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Corned tongue November 25, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards, Pork.
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It’s been well established that I’m a fan of tongue. I’m also a huge fan of corned beef. So it made sense to combine the two and finally make corned tongue. I was all excited to get going – it was going to take a week to brine the tongue so I wanted to get started right away!

To make the brine, I basically used the same brine I’d previously when making corned beef. I added sugar, salt, pink salt, juniper berries, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice and some chili to boiling water, and stirred until the sugar and salt was dissolved. When it was cool, I put the tongue in the brine and weighed it down with a plate. I set this in the fridge to await the brining process.

When the week was up, I removed the tongue from the brine and gave it a rinse. Then I transferred it to the pressure cooker and added various aromatics such as garlic, onion, parsley, bay leaves and peppercorns. I added some water and then put the pressure cooker on for about an hour.

Another great use of the pressure cooker! To have tongue ready in about an hour is just great. I was so happy to have the tongue ready so quickly!

Once it had cooked and cooled, I began the process of peeling the skin away and then chopping the meat up.

I was very happy to see that that brine had apparently penetrated all the way into the tongue. The tongue was very tender and seemed softer than previously when I’ve boiled tongue on the stove.

Once I’d peeled it and chopped it up, I made some quick sides to go with the tongue: some salad of rocket and pickles, and some silverbeet with garlic and lemon. While I generally prefer my corned meats with horseradish (the super spicy kind), I decided this time to go with some French mustard, as I thought the herbs would pair well with the tongue.

As you can see, the brine didn’t actually penetrate all the way to the centre of the tongue. While the corned flavour permeated throughout the meat, I would have preferred if it was uniformly coloured all the way through too. I suppose this means a longer brine period next time – perhaps a week and a half or even two weeks.

Corned tongue is definitely something I’ll do again as it combines many of my favourite food elements and is a lovely meal. While I’ll be very impatient next time waiting the extra time for the brine to properly permeate throughout the meat, hopefully the results will be worth it.

For valentine’s day: lamb’s hearts February 14, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Unfortunately even Valentine’s Day can be graphic when dealing with lamb’s hearts; don’t scroll beyond the orchid if you don’t want to see the photos!

Photo by Flickr user tm-tm

Valentine’s Day is, of course, a time for sweets, chocolate and teddy bears. However, there are other romantic things – hearts, for example. I decided to create an edible and romantic Valentine’s Day feast, with the star ingredients being lamb’s hearts.

As with many muscles which do a lot of work before they reach the plate, hearts are best either cooked for a few minutes – as in this stir fry recipe from the indolent cook – or stewed for a long time. I decided to stew them for a few hours until they were tender.

To start with, I had to remove all the fatty tissue from the hearts. This was easier than I was expecting, and I was pleasantly surprised that they were still intact without any major cuts in them. Next time, I’ll have to try stuffing them.

I started by salting and peppering the hearts, then browned them on all sides. I had to turn them a few times to make sure all sides were browned.

When they were browned, I took them out of the pot and added sliced onions, celery, carrot, tomato, and turnips. I also added some spices: mustard, bay leaves and paprika. When the vegetables had softened for a bit, I added stock and red wine, then returned the hearts to the pot, so they were covered by the liquid.

And this is how I left them for about 2 hours, simmering gently on the stove. I checked it occasionally to make sure it wasn’t simmering too hard, and poked the hearts a few times to see how soft they were. It was almost 2 hours exactly when I decided they were ready.

Being Valentine’s Day, I decided to serve them in a suitably romantic way.

As well as being very romantic. these hearts were very delicious. I have had ox heart before, but had never tried lamb’s hearts. Texturally, they reminded me of tongue – softer and somehow more yielding than more standard cuts of meat – but still tasted very meaty and quite rich, with no offal-type taste. This make sense, as the heart is of course a muscle, not a gland or organ, but it is interesting as many people are quite squeamish about hearts when they are just another muscle. The vegetables had also taken on much of the hearty flavour and went very well in the dish.

Whatever you are planning for Valentine’s Day – whether you buy into the hype or not it’s always nice to do something for your significant other – remember, sometimes, all you need is a little bit of heart.


Grilled lamb kidneys December 11, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Innards, Lamb.

So Charcutepalooza is all finished and the first thing I post after Charcutepalooza is more innards! Of course these came about on a whim when I saw lamb’s kidneys for sale at the butchers’. Flicking through the Nero Wolfe Cookbook, I saw the perfect recipe for my lamb’s kidneys.

Of course to start with, I had to split the kidneys and remove the inedible tissue.

While I’m definitely getting better at this, it’s fair to say I ended up with a variety of different sized and shaped pieces, rather than neat halves of kidney.

