Swine and Dine

Fine Food, Fine Pork...That's All.


Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Cluster Rolls

While reading Ruhlman's Blog the other day I became inspired by a recipe for Buttermilk Cluster Rolls. I'm not sure why but I immediately thought of fried chicken (something I have never made at home but have been craving for a couple of weeks now.) For the chicken I referred to Thomas Keller's recipe for Buttermilk Fried Chicken in Ad Hoc. The end result, as the pictures show, was nothing short of amazing. The rolls were deliciously caramelized on top and soft in the middle. I sprinkled the top with sesame seeds and fleur de sel.

For the chicken I did not have all of the herbs to season the brine with but made do with no regrets. Due to time constraints I brined the chicken for about 8 hours instead of the recommended 12. The end result was the best fried chicken I have ever tasted. I highly recommend that if you love fried chicken you work this recipe into your monthly or bi-monthly rotation. I would also recommend sourcing out smaller birds that are raised in a more humane and sustainable manner if possible.


All Is Not Lost....yet

Michael Ruhlman offers some insightful and perhaps comforting observations about the status of our current food culture.  At times it seems somewhat scary and even hopeless that an increasing number of people are "forgetting" how to cook at home and turning to processed prepared foods. 

There is, as Ruhlman points out, a movement that is also growing rapidly and with great passion and zeal to return to the ways of our ancestors.  To take pride in preparing food and pleasure in the rewards of its sustenance to our family and our culture.  In an age where text messaging and twitter are continually growing as the preferred means of communication, it is even more important that we not let go of our mealtime, not only for the nourishment it provides our bodies but for the social interaction we so desperately need to develop and grow as humans. 


It's Been A Long Time Coming

Not only has it been nearly a year since my last post (far too long I know) but it has been just over 19 months since I began the process of curing my very first ham...and definitely not the last. It is true that I would have taken the ham down much sooner had it not been for pure laziness and the knowledge that the longer it stayed up there the  better it would get.  

In December of 2007 I purchased a hog from Long Family Farms which is located just outside of Eaton, CO (my hometown).  The ham weighed in at 25 pounds.  To begin the process per the instruction of two experts, Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn, I coated the ham completely with kosher salt on a half sheet pan for about 35 days.  Every couple of days I took it out of the fridge to drain the water off and redistribute the salt as necessary.  Sometime in late January I rinsed the ham off, rubbed it with fresh lard (from the same hog) and coated it with black peppercorns.  With a wrap of cheesecloth and a bike hook in my garage, the journey began.  

Because this process was new to me and the Colorado climate is not exactly prime for curing hams (a bit too hot and dry in the summer, cold and dry in the winter) I was slightly concerned that it would be a very long science experiment and a complete waste of 25 pounds of a sublime cut of meat.  All concerns, however, were relieved when in early July I cut that ham down with the assistance of my Magyar Brother Gergo and his mother Charlotte.  The finished weight of the ham was 15 pounds.  As soon as my knife cut into the flesh the intense aroma informed me that all was not lost and I had indeed completed some very strong work.  The glistening pink flesh outlined by layers of fat confirmed what my nose had already told me.

If anyone has ever considered curing your own ham, then by all means do it.  It is incredibly simple and oh so rewarding.  I will soon be posting on the various creations inspired by this ham...my first. 


Tomatoes Galore!!

Michael Ruhlman has a great post on what to do with the abundance of tomatoes this time of year.  Canning, freezing and otherwise preserving foods when they are fresh has become somewhat of a lost art with the rise of food technology.  Sadly, with convenience we must always give up certain degrees of quality.  


Food Mills and Gnocchi

If you ask any chef for a good Potato Gnocchi recipe you are likely to get the same answer from all of them:  Gnocchi is a technique.  The best you could hope for is a vague ratio.  The first thing you will need, however, is a food mill of some sort.  

My wife and I recently visited our favorite antique mall.  I was especially pleased when I came across an old Foley food mill.  I am not sure what year it is from but it's durability tells me that it comes from another time.  I have wanted a food mill for some time but was not willing to pay the going rate of $40 and up that the newer (and less durable) models cost.  This one only set me back $10.  

To start off you will need to bake some russet potatoes and make sure they are completely done.  While they are still hot, peel them and cut them into manageable chunks.  I use a towel to hold them while I peel them with a pairing knife.  Run the potatoes through your food mill onto a clean counter top and form a small nest with the pureed potatoes.

Put one egg yolk for every potato used inside of the nest.  Add salt and any other seasoning you wish at this time.  Sprinkle a good sized handful of flour over the potato and eggs and use a bench scraper to "chop" everything together.  The reason for incorporating the flour in this way is that over mixing the potato will cause it to release too much starch and become gummy.  

Next, use your hand to extrude (squeeze) the mixture to further incorporate the flour.  Add more flour if it is too wet.  You want the final product to be slightly moist to the touch but dry enough that it holds itself together.  Gnocchi is considered a technique partly because it takes practice to know when you've added enough flour.  
Roll out a section of your gnocchi into a long snake and cut into 1" pieces using your bench scraper.  If you prefer, use the back of a fork to roll your gnocchi over to make those little lines that are so good for soaking up sauce.  
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a gentle boil and drop the little dumplings in.  When they float, they are done and ready to be added to whatever delicious sauce you have created.  
This time around I made a sauce of reduced cream and gorgonzola cheese and served them with grilled bison ribeye.  Cheers!


Chicken Fat and Haricot Verts

The best green beans in the world...hands down.

Protein:  Flank steak marinated in a paste of shallots, garlic, rosemary and canola oil.  I used a mortar and pestle to make the marinade.  A food processor works as well.  The steak marinated for 3-4 hours though it would be ideal to marinate overnight.

Starch:  Shallot roasted potatoes.  I bought these beautiful red potatoes from a roadside vegetable stand not more than a mile from my house.  I par-cooked them in a pot of simmering water before slicing them into 1/2" coins.  As you can see in the picture, I preheated my cast iron in the grill and then sauteed the potatoes.  Once they have a nice sear on them you can throw in some butter and shallots, toss them a bit and then close the lid to roast them.  

Vegetable: Green Beans (also from the veggie stand) sauteed in chicken fat.  As delicious as the rest of this meal was, the green beans stole the show.  They were fantastic.  They were blanched and shocked beforehand.  Once the potatoes were done there was still enough fat and lots of flavor in the pan to saute the beans.  When they were almost done I dropped in the chicken fat from earlier in the week.  Once again, I cannot tell you enough how wonderful chicken fat is and the amazing depth of flavor that it adds to vegetables.  


The Spy who Loved...Food?

MSNBC reports on the release of formerly classified documents confirming that Julia Child, prior to her career as a chef, worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to the CIA during WWII.  I have always appreciated and admired Julia's impact on American culture and cuisine.  Now that I know she aided in the WWII fight against the Nazis, I can only admire her that much more.  What an amazing and intriguing woman!