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SAUSAGES - what to sub for pork.

I believe I've finally come close to mastering the art of home sausage making (more on that later).

I'm wondering what is the best meat to sub in for pork butt in sausage recipes. My wife is allergic to pork, so I've been making chicken, turkey or lamb sausages and using beef casings. This is fine, but if I were to try to make something similar to a traditional pork sausage, would I substitute veal, chicken or turkey? Many recipes call for combinations of pork with beef, lamb or chicken, so I'm looking for something that would provide a similar complement to those ingredients.

Thanks!

For those who care to hear, here were the steps to produce what I humbly declare were some of the tastiest, most tender sausages I've had.

1) Grind chicken legs and thighs in kitchen aid grinder attachment. Mix with spice blend plus corn syrup plus milk powder plus water to make a kielbasa-style sausage. I added 1 tsp. of pink salt for 5 lbs. of meat.
2) Rinse and soak beef casings
3) Stuff casings, twist, let sit overnight.
4) Cold smoke in an electric smoker for about an hour over pecan wood, then heat without smoke at about 140 degrees for another hour to darken the color
5) Bloom at room temperature for one hour
6) Rest in refrigerator overnight
7) Steam to 165 degrees over very low steam (aiming for temp. in steamer of 180 degrees)
8) Brown in pan over medium heat.

These turned out amazing - lightly smoked, perfect snap of casing, and above all, meltingly tender meat without exploding grease. Also, the casings stayed perfectly intact with no splitting. I think the gentle steaming is very important. It is interesting how different the texture was when I made some of the original grind into patties and pan-cooked them - those were crumbly like hamburgers, not tender like a pate.

Am excited to try more recipes, or invent my own. Anybody figure out how to make a vindaloo sausage?

May 10, 2011
jono37 in Home Cooking

How to use frozen veal demi-glace?

About 3 months ago I spent about 36 hours making veal demi-glace. I reduced it down to a small volume, and when it was done and refrigerated, it had the texture of quince jelly. I cut it into about tablespoon-size chunks and froze it.

Now I need help understanding how to use these. Recipes involving demi-glace get me extremely confused, because they are frequently calling for a store-bought product which I think is even more reduced than what I have. Either that, or I am not sure if they are referring to reconstituted stock, since the volumes called for sometimes seem way too high.

Here is what I tried so far:

I sauteed some minced onion, green garlic and fresh thyme in olive oil. Then I doused the pan with some vermouth and let it reduce down to a glaze. Next I added three of the frozen veal demi-glace chunks and about 1 cup of chicken broth. I let this reduce down to about a third of a cup, then stirred in about a tablespoon of butter, and served over grilled steak. This was excellent, and had an unctuous texture and rich, savory flavor that lingered on the palate long after the meal was completed.

I still don't know if this invented sauce has anything like the thickness or consistency of sauces that are usually made with demi-glace, and am absolutely at a loss to come up with anything else to do with it besides a very simple variation of what I've already tried.

Any thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Jul 06, 2010
jono37 in Home Cooking

Veau a la blanquette sans veau?!

I once had veau a la blanquette at a restaurant, and it was fantastic. I see a recipe for this in Thomas Keller's Bouchon, but I am wondering if I can substitute some other type of meat besides veal. I no longer eat veal, and am wondering if beef or lamb or something else might work, and what type of cut I should try.

thanks.

May 09, 2010
jono37 in Home Cooking

Duck legs - where to buy in Los Angeles - moved from Home Cooking board

I was interested in trying the recipe recently published in the New York Times for Duck Confit made without duck fat. Unfortunately I can't figure out where to buy duck legs. I know I could buy whole ducks, but to be honest I don't relish the idea of buying four whole ducks just for this recipe. I had my hopes pinned on 99 Ranch, but they don't carry duck legs either fresh or frozen. I'm thinking of trying Harvey Guss, as I am told that they can get anything you order.

Any ideas?

Also, would prefer not to order online.

Thanks!

