Friday, April 11, 2014

Salt Cured Egg Yolks

I buy a lot of cookbooks, my wife would say that I buy to many cookbooks. I recently bought a book called Charcuteria: The Soul of Spain Like most books I buy I took it home and immediately started paging through it. It is full of amazing recipes that are going to be a lot of fun to try out. One of the recipes that popped out was this recipe for cured egg yolks. As soon as I saw it I started going through my cupboards to gather all the ingredients. The recipe takes two weeks to make so I wanted to get started on it as soon as possible. I know that for most people two weeks seems like a long time for a recipe but it really goes buy very quickly and once you try these yolks it is totally worth the time.

I do a good amount of curing at home so the idea of having something that won't be ready for two weeks isn't hard for me. I think curing things puts a lot of people off because they assume it is difficult but really all it is, is waiting. The first step in making these yolks is mixing your salt cure. In the book they recommend using salt and maple sugar, I just happened to have both on hand so that is what I used. I did a little research and many other recipes call for brown sugar or even plain white sugar. The recipe in the book calls for a 50/50 blend of salt to sugar but many of the posts I read stated that made the yolks to sweet. I used a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio of salt to sugar and used about one cup of cure for four yolks.

After mixing your salt and sugar cure pour about half the mixture in a non reactive container. Using an egg make little divots in the cure to place the yolks in. Separate the yolks from the eggs and place one yolk in each divot. Cover the yolks with the remaining cure mixture and place in the fridge for 1 week. When that week is up rinse the yolks and dry them, wrap each yolk individually in cheese cloth and then hang back in the fridge for another week. That is the whole process, not difficult at all. 

This was my first batch of these eggs so I chose to only do 4 eggs just to see how they turned out. I was not disappointed at all. The richness of the yolk is intensified and they take on an almost cheese like quality.  I would bet that this could be a nice alternative for Parmesan for people with lactose problems. Mildly sweet and perfectly salty, I can definitely see making a dozen of these and keeping them on hand for all occasions. If I can find a source for fresh duck eggs I would really like to try this with them.

The first thing I tried the yolks with was asparagus. I fried up some thin strips of guanciale and then cooked the asparagus in the guanciale fat. I grated the yolks right over the hot asparagus and it really did react like cheese. It was slightly reminiscent of a hollandaise sauce. I would image these yolks would be great with fish and on pasta. The next thing I am going to try is to use these yolks grated into a carbonara instead of the eggs, we will see if that turns out. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Maple Braised Bacon

It's not everyday someone hands you a 2 pound slab bacon but when they do you should probably think long and hard about how you are going to use it. I recently made 20 pounds of guanciale and have a friend, Nate that has been making his own bacon. The last time I saw him I brought up the idea of trading some guanciale for some bacon and he agreed. When I saw the chunk of bacon that he gave me I knew that I couldn't just slice it up and fry it like an normal bacon. If you look at the slabs I cut you can see that there is a lot more meat in there than bacon you buy at the store. 

Like most people I love bacon, I can't get enough of it. Bacon is a lot like potato chips to me, I can't stop eating it until its all gone. When I was a kid my mom would make me breakfast in bed for my birthday. She would make a whole pound of bacon and I would eat all of it. The old expression that, bacon makes everything better, is so true. I have tried bacon with just about everything and I have yet to try bacon with something and not have it be great. I have said in the past that bacon is a lot like sex, some of it is better than others, but none of it is ever bad. 

Because this bacon was so meaty I wanted to try something different with it other than slicing it up and making a sandwich or something. I cut very thick slabs of the bacon about an inch thick and then braised them using a similar technique to Martin Picard's maple braised pigs feet. The end result was beautiful, the bacon was smokey and sweet and the meat just fell apart. I hate to say it but I kind of wish this bacon had a little more fat. This bacon was so meaty that at times I felt like I was eating a pork chop, a really delicious smokey pork chop. Nice job on the bacon Nate, hopefully I did it justice.

