Sunday, May 17, 2015

Stinging Nettle Gnocchi

Growing up I spent a lot of my summer's at my Grandparents cabins on Leech Lake. It was there that I fell in love with the outdoors. Fishing, swimming, waterskiing, and running around in the woods.  During the summer months up at the cabin we would always pick buckets full of raspberries and blackberries and would eat fresh fish that I would catch right out of the lake. It really was one of the best times of my life and now that I am 40 years old I would give almost anything to go back to those days. I only have fond memories of those times at the cabin and playing with the neighbors. But if I had to pick one thing I didn't like, it would be al the damned nettles.

There were stinging nettles everywhere up there. In the woods, down by lake pretty much everywhere I was playing there were nettles. And I got into them all the time. My legs would burn like I'd set myself on fire. If you would have asked a ten year old version of me if he wanted to eat some nettles he probably would have run away from you screaming. Little did I know that when picked young and cooked right they are an amazing addition to a meal.

I first heard of people eating stinging nettles when I started watching the River Cottage series with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstahl. I couldn't believe they were eating nettles, It seemed impossible that something that tormented my childhood could be edible. The first time I tried nettles I made a nettle soup with smoked fish. It was decent but it wasn't enough to send me out picking nettles and making more soup. After that I made a ramp and nettle Chimichurri and that was the turning point for me. I really started to enjoy nettles. After that I made a nettle beer and I think that would have been a lot more enjoyable if I had known anything about how to bottle homemade beer. I ended up with a lot of yeast in the bottles and that wasn't much fun, but it tasted pretty good after you poured it through a filter. Ever since then I have been aboard the nettle train and every spring I can't wait to get out and find those young tender nettle tops and try something new with them.

This year I bought a new book about making pasta called, Pasta by hand by Jenn Louis. It is an amazing book and ever since reading it I have become obsessed with making my own pasta. One of the recipes in the book is for a nettle gnocchi and coincidentally right after I bought it he first nettles of the year were starting to come up. I took my son out to the woods and we pick a bag full of nettles and then cam home and made a batch of the gnocchi. I know the picture above is a little out of focus but I was trying to snap a photo while I was making the pasta. Charlie took each dumpling I cut and rolled on a gnocchi board, he was very proud of all his work but wasn't thrilled enough to eat them. He wanted PBJ instead.  My wife and daughter on the other hand loved them and between the three of us we ate the entire batch.

I followed the recipe in the book exactly and I was amazed at how great these gnocchi were. After cooking them I just tossed them in butter and shaved some parmesan on them and they were perfect. Here is the recipe from the book the only addition I made was adding some grated nutmeg. I am putting all the measurements in grams so you can be as precise as possible.

Stinging Nettle Gnocchi 

2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 cup of water
140 grams of nettles, stems removed
2 eggs plus one additional yolk
300 grams of potatoes boiled, peeled and riced
180 grams of all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the board
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1. wilt the nettle with the 2 tablespoons of nettles and the 1/2 cup of water over medium heat for 5-6 minutes. then let stand in a collander to drain until cooled. 

2. Place the nettles and the eggs and additional yolk in a blender or food processor and blend until you have a green paste.

3. when the potatoes are cooled add them to the green paste and add the flour, nutmeg and salt. Mix together with your hands until all the flour is incorporated. Add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together but is not sticky.

4. Dust your work surface with four and then cut a small handful of dough off and roll it out into a log about a half inch in diameter. Then cut the gnocchi into bite sized pieces and set aside on a well floured baking sheet. 

5. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt the water liberally. Working in batches cook the gnocchi for 3-4 minute. You will know when they are done when they are all floating on top of the water.

6. Remove the gnocchi from the water and drain, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan and toss the gnocchi in the butter. I like to cook them just a little long in the butter so some of the gnocchi develop a nice brown crust on one side. Serve with grated paregganio-reggiano and enjoy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cazzallitti with Elk Ragu

There is something extremely satisfying about making your own pasta. I find it calming and relaxing. in the past I have made  my own ravioli with my hand crank pasta roller. That has been the extent of my pasta making and I have loved it. I have toyed around with the idea of buying one of those fancy pasta machines that allows you to make all the different shapes of pasta but in the end it never really seems worth it. I was kind of stuck making papperadelle and ravioli because I could do them on my hand cranked machine. Then I read Hank Shaw's post about great pasta books. One of the books was a book by Jenn Louis called Pasta by Hand. In this book it gives you the recipes and techniques for making a couple dozen different types of pasta with nothing more than you bare hands, I was sold.

