Blame Canada…for this delicious bacon! #Charcutepalooza

Pretty stoked about how my homemade Canadian Bacon turned out for the April Charcutepalooza challenge.

Photo

Sooooo delicious fresh out of our grill which we jerry-rigged to be a smoker. A few days in a savory brine and the pork loin (which I swore looked like a freaky turkey neck when raw) finished its journey to Canadian bacon by hot smoking it with applewood chips.

Photo

Feel like we’re on a roll with the Charcutepalooza challenges now. March’s Corned beef would have satisfied any Irish lad.

And this month’s Canadian Bacon is just screaming “Pour some Hollandaise on me!” Consider that request answered – but not until this Saturday.

That’s because April 16 is National Eggs Benedict Day. Why thank you culinary godmother!

So while the bacon is done in time to meet the Charcutepalooza challenge, I’m going to wait and fully celebrate NEBD by whipping up some homemade English Muffins, piling up the Canadian Bacon and slathering on the nectar of the brunch gods.

A Girl & Her Guinness…& her Brined Beef Brisket #Charcutepalooza

Just in time for St Patty’s Day – the March Charcutepalooza challenge was to tackle brining. For the Apprentice level (which I am) it was to brine a whole chicken or pork chops. Well, I tossed a turkey in a brine overnight this year so consider that brining challenge vaulted.

So for this month I chose to channel the ancestors and take on the Charcutiere Challenge and brine, then corn, a piece of beef.

Bring it on, brisket!

Photo
Of course after 5 days of delicious brining (& waiting) then three hours of boiling meat (& waiting) I had to celebrate in the proper attire with the proper frosty brew (tried to capture the Guinness waterfall but the iPhone doesn’t really do it justice)

The brisket emerging from the briney goodness late this afternoon was a bit scary looking – a tad grey. 
0photo
Love how Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn describe making corned beef “…an extraordinary transformation of a cheap cut of meat…to cause the metamorphosis from brisket to delicious corned beef is a different pleasure altogether.”
1photo
And while I wish I could remember seeing my Grandma Ceil and Grandpa John Flynn whipping up corned beef & cabbage while growing up, I do remember the smell, taste and memories of biting into the Irish Soda Bread lovingly made from a recipe passed down from my Great-Grandma Anna Rowland (County Mayo). So simple, yet so delicious. Especially fresh out of the oven and slathered with sweet cream butter.
2photo
While I usually tout my half-Italian roots when I wax on about my foodie heritage, it’s this time of year that I remember to appreciate the warmth and memories of the Irish foodie half.
3photo
Here’s to a fabulous celebration of hope and family on this Saint Patrick’s Day.

Here’s to you and yours,
And to mine and ours,
And if mine and ours ever come
Across you and yours,
I hope you and yours will do
As much for mine and ours,
As mine and ours have done
For you and yours!

Slainte! 

Makin Bacon Part Deux: The journey continues

So…my first foray into Charcutepalooza territory didn’t end up as I had hoped.

Apparently Himalayan pink salt was not the nitrite rich curing salt I needed.

So while I didn’t give myself botulism with a bad cure, I kind of created a salt cured roasted pot roast item.

If bacon makes everything beter then adding maple syrup to not-quite- right bacon was how I saved that meaty debacle.

This week Makin Bacon Patt Deux was created using DQ Curing Salt from Butcher & Packer Supply.

The result (just roasted and fried up tonight…) was decidedly more bacony but still not quite right.

Photo

Might be the quality of my pork belly (frozen not fresh and not high quality) or the inaccurate temperature control of my fridge. So I’m going to order up some higher class belly and give it a go againm

Honestly I don’t have a problem being a guinea pig for coming up with the perfect homemade bacon. :-)

But I’ll have to make my bacon journey secondary to my next Charcutepalooza challenge – mastering brining!

For amateurs it’s to brine a whole chicken or porkchops but Ive already brined a turkey so I’m going to take on the Charcuterist challenge and make corned beef – just in time for St Pattys Day!

Charcutepalooza: Makin’ Bacon Part I

For a gal whose love of bacon and bacon flavored items (chapstick, chocolate, donuts, vodka) has been well-documented – I am ashamed to admit that I have never cured my own bacon.

Well, that changes this week.

In fact, this year will have me salting, smoking and curing many an item. Inspired by a post shared by Boisean & fellow foodie blogger Lynn Marshall, I’m jumping on the Charcutepalooza (“shar-coo-ta-pa-loo-za”) challenge created by Mrs Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy and guided by the bible for Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn.
Come on, how could a foodie NOT want to be involved in something known as 12 Months of Meat?

