Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Roasted garlic pea soup supper

2 February, 2009

Nice supper tonight, and easy. Roasted garlic pea soup, fancy baguette, head of roasted garlic, asian pear, red pepper slices, bottle of Les Jamelles sauvignon blanc, & good company. No pics; no apologies.

About the roasted garlic pea soup. The recipe inspiration was from Nigella Lawson via Nigel Slater’s Real Food. In the past (the first time I made it), I followed the recipe verbatim, but I think it is so flexible that a once through will teach you that you can do what you will with it (three yous!). Start with some peas, roasted garlic, and broth whirred in a food processor. You can be creative with the rest. A scant cup (6-8oz) is all you need to satisfy an adult. No oversized pottery barn bowls needed.

Nigella’s recipe can be found online with a search for ‘”Nigella Lawson” garlic pea soup’. This time I used homemade pork stock from smoked pork shoulder bones, less butter than usual, no parmesian, and very little cream.

I’ll be working on a baseline recipe to can at home (one that can be doctored to taste at reheating). More on that later…


Homemade Canadian bacon.

14 September, 2008

I got a good deal on some pork loin, so I am going to make some Canadian bacon. For the record, loin bacon is also used by the Irish, so one will also hear this bacon referred to as Irish bacon; but here in the states, it’s usually called Canadian.

For one gallon of brine (boil some of the water to dissolve the salt & sugar, and mingle the spices, then add it to the rest of the gallon. Chill to fridge temp before inserting meat) Note: one gallon of brine was more than enough to cover the meat; I saved the rest to brine a venison backstrap down the road:

  • 1 1/2 cups kosher salt;
  • 1 1/2 cups dextrose, or 1 cup sugar, or 1 cup brown sugar (I used dextrose this time);
  • 8 teaspoons pink salt
  • 4 crumbled bay leaves;
  • 8 crushed juniper berries;
  • 3 smashed cloves of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon coarse ground black pepper;
  • 1 gallon water;
  • Note: this is a recipe for savory bacon. You could add any number of aromatics, such as fresh thyme or sage, or even extra sweeteners (for sweeter bacon), such as maple syrup or honey or molasses, or just increase the sugar of your choice.

For the meat:

  • 5.5 pounds pork loin (that’s just what mine weighed).

Brine the meat (be sure it is fully covered–I cut my loin into two pieces and used large Ziploc bags) for 48 hours (actually, I brined one piece for 2 days, and another for 4 days. Both tasted great pan seared before smoking (chef’s perks). Rinse the meat after brining, and let it rest on a rack uncovered in the fridge for at least 24 hours to form a pellicle (this can be short-cutted by putting the meat on a rack and running the air from a fan over it for a couple of hours). Smoke the meat until an inner temp of 145 has been reached. Slice and store in the fridge, or freeze for longer storage. Pan fry or steam to reheat, or add to soups or stews.

The procedure I used was to hot smoke the meat, which took about 8 hours at sub 200 degree heat in my smoker (fall day, small fire). You could also cold smoke the meat (keeping the temp at about 90 degrees for as man as 12 hours, but you will have to consider it still raw and cook it (of course, if you brined the meat for longer and hung it, you would get a loin prociuto, but that is for another post [or you could cure the meat, simmer it to an internal temp of 150 +/-, then cold smoke it for 12 hours (or smoke than simmer) and have a loin ham}). If you hot smoke your bacon (or, if you don’t have a smoker, slowly heat it in a 200 degree oven until the internal temp reaches 145-150 degrees, you can consider it cooked and eat it reheated, or cold.

Pictures? Well, I forgot to take them. I will say that both the two day and the four day brined pieces were equally good, and it was hard to tell a difference between the two. This ham/Canadian bacon made excellent cold cut sandwiches, for the record.

Mote pillo: Ecuadorian hominy with eggs.

5 September, 2008

Mote pillo is a hominy and egg brunch dish from Ecuador. I made it with Goya brand maiz mote pelado, and it is best served with homemade queso fresco and home-roasted coffee (naturally). In lieu of using the huge mote pelado corn, one could use Goya golden (or white) hominy corn (maiz trillado amarillo (or maiz trillado blanco)), or even canned hominy. I, however, like a beefier kernel, so the huge mote pelado is right for me. Here’s a link to the site that inspired me to try this dish.

