Slow-cooked Chianti Beef Stew – Part 1

This is more Greek than Italian,. Maybe if Odysseus had been lured by the wonderful smell of this stew he would not have had himself bound to the mast but would have succumbed to the Sirens. He may have never returned to Penelope.

I am a fan of good stew beef but sometimes a bargain comes along and you have to make do :-).

I lucked out and found on sale Choice Sirloin Petite steaks for $2.99 a pound. Of course you need to expect the hidden fat but that just adds to the flavor.

Assemble your tools, good cutting block, beef, a good slicer and of course a bottle of Chianti. Medium price works great. If you are thirsty, have a beer instead.

Cut steaks into 1 inch cubes trimming excess fat at the same time.

After cutting, weigh the remaining beef. I had 4 pounds 10 ounces so I separated out 2 pounds and froze for a good Astoria Stew.

 

I like to weight the trash so I know what to expect in the future. I also like to weight the meat being used as it will help me determine the amount of seasoning and herbs used.

Trash pickup was 3 hours ago, bag the garbage to keep the rodents away. After all there will be 7 days to attract them.

Now I use a gallon zip lock bag to marinate the stew in. Pour in the entire 750 ml bottle of Chianti or any other red blend you like, add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.  Double bag and refrigerate for several hours. I prefer overnight.

Most of the time a recipe will call for 1/2 to 1 cup of red wine. We use an entire 750 ml bottle here.  Think of this as a Red Wine Stew instead of a Stew with Red Wine. There isn’t any comparison between the two. I would have still used the whole bottle if this was a normal 2lbs of beef stew.

Please go to Part 2 for the actual assembly of the stew.

 

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Cranberry and Orange Scones to compliment that first cup of Coffee

Francene and I were picking up a few items at our local market and there was a package of Cranberry-Orange Scones on the marked down table. They looked great and we hadn’t eaten so they looked even better.

A summit conference was held in the aisle and we decided that nice bowl of soup when we got home would be a better choice, and then we could make our own scones.

Now the problem with making your own baked goods is that there is only the 2 of us, Molly, the Jack Russell doesn’t count here.

We found a few good recipes, and the one that sounded the best was from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.  We especially liked the comments section where one Einstein said the recipe makes too many scones (16), so make the recipe, shape, mold and otherwise prepare everything for baking, then freeze most of them to be baked at a later date.

Duh, why couldn’t I have thought of that.

Ina Garten’s recipe is here.

When I bake I always rely on a recipe. To me, cooking is an art form and baking is a science. This means there is less room for error and substitutions, so I generally get everything out and measured before I start. It is better to stop and go to the store before the mixing begins.

Scones have a heavy yet flaky texture, and this is due more to the way the butter is added and mixed then most anything else.

The butter needs to be chilled and cubed, then mixed at slow speed until the butter has partially blended. There should be pea sized chunks in the dry mixture.

When you add the wet mixture, do so on the quicker side and mix at the lowest speed until just blended. Do not over mix or you will end up with biscuits instead of scones.

In addition to Ina’s recipe I increased the cranberry’s another 1/2 cup and added 1/2 cup coarse chopped pecans. I didn’t have a nice 3 inch cutter so I shaped three 7 inch circles and one 8 inch circle, then divided them into 4ths.

I then did an egg wash with the orange juice added and sprinkled some raw sugar on top so the glaze would occur during baking.

Before baking, I wrapped three of the rounds and put in the freezer, we sure didn’t need 16 scones beckoning to us at one time.

After baking at 400 degree for probably 22 minutes, the round was removed from the oven and left to cool, the 4 sections then pulled apart.

The rest of the rounds will be separated before baking as the first method left the center of the round or the end of each scone 3/4 baked. Not raw dough, but not evenly baked either.

The final verdict:  Easier to buy at the store, but taste better when you do them yourself. They where great with the first cup of coffee.

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We made the dough, now what do we do with it?

