Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Smoked Ham Shank in Sauerkraut

I saw a group of smoked ham shanks (these were from the pigs' shins in this case) sitting there at Wegman's a few weeks back while I was more or less suicidally depressed and having gut troubles -- which one was contributing to the other I still haven't fathomed out, but both have thankfully passed -- and began to get mildly interested. I figured: ham shanks, ham hocks, ox tails. You use them to make a good meaty-tasting soup or stew without paying a lot of money*. So I bought a pair, 2.87lb at $2.99/lb.

One I boiled away in a dutch oven with onions, some potatoes, and threw in cabbage wedges towards the end, similar to how I do a corned beef. Small meat returns, but nice.

Last night I took the other one intending to do a bean stew thing with cannelini beans, and later checked in with The Joy of Cooking and found their recipe for Ham Hocks with Sauerkraut calling for smoked hocks and got to thinking. I had a quart of self-fermented sauerkraut in the fridge. The recipe calls for celery seeds and the kraut is full of them plus garlic and parsnips. Also the recipe's first line is:
"A tasty dish rather heavy in fat."
All doubts dispelled. I reduced the recipe, and started sauteeing (rather than boiling) half an onion in a 3qt pot -- IN DUCK FAT! Yes. I didn't see much fat on these shanks. I added about four garlic cloves towards the end of the onion browning, and started trying to sear the shank sort of. Before it all burned up I added cold water to about 3/4 cover the shank, and then stirred and let it on a highish simmer, turning every so often for about 2 hours with the lid on. In the last half hour I added about 2 cups of drained awesome sauerkraut and a few random Dutch yellow potatoes and let it simmer/boil for a while.

Nice peasant food for a cold night.
*Though ox tail is stupidly expensive in the US. For something that is constantly covered in shit, it should be far cheaper.

Testing Testing

Just trying to see if Blogger is whack.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chorizo Ramen

I've been pretty overwhelmed/underwhelmed since Thanksgiving, when I sort of burned myself out on good food and food quests. So here's a lazy post. I just found this forgotten image from August this year of a chorizo ramen I made when presumably my inspiration/desire for a grandiose meal was at an ebb, but I had some nice Spanish chorizo on hand, plus some ... ? I don't know what the greens are, maybe spinach? Kombu?
For this I sliced up the chorizo in thin slices and sauteed with garlic and probably thin-sliced onion in the pot I would boil the noodles in. Once the meat had a nice browning/blackening, you might remove this to a bowl; or just say fuck it, it's ramen, I'm hungry. Either way, add about 2-3 cups of water per ramen block (carefully: oil + water, etc.), and then add the ramen -- this was two ramen discs. Bring to a boil and then simmer. Duh.

I've been buying cases of ramen that have a super spicy stock that I can't eat. But their noodles are really nice and they come in pot-friendly round cakes, so I just reserve the spice packets. About $1.09 each. There are many more cheaper varieties, but these have a good enough noodle texture for me.

So, if you've got good noodles and cook up some simple flavorful  meat you like, you can be in business in minutes.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sauerruben! Self-Fermenting Pickled Turnips

When I got Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation almost two years ago (Christ, in the midst of finishing the diss) I got inspired by the sauerruben recipe, which is a sauerkraut style self-fermentation of turnips. I followed the recipe, which called for too much salt for my taste, and shredding the turnips (5 lb or so). I didn't realize how much carbon dioxide they were going to put off in the first day, and as you see below, one of the jars got so over-pressurized it dented the lid out. And in the end, a couple of weeks later the stuff was too salty (3 Tbsp salt / 5lb turnips) and too stringy/hashy to enjoy. It looks beautiful, with that pink color being a dilution of the purple top of the turnip. But really not much fun to eat.
I revisited this recipe after getting a bunch of turnips a few weeks back during a mammoth pickling session, and decided to go with roughly 1/2" x 1 1/2" chunks of turnip, and bought an awesome little ceramic crock to brine them in. Ceramic crock is pretty hardcore. It does for me what Chewbacca does for Han Solo: It keeps it real; it doesn't promise anything it can't deliver; and if I'm being a dumbass it will let me know but still backs me up. It is literally and figuratively solid.

I had maybe 3 lb of turnips, and decided to use about half the salt since it's less necessary in colder weather. I think it was 2 tsp or 1 Tbsp of Morton's canning/pickling salt. I coated the chunks in this and then packed them in the crock, weighing them down with a clean plate and a clean growler full of water. Then I wrapped the top with clingwrap to keep crap and flies from getting into it. After 2 days the slat had drawn out enough water to make a brine that covered (and protected) the turnips. Then I just let it go, checking a couple of times along the way and stirring it up so everything got a good brine soak. I pulled them out tonight and let them continue fermenting in jars so I could use the crock for sauerkraut tomorrow. The big shot glass on the right has the remainder of the brine, turned a beautiful pale pink. This tastes delicious, and if I can save any of the brine, I would make a dirty vodka martini with this. Maybe strong, but definitely a Russian reverberation.
Sauerruben rocks.

Impromptu Pork Medallions with Portabellas and Red Wine Sauce

I've had some epic food and drink in the last week, and it's always a good thing when you are too busy doing what you love to blog about it. Tonight, before going over to a friend's place for a lovely walnut pie and Lagavulin 16 year scotch dessert meeting, I tried to keep dinner simple. I boiled some potatoes with sage stems and a bay leaf, and seared some pork loin medallions from a giant Wegman's 4-pack I had forgotten about. Added two small portabellas, onions, garlic, fresh rosemary, and S&P to this, and after removing the meat I threw in about a 1/2 cup of red wine I was drinking and added more butter and a bit of Wondra flour and let it reduce, stirring. Then I poured this over the pork and ate as if someone who loved me cooked the meal. Which was the case.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Making Food = Making Love

That's all.

Almost. I need (knead) to make my own bread. Move closer to the equation.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Goose Breasts and a New (to me) Blog

It was a busy week of pickling, socializing, working, eating, and being weirdly emotional, but now I'm setting my sights forward for a dinner involving breasts of Canada geese on Thursday. A friend of mine has come into these via a hunter neighbor that shoots them, but doesn't really like to eat them (his relatives do eat them, so it's not like they just blast animals out of the sky and let them rot). The challenge now is to figure out how to cook them (the breasts, not the relatives).

Having French cuisine as common ground, we both envisioned some variation on a duck preparation, like a magret ... BUT these are already skinned. So without the fatty skin, you can't really sear these and get the moisture and fat you need to make a gamebird's breast palatable. A newly found blog indicates the same thing in this post:

Be sure to have breasts with skin on them. Skinless breasts are not good candidates for searing, as they are boring. Use them for something else.
What that something else is is my current preoccupation. A marination in red wine might destroy all the goose flavor. My friend has decided to defrost one tonight, and then tomorrow take a little slice and sear it both to see how it reacts and figure out exactly how gamey it is and in what way, so that we can think about spices, fruits and liquids we may add.

These breasts are the color of ox blood or liver, by the way. Very beautiful.