Thursday, April 28, 2011

Experiments in Home Curing

As I've recently professed my obsession with charcuterie it shouldn't be surprising to see meat curing, smoking, etc. appearing on my blog, I give you the preface so that you aren't surprised as more and more of these items start appearing. Last summer I learned to can (thanks Mom!) and rejected all fear of botulism or poisoning my family and friends with my canned goodies. This summer I will conquer the slightly more difficult (in my mind) art of curing meat, starting with salmon.

Many many moons ago, during the middle ages, gravlax was made by fishermen who salted and fermented salmon by burying it in the sand above the high-tide line. The word gravlax comes from the Scandinavian word grav, which literally means "grave" or "hole in the ground, and lax (or laks), which means "salmon", thus gravlax means "buried salmon." While fermentation is no longer part of the process, salt and curing for a few days certainly are.

1 Cup Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp Whole Peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 Bunch Fresh Dill
2 Lbs Fresh Salmon, Cut into 2 pieces
1/4 Cup Gin

1. Place the one piece of the salmon (skin-side down) in a dish you can zip into a freezer ziploc bag.
2. In a bowl mix together the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Sprinkle half the mixture on top of the piece of salmon in the dish. Place the dill on the salmon and pour remaining salt mixture on top, lay second piece of salmon, flesh-side down on top of the other piece.
3. Pour gin over the salmon. Zip salmon up removing as much air as possible and place in fridge.
4. Turn salmon every 12 hours, cure for 48-72 hours.
5. After it is cured to your liking, wipe salt mixture and dill off of salmon using a damp paper towel. Salmon can be stored wrapped in wax paper and in a ziploc back for up to 12 days.

While I used the exact ingredients above for my Gravlax I will likely substitute brown sugar for the regular white sugar next time. I think the brown sugar flavor will meld better with the flavors of the salmon and cure. Gravlax can be served by slicing it thinly and eating it with cream cheese and bread or a bagel. I found a great springy salad in Eugenia Bone's cookbook, Well Preserved that used Gravlax as well.

Gravlax and Shaved Fennel Salad
Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone

2 Fennel Bulbs, Greens and Core Removed, Shaved
12 Slices Gravlax (about 1/2 lb), cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1/4 Cup Light Oil, Like Safflower
2 Tbsp Minced Fresh Chives or Dill

1. In a small bowl, combine the shaved fennel and the gravlax.
2. Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper (to taste). Add the oil in a slow dribble, whisking all the while, until you have used all the oil and the vinaigrette thickens.
3. Toss the fennel and gravlax in the vinaigrette. Gently pile a quarter of the salad onto each of four small plates. Garnish each salad with chives.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Putting Christmas Gifts to Good Use

Of late I've taken a serious interest in charcuterie, it started simply enough, with a Christmas gift, a book called Flying Sausages, and is starting to spiral into full blown obsession (I have 2lbs of pork belly in the freezer I'm planning to turn into bacon soon).

For now my obsession may be limited to simple things, since I lack a smoker, a place to cure things and really the guts to try to make some of the items in my cookbooks, instead I have opted to make bulk sausages and just purchase delicious treats from local producers such as Dai Due and Kocurek Family Charcuterie . My first foray into sausage was a Chicken Apple Sausage, adapted from Flying Sausages and used in my Turkey Apple Meatballs.

Chicken Apple Sausage
Adapted from Flying Sausages by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly

1 Cup Apple Cider
3 1/2 Lbs Ground Chicken
6 oz Dried Apples, Chopped
6 Tsp Kosher Salt
3 Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
3 Tsp Ground White Pepper
2 Tbsp Rubbed Sage
1 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 Cube Chicken Bouillon Dissolved in 2 Tbsp Boiling Water

1. In a non-reactive sauce pan boil apple cider until it is reduced into a syrup, only about 2-3 tbsp should be left. Cool and reserve.
2. Add apple cider and remaining ingredients to the chicken, blend thoroughly with hands.
3. Make a small patty, fry it in a skillet to test seasoning/flavor. If it needs extra seasoning mix additional seasonings into the raw chicken. Once desired flavor is reached, portion it into ziploc bags and freeze or use immediately.

Pictures of raw loose sausage aren't pretty so you'll have to wait and see what the recipes using it look like : )

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bucking trends...

I have never been big on following the trends, I've never cared too much to go buy the latest clothes (although I don't think I'm unfashionable, guess that's easy to say since I'm the one judging myself) and truth is once I find something I love (be it clothing, furniture, etc.) I could care less if it's 'trendy' it's something I will hang on to as long as I can. So when bacon hit the radar as 'trendy' I was a little sad to say the least, I've been a bacon fan as far back as I can remember.

