Charcuterie

Grilled Chorizo and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers

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I picked the last of my poblano peppers from the garden today. Fall is closing in and the temps are threatening to drop into the low 30s at night next week. Before I escape on a Caribbean cruise, I need to complete the harvest and clean out the garden.

Picking poblanos this summer has meant grilling Chorizo and Quinoa Stuffed Poblano Peppers. I adapted this recipe from Joshua Bousel’s Grilled Chorizo Stuffed Poblano Peppers (http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/03/grilled-chorizo-stuffed-poblano-peppers.html).

My adaptations to his recipe was driven by an attempt to make it a little healthier and through necessity. For the healthier part, I use quinoa in place of his white rice. On the necessity side, I cannot find all of his ingredients. In place of Mexican crema, I use creme fraiche and the zest and juice of half a lime. In place of the cotija cheese, I use queso fresco. For some heat, I added some jalapeños. Today, I used some of my Hot Fish Peppers in place of the jalapeños.

The poblanos from my garden are not large. I find the below is enough for 8 peppers. I freeze half of the stuffing and use it for the next batch.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2/3 lb Mexican chorizo, removed from casings and crumbled
1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 medium roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup creme fraiche
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup queso fresco, crumbled
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
4 large poblano peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add in chorizo and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
2. Add quinoa, tomatoes, jalapeño, cilantro, creme fraiche, lime zest and juice and queso fresco to bowl with meat mixture and mix until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Spoon mixture into cavities of split poblanos.
4. Arrange grill for indirect cooking and preheat. Place poblanos over indirect heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on pepper jack cheese and continue to cook for another 15 minutes until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and browned.
5. Remove from grill and serve.

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Bacon Makin’ #2

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Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip. 1,2,3…yup that’s 6 flips. It was a belly flipping week. Every day I flipped the belly to ensure all sides are evenly cured. By day seven, the meat was nice and firm and almost ready for smokin’.

I removed the belly from the storage bag and rinsed off the brine well to reduce the saltiness of the bacon. Commercially, I buy reduced sodium bacon. I did not want this bacon to be any saltier than that.

Following rinsing, I patted the belly dry and placed it uncovered on a rack in the refrigerator for another 24 hours. This step forms the pellicle. What’s a pellicle, you ask? The pellicle is a tacky coating of proteins on the surface of the meat which allow smoke to better adhere to the surface during the smoking process.

I use a Weber Smoky Mountain smoker. Being charcoal based, it is somewhat difficult to maintain a temperature as low as 200 degrees F, but doing it in the winter helped. It’s easier to keep the smoker cooler when it is below freezing outdoors. I also use the Minion method for fueling and starting the smoker. This allowed me to control the temperature better: thanks Jim.

Weber Smoky Mountain
Weber Smoky Mountain Smoker

Once the charcoal was lit and the temp stable, I threw on several chunks of Apple wood and the belly. I used apple because it give off a lighter smoke than something like hickory. I was looking for an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Any higher and the fat would start rendering out.

I did have some difficulty keeping the temperature at 200 degrees and after 1 1/2 hours the internal temp of the meat was nearing 150. I wanted to keep the meat on the smoke as long as possible. With some judicious opening of the lid to let some heat escape, I was able to hold the internal temp of the belly at 145 for another hour. After 2 1/2 hours, the smokin’ was complete.

Smoked Boar Bacon
Smoked Boar Bacon

Out of the smoker, the bacon went into the frig for the night. In the morning, I sliced in. As I mentioned in the last post, wild boar is extremely lean. This bacon had almost no fat.

Wild Boar Bacon
Wild Boar Bacon

I did a thick slice and fried some up with eggs. The bacon was so lean that I actually needed to add some fat to the pan in order to cook the eggs.

Sliced and ready to eat
Sliced and ready to eat

In the spirit of full disclosure, the bacon was way too salty. Next time, I will probably cut back on the amount of salt and possibly the number of days I let the belly cure. But all was not lost. I simply blanched the bacon for 60 seconds and the saltiness was reduced significantly.

I then vacuum sealed individual meal portions and a couple of packages of lardons and threw them into the freezer.

 Ready for the freezer
Ready for the freezer

It was an interesting adventure and I have several weeks of nice lean bacon. I will do a few things differently next time including maybe doing savory bacon instead of the sweet breakfast variety; because, why not? Overall, I would say it was a success and I had some fun with it. You cannot ask for much more than that.

As Chef John at Food Wishes says, Enjoy.