I was cooking for one when I made this, so I will not give exact ratios. Just think of this as a hominy scramble–not unlike an egg scramble–and wing it. If you are using dried hominy, you will need to have cooked it earlier–like the day before. In butter, saute a pinch of powdered anchiote, some pinhead diced red onion, followed by minced garlic. Throw in some (optional) jalapeno (green or red), and the hominy, along with a splash of milk. When the milk has evaporated and or been absorbed by the hominy, add beaten egg (I used one egg with about 2/3 cup of cooked hominy). As the egg nearly sets, throw in some finely chopped scallions, minced red bell pepper (which I included for color contrast, really), and finely chopped parsley (cilantro would have been better, but I was out). Stir to mix and break up the egg. Plate and enjoy.

Nuoc Cham: Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

28 August, 2008

Just a quick post on a great Vietnamese dipping sauce, for 2-ish cups. Here is the base:

  • 5 T sugar
  • 3 T  water (1/3 cup)
  • 3 T fish sauce (1/3 cup)
  • 8 T fresh squeezed lime juice (1/2 cup)

Definitely add: 1 or more smashed cloves of garlic; 1 or more diced hot chiles;

Consider adding: minced shallot, julienned carrot; julienned cucumber; jullienned daikon, chopped tomato, chopped cilantro, or whatever may strike your fancy.

Tacopalooza-first half of 08.

14 June, 2008

Lots of tacos, way more than the number of photos.

Click on the thumbnail for more tacos.

Burgerpalooza–first half of 08.

14 June, 2008

Several burger events worthy of note, but I am only providing pictures. Minimalist, ueber-rare burgers by HBD, Huge works burger by AGD, Loaded bgt  (bacon, guacamole, tomato) works burger by DanGafro, etc. Just a gallery of some burgers. Mmmmm… burgers!

Click on the photo for the gallery:

Best grilled cheese technique

8 February, 2008

Well, with winter setting in I am finding myself craving more and more comfort foods. And what is more comforting to the average American other than a grilled cheese sandwich, except perhaps a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup?

On one of his DVD episodes, Alton Brown illustrates how to make a grilled cheese (faux panini style) in under four minutes. I’ve got it down to three minutes due to my range’s heat, and I have added my own variations to suit my personal tastes. Regardless of individual flair, though, the skeletal culinary structure remains the same. You will need 2 cast iron 10″ skillets, or one 10″ skillet and one 10″ comal. You can do two sandwiches at one time, perhaps three, and definately one.

Go into the kitchen and put both pans (which should be dry, otherwise they will smoke excessively) on high. While they heat, grab your bread, select and grate some decent cheese, such as some aged or sharp cheddar, or even a combo of brie and Reggiano, or some havarti or mozzarella (if you make grilled cheese with American cheese, well, whatever, and what the heck are you doing on this site, anyway?), pick out some mustard from the fridge and spread a thin coat over one slice of bread with it. Put the cheese onto the other piece. Here is where I go for my own flair. I grind some fresh black pepper over the cheese, I splooge some Rooster sauce (Vietnamese chilli sauce) over the mustard, and lightly butter both sides of the bread. It is not uncommon for me to throw some diced onion or gherkins into the mix, but it depends on my mood. The butter is necessary to prevent the pans from sticking to the bread. Alton Brown uses a spritz of olive oil on the contact surfaces of the pans, but I find I prefer butter spread on the bread better.

OK, your pans are hot and smoking. Your sandwich is assembled. Turn off the heat (and if you have an electric range, move your pans to a different (cool) burner or the counter (use a trivet!). Put the sandwich on one pan, and put the second pan on top of the sandwich to replicate a panini press. Set a timer somewhere (though you won’t need it other than to confirm that I am right). It might take two, or it might take three minutes, but when you hear the melted cheese hit the pan with a sizzle, the cheese is fully melted, and the hot surfaces will have browned the bread by now. It’s ready to eat.

The only downside to this technique is that you end up with a pressed sandwich (you could even use a ridged grill pan to create grill lines on one side. Sometimes, I do not wish to put my bread under the duress of weight. When that is the case, I opt for the heat and flip technique. But if I want a mindless, foolproof sandwich in under 4 minutes, I use two cast iron pans.

