Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lamb Flap Roulade

Making this roulade takes a lot of steps and time, and if you are into thinking about things a little romantically, you could say that the long process makes it taste even better... just to be clear though, it doesn't make it taste any better.
Start with two lamb flaps, or one, I went with two because why would you only make one roulade? 
Separate the skin from the rest of the flap. Start at one corner and work your blade between the skin and the fat, you do not want to mess up the skin, so if you are worried just stay away from the skin and slice through more of the fat and meat, it's going to get shredded later.
After getting the two separated, place everything into a pot and add just enough water to cover. Bring the pot to a boil, cover and turn down the flame as low as you can so that the pot stays below a simmer with the lid on. Let it go for 2.5 hour, and then check to see if the meat on the flap pulls apart easily. You want it to be soft and supple.
Pour everything into a pan, or large bowl so that it can cool down . Once everything is warm, not hot or room temperature, place it into the fridge for a few hours. This is what it should look like.
Separate the top layer of fat from the liquid below and all of the animal parts.  Reserve the fat that has solidified on top of the lamb broth, that is basically lard.  It is flavorful stuff and will keep a long time refrigerated, so you don't even have to use it right away.Then pick the meat out of the fat and the skin/meat/fat from each other. You are going to have five piles(rendered fat from the top of the liquid, the liquid, lamb skin, lamb meat, boiled lamb fat). Scrape off any fat below the skin, so that the skin is just that, only skin.
O.K. almost halfway done!
The filling:
130g onion
2 tbsp oilve oil
1 clove pickled garlic (naturally lacto-fermented at home)
200g lamb meat
150g maitake mushroom
Reduced braising liquid from cooking the flap
5g Parsely
2 tbsp Apple Cider Vin (natural mother stuff)

Finely dice the onion and add to a warm pan with the oil and some salt. In a separate pot, boil the braising liquid until it is almost dry, but still pour-able, you will yield only a few tablespoons. While that is reducing, cook the onion until it is translucent, soft, and slightly starting to brown. Add the finely chopped maitake and a little more salt.Cook over medium heat until quite brown, then add the chopped parsley, the vinegar, the garlic, the lamb meat, the braising liquid, and salt/pepper to taste.
Place the skin onto a sheet of plastic wrap, 1 inch from the edge nearest you, and fill it with as much filling as you think you can roll the skin around with a few millimeters of overlap.
Roll the skin around the filling and secure the middle with a piece of twine, tie a slip knot, but don't pull too tight or you will deform the skin too much, you want it to be securely round.
Continue to tie knots out from the middle on both ends until the whole of the skin is well sealed. On the very ends, when you pull the slip knot tight, this time you want to deform the roll so that it pinches off the sides, just be careful not to rip the skin or tear the whole roulade. Roll up the plastic wrap around your new roulade and tie the ends tight, I do this so it keeps it shape and doesn't dry out while it sits in the fridge waiting for me to cook it. Freezing it at this point will also work very well, it is self-contained when rolled in plastic tightly.
When you are ready to serve the roulade, take it out of the plastic and get a saute pan warm. Add two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of lamb fat to the pan and then the roulade. Fry the roulade on each side, if the pan isn't making a frying sound you should turn up the heat. You want the skin to sizzle and start to brown, along with the butter. The entire time you are frying the lamb, take a spoon and pour the extra fat in the pan over the top of the roulade. You want to keep a constant coating of butter and oil over the top of the roulade as you are frying the bottom.
Here is what it looks like when you cut into it. Lamb flap stuffed with lamb flap. You separate the parts, make them tasty, and then recombine them.

I served this with brown-butter-apple puree, homemade castagnaccio with golden raisins and pine nuts, a little olive oil and buckwheat sprouts. A lot of work for one bite?

Plate it up!

I had a lot of fun making this roulade, send me a picture if you make a meat roulade.

Be well,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cotechino Sausage

I love pork skin, fat, meat, blood, bones, pretty much everything the pig has to offer.  So when I had a discussion with my roommate about a sausage that combined most of those, I was excited to try it out. I do think the addition of some blood to this sausage would be a good thing, but I believe that traditionally Cotechino sausage is simply pork meat, skin, fat, salt and spices.  I went with the traditional to start with, but maybe some boudin noir will be in my near future.
327g pork butt
94g pork skin boiled for 2 hours
94g pork fat
6 g salt                                                                                                        
1tsp pink peppercorn/fennel seed/black pepper
1tsp dextrose
1/16 tsp TCM(tinted curing mix)
4 tbsp water (2 of the tbsp in the form of ice cubes)

A quick aside, I mix measurements because that is how I think they are best interpreted. Some people may say that all of the measures in a recipe should agree (e.g. all grams, all metric, all U.S.), but I don't trust my scale in less than 1g intervals and a volume measure in that case works fine, also, in this particular recipe the water is in tablespoons not because I cannot accurately measure the water in grams but because that is how it is added, by the spoonful, while I am mixing the sausage. Anyway, probably not that important, but I wanted to get that off my chest.

IMPORTANT: When using TCM it is critical that you do not add too much. The stuff can kill you, a lot of things can kill you, but even a small amount of this stuff can be deadly. If you just take care and don't fool around with it, don't use it if you have no idea what it is, there is no reason why it cannot be a safe and useful ingredient in your culinary arsenal. For reference here is the demi-tasse spoon I used to add the, less than a gram, of TCM to my mix.


Cut all of the ingredients into small pieces that will easily fit into a meat grinder.  I diced the skin into very small cubes, smaller than the meat and fat, because I didn't trust the KitchenAid grinder I was using to handle it.  Mix all of the ingredients together, except for the water, so they look something like this.