Mar 17, 2010
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Veal demi glace recipe - need suggestions

I am ready to take on classic veal demi-glace, and am willing to devote a weekend to it. I have also located a source for the veal bones. Does anybody have a link to an authentic recipe? Am trying to avoid using thickeners like roux.

Thanks

Mar 16, 2010
jono37 in Home Cooking

Question on smoking sausages

I finally produced a beautiful homemade sausage. It was an andouille, made with chicken thigh meat instead of pork, stuffed in beef casings (yes, I am avoiding pork!)

The only problem came when I ran a couple through my home smoker. I have an electric smoker called a smokin' tex. In the past, I have had problems with this machine causing an acrid smoky flavor in food, which I have solved only by using very small amounts of wood, and only fruit woods.

This time through, I hung the sausages to dry, then put them in the smoker with pecan chips. I smoked them at about 130 degrees, and only for about an hour. (BTW, I usually only smoke food for a little while, then finish on a grill.) I took the sausages out and cooled them and dried them, then finished them on a stovetop.

The smoke seemed to all get caught on the casing, which had that familiar, slightly acrid flavor. The meat inside tasted great, but only with a hint of smoke.

Would any of these solutions work?

1) Pricking the sausage casing to allow smoke to penetrate through to the meat.
2) Soaking the wood chips. The manual on my machine says not to do this, but I thought that I read once that soaking the chips results in a mellower smoke flavor.
3) Smoking at a higher temperature.

If anybody has any experience with this, please let me know.

Jan 20, 2010
jono37 in Home Cooking

Brooklyn Hound in LA for 2 weeks

This is a silly posting. Go to pizzeria Antica in Marina del Rey, and tell me is is horrible or absurdly overpriced. It is neither. It is an excellent, absolutely scrumptious little gem in the most unlikely place - a banal strip mall, next to Souplantation! You won't beat it on either coast.

Dec 06, 2009
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Comme Ca - good, but not as great as before

Just a brief comment on a recent trip to Comme Ca. My wife and I ordered two appetizers - butter lettuce salad and onion soup, which were both fine.

The problem was the two entrees.

Scottish salmon was tender with a nice crisp seared exterior, but it was too salty and not as buttery as the last time I tried it. The sides were problematic too - mushy polenta, and sauteed mushrooms which managed to be boring even for a mushroom fanatic.

And then the famous burger. While respectable, a burger which is clearly ordered medium should not be blood-red and oozing red-tinged liquid all over the plate. And again, the saltiness was excessive for my palate. The slaw topping is interesting, but for me doesn't rank up there with caramelized onions. While I am far from a burger conneisseur, I enjoyed my burgers more at Golden State.

So overall, my message to chef Myers is: cut down the salt, work on the sides.

Dec 06, 2009
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Urasawa- Amazing Kaiseki However, Not the Best Sushi in Town

Sorry to be indiscreet, but how much did it set you back? Any recession discount at the moment?

Dec 06, 2009
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Cornstarch-free powdered sugar

Is there anyone out there who knows of a source for cornstarch-free powdered or confectioner's sugar. I am looking for this to make French macarons. Some online sources say you can make your own by blending granulated sugar, but I doubt the sugar will be fine or consistent enough in texture to really work out well.
Any thoughts?

BTW, I don't want powdered sugar with wheat starch either - King Arthur has that.

Nov 25, 2009
jono37 in Home Cooking

Authentic Italian Pizza

Sorry to be a pain in the neck, but let's not judge food on "authenticity." What we consider authentic in any cuisine is always, when you really look hard at it, a blend of elements incorporating influences from multiple periods in time and regions. Let's judge food on quality of presentation, flavor, texture, complexity vs. simplicity, etc., but let's not get bogged down in unresolvable debates on authenticity. That's not the point.