Maple Braised Bacon  

1 lbs bacon ( cut very thick)
maple syrup
chicken stock
pearl onions
1 head of garlic (cut in half)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 heaping tablespoon stone ground mustard
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

This recipe isn't about measurements it is more of a taste thing. You can add as many carrots, onions and garlic as you would like and then just adjust the syrup and stock accordingly.

1. place the pieces of bacon in a deep baking dish and then add carrots, pearl onions and garlic around the pieces of bacon, add a few sprigs of thyme.

2. pour maple syrup over each slap of bacon until it is coated, then add chicken stock just to the top edge of the bacon.

3. bake in a 300 degree oven for 2-2 1/2 hours or until the bacon is fork tender.

4. the the bacon is done remove the carrots and dice into 1/4 inch pieces.

5. remove and strain the left over baking liquid and add to a pan and bring to a boil, you want to boil this liquid until it starts to thicken up slightly.

6. make a simple vinaigrette with the mustard, vinegar and oil.

7. when you braising liquid is ready add the carrots and the vinaigrette and whisk until combined.

Serve the bacon with the sauce and some of the carrots and onions and if you are really in the mood for a treat remove all the garlic cloves and add a few of those to the finished dish.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Corned Duck Gizzards and O'konomyaki


St. Patrick's day has become one of my favorite holiday's to celebrate, and not just because of all the beer and whiskey. One of my favorite parts of St Paddy's day is the food, I know a lot of people don't really consider it a food holiday but for me it has become one of my favorite food holiday's. Most people have a plate of corned beef and cabbage or an Irish stew but that's about as far as they take the food aspect of the day. For the slightly more adventurous, colcannon or an Irish soda bread makes an appearance.
 I love corned beef it is one of my favorite things to eat. A few years ago I read a recipe for corned antelope and I just happened to have an antelope roast in the freezer so I made a corned antelope roast. It turned out better than any corned beef I have ever had. Ever since then I have been making my own corned roast for St Patricks day. I have also discovered that you can corn just about anything. I had a bag of venison scraps that were mostly chunks of shanks and sinewy pieces of meat from the front shoulder. I corned those this year and then cooked them in a baking dish covered in water and then covered the dish with foil. Then baked the pieces in a 250 degree oven for about 5 hours, the pieces shredded beautifully and I mixed it with potatoes and leeks to make the cabbage rolls you see at the top. The were fantastic and I will probably be corning all those little bits from now on.
The corning process is a very simple one, just find a recipe that you want to use, make the brine and soak the meat for the appropriate amount of time. The recipe I use for corned antelope comes from Hank Shaw and I have used this brine on everything I can. Last year was my first attempt at making corned gizzards. I didn't have any duck gizzards last year so I used turkey gizzards and they turned out amazing. This year I had my friend down in Wabasha save all the gizzards from the ducks he and his family shot. After cleaning about 20 gizzard I ended up with 2 pounds of duck meat and they were even better than the turkey gizzards last year.
I had made okonomyaki about a month ago for my wife and while I was making it I was thinking to myself that it could easily be turned into an Irish dish. Okonomyaki it a japanese comfort food made buy mixing together a batter and stirring in cabbage and sweet potatoes and meat and topped with a special okonomi sauce and bonito flakes. The cabbage is what got me thinking about Irish food. The batter is made with Dashi so I changed that to Guinness in my Irish version. I also added leaks and then chopped corned duck gizzards and instead of the okonomi sauce I used a sweet horseradish mustard sauce and then sprinkled it with dried parsley flakes. It was really fricken good, I think I made 8 of them during the party and they kept disappearing.  
I am really looking forward to finding out what else I can corn, I have some friends going out Elk hunting this year maybe I can get some Elk hearts and corn them.


