Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Bacon Christmas Miracle

With the help of the internet and a really nice librarian named Terry, I have in my possession the bacon recipe from Modernist Cuisine. If you are half as excited as I am about this, you are pretty damn excited my friend. Terry kindly found the page I wanted out the the 6 volumes (a mere 2500 pages), scanned it and then emailed it to me. Now I have to go ingredient hunting. The recipe calls for Fermento.  I wish I knew that last week because I was in Buffalo and could have picked some up. Luckily I have a friend out there that will be able to hook me up so I can avoid shipping charges. The other ingredient I doubt I can find locally is sodium erythorbate. I'll just have to pick a store online and go from there. Everything else is just spices and Cure#1. I've got plenty of Cure#1.

Definitely going to get a whole Berkshire belly from Adventure in Food for this one. This is so awesome. I have been looking for this recipe off and on since the book came out.

Thank you, Terry.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Food & Whine

The PTA and the Girl Scouts were both running magazine drives at the same time earlier this year. In an effort to pad the girls magazine sales, I ordered a 2 year subscription to Food and Wine. I had never looked at an issue before receiving one in the mail. Many years ago, I had a subscription to Bon Appetite. My first Food and Wine looked pretty much the same as those did. Seemed like every page had an ad and each issue could be counted on for 1 or 2 tidbits that were interesting.

The first issue I got had two "OK" articles, no recipes or techniques worth trying, and a crap-ton of ads. Even some of the articles were ads. You know the kind, write ups for $40 salad bowls you shouldn't have to live without. Typically, I save every food magazine I buy. This one went out in last weeks recycling. 'Nough said.

My second issue recently came. This one has some better articles and one recipe that I might actually try sometime. Jonathan Waxman gave a list of his top 10 obsessions. He also supplied a really good looking beef stroganoff recipe. This issue was also very Top Chef centric. They had their own little Top Chef magazine inside the larger magazine. Personally, I watch the show. If you don't, this issue would have been a waste of time.

One of the features in the Top Chef insert was a trivia quiz. I aced it, but the Just Desserts spinoff question was a lucky guess. Not sure if I should be proud of that. Multiple choice always helps. Phairhead...hope you studied....

1. On Top Chef, Season 4, Spike Mendelsohn was told to pack his knives after using what ingredient?
   a. canned peas
   b. frozen scallops
   c. freeze dried ice cream
   d. smoked salmon

2. On Top Chef Just Desserts, Season 1, which cheftestants were members of Team Diva? (I dunno)
   a. Zac, Yigit, Heather H
   b. Erika, Tim, Eric
   c. Morgan, Heather C, Yigit
   d. Seth, Maleka, Zac

3. On the Top Chef Season 8 Finale, Mike Isabella made _______, which the judges went nuts over.
   a. noodle kugel
   b. pepperoni sauce
   c. stuffed peppers
   d. fish tacos

4. On Top Chef Season 5, cheftestants cooked the dishes for Gail Simmon's _______.
   a. birthday party
   b. book release party
   c. bachelorette party
   d. bridal shower

5. On Top Chef Season 7, Alex Reznik was accused of stealing Ed Cotton's ______.
   a. pea puree
   b. chicken stock (seriously? no reason to steal his box of Swanson's)
   c. whipped cream
   d. watch

6. Who was the first-ever guest judge to appear on Top Chef Season 1, Episode 1?
   a. Ozzy Osbourne
   b. Big Bird
   c. Hubert Keller
   d. Jacques Pepin

7. What celebrity did the cheftestants cook vegan dishes for on Top Chef Season 6?
   a. Natalie Portman
   b. Alicia Silverstone
   c. Beyonce
   d. Moby

8. What flavor of ice cream did Richard Blais serve on the Top Chef Season 8 finale?
  a. froot loop
  b. foie gras
  c. chocolate chip
  d. cheddar cheese

Pencils down, hands up. You aced it, didn't you?

