Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tomatoes and a Golden Tomato Bisque

 
I was gone on vacation for a week and when I came home I was very excited to go see my garden hoping that it would be full of vegetables to harvest. I sort of got my wish, most of my zucchini and cucumbers plants were rotten, so they had to be pulled. I did get one massive green zucchini fro the one plant that still looks alive. There was a pound and a half of beans to be picked  and all my tomatoes were fall over. The cages and everything had been pulled over by the weight of to many tomatoes and some heavy rain. I started cutting the plants back and trying to salvage as many tomatoes as I could and ended up getting a nice harvest of tomatoes. Many of the pear and cherry tomatoes were to small and green so I was just going to throw them out but then reconsidered and decided to pickle all of them. I will let you know if they turn out in about a month. 

 
I had plenty of ripe red tomatoes and was planning on making sauce so I went to the store and bought a tomato pulper. Easily the best 50 bucks I have ever spent. It turned a 2 hour job into a 30 minute job and was easy enough that my daughter was able to help. It got a little messy but was worth every penny. We juiced and pulped all the tomatoes and had about two gallons worth.
 

 
After several hours of simmering the tomato sauce I ended up with almost 10 pints of sauce. This is the most basic sauce it is just tomato sauce and then to each jar a put a couple of basil leaves in the bottom and sealed them. I absolutely love using this sauce in the fall and winter months is tastes ten times better than anything I have ever bought at the store.
 
 
 I had all these yellow pear tomatoes which have been my favorites so far. I have been making some pretty awesome tomato salads with them but thought I would make a nice tomato bisque with this batch. The recipe is a version of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstahls and really couldn't be any easier.

 
You can use any type of tomato for this recipe as long as you have about two pounds. Put the tomatoes in a baking dish with a splash of olive oil, some garlic cloves and some oregano. Then roast the tomatoes in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes. When they are done roasting run them through a juicer or chinois and reserve the pulp and juice. Add to this 2 cup of light chicken stock of vegetable stock and begin to simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes uncovered and then add 5-6 rice cakes and a 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Put in a blender or use a wand blender to mix in the rice cakes. Right before you serve it add a splash of sherry vinegar a few croutons and enjoy. I drizzled a little olive oil on mine, it was a perfect late summer lunch. 


 

 

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Thin Fried Catfish

 
There are good days of fishing and there are great days of fishing. I have only had great days of fishing with Eric Passe. Not everyday has produced a live well full of fish but everyday has produced a great time with a great friend. My last outing with Eric was a couple of weeks ago and he took me out on the Mississippi river fishing for whatever was going to bite. Within minutes of arriving at the first spot Eric had already hooked a very nice 21 inch walleye that went right into the live well. Shortly after that he hooked another only this time he was a little more excited. Eric has a very unique ability to tell what kind of fish and about how big that fish is before he even gets it into the boat. After about 15 minutes of fighting the fish I netted it and it was this beautiful 29 1/2 inch walleye. He put that one back in the river. 

 
 
I have been fishing with Eric for 12 or 13 years now and we do a bit of duck hunting together as well. I am not lying when I say that I could sit in a boat drinking Busch Light with him all day and just watch him fish. He has fished a part of the Mississippi river his whole life and has gotten to know it so well that going out with him isn't really fishing, its more like stealing from nature.
 
I didn't get any walleyes that day but it seemed like I was catching fish left and right, mostly sheeps head and small bass with the occasional sun fish mixed in and then I got a very strange bite. It felt very much like something was just gumming my worm. I let it have a little line and then wham, set the hook and was into something good. Eric could tell by the way the fish was heading up river and by the way it was tugging out line that it was probably a catfish. I know some people aren't found of catfish but I love everything about them. They fight like nothing else and if you take care of them after you catch them they are delicious.
 
 
I don't get the opportunity to clean catfish very often but there is something about cleaning cats that I really like. I like to rip all the skin off and then cut the two big fillets off each side, if done correctly I can usually come away with boneless fillets. Caring for your fish starts before that, Eric and I filled the live well with ice and then all the fish we are going to keep go on ice as soon as they are caught. This helps prevent the fish from getting to warm and breaking down. Sometimes in the summer months the water in the live well can get pretty warm and if the fish are in there for a long time it can make the meat a bit mushy.It also has the added bonus of meaning you don't have to drain the live well after your done fishing.
 
After filleting them I placed them in a 1 gallon Ziploc bag with a teaspoon of kosher salt and then covered the fillets in water and let them sit in the fridge overnight. I find that this step removes some of the fishy taste that can sometimes be off putting . 


