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.

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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.

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.

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