Lamb kebab + mezze 01-08

10 January, 2008


Click for a couple more photos.


Lamb kebab; mezze of bulgher; scallion & red pepper vegetable plate; onion salad with sumac; black olives; pistachio nuts:

2 1/2 pounds lamb leg (after trimming), trimmed and diced into about 1 1’2 inch to 2 inch cubes;
1 dried red chile (ground);
1 tablespoon dried chile flakes (ground);
1 tablespoon corriander seed
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds (ground);
2 teaspoons black peppercorns (ground);
1 teaspoon white peppercorns (ground);
3 tablespoons olive oil (one could use as little as 1 tablespoon;
9 garlic cloves, finely chopped;
Salt sprinkled to taste while cooking.
Spices that could have made it into the mix: fenugreek (2t), cumin (up to 1T), dried oregano (1t), fresh rosemary (1t)

Put lamb pieces into ziploc bag or bowl. Add oil and massage. Add garlic and ground spices and massage. Marinate in fridge for 2 hours or as long as you like.

Cook meat over charcoal grill (with two soaked wooden skewers per kebab), or (as here) on HOT ridged grill pan (oven at 500 degrees for 15 minutes, then a couple minutes on high on the range). Sear and turn. Continue turning until desired doneness. Don’t feel obligated to use skewers. I didn’t–I was out, therefore the “kebab.” If you use skewers, the preparation is properly called “shish kebab.”

Gigandes mezze Jan-08

5 January, 2008

Click here or on the thumb for a photoset.


 No plans to provide a recipe for this one. It’s pretty self explanatory. Gigandes were cooked for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker and finished off on the stove.

Kibbeh meatballs

3 January, 2008

Click here or on the thumbnail for a couple photos


What do you do with raw kibbeh leftovers? One option is to shallow fry them as meatballs, which have many, many variations, depending on how you doctor your original kibbeh. Now, meatballs have become a low prestige food in the U.S., but their culinary rank is not worthy of the labor involved, should you decide to make meatballs from scratch without serving the meat as a raw dish first. Be sure to cook no further than medium rare or, for the squeamish, medium, otherwise the meatballs will lose their juice. The photoset above is what we did with our leftover kibbeh nayye from new year’s eve, 2007/8, after adding a little extra olive oil and water to knead the meat to an elastic paste, and dicing and throwing in some of the garnish/accompaniments, like parsley, and radish. Served with mildly spiced large fava beans and room temperature coarse, pale bulgher, with parsley as an edible garnish. One could eliminate the water and beat in an egg, or additional breadcrumbs. Variations such as these could go under several names, such as kofte or koukla.

Homemade chicken stock

2 January, 2008

Lots of stuff out there about making homemade chicken stock. Why are you here when you could be on “the Google?”

First rule of chicken stock: you have to save chicken bones (in a zip-loc bag in the freezer).
Second rule of chicken stock (with exception discussed below): do not let it boil or it will never clear.
Third rule of chicken stock is: You can make a small quantity and add it to your next batch along with water.

Exception: you can boil the bones for a few minutes, then discard the water with the scum and start over. Chicken stock will take at least 1 1/2 hours.

A basic “power of two” stock: A whole chicken, or enough bones + wings + giblets to make a good stock. Two halves of an onion, two carrots, two celery stalks, two handfuls of parsley, two bay leaves, two sprigs thyme (not for me), two spices (salt and pepper to taste), two quarts water (=water to cover), two hour simmer (if you use a whole chicken, you can pick the meat off the bones and reserve it for other purposes).

Additional power of two additions: two cloves garlic, two finger sized sprigs of fresh dill, two parsnips, two halves of a turnip.

Listified, think of it this way (in my own oder of preference, and half the time I don’t have all the ingredients):
Salt and pepper
Bay leaf

Simmer (emphasis on simmer) and skim any scum. Give yourself two hours minimum. It’s that easy. You can also throw in pork bones from your last bbq, or shrimp hulls, or turkey bones, or fish heads, or whatever. I strain my stock through a sieve lined with the cotton remnants of an old T-shirt. Cool to kitchen temperature, refridgerate, and skim off any fat that collects on the top the next day.

