Category Archives: charcuterie

Beet and Citrus Cured Salmon

Salmon was the first meat I ever salt cured back when I got Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie. It’s one of the easiest of the cured meats because it requires little investment and very little time compared to a Bresaola or a cured fermented sausage like salami. Basically all you do is rub a salmon fillet with a mixture of salt, some sugar, aromatics and maybe a few tablespoons of vodka or another alcohol. You let it sit for 24 to 48 hours in the fridge and then wipe away all the cure ingredients and pat it dry. Now it is ready to go as is, basically a gravadlax, sliced thin on a bagel or some rye bread. Another option is to maybe smoke it (cold or hot) after it is cured. Diana loves it hot smoked quickly till cooked (I use my wok for that) and served with a simple slaw, crostini and a sour cream/mayo sauce. Yet another way to take the cured salmon to the next level is to brush it with a glaze of molasses and sprinkle it with a mixture of caraway, pepper and coriander. This makes a unique pastrami salmon!

This time around, I borrowed an idea from Jamie Oliver where he cures salmon using a mixture that includes beets and horseradish. The fish had that crazy funky red color from the beets when he prepared it and it just sounded like a good idea. To actually prepare it though I used the proportions from a Grapefruit-Cured Salmon in the Modernist Cuisine books. They use grapefruit zest, lemon zest and juniper. I just eliminated the grapefruit and kept the lemon and juniper. The copper river salmon I used had an amazing color when done curing and all the flavors worked great. I could taste everything, from the citrus zest to the earthy beets.

We ate it for dinner and/or work lunch over about a week period. One way I served it was with some quick lemon-marinated zucchini and red onions. For this dish I made a sauce from pureed chives, cucumbers, yogurt and sour cream.

For another quick dinner I topped home-baked rye bread with the salmon, added some pickled pearl onions and drizzled with whatever was left of that cucumber-chive-yogurt sauce.

Labor Day Bocks and Brats

We were in San Antonio this past weekend, so I did not have much time to prepare a full-fledged barbecue spread. San Antonio was a fun close getaway with the family and as usual we had a great meal at Dough Pizzeria Napolitana (might be one of the best of it’s kind in the country) and way too much ice cream at Justin’s and Amy’s. Anyways, back at home by Monday Labor Day, what I did have is some good homemade sausage. So I took out a pack of Bratwurst and the last couple of Bockwurst packs I had. Both sausages are made with a mixture of pork and veal. They also both include dairy and eggs. The Bockwurst includes more onions and more pepper, the brats have a more uniform emulsified texture not unlike that of a hot dog. The Bockwurst were cooked (poached) before freezing so they needed nothing more than grilling to heat up and crisp the casing. The brats were raw, so they were cooked sous vide at 61 C for about an hour before grilling and crisping.

I did go through the trouble of making some proper buns that will stand up to the wieners and not fall apart. I used a recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. A few of these were topped with poppy seeds and the rest baked plain. The buns turned out perfect for the substantial sausages. To serve them, I made a some sautéed onions, peppers, zucchini and tomatoes. Other accompaniments included a few different mustards and some pickled pepperoncini peppers. That was such a fantastic meal for so little work.

Pheasant Terrine

Making terrines is such a satisfying process. I love every aspect of it. I start by selecting the meat, in this case it’s the meat from two pheasants that a friend shot in Kansas. Next is figuring out what kind of terrine this is going to be. It could be very coarsely ground (or hand chopped), homogenous, smooth and spreadable (making it a Paté), or, as is the case here somewhere in between. I reserved the breast halves from one of the pheasants and ground up all the rest along with pork back fat and a host of flavorings and spices.

The recipe is based on a formula in Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. I also usually reference Time Life series’ Patés, Terrines and Galantines for ideas and inspiration. The reserved pheasant breast became the inlay in the terrine. For more textural variation and definition I mixed in some blanched pistachios and finely diced bacon. We feasted on this for a couple of dinners and a few lunches at work with several condiments like mustard and chutney and ALWAYS…cornichons.

Over 60 lbs of Sausage

At least twice a year I get together with a few friends and we make a bunch of sausage. We make 3 or 4 varieties usually. This time we made the largest batch yet, about 62 lbs of them. It was a two-day fest of grinding, stuffing and feasting. We made four varieties this time around:

– Italian Sausage with Basil and Rosemary

– Toulouse Sausage with Herbs and White Wine

– Hatch Chile Sausage with Cilantro, Lime and Queso Fresco

– Chicken Shawarma Sausage (Chicken meat and pork fat with shawarma flavors – white wine, lemon, cardamom, allspice,…)

The first day we do all the cutting, seasoning, grinding and mixing.

These were our dinner. Accompanied with baked potatoes, broccolini, mushrooms in Marsala and a few slices of Cotechino. Light stuff…

Day two is when we stuff and portion out all the sausage.

Till next time

Chicken Faux Gras

Truth be told I am not a huge fan of chicken liver. It’s more of a texture thing than taste. I do not like that grainy mouthfeel most chicken liver (like chopped liver) preparations have. When I cook it, it’s usually part of a bigger picture, like dirty rice. When chicken liver is the star of the dish I go above and beyond to make it as smooth as possible. One example is Tuscan chicken liver crostini from Mario Batali’s “Babbo” cookbook. He only instructs us to puree it in the food processor and I think he values the slightly chunky texture. When I make that, I puree the hell out of it and even pass it through a sieve to get a silky smooth texture.

