Archive for the ‘entertaining’ Category

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Super Sunday Snacks

 

I don’t watch a lot of football, baseball is really more my game of choice. However, I do make an exception for the Super Bowl.

Of course the Super Bowl is just barely about football. It’s about the ads, and the halftime show, and, of course, the food. I’ve got a few suggestions for what to serve at your party.

 

If you’re looking for a Super Bowl snack that is a little more upscale, try my take on classic Buffalo Wings with this Buffalo Wing Rillettes. It taste great and can be prepared in advance (in fact it will taste even better if it sits for a couple of days) freeing you up for more game-watching enjoyment.

 

 

I like to put several bowls of snack mix all around the party room so that tasty treats are never too far away. If you fill them up with my Sriacha Soy Chex Mix plan to refill bowls a couple of times because from my experience, this gets gobbled up pretty quickly.

 

 

Lastly, I’ve never been to a Super Bowl party where a cheese ball wasn’t welcomed and devoured. This one features sharp cheddar cheese, pancetta, smoked paprika and pumpkin seeds. Here’s the ingredients.

To start, saute the pancetta until it is good and crispy.

 

Remove the pancetta from the pan, leaving behind the rendered fat, and add the pumpkin seeds. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the are toasty brown and start to pop.

 

Remove them from the pan and sprinkle them with a little salt, then set them aside for the time being.

Next, in a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, crispy pancetta and green onions.

 

Stir it well to combine.

 

Then turn it out onto a piece of plastic wrap.

 

Gather the edges of the wrap to force the cheese mixture into a ball. Put the ball into the fridge for at least one hour.

 

When you are ready to serve, chop up the pumpkin seeds then combine them with the remaining smoked paprika.

 

Remove the plastic from the cheese ball and roll the ball in the pumpkin seed/paprika mixture.

Arrange the finished cheese ball on a plate with some crackers and enjoy.

 

Smoky Cheddar Cheese Ball
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
If you don't have pancetta feel free to substitute bacon. Or, leave it out entirely for a vegetarian option.
Ingredients
  • 2 ounces pancetta, chopped small
  • 4 ounces pumpkin seeds
  • 6 ounces whipped cream cheese at room temperature
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3-4 green onions. chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon smoked paprika, divided use
Instructions
  1. In a saute pan, cook the pancetta until it is crispy. Remove the pancetta from the pan, leaving behind the rendered fat, and add the pumpkin seeds. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are toasty brown and starting to pop. Remove them from the pan and sprinkle them with a little salt, then set them aside.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, crispy pancetta, green onions and two teaspoons of the smoked paprika. Stir well to combine, then turn the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap. Gather the edges of the wrap to force the cheese mixture into a ball. Put the ball into the fridge for at least one hour.
  3. When ready to serve, chop up the pumpkin seeds then combine them with the remaining smoked paprika.
  4. Remove the plastic from the cheese ball and roll the ball in the pumpkin seed/paprika mixture.
  5. Arrange the finished cheese ball on a plate with crackers and enjoy.

 

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

Sriracha Soy Chex Mix

The other day I was walking through Costco (no story starts that way and doesn’t end without spending $100) and I saw this on the end cap.

“Make Chex Party Mix. What a good idea” (I am so easily influenced, sigh).

I haven’t made Chex Mix in years (and years and years) and, I was hosting a party where I knew snack mix would be a welcome addition. I like the traditional Chex Mix recipe well enough, but I’m not a huge fan of pretzels and I wanted something a little spicier. So, I decided to switch it up a little (or a lot as it turns out). The idea of using Sriracha as the heat in my mix popped into my head, which then led me to add some other Asian flavors. Although the mix takes a little while in the oven it comes together very quickly.

Here’s the ingredients:

 

First, melt the butter in the microwave (or on the stovetop) and then stir the seasoning ingredients into the melted butter. Give the butter a little taste at this point and add more sriracha if you like.

 

Put the cereals and the toasted almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, pour the seasoned butter over top …

 

… then use a spatula to stir and distribute the seasonings throughout the cereals.

