Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's so hard to say goodbye....

As I slowly evolve my business I find it increasingly difficult to maintain both my production schedule, my now official website, www.hgsausageworks.com and this blog and something had to give.  Sadly I believe that this blog has somewhat run it's course.  Some posts may be ported over to the new website and others may go the way of the white buffalo.  I thank you all for your continued support and hope you'll take a look at the new site.


HG Sausageworks

Monday, May 6, 2013

I'm famous!! (kinda, sort of)

Sorry for the delay between posts.  I've been busy getting the business up and running.  We've secured some necessary permits and have moved our operations into a commerical kitchen (more on that later).  For the nows I just reconnected with one of my old CIA grad friends and learned that he has a podcast.  Soon after he let me in that little ol' me was mentioned in his most recent podcast and we'll be scheduling some time for an interview to be on a later podcast.  Stay tuned for more in that....  Until then, here's a link to this week's podcast which includes some awesome music!  You can also find the podcast in iTunes and Sticher, just search for Killer Food.


Friday, February 8, 2013

My Current Man-Crush...

I think I have a chefly man crush....   mad lyrics and cheffin' references... doesn't get much better than Action Bronson...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Problem with Today's Food / Advertising

Here is the problem with our food choices these days... Just saw a commercial for Pedialyte touting their Sidekicks products and isn't it so great because it has 7 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Ummm, yeah... Instead, give them 2 Tbl of peanut butter... and they'll get, drumroll please......

8 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Slap that shit on some whole grain bread and blammo, better than manufactured crap in a bottle and little to no preservatives!

(Unless you're allergic to peanuts, then you're pretty much fucked)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Diary of the Kimchee Grenade

If you've been reading my blog for a bit you'll likely know that I dipped my toes into experimenting with naturally fermented products a bit ago with a batch of homemade sauerkraut.  While it was very good I just haven't gotten around to making a second batch or trying my hand at an alternate product.  However, I still very much enjoy naturally fermented products include those in both liquid state (beer and wine) and solid state (pickles, sauerkraut and kimchee).  

So on a not very recent trip to my local Korean mega-grocers, Zion Market, I tossed a small jar of kimchee into my cart for later consumption.  Well, as the world turns days became weeks became a couple months (I think.... sadly I'm not 100% sure when I purchased the kimchee though it definitely wasn't this year).  Any who, as with most naturally fermented products they tend to be very hardy and when refrigerated can last a good while so I kinda forgot about it. 

Well tonight I went to pull something out of my big meat reefer and there was some sort of dried reddish liquid on the top of the container.  I followed the trail up a couple shelves and found one of my buckets of casings was puddled with the same colored liquid.  One more shelf up and in the very tip top back of the reefer I found a gallon jug of hot sauce which I had purchased for my hot links.  My initial thought was the horror of the mostly full jug cracked and piddled on the rest of the fridge as a final middle finger to the world.  Well, as I sifted past some carrots, a half bottle of cheap-ass white wine and lo and behold I ran across a bulging, foaming, sputtering bottle of kimchee.  While we're told not to eat foods from cans that have bulged because of the dangers of botulism naturally fermented products are generally regarded as safe.  You see, the natural part comes from the living lactobacillus bacteria that eat the carbohydrates in the food (in this case cabbage) and fart carbon-dioxide.  That chemical transition is what we like to call fermentation.  However, in this B-flick horror movie gone off the tracks left to it's own devices the bacteria will continue to eat and fat, all the while getting fat and happy.  But.....all that gas has to go somewhere and in the case of this plastic bottle it was slowing forcing it's way out of the lid and down into my fridge.  