I let this sit overnight, but I don't think that is necessary, however it does have to be very cold when you grind it, so just thoroughly chill it. Then grind that stuff, I did two passes, again because the kitchen aid grinder wasn't too powerful. After passing everything through the grinder, put in two ice cubes to get out the remainder of the mix and chill the mix in the bowl. Then mix the sausage with your hand vigorously, really trying to smash and smear it into a uniform mass.  While you are doing this add the last two tbsp of water in two additions. The mix should be sticky and dense, not oily or broken. Like this!

The next few photos show how to tightly and uniformly wrap a sausage mixture in plastic wrap. I am basically making "bulk" sausage here, cooking and serving it without a natural or synthetic casing.
To narrate these photos:
Spread the mixture, more or less, in a uniform log onto the plastic wrap 1 inch from the edge nearest to you.
Take the 1 inch of extra wrap and roll it away from you until it touches the other side of the sausage mix. Then, being careful to get a tight roll, roll the entire log up, until all of the wrap is used.
This is the hardest and most important part: grab the sides of the wrap and pinch the sausage in towards the middle, then grab as close as you can to the sausage you have just moved in and roll the whole log away from you, keeping it in contact with the table the whole time. If the log moves away from you and does not roll then you need to increase the friction between the surface of the table and the wrap. A very light smearing of water, applied by running your hand under water, shaking it off and then rubbing your hand over the table surface works well for me, and it is fast and always available. Even better, if you are going to be doing a lot of these, mix sugar and water in a 1 to 3 ratio and smear a little of that on your counter-top. Alternatively, you could also twist the two sides in alternating directions in mid-air, but this method never makes as uniform, or tight a roll.
Once you get the sides rolled tight, without any air pockets in the sausage, use the extra wrap to tie a square knot.
Poach this for 1 hour at 60°C. I did this in a pot, with a Pampered Chef digital thermometer. Place directly into an ice bath after the hour is up and let the sausage fully cool before using.

You can used this sausage for any number of applications, I will say that next time I am going to try doubling the amount of skin and fat in the sausage.  This version has a nice texture, but it is a little too brittle for my liking.
This is what it looks like fully cooked. Fairly lean. Look at the bits of skin!

I diced it and made ravioli filling. It was pretty good.
Now plate it up!

Sausage is fun and good to make at home.

All the best,

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pommes Soufflée

The first time I was exposed to souffléed potatoes was when a Certified Master Chef(CMC) decided to make them, randomly, while teaching a class at culinary school... we didn't have much success. Conceptually, they do not really appeal to me; they are a hybrid, not a chip, and not a fry. However, I love frying potatoes, so I couldn't resist exploring this uncommon preparation.  I did some research and found that all of the recipes called for two frying stages.  Other than this, there were subtle differences in fry temperature or shape of the potato.   I bought a few potatoes and decided to run the gamut; fry at a bunch of different temperatures and cut a bunch of different shapes.
Here are the short answers:
Does the shape matter? Not really.
What thickness is best? 2mm
Does the type of potato matter? Yes, a lot.
What temperature for the first fry? 310°F
What temperature for the second fry? 380°F
How long do I let the potato rest in-between frys? Do not let the potato rest.

Now the long explanation:
I used russet and carola potatoes. I started by ring cutting some and leaving some in the natural shape of the peeled potato. I tried frying in increments of 10 degrees Fahrenheit for the first and second frys. The range for the first fry was 270-360. The range for the second fry was 360-400. Through these temperature ranges I was trying 3 different thicknesses 2,3 and 4 mm. Here are some shots of what it looked like.

From these trials I found that the 2mm slices had the best texture, and starting at 310F dried them out, generated a good amount of steam to puff the sides, and didn't prematurely brown them. Also, finishing above 380F turned the potatoes dark brown in just a few seconds, but below this temperature doesn't generate enough steam to get the puff.
To be honest though, none of the potatoes really puffed, they blistered, and all looked liked they wanted to puff, but they all looked like this. LAME! I wanted crunchy potato pillows. I was feeling defeated, all of these trials and not much to show for it.

I then decided to try a different technique. I didn't think to do this initially because when I was researching for this little project I read a story about how these were supposedly "discovered" when a chef started to fry a chip and then had to pull it out before it was done, and then refried it.  This implied a resting period. I noticed that the potatoes would start to puff in the first fry, and then deflate, they would even hiss as they cooled down.  I started to realized that if I just went directly into the hot oil they would go from kind of starting to puff, to fully puffed and never deflate.  All of a sudden I had the pillows I wanted, crunchy, crisp, and airy. I also was getting all of the potatoes to puff. In the earlier trials a few of the potatoes, like one out of 50, would really puff up, but most would just kind of half-puff. There was one exception to the no-resting-double-fry technique, the carola potatoes never puffed as much as the russets, not even close. Check it out.

Two frying pots!

Above: carolas right russets left

Here, on the right, is the close-up of the not so great puff of the carola, everything above is russet, little potato pillows!

Oh, and if you don't have a use for the trim from the ring cut potatoes, just fry them crisp at 310F the whole time and then cover in an egg(knoll krest farm) and cheese(gouda parrano), this was my roommates late-night snack while I was trying to figure out how to get the potatoes to puff.

No matter how you fry them, potatoes are going to taste pretty good after getting some hot oil treatment. I had to eat a lot of mediocre ones during these trials, but I didn't mind.  If you want the specific taste and texture of a souffléed potato then I hope my experience with them helps you along the way.

Let me know what you think!
Have you noticed I have a hard time formating pictures so they fit with the text!? I would appreciate some help.

As always,