 

Place the sheet in a 250 degree oven and bake for one hour, stirring the mix every 15 minutes. Let cool completely and then enjoy!

 

Salty and spicy (and mildly addictive), all my guests raved about my mix. Try it as an addition to your next party. You’ll be glad you did.

Sriracha Soy Chex Mix
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Make this recipe gluten-free by omitting the wheat Chex and increasing the amount of rice and corn Chex to 4½ cups each.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups wheat Chex cereal
  • 3 cups rice Chex cereal
  • 3 cups corn Chex cereal
  • 1½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Seasonings
  • 6 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon hoisen sauce
  • 2-3 teaspoons sriracha
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in microwave or saucepan. Stir in remaining seasoning ingredients.
  3. Place the cereals and almonds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour the seasoned butter over and stir well to distribute seasonings.
  4. Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely. Store in airtight container.

 

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

Dinner:
• 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
Author: 
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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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, 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
Author: 
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.
Ingredients
  • 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
panande
  • 3 ounces brandy
  • 2 ounces cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 2-3 Tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • 1 pinch allspice
garnish
  • 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
Instructions
  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.

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Dinner for Friends

I live by a few major tenets when it comes to food related gifts.

1. If you give me a gift of something like, say, fruit off of your tree, you can count on getting some of it back in a new improved form (pie, jam, infused liquor, etc.).

2. If I do happen to give you a jar of jam or chutney or what not and you don’t return the jar to me, I probably won’t give you more jarred goods (the cost of jars really starts to add up).

3. If you and a bunch of my other friends get together and buy me an expensive new toy for the kitchen, I’m going to make you a fancy dinner.

That last one, number three, that happened this Christmas. My husband and several friends all chipped in to get me this:

A Sous Vide Supreme Demi (and a vacuum food saver, since it is integral to the process). I decided to make a dinner that would show off what I think are the best features of cooking sous vide (French for under pressure).

Over the span of a couple of weeks of planning my menu developed into five courses. I wanted to do a fish course too, because that is a place where the sous vide method really shines, but my friends include one with a salmon allergy and one that hates all things that used to swim in the sea (I also had to work around dislikes of winter squash, hazelnuts, raisins, olives and one friend with a dislike of vegetables in general). I also did a cocktail pairing to go with each course, ’cause that’s how I roll.

My awesome friend Dawn took a lot of the pictures that follow (and also helped clear the table, serve drinks and load the dishwasher). Not sure I could have done it without her (well, I could have, but it would have been way less fun and there would be like five photos).

Here we go…

xxx

Eggs are especially nice cooked sous vide. The whites are just set and the yolks get really creamy, almost custard like. I also took this opportunity to serve of some of my home cured duck prosciutto (in fact, this is the same salad I developed and posted the recipe for just a couple of weeks ago).

xxx

If you’ve ever opened up a can of park and beans, you’ve seen that sorry excuse for a piece of pork just floating there on top. Well, my pork and beans instead featured a large square of my home-cured bacon which I finished sous vide instead of in the oven (I’ll be posting more about my bacon experiments soon). Cornbread seemed like the perfect accompaniment.

xxx

The beauty of chicken cooked sous vide is that it can safely be cooked to only 140°f (where the normal safe temperature is 165°f) because it is cooked for at least an hour. This makes for exceptionally moist chicken. I served it with a plum chutney that I canned over the summer and a mustard vinaigrette. The carrots were also cooked sous vide with a touch of butter and a bit of brown sugar. Even my vegetable hating guest said that they were tasty.

xxx

Another strength of cooking sous vide is the ability to turn a tough cut of meat into a something that is tender and delicious. Generally I would cook short ribs in a braise. Sure they turn out great but they have to be cooked well-done. With the sous vide, they can be cooked medium-rare (130°f) but since they are cooked for 48 (or even 72) hours they still get super tender. I adapted a recipe from Grant Achatz’s Alinea Cookbook using the root beer cure and the fennel recipes found on page 356 (though I cooked my fennel sous vide). However, since I am not a “foam” person, instead of a vanilla-potato foam I roasted potatoes with vanilla salt and a vanilla bean (though I’ll admit they got a little over cooked). I also completely forget to make the poached prunes. I was four cocktails in after all.

xxx

Lastly I made what I called my “Ode to the Captain” (Captain Crunch, that is). I will have a post with pictures of the process and a recipe later this week. But for now…

xxx

Thanks to all my awesome friends (and my even more awesome husband) for the great gift and a great night!

xxx

P.S. Five courses, with five cocktail equals a lot of dishes to put away.