 

I caught two catfish that day and they were probably in the 6-8 pound range, perfect for eating. I had watched an episode of the PBS series "The Mind Of a Chef" where they were eating shaved catfish. Shaved catfish is basically just a fillet of catfish that has been sliced thinly, breaded and fried. A quick google search said that it originated in the depression when they were trying to maximize the amount of fish they had. I can see why it worked, the one fillet I used, sliced into 6 thinner pieces and fed my family of 4 no problem.

The process was pretty easy I marinated the fillets in buttermilk for about 30 minutes then tossed them in flour dipped them in egg wash and gave them a coating of corn flour and corn meal. They fry up pretty quickly and come out in these magnificent sheets of fried goodness. I gave mine a sprinkle of salt and Old Bay seasoning and they were delicious.


 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Fried Duck Gizzard Rillette

 

I grew up eating chicken gizzards so the idea of eating them now doesn't even phase me. Whenever I am lucky enough to see them on a menu I usually order them. I do realize though that most people won't eat them and I absolutely understand why. They are, to put it delicately, oddly chewy. When you remove a gizzard from a bird it is hard and dense like no other piece of meat. It is just meat though, most people don't seem to understand that. All a gizzard is, is a dense muscle used in digestion nothing else. When cleaned and ready to use they are actually kind of pretty, like little jewels with a dark red inside and a shimmery white outside.

 

Whenever possible I always save the gizzards from the ducks and geese that I shoot so that I can use them later. My good friend Eric Passe always saves his as well so by the end of the duck season I have a large supply of duck gizzards. I love using them and trying to find new things to do with them. I have been making corned duck gizzards a lot and honestly you would never be able to tell the difference in flavor between them and corned beef. I was reading through one of my cookbooks, Le Pigeon is a book by Gabriel Rucker and is full of incredible recipes. One of those recipes was for duck nuggets, basically duck confit that has been shaped into a nugget and then fried. I have confit'd gizzards before so this just made sense.

 
This might seem like a lot of work but really it isn't that much and you can make enough to put into the freezer and have for later as well. The hardest part was trying to figure out what to call it. It is basically a rillette that has been stuffed into a 1 1/2 inch casing and then put in the fridge to set. Then I sliced one inch pieces and breaded and fried them. Really not that complicated, and totally worth it. They were amazing and I imagine would have gone great with any kind of dipping sauce. I went with Maple mustard and a rhubarb chutney.
 
 
Fried Duck Gizzard Rillette's
 
2 lbs duck gizzards cleaned and trimmed
1/4 cup kosher salt
3 bay leaves, crumbled
1 small bunch of thyme
3 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp crushed black pepper
 
enough duck fat to cover
 
1. clean and dry the gizzards and then mix together the salt and other ingredients and cover the gizzards completely with the salt mixture. Let the gizzards sit for 24-48 hours in the fridge.
 
2. Rinse the gizzards and dry them, then place them in a heavy oven proof pot and cover with duck fat.
 
3. cook the gizzards in duck fat at 200 degrees for 8-10 hours or until the gizzards shred easily.
 
4. shred the gizzards and add some of the duck fat into the shredded gizzards about a 1/2 cup.
 
5. stuff the shredded mixture into 1 1/2 in paper casings or if you don't have paper casings you could just form the nuggets by hand. You want to make sure the nuggets are chilled in the fridge so they will hold together well.
 
6. dredge the nuggets in flour then in egg was and finally in breadcrumbs and fry at 350 degrees until golden brown. Serve and Enjoy
 


Friday, August 1, 2014

Spaghetti Carbonara with a Twist

 
I am often asked if I have a specialty dish that I make. I don't really have one that I make over and over but if I could choose a dish to be my own specialty dish it would be spaghetti carbonara. I first had carbonara at the Adventure bar in Japan just outside of Sasebo. It was an odd place to get a great plate of Italian food, it was owned by a man from Holland who had married a woman from Japan and together they served up Italian food. It was also the only place in Japan that I found to have Heineken on tap and they served it up in generous 32 ounces mugs.

 
 
The carbonara at the Adventure bar was so good that it pretty much ruined carbonara for me. Every time I ordered it after leaving Japan I was disappointed. When I started cooking I tried to make it several times, the first couple of tries ended up being more like noodles and scrambled eggs, my technique was off just a bit and I never thought I was going to get it right. I had pretty much given up on trying until I started making my own guanciale. Guanciale is the dry cured jowl of a pig that it traditionally used in making carbonara. Along with guanciale, eggs, Parmesan, pasta, salt and pepper is about all that goes into it. When done correctly the eggs and cheese for a light and beautiful creamy sauce that covers the pasta. It is a surprisingly simple dish when you look at the ingredient list but there is nothing easy about the cooking of the dish. If the eggs are added when the pan it to hot they will curdle and the texture of your dish is ruined. 
 