Irish O'konomyaki
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup Guinness (or other stout)
4 eggs
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 a head of  cabbage sliced thin
2 leeks thinly sliced
1 pound corned duck gizzards or other corned meat
1/2 pound thin cut bacon
1. mix the batter together then fold in the cabbage, leeks and meat making sure all the ingredients are coated in batter.
2. heat a tablespoon of oil in a 10 inch pan on medium high heat, then add about 2 cups of the cabbage mixture to the pan and spread it around the pan to form a flat pancake.
cook for 5-6 minutes.
3. while it is coking place a couple of strips of bacon on the uncooked side so when you flip the pancake the bacon will cook.
4. Cook for 4-5 more minutes  until it is cooked through, if necessary you can flip it again to make sure it is done.
5. When you are ready to serve it place it on a plate bacon side down top it with dried parsley, Mayo and an Irish mustard sauce and enjoy.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Crappie Tom Kha

Last year was a good year for panfish, I had a lot of luck while out on the river and was given a good amount of panfish from a friend of mine. That said I have eaten a ton of pan fish over this winter and this was the last of it. With all that panfish I had to start getting a little more creative with my recipes. I am also trying to include more fish recipes here that don't involve being breaded and fried. I was thinking about doing a panfish chowder of some sort and then I ran across this recipe in one of my folders. A few years ago I was able to get a ticket to a cooking demonstration by Andrew Zimmern. At that demo he made this soup using chicken and it was incredible, I had made it once before using chicken but it wasn't until recently that the idea of using fish came to me. 

One thing I wish I had more access to here in Minnesota would be a larger variety of fish and the ability to go salt water fishing but of course that isn't possible. Most of the fish in Minnesota have a very similar taste and texture to me. I know some people would disagree with that but its just my opinion. For the majority of my life there have been two options when it came to cooking fish, beer batter or cracker crumb breading. One of my New Years resolutions was to try and cook the fish I catch in as many different ways as I could and so far I have done a pretty good job with fried crappie spring rolls, bluegill po'boy and butter basted walleye.

This soup is incredibly simple although you do need to be careful at the end when you add the fish. Because the fillets are cut into small pieces and those pieces are thin, the fish cooks very quickly and if you over cook it the pieces fall apart and you will end up with a coconut fish mush instead of a beautiful soup. I have changed the recipe just a bit from its original but it is still pretty authentic. I hope Mr. Zimmern doesn't mind that I used Sriracha I know he isn't a very big fan. Most of the ingredients can be found at your local Asian market or can be swapped out for something else. Give it a try and I hope you enjoy. 

Crappie Tom Kha

3 cups fish stock (if you don't have fish stock chicken stock works as well)
1 2 inch piece of galangal or ginger root
1 large stock of lemon grass
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 pound of crappie fillets or any other pan fish cut into one inch pieces
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 tablespoon sriracha
juice of one lime
2 tablespoons palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
8 oz. shittake mushrooms
3-4 small red Thai chilies

1. cut the lemongrass into 4 inch pieces and smash them with a hammer or the back of a knife. You can slice the lemongrass paper thin and add it to the soup but I prefer to smash up big pieces and cook them, remove the lemon grass before serving. I like the flavor of lemongrass but the texture is always woody to me no matter how thin I slice it.

2. Combine the stock, galangal, lime leaves, sugar, lemongrass, tamarind paste and sriracha then bring to a boil.

3. Add the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer

4. Add the mushrooms lime juice and fish sauce, stir a few times and then add the fish. The fish will only need a minute or two to cook.