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Prosciutto, Egg and Arugula Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

As I’ve mentioned in my two previous posts, 2011 can suck it. Between a broken computer, a root canal and a sprained ankle my year thus far has not had many bright spots (especially culinary bright spots) … until Saturday. The duck prosciutto I started on on Jan 6 was finally ready for a taste.

Before I hung it, I had carefully weighed each of my duck breasts (and done the math) so that I could watch for a 30% drop in weight (a good prediction of finished duck prosciutto). However, after 9 days of (not so) patient waiting they had only lost about 20% of their weight. But, they felt right. I had been squeezing them (gently) every day (sometimes two or three times) and yesterday, they just felt right. So, I decided to take the plunge and unwrap one.

I opened up one of the Herbes do Provence cured breasts, cut off a few thin slices and took a bite. Heaven. Salty with a delicate hint of the herbes and a wonderful texture (though sliced too thick it became a bit chewy). I opened up a second, one of the five-spice cured breasts, for a taste. Also delicious. And though the breasts had only spent 24 hours in their prospective cure, each had definitely picked up a distinct flavor. Though I liked both, the Herbes de Provence is my favorite.

For lunch the next day I decided to create a dish using my yummy duck. I wanted to use the flavors found in a duck prosciutto sandwich that I had seen on Matt Wright’s blog. It featured a fried egg, duck prosciutto and arugula on a baguette, but I wanted a salad instead. (By the way, if you want to see some charcuterie porn, Matt’s blog is the place to look, gorgeous).

I made a mustardy vinaigrette for the arugula, added a little pile of the Herbes de Provence duck prosciutto, a couple of crusty toasts and then topped it all with a 64.5° c sous vide egg (a poached egg would be good too, but the sous vide egg is particularly delicious). So simple but so good. The arugula (with the vinaigrette) combined deliciously with, and helped combat, the richness of the duck and the creamy egg yolk. I could have eaten a whole ‘nother plate.

xxx


xxx

PROSCIUTTO, EGG AND ARUGULA SALAD WITH MUSTARD VINAIGRETTE
serves 2 (or one really hungry person)

Because this is a dish with very few ingredients, the quality of those ingredients is extremely important. Sub-standard prosciutto and factory-farmed eggs will not provide a tasty finished product. Splurge.

Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
really good salt
fresh cracked black pepper

2-3 handfuls arugula
1-2 ounces thin sliced duck prosciutto (ham proscuitto would be good too)
2 eggs
1/4 baguette, sliced thin on the diagonal
olive oil

If you have the ability to cook sous vide, cook two eggs at 64.5° c for 50 minutes. Otherwise, poach two eggs (timing them to be done once the rest of the salad components are complete).

Drizzle the baguette slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper then toast in the oven.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Gently toss the arugula in the dressing and divide it between two plates. Cut several thin slices of prosciutto and add them to each plate next to the arugula. Top arugula with sous vide or poached eggs. Finish the plate with toasted baguette slices.

Monday, September 28th, 2009

Suckling Pig

A few months ago, sometime in late June, my friend Irene called me one evening. She had this wacky idea to cook a suckling pig. Her original thought was to cook it for the 4th of July party that she and her husband throw each year. Just two problems, one, we have too many vegetarian friends that attend their 4th of July Party (we thought they might take offense to dinner having a face). Secondly, she thought their house might be a little small to accommodate that kind of meal.

We both whipped out our calendars to find a date that would work for both of us. With our travel and some of our intended guests travel, the first date that we could come up with was Sept. 26. So we set that as our date and set to planning.

