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.

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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.

Bison and Blue Cheese Meatloaf (Bacon Wrapped)

Meatloaf has always represented comfort food for me. My grandma’s meatloaf recipe was one of the first dishes I ever learned to cook and has provided me with a sense of continuity and stability whenever I have cooked it. The recipe has remained virtually unchanged except for a slight update in ingredients such as replacing onion soup with sauteed onions and garlic as well as the addition of a teaspoon of hotsauce. As far as cooking techniques the only change has been the addition of home ground top sirloin instead of store bought ground beef.

So it was with some trepidation but also some excitement that I read through the Fine Cooking article on meatloaf in the February/March edition and came up with some ideas of how to lift meatloaf out of being just comfort food and turn it into a star attraction.

Meatloaf Recipe: Based on the Cooking without Recipes – Meatloaf in the Feb/Mar Fine Cooking Magazine

2 1/2 Lbs. of Ground Top Sirloin Bison
2 large eggs
1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp. sriracha hot sauce
1 medium white onion finely diced
2 Tbsp. minced shallots
4 cloves of garlic minced
3/4 cups red wine
4 oz. staled french bread in 2″x2″ cubes
1 cup skim milk
1/3 cup camb0zola cheese crumbled
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh tarragon
300 grams double smoked bacon

I ground the bison myself, actually I put it through the grinder twice to get a nice texture from the meat. Once ground refrigerate the meat for about 30 minutes.

Saute the onions, garlic and shallots on medium-high heat in a tbsp of olive oil until they are browning. Then add the wine and reduce to a simmer until almost all the wine is absorbed. Set aside in a bowl to cool.

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Meanwhile place the bread cubes in a 9″x9″ baking pan and add the milk. Soak for 5 minutes and turn over and soak for a further 5 minutes. Remove the bread cubes a few at a time making sure to squeeze out any extra milk. Chop the cubes finely and add to the meat.

Add the eggs, hot sauce, onion/garlic/shallot/wine mixture, cheese, worcestershire, tarragon, salt and pepper to the meat and mix by hand.

Grease a baking sheet. Shape the meat mixture into a loaf shape on the baking sheet. Lay bacon over the entire loaf, overlapping each slice slightly.

Place in oven for approximately 60-70 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160° F. Then raise the oven rack so that the top of the meatloaf is 6″ from the broiler and broil until the bacon is nice and browned. Remove the meatloaf and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

This was, by far the most amazing meatloaf me or my dinner guests have ever had and there are a couple of reasons for this. The first is the moistness thanks to the milk soaked breadcrumbs. Second would be the wine reduction with the onions, shallots and garlic and the third reason, of course, was the bacon.

Charcuterie Challenge #2

Pancetta and Fresh Bacon

The second challenge for Charcutepalooza was issued on January 15th and I am really behind the eight ball on this one. I need to complete the curing and have an article and recipe for one of the two meats by February 15th and I have only finished the fresh bacon. The pancetta will need two weeks to cure and so will be past the deadline. To make the timing a little more difficult, we are heading to Mexico for a week and so will only have one day once we are back to do the post.

Anyhow…we bought an 11 pound pork belly and brought it home last week.

Pork Belly Skin Removed

Removed the skin and cut the belly in half and cured two ways. One a basic salt cure and the other a traditional italian cure both again from Michael Ruhlman’s book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

The Pancetta Half

Both the pancetta and bacon cured in the fridge for a week until the pork belly was nice and firm and then removed.

Fresh Bacon Out of the Oven

The bacon was roasted in the oven under low heat until it reached a temperature of 150º F, removed from the oven to cool and then sliced and frozen.

Fresh Frozen Bacon

The pancetta was rolled tightly, tied and then hung in my new home curing chamber for 2 weeks at 60º F and a humidity of 60%.

Rolled Pancetta

The bacon tastes great and I am looking forward to trying it in a recipe to be determined. The pancetta looks really good but we will see in 14 days.

Pancetta Curing in the New Chamber

Bacon Marmalade – First Attempt

As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, one of the major reasons I started blogging was to document my journey to replicate the bacon jam that we tasted at the Niagara Street Cafe. The bacon jam seemed more like a marmalade to me so that is where I decided to start.

I took a basic marmalade recipe that is simply:

4 Oranges
1 Cup Water
1 Cup Sugar

Usually you would use the peels from all of the oranges but I didn’t want all of the peel flavour. So I used the peel from one orange chopped finely. Then removed the peel from the other 3 oranges and chopped all 4 oranges keeping as much pith as possible. The pectin is in the peel and pith and since I am only using the peel from 1 orange I need more pith.

Put the orange and peel in a bowl of cold water and refrigerate for at least an hour. Then remove from water and put into a pot with a cup of fresh cold water. Heat until boiling and then cover and simmer for an hour.

Once the orange and peel have simmered for an hour add a cup of sugar and reheat to boiling. Reduce and simmer the mixture until the temperature is 220° F. Use a candy thermometer to measure this. But if you don’t have one you can check by taking a teaspoon of the marmalade out and putting it into a bowl. If it sets within a minute then it is ready.  Takes approximately 40-60 minutes to get to the required temperature.

Meanwhile I cut a pound of double smoked bacon into lardons and sauteed over medium-high heat until just short of crisping. Removed from the pan and then sauteed 1 medium onion, finely diced, in the bacon fat for 5 minutes then removed. I gave the lardons a further chop to get to a fine dice and then mixed with the onions and let cool and placed the mixture into a one pint jar.

Once the marmalade was done I put it through a strainer into a pint jar with the bacon since I only want the liquid portion of the marmalade and not the pulp and peel.

Overall the bacon marmalade was good but not quite what I was looking for. There is too much peel taste in the marmalade compared to the Niagara Street Cafe version, so on the next attempt I will just make an orange jam or jelly to mix with the bacon. It will still make a great glaze for a pork roast or pork tenderloin.