And after reading the forward from Thomas Keller, I was hooked.
A final reason Charcuterie is important: it recongizes the pig as the superior creature that it is. From a culinary standpoint, the pig is unmatched in the diversity of flavors and tetures it offers the cook and the uses it can be put to-from head to tail, from ham to tenderloin, it’s a marvel. A pieve of pork belly can be brined, roasted, grilled, sauteed, dry-roasted, braised, or confited, with widely varying results. This is a very hopeful time for the pig in America, and this book underscores that fact.”

Charcutepalooza began with duck prosciutto as the January challenge. I’m a bit late to the meat-wagon so I’ll be playing catchup on that challenge (once I figure out how to configure a curing locale in my tiny house!)

But it is kind of fitting that I begin in February – the Salt Cure – and with the apprentice challenge option – fresh bacon.

A simple list of ingredients and not too difficult directions made me a bit overconfident. One of my toughest challenges? Finding the pink salt needed for curing (Ruhlman said I should order it online, but my instant-gratification-self didn’t want to wait). After hitting all my Bench grocery stores and Cabela’s cooking section I found Himalayan pink salt at the Boise Co-op. Is it the right pink salt? I have no idea. But it did look pretty and it is doing its salty-curey thing in the fridge right now.
Salt
The recipe did mention ‘high quality pork belly’. We made a round of calls to all of our familiar meat stops – Smoky Davis, Porterhouse, Boise Co-op. No such luck (though Smoky said they were ‘out’). Amusingly, searching ‘Boise pork belly’ on Google pulls up several Idaho Foodies posts :-) So we went to our Pork Belly standby of the Orient Market which carries it and many other fascinating meat items on Saturdays. It was slightly frozen so I may have misstepped again with not getting totally fresh belly. 
Porkbelly
Me rubbing the belly with the cure mixture. (Warning: there will be many references during the 12 Months of Meat to rubbing, massaging, working my meat – so get the giggles out early!)
Bellymassage1
Although I’ve read chapters from the wonderful non-fiction book Salt: A World History, I didn’t quite realize the amazing qualities of a salt cure until I saw what happened within hours to my belly.  Here’s the Day Two view – juicy bacon-curing deliciousness as the salt cure works its magic extracting moisture.
Bagobacon1
Looking forward to seeing if I’ve screwed up my first challenge – or stumbled on a delicious foodie skill I can replicate over and over again.
Stay tuned for Makin’ Bacon Part II in a week! 

- Jess

Foodie friends, Charcutepalooza and Duck Prosciutto

One of the wonderful things about blogging, besides being able to archive adventures in foodies adventures and otherwise, are the people you connect to through shared interests, passions and sometimes obsessions.

Idaho Foodies has allowed me to connect with some wonderful culinary cohorts from around the globe – and in my hometown.

A comment on my most recent Mangia post led me to Lynn Marshall, and her foodie blog Eat Drink Man Woman Dogs Cat: One Woman’s Quest to Eat & Live More Sustainably A great blog to add to your blogroll and visit for some sustainable foodie inspiration.

One post that really caught my eye focused on cured meats (which, as you may know already, I’m a huuuuge fan of)

Plus – how can you  not love a post titled Gateway Duck?

From Lynn: Charcutepalooza is making me nervous ??? both on a practical and philosophical level. A year-long project conceived and organized by Mrs. Wheelbarrow, and the Yummy Mummy,  Charcutepalooza is a blog challenge, all about learning to smoke, preserve and cure meat. All the bloggers signed up will cook their way through Michael Ruhlman???s  Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and CuringI haven???t eaten red meat deliberately in more than 12 years. So why did I sign up? Two words: Duck Prosciutto ??? the inaugural challenge and something I???ve wanted to make for years. Prosciutto is literally Italian for ham, traditionally made from dry cured, uncooked pork. It is typically sliced paper thin and served raw. It???s an incredible flavor, and one I???ve missed on our no-mammal diet.

Duck Prosciutto? Hell yeah! Now I’m hooked on the Charcutepalooza initiative (I did say charcuterie at least three times this weekend while in Seattle, bemoaning that yet again my trip didn’t land on days that Salumi was open)

Thanks Lynn for the inspiration – and welcome to Boise! Happy to make the connection – and looking forward to a 2011 learning the art of smoking, preserving & curing meats!

Needling my Way to Homemade Chicken Fried Steak

I really really love kitchen gadgets. This love has been professed previously with the purchase of the Olivator (AWESOME device & great cocktail conversation starter. Well, if the people at your cocktail party are foodies!)

So when the opportunity arised to purchase another gadget AND make one of my favorite comfort-food-snowy-lazy-Sunday meals we jumped at it.

