Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sausage Making

I love sausage - italian sausage, bratwurst, chorizo, breakfast sausage - you name it. It is good stuff. So, when I got my KitchenAid mixer with the meat grinder attachment, I decided to try my hand at it. The very first time I made it was quite interesting. I really had no idea what I was doing. At that time my local grocery store still cased their own sausage and so they sold me some casing. I had my recipe in hand and went about grinding the meat and making my sausage filling. This all went fine but then I had to get the meat into the casing. I did not have the sausage stuffer attachment. I wracked my brain for a solution to how I could manage to get the sausage into the casing. I finally found a plastic turkey baster in the drawer. I sawed it off to about 6 inches. I threaded the casing onto the baster and hand pushed the sausage mixture through the tube into the casing. It was quite a production and took a bit - okay - a lot of time but, the sausage came out so good I was hooked.

My grocery store no longer makes their own sausage so I order the casings on line and keep them on kosher salt in the fridge. I now have a sausage stuffer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer which is truly an AID!!!!! My favorite sausage cookbook is Bruce Aidells' Complete Sausage Book. All of the recipes I have made from this book are wonderful. The following 2 recipes are adapted from recipes in this book.

These 2 recipes both come out so good. They are both a chicken sausage but beyond that they are completely different. My local grocery store had 10 pound bags of chicken leg quarters on sale for $5.90 per bag. So I bought a bag with sausage in mind. I boned all the meat. When done I had yielded about 7 pounds of chicken with skin even after tossing about 12 ounces of skin. I made chicken stock from the bones (which I used in my turkey gravy from the previous post). I divided the chicken in half and made two kinds of sausage.

Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato Sausage
3 1/2 pounds boned chicken thighs and legs with skin
1/3 cup chopped oil packed sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons fennel seed
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon sugar

Medium Hog Casings

Put the chicken meat through the meat grinder. I like using the fine grinding plate as opposed to the coarse one. Mix the ground chicken thoroughly with all the remaining ingredients except hog casings.

Place the sausage stuffer attachment on the KitchenAid mixer as instructed. For 3 1/2 pounds you will need about 3 - 4 feet of casing. Rinse the casing well. Plug the drain in the sink and soak the casing. Run water through it a couple of times. Feed it onto the sausage stuffer and you are ready to go. I stuff the casing in one long tube . When it is stuffed I form the tube into links. I then take a toothpick and puncture any air pockets.

Place the sausage in a single layer on a plate and place in the fridge, uncovered, to cure overnight. At this point it is ready to cook or freeze. If not using within 3 days, wrap and freeze it.

Chicken and Apple Sausage

1 cup apple cider
2 granny smith or braeburn apples
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 1/2 pounds boneless chicken thighs and legs with skin
1/4 cup chopped crisped cooked bacon
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried sage
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot white wine

Medium Hog Casings

Advanced prep: Boil the apple cider until reduced to 2-3 tablespoons. Dice the apples to 1/4 inch dice. Toss with the lemon juice. Spread on a parchment lined cookie sheet and place in a 300 degree oven until dry. Toss every half hour or so. This goes much quicker if you set the oven for convection. If not about 2 hours. With convection 1 - 1 1/2 hours.

For sausage: Cut chicken into chunks. Mix with the reduced cider, dried apple and all remaining ingredients except the casings. Put the mixture through the fine grinder on the meat grinder attachment.

Prepare the casings as in the recipe above and stuff the sausage accordingly.

Both of these sausages are good served alone or in a dish. I served both as an appetizer when my friend April was over for dinner. I made little polenta stars (next time polenta circles mind you) and sliced each kind and placed the slices on the polenta stars. For the chicken and apple sausage I drizzled a sauce made with 1 cup of apple cider and 1 cup of beer boiled together until reduced to about 1/2 cup. That's it.

For the chicken and sun dried tomato I made an herb pesto with the last of my herb garden. Into the food processor went:

Herb Pesto and Herb Pesto Sauce

1/2 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon fresh mint
2 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts
3 cloves crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup heavy cream
Mix everything except the 1/4 cup of olive oil and cream in a food processor until well blended. Remove all but one tablespoon of the pesto from the food processor. To the tablespoon remaining add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup heavy cream. Blend to combine. Serve over sausage.

The remaining pesto is wonderful as a dip for bread. Just place a teaspoon on the dipping dish and top with extra virgin olive oil.

Polenta Stars

2 cups water
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons cream or half n half

Combine water, cornmeal and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook stirring constantly until thick and smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and cream and continue to cook until combined, 2-3 minutes. Our onto a parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan and spread to about 1/4 inch thick. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and set. Cut into whatever shape you desire.

Melt some butter in a nonstick frying pan and lightly fry the polenta shapes until crisp on both sides. Top with sausage and drizzle with sauce.

Picture Perfect Turkey

This past weekend I invited my friend April from over for dinner along with her three little ones. I decided to cook a turkey. I love turkey and I do not know why we reserve it for the holidays. It makes a wonderful dinner and the leftovers are awesome. I am always bummed the day I take the last of the leftovers out and use them!

My favorite method to cook turkey is to first brine it and then smoke it. The turkey comes out gorgeous! Look at the pictures! It is an even mahogany color. It looks like I painted it or something for the photos. I did nothing but smoke it and the best part is - it tastes even better than it looks. I start to brine it about 12 -15 hours ahead of time and then smoke it for about 5 hours. I use an electric smoker which makes it pretty maintenance-free once the bird is in there cooking. This method of cooking produces the most moist and flavorful turkey ever.