Again, it is that easy, and totally worth it.

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.

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.

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.

Pork stock

18 September, 2007

First rule of pork stock is….. (you probably know).

Second rule of pork stock is…. (you probably know, or see #1).

Well, I can violate the untimate (and penultimate) rules, but just this time.

Third rule of pork stock is: You do not freeze your bones in tin foil without wrapping them in freezer paper first. Why? I’ll tell you why. Because when you crimp the foil around the meat, it will cling to the meat’s folds. After that meat freezes, you will discover a carne-alumino bond. Guess what? You will not be able to pick all the foil off (out) of the meat when you want to make stock! So into the stock pot the foil goes. Remember to fish it out later.

Anyway, bones: Pork shoulder (left over from puerco pibil) and pork picnic bone (from ham-b-que and ham-b-sausage), plus spices (bay leaves, whole black peppercorns, crushed juniper berries, a few cloves of smashed garlic). After a few hours, remove the bones and pull off any meat (= future tacos). Return bones to pan. Keep simmering. Nasty process, but good results. We’ll freeze and use this stock for beans, or posole, or something.

Barbara Fisher has written a nice page on making French style stock (chicken), and on Chinese style stock making (mixed). I have to admit that I discovered these pages hours into my stock, but they make for good reference on method (and reason), as would any good cook book.

Baked beans with homemade bacon.

3 September, 2007

The best baked beans we have ever eaten; and my first attempt at cooking them. Motivation due to Country Coburn’s request.

You could consider this a “basic white bean” recipe + bacon & spice addition. The basic bean recipe base:

  1. 1.5 cups dried navy beans, unsoaked pressure cooked for 15 min. with 6 cloves smashed garlic (and a little olive oil).Pressure naturally dropped. Drain beans but reserve liquid. Put beans into a dutch oven or casserole, and add…
  2. One yellow onion, chopped;
  3. Three tomatoes, chopped (you could use one can of crushed tomatoes).

Now for the meat and spices. Add to the dutch oven:

  1. 1/2 cup homemade, smoked lardons (or pancetta) (smoking is optional, but recommended by us;
  2. 1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar (+ more to taste later on);
  3. 2T blackstrap molasses (+ more to taste later on);
  4. 2T horseradish mustard (+ more to taste later on);
  5. Scant pinch of cloves (or you could just quarter the onion in lieu of dicing and pin the quarters with a single clove;
  6. Fresh ground pepper to taste;
  7. NO SALT (unless desired toward the end of cooking)–the bacon takes care of that;
  8. Reserved cooking liquid to cover.

Bring to boil on stove top and pop dutch oven into a 350 degree oven.

I added too much water at the onset. Good for soup, but bad for beans. So I 1) removed a bunch of liquid (putting the pot back into the oven with the lid off to facilitate liquid loss via evaporation) 2) put the liquid into a saucier, 3) added more mustard, brown sugar, & molasses (i.e., adjusted spice to taste, to the tune of doubling the spices–but no more cloves), 4) reduced liquid by half, and 5) returned glaze to pot in oven.

After returning glaze, cook for 1/2 hour or longer to facilitate liquid loss and browning on top of beans (and of exposed bacon pieces).

The motivation to cook baked beans was due to a photo in the River Cottage Meat Book, though my ingredients, ratios, and procedure differ from the recipe included therein (Fearnley-Whittingstall takes 5 hours to cook his at 275 degrees, recommends only pancetta (not smoked bacon), does not use tomatoes or garlic, etc., and uses a lower amount of the spices). Our result was fantastic. The best baked beans ever. We have also used uncured pork belly lardons, complete with skin, in lieu of cured bacon/pancetta with no degradation of quality. Just don’t use store bought bacon of any kind–even the fancy stuff. If it has already been sliced, you will be disappointed.

Click on the thumb for a few pictures.


Roast Beef Project 002.

21 August, 2007

I went overboard yesterday and bought a 14 pound single piece of top round. I should have bought three 4# pieces. Why? 1) The lean cuts in the store have been professionally trimmed and are the ueber prime pieces; 2) Because if you buy a single 14 pound piece, there is a 15-20% loss to trimmings, fat, and silverskin (which can go back into burgers). But good burgers can be made without the fat, so better that it is gone. If you want fattier burgers, go for a burger ground from chuck.

