Archive for the ‘pork’ 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.

 

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Lonzino

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.

Sigh.

 

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.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

White Bean and Sage Soup

It has become painfully (pardon the pun) obvious to me that at the moment, my ankles and knees are just not up to doing triathlons. I wish that this had occurred to me sooner. That I had stopped trying so that I could avoid re-injuring myself over and over, but sometimes I guess I’m slow (or maybe stubborn).

With this realization, I have re-embraced swimming. It was always my favorite of the three sports anyway. I had been swimming at the local community pool. For my occasional swims it made sense to be on a pay as you go $5 a swim type plan, but I never really enjoyed that pool. I hated swimming inside in the middle of summer and it seemed like the pool was always closed at times when I wanted to be swimming. Plus, I have never been a fan of community locker rooms.

A couple of months ago I finally took the plunge and joined a swim club that is just a half-mile from our house. For as often as I wanted to be swimming (3-4 times a week) the private club was just a few dollars more a month.

I cannot begin to describe just how much I love it. I mean, for one thing, they have an adult-only locker room with private showers. That alone is worth the few extra dollars a month. My favorite thing about the club, however, is that they have an outdoor pool that they keep heated to 80 degrees year round. It’s a funny experience to make a run from the heated indoors so that you can jump in the pool to warm up.

I’m usually a morning swimmer, but on occasion it is just impossible for me to get out of bed early for a swim. Yesterday was one of those days. Instead, I waited for my husband to get home (since we share a car) and then went for a late afternoon swim. Of course a late afternoon swim at this time of year in Seattle means the sun has gone down.

Surrounded by darkness, I hopped into the fog-covered pool. I put my headphones on and suddenly, even though I was sharing the pool with a swim team, I was transported to my own underwater space. Save for a few shadows, I was alone with my music and my thoughts.

Tired and hungry, it was eventually time to go. I came home to a house redolent with sage and garlic and was quite pleased to remember that I had left a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Simple yet delicious, it brought me back to reality and filled me up at the same time.

 

 

White Bean and Sage Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
Simple and inexpensive, this soup requires very little hands on time. Make it a meal by adding a simple salad and some crusty bread.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound navy beans, picked through and rinsed (no need to soak)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 6-8 ounce salt pork
  • 2 sprig fresh sage, wrapped in a cheesecloth sachet
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a stockpot. Do not add salt as the salt pork will add a lot of saltiness to the soup. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for 3-4 hours or until beans are tender.
  2. Using tongs, remove and discard sage sachet and cheese rind. Move salt pork to a cutting board and cut the meaty portion of the piece into small pieces. Discard the fat. Add the meat back to the soup.
  3. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.

 

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.

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.

 

FIVE-SPICE AND CHERRY CHICKEN SAUSAGE
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.

 

CHORIZO AND POTATO TACOS
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!

xxx

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.

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Potato Skins

Back in the day (I can say “back in the day” now that I am officially over 40) I bussed tables at Sea Galley. If you don’t know what Sea Galley is, picture Red Lobster with a 40 item salad bar (which sounds great in theory, but actually sucked because it was up to the bus people to fill).

They had a little song on their commercials with the lyrics “we’ve got crab legs” – and they actually had crab legs. I mean, they actually had foam rubber crab legs that the hostess would have to put on and venture out to the street to drum up business when the restaurant was slow (there was also a slightly inappropriate Christmas party that involved half a santa suit and said crab legs.

They were one of those “would you like rice, french fries or baked potato with your entree” kind of places. I noticed they did something kind of ingenious. At the end of the night, any left over baked potatoes (the ones that had been cooked but not served) were split open and prepped to be used for potato skins. The inards that had been scooped out were then used in the clam chowder. Thus, no potato waste.

This story really has nothing to do with my recipe, other than the fact that my love of potato skins was developed, and perfected, during my tenure at Sea Galley. Really, it’s hard to find a bad potato skin, I mean, what’s not to like? You’ve got potato, cheese and bacon, it’s really hard to go wrong. However, there are levels of “good” and I think these potato skins are exceptional. Mine have, of course, bacon (I happen to have used my own home-cured bacon but any good bacon will do), and really sharp cheddar. But they also have a layer of sauteed red onion to amp up the deliciousness.

Here’s the ingredients.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter in a small sauce pan then add the garlic and smoked paprika.

