Sunday, April 14, 2013
For the April Daring Cooks Challenge, Lisa from Parsley, Sage and Sweethas challenged us to de-bone a whole chicken, using this video by Jacques Pepin as our guide; then stuff it, tie it and roast it, to create a Chicken Ballotine.
A Ballotine is one of those things that I had heard about before and just always thought it was one of those insanely difficult things that chefs do to show how talented they are. I never really thought it was something I would ever do. Well, I was wrong. Turns out it is not really that difficult and it makes a pretty delicious chicken. Some definitions of Ballotine say that it is a de-boned leg but in this challenge we de-bone a whole chicken while essentially leaving it a one piece.
Instead of going through this step by step with lots of pictures Lisa made the wise decision to make this a video challenge. Jacques Pepin has a ten minute video that you can see here that shows the whole process. In the video I think he says that it should take 5-10 minutes to de-bone a whole chicken. I think it took me about a half hour but a lot of that time was spent watching the video over and over to make sure I was doing it correctly. I can honestly say that I think it would take less than ten minutes the next time. I was very surprised at how easy it was and how little knife-work there was to the whole process.
The nice part of the de-boned chicken is that it gives you a nice big piece of uniform meat that is great for stuffing. I stuffed mine with a mixture of spinach, bread, and mozzarella cheese. The video also gives a very nice demonstration of trussing the stuffed chicken. I also made the sauce/gravy that Lisa gave us the recipe for.
The chicken was fabulous. It looked very elegant and would be a great recipe for entertaining. It also tasted great. I loved the stuffing and couldn't get enough of the sauce. Now if I ever decide I want to make a Turducken for Thanksgiving I will have the major technique figured out.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Last months challenge was to make cured meat or sausages and it was kind of unique in that it we actually had "winners" of the challenge. Well I am very excited that I won with my sausages and just received my prize - a copy of Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing by Michael Ruhlman. It looks like a beautiful book and some day I will manage to try some of the cured meats in there. If you want to check out the sausages I made you can see them here.
Now on to this month. Sawsan from chef in disguise was our March 2013 Daring Cooks hostess! Sawsan challenges us to make our own homemade cheeses! She gave us a variety of choices to make, all of them easily accomplished and delicious!
Just a month or two ago Lis (Founder of The Daring Kitchen) asked me if I wanted to host a challenge. Well I had just bought a book on cheese-making and wanted to try a bunch of them out so I told her I would do a challenge on cheese-making. Well, surprise-surprise, someone was already doing cheese-making next month. I was very excited. You will just have to wait until later this year to see what I come up with for my challenge :)
There were so many cheeses I wanted to try from my book but I had to restrain myself some. For one thing I was taking a 10 day vacation in March so I would have a short month. Also, many of the cheeses I wanted to try were more difficult so I forced myself to start with some simple to intermediate cheeses. I settled on a ricotta and a mozzarella. The ricotta is considered an easy cheese and mozzarella would be an intermediate cheese.
For some reason I decided to start with the harder of the two, the mozzarella. I was going to make two batches. I bought all my supplies at a local home-brewing supply store. The quality of the milk can matter a lot for cheese but I decided to use just grocery store pasteurized / homogenized whole milk. My first batch was kind of a disaster. It didn't really clump together properly and then to make matters worse I managed to over-salt it.
Good thing I was planning to make two batches - at least I could get one. For the second I watched some online videos to see what everything was supposed to look like so I would know what I was doing a little more. Well the second batch was much better. The mozzarella was not the easiest. The recipes have two very exact temps to hit and maintain - not sure how exact it really has to be but I didn't want to test it too much. The mozzarella also needs to be melted and stretched - this is a messy job. In the end it looked and tasted like fresh mozzarella though so I was happy.
The ricotta was much easier. You just add an acid to milk and heat it - ten drain in some cheese cloth. Both cheeses gave me about a pound from a gallon of milk - I was kind of amazed you could get that much solid cheese from a gallon of liquid.
I ended up making some lasagna from the result. I had never used fresh mozzarella in a lasagna but I just sliced the cheese instead of shredding it and it worked great. Taste-wise the lasagna was much richer, mostly from the ricotta I think. I am not really sure if it was because the ricotta was fresh or just that it was a very high fat ricotta where I would normally use a part-skim ricotta in my lasagna.
I really enjoyed the challenge and look forward to trying some of the more advanced cheeses in the book I bought. If you are interested all the recipes I used were from that book - Artisan Cheese Making at Home: Techniques & Recipes for Mastering World-Class Cheeses.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I have been wanting to try my hand at sausage making for a while. I actually asked for a sausage making attachment for Christmas and received one from my lovely wife so the timing of this challenge was perfect. My wife also got me another gift that I used for this challenge, but more about that later. There were a few things I wanted to try for this challenge so I was glad to hear we were allowed two months instead of our normal one month.