OK. After following the natural muscle structure of my 14# piece, I ended up with: a 7.5″ roast (for cold roast beef sandwiches), a 2.5# small roast (burgers, probably, or bresaola), a 1.25# flat piece resembling flank or london broil (beef jerkey), and a .75# piece of nice lean meat (carpaccio), and 2.5# trimmings (back into burgers). Should I accomplish all this, I will make pages describing the various projects.

This roast beef uses salt, bacon dry cure (salt, pepper, juniper berries, bay leaves, brown sugar), and lots of crushed peppercorns. I went way heavy on the pepper to resemble the cuts I have seen in some delis.

There is no substitute for making your own roast beef cold cuts. A 3.5-4# lean piece that costs 1.99 a pound will probably lose 20% to cooking and mositure loss during resting (save the jus!), resulting in 2.50 per pound with tax. Add in tons pepper, some olive oil, and the natural gas bill, and you are probably coming out between 3 and 4 bucks per finished pound. That does not include your time, but it is worth it.

Click on the thumb to view the photos


Bacon Project 002

19 August, 2007

Time for another bacon project–this time with a 1.5# piece of pork belly. The cure will remain the same as in the first homemade bacon (due to unused leftover cure from the first batch), but I will be curing the bacon for a shorter time (4 days) and cold smoking half of it.

Update 8-19: 4 day cure (instead of 6). Still very salty (i.e., “savoury”). Tastes very much like the first batch, perhaps slightly less salty. Future dry-cures designed for breakfast slices will have higher sugar ratio and / or addition of molasses, honey or maple syrup. I have also heard of bacon that is single-cured and stored in a zip-lock bag (instead of being rubbed with cure every morning, the bag is simply flipped). The leaching of the liquid may perhaps require a longer cure time (7 days), but the convenience might be worth the wait.

Further update: Given the fact that it is too hot in VA to cold smoke at the moment, I decided to “hot smoke” a portion of this bacon–actually I just used the oven (200 degrees F) until the internal temp. reached 150. Removed skin; cooled to room temp; sampled a piece; blanched for 1 minute to reduce salt content; dried after blanching; refridgerated (will keep 1-3 weeks no problem. Could be cut into slices, lardons, etc., and frozen for up to 3 months.


Homemade Cold Medium-Rare Roast Beef Project.

17 August, 2007
  1. 3.5# piece of top round
  2. Olive oil
  3. Kosher Salt
  4. Freshly ground black pepper.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Massage some olive oil into meat. Sprinkle with salt and massage into surface. Grind pepper over each side and press into meat. If you want a “pepper crust,” press a bunch of fresh ground pepper into meat. Wait for oven to come to temperature.

Cook meat at 425 for 30 minutes. Open oven, remove meat and lower oven temp to 300 F. Give oven a little time to cool down with door open. Return meat to oven, close door, and cook 10 minutes per pound (in this case, 35 minutes) Actually, I cooked this piece for 30 minutes, and it was not as rare as I like. I might try 7 minutes per pound next time–but my oven runs hot and I do not have a proper thermometer. If this piece were over 4 pounds, I would probably go for nine minutes per pound.

After cooking, remove the meat from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to cool to room temperature. Use once room temperature is reached or chill in refrigerator if you wish to eat it later, cutting off slices to desired thickness. By the way, this recipe assumes you want room temperature or colder meat. Top round is a good cut for this purpose, and it improves after an overnight stay in the ‘fridge.

If you prefer “wafer thin” slices, chill the beef for a couple hours in the freezer but DO NOT freeze. Cut with a quality sharp knife to desired thickness. If you cut wafer thin slices and do not use immediately, they will oxidize and turn brown. That defeats the visual purpose of serving rare roast beef.

This cut makes great sandwiches (open and closed face), and is good sliced thin and served spritzed with lemon juice and punctuated with capers (as a starter course or with a salad and potatoes).

As usual. Click on the thumbnail for some photos.



Or sliced thin with lemon juice and capers:


Friday Night Meal

11 August, 2007
  1. Meatballs (1 pound meat seasoned with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, oregano, bread crumbs, 1 egg);
  2. French lentils (puy lentils);
  3. Tomato & arugula salad;
  4. Oven-cooked (with occasional stovetop) soft polenta (seasoned with fresh parsley & cheese). Olive oil, pepper and homemade lardons boiled in water to season.
  5. Basil (edible garnish).


