Posts Tagged ‘The Cheese Boutique’

Gimme My Burrata!

Beets, Burrata, Etc

When the Everyman and I were in Chicago recently, we went to a restaurant called The Publican for dinner that we’d heard amazing things about.

One of the items they had on their menu that I absolutely had to order was a chilled beet and burrata salad, because a girl can never have too much burrata.

Imagine my dismay when the plate set before me was covered with daubs of ricotta cheese instead (and I like ricotta!)

Receiving no explanation as to why there was no burrata, I half-heartedly ate my salad, all the while inwardly sulking over the missing cheese.  Had the place been less packed and frantic, I would have said something about it, but it hardly seemed worth the fuss at the time.

Since then, I’ve been unable to get that combination off my mind.  So, after a trip to Cheese Boutique this week, I decided to recreate it myself.

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Not Too Late To The Party

Leaves Of Plenty

Though it’s not yet May, this year I’ve often worried that I might have missed the window for Ontario ramps and wild fiddleheads.

With a warmer than normal March and April, these edible delicacies have been popping up much earlier than usual, which leaves me without farmer’s markets to buy them from, since all of the markets in my area don’t start up until mid May or June.  Last year we found them at The Cheese Boutique several times, but given my tendency to grossly overspend every time I cross their threshold, I wasn’t keen on the idea of heading over there just to get a couple pounds of ramps.

But then, on the way home from the Green Living Show yesterday, the serendipitous happened.

As I was walking along Dundas West, huddled against the wind and the rain, I noticed a lone sandwich board announcing a grand opening.  It turns out that Provenance Regional Cuisine has rented out some space in the existing Palmerston Cafe and is now a mini pop-up style grocery store.  I walked in to investigate, but since the Everyman and I were about to hurry off to a Cowbell brunch, I only made the most cursory glance of the products on offer.  Promising the counter staff that I would return, several hours later the Everyman and I did.

And what a bounty we found.  Not only is the place gorgeously curated, but it finally offers a place to buy local, sustainable meat that’s only a 3 minute walk from our house, as opposed to the 20 minute jaunt it takes me to get to The Healthy Butcher.  After a few minutes I managed to procure a bundle of ramps, as well as some homemade crostini, dried cranberry beans, sweet potato flour and more.  With the ramps firmly in hand, all that was left was to devise how to use them. (more…)

You Choo-Choo-Choose Me?

The Big Whoopie

I know, I know.

That clichéd Simpsons line has been popping up in stories all over town this week but I really do love the Simpsons and specifically enjoy that episode.

We’re not really fans of the big “V-day” here at Foodie and the Everyman (which I tend to refer to in my head as venereal disease or victimized delusions day, for no particular reason).  In fact, when the Everyman and I first started seeing each other, it was only a few weeks before V-day (and my birthday which is one week after) and we both agreed about how ridiculously stupid it is.  So generally speaking, we don’t tend to celebrate it.  I prefer to think that the person I’m with is going to do nice things for me all year round instead of being bludgeoned into submission by some industry’s made up excuse for a spending spree.

And for the most part the Everyman does and so do I.  Though he doesn’t often bring me the “traditional” gifts of chocolate or flowers, he does regularly indulge me in other ways, such as expanding my love of restaurants and travel.  In fact, just last week he told me I could start planning our next vacation to wherever I wanted to go, and to me that’s more romantic than a February 14th drugstore chocolate sampler any day.

But because we both love to eat, we did go out for dinner on V-day one year (to Mistura) but like that article in the Globe earlier this week, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a worthwhile experience (though it was one of the last times I ate lobster before I got sick).  The whole time we were there the service was so rushed and you could tell the meal had been hastily prepared.  At the end of the night it was apparent that their main objective was maximizing bums at tables and gross consumerism is just so sexy, you know?  So, we just don’t bother anymore.  If the Hoof wasn’t constantly overrun with hipsters, I’d probably have gotten on board with going there for an anti-V-day meal, but it’s packed every night of the week anyway, so that was pretty much out of the question.  I don’t enjoy busy restaurants on a good day, so amplifying that by adding a “holiday” to the mix makes it even less appealing to the both of us.

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Food Of The Gods

Cheese!

Having been at the cottage this past weekend, the Everyman and I made a pit stop at Cheese Boutique before we headed up, as is customary for the two of us.

