March 17, 2011

Playing with the new wide angle lens on the roof:

A tiny slice of the view from my roof taken with my Nikon 50mm prime lens
That same slice of roof view taken with the Tokina 11-16 F2.8 wide angle lens

Note the huge difference in what is captured. Cool.

Just In Time For The Green Beer Holiday: Corned Beef — Charcutepalooza Challenge #3

16.68 lbs. of pure beefy goodness

For this charcuterie challenge, I bought the largest hunk of beef I’ve ever purchased in my entire life. I walked into my local favorite butcher’s (Laurenzo’s Italian Market in North Miami Beach) for a 5.5 lb. beef brisket, and walked out the proud owner of 16.68 lbs. of solid beefy delight.

Why, you might ask? My butchers are great guys. I’ve been frequenting Laurenzos for about 3 years now, and I will never go back to buying regular grocery store meat. These guys consistently have better quality than the large regional chain in this area, and they love what they do; they are passionate about the meat they sell and happy to teach you what to do with it. And that, my friends, is something I can get behind fully. We talk about how I’ll be preparing the meat I’m buying, discuss the pros and cons of any particular cut I may be eyeing, and my butcher knows what kinds of cuts I prefer; he always picks out the leanest cut closest to a pound without even having to be asked. They can also special order just about any critter under the sun if I need it; usually in a week. 5 lb. standing rib roast in the height of the Christmas season? No problem! Give them a week and you’ll have the most beautiful standing rib roast on the block.

So, when the butcher suggested walking out with (gulp!) over 3x the meat I requested, I listened. When buying the whole kit & caboodle, the price was $2-something a pound. If I wanted just the first cut (the brisket part), it would be over the 5 lb. I wanted and over $5 a pound. They suggested just getting the big piece and freezing what I don’t need for later. Buying the big piece not only saved me money up front, I now have enough brisket to corn, and 2 more briskets to BBQ.

Followers of this blog will notice that this is not the place I bought the pork belly for fresh bacon from. Why? I’m impatient and thought pork belly was lying about on trees. I know better now.

On to the corning.

Enough for corned beef and two types of brisket 🙂
Corned beef-to-be
Another angle of the corned beef-to-be: nicely marbled and tasty looking already

The first thing I did was take my lovely hunk o’ beef and broke it down into smaller packages. 1 big roughly 5-6 lb. slab to corn and 2 smaller roughly even portions to BBQ later.

Note: This hunk of beef was so frickin big, it took not 1 but 2 cutting boards to hold it 🙂 Now that’s beefy love.

The brine I used to cure the beef consisted of store-bought pickling spice (I couldn’t for the life of me find the mace called for in Ruhlman’s home made recipe), my new friend pink salt, my old friend kosher salt, sugar & garlic.

In the pot, and ready for it's soak

Submerge beef & wait (patiently if possible) 5 days and viola! A hunk of vaguely creepy-looking drowned beef.

Not as drowned-looking as I had feared. I can see how this will be good.

Rinse, re-cover with water, add some more pickling spice & slow simmer for 2-3 hrs. until fork-tender and you’ve got some of the tastiest and tender corned beef I think I’ve ever had.

Back in the pot; cook low & slow for 3 hours. The smell will be maddening.

The full recipe for this method of corning can be found on page 67 of Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing.

I served the inaugural taste of this heavenly beef with a side of simple roasted purple potatoes and onions and it was devine. Screw cryo-vac corned beef. Next up: corned beef hash and sandwiches.

Roasted purple potatoes and onions make great sides for this tender, juicy beef

Just In Time for St. Patty's Day: Corned Beef on Punk Domestics

March 13, 2011

Duck Ramen

Kon Chau dim sum lunch with a friend taken with the new point and shoot. It was a great lunch; I would venture to say the best dim sum we have had to date in South Florida. Full review coming soon on Foodie in Miami.