As a small child my great grandmother (I've been a lucky girl who has known great grandparents and grandparents on both sides of the family) would take me to the grocery store with her and spoil me rotten...she let me pick out whatever my heart desired and at a very young age she taught me how to make bacon (in the microwave, because who trusts a 5 year old with the stove!). My poor mother was probably a bit horror stricken, she's not a huge bacon fan and really was a health-nut most of my childhood. Coming to my great-grandmothers to find her 5 year old happily nuking bacon was likely a bit of a shock. I always adored my great grandparents, bacon or not and have very fond memories of summers at their home, including my great-grandfather's huge veggie garden which continues to inspire me today.

I speak of this not to brag about the fabulous family I grew up with or the fact that I was lucky enough to know great grandparents but to prove my bacon pedigree. I have long been a fan and so when it became a trend, when it hit all the 'food' shows I was a bit sad. I suddenly looked like everyone else who loves bacon, as if I jumped on the band wagon, I'm here to say I was an early adopter! For those of you who have read my blog before you'll see that bacon is ubiquitous in my cooking, not so much so that I'll be suffering a major heart attack anytime soon but it's definitely present and has been since before bacon became the 'it' food.

Now that I'm done trying to prove myself, the purpose of my rant is really to share with you something delicious, slightly unexpected and a condiment that stands on it's own, bacon jam! Yes, I know it's been done, especially since the 'trend' began but this is my version, a little bit of heat, a little bit of sweet and a good solid dose of smokiness.

Bacon Jam
1 lb Thick Cut Smoked Bacon
1 Large Sweet Onion, Cut into 1/4 inch rounds
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Adobe Chipotle Chile + 1 Tsp Chile Sauce from the Can
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
1/4 Tsp Ground Allspice
1/4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Ground Nutmeg
1 Tbsp Shaved Dark Chocolate (at least 75% cocoa) or 2 Tbsp Dutch Process Cocoa Powder
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
3/4 Cup Strong Brewed Coffee (I prefer to use Pecan Flavored Coffee)

1. In a large dutch oven cook bacon over medium high heat until crispy on the edges but tender in the center. Remove from pot, set on paper towels to drain excess grease. Remove all but 1 Tbsp of rendered fat from pan. Chop bacon into half-inch pieces.
2. Decrease heat to medium-low and add onion and brown sugar. Cook until onions are well caramelized, stirring frequently for approximately 20 minutes.
3. Add garlic and remaining spices (including chiles and adobo sauce), saute for 5 minutes.
4. Add liquids and bacon back to pan, increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil. Let boil 3 minutes.
5. Decrease heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, stir every 15-20 minutes.
6. If mixture become too dry add water by the tbsp to keep mixture from burning and sticking. Final texture should be moist and sticky, like a jam.

I should have far more interesting photos than the jar full of jam but you see it's been consumed so fast I really should feel lucky I snagged these pictures : ) This is delicious in so many ways, on an egg sandwich, a BLT (instead of the bacon), just on a piece of bread as an appetizer...possibilities are endless!

Slight disclosure here, while I've been planning to share this post for a while it also coincided with a Foodbuzz program/contest called Baconalia.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meatball Monday

I know, I know, it's supposed to be Meatless Monday, but come on meatballs sound good, don't they? Both recipes I want to share today are meatball-centric, but contrary to the heavy meatballs you might be envisioning, I'm going to share some healthy, tasty meatballs that are well worth making! I love this time of year, finding beautiful green veggies and treats at the farmers markets it's such a welcome sight after the chilly winter evenings. Both of the recipes I'm going to share capitalize on the great produce available right now, the first has a slightly less than traditional pesto made with mustard greens.

Mustard greens are terrific for you they are packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins, some evidence even suggests a diet rich in mustard greens prevent arthritis, osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia and protects from cardiovascular diseases, asthma and colon and prostate cancers.

Mustard Green Pesto with Chicken/Turkey Meatballs

1 lb Mild Turkey Breakfast Sausage
1 lb Chicken-Apple Sausage*
1 1/2 Tbsp Rubbed Sage
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Black Pepper
1 Cup Apple Cider, reduced down to 1/4 cup to create a syrup
2 Lg Bunches Baby Mustard Greens
5 Cloves Garlic
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Pecan Pieces, Toasted
1 Tbsp Cider Vinegar
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts, Toasted
3 Tbsp Grated Parmesean Cheese
1 Red Bell Pepper

1. Fold bulk sausages together wtih 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, rubbed sage and reduced cider. Do not over work the mixture, shape into balls and place in a greased 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 400 F for 25 minutes.

