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Decadent dinner, aioli recipe

19 Apr

Beef kebab prepped by New Seasons and (rather unsuccessfully) broiled by me. Steamed asparagus. And herb-shallot butter aioli, recipe bellow.  

Herb-Shallot Butter Aioli

  • 1 whole egg, fresh and from a trusted source
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Small lobe of shallot
  • A few sprigs fresh marjoram
  • Dash each salt, paprika, mustard powder
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  1. Melt the butter and let cool briefly. 
  2. Meanwhile, put the first five ingredients in the base of a tall, narrow container. 
  3. Pour the butter carefully into the container, leaving a distinct layer of everything else. 
  4. Similarly, add the oil. 
  5. Let stand 15 minutes. 
  6. Immerse a stick blender so the blades are at the bottom of the container. Pulse several times until a pale emulsion starts to form. Slowly move the blender up and down until fully blended. 

I suggest you let this cool before serving, otherwise it’s runny as seen here. Put in a pint mason jar and refrigerate. Use within the week. 

If after refriegrating it’s still too runny, blend in more olive oil a tablespoon at a time.   

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Food experiment of the week: almond milk “ice cream”

9 Aug

I like how when it comes to making ice cream, the paleo types and the vegan types somehow manage to find common ground.

After that amazing but OMG DAIRY FILLED squash casserole, I thought I’d try my hand at a really simple dairy free ice cream solution, store-bought almond milk. I know intellectually that this is about the worst possible non dairy ice cream base. There’s a reason most of us rely on coconut milk, and that reason is creamy, creamy fat. But I have a LOT of cartons of unsweetened almond milk in the house because I use it for so many things (including many of my medieval food adventures) that I figured it was at least worth a try.

So: can you make passable ice cream using commercial almond milk?

Answer: …sort of.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Almond Milk Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Sweetener of choice to taste — I used a whopping 4 T of palm sugar, pushing this right out of the healthy zone and into “planned indulgence”
  • Pinch salt
  • Optional: vanilla extract (be warned the alcohol content can impact freezing)
  • Optional: giant heaping blob of nut butter of choice. I used peanut butter, because I have made peace with the fact that I am not going to give up the Devil’s Legume, but a better choice would be almond butter.

Recipe:

  1. Pre-freeze your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Mine has to be frozen for 24 hours prior to making ice cream, so I just always store it in my freezer.
  2. Place first five ingredients in a mason jar, put on the lid, and shake it like you mean it.
  3. Freeze according to your machine’s instructions.
  4. When nearly frozen, add nut butter of choice and let mix until “swirled” in.

As predicted, this didn’t have a very good texture. I suspect that there are some simple fixes, like adding chia seeds or even gelatin to bulk up the ice cream base, but really, the better option is to just use high-fat coconut milk or even homemade almond milk (which tends to have more fat than the store bought stuff). It was, however, pleasantly chocolatey, and the peanut butter was really good.

I may do some experimentation with hazelnut milk next. Hazelnut milk is one of life’s great pleasures, and I think hazelnut milk chocolate ice cream has the potential to be AMAZING. I could even add hazelnut butter to it for some extra oomph.

Squash Casserole: it’s not Paleo, but it’s Effing Delicious

7 Aug

We have a LOT of squash coming off the garden right now. That’s the deal with summer squashes. I even tried to plan for it and I planted “only” four squash plants of a single variety that I know we like (patty pan). How stupid could I be? That’s still a lot of squash! I’ve made stuffed squash (recipe forthcoming possibly), squash in my eggs (this is good), baked squash (if you overseason it, it’s terrible), and more. Better Half staunchly refuses all of these. Her resolve holds steady.

I was craving macaroni and cheese. How could I make something like that, all creamy and full of terrible, terrible dairy but moderately low in carbs? I went searching for squash casserole recipes, played around with what I had on hand, and I hit paydirt. I share this with deep shame: you are searching for paleo squash recipes and you land here? Oh dear. What if we call this a “low carb substitute for macaroni and cheese” and just call it good? Okay? Okay.

Squash casserole

This is the worst thing and also the best thing.

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium sized summer squashes
  • 1 small to medium onion
  • ~1/2 cup Sour cream (or more if you want a creamier, “looser” consistency)
  • ~1.5 cups Shredded cheese (any variety or combination), divided
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Just a pinch of cayenne pepper

I thinly sliced a bunch of squashes (both patty pans and some yellow crooknecks that we had from the market) and an onion and sauteed them together until “tender crisp” (cooked enough that they would be cooked through but not mushy after baking, and I kind of guessed, really). Then I combined these with “what looked like enough” of the sour cream and shredded cheese, seasoned it, and put it in a ceramic baking dish. I sprinkled some more cheese on top and baked it for twenty minutes.

This is, hand to God, the only squash recipe I have ever made where every MOLECULE got devoured. My wife, my squash-hating wife, asked for seconds. We have a winner, folks.

