Charcuterie Challenge 3 and a Saint Patrick’s Day Feast

Corned Beef

The third Charcutepalooza challenge, corned beef, ends today and as a coincidence of timing(?), it comes just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. What better way to celebrate than building a feast around the corned beef?

St. Patrick’s Day always meant heading out to the bar with all the boys and having a number of pints of Guinness and a few snorts of Irish whiskey. That still has its appeal but days like this are now a perfect excuse to get friends together and try out dishes that I only have a passing familiarity with. Irish food certainly fits the bill. My entire experience with Irish cooking is either pub food at the local Irish pubs or my one trip to Ireland. Until now I don’t think I had ever cooked what you would call a truly Irish dish.

We were very excited to give this a try as we had a 6 pound corned beef brisket fresh out of its brine and a number of hungry friends that don’t mind being experimented on.  For the dinner we started with potted crab as an appetizer and then had the corned beef with Guinness braised cabbage with our own house made bacon and chive champ (Irish mashed potatoes). We served the corn beef with a Guinness mustard sauce and a horseradish cream sauce. For dessert we had a traditional Irish trifle called Curach.

The highlights of the meal

Potted Crab

The potted crab was a new one for us and it was a great dish to start out the meal. This dish seemed very simple but tastes deep and rich thanks to butter, sherry, shallots and a pinch of nutmeg to go with the mixture of king crab leg meat and lump crab meat. It is sometimes served on toast but we thought that we would just serve in individual ramekins to eat by itself. We definitely did not need the toast. We will do this again although picking the meat from the crab legs is time-consuming.

 The corned beef was a bit of a worry because we were unsure whether first it would turn out and second whether it would stand up as a main dish for our discerning friends. The answer was an emphatic yes! When we carved the beef it had a bright red colour you expect from corned beef and the flavours of the pickle brine came through clearly, especially the exotic pungency of the allspice. This was definitely a dish that could be the center of any meal.

Potted Crab

1 lb cooked king crab legs in the shell
1/2 lb lump crabmeat
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp. medium-dry Sherry
1 tsp. finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. minced shallot
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of cayenne



Remove the crabmeat from the shell, make sure that you get rid of everything that is not meat. Chop all of the crabmeat finely and set aside. Melt the butter over low heat and stir in everything except for the crab. Let the ingredients heat up in the butter for a minute and then remove from heat and cool for 3 minutes then add the crabmeat and combine thoroughly.

Fill six 4 oz. ramekins with the crab mixture and tamp down with a damp spoon. cling wrap will stick to the crab mixture so cover with wax paper and seal with elastic bands.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours but overnight is better. Remove from the fridge 45 minutes before serving.

 Chive Champ

3 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes peeled and cut into 4 pieces
4 Tbs. heavy cream
4 Tbs. milk
4 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. chives, finely chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Cover the potatoes with cold water and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with fork.

Meanwhile heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until just below a boil and add the chives and simmer in the milk for 5 minutes.

When the potatoes are done drain them and return them to the pot over low heat. Add the butter, cream, milk and chives along with the salt and pepper. Mash with a hand masher or a ricer or a hand mixer until you reach the desired smoothness.

Guinness Braised Cabbage with House made Bacon

2 Tbs. Olive Oil
6 strips of house made bacon cut into lardons
1 cup chopped onion
1 large cabbage, cored and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 pint of Guinness or any Irish stout
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Add the olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat, add the lardons and saute until brown and crispy. Add the onions and saute until translucent about 3 minutes. Add the cabbage, the bay leaves, the beer, salt and pepper stir to mix and cover. Braise the cabbage for 30-45 minutes or until tender.

Corned Beef

5.5 lb. house made corned beef brisket
2 pints of Guinness or any Irish stout
1 large onion, quartered
4 medium carrots chopped
3 celery stalks chopped
4 Tbs. house made picking spice in a garni

Put the corned beef in a large stock pot and add the Guinness and then add cold water until the corned beef is covered by one inch. Add the vegetables and the garni (spices tied up in a bag of cheesecloth). Bring the beef to a boil and reduce to a simmer for approximately 3 hours, until tender. Remove the beef and carve into 1/4 inch slices.

