A Good Reprieve from the Daily Grind #Charcutepalooza

I learned something surprising about myself last night as I belatedly tackled my May Charcutepalooza challenge.

I REALLY love the process of making sausage. Heck, I just really love the task of hacking up big hunks of protein.


Going from the image in the front – a chunk of Pork Shoulder Butt (no, it’s not an oddly shapped animal but the end piece of the shoulder) – to the diced pieces at the back was oddly fulfilling.


And then, putting my multi-tasking new kitchen gadget (a meat grinder AND pasta maker? Heck yeah!) to use with my chile-coated chunks of pork. The site honestly brought me back to my Play-Doh days and had me utter to Kevin, “Wow this is so fulfilling.”


He thought I was joking. Do I look like I’m joking in this picture? I’m a focused gal. The honest truth is it is immensely fulfilling to me – just like the other Charcutepalooza challenges have been and all the other times I tackle a family recipe or try to channel Alton Brown. What’s great about cooking for me, especially when trying something out of my comfort zone, is seeing the fruit (or meaty goodness) of my labor RIGHT THEN.

After a day filled with strategy discussions, problem solving and putting out fires, days in which I rarely produce a tangible example of my work, it is extremely fullfilling to turn a hunk of raw protein into something delicious. Do I follow the recipe exactly? Of course not, I’m a creative mind and part Italian after all. That’s where I get to go all Iron Chef on a recipe when I don’t have the exact spice or misread a specific direction. You take what’s in front of you and you make it work.


And frequently, it works out in a delicious way. We blended Italian and Mexican flavors for the above result – homemade smokey spicey chorizo atop polenta, finished with roasted tomatoes, black beans and the first cilantro from the herb garden. Fulfilling and filling.

Do you know the Muffin Man?

Not to be outdone by my love of cured meats (bacon, namely) and my love of cheese (any kind) is my love of carbs. Makes for a healthy diet.

Typically the carbs come courtesy my Italian heritage and in the pasta variety. So while I enjoy baked goods, I don’t often bake.
But holy crap - Alton Brown’s delicious homemade English Muffins may make me into a weekend brunch baker.
Using our circa 1970-something hand mixer on the dough which set over night….
…made for an interesting mixing experience. It’s more like a batter than a dough – so don’t be surprised when making it if it sticks to everything. Literally.
We wanted to McGyver the kitchen gadgets this time around, but our tuna cans didn’t cooperate when trying to make them into pastry molds. So I hit up my favorite kitchen gadget haunt – the Standard Restaurant Supply - to find these pastry rings to give our muffins the right walls. And instead of griddle frying we baked.
Check ‘em out! Now Alton had mentioned sprinkling the bottom and tops of the dough with rolled oats. We went with the traditional corn meal. Made for a lovely crunchy texture. The whole ‘fork-splitting’ is key to getting the right texture.
And… voila! Nooks & crannies galore! (Credit Thomas English Muffins with coining that phrase)

Next up – trying to whip up some crumpets for the Royal Wedding :-)

Blame Canada…for this delicious bacon! #Charcutepalooza

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


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.


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.

Say “Cheese” via Boise Weekly


Great to the point writeup on making Farmer’s Cheese. I have rennet tablets for making my homemade mozzarella – but am tempted to try white vinegar this weekend and whip up a batch of this.

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!

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. 
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.”
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.
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.
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!


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.


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!

Overcoming my fear of souffle

“The only thing that will make a souffl?? fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.”  - James Beard 

Oh James, you insightful chef!

Yes – fear of complicated recipes and the dreadful ‘falling’ has kept me far away from souffl??s until recently. But then, that temptress Alexandra Guarnaschelli had to share her ‘Best-Ever Cheese Souffle‘ in Food & Wine and lure me in.

Plus – I got to buy a new piece of dish-ware (the 1 1/2 quart souffl?? dish) AND whip out the tiny whisk.  
Now typically, I don’t usually screw up and freak out over a recipe until the end. But maybe my fear of the souffl?? somehow was conducted through my tiny whisk during Step 2. Essentially – whisking heavy cream into a roux. Now, I really doubt that this step where I am thickening the base is supposed to look like this. 
Yeah, really looked more like the curd stage of making mozzarella cheese. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why my butter was separating again. Looking back it could be because I used heavy whipping cream instead of heavy cream. But who knows. Instead of ditching it I pushed forward.
For all the kitchen gadgets I purchase I love the fact that I still have this mixer my parents owned. Super 70′s but does the trick. 

This is the stage where Cream of Tartar starts doing it’s magic. Had a long discussion about where Cream of Tartar originates (yet another fantastic byproduct from the fermentation of grapes). After I got over my fear of the freaky curd looking mixture, made some wonderful firm peaks of egg whites and did a lot of mixture folding it was  into the oven with a prayer.
And maybe it is an old wives’ tale – but for the next 35 minutes I tiptoed around the house thinking loud noises would make the souffl??s fall.
But despite jumping dogs, slamming doors and lots of pacing back and forth in front of the double oven…
VOILA! It emerges as a golden delicious mound of goodness!


And I have to say – IT IS FOODGASMIC! 

Seriously, a fantastic dish. If I was in charge of that one Food Network show it would make the list of ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate: Cheese Version’

Maybe it was the gruyere – because that is one heck of a good melted cheese. Or, the combination of cajun pepper and dijon mustard that gave just the right amount of bite.

Either way – don’t fear the souffl?? – embrace its light fluffy deliciousness that makes eating something rich completely acceptable.

Next up for my souffl?? sojourn? Attempting to recreate Red Feather’s fantastic Oatmeal Souffl??

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.


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


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’


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


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.)


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.”


Oh happy day! CHEESE glorious cheese!

Made my first mozzarella braid tonight!

Now that this cheese fiend has taken the first small (& pretty dang easy) step into cheesemaking I can say i’m hooked.

Knowledge comes courtesy of the fantastic Ricki Carroll of the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company and some starter cheese kits. Check her out at www.cheesemaking.com


Sent from my iPhone

Celebrating St Patrick’s Eve …

….with homemade corned beef and cabbage, horseradish sauce to knock ya on your keester, and Irish Soda Bread made from a recipe passed down from my great-grandmother Anna Rowland Flynn from County Mayo.


And served with a Black and Tan of course !

Sent from my iPhone