings. A little research yielded the fact that I could buy yet another Kitchen Aid attachment to get the job done (and it would only cost $8).

I placed an order for the attachment and for natural casings, then started plotting what the flavor of my sausage would be. During what seemed like an interminable wait two things happened. First, I got the chance to eat a special lunch at Allium on Orcas Island. The main course of squab with a five-spice and cherry demi helped determine what the flavor profile of my sausage would be. The combination was so good, I knew I had to borrow it. Second, a missed meeting during (one of the last) fried chicken nights at Spring Hill resulted in a number of Twitter messages between Kelly Cline (@kcline on Twitter) and myself that went something like this. Me: “How could we miss each other, I must have walked right past you?” Kelly: “Guess this just means we’ll need to get together another time, how about drinks? Me: “How about you come over at help me stuff some sausage?” And then a flurry of suggestive tweets followed (the topic is low-hanging fruit when it comes to dirty jokes).

Stuffing sausage into casings is a two-person project. I must say, I was grateful for guidance from a set of experienced hands. As we worked, we talked tricks for sausage stuffing (along with more jokes, seriously, it’s like we’re eight), plus family, gardening and the fact that we are both big nerds. What we didn’t manage to do is take any photos. All fours hands were needed for the sausage making. So, while I have photos of the sausage making portion of the project (which was done the day before Kelly came over) the stuffing portion of the project will have to remain a mystery.

Here’s the ingredients.

I started by pouring the port over the cherries (so they would plump a little).

And then I toasted up the spices.

Once they cooled a little I put the mix in my spice grinder And then put them through a sieve to  get rid of the big chunks.

Then I strained the cherries and popped the port into the fridge to use later.

I combined all the ingredients (except that port that I just put in the fridge).

And mixed it all up.

Then, it was grinding time.

I threw the port into the bowl of the newly ground meat.

And mixed it for a couple of minutes until it was sticky and tacky (and honestly, kinda gross looking).

I fried up a little test patty to make sure that the seasonings were good (and oh boy, were they). Then the mix went in the fridge until the next day when Kelly came over.

A couple of hours after her arrival, we had these.

So pretty (in a weird kind of meat-loving way).

I thought a little tang would be a nice compliment to the richness of the sausage, so I quick-pickled some sweet onion and fresh cherries kind of using a recipe from David Lebovitz but instead of using the spices he suggested, I used allspice berries and star anise.

At dinner time I whipped up some Israeli couscous and gently sautéed the sausages. Alongside I sautéed some kale tips seasoned simply with salt and pepper.

Finally I plated it all together with a couple of spoonfuls of pickles onions and cherries.

So, so good (and so, so rich). Seriously, I’ve made some tasty food before, but this sausage is awesome. Kinda sweet (but not overly so) with an unctuous, snappy bite. The pickled onions were good, maybe even necessary as a compliment. If you decide to make this sausage, consider the onions too.


loosely adapted from Charcuterie by Ruhlman & Polcyn
makes 20ish 6-inch sausage links

I got the idea for the flavoring of this sausage during a meal at Allium on Orcas Island. We were served squab with a five-spice and cherry demi that was freakishly good and I knew I needed to steal immediately.

If you like duck (and have won the lottery so you can afford to buy a lot of it) feel free to substitute it for all or part of the chicken.

Spice mix
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 star anise
5 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon black peppercorn

1 Tablespoon orange zest
2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1 Cup dried tart cherries
1/2 Cup port
4 Pound skinless, boneless chicken thigh meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 Pound pork fat back,cut into 1/2-inch cubes
10 feet hog casings soaked in tepid water for 30 minutes, then rinsed

In a small saute pan, heat all of the spice mix ingredients until they are toasted and fragrant. Grind into a fine powder using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Move this to a small bowl and combine with the orange zest and salt.

Soak the dried cherries in the port for 30 minutes. Drain the cherries and reserve the wine. Refrigerate the wine to chill it.

Combine the cubed chicken and pork fat with the spice mix and cherries and stir to combine. Chill until you are ready to grind.

Grind the mixture through the small die into a bowl set in ice.

Add the chilled port to the meat mixture and use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer (or a very sturdy spoon) to mix until it is well combine and has a uniform appearance (about one minute).

Cook a small portion of the sausage and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Stuff the sausage into the hog casing and twist into 6 inch links. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.