This recipe takes chicken liver mousse to an even higher level. It’s from Michel Richard’s immensely useful book, “Happy in the Kitchen“. Richard gives it the name of “Faux Gras”, an allusion to the expensive, luxurious and wonderful fattened duck or goose liver. I had to give it a try to see how close to its namesake it really is. My intention was to try some on its own and to attempt to quickly sear a cube of it to see if that would work. Well, I never got to the second part of my experiment, we just ate the whole thing up over a period of a few days!

To get to that smooth and rich texture that real foie gras has, Richard purees in a blender chicken livers with a mixture of sautéed onions, cream, and loads of butter. This creates a stable emulsion that is then passed through a sieve to remove any impurities and “graininess” from the “liver shake” (ewww…liver shake). The mixture is baked in a low oven in a bain marie (tub of water) like a custard until set. The liver is then chilled and covered with a parsley gelee. The gelee is made from pureed cucumber, gelatin, lemon juice and lots of parsley. In addition to looking very neat and tasting great it also helps seal the liver and slow down oxidation and discoloration.

The result? As I mentioned earlier, we never got around to test if I can quickly sear a cube of the stuff in a further imitation of foie gras (I guess I need to make it again to test that out). So it was good, very good. Even Diana who does not like chicken liver ate a plate and enjoyed it very much. Does it taste like foie gras? not really. I still think it tastes like chicken liver, but the fatty smooth texture and the subtle seasoning make this one heck of a special chicken liver mousse. To serve it, I just accompanied it with various sweet, tart and spicy condiments like balsamic vinegar, fig confit, cranberry chutney, Zuni pickled prunes, Pommery mustard and homemade bread.

Perciatelli all’Amatriciana – Seattle Style

I, along with a couple of friends, recently visited a good buddy of ours in Seattle. Well, we went to “Lebowski Fest” actually. That was fun, but the trip was really an excuse to share beers with friends, see the sights of the absolutely wonderful city of Seattle (the weather was just perfect BTW), and eat some good food of course. We had good seafood by the ocean, walked for hours around the amazing Pike Place Market and enjoyed delicious grilled cheese and mac and cheese at Beecher’s. One of the best meals we had was one that our host made, a simple Amatriciana sauce made with guanciale from Salumi and served with dried tagliatelle and many glasses of red wine.

Let me back up a little here. I knew if there was one place I was going to go to in Seattle it would be Salumi. This is a small sandwich shop run by Armandino Batali (Mario’s dad). It’s not just any sandwich shop though. Armandino makes his own salami, culatello, coppa, porchetta and many other wonderful cured meat products. We got three large sandwiches with different fillings. One was filled with a special salami flavored with citrus zest and cardamom and all had different cheeses along with onions and peppers. We also had a side order of lomo (cured pork loin) for good measure. We sat at a communal table and enjoyed a bottle of red with our food. That was a simple but memorable meal and a lot of good food for two people, but I figured I probably won’t be back to Seattle for some time so I indulged.

Our host makes his Amatriciana sauce with nothing more than sautéed guanciale, a red onion, shallot and canned tomatoes. It’s much less involved than most you would see in books or online that use herbs, a tomato sauce and garlic. The sauce he made was porky and outstanding so I wanted to make something similar with the piece of guanciale I brought home with me as soon as possible.

So, my Amatriciana sauce was simple with one addition, a clove of garlic. Other than that it was the “Seattle” Amatriciana. For pasta, bucatini is traditional, I had perciatelli on hand which as far as I can tell is more or less the same. They are both spaghetti looking noodles that are hollow. Most versions in restaurants here and in cookbooks recommend substituting pancetta or bacon for the tougher-to-find guanciale. That makes a good sauce, but really nothing quiet compares to cured pig jowl. It is very flavorful and fatty without being cloying and has a firm slightly gelatinous and toothsome texture that is downright addictive. Everyone should try this sauce at least once with guanciale to see what I am talking about.  I have a fresh pig jowl in the freezer from Harrison Hogs Farms that I plan to cure soon. We’ll see how that compares to Salumi’s gold standard.

Salame di Sant’Olcese

I make a lot of fresh sausage on a regular basis, but rarely do I make a dry cured fermented sausage. That’s primarily because I do  not have a proper curing chamber that maintains a steady temperature and a high humidity level. Most amateur cooks who dabble with fermented sausages use an old fridge equipped with a humidifier for humidity. As my dear wife constantly reminds me, I already have too many hobbies and too many gadgets. So I do not think a suped-up curing fridge is in my near future. This recipe is courtesy of Jason Molinari from his great Cured Meats blog.

The idea behind making fermented sausages is not that different than making beer or even bread. You mix the meat with spices and any other flavorings, then you add a “starter” and mix well. The starter is analogous to the yeast added to wort to make beer. It’s a live culture that can be bought online from sausage making suppliers. The mixture is stuffed into casings and allowed to ferment at about 70 F. During that time the starter culture grows and in the process makes the mixture acidic. This gives the salami the characteristic tangy flavor and the acidity controls the growth of any undesirable bacteria. Nex,t the sausages need to sit in the curing chamber to dry evenly and age. Ideally they need be at 55 F or so and the humidity should be about 65%. Lacking a curing chamber, I had the sausages in my garage fridge. The temperature in there is much lower (need to keep my beer cold afterall) and I control the humidity around the sausages by using a large (2.5 gallon) plastic ziploc bag. When the sausages loose about 25-30% of their original weight, they are ready to eat.

These came out perfect, with a nice tight texture and no air pockets. The flavor was tangy and porky with not too much garlic or spice. I need to make more salami!