Stout Week

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A nice finish to what I’ve decided now to call Stout Week. It was an unofficial celebration that started on St. Patrick’s Day with a McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout (Belfast Bay, Maine), a beer that was impressively identified by my friend Jess by a postage stamp-sized corner of a label from this picture on Monday.

mcgoverns stout label SMALL

I figured last weekend that I’d like to have some stout on hand for St. Pat’s to have with the corned beef, and I got a mix of old favorites and new ones to try. (Yes, I know I passed right over the Irish stouts. I originally went looking for some that were on this list of 10 Best American Stouts, but came home with a totally different mix.)

In this week’s unscientific study, I enjoyed the following:
Belfast Bay, McGovern’s Oatmeal Stout
Shipyard Blue Fin Stout
Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout
Sierra Nevada Stout
Eric’s wedding beer Old Barley and Chain Stout (homebrew, version 2.0?)
Breckenridge Brewery Oatmeal Stout
Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk Stout

My favorites were the McGovern’s, Eric’s Old Barley and Chain (good luck finding this one; can sometimes be bartered for with rye bread and corned beef, or shared when visiting the garage on brew day), and Keegan’s Mother’s Milk.

Old favorites of mine that I’d like to include for next time are some heavy hitters: Founder’s Breakfast Stout, Young’s Oatmeal Stout, and Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout. Any other recommendations?

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St. Patrick’s Day Reuben

Today’s mission accomplished:

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Lamb Sausage with Liver – Burns Night 2014


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Some hae meat and canna eat, 
   And some wad eat that want it; 
But we hae meat, and we can eat, 
   And sae the Lord be thankit.

- Robert Burns

IMG_1235 The business of school, home, and grad work have conspired to delay this post 10 days or so, and I figured I should probably get some pictures and a recipe up here to document our first Burns Night Dinner. We made it about as traditional as we could, with everything save the sheep’s stomach (which is near impossible to get, apparently) and the full Address to a Haggis. We did have a haggis-inspired lamb sausage with liver and oats, cockaleekie soup, Cullen skink (smoked fish chowder, thanks to Josh), neeps and tatties, 80 shilling ale (brewed with smoked barley), several drams of Glenmorangie, and kilts (thanks to Eric, our resident brewer and outfitter of kilts). We started things off with the Selkirk Grace, and finished the evening with Grandma’s shortbread. It was a terrific afternoon-into-evening, and a tradition I think we all are excited to continue.

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Lamb Sausage with Liver and Oats

I hesitate to call this haggis sausage, since I’m sure the purists would be up in arms, but it’s got everything except for the lamb heart, which we’ll get next year, and the stomach to case it all in. I wonder if the sheep’s stomach is overrated. Next year we’ll be a little more on the ball so that we can get the lamb heart and liver though. I think I’d still use some shoulder, and maybe a shade less beef fat. This was a fine sausage.

  • 2 lb lamb shoulder
  • 1/2 lb lamb or calves liver
  • 1 lb beef fat
  • 1/2 lb oats, toasted
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 21 g kosher salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1T of garam masala spice
  • a good splash or two of Scotch
  • 1/2 c ice water
  • 5-6 feet hog casings

Sear the liver in a medium-hot pan until each side has some good brown bits. Set aside in a bowl to cool, and deglaze the pan with a splash of Scotch. Cube the lamb and fat, add the liver and the pan juices, salt and spices, onions, garlic, and oats, and chill overnight, or at least for a few hours. About an hour before you’re going to grind, put the meat mixture and your grinding plates and blades into the freezer. Grind through the small die into a mixing bowl set in ice water. Add another good glug of Scotch and the 1/2 cup of ice water, and mix with the paddle attachment of a standing mixer on medium speed for a minute or two. This will help it all stick together. Haggis isn’t as dense sausage as your standard Italian links or bratwurst, but I thought a little coherence here would be good.

Stuff into hog casings (or something larger if you have it). Twist into links. Brown well (but slowly) in a skillet, and let them finish in the oven while you mash the turnips and potatoes. Note: I used regular rolled oats here because I knew these sausages weren’t in for a 3-hour simmer. If you’re going to stuff this into a beef bung, or if you manage to procure a stomach, then everything will benefit from the longer cooking time, and pin or steel cut oats would be best (from everything I read).

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This was the tester patty that we fried up before casing. We also ended up with a little more than 1/2 lb of uncased sausage that made for a few awesome breakfasts following Burns Night. Haggis patty with sunny-side-up egg? I think so.

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Pickle-brined Chicken

Nothing revolutionary here, but this process made for some great roasted chicken thighs. I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I mixed up a little pickle brine with milk and hot sauce.

After soaking overnight, dredge in seasoned flour, and then roast in a 400 degree oven on a sheet pan, flipping the thighs over halfway through. The skin crisped up nicely, and was as good for lunch the next day as it was originally for dinner.

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Adventures in Cultured Dairy

So, here begins the experimentation. I’d never made butter before today. Apparently many people made it once in elementary school, shaking heavy cream in a Ball jar until it separates. (Is that all it is? because that sounds like it would take forever.) I missed out on that activity, but let me tell you, using a food processor has got to be MUCH faster.