5. Serve immediately and garnish with the red chilies and the cilantro. I like to serve mine over a bowl of rice but you don't have to. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

More Guanciale

This is my third post about Guanciale, it is fair to say that I am slightly obsessed with the stuff. My first attempt was with jowls from a wild boar but ever since I found a regular supplier of pork jowls I have always had some on hand. In my latest effort I had about 10 pounds of jowls and decided that I was going to make two different types of guanciale. One using a recipe from Michael Ruhlman's book Salumi that is made with only sea salt and black pepper and the other I would make my own recipe.
For those unfamiliar with guanciale, it is the fatty jowl of a pig that is salted and air dried. It is very similar to bacon only it isn't smoked. I absolutely love the stuff and use it whenever I can, it makes a beautiful GLT, guanciale lettuce and tomato sandwich. It has a slightly different texture than bacon that I prefer. It crisps better and holds its fat pretty well so each bite is like a crunchy, fatty, succulent bite of heaven. In the past the only seasoning I have ever used was the sea salt and black pepper but I had read other recipes that used different seasonings. I figured it was time I tried to make my own version of guanciale. 

At the beginning of February my wife and I went with some friends to an Italian restaurant and while I was there I had some bucatini all'amatriciana. It was an amazingly simple dish that was packed with flavor and of course used guanciale. Right after that meal I figured I need to make another batch of guanciale just so I could make the bucatini dish. I just happened to have 10 pounds of jowls in the freezer and thought why not make it all into guanciale. After all you can never have enough homemade porky goodness and I could always give some away or trade some with a friend of mine who makes his own bacon.
The guanciale making process takes about a month to complete. After salting the jowls they have to sit for 3-4 days, I accidentally let these go for a week because I got to busy. After that they need to be rinsed and dried hen they need to air dry until they lose about a third of their total weight. That can take a while but usually takes about three weeks. This week my guanciale was ready and all I wanted to do was make the all'amatriciana. Only one problem my wife and I had started some diet cleanse that she wanted to try and I wasn't allowed to have noodles unless they are gluten free. Good luck finding gluten free bucatini in Minnesota on short notice.

I used the gluten free spaghetti noodles and the dish turned out delicious. The noodles were good but they didn't hold up very well and broke into Small pieces as they cooked. I will be making this again as soon as this diet is over and I will be using bucatini. Until then here is the cure for the guanciale.

My Guanciale 

4 oz sea salt
30 grams sugar
15 grams insta cure #2
15 grams freshly ground black pepper 
10 grams smoked paprika
10 grams chipotle powder
5 grams each dried oregano, dried thyme and garlic powder
This is enough cure for about 5 pounds of jowls.
Mix all the ingredients together and pour the cure into a large pan. Press each jowl into the cure mixture to coat each side. Place each jowl into its own one gallon Ziploc bag, place all the bags on a cookie sheet and put another cookie sheet on top. place 5-10 pounds of weight on the top pan to weight down the jowls and place in fridge for 3-4 days flipping the jowls over once every day. When the jowls are done rinse them clean  and dry them with a paper towel. At this point you need to weigh each jowl. Hang your jowls in a dry cool place until they have lost a 1/3 of their total weight.

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Few Thoughts About Killing

I recently wrote a post for Simple, Good and Tasty about cooking and eating beaver. I expected to get some feedback on the post but I didn't expect to be called out about the inhumane practice of trapping. I am not a trapper but I do support those who trap.  One of the responses to my post was a very frustrated comment about how trapping is inhumane and doesn't fit the standard of humane practice that Simple, Good and Tasty stands for. It got me thinking and I felt compelled to put down a few words about killing animals.
Because this is my blog and I don't have to be PC, I am going to refer to the killing of animals as killing, not taking, not harvesting, killing. That is after all what I do, I kill these animals so that I can eat them. That may sound a little rough but it is honest and I am not ashamed of it. It is my opinion that killing an animal for food is a normal part of natural life and there is nothing wrong with that. There is also nothing wrong with people who have made the choice not to participate in the killing of animals for food or people who prefer that someone else kills the animals they eat. 

My problem comes with the phrase humane killing, or humane slaughter. Killing is killing no matter how you dress it up. I don't have a problem with that but some people do, and because of that we use phrases like humane killing and harvesting animals. Killing is not humane no matter how you do it. No hunter wants to wound an animal and have it die an unpleasant death but while hunting or trapping things like that do happen. We hunters are not afforded the luxury of walking our quarry into a pen where they have their skull crushed with a bolt gun and then while they are stunned cut their throat and let them bleed out. That may be to graphic but it is a reality in most slaughter houses.
It doesn't matter how the animal lived, free range or not, in the end all livestock face a similar death. We have gotten very efficient at killing these animals but that does not mean it is humane.