Shopping at Cheese Boutique is often fraught with stresses for me, because there is always so much I want to see, but only a limited time allotted to me while the Everyman procures the meaty end of our selections.  I am usually tasked with the cheese shopping, and our combined input determines the fruit, veg and bread.  We tend to go away with much more food than we’ll ever need, but miraculously, it still manages to get eaten (snerk!)

One of the things I look forward to after a Cheese Boutique run is the leftovers that accumulate in our fridge.  The fior di latte and tomatoes never last long in our house unfortunately, which in both cases is entirely my fault, what with them being two of my most dreaded forms of culinary Kryptonite.  Most times I am able to scrounge together enough remnants to assemble a tasty lunch, which I did for work yesterday.

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Grown Up Jello

100 Mysteries Panna Cotta

As promised and only partly due to an abundance of whipping cream, I embarked on a panna cotta panoply yesterday.

For those who might not be aware, panna cotta is a gelatinized pudding-like dessert; one that I only recently learned to enjoy.  After an amazing orange blossom version (another anomaly since I despise oranges) at Cowbell, I realized the reason I’d been so turned off in the past was simply due to a heavy hand with gelatin.  Anything overly wobbly or exhibiting a skin was definite cause for a pass, but I endeavored to expand my horizons and try creating them at home.

When we visited Cheese Boutique recently as part of our ramp adventure, I managed to stock up on a few uncommon flavor extracts with the express purpose of preparing panna cotta.  But after considering my options (which included chocolate, rosewater and orange blossom extracts) I chose 100 Mysteries instead.  The two flavors I most wanted to test drive were unavailable and still being tracked down (elderflower and hibiscus) so tea seemed like an acceptable second fiddle.

I brewed a pot of cream with a tea ball full of the exquisite tisane, and allowed it to steep while maintaining the barest simmer for 20 minutes.  The recipe I used as a starting point called for a little honey, and in my naivete I thought that honeycomb would work just as well.  The flavor of the honeycomb was fine, but once the cream reached a certain temperature the beeswax melted and formed a slightly oily film that had to be extracted using the utmost care.  Once that disaster was averted, the rest was smooth sailing.  After the interval for brewing, bloomed gelatin sheets were stirred in, and the cream was dispatched into 4 dainty, fluted ramekins.  Following a slight dissipation of heat, the puddings were left in the fridge for a few hours to take a chilly catnap.

Success!

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Tasty Tidbits

Garlic + Caramel = Yum!

As I’m sure I’ve probably mentioned before, when the Everyman and I were in Chicago last year I fell in love with a condiment at Mercat Ala Planxa; a roasted garlic dulce du leche.  The tasty treat had been served with a cheese and charcuterie plate that we’d ordered, but after a tiny nibble I had to put it on everything.  And then squeegee the dish with my finger once it was done.

Until now, I’ve been unable to recreate a suitable substitution, but last night all that changed.  It came about in the oddest manner, too.  Whilst at Cheese Boutique hoarding all the ramps on Sunday, I decided to pick up a loaf of their chef-made artisanal bread.  Since I hadn’t made up my mind by the time I got to the cash, I spit out the name of the first loaf my eyes landed on; a hefty, roasted garlic affair.  I’d had no plans for it at the time, but figured it would be good with just about anything.

Flash-forward to Monday morning, while packing lunches for the Everyman and I.  I slipped a few slices into our bags to accompany a container of homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  Roasted garlic is usually a very complimentary flavor to that, after all.  Well, this bread was so pungent that it permeated every other foodstuff in each of our lunchbags, to the point that I could smell mine on my desk from half a hallway away.  Not good.  On the drive home last night the Everyman commented to me that his apple had even absorbed a garlicky flavor… one he wasn’t so keen on either.

Arriving at home I resigned to tossing the loaf out, or at the very least turning it into rustic croutons, when the urge for something sweet struck me.  Rummaging around in a kitchen drawer I came across peanut butter, honey, jams, etc, but nothing that sounded appealing.  And then… lightbulb flash!  A jar of dulce du leche!  I quickly whacked it open and gave it a spread.  The first bite was like heaven, that familiar, sweet and savoury marriage I’d missed so.  I demolished the slice in no time at all and almost went back for another.  Now this was what I was talking about!  I’m sure at some point I’ll still try to formulate my own recipe for the combined flavor profile of a garlic dulce jam, but for now, this makes an excellent stopgap.  You’re scrintching your nose up right now (I can tell), but don’t knock it ’til you try it, and I seriously suggest that you do.