I immediately ordered the book and as soon as it came I started making pasta. The very first recipe I picked out was for this Cazzallitti with elk ragu. In the book she offers up a few different options for sauces to serve with each type of pasta. The Cazzallitti was recommended with a lamb ragu. I just happened to have this elk shank in my freezer and decided to use it instead. The recipes from the book are amazingly simple and don't require any special equipment. I have had my book for about 3 weeks now and my family has been eating fresh pasta about twice a week. The Stinging Nettle Gnocchi  and the beet gnocchi with Gorgonzola cream sauce were both big hits.

I have been amazed at how quickly I can knock out a batch of gnocchi. My 3 year old son loves to help roll out the gnocchi, I usually cut out all the pieces and he rolls them down a gnocchi board to give them their little lines. I wouldn't usually write an entire post about someone else's recipes and a book but I really think this one is special. If you love pasta it is a must have book.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Catfish Two Ways

I have a love hate relationship with catfish. I love to catch catfish, they are one of the best fighters out there and can really give you a work out if you get into a good sized fish. I love to eat good catfish, the only problem is, and this is the part I hate. I can never figure out what makes catfish good or bad. I don't buy catfish and the catfish I catch can be firm and sweet and delicious. It can also taste like an aquarium water filter. Its kind of a bizarre game of Russian roulette and all you have to do is take that first bite. 

My Uncle lives down in Iowa On the Mississippi river and has fished catfish all his life. Every time I have had catfish he catches and cooks they are delicious. I am not sure if he just knows how to catch the good tasting ones or if I am eternally cursed to continue playing the game of roulette. I have experimented with a number of different cooking methods and found that the only recipe that seems to work every time is my catfish boudin recipe.  The boudin recipe has a certain amount of heat and spice to it that seem to work really well. So I thought I would try a couple of other recipes that involce a little heat. The first recipe I got from Alton Brown and is for Catfish Ceviche. For the most part I followed the recipe, but I did add a little extra cumin and a bunch of chipotle powder to give it some extra heat. It was one of the best ceviche's I have ever eaten and is one of my new go to recipes for catfish. It is a raw preparation so if you are going to make it I wold suggest freezing your catfish for at least a month before making it.

The second recipe is a fried catfish with a red curry. This is hands down my new favorite catfish recipe. I borrowed a few different elements from other recipes for this. The first and most important is the batter I used to fry the catfish. I mixed 2 egg yolks with a quarter cup of corn starch and 2 tablespoons a piece of fish sauce and soy sauce.  After you mix those ingredients together you place your catfish fillet in the batter and let is sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Then fry it in hot canola oil for 5 minutes per side. Not only does the batter add a great flavor to the fish but it ends up very light and crisp. then all you have to do is top it with the curry and serve with rice or noodles. If you enjoy spicy food I highly recommend you give it a try.
Red Curry
1/4 cup coconut oil
2-3 tablespoons of red curry paste ( depending on how spicy you like it)
1 15.5 ounce can of coconut milk
1/4 cup palm sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste
Heat the coconut oil and then add the curry paste. Stir and fry the paste for 2-3 minutes until fragrant, then add the palm sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce and stir to combine. Add the coconut milk and simmer for 15 minutes, longer if you want a thicker sauce. Pour the sauce over the fried fillet and enjoy.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Duck Ramen

I am embarrassed to admit that up until about three months ago the only Ramen I had ever eaten was the cheap instant variety that is found in every grocery store. What's even more embarrassing is that I lived in Japan for two years when I was in the Navy. Ramen seems to be very popular lately and is getting a lot of attention both locally and across the country. I figured it was time I got in on the craze so I started looking around for places that serve Ramen so that I could start sampling a few different varieties.