I do not have room in my fridge for the turkey while it is brining so I pop it in a playmate cooler with the brine and ice and it works just fine. One thing to note, when you cook turkey using this method you do not get a pan of drippings for gravy. I simply take the neck and gizzards and roast them with a sliced onion in the oven until they are nicely browned. I deglaze the pan with chicken stock, strain the liquid and whisk in a slurry of milk and flour to thicken it as it comes back up to a boil on the stove. Gravy problem solved.

Brined and Smoked Turkey

A 15 pound turkey
1 gallon of water
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups wood chips for smoking (I used hickory this time)

Bring all the ingredients except the turkey and butter to a boil and dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Place the turkey breast side down in a playmate cooler. Pour the cooled brine over the turkey. Add enough ice so that the brine level rises to cover the turkey. Leave it for 12 to 15 hours.

Also at this time start soaking your wood chips in water to cover.

When ready to smoke, follow your smoker's instructions. For mine, I place the wrap the wood chips in foil, poke holes in the foil and place them in the lava rocks on the bottom. I fill the water pan completely. Drain the turkey and rinse in fresh water. Pat dry. Melt the butter. Set the turkey on the upper rack in the smoker and brush all over with the butter. Place the cover on. I let it smoke for 5 hours this time. The temperature outside was about 84. When the temperature is cooler it may take a little longer to smoke. Just remember, open the lid as little as possible to retain the heat and smoke. I do not ever open it for at least the first 3 hours. It also helps to fill your water pan with hot water. This speeds up the heating process inside your smoker.

This turkey came out so good! I cannot wait until Thanksgiving when I will cook another. Oh, and do not forget about those wonderful turkey bones. After cleaning off the meat toss all the bones in a pot and cook for 1 1/2 hours for the best, most flavorful turkey broth ever!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The first annual Food & Wine Classic at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort

What a weekend I have just had! This year the Swan and Dolphin Resort held their first Food & Wine Classic to coincide with Disney's Epcot Food and Wine Festival. When I saw the advertisement for the event in the paper I told my husband we just had to go. They offered a couple of different options including an a la carte ticket option where you purchased tickets for samples or you could purchase a wristband for $50 which then got you unlimited samples plus one of 6 seminars or, and this was the best deal yet, for $169 you got the seminar and wristband for 2 AND a room for the night. So I booked it. I thought the whole thing was extremely well executed.

Apparently other people read the same paper I do and think the same as I do because by the time I called to book our night our first two seminar choices were full. Those were the wine blending seminar and the one titled "Beer Please." So we settled for Modern Mixology. Well you know, I am glad the others were full because we learned some really cool stuff in our seminar.

Our evening began at 4:30 when we attended the seminar. It was conducted by Doug Draper, bluezoo's General Manager and Lindsay Skillman, Cabana Bar and Beach Club's Manager. They did a fantastic job. In the seminar they went over different techniques they use to create memorable cocktails at their restaurants. The first thing we learned was how to make the bluezoo's Zooberry Cocktail. Then they brought around a sample for everyone. YUM! Then they showed us how to use different chemical reactions to create some WOW factor for cocktails. They used agar agar to make these cherry flavored balls out of grenadine and they used sodium alginate and calcium chloride to produce these little balls of flavor that will burst in your mouth when added to a cocktail. They illustrated it with orange juice. We squeezed the mixture of OJ, calcium chloride and sodium alginate into a bowl of water to form little balls. These were strained and added to a mimosa cocktail. Most of the stuff they showed us can be reproduced at home so watch for a future post where I experiment with some of these techniques. The one technique that we learned about but will not be happening at home was the use of liquid nitrogen. Very cool but not home friendly. We did get to sample cocktails and food featuring all the techniques we learned about.

The seminar lasted one hour. As we left we each got a tray that had a wine glass holder and of course a wine glass and we headed out to the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin to begin the rest of the evening. The Food and Wine sampling went from 5:30 to 9:30. They had a live band. They featured food from all of the restaurants in the Swan and Dolphin so let me start there. The Cabana offered a crab meat and watermelon concoction that I did not think I would like but did . The Fountain offered falafel with a really yummy dipping sauce. Next was Kimono's serving sushi which was delicious. The best was Shula's. They had filet mignon and creamed spinach. We stood on line for that one 3 times! The Il Mulino New York Trattoria had the most amazing pasta bolognese and Todd Engish's bluezoo offered these buffalo chicken bites with blue cheese dressing. Finally, there was a booth of desserts by Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Branlard.

Now onto the wine ... and more! There were 6 wine stations. The first featured Valley of the Moon from Sonoma Valley. I had the unoaked chardonnay. It was delicious. Next were wines of Washington featuring Ste. Michele. I stuck with white and it was very nice. Then there was Malbec of Mendoza featuring wines from South America. They were wonderful. We moved on to the Vino of Veneto with wines from Italy and a Taste of New Zealand and Down Under featuring wines from both of those regions. I tried them all and they were all wonderful.

My favorite station was the Base to Bubbles. Champagne was served there and I love good champagne. I visited them several times! We also sampled sake at Ty Ku Fusion. We sampled several different beers at the Beer Please! station and we tried 2 kinds of cocktails at the cocktail competition between Swan and Dolphin bartenders. My favorite was the Sangria being served at the Modern Mixology booth. After putting the sangria in your glass they topped it off with fruit freeze dried in liquid nitrogen. It made the drink steam the fruit was crunchy and delicious. Check out the picture! Loved it! They also featured white russians served frozen in little balls using liquid nitrogen.

The whole thing went above and beyond my expectations. The fact that they brought all the different techniques and learning's from the seminars out into the tasting area was really great. Also, now that we have sampled a taste of these restaurants we will definitely be returning for the full blown meal! The restaurants stand on their own and should be enjoyed as an evening out and not just as a hotel guest.

In conclusion, this was a fantastic event which we will come back to. I am glad we had a room for the night afterwards!