Monday, December 5, 2011

I'm blogging at Mad Art Lab!

I am now a contributor over on Mad Art Lab, a blog that explores the intersection of art, science, and skepticism; I'm writing about science issues in food and drink.

You can catch up on my posts here.

See you over on Mad Art Lab!

Friday, May 27, 2011

How to eat 2.5lbs of sausage

After you make two-and-a-half pounds of fresh garlic sausage, what are you supposed to do with it all?

The answer for us, at least, was to spread it out over a couple weeks and several meals; I tried to do something a little different with it each time:

Orecchiette and broccoli with sausage pecorino cream sauce
Orecchiette with broccoli and sausage Pecorino cream sauce

Tomato-y lentils with sausage and zucchini noodles
Tomato-y lentils and sausage with zucchini "noodles"

Sausage and kale stew
Sausage and kale soup

Sausage-stuffed potatoes
Sausage-stuffed potatoes

Sausage, spinach, tomato risotto
Spinach tomato sausage risotto

We did get tired of the flavor of this particular sausage by the end, and it was potent enough that the other flavors comprising whatever dish it was in couldn't quite cover it up... Nevertheless, it was fun coming up with different recipes in which to use the sausage, and I'm looking forward to being able to try making another kind!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

French green lentils with homemade sausage, kale and red wine

French green lentils with homemade sausage, kale and red wine

The Charcutepalooza challenge for May was grinding. I had actually purchased the grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid early, in anticipation of just such a challenge (plus, I really enjoy sausage, so I figured it would be worth the investment).

Not that I expected otherwise, but making fresh sausage was pretty much a breeze. Following Michael Ruhlman's master recipe for fresh garlic sausage, I got to go from this:

Sausage ingredients

Sausage mise-en-placeReady for grinding
Grindified!Ground sausage + red wine this!

Homemade sausage

I must report that this project was not an entirely unmitigated success. After the first several minutes, the meat and seasoning mixture was exiting the extruder in a much more paste-like form than I anticipated, despite my efforts to keep everything cold (though failure to do so was probably a factor). When I went to clean the grinder, I discovered that tough meat sinews had been blocking the grinding plate and clogging up the blade, forcing the meat out smaller and smaller holes, thereby creating the paste-y consistency.

Luckily, the flavor was unaffected. The sausage was a bit too salty, but that's really only an issue if we're eating it on its own. My plans for the sausage mainly involve using it as a component in various tasty dishes, like the one below.

Once we work our way through the remaining two pounds of garlic sausage, I'm excited to try new flavor combinations!

French green lentils with homemade sausage, kale and red wine

When I think of a dish that is hearty and healthy, something like this is what comes to mind. Add to that that fact that it's a one-pot meal, and what we've got here is a real winner. It was largely inspired by the fact that I had the lentils on hand and half a bunch of lacinato kale that needed to be used up, and I decided to use the same red wine that I used in the sausage--the bottle was open and not yet empty.

French green lentils with homemade sausage, kale and red wine

French green lentils with sausage, kale, and red wine

Serves 2-3

1/2-1 cup of loose sausage (about two links, casings removed)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup French green (Puy) lentils
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 bunch lacinato kale, tough ribs removed, then roughly chopped
Splash of cider vinegar
  1. In a pot over medium heat, fry the sausage in lumps until browned and cooked through. Remove from the pot and set aside, leaving any grease in the pan.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, fennel seeds, and pepper flakes to the pot (as my sausage was not very fatty, I needed to add some olive oil). Saute until fragrant, a few minutes.
  3. Add the lentils and stir around to coat, then add the red wine and 1 3/4 cups water.
  4. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the lentils are getting tender (you may need to add more water).
  5. Once the lentils are nearly done, add the sausage and kale. Stir to incorporate, then cover and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the kale is tender.
  6. Add the vinegar. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Serve.

Monday, March 28, 2011

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup (original recipe!)

I tend to cook from recipes most of the time. This is due largely to fact that I enjoying cooking totally new things and I wouldn't have any idea how to go about them otherwise. Even then, though, I'm pretty good at coming up with substitutions and variations to fit my needs/tastes/supplies. And of course I've got go-to dishes (brussels sprouts with bacon, risotto) that I need no directions for.

So I guess I shouldn't be as proud as I am of the white bean and swiss chard soup I made last week, totally from scratch, without following a recipe.

White Bean and Swiss Chard soup

My goal was to recreate an amazing soup I had in January at Nopa. It consisted of kale and miniature white beans in a parmesan* broth, with croutons. "This can't be so hard," I thought to myself, and it wasn't! This soup is hearty and delicious, with complex flavors and simple preparation.

