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!

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!

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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Unloxed

You can’t win them all.

Lately I’ve been having a good run with home curing. My duck prosciutto gets better with every preparation, my cured beef was a hit and the lox was off to such a good start. I’d like to say that it came out great. But this blog wouldn’t be complete without a few fail moments… and my lox is a good example.

My first problem was that none of the recipes I found could seem to agree on how long to leave the salmon in the curing rub. The curing time suggested by various bloggers/recipe sites ranged between 24 hours and 72 hours; quite a difference!

I chose to go long, pulling the fish out around the 50+ hour mark. That proved to be a little bit too long. The edges and top were over-cured; more like a salmon jerkey (which incidentally tasted great) than what you’d expect out of lox. Once I started shaving pieces off and got past the first layer I got the full lox flavor/texture that I was looking for. I probably would have been better suited to cure it for 24 hours.

The second mistake I made, which probably contributed as much to my unhappiness with the finished product as the extended curing time, was the weight of my prized south philly cement chunk. It was just too heavy. In conjunction with keeping the fish in the curing rub for an extra two days, the excess weight flattened the hell out of my salmon.

With the edges “jerkied” and the fish flattened, the 1lb of Salmon only yielded enough meat for three bagels-worth of lox. I think that adjusting all the variables will produce the desired result.

Final result: The flavor was great. Brown sugar/sugar/salt was a perfect rub, even without the smoked salt. Once the dryer pieces were removed (and consumed!) the second layer could have passed as a “bought at the deli” cut of lox. With a shorter cure/lighter weight I think that home cured lox is cost effective and tasty enough to try again.

A lock on Lox

I learned a very important lesson while shopping for home cured lox supplies; the Philadelphia Police Department gets easily weirded out by a large tattooed man walking down the sidewalk with a Whole Foods shopping bag in one hand and a giant chunk of cement in the other.

So much so that they’re likely to drive by twice, then finally ask “is everything alright” to said large tattooed cement holding gentleman. Claire suggested that they were probably worried that I was going to brick someone’s window (on a main street, at 2pm, with a Whole Foods shopping bag in one hand) and as such their query was warranted. Me? I have other theories that I could blabber on about, but since tonight’s update is about Lox; let’s move on.

I sort of go either way on seafood. I like it (broad generalization for so many different meats and ways to cook them) but I usually don’t find myself craving it. One constant exception is lox. Salty goodness that tastes good on a bagel, in an omelette, or just eaten on it’s own. It’s also pricey.

So we decided to make our own. We had all the makings, except for salmon, so I took a $20 out of my “Shawn’s Rainy Day” envelope and headed out to Whole Foods. I’m generally not a fan of the chain; their anti foie gras nonsense from a few years ago being one of several factors, but when it comes to fresh seafood in my area… Whole Foods is the best choice.

I told the fishmonger that I was making lox, so he picked out an impressive one pound piece of wild caught salmon. He gave it the once over for me, removing the pesky pin bones and wrapped it up. Total price: $14.

I picked up a lemon and some key limes, coincidentally enough I was going to be cooking baked salmon with key lime butter and citrus zested asparagus for dinner tonight. For someone who rarely eats seafood, I was in omega-3 overload.

The only thing I was missing was something heavy to weigh down the fish during the curing process. Luckily… South Philly provides. I found a nice chunk of cement. Perfect size and weight and belonging to whomever picked it up. Without slowing down I scooped it up and kept right on walking. Eliciting some stares from folks along my way (giant tattooed guy with a brick) as well as a brief chat with one of Philadelphia’s finest (giant tattooed guy with a brick), I knew that all of this would be worth the trouble.

So. Dinner has been cooked. The key lime butter was outstanding with the salmon fillets. The asparagus perfect with lemon zest and garlic. After the kitchen was cleaned up, I started getting ready for the lox preparation.

1 lb. fillet of salmon
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1c. kosher salt

Directions:

Combine the sugars/salt. Mix till it resembles sand. Lay out enough plastic wrap to fully cover your fish+cure. Sprinkle enough of the cure on the plastic wrap to fully cover the bottom of the fillet. Once placed, pack on the remaining cure. Cover the entire fillet. You want to see all cure and no salmon.

Tightly wrap the fillet leaving a small section open on one corner for the juices to run out. Place the wrapped salmon in a steel pan, and weigh down with a brick/ cans of soup/ etc. Something that will press the cure into the meat and the liquid out of it. If you use a brick, wrap in aluminium foil.

The curing process can take from one to three days.

When completed, unwrap and rinse the fish. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel and slice thinly.

As always, I’ll update you guys on how things went.
Until then…
Cheers!

Shawn