 

When I first started making guanciale I tried the carbonara again and slowly but surely I got the hang of it and started making some pretty good carbonara. Then something happened, I made dry cured egg yolks and almost as soon as I made them I thought, I can't wait to try them in carbonara. I would have made them the day the eggs were ready but I had run out of guanciale and was waiting for my latest batch to finish drying. When that day finally came I was almost giddy and couldn't wait for lunch. As I started making the carbonara my wife asked if there was anything healthy in the dish and since I had just picked a zucchini that morning I decided to shred a zucchini and add it. I know that isn't exactly traditional but it was awesome, hands down my best carbonara so far.

My Best Carbonara Yet

4 ounces guanciale, diced(or pancetta or bacon)
2 salt cured egg yolks finely grated
1/2 cup pecorino Romano
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 lbs of spaghetti or other long noodle pasta
1 cup water reserved from cooking the pasta

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

While the pasta is cooking, start to cook the guanciale crisping the guanciale and rendering the fat out stir in the zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes. When the pasta is ready add the pasta to the guanciale and toss a few times to coat the pasta. Remove the pan from the heat and add about half the reserved pasta water. Add the grated eggs and the cheese and toss until well combined add more water if needed.
 

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Love My Garden, I Think?

 
I am not a very good gardener, the fact that I have been able to plant and raise anything is pretty much dumb luck. This is the third year with my garden and every year so far it has gotten bigger. This year was no exception, I expanded this year not with more raised beds but with large half barrel planters that I have my carrots and butternut squash in. My main bed is filled with mostly green beans which year after year seem to be the only thing I can grow consistently. Except for two plants that a small, big eared creature has eaten down to a nub all of the beans I planted are thriving and I show get my first harvest of beans this week.
 
 
In the main bed with the beans are three small purple tomatillo plants that were planted from seed as well. I am really surprised at how well these are doing, I got them in late and wasn't sure I would get any results but they are thriving and this week I can see several small tomatillos starting to form.

 
I have never had any luck planting tomatoes so I just don't do it. This year however my mother had given me three of her heirloom plants each with a long odd name that I don't remember. I somehow managed to keep them alive and transplanted them so I thought I would go get a few more plants and try tomatoes again. as you can tell from the picture above and below all of my tomato plants took off and next to the beans I think I will have a bumper crop of tomatoes. 

 
Assuming I don't do anything foolish and kill them all off I am really looking forward to making tomato sauce and canning diced tomatoes. I promised my five year old that we would make ketchup with some of them and I have been trying to find a good recipe for ketchup. If anybody has one let me know because I am going to be over run with tomatoes pretty quickly.

 
I had planted beets and radishes this year but none of the beets came up. All of the radishes did but they have been eaten already and I had an empty box so I bought some sorrel plants at the farmers market and transplanted them. I had never had sorrel before and after tasting it for the first time was amazed at how good it is. My kids are in love with it as well and whenever we are outside playing it is all I can do to keep them from eating all the sorrel leaves right out of the garden. In the rest of the box I thought I would try something I had never done before and planted strawberry popcorn. I have no idea if it will work but the shoot have started popping up and maybe I will bet lucky and be able to make some carmel corn for Halloween.

 
My wife wanted strawberries so I got june bearing strawberries. We won't be getting any berries this year but hopefully next year and several years after that we will have fresh strawberries to make jam with. 

 
My zucchini and cucumbers are not doing well so far I have gotten one limelight zucchini and my cukes don't appear to be climbing. I have planted both in this box before and have had good  results but they aren't doing to well this year. Some kind of white fungus has started on all the leaves and I had read that chamomile tea would help but it didn't really do anything but make my plants smell like tea.

 
My carrots and butternut squash were planted in these half barrels. The idea was that the squash would grow out of the barrel and then I would be able to train them to grow in the fence and keep the squash up off the ground. So far so good but we will see what happens. I am terrible about thinning out plants that I start from seed and never really culled any of the carrots. I guess I figure as long as they keep growing why interfere. If all goes as planned I will have two types of carrots this fall and all I have to do is dump the barrels out into my beds and pick up the all the carrots. 

 
I have really found my garden to be a relaxing end to my days. when I get home from work I like to go check out the progress and then water everything. It is always amazing to me how much it changes everyday. I just wish I had more time to learn how to do it properly.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Buttermilk Pie

 
My wife makes fun of me because every now and then I get a wild hair to try something new and just have to make it. Usually I see something on TV or read about it on some blog somewhere and am obsessed with it until I make it and get it out of my system. I know that most of what I do here has something to do with wild game but there are some things that just look to good not to try. So when I saw buttermilk pie I was instantly hooked and have been thinking about it for about two weeks now. I finally got some free time and here it is, a surprisingly easy and magnificent custard like pie that I will be making over and over this summer. 