What To Do With A Box Of Vegetables: CSA Box #5

2011 CSA Box 5

7 fair trade bananas
6 oz. blueberries
1 lb. local Florida strawberries
2 heads broccoli
4 carrots
1 bunch rainbow chard (swapped in place of the green leaf lettuce listed for a half share)
1 bunch local Florida dino lactino kale
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas
1 pint sweet colorful mini peppers
1 1/2 lbs. purple potatoes
1.1 lb. roma tomatoes on the vine

How I Used My Share

I used the broccoli in a riff on Rice with Roasted Cauliflower from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

I used the kale in a ragout with roasted tomatoes served over Chris’ Bomb Ass Grits.

The grits were so good, we decided to make them again for company; this time using the chard, sweet peppers and some of the 17 tons of onions we have accumulated over the past month or so.

I also made a killer butternut squash, spinach and sausage concoction this week using ingredients from previous boxes.

I made a simple stir-fry to clean up the rest of the veggies using carrots, sugar snap peas, and onions.

Unfortunately the tomatoes rotted before I figured out what to do with them and I’m on berry overload. Since I haven’t even looked at the strawberries, I can guarantee they have rotted in the crisper. I should really do something about that.

My DH recently started running again, so he has been the best kind of banana disposal. Which is great, because I’m a little burnt out on fruit in general.

My Favorite Recipe From This Box
Has to be the grits.

1 Year Ago

8 oz. local Florida strawberries

6 oz. blueberries

5 fair trade bananas

1 golden sweet pineapple

1 head cauliflower

1 bunch lactino kale

4 roma tomatoes

1 head local Florida cabbage

1 bunch local Florida celery

3 large carrots

5 yellow onions

8 russet potatoes

1 bunch green chard

2 sweet potatoes

What I Made: Pommes Chef Anne, green curry, pasta pepperonata, veggie biryani with cashews, lentils with cabbage, kale and sweet potato stir-fry.

The Best Damn Grits I’ve Ever Tasted

These grits are good. Like jump-up-and-smack-yo-momma good. Better than the stone ground fancified grits at my favorite restaurant good. And the best part? I can have them any time I please. This is another comfort dish my DH has taken and made his own. Love it when he does that.

Chris’ Bomb-Ass Grits

2 cups milk (we use 2% Horizon Farms Organic)
2 cups water
1 cup yellow grits (we used Arrowhead Farms organic yellow corn grits)
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. grated parmesan
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Pour the milk and water into a saucepan on medium-high. Cover & wait for the milk to boil. When it does, add the grits & salt and kick the heat down to medium. Stir constantly (yes, constantly means what you think it does) until the grits look like a thick soup, approximately 8 mins.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring only every 2-3 minutes until the grits thicken and fall nicely from the spoon, 7-8 minutes. You’re not looking for crazy thick here, just a nice thick but not concrete consistency.

When the grits reach that golden consistency, start stirring constantly for a little longer until they become creamy, fluffy & soft. Turn off the heat.

Add the parmesan, butter, pepper & red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Taste for salt and add if needed.

Serve with anything. We’ve had them with a great slow cooked ragout of mini bell peppers, onion and swiss chard and a plain topping of fire roasted tomatoes with kale.

To make the pepper & onion ragout:  slice 1 pint mini bell peppers into 1/4 inch thick rings, 2 cloves garlic and 2 small white onions into thin slices. Sautee, stirring frequently to avoid burning, over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil 20 mins. or until caramelized. Add 1 bunch chopped rainbow chard and 1/4 c. water and cook until chard wilts and water evaporates. Add 1 tsp. chipotle Tabasco sauce and sriracha (Chicken Sauce) to taste (for me, that’s a turn of the pan and a half). Salt & pepper to taste.

Serve over grits with thick batons of home made bacon.

If by some miracle you happen to have any leftovers, try this recipe inspired by Carla from Top Chef:

Fried Grit Fritters

Heat a medium pan on medium-high heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.

Take roughly 1/4 cup of your now solidified grits and dump them on a plate. Carefully with either your hands or a spoon, smash and spread the grits out until they look like a free form pancake about 1/2 inch thick. It doesn’t matter if you have little cracks here and there; you’re looking for something that will more or less stay together in the pan.

Transfer carefully to the pan and fry until golden brown. Flip & repeat.

This treatment wakes the leftover grits up and gives them a pleasant, almost nutty taste.