Archive for the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Curing in 2014 part 2

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Curing progress: this is the progress on my second batch. A pork neck, in two pieces, which is now under the house, and a beef skirt, which is now in red wine. The cuts were two weeks in cure in the fridge.

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Hanging from a beam under the house. Looks a bit sinister, but in 6-8 weeks it will be porcine bliss. The beef will join them in about 4 days.

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Chicken in pastry

Here’s the pastry dish that I mentioned  in “kids and meat“. It’s good because you can buy or make the ingredients in any combination. Ours was all from bought ingredients except the home made bacon. I prefer the butter puff pastry, which is pretty easy to find in a big supermarket.

ingredients (per person)
1 chicken breast (for a mix of adults and kids, you can trim a little off an adult server to make a kid sized portion)
1 sheet puff pastry (ditto re kids)
A small slice of camembert or brie
Slice of bacon

Method:
Wrap the chicken, bacon and cheese in the pastry. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked. Serve with hollandaise and asparagus.

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Pork and fennel stew

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This is the pork and fennel stew I mentioned recently. I cook it in a slow cooker of 5 litres or thereabouts.

Pork neck sounds like a gruesome cut, but only the way I’ve found it for sale is as a fat, short cylinder of lean meat. No tubes, bones or other gruesomeness. Looking at it in a vacuum bag you’d expect it to make fantastic pork steaks. However, rather than one long muscle (like fillet) it has a bunch of different muscles going every which way.

Ingredients:
A pork neck (approx 1.5 kg), diced
A couple of hocks or trotters
Oil and butter for frying
1-2 fennel bulbs
1 tbsp carroway seeds

Optional:
2-4 carrots
1-2 onions
Cider

Method:
Brown the trotters or hocks in a pan in a little oil. Place them in a slow cooker. Brown the diced neck in batches and add to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the carroway seeds over. Deglaze the pan (I used water but you could use a little cider) and add the juices to the slow cooker.

If you’re doing onions and carrots, brown them in some butter and add them to the slow cooker at this point.

Brown the sliced fennel in butter until you get dark spots and delicious burned butter and caramelised fennel smells. Add a little water (depends on the size of your cooker, but I used about 1/3 cup). Pour the lot on top of the pork, then pop a layer of baking or greaseproof paper on top.

Cook it like this–layered–for a couple of hours, then stir gently, re-cover, and cook a couple of hours more. Before serving, disassemble the hocks or trotters, discarding any skin and bone. Chop up any meat and add it back in.

Serve with fresh sage cut over the top, with dumplings, mash, rice or whatever you’re in to.

This stew is very simple, and really showcases two cheap cuts. I get neck for around $10 per kilo, and hocks for $6 a kilo. It works with these cuts because the neck is a little too lean and not quite tendon-y enough on its own. The addition of hocks or trotters makes it rich and velvety. You can grow your own fennel, but I bought mine. It’s cheap at the moment because it’s in season (southern hemisphere, cool temperate).

Kids and meat

It’s been a busy year: baby 3 was born in November so we had trouble doing much in the garden or with the chickens. I haven’t eaten a single bird that I raised all year, I think, though we have been given a few. As a consequence we have bought a few chickens from the shop.
Today, while we were shopping, I told Miss 5 about a chicken in pastry dish I’m going to make this week since we were buying the ingredients at the time. “chicken?” She asks: “can I have the heart and liver?” I explained that the ones from the shop have had them taken out already. “where do they go?” She asks. I tell her it’s probably pet food. She’s a bit crestfallen. “can you kill a chicken so that I can eat its heart and liver?” is her response.
Cut to tonight: she’s enjoying a stew I made. She comments on how soft it is: I tell her it’s because it’s made of pork neck and hock, pointing out the corresponding parts of my own body. I tell her that the hock is what makes it feel good to eat: “tendons” she says, knowingly. We go on to discuss the cuts of meat, and she pokes around my neck to feel where the pork cut comes from.
I feel like this is what cooking and eating meat is about: knowing where cuts come from, why they’re different, which are fattier, leaner, tougher, or have more tendon. And being in touch with the offal is good too. When I was a kid I was shocked when I learned that meat comes from animals. My 5 year old knows that she and I are made of it! I guess that I’ll have to start showing Mr 2 all of this soon, but it will be easier with him: I’ll have Miss 5 to help him learn.

An early start to curing

Last year’s bresaola was sufficiently successful that I was determined to get an early start to curing this year.

First to be finished is a pork belly. I did a half salt, half sugar cure with instacure #2, black pepper and garlic powder for two weeks in the fridge, changing the cure half way through. This was a cure-in-the-bag arrangement, so it started dry and became wet with the extracted moisture.

This was followed by two months under the house wrapped in muslin. The finished product was inedibly salty but a day in fresh water fixes that. I think the extra salt was probably what let me get away with curing while the temperatures were a bit too high.

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The finished product! Now that it’s winter we’re not getting any eggs from our hens, so it’s nice to have something else home made on the plate.

Note that this is not a “how to cure”. I don’t have enough experience to help someone else do this: it’s just a record of my own experiments. If you intend to cure at home, I’d recommend getting a good book or doing a lot of googling.

Feeding the kids

It’s always hard getting home grown chicken into my kids. It’s usually tougher and stronger flavored than shop chicken. Also, it’s easy to overcook the breast and then it becomes very dry. On the basis that no-one has studied kids’ tastes as much as the red-haired clown, I decided that the breasts of the four boys we were given on the weekend would be chicken nuggets.

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I chopped the breasts finely, and mixed in tarragon, garlic, egg and a little flour. Then in went a bit of cheese and corn. The coating was ground up crackers and desiccated coconut. I formed them into little balls, and coated and flattened them.

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Voila! Both kids finished theirs all up! You see dessert in the background: it’s a brioche with blueberries poked in. It also worked it pretty well:

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Here’s hoping that full bellies make for a long sleep!

Finished bresaola

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The finished product! It has an even, deep color and it’s dried evenly throughout. I didn’t have any mould issues with it either.

The taste is pretty good too. I think I used too much sugar in the cure, and I might revise the spice mix for next time once I work out which aromatics I like.

The internet rightly tells you that you need a meat slicer to properly enjoy it. I don’t have one, and even with sharp knives and patience, it’s hard to get thin slices. If I keep going with curing I may have to invest in one.

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