Sunday, March 29, 2009

Pizza Port Belgian Beer Party 2009

Pizza Port Belgian Beer Party 2009

We took the Coaster up to Carlsbad yesterday for the 2009 Pizza Port Belgian Beer Party. Being West-Coast Hopheads, an all-Belgian (from, or in the style of) fest was a bit out of our normal element, but we really enjoyed it.

There were 117 beers available - 25 taps and the rest in bottles. Quite an overwhelming selection.

Beer list at the Pizza Port Belgian Beer Party 2009

I was pretty conservative and stuck pretty much to Tripels. Sherry was more adventurous and had mostly sours. I was happy with my choices. Sherry was, too, although everyone else thought she was a bit mad...

Here is the taster glass:

Pizza Port Belgian Beer Party 2009

No Belgian beer here, though - we had some Wipeout IPA as a "palate cleanser" while grabbing pizza next door in Pizza Port proper.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Charcuterie - Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn


It will come as no surprise to those of you who have been following the blog that one of our favorite cookbooks is Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. When we got the book it was like receiving a personal invitation into the world of magical meats transformed by salt and smoke. It is a comprehensive guide to the subject, easy enough for a beginner to use, and everything we have made from it thus far has been fantastic.

These are a few of our favorite recipes from the book. If you click on a picture or recipe title, you can view a more detailed post on the subject.

Homemade BaconHomemade Bacon
The first time we made homemade bacon it was a revelation. It looked beautiful, tasted even better, and wasn't at all hard to make.

Ever since that first batch, we've been making all of the bacon we eat. No comment on how much that is...
Coppa di TestaHeadcheese (Testa)
Not a cheese at all, but rather a pig-face terrine of sorts. Great stuff, whether served as a nice warm slice, or cold on toast.

As an added bonus, the leftover gelatinous stock that you get as a byproduct makes a good base for a take on Pho'.
This was the first recipe we ever made out of Charcuterie. It just requires a simple cure and can dry under conditions that do not require special equipment (or a cellar).

Making pancetta is a perfect way to get started curing your own meats.
Smoked AndouilleSmoked Andouille
We have always loved making sausages, but these were our first ones cooked in the smoker and they remain one of our favorites.

The deep, intense flavor is great all by itself, but it really shines as an ingredient in other dishes (Jambalaya, anyone?)
Hot Smoked SalmonSmoked Salmon
We've made both cold and hot-smoked salmon from recipes in the book and both have turned our really nicely.

The cure has allspice, bay leaf, cloves and mace. Initially we were a bit skeptical of using such bold flavors, but paired with a mild smoke they work well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

All Quiet On The Cured Meat Front

What's wrong with the picture above? Well, it is measuring the temperature of the fridge (top) and freezer (bottom) sections of our meat curing fridge. The top number should be more like 55°.

Yep, the fridge stopped working this morning :-(

This wasn't a complete surprise. It actually was dead on delivery. When it arrived, we plugged it in, noted that it was running, and waved goodbye to the delivery guys. A few hours later when the interior had actually increased in temperature, we knew we had a problem.

According to the repair guy, the problem was pretty clear - no freon. He couldn't find a leak, so he filled it up and we hoped for the best. Turns out we only got two weeks out of it.

Our guanciale is done, but our sausages still have a week or so to go. We're trying to figure out the best way to save them.

Update: Fortunately, we were able to get a repair guy to come out this afternoon. At the very least, we should be able to get the fridge back on life support to save the sausages...

Update 2: The freon leak is now (we hope!) repaired. Curing has resumed!

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Been An Offal Week...

Lamb's Liver Portuguese-Style

We purchased a few goodie-bags of assorted organs from Da-Le Ranch a while ago, and finally got around to starting to make use of them this week. Pictured above is a Lamb's Liver dish we cobbled together from recipes in several Portuguese cookbooks.

The liver was marinated in white wine and lemon juice, cooked in bacon fat, sauced with the reduced marinade, topped with the bacon, and served family-style over sauteed onions. We really enjoyed the way it turned out - it had a fantastic depth of flavor.

Another meal had us working with Pig's Heart:

Pig's Heart

We used a Chris Cosentino recipe for grilled heart with roasted beets and horseradish. It called for beef heart and golden beets (we used red) but I'd guess that Chris wouldn't mind the substitutions - he'd probably just be pleased to see someone cooking heart.

Grilled Pig's Heart with Roasted Beets and Horseradish

All of the elements came together really well. We had it as a main dish, but it would probably be better as a starter as the beets get a bit overwhelming after a bit.