Gently roast, grill or saute the sausage to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.






Sunday, May 15th, 2011

Chorizo and Potato Tacos

I haven’t cooked in days.

No. Actually, I haven’t cooked in weeks.

Sure, I’ve kept us fed. Sandwiches, scrambled eggs and the like. But I’ve done more reheating then cooking lately.

My drought of cooking started at the beginning of April. A glorious week in Hawaii. And while we were staying in a condo with a full kitchen, the last thing I want to do while on vacation is cook. When we returned home the fridge was barren and I was hesitant to shop because we would be heading to Portland in just a few more days. So, we had a few days of take-out and frozen meals.

Then I got sick. Yes, before we went on vacation to Portland I got sick. I suffered through a respiratory infection the entire time we were away . My hopes of eating my way through all the awesome restaurants in Portland were smashed. I rallied in time for a busy week of catering, cooking for clients, two foraging classes and a full evening of volunteering at the Art of Dining event in Seattle. I was so busy there wasn’t time for cooking. So a few more days of take-out.

Then I got sick. Yes, again. In fact, I’m still sick. For the last nine days it has felt like I’m swallowing glass and I’ve been completely wiped out. Thankfully the husband has been awesome at keeping me fed and watered.

However, with the Charcutepalooza deadline looming I decided I better suck it up and cook.

The challenge this month was to make either Mexican Chorizo (a pork sausage) or Merguez (a lamb sausage). Since Chorizo is one of my very favorite things, that is the direction I decided to take.

I followed the recipe for Mexican Chorizo in Charcuterie. I’ve made sausage before, so I found the recipe easy to follow. The whole process took less than an hour (and I was lollygagging). The only ingredient that I didn’t have was hot paprika so I substituted regular paprika instead. Since I knew this would affect the heat level of the sausage a bit I decided to add just a bit more of the ancho chile powder.

Upon frying up a test patty I declared the Chorizo delicious, portioned it into 1-pound packages (four of which I stashed in the freezer). Then decided to take a break (being sick is exhausting).

Once I had worked up some new energy I decided to tackle dinner. I wanted to make tacos, and I wanted to keep them simple so that I could really show off the Chorizo. I settled on a play on tacos de papa (potato tacos) but instead of cooking the potatoes with onion and spices, I would use the chorizo to season them. Here’s the ingredients.

I started by browning the Chorizo over high heat. Meanwhile, I cooked the sliced poatoes in the microwave for two minutes so that they were just about cooked through.

When the Chorizo was just about cooked through, I added the potatoes to the pan and continued cooking until the potatoes were browned and cooked through completely.

While the Chorizo and potatoes were cooking I heated the tortillas so that they were flexible. I like to just throw them directly onto the gas burner on our stove (using tongs of course), but they can also be done in a pan or in the oven.

Once they were all warmed I laid them out on my counter so that I could fill them all at once. I added a couple of tablespoons of the meat and potato mixture to one side of each tortilla.

Then sprinkled each one with some Cojita Cheese. It’s important not too overfill the tacos or the filling leaks out while they are frying and it’s a big mess. Plus any leftover filling is totally delicious scrambled with eggs the next day, so it won’t go to waste.

Time to fry. I put about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a skillet and added the tacos, three at a time to the oil. When the first side was crispy, I carefully flipped them with my trusty tongs so the second side could fry.

As the tacos were finished I moved them to paper towels to suck up any extra oil and then started a second batch of three.

I served the tacos with some quick-pickled radish slices (slice radishes, squeeze lime juice over the top, sprinkle with salt, let sit for 15 minutes), fresh lime and my favorite hot sauce.

Muy delicioso. The potatoes got kind of creamy which was an awesome contrast to the crispness of the tortilla shell. And the home made Chorizo was just spicy enough. I ended up slipping my radish slices into the tacos but the husband didn’t care for that idea.

I’m looking forward to making these again when it isn’t excruciating to swallow. I imagine they’ll be even tastier.


makes 6-8 tacos (enough for 2 people)

Sometimes Cotija cheese can be hard to find, so if you can’t, Parmesan makes a good substitute (but really, most any cheese will work). If you don’t want to take the time to make your own Chorizo feel free to substitute one from a reputable butcher.

