Monday, November 28, 2011

Charcutepalooza - Venison Sausage

My adventure in Charcuterie continued this week with hot-smoked Venison and Pork sausage. Since I had only 450 grams (1 lb.) of venison from my neighbor and about the same amount of lean pork and pork back fat I had to make small batch of 3 lb. At the end I had 60” of sausages but according to my “official taster” they were the tastiest ever. This is a definite repeat but since I don’t have a free access to venison I will have to substitute with veal shoulder and add juniper berries to simulate a game meat. Here are the ingredients that I have used:

1 lb. venison
1 lb. pork
1 lb. pork fat
1 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. Kosher salt
1 tsp. Prague powder #1
2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. white pepper powder
1/2 Tbs. Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper2/3 cup ice cold water

All the seasonings were mixed, sprinkled over the meat mixture and rubbed into the meat and fat. I cured it overnight at 2°C. The dark meat is venison.

About 45 minutes before grinding I placed the meat into freezer to create a thin frozen crust. Then meat was ground and finally mixed with ice-cold water in stand-up mixer using paddle.

My new stainless steel vertical stuffer was ice cold as well. It is extremely important to keep everything clean and cold. This stuffer is so good!!! Before it was so frustrating to use the Kitchen Aid stuffing attachment.

Sausages were hanged to dry out before smoking.

Two hours later the smoking started. I had to tie the links to the front and back of the grill so that they do not touch each other and that the smoke moves around freely. I had to use my gas grill because my electric smoker kept blowing fuse. Another project: fix the smoker! Also, since I was smoking sausages I smoked some salt and paprika at the same time on top shelf of the BBQ. Notice the thermometer probe inserted into middle of one sausage.

All done! Immediately after they reached internal temperature of 150°C the sausages were cooled in ice bath to tighten up the skin and to stop cooking.

To serve, I will reheat them on the grill and serve with mustard, freshly grated horseradish and rye bread. Carnivore’s Heaven!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Simple Weekday Meals

Monday: Mandu – Korean-Style Potstickers.

Tuesday: Monkfish Chowder with curry, shrimp and clam juice.

Wednesday: Chinese braised pork belly.

Thursday: Pan-fried salmon and mashed potatoes and celeriac.

Friday: Thin-crust vegetarian pizza.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charcutepalooza – Duck Breast Prosciutto

First time I have read about duck breast Prosciutto I didn’t know what to think. Traditional Prosciutto is basically a dry cured ham that has nice layers of fat but duck breast is so lean except the skin, of course. After I made and tasted it, it was clear to me why. The mix of dry salty meat and creamy fat of the duck skin is so much like the real Prosciutto! I have never seen it in a store, not even in Cheese Boutique in Toronto and they have the best and most expensive gourmet products in Canada. Come to think of it I can understand why it is so rare. Even though I have carved my own duck into 2 breast halves, 2 legs and bunch of bones for terrific stock those breasts still cost me about $9 and I ended up with 300 g. of finished product. Will I do it again? Probably not. Not because of the labor and cost involved but I do like medium rare breast better. Mind you, this is an excellent recipe, really very good. That got me thinking! Maybe I should try to make a mini prosciutto, that would be a nice challenge!

Recipe for Duck Breast Prosciutto is quite simple but it does take time. I started on October 27th and I felt that it was ready only last week. Fortunately, once the meat is immersed in salt, sugar and spices and then wrapped in air tight package or placed in a container for 3 days all the work is pretty much done. After 3 days it is then wrapped in muslin and hanged out to dry for 3 weeks. Check this recipe, it is very close to what I did.

Roughly trimmed breasts before curing.

That is a lot of moisture loss but flavor is more concentrated.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Charcutepalooza - Dry Spanish Chorizo Sausage

Chorizo is Spanish spicy sausage that reminds me a lot of Hungarian Csabai sausage. At least my version of chorizo does because I put in so much sweet and hot paprika plus chili powder, something like double that any true recipe calls for. I have made this version three times before but this one is the best. It is just too bad that I didn’t take any notes as to what spices and how much I put in. Only part that I followed religiously was the salting and curing process, these are un-changeable for safety reasons. Also, this was last time I used my Kitchen Aid grinding attachment (modified to fit my Blakeslee 8 quart stand-up mixer) to stuff the casings. In the future I will use it only for grinding and mixing the meat but stuffing will be done by my brand new 5 Lb. vertical stainless steel stuffer. Today I made 5 Lb. of veal Frankfurters so I will post the picture of my new toy on that post in few days.