Give it a stir and leave it on the stove so that it stays warm.

I like to cook the onion in a bit of bacon fat, so once the bacon has been cooked crisp, remove it from the pan, reserving a bit of the fat, then toss in the onion. Let it cook at medium heat until is is soft and translucent.

While the butter is melting and the onions are cooking, prep the potatoes. Cut each in half (if they are really thick you may want to cut a little out of the center of each one so that each half is about 3/4 inch thick). Then, using a spoon, scoop out most of the potato from each half.

xxx

Leave enough potato so that each half will keep it’s shape when you pick it up.

Put the potato halves on a baking sheet (I like to line mine with foil) then brush the skin sides with the butter mixture.

Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Take them out and flip the potatoes over and brush with more butter (don’t get to carried away, if lots of butter pools in the potato half the potato skins will be greasy). Bake for another 8 minutes. This helps to make the potato skin crispy before the toppings are layered on.

Once baked, spoon about a tablespoon of cooked onion into each half.

Then layer on the cheese and the bacon (I seemed to have got excited about the prospect of potato skins at the point because I forgot to take a picture).

Return the baking sheet to the oven and cook for another 5 minutes to melt the cheese, then sprinkle on a few chives.

Um. Yum.

The smoky paprika and garlic add a nice flavor to what might be a rather bland skin. The onions add a lovely sweetness that is a great contrast to the tang of the sharp cheddar. I like to leave the sour cream on the side so it doesn’t get melty on the warm skins.

xxx

Of course, now you’ve got a bunch of potato guts on your hand. You could do what they did at Sea Galley and use them in soup. Or, you could combine the potato, along with any leftover onion, a little of the extra cheese, maybe a teaspoon of the butter mixture and a dollop of sour cream…

…and put it in a little baking dish (and top with a little more cheese).

Then bake it at 350 degrees, covered for 40 minutes, then uncovered for 15 more to make a delicious potato casserole for lunch the next day.

Almost as good as the potato skins themselves.

xxx

POTATO SKINS
serves 2-4

Russet potatoes work exceptionally well in this recipe, however, if you would like smaller, two bite, potato skins, feel free to substitute small red potatoes. You will need two or three red potatoes for every russet potato called for.

4 russet potatoes, baked
1 Tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces bacon, chopped and cooked crisp, fat reserved
1 red onion, chopped
6-8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 Tablespoon chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and stir in garlic and paprika. Heat for 15 seconds to cook the garlic, then turn off the burner.

In a skillet, heat the reserved bacon fat. Add the onion and saute over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Set aside.

While the onion cooks, prep the potatoes. Cut each potato in half to approximately 3/4 inch thick. Using a spoon, scoop out the cooked potato, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato in the skin.

Place potato halves skin side up on a baking sheet and brush with the butter mixture. Bake for 8 minutes then remove from oven. Using a spatula, turn each of the potato halves over and brush lightly with more of the butter mixture. Return pan to oven and cook for an additional 8 minutes.

Into each potato half, layer about a tablespoon of sauteed onion followed by cheese and bacon. Bake for 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. Sprinkle potato skins with chives and serve with sour cream.

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Home Cured Bacon: Sous Vide or not Sous Vide?

When I found out that this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was “the salt cure” i.e. bacon or pancetta making I was excited. Artisan bacon is a touch of heaven and I was ready to learn how to bring it into my life on a regular basis. Of course, then I realized I would need two things, pink salt and pork belly.

I turned to Twitter, asking those who follow me if there were any local sources for pink salt. Larry (@djpegleg on Twitter) replied that if I came by their house he would give me some. So, first item acquired.

The second item was even easier. On my way home from Larry’s I stopped by Rainshadow meats and picked up this gorgeousness.

The bellies, from Tails and Trotters (where they finish the pigs with hazelnuts) were small, just over a pound each, but I thought they would be perfect for my sous vide tests.

xxx

The cure itself is easy enough to make. It is just a combination of kosher salt, pink salt and sugar or dextrose (I used sugar). The amounts of each, however, need to be measured carefully. Luckily my husband has this awesome scale left from his days when his photography was actually done in a darkroom.

I dredged each belly through the mixture and deposited each belly it it’s own Food Saver bag. It was time to consider seasonings, decide whether I wanted sweet or savory bacon. In the end I decided to go sweet (since I would also be making a savory pancetta) so I added some light brown sugar and a touch of molasses to each bag and then sealed them up.