Curach

1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups raspberries
3 tablespoons honey, divided
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons whiskey

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix the oatmeal with the brown sugar and spread on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, stirring frequently. In a medium saucepan, mix half of the raspberries with 2 tablespoons honey. Cook over medium heat until the rhubarb is tender and then cool. In a large bowl whip the cream until stiff. Fold in the remaining honey and whiskey. Layer in a trifle bowl or individual glasses the cream mix, toasted oatmeal, cooked raspberries, and some fresh raspberries serve chilled.

Preserved Lemons

Preserving Lemons

Last month’s Charcutepalooza challenge was the salt cure, specifically fresh bacon and pancetta from Charcuterie – The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. The one salt cure recipe in the book that I had yet to try was Lemon Confit. This is essentially just lemons that are preserved in salt for 1-3 months. The inspiration for this was a blog post by Michael Ruhlman, the author of the above mentioned book.

So prepared with a one quart jar, 9 freshly scrubbed and halved lemons and a kilogram of kosher salt, I now have a spot in our pantry committed to a 3 month lemon curing adventure.

What are preserved lemons for you ask?

They are a staple of Moroccan cooking and are used in a number of traditional dishes such as tagines. They are also used in Cambodian cooking for a chicken soup called Ngav ngum. They can also be used in vinaigrettes and almost any dish that combines lemon and salt.

Hopefully my first attempt and lemon confit works well and I will be able to share the recipes I use them in. Stay tuned for the beginning of June for the results.

Mussel Madness!

Cleaned, Debearded and Ready for the Pot

Jeanne and I love eating mussels but it is one of those foods that we seldom think to prepare. Maybe we don’t spend enough time wandering through the seafood section of the grocery store or maybe we are just getting forgetful in middle age. Whatever the reason, it is always a delightful surprise when we “come to” and decide to do a batch.

Mussels have a lot to recommend them as a choice for your dinner table as well. They are a sustainable seafood choice (according to Seachoice), they are inexpensive (usually about $2.00/pound), they are easy to prepare and they are very nutritious.

Mussels are very rich in vitamins and minerals and very low in fat. They are also a very healthy source of protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids. Mussels have almost the same protein content per weight as beef, but only have ¼ the calories.

Nutritional Information Per 1.lb. Mussels (100g cooked meat)
Amount per serving              % Daily Values
Calories: 100
Fat: 2.0g                                           3%
Saturated: 0g.
Trans: 0g.
Cholesterol: 40mg.                     13%
Sodium: 200mg.                          11%
Carbohydrate: 6g.                        2%
Fibre: 0g.
Sugars: 0g.
Protein: 16g
Vitamin A:                                       4%
Calcium:                                           2%
Vitamin C:                                       0%
Iron:                                                25%

Steamed Mussels in White Wine

4 lbs. live mussels
3 Tbs. butter
1/4 cup shallot minced
1/2 cup white onion diced
1 red pepper diced
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
1 cup white wine

To prepare the mussels start by discarding any mussels that are open or broken in any way. These are most likely dead already so may be unsafe to eat. Next soak the mussels in cold fresh water for about 20 minutes. This allows the mussels to expel any sand that they may contain. Remove the mussels from the water one at a time and scrub and remove the beard. The beard or byssal threads are a fibrous material that the mussels use to attach themselves to rocks or in the case of farmed mussels, ropes. The beard is easily removed by grasping tightly and pulling toward the hinge of the shell.

That’s it, the mussels are ready for the pot!

Chopped Shallots

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and peppers and saute until tender but not yet brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for a further minute.

Chopped Peppers

Chopped Onions

Add the fresh parsley and white wine to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the mussels, stir well and steam the mussels until they open, about 5 minutes. Remove the Mussels with a large slotted spoon and place in bowls. Make sure to discard any mussels that have not opened. Boil the remaining liquid until reduced by approximately half. Spoon over the mussels.

Mussels in White Wine

Serve the mussels with a crusty french loaf to soak up the sauce. We paired the mussels with a 2008 Wine by Joe Pinot Gris from Oregon.

