Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trip to the Troy Farmer's Market

I learned something this weekend. Turns out that if I walk into the Troy Farmer's Market with $60, I won't have a hard time leaving with two dollars and change. Sure, I'll have some very good stuff, but I was a little surprised how quickly the $60 disappeared. I better start saving for summer markets.

First things first, I had the kids in tow so we made a bee line to the Saratoga Apple Farm table. I don't fully understand how they are able to do what they do, but they have close to just picked apples all year round. Apparently it has to do with controlled levels of oxygen. Could be made up, but that is the way it was once explained to me. Different apples are stored in cold rooms with the appropriate oxygen level for a specific type of apple. Once out, they don't have the shelf life of supermarket apples, but they are so much better than super market apples you won't need to worry about shelf life. I think I bought 10 apples yesterday, tonight 3 remain in the fruit bowl. A little over $5 got us the apples and a small bottle of cider.

Next we headed upstairs. For $3.50, we buy a chocolate and custard filled pastry from the Mrs. London's table. We got the last one. While upstairs, I had to check out the pickle guy. I think they were mentioned recently at Table Hopping, they were in this weekends Times Union and recently on All Over Albany. The owner working the stand could not have been nicer or more enthusiastic about his products. He's even wearing a ribbon his pickles won in a competition. I tried the the habanero pickles and the half sours. Both samples were very good, but I went with the half sours for the kids. The older daughter wasn't interested in having a pickle with her lunch and they younger daughter was more interested in making faces than actually trying the pickle on her plate. So, I ate half the jar. Forget them, next time I'm going for the habanero. A bottle of pickles was a steep $10, but they were hand packed and I went to the market looking to buy some.

We headed back downstairs to our usual eat the pastry/drink cider spot on a bench near the fountain.Once we were done snacking and some coins were tossed into the fountain, I wanted to stop by the Borndt Farms table. I had spoken with the owner before, seems really nice. I wanted to pick up a pork butt to make Sausicon Sec out of the Charcuterie book. The salami is just pork seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic. It was another item that was on the "to buy" list before I left the house and I didn't balk at the $32 for an almost 5 pound pork butt. Now I just have to find some time to make the salami.

The last table I really wanted to check out was the Pura Vida Fisheries booth. I still can't believe you can get fresh seafood at the farmer's market. Running out of cash, I grabbed half a pound of scallops for $7. Bringing the grand total to $57 and change. I was going to cold smoke the scallops with my new toy, but then I decided to just cook them to see how good they were. They are really good. Really, Really good. Wow, I enjoyed eating them.

I had seen a pan seared scallop recipe on America's Test Kitchen and I had wanted to try it because it uses a technique I saw in one of the Key Ingredient videos over at Sky Full Of Bacon. Apparently, chef's baste something in a fry pan with melted butter all the time. No wonder restaurant food is so good.

The recipe starts by making the sauce. Since the scallops cook quickly, the sauce is made and kept warm. About a tablespoon of butter is melted in a pot. Once you have brown butter, add in some chopped shallot, chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Take it off the heat and cover to keep warm. Dry the scallops on paper towel. In a non stick skillet heat some oil until it is almost smoking. Add all the scallops but don't overcrowd the pan. Cook until the one side has a nice crust.

Flip the scallops over and add some butter to the pan. Once the butter melts, use a spoon and baste the scallops.

Once the scallops are done, put them on a plate and top with the brown butter sauce.

I took this picture, then sauced the scallops. Then I ate one. It was fantastic. I offered one to my brother-in-law, then my wife and sister-in-law had one and then they were gone. I'll see if I can get a finished picture next time. If you are at the market - definitely try some of the Pura Vida scallops.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Canadian Bacon & Eggs

A little while ago, I made some Canadian style bacon. This week, one of dinners was "Breakfast for Dinner." Kids love it and I actually prefer breakfast foods a little later in the day. I got around to making some of the egg/bacon/bowl-type things I had planned to make back when I cured the pork loin.

Spray a little cooking spray in the muffin cups you are going to use. This helps with the clean up significantly. Put in the Canadian bacon - I went with 2 pieces in each up. Then put an egg on top of the bacon.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes and you'll have essentially a poached egg in a bacon cup. I had a few other things going on and these went a little longer. These are more of a soft to medium boiled egg in a bacon cup. I'd prefer the poached stage and would shoot for that next time.

They actually came out pretty good. Currently, this is my favorite way to eat this style of bacon. The bacon seems to come out dry other ways. Will definitely do it again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Key Ingredient

I mentioned these shorts over at Sky Full of Bacon before, but I liked this one so I thought I'd bring it up again. It is a series called Key Ingredient where local chefs challenge each other by picking an obscure and/or difficult ingredient to center a dish around. This particular chef is asked to use was red bean paste. The chef uses it in a very interesting cure for bacon. To me, the most impressive part of these videos is seeing the thought process of creating the dish. Makes me want to go to Chicago to eat.