I gingerly removed the jar like a bomb tech moving and suspicious package, very gingerly with slow purposeful movements.  I placed the jar on the cutting board and carefully cut away the plastic protective ring, all the while wincing like someone about to have something very unpleasant happen to them.  I had one eye slammed shut and the other barely a slit and slowly, and when I say slowly I mean tortoise-like, started to unscrew the lid.  Each little turn caused an eruption of foam to spit and sputter from under the lid akin to opening a bottle of soda that's been kicked down the block by an unrepentant gorilla.  All the while I'm giggling to myself like a school kid at the absurdity of what I was doing.  Finally I get to the last bitty turn of the lid and the lid just blows the fuck off.  And when I say blows, I mean like.....a.....fucking....bomb!!!!  That shit went EVERYWHERE.  All over my hands, shirt, the cutting board.  Frankly I found chunks of kimchee about 10 feet away.  My wife, who's not a big fan of fermented foods, was horrified.  Man did I get a kick out of the look on her face when I took a big plug of the kimchee and tossed it into my pie-hole and boy of boy was it AWESOME.  Tart, tangy, mildly spicy with just a hint of effervesce.  I can't wait to see how it tastes in a couple more months.   

Lesson to be learned, eat the kimchee faster or put that shit in a Cambro for safe keeping:


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Food of the People

What I love about this video is the honesty of the food.  There's a lack of pretension that makes me saddle up next to the cook, sit shoulder to shoulder, and share some food.... It reminds me of how I ended up where I am now, making sausage.  

Some time ago I worked at a very well respected fancy-pants restaurant in New York.  The ingredients were top notch, the cooks were exceptional but I too often found the food to be uninspired, sometimes even bordering on the silly (poached eggs draped in gold foil).  While we never dabbled in "molecular gastronomy" we sometimes combined so many ingredients in a dish that the resulting amalgam somehow became less than the sum of it's part which I'm confident was not the goal of the chef.  Prior to working at this restaurant I had a passion and desire for the unexpected and whimsical cutting edge of cuisine, from El Bulli in Spain to WD50 in NYC, but after the fancy-pants restaurant I turned a corner, one which lead directly away from the cutting edge.  

While I hadn't worked at this restaurant for years I had worked there long enough to have a solid grasp of the full menu and before returning to complete my schooling I decided to partake in a final meal there with my lovely wife.  During our meal my wife peppered me with questions, "What's in this sauce?"  "What's this puree over here?"  She wasn't complaining about the food, just curious about what she'd been served.  It was just then that an idea that had been slowly percolating through my dense numb-skull finally hit grey matter....she shouldn't have to ask.  The food should taste like the ingredients from which it's made and if it doesn't then the chef has somehow lost his or her way in the composition.  If you're eating a chestnut puree it should taste distinctly of chestnuts.  Ever better would be to taste like the nirvana of chestnutdom, the epitome of all things chestnutty.  

I have nothing against avant-garde cuisine, on the contrary I deeply respect the work of Adria, Dufresne and Achatz and what they have done for world cuisine but I decided it's not the food I want to produce.  The food highlighted in this video, the honest, approachable, hearty food of the proletariat, that's my heart and soul.  

胃口好  - Wèikǒu hǎo*  

*that's Chinese for bon appetite according to google

Ode to Bacon

Ode to bacon:

Twas the day before smoking and all through the house, 
all creatures were screaming particularly my spouse.  

The bellies are hung in the reefer with care,
for tonight they'll be smoked in the cool winter's night air.

My belly's a grumblin' and makin' a fit,
cuz it hasn't been fed in quite a bit.

But tonight we shall feast on meat, fishes and more,
and tomorrow my scale will read four pounds more. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey Meatloaf

One of the cool things about going to culinary school is the exposure to a great many cuisines and cooking techniques over a very short time frame.  You also get to play with really cool equipment such as a double-ring wok burner that puts out a few thousand BTU's and sounds like a fighter jet with afterburners on.  Unfortunately in the relatively short three-week course titled, Garde Manger, we went over subjects as varied as plated apps, cheese (the making of and use of), charcuterie and due to the amount of material being learned we only discussed things from the 50,000-foot level.  Essentially just enough to whet your appetite but not so much that you felt confident and ready to take on the world.