Bacon Makin’ #1

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This is my first time out of the gate with making bacon. I ordered a whole, skinless wild boar belly from Marx Foods. Broken Arrow Ranch, my usual game supplier, was out of stock. As it turned out, they had it back in stock the following day, but by then Marx had already shipped. Wild Boar is significantly leaner than pork. As a result, the belly had very little fat and will produce a nice meaty bacon. Took a nice 3 lb piece and started the process.

3 lb Wild Boar Belly from Marx Foods
3 lb WIld Boar Belly from Marx Foods

I used the basic dry cure recipe from Michael Ruhlman’s book “Charcuterie.” In this case, I used 1 pound of kosher salt (Morton’s), 2 ounces of pink salt (Insta Cure #1), 1/4 cup of maple sugar and 1/4 maple syrup.

Yes, I know all the arguments against nitrites, but I also know all the arguments against botulism. The bacon will be smoked at a low temperature for a long period of time. Avoiding botulism just seemed like a sensible step.

The Sausage Maker happens to have a store about 15 minutes from my house. A quick trip secured a one pound box of Insta Cure that should last awhile.

The maple sugar and syrup will add sweetness and this will be breakfast bacon. I was stuck using Grade A dark amber syrup. I would have much preferred Grade B, but the stores don’t sell it.

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Dry Cure ingredients

I used the salt box method from appyling the dry ingredients of the cure. This entails placing the cure on the bottom of a pan and simply pressing the meat into the cure and shaking off any excess.

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Applying the dry cure

Once the dry ingredients were in place, I placed the belly into a large storage bag and then drizzled the maple syrup onto the meat. This went into the refrigerature for seven days and will be flipped daily.

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Bagged and ready to cure

Late next week, it will be smokin’ time.

Adventures in Sausage-making: Merguez

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Thanks to my new KitchenAid grinder and stuffer attachment, I have begun exploring the world of Charcuterie. Inspired by the Mediterranean thanksgiving meal this past year (see my previous post), I started with some Merguez, a spicy Moroccan lamb sausage. The recipe I used was a variation on Brian Polcyn’s and Michael Ruhlman’s recipe in “Charcuterie: The Craft Of Salting, Smoking, And Curing” (W.W. Norton, 2005). I liked the idea of the roasted red peppers for additional sweetness and the red wine for additional moisture and flavor.

Recipe:
6 lb. lamb
12 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups roasted red pepper, diced
3 Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
1 1/2 Tablespoon Ground Fennel Seeds
3 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
3 Teaspoons Ground Coriander Seed
3 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry red wine, chilled
1/4 cup ice water

Living in a rural, small city, my challenge is always finding the right ingredients. Even with Wegmans only a mile away, local shelves are often lacking in anything other than the run of the mill. This time my challenge was pork fat. Who would have thought that something as common as fatback would be so difficult to find? It seems that unless you live in the South or have a real butcher, fatback is unobtainable. Luckily, I bought a rather fatty piece of lamb: a boneless leg. Many recipes call for lamb fat anyway and it actually seems more appropriate. It also sealed the decision on adding the roasted red peppers and wine for moisture. Purchasing harissa was also an issue. Many recipes rely on harissa for the spice and heat. In the Polcyn/Ruhlman recipe, all the ingredients for harissa are included in the base recipe. I probably would have made the harissa from scratch anyway.

The grinding and mixing went well. I kept the meat and grinder cold, as recommended. I did add some additional red peppers at the end of the mixing as the sausage lacked some heat.

Traditionally, Marguez is stuffed in lamb casings. Lamb casings are thinner and more along the line of breakfast sausages. I suspect that the reliance on lamb casing has more that do with regional aversion to pork than the preference for thin sausages. Pig casings were easier to obtain locally and I prefer the larger links.

The stuffing was a little bit of a challenge. It was difficult to keep air out of the casings. When I pushed the mixture all the way down to the auger and then pushed in more mixture, I added air to the mix and thus into the casing. I found it advantageous to use shorter lengths in order to easily burp them. When twisting them into links, I discovered that I had overstuffed some of the casings. I lost three links to burst casings. Next time I will keep them a little thinner.

On a humorous note, after soaking the casings I only rinsed half of them inside and out. The rest I left in a bowl by the sink. I was not sure I would need all of them. I could always rinse any additional lengths that I needed. As I was stuffing the rinsed casings, I turned off the KitchenAid mixer and heard some strange noises near the sink. I turned around to see one of our cats chowing down on the casings. She had devoured all but one long one. Luckily, that remaining casing was all I needed for this batch.