October 15, 2013 · 3:15 pm
A while back, my friend, John Ed, and I made a batch of Andouille sausage. We used a recipe from an excellent book, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, W.W. Norton and Co., New York and London, 2005. We wound up with more than we had anticipated, so I put some of it in the freezer. The other night when I woke at 3 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, I decided to reorganize the freezer. (What else is there to do at three in the morning?) I came across the Andouille and thought a bowl of gumbo would be good during the changing fall season.
I wasn’t sure, though, how the sausage would taste after those many month of storage, so I made a quicky throw-together meal to try it out. The meal turned out better than I expected, and the Andouille was in good shape. Next on the schedule, then, is chicken and Andouille gumbo.
For making the sausage, you should have a stand mixer which can be fitted with a meat grinder/sausage stuffer attachment. You will also need some sausage-making supplies including “pink salt” (DQ Curing Salt, aka DC Curing Salt, aka Prague Powder #1, aka Insta-Cure, aka Modern Cure.) Whatever the name, the salt is a mixture of regular salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite. The sodium nitrite prevents bacterial growth, especially the organism that cause botulism. You will also need sausage casings, preferably medium natural hog. If you live in a big city you can probably find those things in a local meat-packing or butcher supply house. If you can’t find them, you can get them on-line from Butcher and Packer
The quick dish is basically tomato sauce and cooked spaghetti, but the flavorings from the Andouille season the mixture beautifully. Few dishes to wash, and you can get back to whatever you are doing.
- In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and chill until ready to grind.
- Using the meat grinder attachment of your stand mixer, fitted with the small die, grind the mixture into the mixer bowl that has been set in a larger bowl filled with chopped ice.
- On medium speed, using the paddle beater, mix the ground meat mixture for about 1 minute until it becomes sticky.
- Correct seasoning by frying a small piece of the ground meat in a small skillet, tasting it, and adjusting seasonings as needed to suit your taste.
- Change the meat grinder so that it has the sausage stuffing horn attached.
- Thread the hog casing onto the stuffing horn, and working slowly but smoothly, fill the hog casing with sausage mixture.
- Twist the filled casing into 6-inch links.
- Hand the sausage string on a hook or stick and let dry for 2 hours at room temperature.
- Smoke the sausages in a Bradley stove-top smoker or in a charcoal grill with damp wood chips added. Internal temperature should reach 150°F (65°C)
- When the sausages are smoked, cool in an ice bath, and then refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Sausage and Mushrooms with Quick Tomato Sauce
- In a heavy-bottomed medium pot, brown the sausages and set aside.
- In the same pot, cook the onions and mushrooms, being careful not to burn. Return the sausage to the pot.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and minced garlic. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Stir in the cut spaghetti, and cook at a slow boil until the spaghetti is tender, about 10 minutes.
- Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve while still hot.
Andouille sausage with tomato sauce
Sausage stuffing attachment at the ready
Another view of the meat grinder/sausage stuffer
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes
Tagged as andouille sausage, Butcher and Packer, charcuterie, gumbo, hog casings, Louisiana, pink salt, stand mixer, tomato sauce
October 9, 2013 · 9:36 pm
Nearly every cuisine I’m aware of has a deep-fried fritter that is puffy and flaky. The Northern New Mexico version is the sopaipilla. I first had them during a visit with my aunt and uncle in Los Alamos when I was ten yers old. I liked the treat so much that I brought the recipe back home with me and tried to make them – probably with not much success. Since then I’ve had countless sopaipillas, some delicious, some not very good, some light and fluffy, some greasy.
The most memorable sopaipillas I never had were at the Cactus Taqueria in Dumas, Texas. On a long road trip, our family had stopped for lunch. After we had placed our order, one of the kids went to the restroom only to report on return that there was a dead cow in the kitchen. When I checked it out for myself, sure enough there was a black and white spotted cow lying in the kitchen with its four legs stuck straight up. That should have been our first clue to leave, but we decided to wait for our food.
While we were eating we noticed three cowboys at a nearby table. The waitress brought them their traditional complimentary basket of sopaipillas for dessert. The men ate the puffs with honey and then stuck the squeeze bottle of honey in their mouths, sucking out the last few drops. We left before we got our dessert.
Sopaipillas make great containers for both sweet and savory foods. Traditionally, they are served with honey (although traditionally it is expected that you put the honey container back on the table instead of your mouth) but they are also delicious when filled with stew or chili.
The real thing should be made with lard, but you can substitute vegetable shortening.
If you are trying to make them for the first time, you may have difficulty in getting them to puff. The two secrets are that you need to make sure the deep-frying oil is hot enough, and you can hasten the process by holding the frying sopiapilla under the surface of the frying oil for a few seconds using a spatula.
The frying oil should be hotter (400° F) than the usual 350° F recommended for deep frying. I have suggested using peanut oil because it has a smoke point above that temperature even though sopaipillas are traditionally fried in hot lard with a smoke point below 400° F. I used my new infra-red thermometer to measure the surface temperature of the oil. That was amazingly similar to the temperature that I got with an instant-read probe. Use whatever thermometer you want as long as it will register the temperature of deep-frying oil.
