Friday, December 28, 2018

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHARCUTERIE!



Me and Jay still smiling after 7 hours of salami making!
I recently had the privilege, once again, to work with my friend Jay Bileti making charcuterie. We cut, ground, spiced, stuffed, and hung 20 pounds of pork; two 5 lb. batches of pepperoni, and two 5 lb. batches of salami--A Tuscan salami, which has a lot of lightly crushed whole black peppercorns, fennel, anise, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine, and Calabrese, a spicy salami with cinnamon, red and black pepper, sugar, Kosher salt and red wine.

The pepperoni's contain Kosher salt, black pepper, fennel seeds, anise seeds, sugar, paprika, cayenne, chipotle and ancho pepper, and red wine.

Making salami is a precise process involving exacting science. I do not recommend making at home yourself, as if done improperly you can make yourself or someone else very, very sick or even die. Take a class or work with someone who has extensive knowledge of the science behind curing meat.


This photo is from Lexi's food blog, www.lexiscleankitchen.com.
 
First, what is Charcuterie? In Italy it generally refers to salted and dried meats, such as salamis. In France, charcuterie is generally cooked meat, such as pates. Traditionally pork is the meat that is used in both the dried and cooked processes, but as with everything there are many exceptions and variations. Pates, for example, can be made from meat, fish, poultry or livers. Today you often see both cured and cooked meats served attractively on a wooden board along with dried fruits, cheese, possibly nuts, olives, or onion jam. The word Charcuterie is also sometimes used to define the shop where these meats are sold. And, the French word for someone who makes charcuterie is a charcutier, or pork butcher. Jay is definitely a charcutier, where I am still very much a student. I would not attempt to make this on my own even after two opportunities working with Jay.
We used a combination of Pork Shoulder, Pork Belly and Pork Butt. The Butt sits higher than the shoulder and contains lots of lovely fat. When making salami you want to maintain an 80-20 ratio of lean meat to fat. The pork is cut into 1" dice removing most of the sinew and stringy bits. Next it is ground and finally spiced with cultures added.

One of the most important ingredients in charcuterie is salt. The world's oldest preservative, salt is essential to draw out moisture as the meat cures, which makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. Since bacteria have no mouths, they need to dissolve their food in water to absorb it through their membranes--no water, no eating! And, salt also draws water out of the actual bacteria, which will kill them. Keeping all tools and work surfaces clean is also extremely important. Jay keeps a bowl of bleach water right on the counter and encourages constant washing of tools and hands. Watching the temperature of both your meat and grinding tools is also critical to discourage growth of "bad" bacteria.

 
Spices added. Next comes the Fermentation agent.


A Fermentation agent or culture mixed with a small amount of water is added to the ground meat. The Fermentation agent pre-populates the meat with beneficial bacteria so the "bad" bacteria (the ones that make you sick or can kill you) have less of a chance to grow.

Now you are ready to stuff the meat into pre-soaked casings. We used smaller intestines from a pig to make the pepperoni and larger casings from a cow for the salamis.

 

Once stuffed, the salamis need to be pricked so moisture can be released in the curing/drying process. The salamis also need to be brushed with a solution that helps form "good" mold. The mold helps prevent growth of "bad" mold on your salami.

Two knots are used to tie off the salami. First a square knot and then just above that knot a bubble knot (two half hitches). The second knot helps ensure that the knot doesn't slip loose resulting in your salami on the drying chamber floor. Some of our salamis weighed over 2 lbs.!
 
Within 24 to 30 hours mold starts to form.
Temperature and humidity are carefully monitored and controlled. Acidity (pH) also needs to be measured, which will tell you if the cultures are doing their thing properly. Bacteria doesn't like acidity and the fermentation process increases it, making life tough for the bacteria and creating a nice tart taste to the salamis. As I said before this is a scientific process and it was such a treat for me to work, once again, with a charcutier.

It will take the pepperoni about 4 weeks to cure and the salamis will need 6.