May 01, 2009
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Authentic Italian Pizza

Not true! I've been to Italy too, and lots of the food is pretty uninspired, especially at airports. On balance, I've had better Italian food in American restaurants of high quality than in Italian establishments. I'll give an unqualified rave for Antica in Marina del Rey. It's authentic, but that's not the issue because authenticity is contentious and suspect. It's just perfect.... thin crust, classic toppings and altogether inspired. LA has loads of other great pizza too, but for no-nonsense classic Neapolitan, go Antica!

May 01, 2009
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Making hummus from dried chickpeas

I've been rehydrating chickpeas in the pressure cooker for a while. Sometimes it can stll take a long time; a drop of baking soda facilitates the softening process. Somewhere I read that adding baking soda when you are cooking beans is a bad idea from a nutritional standpoint, but I can't remember why that might be. I had some black chickpeas that I cooked and cooked and they never softened. Finally I put them in a crockpot overnight and added baking powder, and they were mush by the next day!

Apr 06, 2009
jono37 in Home Cooking

Caramelized onions/crockpot

I am seeking a no-fuss recipe for caramelized onions. I made a delicious batch in a dutch oven over the weekend, and successfully reduced the onions down to a scrumptious mahogany marmalade. Only problem was that is took 6 hours!

I once tried to caramelize onions in the crockpot, but I ended up with the onions swimming in liquid. I was wondering if I could cook the onions covered in the crockpot for a few hours, then remove the cover for many more and end up with the same delicious onions that you can make on the stovetop.

I am just not sure how well the liquid will reduce in the crockpot, nor how well the onions caramelize in a ceramic pot versus an enameled cast-iron dutch oven.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Mar 09, 2009
jono37 in Home Cooking

Sauerkraut disaster!

Working from a recipe in Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie, I chopped a head of cabbage, and submerged it in brine, placing cheesecloth over the cabbage, with a plate on top to keep everything packed down. I left this in my garage, initially uncovered; after a few days I placed a cover over it just to keep it dust free. I took the cover off after 9 days, and the container with ringed with green, malodorous mold. While dumping out the vile concoction, I did take note of the fact that actually the cabbage was intact and not decomposing. If I had been able to stomach it, I probably could have salvaged the cabbage, but there was no way to avoid the irresistible urge to cover my nose and dump the whole thing out.

Where did I go wrong? Did I need to tightly seal the container to begin with? Could the cabbage have been too old, causing it to be seeded with mold which blossomed in the bowl? Was the solution not salty enough?

Help! I was dying to have homemade sauerkraut and am willing to try again despite this fiasco.

Feb 04, 2009
jono37 in Home Cooking

Homemade duck prosciutto - too salty!

I tried making duck prosciutto using some breasts purchased from Whole Foods. I didn't know whether to leave the skin on or not, so I left two with skin on and two with skin removed.

Per Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie, I covered the breasts in kosher salt. Because they were very thin, I left them in the salt for about 20 hours rather than 24. I then rinsed and dried them and hung them in cheesecloth in the garage for a week. The ones with the skin stayed softer in the middle, more like regular prosciutto; the skinless breasts were a bit more like jerky.

Problem is that the breasts all turned out way too salty. A single sliver tasted like about a teaspoon of salt. This was a failed experiment, but will not be in vain - I will use these to flavor soups or beans!

Any remedies for this problem? Was it just too long in the salt? Is is just hopeless to use such thin breasts (they were honestly only about 3/4 inch thick prior to curing)?

Any ideas would be appreciated.

Jan 12, 2009
jono37 in Home Cooking

Light squash gratin recipe?

I'm interested in making a butternut squash gratin, but don't want loads of fat and calories. I thought about using fat-free evaporated milk to replace the heavy cream. Will that work? Any tips?

Thanks.

Nov 11, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

What to do with lots of peppers

Update! I delayed in picking the peppers, which is good, because now they are turning red!! I guess that makes them a different variety than I had originally thought. Thanks for all the advice... will probably just freeze them whole.

Oct 27, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

What to do with lots of peppers

I have a pepper plant which has exploded with growth and needs to be harvested. I don't know the name of the pepper variety, but they are about 5-6 inches long, about one inch thick, they taper to a slender point, and they are moderately hot. I think they may be Italian frying peppers.