8 oz Chorizo
6 fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/8″ thick
3-4 ounces Cotija cheese
6-8 corn tortillas
vegetable oil for frying

Cook the potatoes for 2 minutes, or until they are just tender, in a microwave, set aside. In a medium-size skillet, brown the chorizo, breaking it into pieces as it cooks. Just before the Chorizo is completely browned, add the potatoes and continue to cook the mixture until the potatoes are cooked through and browned.

Warm the tortillas until they are soft and pliable. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the chorizo-potato mixture on each of the tortillas, sprinkle each one with cheese then fold each in half.

Pour about 1/4 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet. Heat oil until it is shimmering then carefully add the 3-4 tacos to the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry until tortilla is golden brown then flip each taco and brown on the second side. Move the finished tacos to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all tacos are cooked.

Serve with fresh lime, taco sauce, sliced radishes, sliced cabbage, sour cream…


Friday, April 15th, 2011

Eggs Benedict, from Scratch

At first glance, April’s Charcutepalooza challenge, hot smoking, seemed like an easy one. As an accomplished, year round grill user, I figured I could just throw it on the Weber grill, add some wood chips and be done. I’ve done it before, lots of times, so why would this be any different? One word, temperature.

I’ve never paid too much attention to the temperature of the barbecue. I’ve never cooked anything that needed to be quite so precise. I guess I never realized that even though I am using indirect heat, the Weber gets hot, 350 degrees or so. I tried adjusting the air flow to no avail. The lowest the temperature would get was 300 degrees. And I couldn’t close the vents completely without risking putting the fire out completely.

I knew that if I put the meat on the grill at a temperature of much more than 200 degrees, I risked the outside of the meat cooking to a much higher temp then the 150 degrees I wanted.

What to do?

I thought briefly about sending the husband on an after work errand to Home Depot to buy a smoker. Then realized that would probably not be very fiscally responsible (especially with two weeks out of  vacation looming). Plus, by the time the thing got put together and fired up it would be late. Too late. It definitely would not be the sunny 60 degree day that I was currently enjoying. It would be dark, and cold, and possibly raining (I do live in Seattle after all)

What to do?

I took a look at Mrs. Wheelbarow’s post on the subject and thought about McGyvering my wok so that I could smoke indoors, then realized two things. One, I did not have the “sawdust” style of wood called for. And two, if it didn’t work out, the house would smell like a campfire for days. While I like camping, campfire is a smell best left outside.

What to do?

I took another look at Charcuterie and noticed that Ruhlman said that the Canadian Bacon could be roasted in the oven, but that the smoke added another dimension to the flavor profile. What if, I thought, I combined the two methods. I figured that if I gave the pork loin a head start of say, an hour in the oven, it would raise the internal temperature of the pork loin enough so that it wouldn’t take as long for it to finish with the smoke on the grill. The outside might get a bit more done than I would like, but at least it would get some smoke.

An hour in the toaster oven brought the internal temperature of the loin from 36 degrees to 90 degrees. So, with 55 degrees to go, I moved the loin to the grill (which was still holding a fairly steady 325 degrees), added the wood chips and crossed my fingers (I was also attempting a smoked tomato confit, but alas, the temperature was too high for that).

Another 40 minutes on the grill and an internal temperature of 145 degrees had been achieved. I took the loin off the grill and waited (impatiently) for it to cool so that I could slice it open and check my work.

Success! Cooked through completely, but not too completely with a lovely salty, smoky flavor. Yum!


Now that I had finished April’s Charcutepalooza challenge I decided to take on Ruhlman’s make Eggs Benedict from Scratch challenge. No, I didn’t make my own butter. And though I would love to raise chickens for their eggs, my dogs will have nothing of the sort.

I did, however, make my own english muffins (free form since I didn’t have rings). I used buttermilk for half of the milk and thought it added an awesome tang to the muffins. These English muffins may be the best I’ve ever had. I may never buy English muffins again. I do wish that I had toasted them as part of my Eggs Benedict assembly. That would have kept the muffins a little less soggy.

One change I did make to the recipe, was to cook my eggs sous vide to 64.5°c rather than poaching them. It’s not that I don’t like poached eggs, I’m all for a good runny yolk, I just like the creamy sous vide egg yolk a little more.

To top it off, I followed the recipe for the blender Hollandaise found with the “from scratch” challenge. I followed the instructions precisely but the sauce ended up really thin. The husband also thought it was just a bit to tangy for his taste. At some point, I’ll probably try it again, but I’ll cut back on the lemon a bit.