Knives

And now our household is the proud owner of a Needler – that much needed device that claims to:

  • Achieve better cooking results from less expensive cuts of meat with the multi-blade hand-held meat tenderizer
  • Helps reduce cooking time by up to 40 percent; helps meats cook more evenly by reducing shrinkage
  • Razor sharp knife blades cut through connective tissues that make meat tough
  • Create tiny heat channels without changing shape or appearance of meat, resulting in faster penetration of marinades

Knives2

Fancy description for what we used it for – to turn a hunk of beef bottom round into chicken fried steak worthy cuts (instead of using the lesser cube steak cuts). The inspiration and directions for our first run at this Texas state dish came from our foodie hero – Alton Brown – and his Good Eats episode ‘Cubing A Round’

Steak1

Our first go wasn’t too bad (we also followed Alton’s recipe) But the next time we’ll make a few tweaks. Among the lessons learned:

  • Dredge the beef before you needle
  • Needle at least four times per side
  • Salt & pepper the beef (not just the dredge)
  • Make sure your oil is good and hot to help sear the dredge on

Oven

What is a chicken fried steak meal on a Sunday without hashbrowns, fried eggs, sausage gravy & biscuits? (No, you can not have my awesome 1960′s pink Frigidaire Custom Imperial Flaire oven/stove featured in this cooking in action shot :-) Even when I screw up a recipe I feel hip and sassy while doing so due to this awesome piece of 60′s kitchenery.)

Steak2

While I always knew Texans owned this dish – I had no idea about the immigrant component of it’s history. Here’s more on its Texas Hill Country origins per Alton...

“…this dish is based on Weiner schnitzel and was probably brought to the hills of central Texas by the thousands of Germans who immigrated there in the nineteenth century. Lacking veal, they adapted their recipe by tenderizing tougher cuts of meat. Even the white gravy traditionally served with the dish has roots in German cream sauce. Over time chuck wagon cooks started making it and it diverged into myriad varieties.”

Plate

Perfect Welcome to Fall Meal

There are certain aromas – particularly from the kitchen – that always bring back memories and evoke seasons. I don’t have it often, but chili does it for me every time.

Nothing better to end a fall day than a cup of homemade chili (veggies from the still producing garden, local ground beef, steak and BACON of course :-) with a pint of my brother in law’s delightfully chewy microbrew stout.

Photo

Sent from my iPhone

Mmmmm….Pork in Poughkeepsie

Just returned from a whirlwind week-long trip to where I grew up – the Hudson River Valley in New York in a small town called Poughquag. The biggest city in the area that people had actually heard of is Poughkeepsie. It’s a city that is still in transition – much like I remembered it from 12 years ago. But there are a few bright spots – including a restaurant we stumbled upon serendipitously (and – with the help of Yelp ;-)

Apdoor

The Artist’s Palate is run by owner/chef couple Megan & Charles Fells (one a product of the nearby C.I.A) - and features a revolving seasonal menu (revolving every two weeks per their site). We checked around for what was in walking distance from our hotel – and the props on Yelp, Foursquare & TripAdvisor sang the locale’s praises. 
Aproom
The vibe inside was casual yet hip with a touch of industrial. Heck, I’d love to be described that way ;-). We were seated right next to the open kitchen and got an up close and personal look/listen at Chef Fells expediting on the line. Sometimes seeing how the sausage is made is a great experience. Especially when the chef steps tableside to give you the personal story behind one of the most popular dishes.
Baconegg
Second to my love of bacon is Kevin’s love of bacon. So – when we saw Bacon & Eggs on the menu he had to order it. Crispy Pork Belly? Hells yes! With a side of a 4-minute egg inspired by Craftsteak Las Vegas. Um, yeah! (official description: crispy pork belly confit, sauteed parmesean polenta, frisse, soft heritage breed egg). We are now on the hunt for a pork belly purveyor in Boise and you can bet that we’ll be working through a few dozen eggs trying to perfect the panko crusted 4-minutes of heaven. 

Ravioli
I’m not a lamb girl by any means. But I am a homemade pasta freak (see previous mac n cheese & gnocchi posts). So I had to take the risk and order the House Made Ravioli: pasta pillows filled with braised local lamb, fresh herbs, tossed with poughkeepsie farm projects rainbow chard, heirloom tomatoes, fresh garlic. Pure delight, the richness of the braised lamb was set off by the fresh veggies. 

Add to all this the proud emphasis on local ingredients, casual yet innovative vibe and service that made us feel like VIPs at a chef’s table made it our favorite meal of the week.  I often wonder if restaurants realize how much service and personal attention impacts their overall impression. Was the food itself the most skillfully executed or delicious? Actually, no. We had some fantastic entrees at the CIA’s American Bounty restaurant and an over-the-top spread at a wedding in Queens. But the experience was second-to-none and that made this food memory tops for the week.

- Jess