If the sopaipillas don’t puff up right away in the hot oil, they won’t puff, but you can still eat them, covered with honey, with a fork.
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons lard
- ¼ cup water
- powdered sugar (optional)
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the lard with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
- Add the water and knead gently until the dough comes together. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it is too dry add a little more water a few drops at a time. The dough should form a a firm, smooth, ball.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Flatten it out with the palm of your hand. Then fold it in half. Repeat this process 10 or so times. Then form the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.
- With a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into squares, rectangles, or triangles about 6 inches on a side.
- Cover the cut pieces with a cloth to keep them from drying out before you fry them.
- Heat at least 3 inches of peanut oil in a heavy skillet or deep-frying pot to 400°F. When the oil is hot, drop one or two pieces of dough into the oil and hold them under the surface of the oil with a spatula for a few seconds until they begin to puff. Fry the sopaipillas on both sides until they are golden brown.
- Remove the fried fritters to drain on several thicknesses of paper toweling. Then transfer to an oven heated to 200°F to keep them warm until you have finished frying the remaining dough pieces.
- Serve immediately while still hot. If you wish, you can sprinkle them generously with powdered sugar or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Serve with honey for a dessert or serve them plain if you want to fill them with stew or chili. They are also delicious just plain with butter.
Lard is the fat of choice for sopaipillas
As with biscuits, the lard should be cut into the dry mix so that the texture is like cornmeal
Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest before rolling it out.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/8 inch thick
Cut the dough into squares, rectangles, or trinangles
Showing off my new combination infra-red/instant-read probe thermometer. Use your favorite for deep fat frying.
Drop a piece of dough in the hot oil.
Immediately hold the dough under the surface of the oil with a spatula until it puffs up.
A basket of warm sopaipillas
Honey at the ready.
Honey-filled sopaipillas, the perfect Northern New Mexico dessert.
October 5, 2013 · 3:25 pm
One of the great traditions in restaurants – unfortunately tending to die out – is Family Meal. That’s when everyone takes a break from preparative work to gather together, talk about the evening ahead, and share a meal prepared by one of the cooks. The meal is almost always comfort food made with leftover ingredients or inexpensive ingredients ordered just for the meal. The great thing is that the cooks rotate the assignment so the pressure is on to prepare something that everyone will enjoy. This is definitely not the time or place to embarrass yourself in front of your peers. Often Family Meal will feature food from childhood – a family favorite or Mom’s secret recipe. I have previously written about Sarah’s brisket and biscuits that became so popular the kitchen staff cheered when they appeared on the menu.
During a recent trip to San Francisco I got to spend the afternoon with Sarah in the prep room at Rich Table. That’s where Jonathan Tu whipped up his mother’s recipe for scallion pancakes. Nearly every Asian nation has its own version of this treat, but they all come down to a simple flour and water dough and chopped green scallions. Kneading, layering with oil, and rolling out the dough a couple of times makes a flaky, multi-layered pancake rivaling puff pastry but without all the hassle. There are a few little tricks or special touches in rolling out the dough, but in the end scallion pancakes are so simple and so good.
Jonathan served his pancakes with chicken sausage, rice, and a sauce of mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili flakes, but it’s up to you to choose your favorite dipping sauce or topping.
Sesame oil helps to create layers of dough. The same principle as puff pastry.
Chopped scallions and sesame oil before rolling up the coil
Rolling the scallions into the pancake.
Flattened pancake ready to be rolled and flattened again
Flatten- ing the dough
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup water
- kosher salt
- ½ cup chopped scallions, including green tops
- sesame oil
- In a large bowl, combine the flour and water. Mix until it holds together and forms a ball. Continue to knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough becomes soft and shiny.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four equal balls. On a well-floured work surface, roll out one of the balls to about 1/8 inch thick. Keep the remaining balls covered with a cloth until you are ready to roll them out..
- Drizzle the top of the rolled out dough with sesame oil. Sprinkle with ¼ of your chopped scallions and kosher salt. Fold it over and roll it out again.
- Roll up the flattened dough like a cigar. Divide the cigar crosswise into two pieces. Coil each piece like a snake or snail. Flatten the coil with your hand and then roll out into a circle with a rolling-pin.
- Repeat with the remaining balls of dough. You should have eight pancakes.
- Heat a heavy cast iron skillet to medium high or use a heated plancha. Lightly oil the cooking surface, and then transfer one of the pancakes to the skillet or plancha. Cook for two minutes. Then flip and cook the other side for two minutes. The pancakes should be a light golden brown.
- Repeat with each of the remaining pancakes. You may keep them in a warm (200°F) oven while you cook the rest.
- Cut each pancake into 6 or 8 wedges and serve with dipping sauce or accompaniments of your choice.