Jay is also curing a 20 lb. piece of Proscuitto, which takes 18 to 24 months to cure! It will lose 4 lbs. over that time, but 16 lbs. is still a lot of Proscuitto! This will be a good exercise in patience. Proscuitto comes from the back leg of a hog that is both salted and air dried.
A believer in using every part of the pig, Jay is also making Guanciale, which is cured pork jowl or cheek. The name comes from the Italian word for cheek, guancia. Can't wait to see what he does with the snout and ears!
He has already made bacon, which he generously served with wonderfully creamy scrambled eggs made by his wife, Lynn, before our day of meat cutting began.

All in all a great experience and one I hope to repeat!
 
To learn more about the art of charcuterie go to Jay's Facebook Page: Arizona Charcuterie Club.
 
Christmas is behind us and next time I will share
some of the recipes from our feast!
 
Tune in again soon for another episode of...

From my first salami adventure.
May 2017

Monday, December 17, 2018

RACK OF LAMB TO RAVE ABOUT!

We like our meat rare. If you like yours more well-done,
cook it a little longer. You can always add cooking time, but
once meat is overdone you cannot make it more rare!
The outer pieces were perfectly medium rare.
I made this Rack of Lamb for my husband, Jerry's, birthday this past November. Lamb is his favorite and this recipe is simple and delicious. We eat a lot of lamb when we are in Ireland and I found this recipe on 'Allrecipes' and tried it this summer while we were there. We buy most of our meat from our favorite butcher in Spiddal, Mr. Feeney.

Lamb in Ireland is plentiful and not nearly as pricy as it is here. If a lamb is slaughtered between 6 and 10 weeks it is considered to be Young Lamb; between 3 and 6 months it is Spring or Early Summer Lamb. When a Lamb becomes 1 year old it is called a sheep or mutton.

ROASTED RACK OF LAMB

Ingredients:
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary, extra sprigs for roasting
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (7-8 bone) rack of lamb, trimmed and Frenched
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Move oven rack to center position.
In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp. garlic, 2 Tbsp. chopped rosemary, 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss in 2 Tbsp. olive oil to moisten mixture. Set aside.

Season the rack all over with salt and pepper. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive in in a large, heavy cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet over high heat. Sear rack of lamb for 1-2 minutes on all sides. Set aside for a few minutes. Rub all sides of the rack of lamb evenly with the mustard.
Mustard bath.
Press the bread crumb mixture until evenly coated over both sides of the rack. Do not add the crumb mixture to the bones. Cover the ends of the bones with foil to prevent charring. I skipped this step as I did not plan on roasting long enough to char the bones.
Ready to go into the hot oven.
Arrange rack bone side down in the skillet. Roast the lamb in preheated oven until desired doneness. After 10-12 minutes, take a reading with a meat thermometer in the center of the meat. The temp should read about 120 degrees. Cover loosely with foil and cook another 10 minutes. Check temp again. Between 125-130 degrees will give you a nice rare rack.  If you want more doneness just keep checking every 5 minutes. Medium-rare is approximately 145 degrees. Medium-160 degrees. I roasted my rack 20 minutes total. Let the rack rest, loosely covered,
Just out of the oven, ready to rest.
for 5-7 minutes before carving the ribs apart. The rack does continue to cook after you take it out of the oven.

I served the Rack of Lamb with roasted asparagus and Boursin Mashed Potatoes. It was a beautiful birthday celebration!

I cannot believe Christmas is just a week away. We are having our good friend, Leslie Jackson, from Tucson join us for dinner with her 2 adorable Schnauzers, Gracie and Ruby. Leslie is a fabulous cook herself, but this time I will have the meal prepared so all she will need to do is open the wine!
Here's Gracie sipping some ice water when
she was visiting in the summer.
We were sipping a little more than ice water!
Our menu will include more lamb. This time I will bone a leg, stuff it and roll it. Here's the whole menu:

CHRISTMAS MENU 2018
Hors'Doeuvres:
*Baked Shrimp with creamy dipping sauce
*Irish smoked Salmon with rye crisps

Main Course:
*Leg of Lamb stuffed with Spinach, Garlic, Rosemary, Feta Cheese and Pine Nuts
*Hasseback Potatoes
*Garlic-Herbed Creamed Spinach

Dessert:
*Classic Key Lime Pie

I may add a relish, sauce, or garnish along with a few other surprises, but this is the basic plan.