Best Bacon Crab Cakes Ever

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a small tin of Old Bay Seasoning at a local gourmet grocery store. Living in Calgary you need to buy these items whenever you see them because they might not be around the next time you go shopping. At the time I didn’t know what I would use the Old Bay for but I knew it would come in handy at some point.

That point in time came quickly when we picked up a pound of lump crab meat on Saturday and that gave me sudden inspiration for a crab cake recipe to make for Sunday, especially since I have 5.5 pounds of freshly cured pancetta in our freezer that I need to find a use for.

Both my wife and I love crab cakes and we are always experimenting with the recipes we try but have not as yet settled on a favourite until now. These crab cakes were the highlight of our Sunday night and by far overshadowed the Oscars which we watched while eating. They have a crisp crust with a warm, meaty texture inside. The crab flavour is deepened with the addition of the Old Bay Seasoning and the pancetta was a great counterpoint to the crab without overpowering it.

Bacon Crabcakes

Bacon Crab Cakes

1 pound of lump crab meat
3 slices of bacon chopped finely – we used pancetta but any bacon would be fine
3 Tbs. of minced shallots
2 Tbs. of celery chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic minced
4 Tbs of bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp. of Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 tsp. of cayenne
1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 egg beaten

1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 egg beaten
1/4 whole milk
1 cup of bread crumbs

1 Tbs. of Butter
2 Tbs. of Canola Oil

Saute the bacon over medium-high heat until just lightly browned. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallots and celery. Cook until the celery and shallots are translucent, about 4-5 minutes and then add the garlic and saute for another minute. Remove from heat and put in a large mixing bowl to cool, about 5 minutes.

In the large mixing bowl add the crab, beaten egg, Old Bay Seasoning, cayenne, black pepper and bread crumbs and fold the ingredients together until the mixture is evenly combined and moist.

With wet hands form 6-8 patties and refrigerate them for 30 minutes. Or if you live in Calgary you can put them outside in the -30º weather for 5-10 minutes.

Make three dredging stations in shallow bowls. The first for the all-purpose flour, the second for the egg and milk and the third for the breadcrumbs. Put the butter and oil in a hot pan over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile dredge each patty in the flour, then the egg/milk mixture and then the breadcrumbs making sure to shake off any excess. Then place the crab cakes in the pan 3 or 4 at a time and cook for 4 minutes on each side. The crust should be golden brown and the insides should be cooked all the way through.

You could serve these with a nice garlic aoli or like we did with a Thai sweet red chili sauce. Pair with a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms

Pancetta

The Charcutepalooza Challenge #2 came and went without my pancetta being ready. (Thank goodness the fresh cured bacon came through for me in time!) But better late than never is actually true when it comes to bacon. Pancetta is pork belly that is cured with salt and spices for a week and then is hung to air cure for a further two weeks.

After 2 weeks in the curing chamber, the pancetta still felt a little mushy in the middle so we left it for another 4 days before we determined that it was ready. We had to wipe some mould off of the surface of the pancetta with vinegar in a couple of places but it was only on the surface and came off easily.

We cut the pancetta into slices about 1/4 inch thick and quickly were able to dismiss our major fear of air pockets. For a first attempt I think we really nailed it. Between the fresh cured bacon and the pancetta, I don’t think we will ever have to buy bacon again.

So what to cook? We had a bunch of cremini mushrooms leftover from the pickled mushroom recipe as well as fresh thyme and a can of artichoke hearts in the pantry. Obviously pancetta stuffed mushrooms were destined to be.

Pancetta in Mushroom Form

Pancetta Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb cremini mushrooms, stems removed and finely chopped
6 oz. pancetta finely chopped
1 medium white onion finely chopped
6 oz. artichoke hearts finely chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme chopped
1 egg beaten
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup pecorino cheese grated
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375º F

Add olive oil to a hot pan and saute the pancetta over medium high heat until brown and crisp. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside. Add the onions to the pan and saute until tender or about 5 minutes then add the garlic and saute for a further minute. Add the mushroom stems and the fresh thyme and saute for another 5 minutes. Return the pancetta to the pan and add the white wine and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Remove the stuffing from the pan and cool.

Mix the bread crumbs, eggs, black pepper and pecorino together in a bowl and then add the cooled stuffing mixture and combine. Stuff each mushroom cap with a heaping teaspoon and arrange on a baking sheet.