A couple simple variations: if you want the soup to be vegan, use olive oil instead of bacon fat. If you want it to be meatier, cook pieces of bacon (or sausage crumbles) in the pan first, then remove; proceed using the fat left in the pan and then add the meat back in at the end. You could use tomato paste to enrich the broth, or use homemade chicken or vegetable stock (but it was really flavorful made with water, thanks to the caramelized onions, soy sauce, and plenty of salt). I'm also sure this soup would be better with dried beans; maybe it would work to add them when you add the water (you'll need more water, I imagine) and then simmer for a couple of hours before going to the next step.

White Bean and Swiss Chard Soup - serves 3-4

2 tbsp bacon fat (or olive oil or butter)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed and minced
1lb (1 bunch) swiss chard, stems and ribs separated from the leaves and chopped, leaves chopped
4-5 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 small tomato, diced
Dash of apple cider or red/white wine vinegar

1. Heat the fat in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the garlic and the chard stems and ribs. Cook until the chard is browned and onions are caramelized, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the water and soy sauce and bring to a simmer.
4. Once simmering, add the chard leaves, beans, and tomato. Stir, cooking until leaves are wilted and beans are warmed through.
5. Add the vinegar and salt and freshly ground pepper (and/or more soy sauce) to taste.

Let me know if you try it, and how it worked out for you!

*The parmesan rind I added ended up not doing much for me, so I'm left it out of the recipe above.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Corned beef tongue and corned beef sandwiches

Corned beef tongue on homemade rye

Yes, you read that correctly, and no, I believe corned beef is normally made from brisket.

However, when the March Charcutepalooza challenge was announced and we were given the choice between making corned beef with brisket or tongue, I went with my adventurous side. I'd never cooked tongue before and this seemed like the perfect excuse.

Did you know that cows have really enormous tongues? The one* I purchased weighed 3.5lbs.

Brined cow tongue mise-en-place

Beef tongue, pre-brining Spices for the brine

Tongue in brine, with brine injector

I followed this recipe. The process could not have been simpler:

Combine the tongue, brine, and seasonings in container; put in fridge and forget about for a week or so. When it's done brining, boil in fresh water with aromatic vegetables for a few hours; peel; chill; slice.

Yes, I said peel.

Boiling beef tongue for corned beefCooked beef tongue
Peeling the tongueAll clean!

(Thanks to the folks over at FoodTease I had some idea of what I was getting into with the peeling. Turns out it's super easy, especially if you start on the bottom. I thought it was fun!)

Results? Delicious! Corned beef isn't something I eat often, if ever, but I was really pleased with how this turned out. The real moment of pride came when a visiting friend, who didn't know what it was supposed to be, tasted a slice and remarked, "You know, this tastes exactly like corned beef." Success.

I sliced the tongue so that we could enjoy it on sandwiches:

Corned beef tongue

In the spirit of cooking things I've never cooked before, I also decided to make my own deli-style rye bread:

Deli-style rye breadDeli-style rye breadDeli-style rye breadDeli-style rye bread

I love trying new things. Especially when they're delicious.

Corned beef tongue on homemade rye

*I actually bought two, not realizing how large they'd be. My friend Jeters kindly took the other one off my hands; now everyone needs to bug her to make lengua for tacos with it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Last night, I attended a whole hog butchering class with Ryan Farr of 4505 Meats. In about three and half hours, we went from this:

Hanging out

to this:

Yield from 4505 Meats' Whole Hog class

Actually, that's just the 8th (approximately 20lbs) I took home. It was a fun evening of sawing and hacking and boning and skinning (I spent most of my time cutting the face meat off of the skull). Despite having checked before I left home, my camera battery died shortly after arriving at the class, so I don't many pictures from the evening. (Somewhere there exists a picture of me holding the pig's ears up to my own head...)

To make up for my inability to photoblog the class, I'll tell you about the first thing I cooked with my yield.

See the plastic container in the second picture above? It contains something special. I was one of two lucky students to get to take home (um, gross-out photo coming up)...

Pig brains

...half of the brain!

Actually, no one else wanted any brain. Oh well, their loss, 'cuz that sucker was TASTY. I decided to indulge my latent zombie tendencies and have some fried brain for a lunchtime snack today.


I had a vague idea of what to do, but I always feel more comfortable if I have a guide when I'm cooking something totally new. Luckily, a cookbook of traditional German recipes given to me by my brother a couple years ago came in quite handy:

Pig brains!