2. While the meatballs are baking, blend the mustard greens, garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, 1 tsp salt, pine nuts, pecans and grated parmesean.

3. Slice bell peppers, leave raw. Toss meatballs, pesto and bell peppers together and serve, top with extra cheese if desired.

*Recipe to follow soon

Korean Chicken Meatballs with Rice Noodles & Veggie Stir-fry

1 lb Ground Chicken
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
5 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
2 Tbsp Canola Oil
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Fresh Chopped Cilantro
1/4 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs
2 Tsp Fresh Peeled, Minced Ginger
1/4 Cup Thinly Sliced Red Onion
1 Cup Red Bell Pepper, Thinly Sliced
1 Cup Sugar Snap Peas, Thinly Sliced
1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Green Onions
8oz Uncooked, Wide Rice Noodles
1 Tbsp Dark Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Sweet Soy Sauce

1. Mix brown sugar, garlic, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, bread crumbs and cilantro together. Gently fold into chicken, being careful not to overwork the meat. Roll into balls and place in a greased oven-save dish, bake 25 minutes at 400F.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain and rinse under cool water. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

3. Add bell pepper, pease, red onion and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, ad sweet soy and dark sesame oil, noodles and meatballs, toss gently.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning, Blogging Catch-Up & New Belgium Beer

The last four weeks have been filled with home improvement projects (who knew you could spend that much money at Home Depot??), gardening and unfortunately widsom teeth pulling! I've been a little lax on my blogging since March but here's the beginning of catch-up time. In my aforementioned home improvement and gardening projects I had my coutnertops replaced (yipee!!), put together two large and beautiful raised garden beds that will hopefully mean bushel-fulls of fresh veggies this summer and arranged to have the flooring replaced (coming at the end of April). With all of that going on I also needed to have my wisdom teeth pulled (ick) so that was yesterday morning fun, now I'm going to play catch up here, because you can't see my puffy swollen cheeks and I miss having regular blog posts.

Knowing now that I'm playing catch up I warn you that most of the recipes I'll be posting over the coming weeks are not seasonal, they are things that have built up on the camera and in my recipe list for the last few months, but they are still uber tasty! First up on the list, a delicious weeknight meal courtesy of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and New Belgium Beer, a favorite of mine. New Belgium brews up some delicious beers, some of my favorite include Mothership Whit, Fat Tire and the star of today's recipe, Abbey. In searching for a good way to incorporate Abbey into the meal I started contemplating a few options, the ever-tasty beer bread, maybe some kind of marinade, then I realized that I wanted to use it in more than one way so I dug deep and came up with Beer-Poached Chicken Mole tacos. Who doesn't love beer and tacos after all?

Beer-Poached Chicken Mole Tacos

8 Chicken Thighs (Bone-in, Skinless)
1 New Belgium Abbey Beer
1 Dried Ancho Chile
2 Bay Leaves
*Prepared Mole Sauce
1 Large Avocado, Sliced
1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro
Pickled Red Onions
Tomato Slices
Corn Tortillas

1. In a large pot/dutch oven place the chicken in the pot with the bay leaves and ancho chile, then pour beer over the top. Bring up to a boil over medium-high heat. Let poach until chicken is cooked through (appx 15 minutes).

2. Set chicken aside, remove bay leaves and chile from the beer. Once chicken has cooled down, shred it with a fork. Place left over poaching liquid in a separate container (you'll need to use it to thin out the mole).

3. Keeping the heat turned off, add mole to the pan, slowly add poaching liquid until you have thinned the mole to desired consistency. I have adopted a practice my mom has with pre-prepared mole, adding about 1.5 Tbsp creamy peanut butter to it. It adds depth of flavor and just makes it a richer tasting dish. Once the mole has reached the consistency you like (I recommend you keep it about the consistency of an alfredo sauce, but not too runny), mix in the chicken.

Serve in tortillas, corn works well, topped with cilantro, onions and avocado slices! Enjoy with your favorite New Belgium Beer. As for the pickled red onions, I used some that my mom posted on her blog, they are addictive, I swear I've been finding ways to use them on everything! Check them out, you'll love them too!

*If you're feeling up to the challenge you can make your own mole, there are a number of fabulous recipes available, on a week night I wasn't all that ambitious and instead I used a great prepared mole sauce and thinned it out with some of the poaching liquid.