We got our hands sticky, we did something different, we made pasta dough. Not just any pasta dough but dough that has sun dried tomatoes and spinach blended into it. 

Working with dough is pretty straight forward, nothing about it should be intimating. First thing I do after setting up my Kitchen Aid mixer and attaching the pasta roller attachment is to get my floured work surface set up.

I then split the single batch of dough into thirds.

Set the roller to 0, the largest opening and the mixer to slow, start running your ball of dough through it. Leave the roller at 0 until you have a consistent and smooth  ribbon of dough.

You may have to add a little more flour if the dough is sticky or spray a mist of water onto the dough if it is to dry and crumbly.  This just takes practice to get the hang of it.

Now start feeding the dough through the roller  and close the gap as well. I usually skip a number each time. 0, 2, 4, 6 the 7. You would stop before seven for lasagna dough, etc. I like my spaghetti like angel hair.

This is harder to do with a dough that has had anything like tomato or spinach added to it. The additional vegetable infusion makes the dough less elastic than plain pasta dough would be.

When you have your desired thickness attach the pasta cutter of choice, here I have the spaghetti cutter attached. On slow speed feed the pasta ribbons you made through the cutter and then hang to dry. Here I use a pasta drying rack, very expensive and folds up flat for storage.

Store your fresh pasta in the refrigerator, It’s hasn’t dried to the commercial pasta level and will mold if sealed in an airtight container and left or stored at room temperatures.

Fresh pasta will cook in just 2 to 3 minutes, not the 20 for dried pasta.

 

Here is our homemade pasta served in a quick marinara made with our own canned tomatoes and homemade meatballs. I got a little messy with the Parmigiano Reggiano

 

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No Mom, no, please don’t make me eat Brussels Sprouts

Okay, to the point. Every child hates having to eat those over boiled, mushy Brussels sprouts. They are tasteless and just not at all appealing.  Golly, this sounds like a lot of vegetables our parents cooked for us.

Francene hates boiled Brussels sprouts, I have a close friend that hates boiled asparagus, put these foods on serving plates and the skip right over them.

Francene’s son told her that he loved Brussels sprouts, but not boiled, roasted. Roasted till some of the leaves actually turned black.  So she tried sauteing them with, cut in half, a little EVO. salt and pepper. It’s one of her favorite vegetables now.

That friend and asparagus, bbq asparagus that is, loves those skinny little stalks now. A little EVO, salt and pepper, then placed on a hot grill right after the steaks have been removed. Cook until dark grill marks appear and the asparagus spears are a delight to eat.

What made these often avoided vegetables not only acceptable but enjoyed was that they weren’t boiled to mush then served. Roasting, grilling and sauteing gives us control of how long to cook, and visually we are making our decision to remove them from the heat based on caramelization, the oxidation of sugar resulting in a nutty flavor and brown color.

The internet is a great place to look up roasted Brussels sprouts and asparagus, as there are so many slight variations, adding garlic, different spices and herbs. I haven’t seen a recipe that didn’t look good to me as well as adding a little variety. I would also suggest that you cook them al dente.  I know I don’t care for mushy vegetables.

Brussels sprouts can be frozen and if bought on the stalk you will have the freshest Brussels sprouts available year round.

It is simple to do, cut off the stalk with as little stem as possible, remove and the soft leaves and then blanch the spouts in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes, remove and give them an ice water bath.

Spread out on cookie sheets and freeze, then package into serving sizes. Vacuum sealed if possible.

Oh, those soft leaves, throw in the boiling water and cook for a few minutes. They are a great treat and way to get your dog eating their vegetables.

 

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Cream of Mushroom Soup, Oh Yeah

Years ago I had to cook it, or throw it out. We where leaving town for the weekend and some how I had 3 pounds of mushrooms in the fridge.  1 pound chanterelles and 2 pounds  baby portabellas. This was the beginning of my love affair with fungi.

This is a large recipe so have some freezer space available, And, yes, this freezes wonderfully.