Crepinettes: Caul-Wrapped Goodness

18 Jun

Caul fat, contrary to what you might expect, is not some kind of witch-magic fat that comes from a baby. It is in fact a membrane that wraps around the stomach and intestines of a pig (and perhaps other animals, although I’ve only ever had it from pigs). It’s an incredibly fun kitchen “toy” — it’s typically wrapped around various meats before roasting, and the thin membrane locks in flavors while the tasty fat melts and infuses the meat; for this reason its often used to wrap lean cuts and game. I’m also partial to caul-wrapped liver (especially chicken livers).

Caul can be difficult to obtain. My most recent samples came from helping slaughter and dress two hogs (you can read about this life-changing adventure on my medieval food blog — it was one of the best experiences of my life). Getting to see caul fat in situ was extremely exciting to me — it’s a beautiful, ethereal net, and it’s quite lovely when it’s still fresh in the pig. I’ve also had fairly good luck ordering it from full-service butchers. If you live in the Portland area, the most reliable sources I’ve found are Laurelhurst Market (they have it at the meat counter) and Ponderosa Meats (where it is a special — and expensive — order). It stores relatively well frozen in vacuum-bags.

When you are ready to use it, and once it’s thawed if necessary, simply soak the piece you wish to use in water; some people recommend adding a little vinegar to “freshen” the odor, but I haven’t found this necessary. If your caul is stinky, it’s gone bad or was mishandled during the gutting process. That may be personal bias, I didn’t find the inside of a pig to be overwhelmingly stinky and I’ve always thought of myself as really squeamish about smells (the outside of a pig is VERY stinky).

I have a lot of caul on hand right now (it’s okay to be jealous of that), and so I’ve been trying out different things to do with it. My current favorite is crepinettes — this is a traditional French fresh sausage, where logs or patties of seasoned pork are wrapped in caul and roasted or pan-seared. There are many ways to season crepinettes, if you are going to make them its really worth making a few batches with different flavors. For my most recent round, I did three one-pound batches, each with a different seasoning, and froze each batch in labeled containers to thaw and eat at my leisure. From one pound of meat, I make eight crepinettes. I found I was able to wrap three pounds of meat using the caul from one pig — depending on processing/trimming and initial size of the pig, your mileage may vary.

Here’s a basic recipe for crepinettes, to be adjusted to your preference:

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder
  • 1 complete piece of caul fat
  • 1 T Kosher salt per pound of meat (I like salty food)
  • Spices to taste (generally 1 tsp – 1 Tbsp per lb of meat, depending on your preferences)
  • Other lovely additions: fresh herbs, dried fruit, and nuts

If you are truly insane, hand-chop the pork shoulder by first cubing it, then whacking away at it with a sharp knife in small batches until it is all finely minced. This yields the best finished texture but it is time consuming, rather exhausting, and will dull your knives (and you need to start with a very good, very sharp knife for it to work). Second best option is to grind the shoulder yourself using a coarse grinding plate in a meat grinder. If both of these are beyond your reach, buy pre-ground pork or ask your butcher to grind the shoulder for you.

Divide the meat into one pound portions to season. As you add the seasonings, knead the meat well as you would for meatballs. Once seasoned, divide each batch into eight equal portions, flatten into patties, and wrap in small pieces of caul, overlapping the edges of the caul to form a seam.

To cook, preheat oven to 400°F, roast seam-side up for 25 minutes, flip, roast for another 15 minutes. The exterior should be uniformly brown and crispy.

I like to eat these on a bed of garden greens (mâche, baby kale, and arugula being my favorite combination so far) dressed with — what else? — butteraise, or walnut oil, salt, and white-wine vinegar (or, if you can get it, verjuice — juice from unripe grapes).

Here are some seasoning suggestions:

  • Quatre epices: pepper, clove, nutmeg, ginger (or cinnamon)
  • Exotic peppers: long pepper, cubeb, and grains of paradise
  • Medieval “powder fort” or “powder douce”
  • Sage, fennel, red pepper flakes
  • I made a particularly excellent batch with a mix of medieval “fine spices” that was gifted to me at a reenactment event, walnuts, fresh sage, and dried cranberries, plus salt. For one pound of meat, I added 1 tsp of the seasoning mix (I do not know what all it contained but I do know it had saffron, which went very well in this), 1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts, a large bunch of sage (finely chopped), and 1/2 cup of dried whole cranberries. The cranberries were sweetened, which is frustrating if you’re watching carbs or omitting processed sugars, but added a good flavor dimension.

Here’s a picture of my walnut-cranberry-sage crepinettes, complete with ridiculous garnish (and flourish of butteraise — I’ve started storing it in squeeze bottles, which is possibly the best idea I’ve ever had):

crepinettes

Stuffed Grape Leaves

12 May

I can’t call this a recipe because I haven’t worked one out, it’s more like a “food idea.” But it’s a really good idea — paleo stuffed grape leaves! Our grape vines have such pretty soft leaves right now, and I really like stuffed grape leaves, and I’ve always wanted to make them at home with fresh leaves… so I figured why not?

