Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Let me explain!

I guess there are a couple things I would like to air out for everyone. Perhaps no one has even noticed or questioned them, but I'd feel better to let you all know a few things!

I am happy to share recipes. If it is a recipe that I assembled myself I will usually put it in the post. If it is something I got from a published book, I will not publish it on my website, but will always happily credit the author who put the time into their publication and link directly to it in hopes you'll make the wise investment and buy one of these great resources. Either way though, I would likely send you a recipe via email if you request it, and again urge you to buy the book!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Crispy strips of smoked Belly, a.k.a. Bacon

One of the most common things I hear from the few vegetarian friends I have is that of all the meaty deliciousness they left behind, it's bacon that they miss the most. I can see this. I am not so understanding of those meat eaters out there who claim to enjoy non-pork bacon though. Turkey bacon in particular. I understand curing something besides pork, but slicing it thin and calling it bacon doesn't do it for me. I have had, and enjoyed, beef fry, a kosher beef preparation very similar to bacon, but at least they aren't calling it beef bacon. I have read about lamb bacon and again question the use of the name. But who am I to say what other people can and can't call their creations. I just know that I would look at it with discern if anything but pork carried the sacred name (I know, sacred, a bit strong). But since I am sure you've already read my introduction post, you know how I feel about my bacon. It was one of the few meats I had with some regularity as a child, and will never want to live without it.

So that being said should make it no surprise that I enjoy making my own bacon at home. I can control the quality of the pork, the thickness of the slices (thin, thick, lardon slices), the additional flavorings (maple, black pepper, etc), the amount of smoke and type of smoke used (applewood, hickory, etc) and if I want to cold smoke it or hot smoke it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Leprechaun's pot of Corned Beef Brisket

Like most Americans, I am a mutt, a crossbreed, a cornucopia of mostly European bloodlines. But I can say that from both sides of my family I have a good amount of Irish, Scotch-Irish, even Kentucky Irish (one of the many sources for the term Rednecks). Throw in some French, German and Crow Indian and you have the whole me. My middle name is Patrick and my family name starts with a Mc as if the above didn't help or my pasty white skin and red-headed/freckled past wasn't enough to give me a good reason to prepare the Mid-March Feast of Corned Beef. But you don't have to walk with a shillelagh or kiss the Blarney Stone to make this treat at home from scratch. It does take a week from start to finish though, so be sure to plan ahead if you want this for the big "everybody's got some Irish in 'em" day.

I personally used a sous-vide method and will describe that, but I will also let you know what to do if you don't have a vacuum sealer since a decent zip-lock will work too. But first you'll need the following:

5 # Beef Brisket (you can go larger or smaller, but adjust the amount of spices accordingly)

1 t Black peppercorns
1 t Coriander seeds
1 t Mustard seeds
5 ea. Bay leaves, crumbled
10 ea. Allspice
4 ea. Cardamom pods, smashed
8 ea. Juniper berries
1 C Kosher salt
3/4 C Brown sugar
1 t Curing salt #1 (optional to preserve pink color)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chew on This

Ever since I was a little kid there has been a place in my heart, and belly, for the chewy goodness of beef jerky. Whether it was the simple stuff in the plastic zip-locks at the grocery store or the clever use of the scraps they used for the shredded jerky that they packaged into the "chewing tobacco" dip cans found on the counters of gas stations across Illinois, I gobbled it up. Even at a young age I appreciated the history of salting and drying meat to save for later. While I personally never had to worry about storing the meat from a whole buffalo during a long and arduous journey, the lore of it intrigued me. And so did the taste. Until the late 90s I had only ever had a beef jerky. But while living in hunter-central Wisconsin I had my first venison jerky and loved the mild gaminess of it. Unfortunately I haven't had it since.

There was a turning point for me earlier in that decade when I found a jerky recipe in the "How To" section of a Maxim Magazine. I had never considered that it could be made at home. I guess I bought into that "slabs of meat drying in the plains over a wooden rack" idea a little too much. Thanks Jack Link. But the idea was exciting and frugal for me. I could make this stuff at home and not have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for such little product. So before I knew it I was making the good stuff a couple times a year, and it never lasted long. Not because it spoiled, but because I devoured it! I remember it being a combination of soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, sugar and hickory liquid smoke (and of course a couple other little things). It was oven dried at the lowest setting over night. I don't recall what cut it called for in the recipe, but it ended up being only slightly cheaper than buying the stuff in the bag. But like we often feel when we create something delicious, I did it myself!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Meat butter on bread, or Roasted Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

Since you are on a blog that focuses on charcuterie and other meaty items, it is likely that you've been around the web once or twice reading protein enriched writings. And it is also probably safe to assume that since you are media savvy and like smart-alec cooks telling stories that you are at least familiar with Anthony Bourdain. And since you likely have at one point been entertained by his musings, you have probably read his thoughts on Chef Fergus Henderson and that little restaurant he runs across the pond, St John. Well I certainly had when I was living in Toulouse, France and decided to be the ultimate tourist and visit Dublin for St. Patrick's Day. But being on a budget I had to go about it in an affordable way, and by affordable I mean budget airlines and cheap lodging. The budget airline took me from Toulouse to Dublin, via London. But the connecting flight was the following day each way. So I found myself having some time to kill in a city I had yet to visit, except of course, during lay-overs.

But after having read so much praise from Bourdain and so many other lesser known food-writers out there, I was very eager to give St John my sparse coin. After reading nothing but positive reviews and deciding that I could almost afford a lunch there after the horrible exchange rate, I set out that morning to eat nose to tail. And of course I had to have the oft written about signature starter of Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad. I had never eaten bone marrow, and usually avoided that part of the steaks that included a slice of bone when younger. But the descriptions I had been reading tantalized my taste buds.