 
I was watching The Mind of a Chef with Sean Brock and they were discussing southern favorites. I had never heard of a buttermilk pie but apparently they are pretty common in the south. A little bit of research showed me that pies like this are usually made when there isn't any fresh fruit to make pies out of. This episode also inspired me to try and make my own pie crust. I never make pie crusts, I always buy them frozen and ready to go. Sadly I have been under the misconception that the store bought ones are just as good and that homemade crust is to difficult. I was wrong.
 
Pie crust is surprisingly easy to make. I remember making them in the past and the not being this simple so I gave up on them all together. When I sat down to make this buttermilk pie I decided to give it a try again using a new technique and recipe for pie crust. It was so simple and turned out so amazing that I will probably never buy another crust. For my pie crust it is just 2 cups of flour, 12 tablespoons of cold butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons of maple sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of water. Stir together the flour, salt and sugar then cut the butter into small chunks. Using your hands just pinch the butter into the flour and continue working the flour and butter until all the large chunks of butter are broken up and the flour looks sandy. When you grab a handful and squeeze it, it should hold together. work the mixture into a ball and add a little water until everything is incorporated and the pie dough is one smooth ball. Refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes before using.  That's it, it really is that simple.
 

 
The rest of the pie is just as simple you just mix all the ingredients in a bowl and pour into you pie crust. After the pie bakes you end up with a beautiful custard like pie that despite being made with buttermilk, eggs and butter is light and refreshing. Amazed at how good the pie was and my wife took back her ridicule as well after tasting it. If you're in the mood for a real treat give it a try.
 
This is the recipe from Lisa Donavan the pastry Chef at Husk
 
Buttermilk Pie
 
1 9 inch pie crust
3 cups of sugar
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 stick melted butter
scrape the seeds from half a vanilla bean
1/2 cup flour
juice and zest from half a lemon 
 
Whisk together all the ingredients leaving the buttermilk for last. then pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until the center of the pie is set. Let the pie cool and then enjoy.

 
 

 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Venison and Green Chili Empanadas

 
I like to keep a little black book with me at all times, not because I am keeping numbers or picking up girls, because I write down food ideas that pop into my head. The idea came to me last year when I had a brilliant thought for a blog post and then forgot it. I remember that it was going to be incredible and probably would have changed my life but I forgot what it was. Ever since then whenever I have a thought about a new dish I'd like to try or a meal I would like to try making using wild game I write it down so I don't forget it. A lot of the recipes you see on this blog originated in that little book.  
 
This recipe for empanads is no different, I love recipes that use ground venison and have always enjoyed empanadas but have never made them. I figured it was time to change that. I had made empanadas a couple of years ago but they were vegetarian and the dough I made wasn't very good so I never returned to them. I am a different cook now, then I was a few years ago and figured I would give it another try. I searched all over the Internet for a good empanada dough recipe and found so many different varieties that I just decided to mix a couple together and see what I got.
  
 
My problem with the last dough I made was that it didn't have much flavor and it just seemed to take away from the empanadas filling. Its was to thick and doughy and really took away from the filling. So with this batch I really wanted to make a dough that had a lot of flavor but wasn't to over powering. After all I really wanted the venison filling to be the star of the show. After reading all the recipes I came up with a recipe for the dough that I think really worked well. I have no idea if it is a traditional dough or not but it was pretty freakin tasty. 

 

Over all I really liked how these empanada's turned out, the filling was delicious and my wife and kids really liked it. I would have preferred a little more heat to the filling but then the rest of the family probably wouldn't have like them.



Venison Empanada's

For the Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
1 stick of butter
1 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 cup of milk

whisk together the flour, salt and chili powder then cut in the cold butter mashing it with a fork until you have a Sandy consistency. add the milk and form into a ball. If the sough it to dry and crumbly you can add a little water or a little more milk until you get a nice ball of dough.

Place the dough in the fridge for at least a half hour. when ready to use the dough divide the dough into 12 equal portions and roll them out into 1/4 inch circles about the size of a small saucer. Place the filling in the center then brush the edges of the dough with a little melted butter and fold over into half circles. use a fork to crimp the edges and transfer to a baking sheet. Brush the empanada's with butter and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes until they are golden brown.

For the filling

1 pound ground venison
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 4 ounce can diced green chili's
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet and add the onions and cook until transparent then add the garlic. stir in the venison and cook until all the pink is gone. add the cumin and the chili powders and cook for 2-3 minutes. then stir in the green chili's and the tomatoes and cook until all the fluid is gone. add the oregano and season with salt and pepper. then fill the dough.