Cook in the oven until the mushroom caps are tender 8-9 minutes then remove from the oven.

Turn the oven to broil and move a rack to the upper half of the oven.

Sprinkle a little pecorino over the top of each of the mushroom caps and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.

These are a great appetizer and would work with just about any type of bacon.

Fresh Pickled Mushrooms

Fresh Pickled Mushrooms

I have always wanted to make pickles but always imagined that there would be an immense amount of work to prepare them. The hassle of buying all the jars and then sterilizing them. Lots of boiling and cutting and basically putting aside a weekend to make it all happen. On top of all that it is the middle of winter so what could you pickle anyways?

The answer to that is apparently anything! It seems that over the past couple of months there have been something has been pushing me to try it out. There was an article in Fine Cooking magazine #109 that I filed in the back of my mind, telling myself that I would go back and read it later. Then with the announcement of the March Charcutepalooza challenge being brining, namely corned beef, there was mention that brining is just pickling and it is easy to do so…voila! Fresh Pickled Mushrooms.

Fresh Pickled Mushrooms – based on recipe from Fine Cooking Magazine

2 cups cremini mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups oyster mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups shiitake mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups button mushrooms cut into bite sized pieces
2 cups Portobello with the gills removed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 2/3 cups of white wine vinegar
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. sugar
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic slivered
16 peppercorns whole
8 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. Kosher salt

Boil two 1 quart canning jars in an 8 quart canner for 10 minutes with the lid and band. I like to boil the bottom half of the tongs at the same time to reduce the chance of cross contamination. Lift the jars, lids and bands out of the water with the tongs, drain and set on a clean cloth to dry.

 Boil mushrooms in 4 quarts of water for 10 minutes then drain and remove and place in the jars with the sprigs of thyme.

Mix the vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, garlic, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, peppercorns and a cup of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the mushrooms, screw on the lids and refrigerate for 48-72 hours before serving.

You do not really need to wait that long to serve the mushrooms. I actually made a batch that I cooled and then served a couple of hours later and they were very good. However, there is a lot of flavour that develops in a few days.

The mushrooms are good for a couple of weeks in the fridge.

February Charcutepalooza – Bacon, Sausage and Potato Soup

Getting Ready for the Soup

Back from a great vacation in Mexico for a day and I have to make a recipe for the February Charcutepalooza challenge. No time to go grocery shopping and the deadline is tonight for the post. What can we make? Soup? Yes we can make soup. In fact, we have all the makings of a Tuscan Potato soup! Necessity is the mother of invention they say and that is never more true than in cooking at home sometimes.

All the Ingredients!

Bacon Sausage and Potato Soup

12 oz. Homemade Chorizo Sausage casings removed and chopped (see Sausage Party Post)
8 oz. Homemade Fresh Bacon chopped (see Charcutepalooza Challenge #2)
1 Medium White Onion diced
4 Cloves Garlic minced
3 Large Potatoes Cubed 1/2″x1/2″
1/2 cup dry white wine (we used an Orvieto)
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups milk
2 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. cayenne
black pepper to taste
salt to taste

Heat a 4 quart pot on medium high heat. Add the sausage and saute until slightly browned. I used a mild chorizo sausage that I made and had in the freezer but an italian sausage or an andouille sausage would work well. Once brown remove from the pot and set aside.

Chorizo Sausage

Add the bacon and saute until crispy. Pancetta would be the first choice for this soup but since mine is not ready for 3 more days I used my fresh bacon. Once it is crispy remove from the pot and set aside.

Fresh Bacon

Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and saute until they are tender and translucent about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.

Add the white wine and deglaze the pot. For those of you who may not know, this means that you want to use the liquid and a your spoon to get all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. This is where a ton of flavour for the soup will come from.

Once you have deglazed the pot, then add the stock, milk, thyme, rosemary, cayenne and return the bacon and sausage to the pot. Bring the soup to a boil and add the potatoes. Simmer the soup until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

The Finished Product

The soup is a nice, rich winter meal with a little heat from both the chorizo and the cayenne. Eat with a fresh baguette and a glass of the white wine.