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Return Of The Ramps (Once Again!)

Close Up Prior To The Oven

Last night the Everyman and I embarked on a new road map to deliciousness.

After pickling ramp stalks on Sunday night, I was left with a gigantic colander full of wild leek leaves, with nary a plan in my head.  Following some careful consideration (for all of about 30 seconds) it occurred to me that a warm spring tart might be in order.  I’d tried to procure a lump of puff pastry whilst at Cheese Boutique, envisioning a wild leek puff pastry adventure, but once they were cleaned and the leaves separated, it seemed to me that I did not have enough to make both.  Difficult decisions had to be made, and the pickled ramps won.  Still left with a rather large bundle of tulip-ish leaves, I started to consider my options.

Tart Filling

A quick taste was all it took to decide that a wilted preparation similar to spinach or kale was all that was required.  The leaves were sautéed in nothing more than butter, coffee olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  After allowing them to cool a bit, I popped a few vol au vent shells into the oven to puff.  Next, several small lardons of guanciale were finely diced and set aside.  Then a few small rings of pickled red onion were plucked from their mason jar.  Once the pastry was ready, the tops were popped off, the sautéed greens placed on the bottom, followed by guanciale nuggets, red onion slivers and grated parmagiano.  For a brief moment I considered adding some finely chopped preserved lemon peel, but on second thought decided against it.  Back into the oven they went to crispen the shells and slightly toast the cheese.

The tarts were a hit, with the Everyman especially.  Part of that is probably due to his love of puffed, buttery pastry (a la crescent rolls), but at the end of the meal when he commented that wild leeks were awesome, I knew for sure that I’d won him over.  I may mourn the fact that I did not get a chance to get all the ramps I wanted or deserved, but I will always remember this meal for it’s delicious simplicity.  And that will remind me to stock up doubly so in order to make it again next year.
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You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover… Can You?

The warm weather in Toronto right now has put me in a wonderful zen-like mood.  We’re getting to that point when the temperature is in the double digits more often than not.  And that, my friends, means we’re rounding the corner on my favorite time of year…

It first occurred to me that spring must not be far off last week, while tending to the tomato forest growing in our basement.  With the exception of the 3 varieties I planted late (Pink Zapotec, Old German and Blondkopfchen), all my seedlings are about 6 inches tall and straining to get outside.  I’ve been hesitant to put them in the outdoor ground because the fluctuating temperatures could kill them, and then where would Project Sustainability 2009 be?  Now, I’m feeling that by the end of the week I should be ready to dig a few holes in the ground, and (hopefully in the process) attempt to rejuvenate my ailing citrus trees.  But I’ve been dragging my ass again, so I still need to procure some soil before then, because one cannot garden with seeds alone!

Our return trip to Cheese Boutique for those ramps yesterday also reminded me that farmer’s market season is almost upon us.  In my opinion, that is definitely one of the best things about this time of year.  I relish the lively interaction with the farmers and discovering new products through their friendly suggestions, (like Oh My Stars cheese from the Trinity Bellwoods market last year) just makes my day.  The market near our home is due to open in 2 weeks, and I can’t hardly wait.  The larger one near my office won’t start until June or so I’m told, so I’m sure I’ll be (rather impatiently) counting the days for that.

Dreaming of market days to come got me thinking about a rather bizarre habit we have in North America.  From childhood on, we’re constantly taught that you should never judge a book by it’s cover.  It’s become somewhat of a cliche, but it still holds true in many aspects of everyday life.  The one area where I don’t think it’s relevant or has a leg to stand on would be food shopping.  The very nature of shopping for edibles practically ensures that you’ll be judging some food by its cover.  With the rare exception of finer purveyors like Cheese Boutique, or one of the “Five Thieves” and some kindly farmers, the vast majority of grocers expect you to purchase your food on faith alone.  And that’s a crying shame.  How many of us never take a chance on something different at the market because we’re unsure if we’ll like it, and would rather not waste the money if we don’t?  Or conversely, how many times have you purchased what appeared to be perfect produce only to bite into something with the texture and flavor of cardboard?  In an era where almost no one knows where their food is coming from and outbreaks of all kinds are popping up with increasing regularity, doesn’t it make sense to go that extra mile to not only know your farmer, but also try to support him (or her)?  It’s much easier to keep people honest and accountable for the things that they grow and sell when you face them every day.  Plus, knowing your farmer has the added benefit of being able to impact what is grown and form a collaborative relationship with them.  Besides, while touch and smell are great supplementary senses to aid in shopping, they shouldn’t be the only methods available, especially when so much commercially produced food is picked and pre-ripened with gases and chemicals instead of allowing natural fruition.  So this year, take a walk on the wild side and stop by your local farmer’s market.  Who knows, you just might like it…