I actually took a little more air out of them then I should have. It was a little hard to distribute the brown sugar, but after a couple of days, there was enough juice in the bag to move the sugar around as I gave my bellies their daily massage.

After a week the bellies had exuded quite a bit of liquid and felt firm to the touch.

I took the bellies out, rinsed all of the salt off of them and then dried them off.

OOoooh, even more gorgeous then when they started.

I prepared one to go in the oven and one to go in the sous vide.

The belly on the left went into a 200 degree oven for about 2 hours. I used a thermometer so that I would know precisely when the belly had reached 150 degrees.

The belly on the right, went into a 150 degree water bath for 6 hours. Following instructions that I have used for cooking pork belly in the past, while the belly was still warm I put a baking sheet topped with a weight on the belly and stashed it in the fridge overnight.

Here they are side by side (after a night in the fridge).

The one in the back is the oven-finished version (I may have tested a few slices of it for breakfast, you know, for quality control).

I tested the finished bacon two ways. For the first, I cut a slice off of each and cooked them in a saute pan. The sous vide finished bacon was much easier to slice evenly.

As it fried, the sous vide finished version (on the right) stayed straight as it cooked and didn’t curl in the pan. This made for slightly easier and more even cooking.

While I liked the easier slicing and cooking of the sous vide bacon, once it was done, it was kind of disturbing that it was so even (it lacked character if that makes sense). Of course the real test has to be taste. The winner of my side by side comparison was … the oven finished bacon. The two tasted virtually identical (which I expected) but the texture of the oven finished bacon was better. It had a firmer bite and a better chew (I know better chew is a weird description but that is the only way I can describe it).

For the second test, I cut the bacon into lardons, about 1-inch square and sauteed them on all sides. Here, the clear winner was the sous vide bacon. the softness of the bite (the thing I didn’t like in the sliced bacon) was wonderful in this application. Plus the fact that the belly had been flattened after I cooked it made it very easy to make nice even pieces.

Here they are frying up for my dinner party a couple of weeks ago.

So, in the end, after my two (very tasty) tests, if I knew I was going to be making lardons I would finish my bacon sous vide. Otherwise, I think I will be finishing my bacon in the oven. It takes much less time and gives a tastier and more versatile product.

xxx

In my opinion there is no better way to eat bacon then in a B.L.T. However, if you have kick-ass bacon, you need to take the rest of the ingredients up a notch. Mache lettuce, oven-dried tomatoes, a couple of slices of awesome bread (just slightly toasted) and home-made mayonnaise.

Oven-dried tomatoes are so simple to make and it’s a great way to take really average winter tomatoes and turn them into something extraordinary.

Just slice some roma tomatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle them with fresh gound black pepper and salt. I especially like this course smoked salt from Salish.

The large salt crystals melt just a little bit so they still have a little crunch in the finished product. Plus it imparts a nice smokiness to the tomatoes.

Put the pan in a 200-degree oven for 3–4 hours (hey, that’s the same temp as the bacon, you could cook them at the same time) until they are shriveled and dry. The longer you cook them the drier they get, but I like to pull them out when they still have a little moisture left in them.

Once dried, the tomatoes can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks. They make a great addition to pasta dishes and are yummy with cheese.

Until just a few years ago, I would have eaten my B.L.T. with yellow mustard, no mayonnaise. Then I discovered the pleasures of home-made mayo. With an immersion blender it takes about 4 minutes to make. I used Alton Brown’s recipe for mayonnaise (substituting bottled lemon for fresh because that is all I had in the house).

This video shows the process very well, but the steps are pretty easy. Just combine all of the ingredients in a tall glass (letting it set for a few seconds so that the oil comes to the top.

Then, with the immersion blender flat against the bottom of the glass, pulse for a few seconds to get the emulsion started.

Then start moving the blender up and down, until all the ingredients are uniformily incorporated.

To finish the sandwich, chop a few of the oven-dried tomatoes and combine them with a bit of the mayo.

Stir this together then spread on both sides of the slightly toasted bread (I don’t like to toast it too much since the crusts can become hard to eat when too toasty).

Then pile on the mache and the cooked bacon.

And voila. Sandwich.

Sweet, crispy bacon, nutty mache, smoky, tangy tomatoes, all combined for lunchtime nirvana. Fantastic.

xxx

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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