SENDING ALL MY LOVE
AND WISHING YOU THE
HAPPIEST OF HOLIDAYS!
 
THANK YOU FOR SHARING ANOTHER FABULOUS YEAR OF COOKING WITH ME!

UNTIL NEXT TIME...








Sunday, December 2, 2018

BEST JELLIED CRANBERRY SAUCE!

I know Thanksgiving is over, but this Cranberry Sauce is good all year long and works well with so many dishes beyond turkey. Think: Pork Roast, Chicken, or even an elevated Meatloaf. My husband, Jerry, loves cranberry sauce from the can (and I think it is other-foodly) so I wanted to find a recipe that works for us both and this one is fantastic; easy to make; and keeps well for up to 2 weeks. I found this recipe on 'The Food Network's' website and made just a couple tweaks. I will give you the recipe as I found it online, but I omitted the ground coriander, used more orange zest and used a whisker less sugar.
CRANBERRY JELLY
Ingredients:
1 pound cranberries (about 4 cups), thawed if frozen
2 oranges
2 cups sugar (I used 1 3/4 cups.)
1 tsp. ground coriander (I omitted.)
Kosher salt
1 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients ready to bring to a boil.
Preparation:
Put the cranberries in a saucepan. Remove wide strips of zest from 1/2 orange. I used the zest from both oranges. Add to the saucepan with the juice of both oranges. Add the sugar, coriander (if using), a pinch of salt and 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries burst and the sauce thickens, 15-20 minutes.
...coming to a boil.
Remove from the heat and remove the orange zest. Stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
Look at that beautiful color!
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a serving dish, pushing the sauce through with a rubber spatula.
Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. I made mine 2 days in advance.

Because I wanted my sauce to look more like it actually came from a can, I put my strained cranberry jelly in a round bottom mold. To unmold gently run a knife along all edges of the mold. Place a warm, moist towel on the bottom of the mold and give the mold a very easy tap. Mine slid right out. I will continue making this sauce every Thanksgiving and throughout the year!

Here are some scenes from our wonderful, fun-filled Thanksgiving feast:

 

 
 

 
Hope your holiday was filled with love and joy.
And now on to the Christmas season!
 
Tune in again soon for another episode of:
 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

THANKSGIVING MENU 2018!

I want to share my Thanksgiving menu with you, but first a quick word about Jerry's birthday last week. It was a huge success and very fun. We rented a sweet, little bungalow in Tucson, built in 1944; the year of his birth. We feasted out at some of Tucson's finest restaurants, took in a show, and slowed life way down. I made him a special birthday meal of Rack of Lamb, Herbed Mashed Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus. I will talk about the lamb in a future blog as it was really delicious. For dessert I made...

SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM
Do you see a face in the scoop
on the left or am I imagining things?!
White and Black Chocolate Chip
Cookies were a perfect complement.

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cup sugar, divided
2 1/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 (fat) tsp. flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, more salt for serving
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3 large eggs
You will need an ice cream maker to churn this.
This is the salt I used. It is wonderful!
Preparation:
Heat 1 cup sugar in dry 10" heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt. Stop stirring and continue cooking, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber. This process always makes me sweat! It is easy to go too far and burn the sugar so it makes me nervous. It needs to be dark to become caramel, but you do not want a burned flavor. The worst that happens is you start over. Fortunately my sugar cooperated this time and was just fine!

Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will seriously splatter) and cook, stirring, until all of the caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temp.

Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining cup of cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then slowly add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly so eggs do not cook. This is also known as tempering the eggs. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the custard coats back of spoon. I prefer to take its temperature. When it reaches 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer it is done. Do not let it boil. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel. Straining the custard is an important step to maintain smooth, creamy texture in the event a little egg did cook.

Chill custard, stirring occasionally (True confession: I forgot to stir it and it was fine) until very cold, 3 to 6 hours. You can also make up to this point and freeze the next day. Freeze custard in ice cream maker (it will still be fairly soft), then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.
When serving, finish the ice cream with a little more sea salt sprinkled on top. Sweet, salty deliciousness! I found this recipe on Epicurious. This site never lets me down!

Me and my honey-bunny at the Tucson
Botanical Gardens on the Birthday-Eve.
And now on to one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving! For me, it's a time to step back, count my many blessings, and enjoy the love of friends and family. And of course, to cook! I am truly thankful for more things than I can list. For me holidays, but especially Thanksgiving, are also a time of feasting, indulging, and sharing those indulgences with loved ones. Here is our menu for this year.

RABBITT'S THANKSGIVING 2018
Wellfleet Oysters (fresh from Cape Cod!*) on the half-shell
Oysters Rockefeller
Brie with Cranberry-Orange-Ginger Chutney Baked en-croute
Bourbon Infused Chicken Liver Pate with Cranberry Gelee

Traditional Roasted and Stuffed Turkey with Maple Orange Glaze
House-Made Gravy
Turkey Roulade wrapped in Smoky Bacon with Herby Sausage Stuffing
Decadent Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms, & Spiced Rum Cream Sauce
Garden Fresh French-Style Green Beans
Creamy Boursin Mashed Potatoes
House-made Jellied Cranberry
Cranberry-Orange-Ginger Chutney
Home Baked Buttery Rolls

Pumpkin Gingersnap Tiramisu
Sour Cream Apple Pie
Home-made Vanilla Ice Cream

*Thank you Justin for bringing another batch of oysters!

You can find several of these recipes on my past food-blogs by putting a word or two in the search-box on the left hand side of my home-page. If you have trouble finding anything, let me know. I am going to blog some of the new items, as I also use my blog as my favorite cookbook!!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING
FROM MY KITCHEN TO YOURS!



Thursday, November 8, 2018

SHORTBREAD COOKIES!

Who doesn't enjoy this 'not too sweet' treat. More butter, than sugar, I do love these cookies. This recipe is from Ina Garten, AKA The Barefoot Contessa. Shortbreads are generally associated with Scotland, but are also very popular throughout the UK, Ireland, Denmark, and Sweden with origins dating back to the 12th Century.
Shortbreads from the oven. Cooled and cut.
Shortbread cookies get their name from the large quantity of butter (shortening) used to make them, and that is what makes them so delicious. I doubled the recipe as I needed to make 30 cookies and my shortbread mold makes very generous 3" square shortbreads so much larger than the ones Ina uses in her recipe. I'm going to give you Ina's original recipe (not doubled).

Ingredients:
3/4 lb. butter, at room temperature (3 sticks)
1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
6-7 oz. very good semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped. I did not use the chocolate since I made my cookies into a mold, rather than a 3x1" finger-shaped cutter.

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. (Mixing 6 sticks of butter in my standing mixer was no easy feat. The butter kept trying to escape over the top of the bowl!) Add the vanilla. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, and salt, then add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2" thick and cut with a 3 x 1" finger-shaped cutter, OR cut the dough into a 9" x 9" square (or whatever the size of your mold) and press dough into your shortbread mold. This was my first time making. Next time I will press the dough a bit more firmly as the attractive designs did not come through that clearly. If making in a mold, gently poke holes in the dough with a fork before baking so the shortbread will not rise.

Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar. I omitted the sugar as the bottom of the cookie was up, rather than the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temp. I baked for about 30 minutes until golden. Cool in the mold for about 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a plastic knife, and invert onto a cutting board. Cut into serving pieces while still warm. Cool completely and store in airtight container or bags.

