Monday, March 30, 2009

Homage du Ruhlman

Enjoying a sudden burst of inspiration, or maybe falling for the seducing lure of the dark side, i awoke with the determination to cure meet. Now! Today! It all depends on how you look at it i guess, maybe I'm going crazy. Anyhow, i rushed out and descended on the previously scouted location (the Internet is a marvelous thing), and there it was. The answer to all my wants and desires...ok maybe not but the perfect solution for my minimal closet of a kitchen. This black tower, built to hold 18 bottles of wine in two different zones anywhere between 6C and 22C with insulated glass doors and that all important blue LED lighting...what is that word I'm looking for, Pimpin? ;)

I also bought a extra thermometer with a built in hygrometer to monitor the compartments, now i know that hygrometers are less than trustworthy, but hay better than nothing. I also had plans to find a moisturizing device from a cigar humidor. However, i tried the low-tech non gadget way recommended by Ruhlman and would you know it, with a bowl of water (salted to a 4% salinity to mirror the Mediterranean) the hygrometer jumped up to a steady 70-75% which is ideal! Now i only hope the thing isn't way of, guess only time, and experimentation will tell.

Eager to graduate from the vanilla side of the foodporn sphere and into the harder stuff i took my defrosted magret out of the fridge and lay it on a bed of sea salt. I know the measure of salt is probably completely useless but i confess i am holding Mr Ruhleman's hand through this one. After preparing the bed though I just made sure to tuck the breast in neatly, not really bothering with another helping of 225g of salt which is suggested in the book. It all depends on size anyways, and sending it of for a 24h sleepover in the fridge.

I was amazed to see the change in texture and color of the meat as i took it from its salty situation. Feeling a bit cocky i decided to deviate from the recipe and give the magret a last wash with cognac before applying some white pepper. (not anticipating a lot of flavor from the added alcohol but hay worth a try)

We are no longer in ”centerfold of the month” foodbloging, haha, bring forth the rope and suspension hooks... So yeah i did not get any cheesecloth as Ruhlman instructs us to (guess i let go of that hand) i pierced a overhanging flap of fat with a meat hook and went shibari on the poor thing with some butcher-twine before locking it in its new dungeon.

As a side note i also have this ”food calender” which i will use to record dates and weights any upcoming clientèle. The goal is a 30% weight loss before...ok I'm stoping here there are to many unappetizing jokes to be told now that i started walking down this path! Check back soon for more updates.

Salt Curing on Foodista

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Progress and projects

First of all, the sauerkraut is doing good (i know your all dying to know). It has just been a few days so not a lot of action from my bacterial friends yet, on the other hands there is no sign of intrusive moldy bacteria either which is also good.

The different ”lid” methods i used both seem to be working fine, however the water filled zip top bag did struggle to press the kraut down leaving cabbage exposed to air for a longer period of time, and i will have to see if this has any effects on the end product. Speaking of which it is so far away like three more weeks, i had trouble sleeping last night thinking of a recipe for it. I wont tell you what it is just yet, you'll just have to wait and see.

On the project side of things I'm guessing that the choice between a TV (i don't own one) and kitchen appliances is a pretty easy choice for any 26 year old guy...i don't even think i have to be gender specific here....most people my age would probably go for the TV before the industrial food processor. Me... I'm spending my weekends making sauerkraut so a food processor would actually be a pretty high tech investment.

Food processors aside, i don't think it is what I'm buying right now, there is something else that have been occupying my thoughts. I want to make sausages and dry cure meats. Living in a small apartment this presents somewhat of a challenge, but i am not deterred in the slightest. Here is the plan. I will buy a wine fridge, a humidor air moisturizer and maybe a fan. The combinations of these items should allow me to have that 15C 70% humidity conditions required to cure!

I will keep you guys updated.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday night sauerkraut

Having Estonian grandparents I was introduced to the wonderful world of cultured foods at a early age. However, my exposure to the the alluring flavors and techniques of fermentation have been missing for the most part, they are not really a part of Swedish everyday cuisine, but armed with a new resolve and wonderfully nerdy literature as Sandor Ellix Katz “Wild Fermentation” I have set out to change this.

Given the rather trendy minimalism of these types of foods this will be a short post, but one that will keep on living so to say as the kraut needs about four weeks to mature.

Ok, to make sauerkraut you only really need cabbage and salt (Estonian types use caraway but I have none left from the summer so this one will be kraut at its most simplest form). Most recipes actually call for pickling salt, but I will use sea salt since I don't really know if pickling salt is a readily available product here in Sweden or in the rest of the world. The thing with pickling salt is that it is a really small grain and dissolves in cold water. Sea salt does this too if it is fine enough and that is just a matter of how rough you are willing to get with your salt (if your lazy and want to waist energy other than your own I guess you could heat water with sea salt to make a brine, but that will be your own experiment).

The tricky thing with the recipes in wild fermentation and all the places I found with a quick search is that they give you the amount of salt you need in a volumetric measure. This is absolute madness! Granted the salinity of sauerkraut probably isn't as important as say sausage making, but still it annoyed me enough to go out and find the approximate weight of pickling salt, and as a average people seem to aim for a 2% salt which sound pretty decent to me plus it makes this whole thing way more scalable.

With my 2% salt safely in my mortar, which in this case turned out to be 38g, I proceeded to quickly slice the cabbage. Throw in salt and mix with clean hands (I don't want to culture anything that could have come home with me from the subway). Let the salt do its osmosis thing which pulls water out of the cabbage and softens it (30 minutes should be enough), but also makes it easier to stuff into a suitable fermentation vessel. I used to glass containers but I guess it really doesn't matter as long as it is food grade and not metal (mixing salt and metal for longer periods of time never seem like a good idea in my mind).

Eventually the salt will have pulled out enough water to actually cover the cabbage so you could say this recipe creates its own brine. The salt is however grateful for all the help it can get since we want the cabbage submerged as quickly as possible. I will try two methods, one is a simple weight the other looks pretty cool but I will have to see how it turns out, at least the idea of filling a bag with water and using it as the weight makes theoretical sense.

Store in a dark place and await the next post! (should probably be a bit colder than room temperature but hay I live in an apartment so I don't really have a root cellar)
Sauerkraut on Foodista

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Mm Monday bloody Monday

Armed with that most marvelous medium of the Maillard process, duck fat, i set out to make this an offal Monday with Morcilla sausage and Madeira glazed pears.

Not everyone likes their Mondays i know, and blood doesn't really tick the box for a lot of people either, although I have been hearing about these teenage girls reading a lot of Vampire novels lately... Anyways, while I am compelled to agree with the first statement, blood is a very intriguing ingredient in food.

I decided to pair the blood sausage with something sweet because it is the traditional French thing to do. Not having any apples I grabbed a lonely pear from the fruit bowl, and since I was cooking a morcilla which is decidedly Spanish with its onions, garlic and cumin I decided to caramelize the pear slices in sugar and Madeira. Figuring the burnt notes on the fortified wine (which is probably my favorite dare I say) would go well with the amber of the sugar. Personally I like taking the caramel pretty far when doing this sort of fruit for food thing as a tiny hint of bitterness can really bring out savory flavors. That being said, don't burn the stuff, we don't want to waist any Madeira!

Cooking the morcilla is pretty straight forward and quick. Turn the oven on to 200C (about 375F) and put some fat in a pan over medium heat. Now if your a thrifty person, and who isn't when it comes to things like this, you saved that duck fat (So good!). Poke holes in the sausage to avoid blood splatter, might look cool on shows like Dexter, but in your kitchen...not so much. Season with salt and pepper and get those babies into the duck fat, you did save the duck fat didn't you?

Fry for about two minutes on each side and then park the pan in the oven for minutes. When done plate for a marvelously brown meal, no garnish!... actually I did really want to pair this with some parsley thin slices of onion and lemon juice to bring some acidity to the party, but no such luck this time.

Blood Sausage on Foodista

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Getting back on the horse...with duck

Wow it has been a long time since my last post! I could go into all the reasons why my time and energy totally disappeared from the wonderful world of food blogging but then i would deviate even more from the nature of Offalboy.

I must confess, i feel a bit guilty for having written nothing about offal on this site. I guess it mirrors my eating habits though. I have yet to take the time to prepare something offal, but by my word that will change and change soon! I will cast away time constraints and tricky sourcing in order to no longer falsely advertise the content of my foodwritings. Ehm...that being said, as much as i do like offal and the technical aspects of that kind of cooking, what is more, i most of all like the philosophy of it. Using the whole animal, or nose to tail eating as the great Fergus Henderson would have us call it is not only a noble way of treating out animals but also essential, and without going to much out on the environmentalist trail, I'll just leave you guys with the wove that i will lead by my own example, or should i say eat!

Oh and i almost forgot. I will get back into this in a rather celebratory way. I cooked duck breast today! Or to go all pretentious restaurant menu on you guys; Pan roasted duck breast with oven roasted balsamic glazed red onions, almonds and chiffonade of basil. This isn't the most exciting season for vegetables but thinking about it onions actually seem like the perfect combo here even if I would disregard the seasonality of the ingredients.

Duck breast
Organic red onions
Balsamic vinegar (di moderna)
Olive oil

Oven on 200C or approx. 375F
Oven proof skillet
Hotel pan
Aluminum foil

Ok here we go. Proceed to cut the tops and bottoms of the onions, however don't cut of to much since the “root” end is important for the structural integrity of the onion. With that small operation done halve and peel of any tough layers before dumping them into a small hotel pan or other oven proof vessel. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and throughly drench in the balsamic (and do use a moderna, read cheap kind, balsamic for this. Save the real stuff for other things).

Turn the onions cut side up if they aren't already and season with salt and pepper. Also sprinkle a pinch of sugar on each halve to help bring out the natural sweetens of the onion but also to balance the acidity of the vinegar.

Slither a garlic clove and throw the slices over the onions. Then get yourself a few stems of basil leaves and make them follow the garlic slices into the pan (I think sage would be another great herb to use here but basil is what I had growing in the kitchen window today).

If your me, pause to take a picture at this point, otherwise cover with aluminum foil and put into the warm oven.

Hopefully you have had your duck out on the bench for a while so it is not icy cold. Lightly score its skin, but don't go to deep, its just to allow the fat to render out more easily, you defiantly don't want to see any flesh through your slits in the fat. Season the breast liberally with salt and rub it into the skin side.

Now I don't actually know the best practice way of pan frying a duck breast but I do it at a low medium heat in order to render out as much of the wonderful nectars of the gods (duckfat!). As the fat releases the skin also turns a wonderful golden brown, crispy and delicious. Once at this state, pour of the fat AND SAVE IT! Flip the breast over and let it join the pan in the oven. This is also a good time to take of the foil of.

Chop some almonds and cut the basil into garnish size pieces while you wait for everything to come together. The duck should be pink so don't let it play in the oven for to long. You also need to rest it as long as you can keep your greedy paws of it in order to let the juices in it relax.

Plating is of course a personal thing but here is mine. Sprinkled with the almonds, to ad a textural dimension, and basil to echo the ingredient in the onion roast.

Enjoy, I certainly did!

Oh and by the way, I tested this and cutting the duck in the esthetically correct sort of angeled diagonal way is not at all the way to do it. The duck will eat much more tender if you just slice it straight down since the fibers in the meat will be shorter in each slice.

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