Here’s what I ended up with:

paleo grape leaves

Stuffed fresh grape leaves

Before I started I did some poking around online for advice and came back with two things that seemed critical:

  1. Steep the leaves briefly in boiling water before starting, until they turn from bright green to dull green.
  2. Cut out the vein/stem at the very center of the leaf, where it attached to the petiole.

Other than that, I winged it. Here’s what I did:

  • Picked leaves that were still tender.
  • Put them in a tempered glass container, poured boiling water over them, let them sit until they turned olive green.
  • Drained and rinsed with cold water.
  • Made the filling: I had some grass-fed beef cut for stir-fry that I hand chopped (albeit with a pretty dull knife, so it’s more accurate to say I smashed it a little) then mixed with garlic, salt, and a Georgian (the country, not the state) spice mix that someone gave me some years back and that I don’t really know anything else about except that it’s yummy. I eyeballed the filling-to-leaf ratio and I didn’t get it quite right, but it turned out okay.
  • Separated the filling into little lumps, put a lump in the center of a leaf, and wrapped, making sure to completely enclose the meat and stick the leaf back to itself well.
  • Put each bundle in a steamer basket, then steamed them all for about 15 minutes.

Traditionally dolmas are served cold, but I ate mine hot. I drizzled a little olive oil on top and sprinkled on some coarse salt. This is great as a snack, or a party appetizer. They would be even better with lamb (which would also be more traditional), and you could add other vegetables to the filling easily.

Homemade Butter

23 Apr

When I was a little girl, my mom read all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to me and I loved them. We made a lot of food together that was inspired by the books, and my mom even sewed me some costumes; I remember a sun bonnet in particular that I think I had her make for me and then refused to wear specifically so that I could emulate Laura. I can trace a lot of my interests as an adult back to these experiences, really.

My love of butter is no secret. Every so often I’ll get the urge to make my own butter. It’s not any cheaper than buying butter, and it isn’t even necessarily more tasty than some of the luxury butters you can buy, but it’s just so fun that I can’t resist. Plus, it’s one of those kitchen tricks that people just go nuts for — if you ever bring homemade butter to a potluck, no one will say “All you brought was butter?” rather all you will here will be “You made butter!?!?!?”

The process is stupidly simple: you agitate heavy cream until the fat clumps together (the butter) and separates from the watery liquid (the buttermilk). Usually when I make butter I either shake it in a mason jar (tip: it works better if you add a well-washed marble) or just use the stand mixer. Once the butter separates, use a very clean tool (traditionally a special paddle) to press out all the buttermilk, rinsing with a little water to get it all out, then salt it and serve however you please. Better butter comes from better cream, so start with the good stuff, and to make it even better culture the cream first. I haven’t really experimented with this yet, but it’s next on my list.

A friend of mine has a miniature ceramic butter churn that I’ve been coveting for some years now. At the urban homesteading store the other day (oh, Portland!) I found one of my very own! This size doesn’t come with a dasher (the plunger part), so I had to rig up one on my own with some scrap wood, but today I got to live out all my pioneer dreams:

The finished product

The finished product

Churning butter while waiting for my steak-grilling fire to get ready!

Churning butter while waiting for my steak-grilling fire to get ready!

A wonderful way for carpaccio

9 Apr

I’ve been on a pretty serious raw meat kick lately. Once I successfully made steak tartare at home, it was like I had crossed some threshold from which I could never return. I love steak tartare and carpaccio with an unrivaled zeal, and these foods have suddenly been transformed from occasional treats that I only splurge on when I’m at a particularly fancy and reputable restaurant to something I could have for dinner on a Wednesday night. And then maybe again on a Thursday night. Or for brunch on a Sunday.

I’m aware that this may not be the wisest choice. I have a healthy respect for the risk of food-borne illness — I’ve been waylaid before by some pretty awful bugs, and I don’t want to repeat the experience. In spite of following lots of precautions when I eat raw meat, I know that I’m exposing myself to a risk. It’s a reward that’s worth the risk, but when you consider each consumption as a separate roll of the bacteria dice, the more times you roll the more likely you are to come up snake eyes… or something, that metaphor got a little convoluted. The point is, is once a week too often for raw meat? Yeah, I think so. But… so tasty! I am conflicted!

In any case, for those who do enjoy the occasional raw meat treat (see my earlier post on the subject for suggestions for lowering the risk of bacterial contamination), here’s a particularly lovely combination: thinly sliced beef over a bed of arugula topped with butteraise, salt and pepper, and finely minced shallot:

Carpaccio Closeup 2

I used butteraise that was freshly made and slightly warm, which meant it was a bit runny. This was a nice effect for this dish.

Carpaccio

I really wish I had one of those nice squeeze bottles so I could have drizzled the sauce more attractively.

Carpaccio Closeup 1

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