I've been able to get back into learning on my own and expanding my knowledge,  but one meaty foodstuff that I've been hankering to try again was terrines.  What you ask is a terrine?  Basically it's a fancy-schmancy meatloaf…in fact there are many parallels between to the stuff yo’ momma made on Sunday night and the fine frenchified versions.  You could call good ol' 'merican meatloaf the bastard step-child of French terrines but that would be rude and frankly libelous to mommas everywhere.  Ground meat?  check!  Eggs?  check!  Bread crumbs?  check!  Parsley?  check!  Where the two take different paths is how the ingredients are processed, cooked and treated ante-cooking.  Whereas the meatloaf is classically made from good ol' moo-cow, terrines are most regularly made with pork.  For glueification of the meats meatloaf has breadcrumbs from unknown or dubious sources, fresh bread that's been grated, Japanese panko, saltines, really just about any savory baked complex carbohydrate frowned upon by Dr. Atkins would work.  Mine regularly often came from a canister purchased at my local mega-grocer and was labeled as “Italian Flavor”.  Frankly, I'm not sure I want to know what an Italian tastes like, nor do I really want to know how they came to the conclusion of what an Italian tastes like.  At this point, I have the mental picture of the residents of Stanten Island, definitely not good eats.  

Defense’s Exhibit 1:

 Now that I've had to wash my brain out with bleach we're back to terrines.  Meatloaf is usually slathered with a mixture of ketchup, sugar and vinegar, incinerated in an oven hot enough to have been described in Dante's inferno until the meat shrinks, withers and squeezes out every bit of moisture.  The now sahara-like meat-product is unceremoniously slopped onto a plate next to gluey mashed potatoes and limp insipid canned green beans.  In fact, the whole reason products like the one pictured below exist is to compensate for a poorly made meatloaf that has leached all it’s succulence.  


One of the techniques utilized to create the tight texture of a terrine is a mixture of bread, cream and eggs (and regularly includes a spirit    such as brandy).  When all are mixed together it’s called a panada, at this point I always seem to picture actual panda bears, go figure.  On the other hand, terrines are gently cooked in a low-temp oven, whilst being coddled in a jacuzzi-like water-bath then slowly massaged over night to allow the mixture to compress to uniformity and reabsorb any errant liquids then sliced and served with tasty accouterments such as pickles of various but thoughtful design; toast points, a dab of jam and maybe some grainy/spicy/acidy mustard.  Now don't get me wrong, I loves me some meatloaf, there is very little in this world I love more than leftover meatloaf slathered with Hellman's and slapped between a couple slices of bread wonderbread, that stuff is mana for the soul.  And while many parallels exist between these two meat products in the end they are more like apples and oranges. 

I went back to my stalwart reference, Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn.  If you are looking to purchase a book to start learning more about charcuterie I highly recommend this book.  If you're already making charcuterie products and want to expand or refine your knowledge, get this book, you won't regret it.  

One word about the afore mentioned overnight massage, in reality it's a controlled squish.  Imagine if you will Spanx for your meat.  You want to get something hard and flat and cut it so it just sits inside the terrine pan.  Please make it food safe or at least cover it with plastic wrap and a aluminum foil (yes both).  I went to my local hardware store and picked up a square of Plexiglas for under $5, scored it with a razor and snapped it into the size I needed.  Then I headed over to the gardening section and purchased a couple paving bricks.  You can use whatever you want as a weight, I just like how easily bricks stack.  You can use cans of food, workout weights or give JB Prince a ring, they have this fancy terrine press.  Kinda overkill but pretty cool and I've begun to attempt to justify its purchase.  I want to mention again, if you chose to use something that's not foodsafe, double bag it with the plastic wrap and aluminum.  You're already playing with meat, you don't want to have gravel bits in the mix.  

CAUTION: The recipe below contains baby cow.  Yes, it's true folks, I eat cute baby cows.  I know that some people prefer to avoid veal products but to be honest, it's just about the easiest liver to get at a specific weight at my local butcher shop.  You can substitute chicken liver which is available at most supermarkets or pork liver but you might have to go to an Asian market for that.  