If using the chocolate, put 3 oz. of the chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Continue to heat and stir in 30-second increments until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and allow it to sit at room temp, stirring often, until it's completely smooth. Stir vigorously until the chocolate is smooth and slightly cooled. Stirring also makes it glossier. Drizzle 1/2 of each cookies with just enough chocolate to coat it.
Ina's Shortbread cookies. Aren't they beautiful!

Here's another 'not too sweet' treat.
 
SOFT AND CHEWY GRANOLA BARS


This photo is from Adam and Joanne's site, Inspired Taste.
I found this recipe online from a blog site called Inspired Taste. The Granola bars were delicious, but next time I would omit the brown sugar altogether and just use honey for sweetener. As this blogger points out you can add any nuts or dried fruit you like. I did add 1 1/2 cups coconut. I tripled this recipe and would recommend the same. I will give ingredients for both the original and the larger quantity. In some cases I was more generous than the original recipe with nuts/dried fruit. I love the fact these bars are relatively healthy and very easy to make. You don't even bake them. The Granola Bars keep well in an airtight container for about 1 week. Keep in the fridge to allow them to stay a bit firmer or keep at room temp for very soft and chewy. They also freeze well so why not make a bigger batch!

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cps old fashioned rolled oats (7 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup whole almonds, coarsely chopped (2 cups chopped)
1/3 cup honey (1 cup)
1/4 cup butter (3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks)
1/2 tsp. vanilla (1 1/2 tsp.)
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (3/4 cup, but next time I will omit)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, (3/4 tsp.)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips (3/4+ cups)
I added 1 1/2 cups unsweetened Organic coconut
Preparation:
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Add oats and almonds to an ungreased baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Stir and bake another 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted. Transfer to a large bowl. Line bottom and sides of an 8 or 9 inch pan with aluminum foil. My triple-batch fit perfectly in one 12x17 and one 9x12 sheet pan. Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray.

Combine butter, honey, brown sugar (if using), vanilla and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.

Pour butter mixture into the bowl with oats and almonds. Mix well. Let cool about 5 minutes and then add cranberries and 1/4 cup (or 3/4 cup if tripling) of the chocolate chips. Stir to combine. The chocolate chips will start to melt. This is not a problem and helps hold the bars together.

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan(s) then use a rubber spatula or damp finger tips to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Press hard here to help the bars stay together. Joanne and Adam recommend pressing for about 1 minute to ensure that bars don't crumble when you begin to cut them. I pressed for about 2 minutes to be doubly sure.

Scatter remaining chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I kept mine in fridge for about 5 hours. Remove block of granola mixture from the pan then peel away aluminum foil. Cut into bars about 1" wide and 4" long.
Jerry helps by cutting the granola bars

My husband, Jerry's birthday is next week, November 13th. He and our good friend, Dennis Makes share the day and we have celebrated their birthday's together for many years. Sadly, this is the first birthday without Dennis, as he passed away on October 5, 2018, but we will continue to lift our hearts and celebrate his life along with my Jerry's.
Golfing at Tubac Golf Resort
November 13, 2016
 
Dennis and Jerry helping to make
Pumpkin Ravioli's for the birthday feast.
November 13, 2017
 
I CONSIDER NOVEMBER 13TH THE OFFICAL KICK-OFF TO HOLIDAY SEASON. THIS YEAR FOR JERRY'S BIRTHDAY I AM MAKING ROAST RACK OF LAMB WITH MUSTARD AND GARLIC CRUMB TOPPING, BOURSIN MASHED POTATOES AND ROASTED ASPARAGUS.
DESSERT: SALTED CARAMEL ICE CREAM.

WISHING YOU HEALTH AND HAPPINESS AS YOU COOK INTO THE HOLIDAYS!

TUNE IN AGAIN SOON FOR ANOTHER EPISODE OF: