Happy Holidays!

Christmas is upon us.
Claire and I are going to be BBQ’ing outdoors with the family tomorrow for our yearly ‘steak & eggs’ Crimma brunch. Present opening, meat on the grill and eggs and taters. We started the tradition a few years ago, but I think this is the first time we’re doing it on the grill.

I’m hoping to devote more time to the MI blog in 2011. It’s crazy times with Claire doing her Master’s work (in Social Work) and working two jobs. We don’t get as much time in the kitchen as we used to. Cooking is such a communal activity for us; we’re such social eaters/cooks that being in the kitchen, dancing around each other as one chops and one minds the frying rabbit/beef/what have you.. it’s an important part of our relationship and we’re going to try to get back into the swing of things as she starts her second semester.

Oh; the salumi in the update is a Musica from Criminelli.
From their website:

“Musica Salami, or Salame della Musica, is a regional specialty from an Alpine town outside of Biella. The name comes from the frequent requests for this salami from the local band. They insisted that its strong flavor, thanks to the addition of pork liver and clove, gave them energy to continue playing through the night. You can think of it as the original Italian energy bar. The flavor starts out like a salami and finishes like a liver pâté.”

They’re totally right. It does finish like a pate’.

Happy Holidays everyone; regardless of how you choose to spend them!


Late Night Cravings- an update

Update on my Late Night Cravings post:

Cured beef.
Wow. I didn’t expect my first attempt to come out this flavorful. The curing solution of sugar/salt with the worcestershire black pepper and truffle salt gave the meat a very distinct taste; leaving a softer than jerky texture and dark brown/purple-ish color. I sliced it on the meat slicer into 1/4″ wide strips after rubbing it with a black pepper rub. Next time, I’ll use a thicker steak. Total cost on this was about $3.50 sugar/salt use included.

Chai Tea Ice Cream.
It came out great. Spice-full. Maybe too much. I haven’t decided yet. I used six Tazo tea bags and I think four or five might have been enough. But the finished product is still immensely good. I could see eating it with a slice of pumpkin pie.

I’m thinking about making pickles this week; if it works out, expect an update!

Late Night Cravings

I accomplished very little today, despite my best efforts. It was a lazy day off spent mostly catnapping and movie watching. The unfortunate side effect is that I’m wide awake at one a.m. and don’t want to disturb my lovely little Chef Claire who’s upstairs trying her best to get to sleep.

So instead of heading to the basement to watch a movie, I’ve found myself in the kitchen.

Tonight’s first project was Ice Cream #3: Chai Tea.
I liked #1 (Vanilla) but found #2 (Orange Blossom Honey) to be foul. Honey is one of those “a little goes a long way” things; particularly orange blossom honey, and while the finished ice cream was good on a preparation level, it was just a bit too honey for me.

The Chai is a risky choice. I’m not really in my ice cream making comfort zone yet; not enough to deviate from recipes. Flavor balancing with sweets is new to me…. and for the Chai, I went off recipe. The book I’ve been using for recipes only had a listing for Earl Grey. I used Chai instead, so let’s hope that the amount of sugar and other ingredients balances out the spice level of five bags of tea.

For the record, my least favorite part of ice cream making is removing the egg yolks from the whites. It’s disconcerting to feel them separate in my hands. I’m going to hit up Fante’s in the Italian Market this week for some new knobs for my stove/oven; I think I’ll look for one of the de-yolker doodlehickies.

Tonight’s second project was: Cured Beef.
Emboldened by my last duck breast prosciutto, but without the proper resources for a cured salami (I still need live started cultures) I decided to do a cured beef. Sort of like a hybrid of beef jerky and bresaola.

The recipe and prep are simple; I just hope I picked a good cut of meat. I went for something with very little fat for fear of it going rancid. The setup is just like the duck prosciutto, but instead of a basic salt cure, this recipe calls for sugar, too.

¾ cup sea salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 steak
Black Pepper. (I used worchesteshire flavored pepper!)

Lay a bed of the curing mixture down, put the steak on top of it. Cover it with the remaning mixture, and let sit in the refrigerator for three days. Unlike the duck, it doesn’t need to be cured afterwards. No cheese cloth/hanging for a week. Just cut and enjoyed.

I’ll do updates on both projects when they’re done!

Meat and Cheese

The cooler months are perfect for dry curing; humidity and temperature is much easier to control. The weather started changing recently in Philadelphia, so to celebrate I hung my first prosciutto of of the season. I mixed up the dry rub this time; running rosemary, black peppercorns and truffle sea salt through a round in my mortar and doubling the amount of rub used on previous ducks.

Claire and I took the prosciutto down earlier today and made a meat and cheese plate featuring the duck and joined by seared foie gras and sweetbread sausages, a truffle infused cow’s milk cheese, cumin infused cheese and a very garlicky cow’s milk cheese.

I made use of the meat slicer that Claire got me for Christmas, slicing the duck a little thicker than DiBruno’s usually does for a more solid bite.

As the fall progresses, I’m going to start experimenting with fermented cured sausages; until then… I’m going to enjoy the rest of this duck!

Porchetta di Testa

Porchetta di Testa

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend/Little Chef Claire swung by our local favorite Di Brunos to pick me up a little treat. She didn’t know what she was going to get me, but she knew that she wanted to pick up something amazing.

She asked our usual clerk for a recommendation; knowing my fondness for organ meat and the noble swine he picked a combination of Porchetta di Desta and Pecorino Romano. Claire picked up just enough for a few sandwiches and surprised me on an already lazy day off.

The porchetta was delicious; fatty, salty and full of texture. Tongue, cheek, ears, snout, meat and fat…. Offalgood.com describes it perfectly: “Translation a pigs head that is boned out then marinated for 2 days with rosemary and garlic rolled and tied then braised for 14 hours in a sous vide bag at 200 degrees to keep it all together.”

And made a few blocks from our house? Great choice.

Thick cut sourdough bread, honey mustard, cheese and meat. Lightly grilled with a pinch of milled garlic on the crust and it made for a very welcome lunch. That’s why she’s my little Chef!