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This really couldn’t be much simpler. Put heavy cream into processor, whip, keep going.

Inspired by the cultured dairy section in Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot’s terrific new book, Maximum Flavor, I figured I’d give it a shot. First step: make butter, then culture the buttermilk and think about eventually making crime fraiche, sour cream, or ricotta. It wouldn’t be fair to say that my kids helped on this one, although they did watch along with me as the cream whipped (which we tasted) and then deflated, changing slowly but surely, and then breaking.

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Buttermilk, butter.

I recombined these in the quart jar and plan to let them sit in the fridge for 48 hours or so before straining and kneading. The taste is already pretty remarkable. I’m curious to see how it develops.

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Eggs, whiskey, and science: Aged Eggnog

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Breakfast of champions?

I Just started a batch of 3-week eggnog to have on hand for Christmas festivities later this month. This particular recipe was inspired by a combination of factors: Ruhlman has been talking up his aged eggnog for years now, and it’s one of those things I’ve been meaning to try since he first mentioned it; Alton has a good recipe with a little bit of history, hailing eggnog as “our first health drink” and “patriotic duty,” (patriotic!); and Science Friday ran a story last year about the microbiology department at Rockefeller University. Not only have they been been making a pretty potent batch for the last 40 years or so, but they also ran a test to see if the booze would actually kill any bacteria that might be present in the raw eggs. And it does. Go science! Streak-plated cultures from an inoculated batch (actually spiked with Salmonella — they are microbiologists, you know) right after mixing result in a veritable field of bacteria. They tested the plates again each week for 3 weeks, and each time there were fewer bacteria. 3 weeks does it. Check out the video below. Those guys know how to throw a good holiday party.

I trust the microbiologists. I also trust Alton, who says that as long as your mix contains about 20% alcohol then it should fine. Ruhlman’s happens to be the most potent recipe of the group, so he’s in the clear as far as the booze and the bugs go. I picked a happy medium between the two of them, just a shade stronger than the microbiologists. Apparently it mellows out over the month. We’ll see how it goes. Cheers!

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Aged Eggnog 12-1-13

  • 1 dozen egg yolks
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 750 mL (24 oz) bourbon
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) dark rum
  • 1/2 c (4 oz) cognac
  • 1 qt whole milk
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • grated nutmeg to taste
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En plein air

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Pretty happy with our spur-of-the-moment outdoor grilling station.

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Garlic and parsley pickles

A slight variation on the standard naturally fermented garlic sour pickle, this time with parsley instead of dill. I do really like parsley, so I’m curious to see how these turn out.

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Garlic and parsley pickles

  • 5% brine (50 g kosher salt per liter of water)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • 1 t whole coriander seed
  • 1/2 t mustard seeds
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper
  • handful flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 oak or grape leaves, washed
  • 6-7 pickling cukes, or however many you want to pickle

The easiest way to find out how much water you’ll need is to pack the cucumbers into the jar, then fill with cold water. Put a cold saucepan on your scale and zero it; empty the water from the pickle jar right into the saucepan, using that weight to calculate how much salt you’ll need (you know, slide that decimal to the left one place and half the number). This jar held 720 ml (g) of water, so I added 36 grams of salt. Add the garlic and spices, heat to dissolve, and let it cool completely. You can pickle cucumbers whole or cut, depending on your preference. I’ve read in a few places (Fermenter’s Club, Sandor Katz, and others) that grape or oak leaves help the pickles to stay crunchy because of the tannins in the leaf, so I washed and added a few oak leaves to the bottom of the jar. Pack the cucumbers and parsley into the jar, and cover completely with cooled brine. Weight the cucumbers down to keep them submerged. A small juice glass worked perfectly here for me.

Set in a cool place (cooler than 70 degrees) and let the lactic acid bacteria get to work. You can check the pH every few days to track their progress, or just smell and taste every so often. I’ll let these go about a week before sampling, and once they’re sour enough for your liking, you can then stow them in the fridge, which slows bacterial action down quite a bit.

For additional resources see:

[updated 5/28 with active links]

[update 6/4/13: after 5 days in a cool basement I put a lid on and moved them into the fridge. These are some of my favorite pickles I've made so far. Plenty of garlic, good and sour, nice hint of parsley, still crunchy. So it's nice to know that this batch size and combination of flavors works for great pickles in about a week. Experiment away, and enjoy!]

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Ramp chimichurri

This came together pretty quickly: a handful of foraged ramps (bulbs and leaves), plus a few springs of fresh thyme and mint, finely chopped. I used a bit more olive oil than I would for a pesto, and added a generous splash or two of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, and a shake of chili flakes. If I had a lemon I would have added some zest.

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Very happy with how this turned out. With a few steaks, pan-fried potatoes, sautéed spinach, and a glass of red wine, the boys and I had our own Friday night steakhouse dinner. Not a bad evening in!

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Goose Island Shepherd’s Pie

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It turns out that Goose Island Honker’s Ale makes for a pretty great shepherd’s pie.

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