We had our Eggs Benedict as breakfast for dinner (one of my favorite things) and it was delicious. Rich and satisfying on a rainy spring night.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Corned Beef

I have a confession to make. Up until last week, I’d never had corned beef.

I just never really understood celebrating St. Patrick’s Day if you are not Irish. The food never looked that appetizing to me, so , seemingly, the only other thing to do is drink way too much cheap green beer. Also not appealing.

When I told my husband that I had never had corned beef, he was shocked. “That can’t be possible, you’ve never even had a reuben?” “Well,” I replied “I’ve never been a fan of sauerkraut, or 1000 Island dressing for that matter, so why would I order a reuben?”

I asked my mom about the lack of corned beef in my life and she said that she could remember serving corned beef hash for breakfast. Thing is, I don’t think this happened until after my brother was adopted. I was 17 when that happened so sitting down for breakfast before school probably didn’t happen. Plus, I seem to remember that the corned beef hash she made was out of a can, and our family dog was, at the time, being fed soft dog food and the two things looked remarkably similar. That kinda put me off the whole corned beef hash thing.

When this month’s Charcutepalooza Challenge was revealed to be brining I knew what I had to do. Since I had already accomplished the Apprentice Challenge of brining either a whole chicken or pork chops, I settled on the Charcutiere Challenge, brining, then corning a piece a beef brisket to create my first corned beef.

I followed the recipe found in the cookbook Charcuterie (the bible of Charcutepalooza) pretty much to a tee. I decided to half the recipe (because 5 pounds of brisket sounded like a lot for two people). I added an onion and a couple of carrots to the water that I was going to simmer the brisket in, then, with about 30 minutes of cooking time left I added some peeled new potatoes then, with 15 minutes left, some cabbage. I also made some traditional Irish Soda bread (read that as no caraway seeds, no raisins, just plain white bread) to complete the meal.

So, just how was my first corned beef experience? Meh. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve eaten, but it really didn’t live up to the hype. It smelled promising as it simmered away, but it just didn’t do it for me.


The thing is, even though I split the recipe in half, I still had leftovers (quite a bit of leftovers) the next day. I decided to try my hand at corned beef hash. I figured at the very least, mine wouldn’t look like dog food. Here are the ingredients.

I chopped some of the corned beef, along with the potatoes and a little bit of the cabbage (the husband was not a fan of the cabbage) plus an onion and set to work.

I melted a knob of butter in a saute pan and added the onion. Cooked it until is was soft and translucent, then threw in some fresh thyme.

I let that cook for just a few seconds and then added the potatoes, corned beef and cabbage to the pan.

Now here’s the hard part. I had to let it sit. Trying hard not to stir the mixture very often, so that every thing would get golden brown and delicious.

Once it was nicely browned (finally). I cooked up an egg to put on top. I had a little problem with my over easy egg flip, so it’s not the prettiest, but it’s still tasty (try not to judge me).

Now we’re talking. Turns out what I needed to like corned beef was tasty bits of crunchiness on every piece of it. This was a meal I could get behind.


Even after two meals, I still had more leftover corned beef. I also had some cold rice from dinner earlier in the week so I decided to make my standby quick meal, fried rice. This was probably my favorite meal of the bunch. The corned beef almost tasted like Lup Cheong, a Chinese sweet sausage (and one of my favorites). It was so good, in fact, that the husband and I ate it all without taking a picture.


So, my first corned beef experience has led me to these conclusions:

1. I’m not a fan of corned beef straight out of the pot, Irish style.

2. Corned beef that has been cooked again so that it has crusty edges is delicious.

3. Corned beef may be too much effort to put into my life regularly, but once a year it might be worth it, for the leftovers.

About Me

I'm a personal chef living happily with her picky-eater (but willing to try anything) husband, neurotic black lab and a red heeler puppy.

I watch way too much TV and enjoy hip-hop more than any reasonable grown-up should.

I'm an avid swimmer and sometime triathlete (whenever I'm not nursing an injury).

Find out more about me here.

About This Blog

I started this blog at a time when my personal chef business was quite slow and I needed to keep my mind busy and my skills sharp. But now, business is booming so I've had to put the blog on the back burner. So, no new recipes for now, but please enjoy my archives.

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