So the recipe I chose to do is Pâté de Campagne from Charcuterie.  It's a classic and a good place to start, below is my adaptation:

Pâté de Campagne

1 kg pork shoulder
100 grams veal liver
50 grams yellow onion (aka - Spanish onion)
25 grams (approx) chopped parsley (I went with the volume measurement of 1/4 cup)
24 grams garlic
25 grams kosher salt
16.5 grams pink salt (optional – if you use it you might want to reduce the kosher salt to 15 grams)
3 grams fresh ground black pepper
2 grams pate spice
20 grams all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 Tbl brandy
1/2 cup heavy cream

Pâté Spice
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbl ground white pepper

Prepare the terrine pan:  Spray the inside of the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Now cut a length of plastic wrap that's about 2.5 times the length of your terrine pan and lay the plastic wrap into the pan, across the bottom and up the sides.  This is where you have a decision to make, you can use your hands to manipulate the plastic wrap to remove as many wrinkles or bubbles as you can but I prefer an alternate method.  Make sure that your plastic wrap reaches at least to the top edge of all four sides of your pan and gently fill the plastic wrapped pan with water to just below the edge.  Now when you (gently) pull and tug on the plastic wrap the weight of the water will help displace the air bubbles and wrinkles and make everything all smooth and happy-like.  When everything has been smoothed to your satisfaction just pour out the water.  Whichever method you choose, once you're satisfied set the terrine pan off to the side until your meat mixture is ready.  

This is also a good time to get your water bath ready.  Place your terrine pan into another pan that's at least as deep as the terrine pan.  With the terrine pan in the larger pan add water to the larger pan until it reaches about 2/3-3/4 of the way up the side of the terrine pan.  Remove the terrine pan and set both aside until their ready to use.  Also, get your over heating to 300 degrees F.  

In a medium bowl combine the liver, through pâté spice and put in the fridge.  You want everything as cold as possible.  Now grind the pork shoulder through the large die of your grinder.  Take about 1/3 of the ground mixture, add it to the liver and grind that through your smaller die.  Combine the first and second grinds together and place in the refrigerator.  

Now on to the panda, I mean panada.  This terrine eschews the bread and instead calls for flour, and to reduce the possibility of lumps I found that this process of mixing the panada seems to work well.  First lightly whisk up the eggs, then whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once fully combined whisk in the brandy and cream.  

Now combine the ground meat mixture with the panada and mix with either a spatula, a big wooden spoon or your hands until the mixture comes together.  At first everything will seem kinda soupy but as you continue to mix everything the myosin in the meat will begin to get all happy-like, the mix will become a little sticky and the mass will begin to coalesce and get less soupy, which is just about when you want to stop.

If you choose to add some sort of garnish you would want to include it when mixing everything together.  Options include small cubes of fatback, pistachios, craisins or in the case of this terrine pickled green peppercorns which had been rinsed and drained.  Add or not as you desire.  A word on the peppercorns...some people liked them, I totally unabashedly hated them.  They were like little spicy land mines and I did not find that they added anything but a bit of danger to the terrine.    

Spoon the mixture into your prepared terrine pan of choice lightly while trying to avoid including air bubbles.  When all the terrine is added take the terrine pan and lightly slam the base of the terrine pan on the cutting board about three to four times.  Don't go nuts here, you don't want to break anything, but the banging helps to remove and/or reduce air bubbles that might have made their way into the mixture.  

Smooth the top of the mixture with a spatula and lightly fold over your over-hanging plastic wrap.  Avoid pulling the plastic wrap tight or taut, if anything you want it on the looser side.  As the plastic wrap heats in the oven it has a tendency to contract and if you pulled it too tight at this point it can pull the top and sides of the terrine inward making the top a slight dome, still good eats, just not so much pretty.  

If your terrine pan came with a lid add it and place the prepared water-bath in the over and then the terrine pan into the water-bath.  Cook for about one hour and check the internal temperature, you want to hit about 150 degrees F (160 if you used chicken livers).  Remove the terrine from the oven (leave the water-bath in place and deal with it another time when all that water has cooled down.  

Place the terrine pan on a rimmed cookie sheet, add your press and weights and let it sit for about 30-60 minutes or so to cool.  Then place the terrine in the fridge overnight to rest, still weighted.  I've even seen some people wrap around the terrines and weights with plastic wrap so everything's more secure.  

If you've been paying attention I've already mentioned how I like to serve my terrine.  Typically it's sliced into approximately 1/2" thick slices, left cold and accompanied by some good artisan jelly (no Smuckers here folks, please for the sake of all things holy), some grainy mustard (no French's), some nice thick crusted bread that's been lightly toasted and maybe some nice acidic cornichons.  

Then sit back and revel in the awesomnicity that is you.