I started out making a simple polish sausage. I made this using a little bit different technique. I brined a pork shoulder along with a little extra pork fat in a salt, sugar, and garlic brine overnight. When it came time to make the sausage I just added a little marjoram and a little more garlic. I fried up a little patty to test it out and it was great. My wife is not a sausage lover but she even liked it. I think it had lots of flavor but a pretty simple sausage.
I was a little worried about the sausage stuffing but it wasn't too bad. I used natural casings and used the instructions provided by Carol and Jenni for stuffing. The casings were actually kind of fun to work with - like a big long balloon. I only had them burst once and that was near the end anyway so no big deal. I was using the KitchenAid attachment and I did have a little but of trouble with it getting big air pockets forced through. I just went slow and kept a pin handy to poke some holes. It was not a fast process but I was very happy with the final result.
Here is where that other Christmas gift came into play. My wife also got me a very nice Masterbuilt Electric smoker. I normally prefer fresh sausages but I thought I should take the opportunity to try smoking a portion of the sausages. I used apple wood and smoked them at 160 degrees F for about 4.5 hours.
Next I decided to create my own sausage. I decided to make a buffalo chicken sausage ( named for Buffalo Wings - not Buffalo :) ). Here is my recipe:
Grind 1.5 lb fatty pork (I used pork sholder mixed with some extra fat) and 1.5 lb chicken thigh meat.
Add 1/2 c Frank's Hot sauce and allow to marinate for a few hours.
Mix in :
3 stalks celery finely chopped
1/2 lb blue cheese crumbled
1/2 c beer
I then stuffed them into the hog casings. I did have a little more trouble with stuffing the chicken sausage. The celery would clog up the KitchenAid attachment so I kind of did it by hand. Took a little longer but it worked.
I ended up cooking these right in the middle of Winter Storm Nemo and decided to grill them. Nemo did not hit Minnesota too bad, but not a day I would normally be grilling on. I was very happy with the results. Can't say they were the best sausages ever, but pretty good for a first attempt. My favorite would have to be the Buffalo Chicken - less spicy than I thought they would be but nice flavor with the hot sauce and blue cheese mixed in. The smoked sausages came out a little dry - must have smoked them a little too long.
Very fun challenge - can't wait for the next one!
P.S. I mentioned last month I was going to be doing the polar plunge. Well my five year old son decided to join me. We raised a total of $462 for Special Olympics MN. That's us in the back and you can probably tell from the look on our faces it was very cold.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
I have worked with several people from the Netherlands and have even gone to a Dutch themed tulip festival in nearby Pella, Iowa and one thing I have learned is that the Dutch know their treats. If you don't believe me just try a stroopwafel if you ever get the chance.
In this months challenge Francijn (from the Netherlands) starts out teaching us some Dutch history and all about the spice trade. The bakers guilds in the Netherlands would create secret spice mixtures and one still used today is known as Speculaas. It seems like everyone makes it differently (similar to a curry mix) but Francijn gave us some good guidelines to create our very own Speculaas mix.
We also created our own Almond paste and put it all together to make Gevulde Speculaas (or stuffed Speculaas). When I put this together it did not go together quite as nice as in Francijn's pictures. There was no way I could get the rolled dough into a pan in one piece. The good news is that it didn't really seem to matter - I was able to kind of press it together in the pan and after it baked no one would ever know.
The combination of scents and flavors was amazing. Lucky this even made it until it was fully baked because it smelled so good in the oven. I did taste it before it got too cool and it was delicious warm. Nice and soft with the warm flavors of the spices and the nice sweet almond filling. Definitely a recipe I will keep for the future - might be something nice to make at Christmas time. If you would like to try out this recipe you can find it in the Daring Kitchen Archives - join us!
I normally send a bunch of the treats I make to my wife's work so I don't end up eating the entire pan (not that I couldn't do that). Well this time was a little different. I live in MN and for those of you that don't know MN gets pretty cold (a few days I woke to -17F or -27C). One of the crazy things people do here is called the Polar Bear Plunge and this year I decided to do it. In about two weeks they will be cutting a hole in the ice at a local lake and I will be jumping into it. It is all for a good cause - we are taking pledges to support Special Olympics MN. Well I turned my Gevulde Speculaas into a bit of a mini bake sale at my wife's work and took donations for my polar plunge. I ended up getting $36 in donations.
If you are interested click on the link below. If it is before Feb 9 it will let you pledge to support Special Olympics MN in my name. After that date I think it is going to show a picture of how I look after jumping into freezing water - should be interesting.