Anyway, I have about 15-20 growing, and they need to be harvested because they are turning dark in color. My wife doesn't love spicy food. Are there any ideas on how to store these? I once pickled a few, but couldn't come up with a good way to use those. Could I chop them in a cuisinart with oil to make a paste which I can add to stews or chilis later? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Oct 21, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

lasagne - help me figure out how to make ahead

I want to make 2 lasagne for a dinner party, with home-made noodles. I would love to prepare ahead as much as possible - I actually would love it if I could start a week early, since I have lots of time this weekend.

Should I make the entire lasagne, bake them, freeze them, then reheat for the party?

How about making all the elements and assembling the day of or the day before?

Is it possible to make nice, thin, homemade noodles a week in advance without baking the lasagne and freezing them?

Any tips would be appreciated.

By the way, I plan on parboiling the noodles before I assemble the lasagne - that's what I've done before, and they come out really silky and delicious that way.

Thanks!

Oct 08, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Homemade smoked salmon fiasco! Help!

I received a Smokin' Tex smoker recently as a gift and am trying to learn how to use it.

Today I made smoked salmon fillets. I put salt, pepper and olive oil on each fillet, then put them into the smoker at 200 degrees. I had filled the smoke box with a combination of cherry and hickory wood.

I basted at 30 minutes with a little butter and dill. I checked the fillets after about 40 minutes - they were done, but unfortunately had a thick, smoky, harsh-tasting exterior that made my wife become ill when she tasted it. The only way to salvage the entire project was to cut off all the edges, leaving the pink interior. This was nice and moist, but certainly not with a special enough flavor to justify the whole process.

What did I do wrong? I am thinking that I either used too much wood, or that maybe using any hickory at all was a mistake. Since the smoker has a heating element and will cook at a low temperature, I should probably just use a tiny amount of wood next time and see what happens.

Any thoughts from more experienced smokers? Thanks.

Aug 24, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Cold smoking plate for Smokin' Tex

Without entering into a convoluted debate regarding what exactly is or isn't lox, smoked salmon, nova lox, etc., let's just say that I want to make a home-cured and then cold-smoked salmon.

I have a Smokin' Tex smoker and am thinking about ordering the cold plate (which I think is about $60), but am interested to know if anyone has tried this specific item, and if it truly maintains a cold temperature inside the smoker. If not, I will have to rig up some accessory smoker box to connect to the main smoker with some sort of tubing. I would pay the price if the temperature really stays low, but for this project the temperature really needs to stay below 80 degrees.

Anyone who has tried this cold plate, please let me know.

Thanks!

Aug 12, 2008
jono37 in Cookware

Pie baking question: convection or not?

I'm making a 4th of July blueberry pie from scratch. I've made my dough, which is chilling now (actually a pate brisee recipe from Thomas Keller's Bouchon with a couple of tablespoons of sugar).

I was going to bake the pie on a pizza stone, with a starting temperature of 500, to be reduced to 425 when the pie goes in. Does anyone know if baking a pie with convection is a good idea? I'm imagining browning might me better, but with pie it's always tricky to cook through and brown at the same pace and I'm not sure if convection will help or hurt.

Thanks for suggestions!

Jul 03, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Belgium Beer on the westside.

As a true Belgian beer devotee, I can recommend two outstanding locations to purchase in bottles:

1) The Wine House
2311 Cotner Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064

2)Beverage Warehouse
4935 McConnell Ave #21
Los Angeles, CA 90066

Fortunately both are very close to Mar Vista, where I live as well. They have truly comprehensive selections. My personal favorite: Affligem Tripel. Westmalle Tripel ranks #2.

Maybe we could open a Belgian beer pub in Mar Vista!

BTW, Lucky Baldwin's is worth the trip. It's just that since the point is to drink Belgian beer, you've got either to stay overnight or cab it!

