Monday, January 25, 2010

'Nduja update.

So, yesterday I finally gave in and had to try one of the small tester pieces of the first 'nduja batch. It had started out at 170g and was at 100g when I finally cut it open. All of the pieces are at the 40% loss point. So I took them off the drying rack and put them in an unsealed plastic bag with room for some air circulation. While I want to stop/slow down the weight loss, I want them to remain untouched to prevent bad growth. I am leaving them at the 60˚ temp to continue to promote some internal maturation.

When I sliced it open and took that first whiff it was smokey, peppery and a little porky. I knew right away that the fat content was too low. While it wasn't firm in any way, it also wasn't spreadable. I peeled off the casing, which was pretty easy, and took a bite. Not very porky. This is likely because of the fact I used "commodity" pork from the carniceria and because it hasn't had enough time to develop its flavors through aging. The heat took a second to hit me, but it did on the back of the palate after a few seconds. It wasn't as hot as I had expected though. Another aspect that wasn't as prevalent past the first smell was the smoke. I thought that with the chipotle purée and 4 smoke sessions it might be too smokey, but it was only barely smokey. And the last thing that disappointed me was the occasional "sandiness" from what I am assuming was the paprika powder. I thought I had mixed everything well, but maybe I hadn't. I guess it sounds like this was bad, but it wasn't. It is still quite tasty, but just not as I had expected and aimed for. I am going to let these continue their affinage and have some every now and then. But in the meantime, I am going to get started on the next batch, with some changes!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Bresaola update.

Well, my first project that was birthed and finished on Low on the Hog has happened. The bresaola comparison is now complete. Neither piece came out perfectly, but that is why I do this, to learn what I can "get away with" with my less-than-ideal conditions, to compare and to eat some great things. And I must say that all three happened.

And the end of my last post on this project I thought it would take another week to reach my weight loss goal 40% on the two pieces. Actually it only took 3 more days. The Charcuterie version hit it easily while the Beef version got pulled at 38%, basically because it was getting too hard. I had also mentioned that the Beef version had taken on some white mold. I am still not 100% certain that this was actually the case. The more I looked at it the more I began to think that it was simply salt residue. There were a couple spots that looked more like mold, so maybe it was just a combination.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Another beast, Bresaola

So, it doesn't come from low on the hog, or from any part of the hog for that matter, but Bresaola is a delicious Italian cured meat, made from beef. I used the eye of round. I picked up a piece a little over 3# and cleaned it up to just under the 3# weight. At this point I had been trying to decide which of the 2 recipes I had narrowed it down to I was going to use. But in knowing that a single 3# piece was a bit thick I decided to split the eye down the center and try a version of each.

The two recipes I was trying to decide between were those of the Charcuterie book by Polcyn/Ruhlman and the one of Beef from Torode. In the past when researching recipes I tended to find a chunk of recipes that were quite similar baring only slight differences. For things like charcuterie the differences might be specific cuts of proteins, times of processing, spices & seasonings or slight variations in these things. But these two recipes are quite different. The Charcuterie recipe is what I expected when I started thinking about this project. A highly herbed and spiced dry cure followed by a few weeks of drying. But the Beef recipe was quite a surprise. It was a wet cure, or what some might call a brine or even a marinade. These two later styles are normally followed by cooking though.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Great Find: Restaurant: The Purple Pig Chicago

Several months ago I had read in a local media outlet that a new Mediterranean influenced place was opening up and that it was going to focus on "cheese, swine & wine." A few weeks later I saw a job posting on craigslist and even submitted a resume. But I never heard back. It wasn't the first time nor will it be the last. But I still kept waiting for the place to open. It would continue to get press always saying it would be opening soon. And finally last week it did.

All of the media outlets talked about the 3 "heavy-hitters" involved in The Purple Pig; a Chicago restaurateur: Scott Harris, another Chicago restaurateur/chef: Jimmy Bannos Sr., and an unnamed "well-known Chicago chef." That first chef's son, Jimmy Bannos Jr., who has worked in some great NYC kitchens, would be running the kitchen here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

On the 'nduja train

This past fall I visited London with my now fiancée. One of the places we visited was the Borough Market. I found some great things to eat there and others to take home. Things like the hundred great English cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy, the bacon sandwiches at the Northfield Farm stall (who's display case is my profile photo), the mouthwatering menu from Roast, beautiful jars of pickles and preserves (with noteworthy packaging) from England Preserves and last but far from least, the Calabrian spreadable salumi called 'nduja. I came across the website for Boccalone, Chris Cosentino's pork goodies shop, which offers his version online. So I figured that if Chris can do it, I can at least give it a shot. So after some recipe research online I came across a couple recipes, and surprisingly, a lot of other people who are looking for some 'nduja, who are making 'nduja or who are writing about 'nduja. So alas, I am not alone.

In short, 'nduja, pronounced in my poor phonetics, en 'dew yuh, bares a name resemblance to the French sausage Andouille. But aside from including pork tripe it bares little similarities. It is closer to the Cajun version with its heat. The meat generally consists of pork and it often includes some 5th quarter offerings like tripe and a good amount of fat which helps keep it spreadable, a main characteristic. It is richly red, an attribute that comes from its other main ingredient, red peppers. There is a combination of both rather spicy peppers and fairly sweet peppers. Recipes offered either pepper in a powdered or a puréed form. This spice is obvious as soon as you take your first bite and will stick with you through the last! As noted in some of the readings I found, finding these Calabrian peppers right now is a bit tricky. Maybe it is because of the growing popularity stateside for this treat. Another Illinois based pork-nerd, Larbo, over at This Little Piggy notes a couple sources and several more posts on this spicy topic.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year Paté

So I guess it's about time for an actual post about some charcuterie! This past weekend was time for our now annual New Years Day Dinner. We have our 2 "best couples" over for a celebration of the New Year. Since I work in the restaurant industry it works out pretty well to do this on New Years Day since most restaurants are closed. And though I like to try to keep things new each year, I really wanted to do another terrine. Last years terrine was pork belly, duck innards and pistachios. It was done in the standard French method and turned out quite nice. This year I wanted it a bit more American. So I substituted some things in ingredients but stuck with the same technique, which always turns out quite well. "How so?" you might ask!

I started with a 5# skin on pork belly and a single pork tenderloin, a little over a pound. On the first day I cleaned and trimmed the tenderloin so it would be a consistent shape down the center of the terrine. I then brined it overnight with salt, black pepper, brown sugar, Templeton Rye Whiskey, crushed red peppers and some allspice.