As I have gotten older I have taken on the role of mentor to several people and helped them get into hunting. I hope that I have done a good enough job of conveying some of my practices to them. I don't expect everyone to start hunting or to even support it. I have made a choice to be an active participant in the process of getting my own meat. That requires me to kill and that it is not a responsibility I take lightly. Hopefully I will be able to pass that on to my kids, hopefully they will accept that responsibility.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Cleaning Out the Freezer and Quail with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

I like to try new things and not everything I have in my freezer is something I shot or caught. I buy a good amount of pork fat from a place called Specialty Meats and Gourmet in Hudson, WI. Along with pork fat they have a huge selection of wild and exotic meats and every time I am there I always try to get something I have never had before. It is a good thing that they are a 45 minute drive away because if they were much closer I would be tempted to make more trips than necessary.
The last time I was over there I had picked up some semi-boneless quail and some veal sweetbreads. I kept thinking I was going to save them for a special occasion but that occasion never came. I was going through the freezer last week and found the quail and sweetbreads and decided it was time to go ahead and cooking them. I have never cooked either so I needed to do a little reading first to find a few recipes I might want to try.
The first recipe I saw for sweetbreads, which are the thymus from calves and lambs, was for a buffalo sweetbreads with a celery blue cheese salad. The recipe came from the Le Pigeon cookbook and looked so amazing that I didn't even look for another recipe to try.  One common misconception is that sweetbreads are brains and they are not. There is a process to cooking sweetbreads, first they needed to soak in cold water and then needed to be poached in salt water with other seasoning. After that they were drained and chilled for 6 hours and then you get to peel the membrane off and separate them into little lobes. At that point they are ready to cook I just tossed them with some seasoned flour and fried them for a few minutes then tossed them with the buffalo sauce. They were very good and had a very firm and pleasant texture. I don't know if they have a very unique flavor they really just tasted like the liquid I poached them in and the buffalo sauce. They were very good but probably not something I will do again.
The quail on the other hand was frickin ridiculous, these tiny little birds were tender and delicious and did have their own very unique flavor. We don't have a natural quail population here in Minnesota only non-wild ones at some of the game farms. I have never hunted quail and had only eaten quail a handful of times. Most of the recipes I found were for some form of breaded and fried quail and I have had that before so I really wanted to try something different.
Several weeks ago my wife handed me a recipe for chicken thighs in an orange marmalade sauce and I cooked that and it was incredible so I thought I might be able to adapt that recipe to these little quail. I didn't have an orange marmalade but I did have a cranberry-orange marmalade so I used it instead. I dredged the quail in a mixture of flour and seasoned salt and then pan fried them in a little bacon fat, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Then removed the quail and made the sauce. The end result was amazing, the quail were tender and juicy with the right balance of sweet and salty. It really made me wish we had a huntable population of quail in Minnesota.

Quail with a Cranberry-orange Marmalade Sauce
4 semi-boneless quail
flour for dredging
seasoned salt
3-4 tablespoons bacon fat or other oil to fry in
Season the flour with the salt and dredge the quail, then fry for 2-3 minutes on each side over medium high heat until golden brown.  Remove the quail from the pan and set aside.
For the sauce
2 cloves off garlic minced
1/3 cup cranberry orange marmalade
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pour off some of the fat so you have about 2 tablespoons in the pan, saute the garlic then deglaze the pan with the stock. Add the marmalade, vinegar and soy sauce, stir to combine and reduce. Return the quail to the pan and continue to reduce the sauce spooning the sauce over the quail. When the sauce has thickened up serve the quail with some rice and spoon the remaining sauce over the rice and quail.