Archive for December, 2007

Crispy pig’s ears with River Cottage Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s tartare sauce

30 December, 2007

Click here or on the photo for the photoset.


Recipe source: The River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Euphemism: Nubbley, crispy, mustard-breaded meaty [subjective] goodness. Not much on the web on this recipe, so thank your stars you found this blog and complementary photoset. So how was it? Well, let me give a few comments, observations, and opinions:

  1. If you are going to eat pig’s ears, this is probably the best recipe you will find;
  2. The pig’s ears were a great vehicle for the homemade tartar sauce, but many other culinary creations could function as an equally good, and superiorly tasting carrier;
  3. Gristled texture, carltilage texture, funky flavor, funky smell–not bad, just funky;
  4. Cool to make, cool to have people taste, but not a life-changing experience in texture or flavor to make me want to go out of my way to present the dish again;
  5. Most everyone was willing to give the dish a cursory taste–and the two guests who had eaten pigs ears in Brazil (in a soup) said that HF-W’s recipe was the best pig ear dish they had eaten, but they didn’t particularly care for them then, and still don’t particularly care for them now.

All in all, I am a proponent of this dish, but only under certain circumstances; which is to say, if I were to buy a pig “on the hoof,” or were to have the means to raise and butcher my own pig, I would make them to engage in ethical nose-to-tail eating. Still, I will commit to eating two pig ears for every 200 pounds/93 kilogams of pork I eat. Like many of us, most of my meat purchasing is done at a butcher, so I have access to select cuts whenever I want them; but at the same time, I think it is a bit selfish to buy and eat the premium cuts and ignore the others, so I plan to keep a diary recording the porcine parts I eat, which means I plan to eat two pig’s ears for every two 8 1/2-pound picnic hams, two 11-pound shoulder butts, two 23-pound hams, two 14-pound pieces of of pork belly, and two 30-pound loin sections, plus a large quantity of pork ribs (to which list ought to be added one pork liver + other offal, including the head (as brawn), 16 pounds random trimmings for sausage, 15 pounds fat, 10 pounds skin, 30 pounds stock bones, 4 trotters, 4 hocks, and 1 gallon of blood, the last of which is very difficult to obtain in the U.S.).

I purchased my pig’s ears at a local butcher, and the fact that they display them in the case suggests there is still significant demand for them. At the same time, on a cost analysis basis, I could have bought pork belly for the same price and made bacon or lardons; and when on sale, pork shoulder or pork picnic cuts go for half the price. Still, I stand by my claim that this dish is worth considering for ethical eating habits. Having tasted the pig’s ears when they came out of the stock, before breading, and after they were breaded and came out of the oven, if you had to choose one way to eat pig’s ears, this is probably one of the more paletable ways to enjoy them, so kudos once again to HF-W.

My recipe:

  • Two pig’s ears;
  • Homemade pork stock to cover (which came from smoked pork shoulder bones & a smoked turkey carcass)
  • Spices to taste (beyond the stock): bay, juniper, salt, pepper. Go with what feels right
  • English mustard
  • Homemade bread crumbs (crisp a loaf in the oven, then pulverize it in a food processor)
  • Homemade tartar sauce (see The River Cottage Cookbook). Very tasty.

Simmer ears in stock for at least 2 1/2 hours. Remove, cut into strips. Coat with mustard, then breadcrumbs. Bake in 425 to 450 oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot as soon as possible with homemade tartar sauce.


Kibbeh nayyeh (kibbi, kibbe, naye, nayhe)

30 December, 2007


 Click here or on the photo for a couple of photos.


Gonna make some kibbeh nayyeh, which is sort of like a Lebanese lamb tartare. Guidelines, which really could not be easier: Grind the basic mixture in a meat grinder (I use a vintage Enterprise #10 with a 3/16th inch die), mix in spices and bulgher (but see below) and knead to an elastic paste with (optional) additional chilled water to distribute spices. Note: I personally prefer to lightly mix the meat by hand and not add water, because I prefer a coarser texture. Be sure to process the meat as close to eating time as possible, with perhaps an hour or so in the fridge before serving. Do not use ground lamb from your local market, for you will never know how long it has been sitting, nor will you know the exact cuts used in creating it. Serving and preparation variations are discussed below.

For the basic kibbeh mixture (which should be tasted as a baseline before spicing):

  • 1 pound lamb leg, trimmed of fat and sinew to lean meat only (though there are those who make it with lean beef: 1)
  • 1 onion, white or red (or a couple shallots) (put into the grinder or diced to a superfine pinhead mince)
  • whole grain bulgher: 1/4 to 1 cup (dry measure, your call as to quantity). Traditional recipes use fine grained bulgher. Not for me.
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon black or white pepper)
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • iced water (for kneading the mix to an elastic paste, if that is your preferred texture. I prefer a chunkier texture, so I omit the water except for using leftovers for meatballs)

Possible spice additions (use one or more. I usually steer clear of using cinnamon and allspice). Remember to taste your basic, unspiced kibbeh mixture to establish a baseline. Do not be a ham-fist with your spices, but do not fear the contribution they can make!:

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne or other ground chili pepper (not southwestern chile powder!), or a couple fresh hot chilies
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground,
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove, ground

For the supplemental drizzle (should you desire it, and many do):

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice or slim lemon wedges (or diluted tamarind juice)

Additional garnishes which may also be served on a separate plate for diners to add to taste:

  • cosmetic dusting of paprika and/or cayenne
  • chopped scallions
  • mint leaves
  • olives
  • white onion wedges
  • middle eastern pickles
  • thinly sliced radishes
  • chopped parsley
  • basil leaves
  • marjoram leaves
  • walnuts or toasted pine nuts

How to serve and present the dish: To eat, pita bread, Arab or lavash bread, romaine (or other) lettuce pieces, or quartered onion pieces are often used to scoop up kibbeh. Kibbeh may be spread thin on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice and garnished to taste, or it may be formed into cigar shaped spears and placed on lettuce leaves with similar drizzle and garnish applied. Some roll the kibbeh into small balls, with or without lettuce, but usually with garnish and drizzle nearby; others do not mix the bulgher with the meat, but prefer to spread the meat thinly and press bulgher into the meat after it has been arranged on its plate. I prefer a hybrid: Mix some bulgher into the meat, then press bulgher onto the top. For those of you who need to follow the specific guidelines of someone else’s cookbook, I recommend, as a starting point, The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Rodin. I don’t mention her book because it has the definitive recipe for kibbeh nayyeh, but because it mentions several variations for raw and cooked kibbeh, as well as the Turkish cig kofte. There is also a kibbeh naye [sic] recipe in the River Cottage Book of Meat by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as in any Lebanese cookbook. The more you seek the recipe out, the more variations you will find.

Know, too, that raw kibbeh is very versatile. If your guests are squeamish about eating raw meat, the kibbeh mixture can be quickly made into meat balls or kebabs and fried, broiled or baked. Any leftovers can be cooked the same way, or made into a creative sausage with some additional spices.

Ideally, each reader/cook will create his or her own special kibbeh.

Tchuss, SweetCheeks!

22 December, 2007
Du bist der ueberman.
Click photo for the (small but ever growing) SweetCheeks photo album.

Chorizo del diablo.

20 December, 2007
Tacos (huevos con chorizo)–one of many uses. [click to enlarge]

Pseudo recipe:
4.25 pounds pork shoulder and pork belly mix
1 onion and 3 cloves garlic (ground with meat)
4 teaspoons kosher salt (= one heaping tablespoon)
1 tablespoon whole black pepper, ground
1 heaping teaspoon whole cumin, ground
1 heaping teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
7 ounce can of Herdez Salsa Ranchera (the jarred stuff is not as good)

Notes: Ground once through a 3/16th die. I probably forgot some of the spices I put in, and the quantities may be off, but for the love of Pete, this is good stuff. The addition of vinegar would add a nice balance.

Ed Dornan died two years ago.

19 December, 2007

Today marks the two year anniversary of Ed Dornan’s death. Cheers, Ed! We toast to you often, and miss you daily. I wish you had the chance to see the men we shall become.

Edward Aaron Dornan

Sea Scallop Supper 12-07

14 December, 2007

Click the thumbnail for a couple more photos.

Scallop Supper

Per person:
Sea scallops: 2-4 large-sized (4 is about 1/2 pound)
Butter: 1 fat pan-coating pad for the scallops; 1 fat pad more for the sauce
Garlic: 2 cloves, roughly chopped
Flat leaf parsley: 1 sparse palm (not a handful–it absorbs the butter–if you want more, add as additional garnish)
Red Jalapeno, seeded, deveined diced, or red bell pepper: 1/2 per person (a raw garnish) (optional)
Cayenne pepper: enough to dust (optional)
Black pepper and kosher salt to taste (optional, and not for me with this dish)
(Served, this time, over pasta, but a nice baguette would do).

Notes: [While cooking pasta]: Hot pan, cook scallops in butter until nicely browned on one side (3 minutes) and on the other (fewer than 2 minutes, and cover the pan for the last minute if the scallops are really thick). Discard (or save) brown butter. New butter in pan, saute chopped garlic. Add parsley for a few seconds, pour over scallops. If serving over pasta, use some brown butter to lubricate pasta (as long as it is not bitter, or a fresh pad if it is). Try to time pasta and scallops together, or pasta will set and stick. Set scallops on pasta bed and spoon sauce over scallops. Dust with cayenne and sprinkle seeded pepper (or red bell pepper) over.

A good source for scallop supper ideas is Appetite, by Nigel Slater. As long as you do not overcook the scallops, anything goes as far as spice palettes are concerned.