Jun 10, 2008
jono37 in Los Angeles Area

Whole wheat sourdough question

I made up my own recipe for a no-knead whole wheat loaf using a wild starter. I added a cup of mature starter at 100% hydration with three cups of whole wheat flour, a cup of water, 3 tablespoons of vital wheat gluten, a quarter cup of ground flax seed, a couple of tablespoons of honey, a tablespoon of olive oil and some minced rosemary.

I roughly combined the above, then let it rise for 18 hours. I then turned it out, kneaded it slightly for about 20 seconds, formed it into a ball, then let it rise in a dutch oven. After four more hours I scored it, then started it in a cold oven, turned up the temp. to 450, removed the lid after 35 minutes, took the loaf out after about 70 minutes (internal temperature about 205).

The flavor and loaf volume were exceptional. The outside was not evenly browned, but had kind of a mottled light-and-dark pattern. The crust was firm, but not real hard and crusty and craggy as I like it.

What modifications could I make to improve the browning and crust? Some possibilities I thought of were to make the dough wetter, to leave out the olive oil and to pre-heat the dutch oven, and start at an even higher temperature likt 500 degrees. I'm just not sure if 100% whole wheat ever gets real crispy-crusty like white flour loaves do.

Any tips would be appreciated.

Jun 01, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Pie crust solution

Thomas Keller has a tip in "Bouchon" for pate brisee which worked for me. You mix half of the flour with all of the butter in the food processor to get a paste. Then you cut that into the rest of the flour. By coating the butter first you make it easier to maintain the little pea-sized flour/butter globules that appear to be important in making a flaky crust. Although this is an improvement I have yet to achieve pie crust perfection. The best crust I have ever tasted used lard, which I will not use myself, so I always let myself off the hook for not achieving perfect crust!!

May 06, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Heavy cream substitutes

So I went ahead and made ice cream using a combination of fat-free evaporated milk, 1% milk, vanilla bean, cornstarch, sugar and splenda. I don't think the finished product would win any prizes. Actually the texture was not too bad - sort of whipped like a soft serv or Dairy Queen. The flavors and sweetness were quite muted. I think this might be a decent vessel in which to add chocolate chips or dried fruit. Definitely low-calorie for ice cream!

May 02, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Heavy cream substitutes

OK, I know the next question: for what application?

How about the following:

1) Gratins (I'm thinking thickened yogurt maybe)
2) Custards (probably no substitute unless you bring in some gelatin)
3) Ice cream (actually Mark Bittman had a recipe for cornstarch ice cream; just haven't had a chance to try it)
4) Terrines (absolutely no idea!)

Yes, I'm willing to substitute texture and flavor for reasons of health; I just can't bring myself to dump a cup to a cup-and-a-half into anything I'm making for myself. For guests I'll use cream (is there something unethical about that?>!!)

Any advice would be appreciated.

Apr 26, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Milk foaming question

I recently bought an espresso machine. The guy at my local roaster convinced me that instead of using the milk steamer on the machine it would be better to heat milk on the stove or in the microwave, then to use a foamer to make perfect microfoam. I bought the gadget, which has a plastic handle connected to a wire which ends in a spiral loop. I've been heating the milk then using the foamer, but my results are disappointing - I just get a thin layer of foam, and not with the characteristics of microfoam - more like big bubbles. I am thinking that either my technique is bad or I'm just not placing enough milk in the glass. Anybody have experience in this area? Thanks.

Apr 12, 2008
jono37 in Home Cooking

Oven question

I just bought and installed a new oven (GE profile, dual-fuel). Unfortunately my nice round pizza stone doesn't fit in it except on the oven floor where it doesn't bump into the convection fan. My manual says never to cook directly on the oven floor, but what about cooking on the stone on the oven floor? Is there something dangerous or harmful to the oven about that? The other problem I see with the idea is that I'd like to use the convection feature during bread baking, but the manual says you should put food on the middle racks to do that. Could just buy a rectangular stone I guess, but would like to keep this one if I can. (Or maybe it will have a new life as a stone for my grill!)

Apr 12, 2008
jono37 in Cookware