Homemade Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

8 August, 2007

The next material for dry cure experiments at the House is salmon. I will be making gravlax, northern European unsmoked cured salmon (or other fish). Woot! The fishlovers will be happy.


This is not my Gravlax (it’s from Wikipedia)–just an illustration of things to come…

References used in the assimilation of (eventual) recipe I shall create (and I would like to remind readers that gravlax can be finished in as few as one or two days, and frozen if a large quantity is made):

  1. Gravlax Wiki page (recipe link at bottom [high salt to sugar ratio])
  2. Sunset Magazine recipe (50/50 salt to sugar ratio)
  3. Andrea Lynn’s blog page on gravlax, inspired by this site.
  4. Another recipe (3:2 salt:sugar ratio + spirits)
  5. That bastard Emeril’s recipe (24 hour cure, salt to sugar = 4:1, orange and vanilla bean accents)
  6. Recipe using onion and cognac
  7. Usenet style recipe page (simple variants)
  8. Gucci variant recipes (including Thai spiced gravlax)
  9. There is a gravlax recipe in Victoria Wise’s 1980’s book, American Charcuterie, which is currently out of print
  10. There is a gravad max (mackerel) and gravad lax recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Cookbook, and the same two recipes are revamped in the River Cottage Book of Fish to produce a sweeter, more tender, less long-keeping product.

Not that there is much to assimilate for traditional recipes–just ratio variants or conjunctive use of vodka or aquavit. I suspect Black or white pepper could be used (or mixed together); white or brown sugar (a.k.a. white sugar with a little molasses mixed in) could be used (or mixed in a 50:50 ratio).

Homemade Bacon (Salt Pork, Lardons, Rashers)

5 August, 2007

The local Asian market has begun carrying pork bellies for 2 bucks per pound, and I decided it is time to try my hand at dry curing some bacon. Yeah, I know it sounds complicated, but it is not. Basically all you need to do is salt the meat once per day with a dry cure of salt, sugar, and spices for 5 days. Then you can keep it in the fridge for use. Bacon can be cold smoked, or left unsmoked. The 6 day process will be photographed and cataloged HERE, or just click on the thumbnail. Photos will be added to the photoset after the meat has been properly sliced and cooked. This bacon experiment will not be smoked. Half of it will be turned into lardons, and half will be sliced for breakfast.


This inspiration for this recipe is from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Book of Meat. Stay tuned, bacon fans. Future trials will modify the dry rub used in this recipe, switching to a wet (brine) cure, and cold smoking.


Miss Prism’s & Cro-Magnon’s Pork “Pie Project.”

3 August, 2007

Meat fans, eat your heart out. Hmmm, that sounds kinda wrong! MP & C-M have produced a fantastic pie inspired by a recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Book of Meat. They offer some improvements and provided even better photography than the book! Click on the thumbnail to see the Flickr photoset.


Lunch: New world “mezze” salad.

2 August, 2007

Corn, tomato, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, parsley (could have used basil in lieu of parsley). Yum.


Saturday night dinner.

29 July, 2007
  1. Corn on the cob. Boiled in husk for 4 minutes;
  2. Tomato salad with arugula & basil (seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil);
  3. Lentils. Room temperature. Seasoned with salt and butter;
  4. Fried green tomatoes coated in spent beer brewing grains;
  5. Cod fillets, seasoned with salt, pepper, and curry. Pan seared.

No pictures.

Butt-kickin’ iced tea recipe.

14 July, 2007

I had this tea at the Charlottesville city market. The folks at Brightwood Vinyard and Farm, L.L.C. gave me the recipe. I’ll be playing around with the ratios of sugar and various types of tea. I’ll add comments to this post.

Part A:

  1. 6 sprigs mint;
  2. 3 tsp tea.
  3. 2 c. boiling water (pour over mint and tea, steep for 15 min.)

Part B:

  1. 1/2 c. lemon juice
  2. 1 c. sugar.
  3. 2 c. boiling water.

Combine parts A and B. Strain. Add 1 qt. cold water.