Homemade Carnitas 12-07-07

8 December, 2007

5 pounds of pork shoulder, with fat, trimmed into 2 inch (or larger) cubes;
4 T. butter;
4 T. canola oil (lard would be ideal, but I had no lard);
1 red onion, roughly chopped;
1 head garlic, peeled and cloves smashed;
6 bay leaves, broken up;
2 navel oranges, cut into eighths;
1 cup milk:
1 cup homemade smoked turkey stock (or just use more milk);
20 peppercorns, crushed;
1.5 T. whole cumin;
Kosher salt to taste.

Fry meat with butter/oil/lard in heavy pan until browned (the browning will be lost in the subsequent cooking, but the flavors will not). Fry onions and garlic as meat finishes, taking care not to burn either. Transfer pan contents to a baking dish, pouring any rendered fat that may still be in the pan back over the meat. Add the remaining ingredients, crushing the oranges a bit to extract some juice (orange peels can impart a bitter flavor, so I leave it up to the cook’s judgment to whether to peel or not. I did not).

Cover the baking dish with foil and transfer to a 300 to 325 degree oven. Cook 3.5 to 4 hours. It’s OK to peek under the foil and move the pork around from time to time. In fact, it is OK to taste things as you go after the first hour or so. This will help you learn about how low and slow cooking metamorphoses the meat’s texture from that of a pork chop to that of luscious porcine succulence. When fork tender, remove from oven. Fork tender for me is when I can insert a fork and twist, and the meat busts apart under the gentlest of pressure. Also, for this dish, I like to make cubes of meat that are larger than two inches–more like three or four, but that is up to the cook.

The pork can be eaten at this stage, and it will be quite delicious, but it is not proper carnitas until the meat has been browned once again. Pull the pan from the oven, and remove the meat from the liquid that has rendered out during cooking. It’s fine to transfer the meat back to the heavy pan you started with. Browning/crisp the outside of the meat. You can do this on the stovetop, in a hot oven (say 375–400 degrees) or even under the broiler. Personally, I like to eat the meat the first night without the second browning. Then, with the leftovers, I sear the meat in a pan as I am heating it up or, if I want to feed several people, I use the oven.

Rember: What is ideal is a chunk of pork so tender you can put it in the center of a tortilla and flatten it easily with a spoon, a chunk in which the fat is so luscious you find yourself looking for the most unhealthy morsel. For tacos, serve with chopped cilantro, onion, or whatever your fancy dictates.

Click thumbnail for larger view.





Turkey stock 12-03, 2007

3 December, 2007

Time to bereave the freezer and fridge of their bones. Given the proximity of the Thanksgiving holiday, we had the carcass of a smoked turkey, as well as some frozen pork skins (from homemade bacon), the bones and trimmings from a pork shoulder (from homemade sausage), and a couple handfuls of shrimp shells. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to make some homemade stock. We also have a roasted chicken carcass and a lamb leg bone in queue, but that is for batch down the road.

The stock I am making will be quite smoky in flavor, due to the smoked turkey carcass. This will be good in a variety of bean dishes and posole, a personal House favorite. I hope Coburn and Ho-tep will come up with some other ideas in using it, as well.
This batch has been less of a chore than the last (which was a pork stock). In the latter, I accidently let the water boil early on, and a huge quantity of scum rose to the surface. Moreover, stock that has reached the boil will taste good, but will never be clear. Not so this time! I’ve kept the water at a simmer near 180 degrees. This temperature can be maintained on the stove top or in a low oven (provided you have an accurate oven thermometer).

For those who have never made stock, and for those who wince when they see a recipe calling for stock, know that water is a substitute that is far superior to bullion cubes or canned broth. Need more convincing? Click here.

Sausagepalooza 12-01-07

2 December, 2007

Sweet Cheeks and I made some in-freakin’-credible sausages: Classic bratwurst and pork shoulder and chicken-liver sausage. The former should be heated to about 150 degrees; the latter benefits from a couple more minutes on the heat, so the liver has a little more time to set and the sausage is less crumbly. Yes, we ground the meat in our hand-cranked grinder/stuffer and stuffed into real hog casings. Recipes are below, but do not include instructions, so if you are intrigued, drop me an email for instructions.

A few pictures will be inevitable, but are currently being processed.


Bratwurst, 12-01-07
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, diced
2 pounds pork belly, diced
1.5 ounces kosher salt (3 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon ground white pepper
2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup ice-cold heavy cream.
Notes: next time, use 2 T salt. This sausage is incredible.

Additional Note: we revisited this sausage again. This time we ground an onion with the mix. Great!

Pork shoulder and chicken liver sausage, 12-01-07
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder butt, diced
1 pound chicken livers
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon whole cumin
1.5 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
3 cloves garlic.
Notes: Be sure to cook a little beyod 150 degrees F. A really great sausage with an intriguing rich taste and moist, but crumbly texture (unless cooked more). No unsuspecting person would ever believe liver is an ingredient. One more pound meat (with spice adjustment) would work well, too.

Additional note: some liver sausage recipes, like Reavis’ braunschweiger, which uses a 1:1 pork liver to pork butt ratio, suggest simmering cased sausages at 180–190 for one hour, then smoking at 150 for 2 hours. Sausages treated this way should last 2 weeks in the ‘fridge.