Start with a couple of coarse chopped yellow onions sauteed  till caramelized. Deglaze the onions with half a cup of white wine. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper and then add the mushrooms, cover and simmer till the mushrooms have given up their moisture.

The onions and mushrooms have all been coarsely chopped, we want onions and mushrooms to break down and release their moisture, we don’t want to cook away the liquid.

   

Add 2 quarts of beef or bone broth, homemade is the best and homemade is also very healthy for you. Pour in the rest of that bottle of white wine plus some sage and simmer for about 10 minutes or so.

Be careful about the sage as to not overpower the delicate taste of the mushrooms. This should be a lightly seasoned dish and you can always add more. We grow our own sage and replace the container every year, so our sage would have considerably more flavor then that 8 year old bottle in your spice rack.

Since this is CREAM of mushroom soup, you need to add a thickener, for the richest taste and consistency add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Or substitute 2 cups of Greek yogurt.

Run through your blender for a very smooth soup, or use the boat motor if you like it a little chunky, your choice.

At this point, we do a final seasoning to taste, ladle it into our dishes, and enjoy something that tastes like it took hours to make.

If serving for a special occasion, garnish with a few thin slices of mushroom and a swirl of cream on top.

 

 

 

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I say Knockwurst, you say Knackwurst

Or, this could have been called a sausage of two cities. In America we have regional areas that where settled by different ethnic groups.  For instance, you have the Cajuns and the Creoles, simplified into country folk and city folk.  Of course there is much more to it than that, but hopefully you get my drift. But no matter how you may wish to compare our regions, their history only goes back a couple of hundred years. We may have had our Civil war but that didn’t significantly alter the ethnic background of the local residents. This can’t said about Europe. Since this is about German sausage you need to realize that the German Empire is very old and has included many diverse cultures.  Parts of France and Spain to the South and West, Czechoslovakia and parts of Western Russia were part of the Bavarian States. It took WW I and WW II to define what what we now think of as Germany.
So when I say Knockwurst and you say Knackwurst, we may be talking about the same sausage. Each region made sausage, but there may have been a shortage of spice group A in region 1 so the same sausage took on a different flavor.  When you remember that spices where a commodity greater than coinage you can better understand how flavors and techniques moved about. And who can eat a coin? The flavors evolved back and forth across Europe but not always the ingredients.  Confused?   A bag of cinnamon is easier to transport that a sack of turnips, and less perishable. So while looking for recipes to make these two sausages I settled on a Knockwurst version, but to tell the truth, the same sausage could be called Knackwurst 100 miles away. The recipes I used as my starting ground came from the cookbook Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing” Book by Rytek Kutas.  It doesn’t matter which cookbook you select, or if you find recipes on the Internet.  Just don’t use the prepackaged packets of chemicals sold by’ Hunter supply outlets’.  Mix your own spices. Our knockwurst called for veal.  Veal is hard to find and expensive. It is also out of favor by a population that thinks it has been raised inhumanly.  So, let’s not talk about Chicken. To find a substitute for veal the best suggestions I found was to get extra lean pork, cut it up and soak in whole milk for a day or two.  Chicken could also have been used but then the sausage would have to be cooked to a higher temperature.
After all the meat had been ground and then weighed, it was divided into the different sausages that would be made. The only difference was the percentage of ‘Veal’ used.
Then the spices, dried milk, protein powder, etc as added and mixed in.
The knockwurst raw sausage stuffing was then bagged, tagged and put in the refrigerator to be stuffed another day. This was because the sausage was warming up and I had three more flavors to make.

Stuffing, cooking and smoking our sausage is here.