I tried a Tonkatsu Ramen with a curry broth at Masa, in Minneapolis that was my favorite by far, until I made my own. I also tried two different Shoyu Ramens one at Moto-I in Minneapolis and the other at United Noodles in Minneapolis. Both were very good and the thing I like most about these bowls of Ramen, was the noodles. The Ramen noodles from the instant packages are horrible in comparison to the noodles that I had in all three of the Ramens I tried. After a little research I found out that I needed to find fresh Ramen noodles and try cooking them. I checked all the Asian food stores in my area and had no luck finding fresh ramen. When I was up at United Noodles however I did find fresh ramen noodles called Kaedama made by Sun. They come in a two pack and can be frozen for up to 3 months so I stocked up. You can buy the noodles by themselves or with soup packet very similar to the instant variety.

The noodles don't take long to cook, the instructions on the back give time frames based on what texture you want your noodles. I cooked the noodles for 3 minutes and the firm chewy texture was exactly what I wanted. The noodles actually had a spring to them that you just can't get with instant ramen.  

For this bowl of ramen I kind of used a mash up of several different recipes but if you had to classify this as a certain type of ramen I suppose it would be a Shoyu Ramen. A proper bowl of ramen is not a quick lunch time meal. It requires many different steps and if you are going to make this at home it is kind of an involved process.

I should throw out a disclaimer here, I am not a ramen expert. In fact when I started reading about ramen I was shocked at how many different kinds of ramen there are and how very little I actually new about ramen. There are terms and techniques that I have never heard of and even after looking them up I'm still not sure what they mean. So this recipe for ramen may not be as complete as it should be but it is still very good.

When I decided to make a bowl of ramen I knew one thing, I wanted to make a duck focused bowl of ramen and incorporate a few other wild ingredients into the meal. Ideally I would have used some type of wild mushroom that I foraged but when I made this there was still 6 inches of snow on the ground so I bought enoki mushroom at the store. When I read about ramen broth there were an endless amount of recipes on the Internet and in my cookbooks at home. All of them start with bones or carcasses of some sort. I felt that I could skip that step because I had already make duck stock from last years ducks that I shot. All I would need to do is add the other flavors to the stock. For the Duck Ramen Broth I used:

2 quarts of duck stock
1 thumb sized knob of ginger
1 head of garlic
10 knots of kombu

I simmered all the ingredients together and reduced the stock down to about 1 quart. When the stock is finished it has a very pleasant flavor of duck and ginger with a hint of garlic and some earthiness from the kombu.

 The next step is to make the Tare, the Tare is where you are going to get that umami flavor in your ramen. It is a combination of:

1 cup soy sauce
5 grams of bonito flakes
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon of mirin
a thumb sized knob of ginger
half a head of garlic
2 green onions (roughly chopped)

Bring all this to a boil and then let sit until room temperature then pour through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth to get all the little flakes out. This is what you will put in the bowl first to flavor the broth. You add 2-3 tablespoons to each 8 ounces of broth depending on how flavorful you want your ramen. To add just a bit more flavor and add some fat I combined

2 tablespoons of duck fat
2 cloves of minced garlic
pinch of salt

Then I added 2 teaspoons of that mixture to the bowl. At this point I poured in the piping hot broth and added the noodles right out of the boiling water and gave it a quick stir then it was time to garnish. For my Garnish I used some hard boiled eggs that were soaked in some soy sauce and sake. I also simmered some duck breasts using 1/2 a cup of the tare to flavor the water. Place the duck breasts in a pan add the tare and then cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes then slice the duck breast about a 1/4 inch thick. I added the enoki mushrooms and some chopped green onions but to add a little kick of flavor I had some wild ramps that I had fermented. I added about a tablespoon of that and a 1/4 sheet of Nori .

There you have it, my version of a Duck Ramen. It might not be the most traditional bowl of ramen out there but it was absolutely the best bowl of ramen I have ever eaten. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Ducky Philly Cheese Steak