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel
Tagged as chicken sausage, family meal, Jonathan Tu, pancakes, Rich Table, San Francisco, Sarah Rich, scallion pancakes, sesame oil
October 1, 2013 · 12:37 pm
One of the favorites on the Rich Table menu is Sarah’s country style levain. The bread is served warm with house-churned cultured butter. Sometimes the bread is scented with Douglas fir, but the most popular version is when it is flavored with wild fennel “pollen”. The pollen is actually the bright yellow tiny flowers of wild pollen that grows all over Northern California and blooms from mid to late summer. Rich Table has their own forager who brings the pollen in from fields north of San Francisco, and the restaurant has an abundance now. Unfortunately the source is regional and seasonal – that’s one of the reasons for using Douglas fir – but if you don’t happen to live in Northern California, ground fennel seeds can make a workable substitute. The smell and taste are not as delicate, and if you use too much can be overpowering, so use it carefully.
On a recent visit to San Francisco, I watched Sarah make her bread in the basement prep kitchen at Rich Table. The experience inspired me to try to adapt the recipe for the home baker. This is pretty close to the real thing, but Sarah did not share any of her baking secrets with Old Dad.
Weighing the levain
Weighing out the flour
A big supply of fennel pollen
Mixing the dough with the dough hook
Video of turning the dough
Letting the dough rest
Preparing to form the rested dough into loaves
A weighed piece of dough ready to rest and then put in the pan
Dough for eight regular and two large loaves
Oiling the pans in preparation for the unbaked loaves
Formed loaves ready for rising before baking
Loaves rising before baking
Sarah’s recipe makes twelve large loves, too much for the home baker. For that reason, I have pared down the ingredients to make two generous loaves. I have made some other modifications to make it easier for the home baker. First, professional bakers weigh their ingredients, while home bakers usually measure things in cups and spoons, so I have set the quantities in the home style. Second, if you have your own sourdough starter, that is great, but if you don’t you can substitute packaged dry yeast. Third, if you have harvested your own wild fennel “pollen” (actually fennel flowers) that’s also great, but you can substitute ground fennel from your spice shelf. Finally, you can mix the dough by hand, but that is a labor of love, so I have used a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook for the kneading and gluten-release process. Resting times are very important to make sure the gluten releases and supports good lift of the dough.
Levain with Fennel Fragrance
- 3 cups + ¼ cup water
- 1 cup levain* or substitute 1 envelope dry yeast
- 6 cups bread flour
- ½ cup whole wheat flour
- ½ cup rye flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground fennel seeds
- vegetable shortening or butter for greasing bread pans
* Baker’s note: You can find the method for making your own levain or sour dough starter in an earlier post. If you choose to use yeast instead, increase the water and flour in the recipe by ½ cup each.
- Place 3 cups water in the large bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix in the levain (it should float in the water, otherwise it has not risen enough) or yeast. You should feed your levain the night before you bake to make sure it has good rising power the next morning.
- Slowly mix in the flour, a cup or so at a time. When the dough becomes stiff enough, change to the dough hook attachment.
- Add all the flour. Then beat with the dough hook at a slow speed for 10 minutes until smooth and shiny.
- Let the dough rest in the bowl for 30 minutes.
- Dissolve the salt in the ¼ cup water.
- Beat the salt mixture and ground fennel into the rested dough until completely incorporated.
- With a scraper, transfer the dough to a large metal bowl.
- Cover the dough with a plastic film and let rest for 30 minutes. Then turn the dough gently in all directions with moistened, clean hands. Recover the dough with the plastic film.
- Repeat turning the dough every 30 minutes for three additional times.
- Turn the dough out on a well-floured work surface. Divide into two equal pieces. Each piece should weigh a little over 2 pounds.
- Shape each piece of dough into a ball and let rest for 5 minutes.
- After the rest, shape the dough by lifting the far edge of the ball and pulling it to the center. Repeat this motion in all directions. Pinch closed any seams and let rest, covered with a cloth, for 10 minutes while you prepare the baking pans.
- Prepare two 9 x 5 inch bread pans by greasing the insides well with vegetable shortening or butter.
- Arrange the dough pieces, seam side down, in the two bread pans, cover with a clean cloth, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled.
- While the bread is rising, pre-heat the oven to 450°F (232 °C)
- When the loaves have risen, slash the tops with a sharp knife and transfer to the middle of the pre-heated oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C) and continue to bake for 45 additional minutes. Turn the loaves front to back at least once during the baking.
- At the end of the baking time, test for doneness by thumping the bottoms for a hollow sound. Transfer the baked loaves to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
Using the regular paddle beater to combine water, levain, and flour
Finishing the mixing with the dough hook
Mixing finished and ready to rest in the bowl
Two shaped loaves resting before being put in the pans
The resting loaves covered with a clean dish towel
Dough transferred to the bread pans and ready for final rising
Tops of the unbaked loaves just before putting them in the oven
The finished loaves
Nothing better than butter and fresh-baked bread
Filed under Food, Photography, Recipes, Restaurants, Travel
Tagged as bread, fennel pollen, fennel seeds, ground fennel seeds, levain, Rich Table, San Francisco, Sarah Rich, wild fennel