Only 22 more issues of my subscription, but who's counting?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Meat The Competition

It is nice to be included on the list of people that completed all of the Charcutepalooza challenges. While I have no aspirations of actually winning the grand prize (some of my fellow contestants went all out and took beautiful pictures while they did it), it is nice to be on the list.

The Charcute-paloozers

Friday, December 9, 2011

Micky on the rocks

Well not rocks, ice. Once again, I shouldn't have an opinion about this. We saw Micky and Minnie's Magical Journey (on ice) tonight. Maybe I was just tired and grumpy, but the show didn't do anything for me. Nice sets, good skating but the stories and music weren't anything special. Granted, I'm not exactly in the target demographic and the kids did enjoy the show. I hate to name drop, but Woody and Buzz Lightyear in last year's Toy Story 3 on ice were significantly better. That show was actually entertaining.

This was a few Disney stories introduced by Micky, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy. The first half was a Lion King summary, a Little Mermaid summary and Lilo and Stich summary. I'm assuming it was a Lilo and Stitch summary because I know nothing about the story. The second half was Peter Pan. Casey was very concerned about Tinkerbell, clapped hard and was quite relieved to see Tinkerbell come back to life.

I snapped a picture of my favorite thing to hit the ice tonight.

There is something strangely hypnotic about one of these things. Plus the envy and jealousy of every man in the arena is palpable. We all want to drive it. We all really, really want to drive it. Please let me drive it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Charcutepalooza Good-bye Dish

Utica Inspired Greens

Tomorrow night, Charcutepalooza comes to and end. I've had some ups and some downs, but overall I have enjoyed the ride. I did some things I had been meaning to get around to trying and the deadlines and goals set by the Charcutepalooza got them done. I thought I'd say good bye to Charcutepalooza with one last dish. These are Utica Inspired Greens so don yell at me for not being exactly traditional. If you want exactly traditional, as near as I can tell you should do this:

I'm more of a kinda make it up as I go cook with dishes like. The more you make them, the more they evolve. I made them once before and this time around they were significantly better. In my mind, the reason why is homemade pancetta. Homemade pancetta is pretty easy to make and significantly better than anything I have tasted bought from a store.

First thing I did was grate some Parmigiano cheese (yes I know that is Romano, but I like it). I usually by pieces of Parmigiano and grate it myself. A microplane really makes quick and beautiful work of it.

Beautiful and pillowy, right?  Then I was a head of escarole.

The escarole goes into salted, boiling water until it is tender. I cooked it for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, start browning some diced homemade pancetta. I didn't weigh how much I used. I don't think you can use too much of it.

On the right is the boiled escarole with a quick chop to it. On the left are 4 or 5 pepperoncini that were cut and rinsed.  I was going to use a hot pepper, but they looked like crap in the store. I had a bottle of these at home and I think they worked pretty well.

The pepperoncini get added to the pancetta fat for a quick saute.

Then come the breadcrumbs. These were left over from Thanksgiving stuffing. I added a good handful and stirred. Then I added some chicken stock. This is another place where homemade stock will elevate your cooking.

Mixed in a bunch of the grated cheese...

Topped it with some more breadcrumbs and grated cheese...

Then it goes in the broiled to get a top crust. A few minutes later you have a pan full of really good eating.

The key ingredient here is the pancetta. It totally made the dish. And you can't but this ingredient. Which is a shame. If you'd like to try some, let me know and I'll share.  I'm starting to get low myself and that is unacceptable. There is another batch somewhere off in the near future.

So long Charcutepalooza. It has been a fun year. I look forward to taking the skills I learned in your challenges and honing them over the years to come. I picked up some more sausage casings today at Price Chopper. What to make...what to make...

