Showing posts with label Meat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Meat. Show all posts

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Home-Cured Holiday Ham – First You Brine, Then You Brag

There are many reasons for making your own holiday ham, but the best one of all, may be the most superficial. After the holidays, as people are standing around the water cooler, bragging how great their glazed carrots were, or how amazing the cranberry sauce came out, you can say, “That sounds great, but did anyone else cure their own ham? I didn’t think so.”

Above and beyond establishing your culinary dominance with friends, the other reasons are pretty good too. You can flavor your ham any way you want; you can somewhat control the salt content; and depending on how many people you need to feed, can cure any size cut of pork you want, from a whole leg to a small loin roast.

There are thousands of different brine and spice combinations, but the procedure is pretty much the same no matter which way you go. However, there is one thing all these recipes have in common, pink salt. To make a true ham, you’re going to need a curing salt that contains sodium nitrite, which is what gives the meat its pink color, and signature “ham” taste, verses something that just tastes like roast pork.

This magical ingredient goes by several names, including Pink Curing Salt #, Insta Cure #1, or the one I used, Prague Powder #1. Yes, you can theoretically use things like celery juice, but long story short, nitrites are nitrites, and it doesn’t matter where they come from. For more info on that, and potential health issues, this article by Michael Ruhlman is a good read.

Once the ham is cured, you’ll want to give it a soak to rinse off the brine, and how long you do this can effect how salty your meat is. I prefer just a quick dunk, but you can leave it for as long as 24 hours, which will produce what I’ll call a low-sodium ham. It’s still pink, and flavorful, but barely salty. Experimentation is the only way to figure out how long to you should go, but I wanted to give you the range.

If you do want a home-cured ham gracing your Christmas table, I’ve given you just enough time to get it done. A local butcher should be happy to give you a few tablespoons of pink salt, otherwise it’s quite easy to find online. Whether it’s for a holiday dinner or not, I really hope you give this a try. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
7 to 10 pound fresh, bone-in pork shoulder “picnic” arm roast (or any large hunk of pork)
For the brine (adapted from Ruhlman’s basic ham brine recipe):
6 quarts water
18 ounces kosher salt (this is about 2 1/4 cups Morton's Kosher Salt, or 3 2/3 cups Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt, as they have difference size grains)
2 cups brown sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pink salt #1
1 rounded tbsp pickling spice, or any spices you want

For the optional glaze:
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of cayenne
pinch of salt  

- Once cured, you should smoke and/or roast your ham until it reaches an internal temp of at least 145-150 F. 

- For a more detailed video on how I prep a ham for the oven, check out this Crispy Honey-Glazed Ham video.
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Friday, September 9, 2016

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Strawberry Mint Sauce – Here’s to a Brighter Future

Like many Americans my age, I was raised with a jar of mint jelly in the fridge, and it never, ever, came out unless there was lamb around. In fact, if someone caught you making a PB&J with mint jelly back then, it was straight to the insane asylum. Nope, mint jelly was to be served only with lamb – and lamb only with mint jelly.

We’ve come a long way since then, and now, anything goes. Except for peanut butter and mint jelly sandwiches. That’s still considered crazy. But as far as mint sauces go, I love experimenting with new ideas, especially around Easter time, and I really liked how this came out.

As I mention, next time we’ll add our mint right before we serve, so to preserve that bright green color, but besides that, I really enjoyed the combination. Once it was properly seasoned, that is. I added more of everything; lemon juice, salt, cayenne, and mint, before it was just right. The ingredient amounts below have been properly adjusted.

Regarding the cooking method: I usually sear my racks in a very hot frying pan, then add the mustard/crumb mixture, and roast until we reach 125 F., internal temp. This time I tried an alternative method, where you sear it in a hot oven, then add the crumbs, and continue roasting until done. Which is a better method for the home cook? Probably the first one.

The good news is; if you watch any of our older rack of lamb videos, you see this method in all its glory. In fact, this “Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb” would not only show you our preferred technique, but would also go amazingly well with this sauce. I really hope you give it a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 2 large or 4 smaller portions:
1 whole (8 bone) rack of lamb seasoned very generously with salt, freshly ground black pepper, and cayenne
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons finely minced green onions
1/4 cup fine plain bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the *sauce:
2 cups fresh strawberries
zest of one lemon
juice from 2 lemons
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup freshly sliced mint leaves (add right before you serve!)
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

* Only do final seasoning when the sauce has cooled. When tasting the sauce, keep in mind it’s going to be used as a condiment, and not eaten plain, which means it needs to be very well-seasoned. This is why it’s better to taste on a cracker or piece of bread, instead of off the spoon. Other great additions to this sauce are things like balsamic vinegar, hot/sweet peppers, cracked black pepper, as well as other “sweet” herbs, like tarragon and basil.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cider-Braised Pork Cheeks – Eating with a Grin

Sometimes when I’m really bored, I’ll sit around trying to think up fake Mark Twain food quotations. For example, “The best beef stew I ever had, was pork cheeks in San Francisco.” That was inspired by the fact these delicious, easy to prepare clumps of pork really do taste like an extra-rich beef shoulder. 

You will have to speak with an actual real, live butcher, but they’re generally harmless, and if they sell fresh pork, I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to order you some cheeks. While I’m very proud of this recipe, and I think the hard cider makes for a perfect cooking liquid, feel free to simply take your favorite stew, or braised beef recipe, and swap in the pork cheeks instead.

Once everything’s in the pan, all you have to do is cook this until the meat is fork tender, and the sauce has thickened enough to coat the meat. Be careful not to use a too-salty broth, otherwise it may be too much once reduced. I really hope you give this cider-braised pork cheeks recipe a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 portions:
* I used 6, but the amounts will work with 8, and give you 4 portions)
8 large pork cheeks (about 2 pounds)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
flour as needed
2 tablespoon clarified butter
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups hard cider
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced

Note: if you want extra sauce, you can add an extra tablespoon of flour to the veggies when they are sautéing. Then add an extra cup of cider and broth, and proceed as shown.
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