The first order of business was finding our suckling pig. This turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. After asking the butchers at the grocery stores I frequent, and making calls to a couple of butcher shops that I have used in the past, I ended up finding a source on the Internet that would ship it frozen overnight. Meet Stanley.

The next order of business was menu planning. We wanted to keep our side dishes fairly simple so that the suckling pig would be the star of the show. We had quite a bit of discussion about what to fill our piggy with. We thought bread stuffing would be too heavy (and unnecessary given the rest of the menu), then we considered simply filling the cavity with aromatics (apples, onions and herbs). Then I stumbled on a recipe for stuffing that used a heavy dose of caramelized onion along with bread. We decided to use this idea (just without the bread).

Here’s the menu we came up with:

Appetizers:
Cherry Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Skewers
Salami Toscano, Soppressetta, Olives and Grilled Vegetables
Italian Plums, Melon and Dried Apricots

Main Course:
Suckling Pig with Caramelized Onion, Figs and Sage
Smoke Roasted Potatoes (from Steven Raichlen’s “How to Grill”)
Grilled Corn
Greens and Herbs with Peaches, Fresh Mozzarella, Prosciutto and Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

Dessert:
Well, we didn’t really come up with dessert and one of our friends volunteered to bring peach cobbler, so we said yes, please.

We started cooking on Friday (well actually, Irene started on Thursday by making a brine). We put piggy in the brine in a cooler outside and then started on the filling.

Here’s the ingredients for the filling:
6 or so tablespoons bacon fat (butter would have been good here too, but since we were rendering bacon to top the potatoes, we decided to use the fat for the filling)
9 red onions, sliced
5 clove garlic, minced
2 cups white wine (my wine guy recommended a Riesling that worked very well)
1/4 cup fresh sage, minced
1 pint fresh figs, chopped

We started by cooking the bacon over medium heat. Once it was nice and crispy we took it out of the pan (leaving the fat) and then added all of the onion and a heavy sprinkle of kosher salt. Once the onions were soft, we added the garlic, letting it cook for about 30 seconds, then added the wine. We left this to simmer for a couple of hours (which smelled divine). Once the wine had all cooked away, we stirred in the sage and figs and let it cook for just a few minutes more.

Now this was good. I could have eaten an entire bowl of this filling all by itself. We left it to sit until it was cool and then stuck it in the fridge overnight. Then Irene went home and we both went to bed.

Irene came back the next day in the afternoon. We took Stanley out of the brine, patted him dry, then stuffed him, trussed him and rubbed him with olive oil. Then we covered his ears with foil (so they wouldn’t burn) and propped open his mouth with foil (so we could put a fig in there later).

We followed the cooking instructions from the Joy of Cooking cookbook. They said to start cooking with 30 minutes at 450 degrees, then to reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue cooking for 2 to 2 1/2 hours more, basting every 20 minutes. We basted with a combination of butter, some more of the Riesling that we used in the filling and maple syrup.

So, you saw that part where it should have taken 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 350 degrees, well Stanley was done a full hour before he should have been. Of course nothing else was ready, so we decided the best course of action was to just turn off the oven and let him rest in there.

Finally, it was time. We took Stanley out of the oven, gingerly lifted him to the platter, them sliced him up. I love this picture above on the right with our boy Jones staring down Stanley.

xxx

xxx

We drank a toast to Stanley then dug in. So good. As Irene said “Stanley was tender and O so delicious.” As the chefs, Irene and I decided that we deserved the tasty bits. As we had consumed plenty of Manhattans, we were adventurous enough to each try an eyeball (which I liked) and then the husband dared me to try brains. Well, now I can say I’ve tried brains and I never have to do it again. We saved the best for last, one cheek for me and one for Irene. Yum, yum, YUM!

I can say, with Irene’s prompting I may have gone my entire life without making this meal. So for that I must thank her. This was truly a night and a meal to remember.

Special thanks to Ken Broman, the husband, and whoever picked up my camera and used it on Saturday. This post would have been lacking without you.

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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