Until next time…

Gypsies, (T)ramps And Thieves…

Mission Tramp Pickle Complete

I’d like to point out that the longer the Everyman and I have been together, the more his predilection for terrible puns is rubbing off on me.  It’s cheesy, I know, but at least it keeps things somewhat interesting around here.

It just so happens that it’s ramp season in Toronto right now.  Tasty, tasty ramps.  If you aren’t familiar with the humble ramp, perhaps you know it as a wild leek.  Whatever you want to call it,  it’s here and it’s delicious.  Now get off your ass and go get some before they’re all gone.  On second thought, don’t.  That way there’ll be even more for me!

Tender Tendrils

We happened to discover them while we were on our way to the cottage yesterday morning to spend some time with the Everyman’s parental units, during a pit stop at the Cheese Boutique to gather lunch provisions.  As soon as we passed through the archway into the store proper, I saw a massive bowl brimming with the slender and vibrant green, white and lavender stalks.  I’d had a short list of items I wanted to suss out for further home experimentation while we were there (hot Italian chillies for ‘nduja among them), but when I saw the ramps I let out a string of curses under my breath.  I knew if I purchased them then, they’d be dead by the time I got home, and I didn’t have the equipment or time necessary to dispatch with them at the cottage.  This meant leaving them behind, all the while knowing that this could be the only time I’d see them this year.

On the drive back home from the cottage this afternoon I managed to flex my feminine wiles and coerce the Everyman into stopping at the Cheese Boutique again.  I made sure to call ahead beforehand and confirm that ramps were left, and when we arrived, I was not disappointed.  It took me all of 5 seconds to make up my mind and buy up all the ramps they had left on display, which only amounted to about 420 grams; a bit of a luxury at $13 for the bag, but definitely an affordable one.  On the drive home I mentally plotted what I planned to do with my newfound spring bounty.  The primary goal was a jar of pickled ramps to be used for garnishing various meaty dishes, but the secondary agenda would be a sautéed ramp, bacon and parmagiano tart nestled in a puff pastry shell.

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We Are Accidents Waiting To Happen…

Several weekends ago whilst at the Cheese Boutique, I hastily procured a bag of goji berries for myself, the actual purpose behind buying them being somewhat of an afterthought.

The Everyman and I have been consuming goji berries for several years now, in overpriced smoothie-shakes from Booster Juice, deliciously decadent chocolate bars by Vosges, various juice and tea blends, and the divine fois gras pate/mousse from The Black Hoof. But, until I tried the fois gras deliciousness that they whipped up at The Black Hoof, I didn’t have any intention of incorporating them into my cooking repertoire.

The longer they sit dormant in my cupboard drawer (taunting me), the more anxious I get to use them. Now that I have them, several ideas spring to mind. Had I purchased them several months ago, I probably would have tossed a handful into the jar of preserved lemons I started on the windowsill in January, just to see what would happen.  Unfortunately they’ve been preserving for so long already that I’m sure the goji effect would be minimal at best at this point.  Another possibility would be to rehydrate them for a sorbet, which I imagine would be refreshing in it’s sweet-tartness.  I’ve also been toying with the idea of creating goji spirits – I mean, they make pomegranate liqueur already, and there is a company selling green tea liqueur (I should know, I impulsively bought several bottles of it once after falling in love with a drink I tried in Collingwood), so why not goji?  The more pertinent question is what sort of drinks would I make with it once it’s done?  Then there’s always the option to chop them up and incorporate them into a shortbread or sandie.  Or I could even take the safe route and mimic The Black Hoof’s preparation (albeit with chicken livers as opposed to fois gras; I’m not living that high off the hog!)  As I so often like to say, oh the pasta-bilities!

Have you had any success experimenting with gojis?  Once I’ve more carefully considered my options, I’ll post the results of my accidents, er… experimentations.

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Bits And Pieces, Odds And Ends

I’ve got a lot of concurrent projects on the go right now, so instead of wracking my brain to come up with enough time and material to write 5 or 6 posts, I’ve decided to aggregate my updates into one smaller post.

Firstly, I finally managed to get my shit together garden-wise and inventory what’s growing in the basement.  I was able to determine what I needed to replant, and what had not been planted at all.  By the time I went to bed last night, all tomatoes had been started or were already sprouted (with the exception of the Sungolds) and the artichokes, celery root and chili peppers were planted too.  Hopefully I still have enough time to get them to seedling stage before it’s time to go outside.  I even managed to give West Coast Seeds a call to find out what was going on with my Sungold tomatoes and Ambition shallots; it’s been almost a month and a half since I ordered my seeds from them.  Turns out that my back order was just shipped on Tuesday (finally), so any day now I should be able to plant the rest.  I definitely feel like a weight has been lifted now that the majority of it is done.  All I have to do now is wait for warmer weather and pick up my kiddie pool, hanger bags and strawberry vines and let the nature handle the rest.

On the baking front, I’ve been nurturing the Bride of Frankenstein for several weeks now, and her progress has been quite promising.  Now that I only need to feed her once or twice a week it’s been much easier to manage.  I imagine she must’ve attained some depth during that time, so I am eagerly awaiting this weekend for another chance to make bread.  I also broke one of my ironclad kitchen rules and am anticipating the results of that decision.  Recently while reading Local Breads, I came across a list of somewhat essential tools for successful bread-making.  Typically I shun single-use kitchen gadgets because I hate clutter and have already completely filled our decently-sized kitchen with stuff.  Yesterday I caved and ordered myself a baguette pan and bench scraper from Golda’s Kitchen.  I can make a case for the many uses of a bench scraper, but the baguette pan as far as I can tell has one purpose only; alleviating my laziness.  You see, one of the techniques that my book recommends is “couching” your loaves while they proof and bake in order to obtain the correct size and structure.  The manual way to do this is to create an accordion out of parchment paper and then slip it between the loaves so that they are supported on each side.  While it rises, you slip a few kitchen towels under the folds to further support the dough.  This is not only time-consuming but annoying, so I bought a pan shaped for the purpose instead.  I intend to make lots of baguettes from now on, so rationalizing the cost/benefit was slightly easier.  I just don’t know where I’m going to be able to store it since I’m completely out of room.  I made myself feel better by not also purchasing a banneton and proofing box; two other things I wanted but don’t have room for.  D’oh!

Project guanciale has been coming along nicely too.  Every time I peek in, they’re slightly smaller than the time before.  I am continually amazed by how much of the marinade coating  has adhered during the curing phase.  The only things I’m not quite sure about is whether I’m supposed to rinse it off before serving and if I should’ve removed the “rind” before marinating.  Until this past weekend all the guanciale I purchased came pre-sliced.  While we were at the Cheese Boutique obtaining cottage provisions, we managed to score a hunk of guanciale; it just had to be sliced at home.  Whenever we go there I leave the meat to the Everyman and I tackle the cheeses, so he bought the chunk (which I later realized was a bad idea considering how much I have hanging at home).  Ah well.  They’ll be plenty of meat at our house!

The majority of our food comes from an organic grocery delivery service called The Clean Food Connection.  In the summertime they provide us with a fresh, local farmshare from Zephyr Organics and in the winter we leave most things to chance with something they call a vegpak.  A vegpak is a bundled order of fruits and vegetables that comes in several different sizes, and is assembled based on what’s in stock at the store that week and a list of our preferences.  Year-round our grocery deliveries are a sort of culinary roulette; you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get.  Our vegpak last night included a handful of lemons, which were hastily thrown in my chalice (current housing for a glut of multicoloured citrus).  Staring at the lemons and lamenting how to use them, the Everyman came up with the perfect solution; lemon curd!  I still have half a jar left from the last time I made my version of the lemon/lavender/white chocolate Black Hoof dessert, but I really don’t think you can ever have too much.  Kudos to the Everyman for a brilliant suggestion!  I’ll be curding it up while the bread bakes this weekend.

Making it two for two, the Everyman also had another fantastic idea that I can’t believe he heard about before I did.  While perusing Cowbell’s website, he noticed that they will be participating in Ontario’s first Outstanding In The Field dinner.  If you’re not familiar with Outstanding In The Field, I suggest you check it out.  It’s a roving, open-air dining experience that pairs farmers, chefs and the dining public for a not-to-be-missed culinary adventure.  I purchased their cookbook last year and was captivated by it, but never realized that they organized dinners in Canada as well.  Apparently they’ve done some in BC to great success, but this will be the first Ontario event.  It’s sort of Stadtlander-esque, but on a grander scale, as dinners can include as many as 200 guests.  The Everyman and I have decided that we’re going to go, so I now have something else that’s fun to look forward to this summer (aside from his birthday).  Plus, it’s being held at Dingo Farms so I bet there’ll be cows to hug too!  If you couldn’t tell, I’m very excited.  Now I just have to find somewhere to stay in Bradford that isn’t a B&B.

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Sausagefest

I realize that some people might read this title and get the wrong impression, so let me stop you right there.  I spent several days this weekend perfecting my sausage-making technique thank-you-very-much.  That is what I did and that is what I’m going to talk about, and that is all.

You see, I’ve been meaning to try sausage-making ever since I bought Michael Ruhlman’s Charcuterie book several years ago.  So far the only thing I’ve managed to make from that book is some beef jerky for the Everyman that I somehow managed to overcook.  Who knew that was even possible?  For several years I’ve also been meaning to invest in a smoker of some kind so that I can get further into the book, but I just haven’t been able to justify the cost and waste of prime garden real estate on my roof.  Yet.  I’m sure I’ll get there.  Just this weekend I re-examined the book and found a half dozen new things I wanted to try making in the near future.  More on that later though.

If you’ve never made sausage before, you can’t quite appreciate exactly how gross the process is.  Grinding up all the meat and mixing it with spices; that’s child’s play.  The fun really begins when you start working with casings.  If you’re a normal home sausage-maker, you’ll probably be using hog casings that have been packed in salt.  I found mine at a Fortino’s in Brampton (of all places) and not realizing exactly how many yards were required for a single project, ended up stockpiling close to 100 yards in my freezer.  After hearing how hard the Everyman laughed at this number, I figure I’m set until the end of eternity.  So first off, you have to remove all of that salt from the casings so that they’ll soften up and be pliable enough to stuff.  That requires a soak in some warm water for about a half hour.  So far, so good, no big deal, right?  Next, you have to flush the interior of the casing, to make sure that there’s no salt particles left inside either.  In order to do that, you have to start fiddling around with the slimy little bits of innards to find an opening.  As if that’s not gross enough, then you have to tie off an end and feed it onto your stuffing tube.  Lucky for me, I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and sausage attachment, so I was able to be pretty hands-off after that.  Basically you start shoving your meat mixture down the feed tube and the auger twirls and pushes it into the sausage casing.  The hardest part about this is trying to make sure your sausages are properly packed without letting the casing burst.  I had a few bursts myself, but you just tie them off and start over again.

For the maiden voyage I opted to start with chorizo because it’s a sausage that both the Everyman and I enjoy quite a bit.  The funny thing about chorizo though is that there doesn’t seem to be a standard for what does and doesn’t constitute its ingredients.  I reviewed approximately 20 recipes and they were all wildly different.  Not wanting to put all of my eggs in one basket in case the results were bad, I chose 2 different recipes that produced approximately the same yield; a hot chorizo (nice and smoky red in color) and a Mexican chorizo (a really anemic grey).  Pretty much the only ingredient these recipes had in common was the pork butt.  Other than that they were like night and day.  Making each of them over the course of two days also helped me to understand what I do and don’t like in a sausage-making experience too, which will be valuable information once I start concocting my own.

The hot chorizo was firm and contained very little liquid but a ton of spices.  This made it really easy to pipe out of the stuffer and resulted in some beautifully reddened, appetizing looking sausages.  In the end I was left with about 10 fat 4-5 inch links of this sausage.  Conversely, the Mexican chorizo was quite watery, even after I reduced the amount of liquid in the recipe by half.  It called for vinegar and a boatload of guajillo chillies.  By the time it was finished marinating it smelled good, but was still much too soupy.  Trying to stuff sausages with this mixture felt like a battle too.  The machine seemed to create a vacuum and kept getting clogged with the mooshy material.  It also split much more than the first batch did, which made things a bit messier and more frustrating.  To top it all off, trying to ram the material through the machine with the tamping stick kept spraying watery sausage juice all over the kitchen;  juice which I will undoubtedly still be cleaning off surfaces in the weeks to come. This recipe was slightly smaller and amounted to about 7 lumpy 4-5 inch links.