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Projects 11 & 12 and Thanksgiving Wrap-up

Project 11 was a dry cure and I went with a Tuscan Salami recipe. After the salami had lost just over 30% of its starting weight, I put them into vacuum bag, sealed them and put them in the fridge. Then I traveled for work. About a week before Thanksgiving, I opened some of the vacuum bags and tasted. It was good, but a little more drying would help. So I wrapped the salami in parchment paper and put them back in the fridge. A week in the fridge improved them significantly. I sliced a few of them up for a Thanksgiving appetizer. I plan to bring a bunch to the curling club on Monday night.

The final Charcutpalooza project was to celebrate the skills learned at a meal. I thought Thanksgiving would be the perfect opportunity to share some of the Charcutepalooza experience. The goal was to have at least 3 Charcutepalooza inspired items at a meal. The first at Thanksgiving was the salami. The second was the grilled vegetable and goat cheese terrine. I did my best to slice it so it looked pretty. It tasted better than it looked. I will chalk this up to being one of those "now that you have done it once, the next time will be better" experiences. Now I know what to expect.

Next up was the turkey. After the dry rub and rinsing, I smoked the turkey. This is that offset smoker that recently made the trip from my sister-in-laws house to mine. Behind it are the trusty Webers. That 18" one on the left has been with me since 1997. The 22" on the right was a father's day gift 6 years ago.

If I had to guess, the turkey wasn't fully thawed. I thought it was but I don't think so. The bird went into the smoker before 11 AM. By 3:30 (the time I was hoping to take it off to rest), the temperature of the thigh was 120 degrees. I took it from the smoker and went to the oven and named the process smo-roasting. While it came out late, the turkey looked pretty and tasted pretty good too. And through the power of beer, wine and some North Carolina moonshine my brother brought, I was the only one that cared about the delay with dinner.

The fourth and final Charcutepalooza inspired dish was the string beans. I cooked up some homemade pancetta. I added some garlic and a dash of vinegar to the pan and the reheated the blanched beans. It came out pretty good. Not too many beans were left and that pancetta is delicious.

All in all, it was a good Thanksgiving.

And last night there were leftovers. This is one of my favorite sandwiches. You've got good bread, turkey, stuffing and gravy in there. Something about bread in bread is delicious. While I was taking this picture I was asked, "Daddy, why are you taking pictures of your dinner?" Probably because I'm a little crazy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving prep continues

Had a busy, but reasonably paced day. I'm typing at 9:50 and haven't really done any work for a few hours. That is light years ahead of last year. All that is left on today's list is to make a schedule for tomorrow. I started making up an ideal timeline. You have to be flexible with it, but it gives you a good idea of when the gravy needs to get made in relation to when the potatoes needs to get boiled. This year, there is no fried turkey. Not because William Shatner made it seem like I was risking my life, but because what you get in relation to the cost doesn't seem worth it. I mean frying makes a good turkey, but is it worth $30 or more of oil? This year I answered I went with "No." There will be one, larger smoked turkey this year. Thanksgiving gets easier if the turkey is cooked outside. It frees up the whole kitchen. I think I might have said this already...anyhow, here's how the day went.

Got the kids off to school, came home and got going with the final shopping. Got home a little after 9 and put the sweet potatoes into the oven, started making applesauce from frozen apples we picked in September, made a roux for the gravy, and blanched some string beans for the vegetable.

Sweet potatoes ready for baking.

The frozen apples go into a pot and thaw/cook slowly for the next 90 minutes or so.

I trimmed all the end off about a pound and a half of beans. Small batches of greens were blanched in heavily salted water. The idea is not to lose the boil when adding beans. Why? Because Thomas Keller said so and while I have never eaten his food, you just got to give him the benefit of the doubt.

From the boiling water, the beans get dropped into an ice bath. The next fridge is totally going to have an ice maker.

When the apples looked done, I mashed them with a potato masher and then added some cinnamon. 

It was still a little too chunky, so I hit it with the stick blender.

While all that was going on, I was also tending to a roux for the gravy. I cook the roux until it looks like peanut butter.