Meat was ground after 2 days of curing at 5°C.

After just 10 days the sausages lost 40% of moisture.

Charcuterie is an art and real fun! You can use your creativity but only to a point.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gardening Season 2011 is Over

Garden is sleeping now with the exception of my arugula that is doing very well in my cold frame. We have made some late season changes on flower island and also the evergreen island. In both cases the changes had to be made because plants there grew way too big. We have removed the decorative grasses and moved Corkscrew Hazel together with some short grasses in their place. The root system balls of the grasses were so heavy that I just couldn’t lift them, I had to wrap a sling around them and drag them out on a piece of lumber and then I had to split each ball with an axe in order to handle them.
On Evergreen Island we had 3 species of junipers and they too were getting way too big. They were very easy to remove and now we have a small Alpine garden in their place. Both areas look much better. All the containers and planters have been emptied and their good potting soil was dumped on top of my raised veggie bed, but first I laid down weed barrier cloth to make it easier for me to remove the potting soil next spring.
Garlic is planted for a month now and spring bulbs are in the ground on both islands. Actually, they were never removed this spring. The dinner plate dahlias were removed 2 weeks ago and I stored each tuber in paper bag filled with peat moss. It will be interesting to see if they will grow next spring, I have never tried to save them before. Before I know it I’ll be growing flowers from seeds just like I did last few years. For now I have a two months of rest. Next garden post will be in February, I guess, even though I still have to spray our peach tree. As you can see on picture at top there are still lot of leaves and it is windy every day so I do have to postpone the spraying every day. But, it must be done.

In three years these grasses tripled in size... they were replaced. It does look better.

The junipers on left side of island were removed...

...and replaced with small Alpine garden.

Again, it does look much cleaner.

My veggie bed serves as a temporary storage for container soil.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lamb Loin Chops with Honey-Mustard Sauce

I have cooked these chops few weeks ago and despite the horrendously high price one has to pay for them I had to have them again. This must be the tenderest cut of meat on the planet. I am salivating like a Pavlov’s dog just thinking and writing about them.
This is very simple and quick meal once the meat is marinated. I marinated my chops for 10 hours in refrigerator but they can be marinated for just 2 hours at room temperature. If you marinate in refrigerator take the meat out 1 hour before cooking so come to room temperature.

Marinade for 4 loin chops
2 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 Tbs. grainy mustard
3 Tbs. dark honey (I use Buckwheat honey for cooking)
2 tsp. garlic, crushed or grated on microplane
1 tsp. chopped rosemary
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl. Place chops in sealable plastic bag and pour marinade over them. Close the bag squeezing out as much air as possible and rub the chops to cover them evenly with marinade.  Marinade for at least 2 hours at room temperature or longer in refrigerator.

When ready to cook remove chops from bag, wipe the marinade from them and pat them dry with paper towel. Heat frying pan on medium high heat with 1 Tbs. of olive oil and cook chops for 3 minutes on each side for medium rare. Remove chops to preheated serving plate and cover with foil to keep them warm. Pour the marinade into same frying pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Pour the reduced sauce over chops or on the side and serve with rice.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Monarch Butterfly – Unexpected Visitor

While we were cleaning the garden and getting it ready for winter Marjo found Monarch Butterfly resting on its side, almost motionless, on the pavement and between dahlia flower pots. It was a shocking discovery since we had already 5 days of hard frost and another 5 days of normal frost. It was a bad start to fall. Anyway, Marjo took him inside our sunroom and placed him on a dahlia that was just cut and placed in a vase. He grabbed the flower immediately and started to open and close his wings. Ten days later he is more active than ever but now we wonder how long can he survive? The sunroom is kept at minimum 14 °C and there is always supply of water and flowers and we know that in their winter grounds in Mexico and California they do not do too much, just waiting their time to move north again. I will post about any changes or happening.
Oh, why do I call this butterfly “him”? Males have a tear drop mark close to bottom of their wings.

