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!