Comfort Foods: Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts were my favorite childhood snack.
We’d get them from roadside vendors; farmer’s markets dotted the major roads in the town I grew up in and every market had large cauldrons of boiled peanuts simmering. Pull up in your car, get some produce and a bag (plastic inside of paper) of boiled peanuts. Some vendors would even give you a second bag for your shells.

Convenience stores down South also had them, in regular and cajun, but it was never quite the same.

Imagine my surprise when I moved to Philly and they were nowhere to be found. With some searching I managed to find the canned variety at select supermarkets, which do in a pinch but for my money, fresh is best.

So today I threw a few pounds of fresh goobers into the crockpot with a little under 1/2 cup of salt, a handful of peppercorns and a few cloves of garlic. They’ve been slow cooking all day and are just about done. A little salty for a latenight snack, but when a craving hits you do what you’ve got to do!

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Corned Cow’s Tongue- An update

My brother Robert called me this morning reminding me that we had promised to go out to Hammonton, NJ and BBQ with our Dad; which could be an all day visit.

My corned beef was entering it’s fifth full day in delicious brine and I wasn’t really sure how long I could safely leave it submerged. So… thinking quickly… I packed a stock pot, a bag of carrots and an onion and my deli slicer and hopped in the car with Claire. Who herself had packed a full compliment of baking supplies!

Forty five minutes later we were in Hammonton, and as my Pop fired up the grill, started preparing for the three hour simmer. Aromatics chopped and stock pot ready, I had to fold the tongue to fit it in the Le Creuset stock pot; which caused a bit of an issue when the water finally came to a boil. Turns out cow tongues and heat don’t get along. Left alone, the tongue flexed in the pot and knocked the lid off!

We let it simmer while we prepared dinner. And while we watched TV. And while we cleaned up.
When it was finally done I dropped it into an icebath to stop the cooking. The outer membrane tightened up considerable and was much easier to peel off than I had expected. Once it was totally skinned (and a few pieces sampled) I put it back into the cooler pot liquor and stored it for the trip back to Philadelphia.

When we got back to Xanadont, I fired up the deli slicer and shaved off a full sandwich worth of meat, which I put on spicy mustard smeared sour dough bread. Tomorrow I’m going to get some cole slaw fixins and pickles an try a different style sandwich.

I was happy with how my first brining experience came out and thanks to my handy brine bucket, will most likely be soaking something again soon!

Corned Cow’s Tongue

No matter how you slice it, (I prefer thinly) tongue has a bad reputation.
“I don’t want to taste something that can taste me back” and other cheeky comments aside, there’s an innate distaste for the tongue that’s seemingly cultural. A popular item in Mexican, Asian and European cooking, the tongue is a muscle that’s surprisingly tender when cooked.

I swung by Cannuli’s in Philadelphia’s Italian Market on Wednesday and picked up a fresh cow’s tongue with the intention of corning it. I’ve never really worked with brining before, so this would be a fun little experiment all around.

I had all the ingredients onhand save for pickling spice and a container big enough to hold the tongue, so once everything was picked up, I started preparing the brine. It came together quite easily, leaving an amazing aromatic odor in my kitchen.

While the brine was cooling, I washed the tongue and the brining bucket and did a little kitchen cleanup. With the brine refrigerated, I poured it over the meat and used a sterilized mason jar to keep it weighed down. Now all that’s left is patience. In five days it will be ready to cook.

Pickles

Claire and I had an amazing weekend. After hosting a tattoo convention afterparty on Friday, a busy Saturday and getting tattooed on Sunday by my buddy Rick Lohm, we deserved a break.

The way our schedules line up has Monday as our “weekend”. Which is great for hotel rates… We secured a nice room in Atlantic City for $44(which a friendly desk clerk named Sayed upgraded to an even nicer room) and spent the day doing coupley stuff.

Wandering the boardwalk, buying saltwater taffy and Steel’s fudge and enjoying each other’s company.

Tuesday saw a return to the real world- Claire returned to her volunteer placement and I had time to kill in the kitchen. I decided to buy supplies for homemade pickles. I haven’t made them since I was a teenager, and even then I had my Mom’s help. So supplies purchased I waited for Claire to get home. Four hands and a cool head usually do better than my solo experiments.

While we prepared the pickle brine and chopped the cucumbers, Claire made a leftover charcuterie pizza. Duck prosciutto. Locally cured chorizo and citrus coriander salami topping a garlic butter brushed pie.

We timed it just right. The jars were pulled out of the waterbath right around the time the pizza had cooled and been cut.

Dish towels covering the garlic dill pickles, we left our newborns to cool and seal while we watched an SVU marathon.

By the following morning, all six jars had sealed. We’re going to let them rest for a few days and check back in with a taste report!

Atlantic City pictures after the break!

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Mozzarella Cheese- delicious frustration.

Since most of my food experiments seem to be meat based, I decided to go off course and try my hand at cheese making. Mozzarella seemed like a great first cheese. Recipes were abundant, supplies (rennet, citric acid) readily available and the process seemingly 1, 2, 3.

I decided to spring for locally produced milk; pasteurized but not ultra pasteurized. Apparently not supporting big markets like Superfresh and Acme comes with a price; and that price is $3.95/Quart. This was already starting to be a risky proposition. If I screwed up, which is always a possibility (see Lox) I would be out dang near $20. With good mozzarella going for about $5/lb… the potential was there for a very unhappy Shawn.

When the rennet and citric acid finally showed up I purchased the milk. Recipes ready, I followed them to the letter. The letters weren’t really consistent from recipe to recipe; cooking temperature, amount of citric acid and rennet, expectations of a nice thick layer of curd… everything was a little different.

Little Chef Claire was on hand to help keep my frustration at bay; as I adjusted rennet & citric acid quantity, cooking temperature and the straining process to something unrecognizable to all of the recipes I used as reference.

Straining the curds from the whey was “icky” and time consuming. We eventually resorted to cheese cloth to help strain it, appropriately enough. At this point, we were convinced we’d made ricotta. The kneading was constantly producing more and more whey and the curds weren’t bonding. Going back to one of the recipes, I decided to pop the pre-mozzarella into the microwave for 20seconds. Heating it up pushed out more whey and helped the curds start melting together. Repeat. Repeat. As the short trips to the microwave continued the blob of curd started to become cheese. It started getting stretchy. My frustration gave way to being geeked that I had just MADE CHEESE.

Claire took pictures of me pulling the cheese two, three feet. It was awesome.

I sampled a little piece. Amazing.

I couldn’t wait to get the pictures she took resized to include in this post. Then my macbook and my card reader had a disagreement and it deleted all of the pics she took. Of the cheese making process. Of the ribeyes and foie gras from the other night. Of the vanilla bean and snickers ice cream she made after I finished the cheese.

All gone.

Win some loose some. Pardon the iPhone Hipstamatic pictures.