Going to California and Other Happenings

•March 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to cook at the El Dorado Country Club in Palm Springs, California.  The chef/owner of Red Sky, Matt Bolus, asked me to go with him several months ago and I can’t believe its already time to leave.  We will have three days to prepare a low country style pig picking for about 150 country club members on March 21.  I will be posting details of the trip and plenty of photos when I return.

There are currently many charcuterie projects underway at the restaurant.  I have coppa, bresola, lonzino, and my first salami in the drying room.  This salami is my first attempt at using a live lactic starter culture.  This culture is the reason that salamis have their distinctive tang.  It also takes the ph of the meat below 5 which helps inhibit the growth of unhealthy bacteria.   The second round of bacon will be going into the smokehouse tomorrow.  Sean Thackery has been kind enough to allow us use of his smokehouse which should allow us to get a more controlled smoke and smooth the flavor out a bit.

Spring is upon us and I am working like crazy at the house preparing for the summer growing season.  I am growing everything that I think that I will want to eat.  I am trying to eliminate buying grocery store vegetables all together.  If there is anything that is not growing in the yard, I will be getting it from one of the area farmers.  I am ramping up tomato production this year in hopes that I can sell a few.  I currently have 36 little heirloom tomato seedlings that are just beginning to form true leaves.  The varieties include Cherokees, some french pink variety I traded for, and my favorite green zebras.  Also in the works: 3 types of beets, 3 types of radish, carrots, onions, chives, garlic, corn, beans, squash, watermelon, Malabar spinach, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers.  Most of these items are heirloom varieties.

Notes:

-Seed saving is addictive.  Seed trading is like a grown up version of baseball cards.  I actually sat in a friends back yard and traded seeds.  It was the most fun I have had in a while.

-I am addicted to my job.  I want to be there on my days off.

-No matter how much energy and love you put into your job, there are always fellow employees that just don’t appreciate it.

-Which is better, the chef that sees numbers or the chef that is more concerned with quality of food and work.  All good systems need both.  However, these two will not always see eye to eye.

-Charlie Trotter travels with personal security. Huh!

-Thyme seeds are ridiculously tiny.

-How is the ability to get instant information on any subject effecting the evolution of the human brain?

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Tuna Dish Rough Draft

•February 18, 2009 • 3 Comments

Tuna

potatoes, peas, spring onions, olives, soppresatta vinaigrette,

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Spring is approaching and with it comes a new menu.  This is one of the dishes that I am currently working out as an appetizer. This plays with components of the classic nicoise salad, and includes a  a soppresatta vinaigrette that gives a hint of acidity.

The original idea was to do the tuna as crudo, or raw, and it may end up that way.  Here, the tuna is lightly seared.  The vinaigrette is based on one I learned from Michael Kramer when he was the chef at McCrady’s.

Bacon is Ready

•February 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

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The bacon just came out of the smoker and we are quite pleased.  With a small nudge in the right direction by the staff at Benton’s, we cured this bacon for 10 days, hung it for 10 more, and then cold smoked it.  The next step in the evolution is to reign a greater control over the smoke since that is a large component of the flavor.  This time we used a mixture of oak, apple and pecan.  I plan on using only hickory as soon as it can be sourced.

With the busy season approaching, I have started several other curing projects for our charcuterie plate:  lonzino, coppa, saucisson sec, and lardo.

Lonzino is a salt cured and dried pork loin similar to  bresola. After spending 12 days on cure, it is hung to dry for around 20 days.

Coppa, also known as capicola, is a salt cured and air dried cut from the shoulder of the pig.  The muscle bundle on the side of the shoulder blade is used.  It spends 18 days on salt cure before being flavored, stuffed into a beef casing and air dried approximately 20 days.

Saucisson Sec is a french dried sausage as the name implies. Pork shoulder is ground with black pepper, garlic, and sugar.  It is then stuffed into casings and air dried for 14 days.

Lardo is the salt cured and air dried back fat from the pig.

I will post more pictures as the curing and hanging progresses.

Pickled Carrots

•February 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Since I have an abundance of carrots, I decided to pickle a few to use at the restaurant for my charcuterie plate. I am using an adaptation of a Thomas Keller Recipe for pickled pearl onions from Food&Wine magazine.
The pickling solution is:
1cup Red Wine Vinegar
1cup Water
1cup Sugar
3tablespoons Mustard Seed
1teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1teaspoon Corriander

Trim and peel the carrots. Blanch them in boiling salted water just until tender. Remove the
carrots and refresh in cool water. While the carrots are cooling, bring all of the ingredients for the pickling solution to a boil.
Transfer carrots to a container and cover with the pickling solution. They will be ready to use after a couple of hours but are best after several days.

Charcuterie Projects

•January 15, 2009 • Leave a Comment


Bacon:

This is something that I have always wanted to try. The pork bellies are being cured for seven days, after which they will spend a significant amount of time in the cold smoker. If the product is good, it will become part of my weekly routine at the restaurant. This will not only provide pride of craftsmanship, but will also save us money.


Canadian Bacon

I have been producing this product for a while now. We use it at the restaurant for both eggs benedict at brunch and on the charcuterie plate.
The pork loins, after being cleaned and trussed, go into a 48 hour brine. They are then smoked.

Summer Sausage:

This was one of my favorite things to eat as a child. I would get one every year for Christmas. My first attempt turned out well despite the wrong size casings. These are made out of finely ground lean beef that was fermented (the process by which the sausage gets its characteristic tanginess) before being stuffed and smoked.

Mortadella

•December 16, 2008 • 1 Comment


Growing up in rural East Tennessee, one of the staples in the refrigerator was Bologna. My great grandmother often made fried Bologna sandwiches and it was one of my favorite things. Although I have not had one in many years, I can still remember watching the bologna rise to a dome in the pan before my grandmother cut notches to return it to its flat state. The edges were caramelized and crunchy. She served it on toasted “white bread” with mayonnaise.

The bologna I ate was a simple version of the sausage Mortadella of the Bologna region Italy. Mortadella may have gotten its name from two different plausible manners. Firstly, it is theorized that the name derives from myrtle (mortella in Italian), one of the original ingredients. The name could also have derived from the production technique in which the meat is ground to a paste with a mortar and pestle (mortella della carne).

Mortadella is an emulsion type sausage. This means that the fat and lean components of the meat are combined together and interspersed into a smooth paste. Typically, these sausages follow a 5-4-3 ratio: 5 parts lean raw meat, 4 parts fat, and 3 parts ice water. Both the fat and lean meat is ground through a small meat grinding die and then emulsified in a high speed mixer or blender before being stuffed into casings and cooked.

I recently tried to make my first mortadella (as seen in the picture) and had some success. I emulsified the paste in a standing Hobart mixer which probably kept it from becoming the typical smooth paste associated with this type of sausage. I have a few ideas as to how to make it better on the next attempt.

Caramelized Pear Salad

•December 8, 2008 • Leave a Comment


Caramelized Pear Salad
Arugula, Forme D’ambert, Candied Walnuts,
Crispy Benton’s Prosciutto, Balsamic