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.

Chocolate Bacon Braised Lamb Shanks

After tasting my Chocolate Bacon Jam in my last post, I thought that it would be perfect as a base for braising either lamb shanks or short ribs. Having 4 lamb shanks in the fridge sealed the deal for me.

Recipe:

4 Lamb Shanks
1 Tbsp. Bacon Fat
1 Med. Yellow Onion chopped
3 Carrots Chopped
3 Celery Stalks Chopped
3 Garlic Cloves Minced
1 Cup Red Wine
1 Cup Chicken Broth
1/2 Cup Water
2/3 Cups Chocolate Bacon Jam
5 Peppercorns
1 tsp. dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown all sides of the lamb shanks in the bacon fat in a 4 quart dutch oven on medium-high heat. Remove the shanks and saute the onion, celery and carrots on medium heat until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for a further minute.

Add the wine, broth, water, jam, peppercorns and rosemary and heat until boiling, making sure that any of the brown crispy bits on the bottom of the dutch oven are scraped off. Once the liquid is boiling then remove from heat and add the lamb shanks to the liquid. Cover the dutch oven and put into the oven for 3 hours.

Remove the shanks and strain the liquid then reduce liquid by half on the stovetop over medium low heat. Spoon liquid over the lamb.

I served the lamb with roasted root vegetables including baby turnips, fingerling potatoes, carrots, and golden beets then paired the meal with a 2005 E. Guigal Gigondas.

2005 E. Guigal Gigondas

Creamy Polenta

Stir in the Parmesan

This last weekend we had 2 dinner parties and made polenta for the first one, intending to make couscous for the second one but liked this recipe so much that we made it for the second night. This is an easy dish to make.

Creamy Polenta with Herbs

3 Cups of Veal Stock

3 Cups of Whole Milk

1 Tsp of minced fresh Sage (we used Tarragon the second night)

1 Tsp of kosher salt

1 Cup of Cornmeal

1/2 Cup of grated Parmesan

In a saucepan heat the stock and the milk with the salt and the Sage over medium-high heat until just below a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal until you get a nice thick consistency.

Reduce the heat to low and stir the polenta until it has thickened enough to mound on a spoon. This takes 10-20 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and serve.

The first night we served the polenta with a veal saltimboca and on the second night with braised lamb shanks and it was fantastic.

Sausage Party

 

15 Lbs Ground and 25 to Go

What better way to spend a Sunday than with friends drinking wine and making 40lbs. of sausage?

That’s what we recently did with 2 other couples at our house. We had been talking about it doing this for months and finally bit the bullet and made the plans.

Each couple were to bring the ingredients for a sausage with the plan being that we would all pitch in and then split the 3 different kinds amongst ourselves. We would provide the sausage casings.

We had to call around to local butcher shops to find natural pork casings but found them on the second try and ordered enough for 45lbs. of sausages. When we saw them measure out the casings we asked them to give us about 50% more. (It still wasn’t enough!)

On the Sunday, everyone arrived ready to do battle. We were making a Chorizo sausage, an Andouille sausage and an Assyrian lamb sausage. We were outfitted with one large hand crank meat grinder with a sausage stuffing attachment as well as a  meat grinder and sausage stuffing attachments for a Kitchen Aid mixer.

In head to head comparison we found the Kitchen Aid meat grinder worked faster and more easily than the old fashioned meat grinder but in the sausage stuffing old fashioned was way faster and easier. As I mentioned before we ended up being short about 10-15 feet of casing so made meatballs with the remainder.

This #@$% Thing Doesn't Work

 

The recipes:

 Chorizo Sausage (based on a recipe at http://thespicysausage.com/recipes/chorizo1.htm)

2.5 lbs coarse ground pork butt
2.5 lbs coarse ground chuck
1 cup cold white wine
3 Tbsp spanish paprika
2 Tbsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh minced garlic
2 Tbsp cayenne
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing
 
Andouille Sausage (based on a recipe at http://homecooking.about.com/library/archive/bllowfatsausage.htm)

2 lbs finely ground boneless, skinless turkey breast
2 lbs finely ground boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 lbs finely ground pork loin
2 Tbsp browning-and seasoning sauce
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp pepper
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
1 Tbsp ground marjoram
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground bay leaves
2 Tbsp minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing

Assyrian Lamb Sausage

5 lbs coarsely ground lamb shoulder
½ cup pomegranate juice
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground black pepper

Combine all, mix well & stuff into hog casing