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Pumpkin Carving


Our jack-o'lanterns this year. KT did the kitty and i did the crimson ghost. My ode to my old punk rock years.

New Methods of Retail Cutting (Bottom Round edition)

Not too much exiting to speak of this week at work. Pork butts are on sale and it's perfect grilling and smoking weather. Lots of Boston Butts and Western-style Butts going out the door. Same with rump roasts. An interesting thing I found a while ago while searching the beef.org site looking for cutting diagrams for a beef shoulder clod (to illustrate a point in an online discussion:

Bottom Round "Western Griller" steaks

Essentially, this is an entirely new way of cutting steaks from the Flat (Bottom Round). I was taught, and subsequently never seen anyone else stray from this method, to simply cross-cut steaks from the length of the flat. What this video shows is that if you remove the fat from the bottom, you can see that the grain actually runs with the width of the flat, not the length. And guess what? The resulting steaks are much more marbled, more tender, and just plain taste better than your traditional bottom round steak. What for me were once "good" Chicken Fried Steaks are now superb.

Assam-smoked Duck Sausage...


...with dried cherries and green peppercorns.

This was one of two items I did for a wedding this past weekend. The other being the bresaola that I posted about previously, and which I neglected to take photos of due to the mad rush this weekend trying to get everything done.

First, I deboned 4 whole ducks. Each was around 7 pounds. I removed any tendons as well as the skin and any fat. The skin and fat was set aside for rendering later. I then ran the meat through the grinder with a medium-coarse plate. I also save the wings, carcass and the tendons to make duck stock at a later date. I ended up with about 5 or 6 pounds of boneless duck meat.

To make the sausage:
6 pounds of duck meat
4 tbsp green peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp. kosher salt
1.25 C. dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 C. rendered, chilled duck fat, cubed

Mix the meat and cherries by hand until evenly distributed, then do the same with the fat. Be sure to keep the fat cold until the moment you use it.
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Then sprinkle the mixture with the pepper and salt and mix once more. The mixture should be plenty moist, with no need for additional liquid. If not, add duck stock as needed.

Stuff into medium hog casing. Chill and dry in the refrigerator for 24 hours. To smoke, either start your charcoal or plug in your electric smoker, and place in the chip tray or on foil 1/4 pound of soaked black tea leaved. I used Assam since it was the plainest black tea I could find in bulk, in my budget. I suggest smoking only until the sausages are rare, since this is duck, after all. The texture may be objectionable to some, so it by no means is required. It took me about 2 hours to achieve rare, so figure 4 hours if you want a sausage that is completely done. This is a very rich, sweet sausage with very good mouth feel. I recommend peeling the casing off the sausage before serving. It's excellent with dry red wine, crusty bread and a bold cheese, such as Fourme d'Ambert, Morbier, or Mont D'or.

Dry Aged Glamour Shots


Weekend that flew by...

It's Sunday night, and I can't believe that the weekend is over. Friday night was suppose to be low key, just a few beers with the boys and home so I could go into work early the next morning. Well, a couple beers at the bar, then I went with my buddy Mike's house and drank a few with him on his front porch. Then, after leaving to go home, called another buddy and met up at the lamest party. Finished up the sixer from earlier and made it home only a few hours before I had to leave for work. This is something I haven't done since I was in college. I'm obviously not up to task for it anymore.

Saturday at work was the slowest, most boring day in ages. The little town had a Fall Festival, and the streets were blocked off. No one was buying groceries. I think I cut a couple of things, and just sat around talking to other workers.

Saturday night we had all agreed to go to Wave, so KT and I met up with Mike and Em and Martha and had some wine at a restaurant, then made our way to the dance party. I started feeling bad, so I decided I wouldn't drink the rest of the night. Good decision for my stomach, but it was the worst Wave I've ever been to. The DJ was hands down the worst I've ever seen at a club. Missed the monitor mute countless times, cut songs early, wouldn't play anything upbeat. Just mindbogglingly bad DJ'ing. Oh well, I knew the doorman and got in free. It was nice hanging out with other couples, too.