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Sausage Stuffing Day, a day to remember

So here is all this sausage mix in the refrigerator and I am starting to dread forcing all through the Kitchenaid meat grinder and out the sausage tube.  It’s Friday afternoon and I have a job to do.  No, a real job that pays the bills.  So I decide to stop by Cabelas on the way home. There is a sausage stuffer in Portland on Craigslist by the Sausage Maker but I don’t want to drive downtown on maybe a lark.
I should have. Now there isn’t anything wrong with the Cabelas machine.  It’s quite nice actually, but if I had gone down town I wouldn’t have bought the collagen casings and used what I already had, real hog casings. I have to say after using the collagen casings, never again. The Collagen casings where supposed to hold 50 pounds of meat, mine where gone in 20 pounds. They also tore, split and ruptured in ways I have never had hog casings do. Also the Sausage Maker was a newer design and on Sunday when we finally got everything together two of the stuffing tubes where stuck together.   I had to do the round-trip thing delaying our day. Maybe the Craigslist one would have worked out of the box (they said ‘new in box’) Back to stuffing.  The stuffer should be mounted, but to what?   Drill holes in my island or counter.  I think not.  We settled on using the potting table.  We washed it off of course with a work slab of new wood on top of it.  We also had it set up on the patio so we had our little gas fire going for heat and ambiance.
After learning from our casing mistake, we ended up with 25 pounds of 4 different sausages.  If we had cooked and not smoked some of the Bratwurst and Knockwurst we would have had even more variety. After all this whole adventure was to get some good German Sausage.  See, there is even a can of German Beer on the table. In hindsight I should have had a roll of kitchen twine on hand and tied the links. The twine could have been removed after cooking and/or smoking. Smoking was the next step for the Brat and Knock Wurst, I have three different smokers and feel the Smokey Hollow upright unit would be best for this.  The Green Mount Pellet smoker/grill had difficulty maintaining an even heat when set to it’s lowest range of 150 degrees.
I believe it is better to hang the sausage in a vertical smoker if possible.
But the sausage would have to be hung in the Smokey Hollow instead of layered on racks. That’s where the kitchen twine would have come in handy. I was very unhappy with the Smokey Hollow at first.   It is a closed system so the smoke doesn’t leave.  It just builds up and will eventually over smoke, and over smoking is bitter. I installed a damper so I could have better control. There is a difference between a heavy smoke and smoking for to long. But at the end of the day we had 25 pounds of sausage that will enjoyed for a long time unless family begs it off of us, or we force it upon them.
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Bockwurst, Weisswurst, the great White Sausage

These two sausages follow the same story of Knack and Knock. They are almost the same and sometimes called by the others name.  We made both and I will show both recipes here.
Spices mixed into the meat mixture
Spices etc, mixed then added to the meat mixture

Sausage BOCKWURST

Bill’s notes: I will only make 5 lbs of Bockwurst so all ingredients will be cut in half.  Since all the sausage recipes will be made on the same day, it will be easy to combine and then divide the eggs. Ingredients for 10 Lbs. 2 cups of whole milk 5 b. Salt 2 Lb. powdered dextrose 1 Tb. Mace 1 Tb. Ground celery 4 Tb. Onion powder 1 Tb. Ground white pepper 6 pcs. fresh chopped chives or green onions 6 pcs. Chopped parsley 1 piece grated lemon peel 3 fresh whole eggs 3 lbs. boneless veal 5 lbs. lean pork shoulder 2 lbs. pork trimmings GRINDING Grind all the meat through a 1/4″ grinder plate, adding all the ingredients, and mix. Place in food processor and emulsify. STUFFING AND COOKING Bockwurst is stuffed into a 24-26 mm sheep casing and made in links 4-6 inches long, then hung on clean smokes-ticks. (Do not use a smokestick that can stain the casings, as bockwurst is a white sausage.) Sausage should be placed into the cooker or water and cooked until the internal temperature reaches 152° F. (Be sure the water temperature is not above 165° F). Place cooked sausage under cold shower for about 10 minutes to reduce internal temperature to 100° F and remove to cooler overnight. This sausage also can be frozen and cooked as it is needed. Bockwurst also is made as a very fine-textured sausage (emulsified) in the Western New York area. It is very popular at Easter time and also goes under the name of “white hot dogs”.
Water bath cooked with my Joule Souse Vide