Ten days later. Doing better than ever

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Salmon, Avocado and Gari Ceviche

When I came across fresh shipment of salmon and sushi grade tuna at my favorite supermarket fish counter (we don’t have a fish store in town) I had to have some and, of course, sushi was on menu that night. At the same time I bought avocado for salmon sashimi and gari to go with it. Then it hit me! Why not make some sort of salad with half of the salmon fillet (the belly part), whole avocado and about dozen slices of gari?  In under 5 minutes new dish was born! I can just imagine how great this ceviche will be on hot summer day. Again, not much of a recipe but here goes.
1 avocado, pitted and cut into 1/2” cubes Belly part of skinless salmon fillet cut into 1/2” cubes heaping tablespoon of gari 1 tsp. of gari pickling juice 1 tsp. Furikake (optional)
Mix all ingredients in mixing bowl being careful not to smash the avocado and serve in chilled serving bowls. Sprinkle Furikake on top (if using).
Here is link to video “How to cut avocado”.
Note: I am calling it ceviche because it does contain raw fish and is marinated in a base containing acid. Ceviche uses lime and my version uses rice vinegar. Also, it is similar to my version of Hawaiian Salmon Poke.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Perciati with Chicken Tenders & Mushrooms

Another meal that I had to come up with just because I had to work with what I had on hand (pantry, refrigerator and freezer) because neither I nor Marjo felt like going to the store. Previous day I bought beautiful cremini mushrooms that were on special so that was my base. What with? I remembered chicken tenders that I vacuum packed and froze last week and that was a good start. Side had to be pasta but I have so many kinds and shapes that choosing wasn’t all that easy. Fettuccini, linguini or even small penne would work but I have decided to try something new, like perciati that I bought in Italian supermarket few months ago but never found a recipe to go with them. Perciati is a hollow long pasta, sort of like a thick spaghetti tube. When dry the hole is very small but once cooked it triples in size. The texture is fantastic. The problem is that only place you can buy it, I think, is in Italian delicatessen or market.
So far I had pasta, meat and mushrooms. Shallots, garlic and celery are natural with mushrooms so they made the list. Next came the sauce and since I didn’t want regular tomato based sauce I went with white wine and cream sauce flavored with roasted red pepper paste. That was the plan. Everything went smoothly until I added the pepper paste and realising that instead of sweet red pepper paste I used Harissa paste. Good thing I used only about 1/2 tsp. or Marjo wouldn’t be able to eat it, it is that hot. It is of Tunisian origin and main ingredient is bird’s eye chilli peppers and Serrano peppers so little bit goes a long way
1/2 lb. Perciati
1/2 cup chicken tenders or breast, cut into 1” pieces
1/2 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1-1/2 cup sliced cremini or white mushrooms
1/2 tsp. Harissa paste or 1 Tbs. pimento paste
1/3 cup white wine
1/3 cup 35% cream
Olive oil, salt, pepper
Cook pasta according to instruction on package and keep warm.
Toss chicken with little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
Heat up non-stick frying pan with 1 tsp. of olive oil and cook chicken for 1 minute on each side. Remove chicken to preheated bowl, cover and keep warm. Sauté onions for 2 minutes, add celery and mushrooms, mix and cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes or till mushrooms start releasing their juices. Flip mushrooms over and cook another 3 minutes. Add wine and reduce until there is just a coating on bottom of frying pan. Reduce heat to medium high and stir in cream. When cream starts to thicken return chicken to frying pan and reheat. Return pasta to frying pan, toss to reheat and serve on preheated serving plate or bowl and topped with freshly grated Parmigiano Regiano on top.

Note: posted video on new way to cook pasta. It is incredibly simple and it works! Check my post on this method.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Way to Cook Pasta

As a subscriber to CHOW blog and forum I receive cooking tips couple times a week. One of the most recent one was a real jewel: How to cook pasta with little bit of water and salt and lot faster. This tip was submitted by Harold McGee, one of my favorite food and food science writers. He is amazing! I guess that is why I have all of his books.
I have tried this method several time and it does work like a charm.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Strobe Photography – Part 2

I did more strobe pixs of water droplets but this time instead of white card to bounce flash I used old calendar page with yellow sunflowers and white daisies. It came out pretty good. Later on I took my camera, strobe and tripod outside to take some early morning pictures of dew on peach tree branches and leaves. Then I packed my gear and drove to Lake Lisgard to take some foggy morning photographs. It was a good day.

The cedar that reflects in dew drop is only 1 meter behind the twig.
50mm Macro, f/16, 1/16sec., ISO 800, off camera flash at 1/32 power fired from left side.

Lake Lisgard at 9 o'clock.

Sunrise on Lake Lisgard
18mm lens, f/10, 1/400sec, ISO 100, CP filter

Strech of Trans-Canada Trail system.