The way I see it ducks are basically the pigs of the sky. They are a versatile and delicious meat and can be used in just about everything. Why it has taken me so long to make a duck Philly cheese steak, I don't know. Last duck season was good to me and I still have a good supply of duck so I figured it was time to start using some of it up.
I have eaten a lot of Philly cheese steaks in my life and for the most part they were all good. I have tried making them with venison and antelope and they were pretty good but not nearly as good as this one made with duck. There is just something about the way duck cooks and gets those crispy little bits at the end that made this sandwich better. Topped of with grilled onions and peppers this is now one of my favorite sandwiches.
The secret to this recipe is to slice the duck breasts very thin. The best way to accomplish this is to place the breasts in the freezer for about 45 minutes until they are almost frozen. Then take a very sharp knife and slice the breasts about an eighth of an inch thick if possible.  The pieces cook very quickly and they with shrink a little and when they do the pieces get a little thicker as well. If you can keep your slices nice and thin your whole sandwich with be tender and delicious.
Duck Philly Cheese Steak
1 pound duck breasts, sliced (about 4 mallard breasts)
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
4 hoagie rolls
2 peppers
1 onion
8 slices of provolone cheese
Mix the duck and seasonings together with the Worcestershire and let sit for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Cook over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes until all the pieces are cooked through. Top with grilled onions and peppers and provolone cheese.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Grilled Salmon with a Habanaro Peach Glaze

I go through streaks with this blog, sometimes I am feeling the drive to write more and sometimes I am not. I am still cooking a lot and taking pictures of everything but the creative juices just don't flow in the writing department. I really want to post regularly but I get lazy and before you know it I have gone 2 weeks without making a single post. In those 2 weeks we here in Minnesota have gone from sunny 50 degree days back down to  30's and 8 inches of snow on the ground.  Before the snow hit I got some of the outdoor clean up done and fired up the grill for the first time this year. I had one salmon fillet left from last years trip to Lake Michigan so I thought I would cut it up and have it for dinner.

Last summer I had made a habanero peach jam. It is one of my favorite jams and really goes great on an English muffin. it is perfectly balanced with the sweetness of the peaches and the heat of the peppers. I was thinking about it all winter and wanted to see if I could use it in something else. What I came up with was to mix it with some soy sauce, Mirin and sake to make a nice glaze for my salmon.

I like using my grill but grilling fish is one of those things that never seems to work for me. The fish usually ends up falling apart or burning and I just can't seem to get it right. This salmon actually turned out really well. I had read a few techniques for grilling fish and this one seemed to work. basically you leave the skin on and grill the fish over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes basting the salmon every five minutes with your glaze. The skin on the bottom burned but the meat itself was perfectly cooked and the skin peeled right off with out any problems. My glaze was delicious and the sweet and heat of the jam really came through on the fish.

Grilled Salmon with a Habanaro Peach Glaze

4-6 pieces of salmon about 6 oz. a piece
1/4 cup Peach Habanero jam (you can find all sorts of pepper infused jams you and of them you would like)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1/4 cup sake
2 clove garlic, minced

mix the glaze together and then marinade the salmon in the glaze for about 30 minutes before you grill. Preheat you grill to medium low, about 300 degrees and then put the salmon on the grill. Don't move the salmon once it is on the grill. using a brush baste the fish with he left over marinade every five minutes. Grill for 15-20 minutes. top with green onion or chives and enjoy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blue Cheese Stuffed Venison Burger

With out a doubt the most popular post I have ever written is my venison burgers. I think that's because everybody loves a good burger. For the most part burgers are a staple in the American diet. I know when I was a kid, burger night was always one of my favorite meals. Mom's burgers and a chocolate shake made sure of that. I love being able to make burgers with wild game. In the past I have made them with deer, buffalo and duck and the occasional catfish burger. But I still haven't made a wild game juicy lucy.

For those that don't know, a juicy lucy is a burger that has the cheese stuffed inside the burger. They are very popular here in Minnesota and it seems like everybody serves one. There is even some debate as to who made the original juicy lucy, Both the 5-8 club and Matt's bar claim to be the home of the juicy lucy. Both are delicious but neither is made with wild game so I made my own. I used my own burger recipe and decided to use blue cheese instead of cheddar. I also like a little sweet with my salty so i added some maple syrup to the fried onions. I topped my burger with a little Mississippi Comeback sauce if you have never tried it I would highly recommend it. It is addicting as hell and goes great with just about everything. It reminds me a little bit of thousand Island dressing only with a kick.

When you make this burger it is nice to use a ring mold of some sort to hold the burger while you make a well in the middle for the cheese and then cover it with a thinner patty. Fry the burger in a little butter and then dive in. Be warned however, the cheese in the middle is often very hot an when you bite in it can squirt out and burn you. So eat at your own risk.

Jamie's 100% venison burger
1 pound ground venison (preferably neck meat)
2 tablespoons minced roasted garlic
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Black pepper to taste.

Mix all the ingredients together and form patties