The rampant holiday eating and cooking continued the day after Christmas. My brother and I hosted a dinner for a few of our friends.
no knead bread, preserved lemon butter
roasted walnuts in the shell
chestnuts in warm sage oil, prosciutto
sweetbread nuggets, honey mustard
roasted cauliflower, coriander, paprika, anchovies
warm peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, whipped cream
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It’s the holidays! Delicious food, drinks and time with loved ones are the best ways to warm up the chilly hours. I hosted a simple brunch for a few of my friends. The star of the meal was this gloriously tall leek, goat cheese and pancetta quiche. The custard was just perfectly set, silky and jiggly. I used Thomas Keller’s quiche recipe as a blueprint, adopting his call for a two inch tall tart that offers generous bites of luscious custard. The combination of sweet leeks, sharp creamy goat cheese and meaty pancetta was luxurious.
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It was my friend Terence’s birthday recently and a fabulous Mad Men party was thrown in his honor by his lady who in turn hired me to cater it. I was excited to do a retro menu and what a hit it was.
orange elderflower jello shots
Jello used to be a hit back in the days. I made a updated version which is just a fancied up jello shot with orange juice, vodka, elderflower liquer and bitters. I served them up in candy cups and strewn with edible flowers for decoration.
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I made bacon using once again my Charcuterie cookbook. Bacon is one of those thing in my mind that was always store-bought. I had no idea making bacon at home is so easy. All you need is pork belly, salt, sugar, and pink salt. The pork belly is cured with the salt mixture in the fridge for 7 days or so depending on the size of the meat. Traditionally American bacon is smoked after cured (which is tasty!) but you don’t necessarily have to do that when making your own at home. The book instructs you to cook the bacon in a low oven to 150 degrees, which would be the desirable temperature reached when smoking it.
After cooking the slab bacon in the oven I sliced off a piece and fried it up. It was super delicious – dense, meaty and with that distinctive cured flavor. It was definitely a cool moment in my kitchen eating my very own home-cured bacon.
On with the sausage making, I went for the basic – garlic sausage from the Charcuterie cookbook. The recipe is simple. Basically pork seasoned with salt, black pepper, garlic and red wine. I added just a little bit of rosemary and thyme to this mix, not enough to make it an herb sausage necessarily but a garlicky one with subtle herb flavors. I browned it in a pan and finished it in the oven, turning out a juicy sausage for dinner.
I had a small savoy cabbage in the fridge from my last trip to the farmer’s market. I sauteed it in butter with a bit of brown mustard seeds, salt and white pepper. A few splashes of water went in to help the cabbage steam although some parts came out nutty and caramelized.
The red wine I used in the sausage is Rolling Hills Vineyard’s Pagor Red Table Wine 2007, a California tempranillo wine. It’s pretty tasty with a medium body and light berry flavors. It’s very drinkable on its own even without food. I was looking at the cool bottle the other day thinking that the artwork really looked like Gary Baseman. And it is! Good choice.
Boudin Blanc over Pancetta Herb Risotto
For my second sausage project I made boudin blanc, a French white sausage made with white meat, eggs, and cream or milk. I used the recipe from Charcuterie which calls for chicken breast, pork shoulder, eggs, milk, white pepper and quatre epices. This was my first time using casing, which was kind of weird but cool at the same time. It’s so stretchy! The sausage came out plump and delicious, mild and delicious with the warm spices. I served it over pancetta herb risotto.
The raw chorizo mixture had to marinate overnight to meld all the flavors together. The next day it was on and I excitedly made potato, chorizo & pepper tacos. I cooked the chorizo first in the pan then spooned it out to brown the boiled chopped potato, bell pepper and onion. The potato, pepper and onion soaked up all the flavorful chorizo drippings. When these were browned I added back the cooked chorizo and tossed the whole lot together. The mixture was scooped into an open-burner-warmed-and-charred-around-the-edges mini corn tortilla. I was very happy with my very first sausage making experience and the fruits of that labor that were befalling me.
To top the delicious tacos I made a spicy heirloom tomato salsa fresca with pineapple tomatoes and a proper amount of minced jalapenos.
A creamy guacamole was also in order.
I was introduced to this Spanish rose just recently at a Silverlake Wine tasting that recommended wines that went well with bbq foods. It’s been a pleasure drinking it nicely chilled on a warm day and it was great with the chile and spice inflicted chorizo tacos.
It was only fate for chorizo and eggs to become my delightful breakfast the following morning.
After buying and returning two manual meat grinders that didn’t quite suit me I settled on the widely available Kitchen Aid mixer meat grinder attachment. The motor can only handle a bit more than a few pounds at a time without getting hot (as some reviews stated) but I don’t think this will cause a problem for now since all I want to do is make a few pounds of homemade sausage for home consumption.
For my first homemade sausage I made Mexican chorizo. One of my favorite snacks is a chorizo taco from a taqueria doused with spicy salsa verde and bits of chopped onion and cilantro. I used Rick Bayless’s recipe which calls for pasilla and ancho chilies. I substituted guajillo for the pasilla which I couldn’t get a hold of and followed the rest of the ingredients which included cloves, dried oregano, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, paprika, black pepper, ground ginger, garlic and vinegar. The meat part of the recipe called for pork fat, lean pork loin, and lean pork shoulder. This part seemed a tiny bit fussier than some the other recipe I found online which just called for pork shoulder. But the results were delicious so no complaints here. The meat marinated overnight with all the seasonings and the next day I made tacos. YUM. More to come…