Here's the link to the Red Bean Paste Key Ingredient Video over at Sky Full of Bacon.

In other news, I just order this really cool looking cold smoking tool.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #3 - continued

First a flashback to Project 2 - that pancetta is the best I have ever made. Fantastic stuff.

Returning to Project 3 - We had corned beef sandwiches for dinner last night. I thought it came out pretty good. There are probably a few things I would change. First, I think I'd cut back on the red pepper flakes. I was surprised how easy it was to feel their heat. It was good, just not something I was expecting in corned beef. Corned beef is supposed to be salty but I thought this was a little too salty. I'm going to blame that on not enough water in my cooking method. Here's how the corned beef went:

I rinsed the cured brisket and put into my slow cooker and filled it with water. Added 2 more tablespoons of the pickling spice and put it on low to simmer.

Here's what it looked like when it came out.

My younger daughter wasn't too into it. My older daughter liked it, but then I think some of the heat from the red pepper caught up to her. All in all, I thought the project was a success. It's all gone...Next time I would scale back some of the red pepper (maybe only use it in either the brine or the cooking liquid but not both). I'd also try to cook the beef in more water. I have a few bottom round roasts that I have never had success cooking. I think I might try to turn them into corned beef and see how they turn out.

Just under the wire, I thought I could get a chicken into the poultry brine and roast it for dinner tonight. Back to back brine projects. Started with weighing out salt and sugar in the white bowl next to the lemons. The rest of the ingredients, except some peppercorns are on the plate. There's parsley, tarragon, garlic, onion and some bay leaves. They all went into half a gallon of boiling water.

Once the salt ans sugar were dissolved, I poured the half gallon of brine into a bowl with a half gallon block of ice to cool.

The chicken ( a 4 pound bird) went into a ziplock bag and then got filled with the completely cooled brine. This went into the fridge for about 15 hours. The chicken got rinsed this morning and went back into the fridge uncovered to dry.

I put the chicken in the oven and waited. When I thought it was done (i was getting good temperature readings in the breast and thigh), I put the broiler on to crisp and brown the skin a little more. I took it out and let it rest. Then I cut it up. The thigh joint was still a little pink. I finished breaking down the bird and put it back in the oven. Dinner was now officially late. The breast meat was very juicy, tender and had a very nice flavor. The dark meat seemed to be a little more flavored by the brine. The tarragon flavor was much stronger. Lesson learned: I'm not really a tarragon fan. I also need a better roasting pan. This one kind of sucks.

Challenge Number 4 is out: Hot smoking. I've got to get started on that because I think I'm going to be busy around the 15th of April. No time for last minute charcuterie.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Charcutepalooza Project #3 - Continued

This has been a very busy couple of weeks and my Charcutepalooza plans didn't go quite as planned. There have been 2 birthdays, a weekend in Connecticut, a weekend at my in-laws and a bunch of curling just before the season ends. Plus, my brothers and I have started meeting up online to play poker together. I've probably spent more time with them in the past two weeks online than I did last year. The power of the internet.  Throw in doctor's appointments, kindergarten screening, kids at the dentist and fighting snow and the past few weeks have been downright crazy. Luckily, I've given up sleeping.

I had such great plans, the corned beef, the tongues and maybe a chicken or something else...Not going to get to the tongues right now. No time and the wife made it clear that she didn't want to eat it. Everyone has there lines. Muscle that makes of porterhouse - good, muscle that makes up tongue - not so much. So far only the corned beef has started. It is currently curing in the fridge. I'll cook it on Sunday or Monday. Here's how it's going so far:

Stopped by Dean's on Central and picked up some spices. I pretty much followed the recipe out of Charcuterie but I left out the cloves. Only because I really hate cloves. The smell reminds me of the dentist office I went to as a kid. The very same office that made me afraid of dentists. I am the Anti-Dentite out of Seinfeld. I try to cook my food with love and omit the childhood trauma so - no cloves.

I started by making a small batch of the pickling spice. Here are the peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander getting weighed out.

Then they get toasted. Nicely toasted.

The rest of the pickling spice is weighed out. You've got  red pepper flakes, allspice, mace, a cinnamon stick, bay leaves and ground ginger in there.

Everything gets smashed together. About half is going into the brine, the other half gets cooked with the corned beef.

HEre are the brine ingredients: salt, sugar, cure#1, and pickling spice.

Few cloves of garlic too.

It all got dumped into a half gallon of boiling water. I had the other half gallon mostly frozen to cool it down. It didn't cool it enough and the brine got chilled overnight.

Personally, I thought the brine smelled pretty good. I was told the next morning that the smell was not exactly conducive to falling asleep. Sorry, hon. The brisket and gallon of brine are resting comfortably in the fridge. I'm looking forward to cooking it.