The next morning, we used some of the leftovers to make a "hearty" breakfast:

Pig's Heart and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

This wasn't the first time we've had "offal eggs", and it definitely won't be the last.

We also made a pâté with leftover liver and a bit of heart. We haven't tried it yet, though - we plan to use it for Banh Mi.

We still have Pig and Lamb Kidneys to cook with, but we haven't figured out exactly what we want to do with them yet...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our New Meat And Cheese Curing Fridge

Meat and Cheese Curing Fridge

Cheapo fridge from Sears Outlet + temperature controller = home curing chamber.

Our temperature controller is a Johnson Controls Refrigerator Thermostat that we purchased from Northern Brewer. The unit gets plugged between the fridge and the power outlet so that it can cycle the fridge on and off to maintain a (reasonably) constant temperature.

Temperature Controller

We're currently curing some Saucisson Sec (a very basic cured pork sausage) and some Spanish-style sausages that we've enjoyed smoked and are curious to try cured.

Oh, and since we had a pig jowl from Da-Le Ranch, we're taking a crack at some Guanciale.

Guanciale, and some sausages aging

Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cafe Dore - Banh Mi Bi and Banh Mi Dac Biet

Banh Mi Bi

As part of our foray into Southeast Asian cooking, we've started making our own Banh Mi. Given this, we decided that it was quite silly that we had never actually had Banh Mi from a restaurant. Even more silly given that there are a bunch of local options. We just don't get to City Heights very often, which is where most of them are located.

Recently, however, the stars aligned. We had some errands to run in Hillcrest and also needed to drive out to Alpine Brewing Co. to get some of their fantastic Nelson Golden Rye IPA during the small window of opportunity before it was all gone.

Cafe Dore made a good stop along the way.

Cafe Dore

Not sure what to order, we decided that we could do a lot worse than to try a couple of Kirk's favorites.

Pictured at the top of the post is the Banh Mi Bi. Here it is a bit closer up:

Banh Mi Bi

We liked this sandwich a lot. The filling was a nice mixture of translucent, elastic pork skin along with more meaty bits of pork. Add in the generous bunch of herbs and marinated vegetables tucked into a very nice baguette and it was just perfect.

The second sandwich we got was a Banh Mi Dac Biet - a filling of pâté, bbq pork and a couple of types of pressed meat.

Banh Mi Dac Biet

I enjoyed this one a lot as well, although not quite as much as the Bi. I'm a real fan of the marinated veggies, and there weren't as many on this one. Still, I'd be more than happy to eat this sandwich on a regular basis.

When we got to Cafe Dore, we weren't quite ready for lunch, so we ended up getting our sandwiches to go. They held up just fine until we were able to dig into them when we got home. At $6 for the pair, this was the best lunch deal we've had in a while.

Cafe Dore
4135 University Ave.
San Diego, CA
(619) 563-3525

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smoked Trout In Olive Oil

Smoked Trout Preserved in Olive Oil

Meet our current favorite breakfast treat. We have been smoking a lot of trout lately, and while it is fantastic all by itself, we enjoy it even more after it has been sitting in olive oil for a few days. The oil takes on the smokey/salty character of the fish to give it a great flavor.

Lately, we've been buying our trout from El Pescador in La Jolla. We have been very pleased with the quality of their fish.

Smoked Trout

After removing the heads, we season the trout with a quick brine. For three fish we use 3 cups cold water, 6 tablespoons kosher salt, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 minced garlic clove and a large pinch of allspice mixed up in a plastic bag.

Smoked Trout

After a 60 minute soak, we rinse them off and let them dry on a rack overnight in the refrigerator. The next day it's on to the smoker for about three hours at a gentle 150-180 degrees over apple and oak.

Smoked Trout

And this is what they look like when they're done.

Smoked Trout

Once the fillets have cooled, we peel off the skin and pack the flesh into small mason jars, along with with plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Since we don't do a heat processing step, these aren't really "preserved" so we only make 3 or 4 jars at a time and store them chilled.

When we're in the mood for some smoked trout for breakfast, we just grab a jar out of the fridge. A quick zap in the microwave (on low power - otherwise the olive oil freaks out) is all it takes to make it nice and warm and aromatic.

Smoked Trout

We like to have it on crackers or thin slices of bread, along with some red onion and tomato.

Smoked Trout

It makes a pretty darned good addition to a salad, too...