Today I just hit the library (picked up Charlie Trotter's cookbook and a Jean-George one), did a little cooking (spicy chipotle meatloaf, mixed my chili powder from my smoked peppers, boiled some eggs, just catch up stuff for the upcoming week) and watched the Metrostars knock out the Wizards from the MLS playoffs, and the Cards lose another game to the 'Stros. KT and I went to my parents for some dinner. I guess in retrospect that's a lot of things, but it seems like I was just finishing off my Friday evening.

Equiptment Auction...

Tons of stuff from the former Diggs Packing facility in Columbia went up for auction this morning. If only I had a truck and a few more hundred dollars, I could have set up a new shop, no problem. Large goods like the grinders, patty machines, cryvac machine, etc. went for pennies on the dollar. Tables went really cheap. There was an entire double sided coffin case (which would have been toooooo big for my needs) an entire 12' x 24' walkin, and oh so much more. Wanna know what I left with? Two ham stuffers and 4 full sheet pans. I had no place for any of the large goods, and all the small good went for so much more than they were worth. Used, crappy boning knives were going for $3+ and new, Foerschner boners were selling for more than Bunzl charges. It was a very weird auction. Several platform scales went for ~$200, but the best, a giant tabletop 400# capacity went for $100. Just goes to show you never know what people will buy and what they won't.

Anyway, I left, had some KFC (which I haven't had in a long, long time, and forgot how good they are) got my hair done by my pal Jason, then did some grocery shopping. Nothing really intersting in my purchases to speak of..

Sausage crazy part deux

Today is my day off, so I'm firing up the smoker, to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and some sausages in the freezer in need of smoking. I use an electric smoker (much more consistant smoke and also our Condo assc. doesn't allow charcoal/open flame grills.) Usually pecan wood is used in the smokeing of Anduille, but it's hard to come by here, so I fell back on one of my old favorites, apple wood. It gives a very sweet, subtle smoke unlike hickory or oak. Pear is also very good, but I'm out at the moment. You could also use cherry, as well.

First up are some Porto-style Chorizo

Second are some Cajun Anduille

Here are the three on the smoker

Dry Aging Beef

Here's two striploins and a partial rib about half way through with the dry aging process. The basic gist of the process is keeping the meat just above freezing for about 28-30 days open to a low humidity environment. The enzymes break down the meat and the moisture evaporates, leaving a very tender, very tasty, almost creamy meat. It has such a complex taste and smell, not entirely unlike aged cheese.

The covering is just a single layer of cheesecloth to keep anything from falling onto it.

Some fun things

Just can't keep myself from ignoring the blog no matter how hard I try. Columbus was a ton of fun, I just wish I was going to Germany along with the team. Alas...

Anyway, I've secured my first true gig as an independent Charcuterie. I'm producing a couple of items for a friends wedding. First is a small Bresaola.

Normally these are done with a Top Round, but the wedding is only about 100 people, so I figured 1/2 that would work. I took a Knuckle and removed the bottom muscle, and left the side and center muscles connected. Then I brined for 5 days, and we're currently 1/2 through the drying process. I wish I had thought to take pictures before I hung it, but I'll be sure to update as it ages.

Next is a fresh duck sausage that I haven't started yet (and probably won't until a day or two before the dinner) I plan on doing whole duck meat, dried cherries, black and green pepper and then smoking with black tea. Doesn't really fit with the rest of the menu, but it was the Bride's prerogative.

I'm still trying my best at selling dry-aged beef. I've successfully dryaged whole striploins and whole ribs with great results but they don't sell as well as they should. I certainly blame the market. I took three beautiful dry-aged KC Strips over to my parents house the other week and we chowed down on them. My mother hadn't tasted dry-aged before, and was amazed at the beefiness and the complexity of the flavor. Once I get my logo finished up (soon I hope) I will be sure to leave her a stack of business cards to hand out to her co-workers.

Anyway, here was the fun for today:

It was cold for the first time this morning, and I had thoughtfully ordered some ribs so that I could put togeather some Short Ribs for braising. I (of course) brought some home and have them in the oven as I type. I'm braising them in some Dunkel, going to serve with some roasted cabbage and a potato and carmalized onion terine.