I made a marinade of olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, mustard powder and nutmeg (I was meant to use mace, but had none – I thought nutmeg was a decent substitute). After this was all mixed together, I added the kidneys and left them to marinate for about 30 minutes.

While they were marinating, I mixed some worcestershire sayce, cayenne pepper and lemon juice into some softened butter. At the end of the 30 minutes, I took the pieces of kidney and threaded them onto skewers. It was at this point I swore at the person who had made such silly-shaped kidney pieces, and had made it so hard to get them onto the skewers!

Now it was simply a matter of brushing the kidneys with the flavoured butter I’d made earlier, and sick the under the grill. After a few minutes, I took them out, flipped them over, added more butter and returned them to the grill until they were done.

I made a simple sauce with the drippings from the kidneys plus the rest of the flavoured butter, and made an endive salad to serve the kidneys with.

This was a really nice way of cooking kidneys. They weren’t rubbery or hard but instead were still soft, and were very flavoursome. The marinade and butter worked really well together to provide some spiciness and acidity to contrast with the flavour of the kidneys. The thyme also came through strongly and provided a great earthiness to the kidneys.

Once again Nero Wolfe has provided me with a great method to cook something – in this case, kidneys. I think kidneys are often added to stews until they go almost hard and rubbery, whereas in this case, they were soft and juicy. I’ll definitely be cooking kidneys like this again.

Charcutepalooza grand finale: A (literal) nose to tail dinner December 6, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Charcutepalooza, Innards, Pork.
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The menu

To start
Pig’s ear salad (recipe: Fergus Henderson)
Pig’s liver pate (recipe: Darina Allen)

Black pudding with apples and onions (recipe: Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn)
Confit of pork shoulder (recipe: Ruhlman & Polcyn)
Steamed buns with boiled pork belly and chutney (pork belly recipe: Henderson)
Crispy pig’s tails (recipe: Henderson)

Chocolate cake pigs with crispy pig skin ‘tails’ (recipe mine, all mine)

When considering what to prepare for the grand finale of Charcutepalooza, I weighed up lots of considerations. Duck is always a favourite, and there are lots of interesting things to do with fish and chicken. However, when I came down to it, the main ingredient for me for charcuterie will always be the humble pig.

In line with Charcutepalooza and also in accord with my general nose to tail philosophy, I decided to create a literal pork nose to tail dinner, using a selection of different pig parts.

Porky platter

In choosing what I wanted to cook, I used a selection of things I’d cooked before and really enjoyed – such as headcheese, black pudding and steamed buns – and things I was curious about, in particular, using pig’s liver instead of chicken liver in a pate, making pork confit, and using pig’s tails. It was a great opportunity to bring all the things I’d learned during Charcutepalooza.

As well as teaching me a great deal about preparing and preserving different types of meats, Charcutepalooza has reminded me of another important lesson: that I am blessed with fantastic produce and wonderful markets here in Melbourne. This particularly struck me as I stubbornly asked at every meat stall at the Preston Market if they stocked pig’s tails. While my beloved Little Saigon Market could supply me with pig’s heads and blood, there were no tails in sight. Luckily, a stall at Preston had pig’s tails still attached to their backbones, and once I convinced them that I wanted the tails, but not the bones, I claimed my prize.

Crispy pig tail

I started the preparations a few weeks ago, making pork shoulder confit and the pig’s liver pate in one weekend, and blood sausages and headcheese the following weekend. I admit I snuck some pieces of confit straight after it was done, before leaving it to cool in its fat. The pate, too, was very interesting, blending pig’s liver, belly, cream and spices together before slowly cooking it in jars in the oven.

Pork and cream ready for pate

Pork confit in its fat

Making blood sausage is becoming a favourite this household, and again with the use of 4 hands (H lending his to the exercise), the sausages were rapidly filled without the hint of a bloodbath. I gently poached them; we ate some on the spot and saved the rest for the grand finale.

Making the black pudding

Black pudding after poaching

While the blood sausage was cooking, the headcheese was happily simmering away on the stove. Like last time, it was a simple matter of pulling all the meat off, adding the liquid and letting it firm up overnight.

Headcheese preparation

On ‘the day’, there was some final cooking preparations to do before arranging everything to serve. The pig’s tails were roasted in a wine and stock mixture, before being crumbed and baked further until they were crispy. I fried up some pig’s ears and pieces of skin, and snuck some tastes while I was finishing everything else. I also made a salad of endive, radicchio and capers to go with the pig’s ears – I felt it was wise to have at least some vegetables!

Fried pig's skin and ears

Tails cooling after being poached in wine; some fried pieces of skin

I boiled a piece of pork belly for a few hours, until it was soft. I love cooking pork belly in this way, although of course there is no crispy skin. I made a chutney with apples, chili and onions, then chopped up the belly and added chutney and pieces of belly into the dumplings. I steamed them for about 10 minutes before cooling them.