I have not yet had a chance to do a taste test of the results, but will post my findings once I have.  If I had to judge based on looks alone, the hot chorizo wold be the clear winner.  Only time (and my tastebuds) will tell though.  I’ve already decided that once we plow through all of this chorizo, my next project is going to be a blueberry baco noir sausage similar to one I purchased from Viva Tastings last year.  The relative success of this first project has also inspired me to jump into charcuterie a bit more and attempt some guanciale.  I happen to really love guanciale and am always heartbroken whenever I visit The Cheese Boutique or The Healthy Butcher and they don’t have any around.  I’m sure that once the Everyman gets over the psychological hurdle of cheek and tries it, he’ll love it too, because it really is just a porkier, silkier version of prosciutto that I’ve recently seen referred to as Roman bacon.  The Healthy Butcher will be helping me out with procuring some jowls too, so in just over a week, I’ll have them in my hot little hands and be ready to start curing.

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The Hoof Redux

In what was possibly the quickest turnaround we’ve ever made, the Everyman and I made another trip to The Black Hoof last night.

It all started out innocently enough; we were driving home from work and discussing what to have for dinner.  I mentioned some ideas I had for things I was going to cook, and the Everyman sounded mildly interested.  Then, all of a sudden he started smirking, and said, “I got paid today, so I know what we can do…“  Being tired and not fully catching his drift, it took me a while to figure out what he was alluding to.  Once he said it though, I couldn’t not go…

And so, with that, my good intentions to go home, hop on the elliptical and cook a sensible dinner went right out the window and down the street to The Black Hoof.

The place was packed, as it had been on our last visit, and we happened to score the last open 2 top, a fact that happened to make a gentleman waiting on a table for 3 a bit steamed.  As we sat down we both noticed that the menu was still the same, as one would expect when less than a week has passed since your last visit.  The problem we both have with this place is that all of the food is just so incredible and what you haven’t tried sounds so damned good that it’s hard to limit yourself to moderate portions.  All I needed to know was what the dessert of the day would be so I could decide whether I wanted 2 or 3 dishes.

It turned out the dessert was the same (lemon tart with lavender and white chocolate), so I opted (somewhat sadly) for 2 dishes instead.  I revisited the cabbage soup with marrow and toasts, and found it to be just as luxurious and satisfyingly salty as the last time.  I also confirmed that the version of this soup that I concocted at home last Sunday does taste remarkably similar to this soup too (recipe follows).  The Everyman opted to not venture outside of his comfort zone from the last time and instead chose to conduct what he calls the test for consistency.  He ordered the same dishes he’d had (just less of them) in order to see whether they were still being prepared as well as he remembered.  The lamb merguez with queso and tomatillo again stunned him, and he felt that the portion was larger this time.  I, on the other hand, felt that the bone marrow portion of my dish was smaller, and was even inconsistent when compared to other diners around me who had ordered it.  I did still manage to dole out a pile to the Everyman, and it was still delicious, but I just wished I’d had more.  And they really do need to find a more slender instrument to scoop the marrow out with, because that demitasse is just not cutting it and by the end of the endeavor my hands felt like I’d been trying to juice bacon.

Next, I opted to break away and try something new.  The marinated octopus with chorizo had sounded delectable, but I wanted to see it in action.  Unfortunately I was unable to get a glimpse of it before we ordered, so that would have to wait for another day.  The Everyman saw a table near him order one and reported back to me that it was served in a small preserving jar with a snap lid.  I still couldn’t see it, but the face of the woman eating it said enough to make me want to try it the next time.  I toyed with the idea of ordering the small charcuterie board as the rest of my meal, but the Everyman really is the one who loves the cured meats more than I do.  If I had ordered it, it would only have been in the hope that it had that luscious duck mousse on it again.  I lean more towards the cheese side of the board anyway, and since I knew their cheese came from the Cheese Boutique, I wasn’t going to order something I could easily go home and assemble myself.  Unlike the table of girls sitting next to us who were there longer than we were and ate nothing but a small cheese board between them with a bottle of wine.  I mean, really, why wouldn’t you just stay home at that point?  You’re not eating anything made by the actual restaurant (cheeses – Cheese Boutique, bread – Thuet, wine – who knows but obviously wasn’t made in house).  To the Everyman and I, that bordered on insulting the chef.

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