Sausage WEISSWURST

Ingredients for 10 Lbs. 5 lbs. veal 5 lbs. lean pork butts 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk 4 Tb. salt 1/2 cup soy protein concentrate 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. dry parsley 4 Tb. ground mustard seed 1 Tb. ground white pepper 1 tsp. ground celery seeds 1 tsp. mace 3 Tb. powdered dextrose 4 cups ice water Grind meat through a 1/4″ or 3/8″ grinder plate. Add all the ingredients except the water and mix thoroughly until evenly distributed. Do not pack soy protein concentrate when measuring. Then place the meat in the food processor, adding water as you go, to help emulsify the meat. Stuff into a 32-35 mm hog casing and make into 5″ to 6″ links. Place into 160° F water and cook until an internal temperature of 150° F is attained. Then shower the sausage with cool water until the internal temperature falls to 75° F. Place in cooler overnight before using. After the casing had been filled and twisted I needed to cook them in a water bath. Since already had a souse vide that will maintain a water temp +- 1.2 degree I opted for that route.
It’s here that I watched all the links untwist and casing get ugly, but you should remove the casing from both of these sausages before serving.
Finishing up on a bed of sliced potatoes, onions and mushrooms, Francene is not a sauerkraut fan.
Of the two, we prefer the Bockwurst.  The Weisswurst has less flavor and more of a dry hamburger texture.  I wouldn’t throw it out though. It’s still good eats.
Don’t forget the hot, sweet mustard.
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The Great Brat. No, not our child, the Sausage

Bratwurst, glorious bratwurst. The term has been used to label many different sausages.  Technically it is a sausage made from fresh pork or veal, or both. But for my purposes, it is that great linked sausage served by the Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg Germany.  And to be served over a bed of caramelized onions and Sauerkraut .
Bratwurst may be linked or roped, it can be frozen raw, it can be pre-cooked (generally in a hot water bat) or it may be smoked.  I like my Bratwurst well seasoned, spicy and tangy. The spices will include mace, cinnamon & nutmeg to name a few. The recipe I used  can be found here.  We graduated to a sausage stuffer instead of the Kitchenaid mixer. If you are going to make links, we found hog casing to work better. We were going to prepare 5 pounds smoked and 5 pounds pre-cooked, BUT I got carried away and smoked it all….YUM.
I guess I will just have to make another batch 🙂
One Bratwurt, one knockwurst and one Bockwurst sitting on sauerkraut and onions.
It’s difficult for it to get any better than this.   Oh yeah, add Mustard.
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Why you should make your own sausage

I enjoy a good sausage; one with personality. It was about 20 years ago I started on a creative cooking adventure.   I added Paella, Gumbo, Jambalaya and even dishes that where about the sausage it self. I would read these recipes for inspiration & then head off to the mega mart for the ingredients. It’s here that the spice rack evolved (that and Alton Brown).  It was where I learned to dump last years paprika and replenish the can  with fresh.
So off I would go.  Where is the Andouille?   Where is the Chorizo?  If you can’t find it, use  smoked Garlic-ed sausage. That sure sounded vague. Speaking of Chorizo, there is a Spanish-Portuguese version and the Mexican version. They are not the same. I was getting frustrated.  I wanted to make these dishes and have them taste authentic.  No matter how good they turned out, I always felt a bit cheated. Cheated by America’s sausage makers. Here is where I started loving the idea of making my own sausage.  Homemade, ethnic sausage.  Not the stuff from the mega mart.  Not the same packaged links with different names that all taste the same.
What you put into it, is what you get
I have voiced my number one argument to make your own, the spices vs the chemical list, and second which could also be number one, the fat content. In the United states, any meat mixture containing over 30% fat can not be labeled sausage.  Keep this in mind when picking up a of hot dogs that conveniently does not say sausage on the label.

Make the sausage yourself and you control what goes into it.

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