The sweet potatoes got peeled and put into the stand mixer. They get mashed up with butter, salt, cream, little bit of brown sugar and some maple syrup. When they taste good, I add an egg. Then I just put the mixture in a buttered Pyrex dish to get heated tomorrow.

Once all that got cleaned up, I went over to the elementary school and ran a center in my daughter's kindergarten class. The class gets divided into four groups. The head teacher works with one group, a speech specialists works with a seconds group, a third group eats a snack and the fourth group was with me. Each station is 15 minutes long. The hour goes by pretty quick. At my station we colored pictures and made pilgrim hats. When I got back to the house, my parents had arrived. I quickly put them to work making toast for stuffing. They prepped two loaves of Mastrianni bread. That saves me a ton of time. While they did that, I sauteed some pancetta to go with the string beans and prepped all of the onions and celery to get cooked for the stuffing.

That's my new allegedly "green" non stick pan. It worked very well today. Time will tell how it holds up. I can say that new out of the box, this non stick coating is much better than a non stick Calphalon pan and another no-name brand pan were out of their boxes. Once the pancetta was crispy (it was very hard to not eat it all) and the celery and onions were cut up, it was time to go to the bus stop. My parents were done with the toasting mission and played with the kids and I cooked up the stuffing mix.

This gets mixed with sage and thyme. Tomorrow it gets combined with the bread and chicken stock. There is also a smaller vegetarian bowl of stuffing to be made. Once it was all cleaned up, my wife got home and we set out all the platters. Then we went out to dinner. A full day, but paced and never really stressful. I'm off to go make my timeline for game day tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

T-Day Prep continues

Last night I made a Charcutepalooz-ish appetizer. It is a bunch of grilled vegetables wrapped around some goat cheese. I think it will taste good. Might not end up looking pretty or slicing well, but it should taste good. First up, prep the vegetables. Sliced some eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. The red pepper gets roasted whole. Then I made a vinaigrette with the stick blender. Stick blenders are fantastic and everyone should have one.

Lit up a chimney of coals and roasted the pepper first. Then I grilled the rest of the sliced vegetables. It was kind of chilly out last night, but surprisingly comfortable next to the grill.

I bloomed some gelatin and added that to the vinaigrette. I put it in a warm water bath so it would set up too fast.

I lined a little loaf pan with plastic wrap and started layering. Each layer got brushed with the vinaigrette.

On top of the squash, I put in the red pepper and then goat cheese. I ended up with goat cheese all over my hands so the next picture is what it looked like when I put it in the fridge.

We'll see what it looks like on Thursday. Tonight is make the gluten free cheesecake night. Seven (yes 7, VII, siete, sept) blocks of Philly cream cheese go in this bad boy. I start by preparing the crust. The gluten free crust is just pulverized gluten free cookies. Depending on the cookie, the crumbs may need a little sugar or butter. This time I went with Liz Lovely snickerdoodles I found in the health food store. They pressed together pretty well. Hopefully the cinnamon isn't overpowering. Plus, the name made me think of Liz Lemon and that show is great. Le crust:

The obscene amount of cream cheese is whipped with sugar and vanilla.

Then 4 eggs go in one at a time. After each addition, the bowl gets scrapped down to make sure everything is combined.

This is egg 3 going in...

Once the eggs are combined, some sour cream gets gently stirred in.

Here it is just before going into the oven . The foil is my work around for not having a lover walled roasting pan. If the cheesecake pan walls are lower than the roasting pan walls, stem will screw up the top of the cheesecake. I make a foil sling that keeps the steam from hitting the top of the cheesecake.

After about 1:45 in the oven, I put the broiler on for about a minute, and voila:

Only 1 small crack that no one will see. The other news from tonight, I gave the kids some of the Tuscan Salami and they inhaled it. So much for making the same thing twice. It is pretty good, but nothing like the last batch. Maybe next time...

Still in "piece of cake" mode. I'm even taking some time out to go into my daughter's kindergarten class tomorrow. I guess we'll see how confident I am at this time tomorrow.