Fried pig brains mise-en-place

On Ryan's recommendation, I sliced up the brain into thinner pieces:

Pig brain cross section

I sprinkled one side of each slice with salt and freshly ground pepper, and decided not to do the other side because the slices felt like they would fall apart if I turned them over. I put three tablespoons of butter in a frying pan on medium heat until it had all melting and was bubbling nicely. Then, (using tongs) I dunked each slice of brain into a beaten egg, coated it with flour on each side, and put it into the butter:

Frying the brain in butter

After a few minutes, I turned the slices over to reveal their crispy, golden bottoms:

Frying the brain in butter

A couple more minutes to brown the other side, and they were done!

The cookbook recommended serving the fried brain with capers and lemon wedges, so I obliged:

Fried pig brains

The accompaniments were good suggestions; the slices weren't quite salty enough for me, so the capers helped with that, and the lemon juice helped cut through the richness of the meat itself.

Verdict? Delicious! The breading was crispy and the brains themselves were creamy and slightly porky. If you have issues with custardy texture, this may not be the dish for you, but the slices are thin enough to avoid too much icky mouthfeel. Still, I don't think my husband will be sad that he was at work for this experiment.

Up next: tongue and trotter?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bacon Fate

In case you're curious about what we did with the rest of our homemade bacon...

Most of the bacon, I served alongside cheese and punch at my birthday party. I cubed it and roasted it in a 400 degree oven for maybe 20 minutes:

Bacon bites

Bacon bites

The simple preparation really let the flavors of the cure come through; very garlicky! Needless to say, there were no leftovers.

The morning after, my husband and I enjoyed some scrambled eggs (with spinach-artichoke dip leftover from the party) and classic, fried bacon:

Bacon and eggs

Cooked to crispy, this bacon basically disintegrates in your mouth.

Finally, I made the last little bit into crispy lardons to garnish some lemony pasta:

Spaghetti with lemon and olive oil

Again, the flavor is strong enough to leave an impression even when using just a little bit.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I've got quite a bit of the basic dry cure left. I'm excited to be taking a whole hog butchering class with 4505 Meats on Monday night; with any luck, I'll be bringing home some more pork belly!

In the meantime, here's a preview of what I've got brining in the fridge:

Cow tongue

Come back next week for my completion of the March charcuterie challenge!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The bacon is here!

And it looks like real bacon! *beams like a proud parent*

It looks like real bacon!

After letting the pork bellies sit in the cure for 7 days, I took them out of the fridge yesterday and rinsed them off:

About to rinse

Ready to roast

...and roasted them in the oven:

Roasting the bacon

Roasted bacon

Mmm, bacon.

Everybody, this is seriously delicious stuff. The garlic comes through pretty strong, which is certainly not a problem for me. Love it! I do kind of wish, since we ended up curing the bacon in two separate bags, that I'd done one savory and one sweet, but when it comes down to it, I am not disappointed at all with the savory version.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog in the past should not be surprised at the first dish I chose to feature the bacon, since it combines bacon with two of my other favorite foods:

Bacon, beans, and brussels sprouts

That's right: bacon, brussels sprouts, and beans. If you're following along, here's the recipe!

Bacon, Brussels Sprouts, and Beans

Serves two as a main course, more as a side

1 lb fresh brussels sprouts
1 can cannellini or navy beans, drained
2-4 slices of bacon (I cut mine thick; how much you use is really up to you)
Salt and pepper
Vinegar (red wine, champagne, balsamic, apple cider--whatever you've got!)
  • Trim the ends off of the brussels sprouts and slice them in half, top to bottom (if they're especially large, maybe slice into thirds).
  • Cut your bacon into 1-inch pieces.
  • Heat a heavy pan over medium heat; when it's hot, add the bacon. Cook until it's as crispy as you like it, then remove from the pan, leaving the grease in the pan.
Frying the bacon...

Crispy lardons
  • Add the brussels sprouts to the hot, bacon-greasy pan. Let them sit for a couple minutes to brown on one side, then give them a stir. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are tender. (Depending on how much bacon grease you had, you may need to add a little olive oil to keep things loose.)
brussels sprouts
  • While the brussels sprouts cook, drain the can of beans (and rinse if you like).
  • After the brussels sprouts are tender, add the beans to the pan. Stir, cooking for just a couple minutes, until the beans are warmed through. Remove from heat.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, as well as a splash of vinegar.
  • If serving two as a main course, plate the brussels sprouts and beans, then divide the bacon between the two bowls. If serving as a side, stir the bacon pieces into the sprouts and beans.
  • Hooray!
Bacon, beans, and brussels sprouts