Making the chutney to go into the steamed buns: apple, onion and chili

Pieces of boiled pork belly

Pig liver pate with pig imprint, steamed bun, piggy cake and pig tail

And the cake! I made a sheet of chocolate cake and cut out some pig shapes with my pig cookie cutter. I didn’t bother to ice them, but instead added a crispy pig skin ‘tail’. While the idea definitely amused me and was worth it for the presentation alone, I was also thinking of the combination of chocolate and salt and thought it might match well.

Pig chocolate cake with fried skin tail

As for the eating: while it may have been a good opportunity to share with friends, I thought for the actual grand finale the best plan was for me and H to share the meal. He has helped me on each of the challenges, taking photos, adding an extra set of hands when needed, and not getting horrified when the kitchen is covered in pork fat – or blood. We enjoyed plates of dumplings, blood sausage, and everything else! – before finishing with chocolate cake.

Nose to tail plate

Charcutepalooza has been a terrific learning experience for me, not only in terms of the skills I’ve learned, but also in relation to the power of community – in particular, the power of a community which develops over a medium such as twitter. It was infinitely reassuring to know I had a veritable hive-mind willing to assist me, answer any question or negate any worry I may have had about my meat.

While I probably won’t blog so incessantly about meat now that Charcutepalooza is officially over, rest assured I will continue with preserving and preparing meats in different ways. I know I want to perfect a blood sausage recipe. And there are many more meats left to cure!

I would like to thank Cathy and Kim for starting everyone on such a marvellous adventure, and also all the other Charcutepalooza participants. It’s a great experience to cure your own meats but it is made so much better with the encouragement, enthusiasm and inclusiveness of all involved in this community.

Pate en Croute September 15, 2011

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Charcutepalooza, Innards, Pork.
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I must admit that this didn’t end up as pretty as I was hoping. First, I couldn’t find a pretty pate mould and had to use a small tin. The pastry had to be patched. The camera battery died in the middle of trying to take photos. I almost forgot to include the tongue! However, this still tasted ridiculously good with all the flavours combining well and the pastry being flaky and light – so I still consider it a definite success!

I used the basic recipes from Charcuterie for both the pork terrine with tenderloin inlay, and the pate dough. However, it’s fair to say that I used these recipes more as a guide and adapted and changed things along the way. To start with, I got my terrine mix of pork shoulder, pork fat, spices and sage, and ground them together. Incidentally, I found another supplier of pork fat and sausage casings while buying supplies for this challenge, so I was very pleased!

I cooked some garlic and shallots in brandy and sloe gin (my substitution for madeira) and, when they had cooled, mixed them into the ground pork mix. I got my piece of pork tenderloin and seared it well and also left this to cool while I turned to my pastry.

One of the nice things about participating in Charcutepalooza is having all the leftover things to use in other contexts. This time, I was able to use the goose fat I’d rendered after making these sausages, in the pastry crust for the pate. I substituted the amount of butter for goose fat, and left the dough in the fridge.

When I’d read the recipe for pork pate en croute, I’d been intrigued by the use of ham, which went between the pastry and the terrine meat. The purpose of this was to help insulate the filling from the pastry, so that the pastry did not get soggy. I decided to substitute the ham for slices of tongue. So, the night before, I cooked and peeled the tongue, and let it refrigerate overnight (no photos of this but here’s an account of when I’ve prepared tongue previously). Now I took the tongue and cut it into fairly thin pieces.

Next came the assembly of all the bits. And here’s where it went in the not-pretty direction… I started with rolling out the pastry and lining a loaf tin with it. Oops, the pastry tore; oh well, I’ll just patch it up…

Oh, the tongue pieces aren’t long enough to go all the way around the pastry; oh well, I’ll just whack in a few more pieces…

And now the pastry has torn when I’ve pulled the edges over; let’s just pretend that’s an air hole.

The good thing about these recipes is that they’re very forgiving, and don’t really care if they’re not pretty. I cooked the pate in the oven for a couple of hours, until the internal temperature reached 65ºC. I upended the tin almost straight after taking it out of the oven, and after it had cooled a bit, I was able to just lift the tin up and see the pate on the plate below.

The not-prettiness continued when I cut slices of the pate, only to have the pastry crumble off the edges.

However, the lack of prettiness didn’t matter when I was able to bite into the pate. The pastry was ridiculously good: flaky and rich. The tongue held everything together while the pork tenderloin added some lovely smoky flavours. And the terrine mix itself was flavoursome and on the sweet side, which contrasted nicely to the other elements. Prettiness notwithstanding, this was a great pate en croute.