Category Archives: Meats

Dry-curing bacon for seasoning meat, part 2

The previous post, with some basic info and getting started on this batch: 

This batch ended up sitting longer in the fridge, near the end, because I got distracted by a tooth abscess–but, it turned out fine anyway. Here are some more process photos, finally. 🙂

Day 2, before draining and resalting:

Day 3 or 4, with less liquid already getting drawn out:

Don’t worry if the brine smells like stale blood, BTW, because it mostly is. 😐 Glad to drain that stuff off!

Day 5 or 6:

I thought that, with the amount of lean meat full of moisture, it would probably take a bit longer for this batch, and it did. At this point, it needed a couple more days of curing.

But, a couple of days after that, it was starting to dry out enough that I intended to dump the rest of the cure on it and give it one more day in the fridge. That turned into about a week, but at that stage it wasn’t a problem. Thankfully! This photo is after I started resalting it for the day.

 

About a week ago, I finally got it rinsed, wrapped, and hung up to dry more.

Ready to go!

First I laid out a clean, thin tea towel. Don’t use one that you mind staining; some other kind of thin cotton cloth will work OK, too. This one has been repeatedly used for things like this, and it still doesn’t look great even though I always wash kitchen towels with Oxi stuff to get rid of germs.

Yep, my counter’s still a wreck. 😉 The bag of GF pasta in the background at least fits the theme here.

The lighting was really bad here. But, lay the pieces lengthwise, and wrap them up. This approach is easier with a single bigger slab, but it works OK with the sliced.

 

I rubber-banded the top and bottom. One reason I like to use these towels is that they come with handy hanging loops. 🙂

 

Those hooks are inconveniently placed for dish towels, as Mr. Sweden intended, but they’re great for things like bags of citrus and drying bacon. 😉 Not to mention decorative corn that you’re not sure what else to do with out of season. But, corn!

Cherokee folk song sung by Walker Calhoun of Cherokee, North Carolina at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music 10-26-90.

Today, I figured it was probably dry enough, and I wanted to use some in a pot of beans. One of the leaner pieces still had a bit much moisture, so I cut some from it and hung it back up. The other three pieces got double-bagged and put into the freezer. Salty, fatty things won’t keep too long in there, but it ought to hold for a few extra months without starting to go rancid. IME, about six months is the freezer storage limit before it starts turning.

The color is a bit off here, but looking pretty good! I wasn’t sure, but apparently there was enough nitrate (with my cautious addition) to keep it from turning brownish greyish: perfectly fine to eat, but an offputting color.

 

Ready for the freezer!

 

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Dry-curing bacon for seasoning meat

As I mentioned in the Basics: Greens post ages ago, another food item I’ve missed being readily able to buy is dry-cured seasoning meat with the kind of cure I want. (Not usually so crazy about fatback.) You can find lots of bacon and other cured pork products here, both British and imported, but the cure is still just not quite what I’m looking for. (Still, better availability than in most of the US, with pretty good dry-cured bacon and pancetta in most supermarkets.) And a chunk of cured meat is better to throw in to season vegetables than bacon that’s been sliced thin for frying, to my taste.

Old Waynesboro brand side meat, from MillRiverStore.com. I think I’ve actually bought some of that North Carolina brand before. I also didn’t know you could buy boiled peanuts in a can, before looking at that site, but they’re not really a thing back home anyway because peanuts don’t like the mountain climate. Now I’m oddly intrigued.

At any rate, I had never tried curing meat at all before I got cravings for the “right” kind of seasoning meat. 🙂 This was a much less intimidating project than the hams I used to watch my grandfather cure sometimes, with trying to find a balance between not getting it oversalted so that you get crystals in the meat, and making sure you use enough that it doesn’t go bad next to the bone. It’s also less tricky than bacon you’re intending to slice up and fry without soaking, so I have been erring on the side of making it salty and dry.

Before going into my procedure, here is some general information on dry-curing:

A good British step-by-step on dry-curing bacon. Also, the page I linked to earlier on dry-curing hams from Virginia Cooperative Extension, which goes into safety rather a lot.

As they also mention in both, you don’t absolutely need to use nitrates, though they don’t actually seem to be that bad for you after all. Another good one: Home Cured Bacon Without Nitrates. The first batch I made, I didn’t use any, and the flavor was good even if the brownish-greyish color was more than a little offputting. 😉 It did go rancid more quickly without the added nitrate, though the possibility of botulism is no doubt lower if you let it dry longer than is usually a good idea for straight eating bacon. (One of the reasons I’ve been doing that, besides its hopefully keeping longer in general with the lower moisture content.)

One I’ve been meaning to try, tasty as the commercial stuff is: Lap yuk 臘肉 – Chinese dried bacon, which also usually gets used to flavor vegetable dishes and the like. They also have interesting posts on making some other Chinese cured meats there.

Also, for safety, while I’m thinking about it: you might want to use the ready-mixed curing salt intended for bacon. I already have pharmaceutical-grade potassium nitrate (saltpeter) on hand for aquarium plant fertilizing purposes, and feel OK using that–and guesstimating proportions to use by volume, erring on the low side. If you’re concerned about getting it wrong, it’s probably best to use the curing salt. Like with the brine pickles, the chances of making yourself sick are probably very, very low, but I still don’t want to encourage anybody to risk it!

On with the show, such as it is! I’d been meaning to make another batch for a while now, and couldn’t resist picking up a pack of thick-sliced pork belly that I spotted yesterday. Usually, I’d want to use a bigger chunk of meat, but this worked out just fine before. (Inspired to try it by the Chinese bacon approach!)

This was reduced, but it was still very fresh. The store-cut meat from our local Sainsbury’s tends to be good quality, in general.

I still had a little curing mix left from the last attempt, which didn’t turn out so well since even a British summer is not the best weather if you don’t want it going rancid on you while it’s drying. 😐

Please ignore the cluttered wreck which is my counter right now. I decided to pass on the red pepper pesto for this. 😉

But, to that, I added:

  • 100mL/about 0.5 c. sea salt ground up some in a mortar and pestle, for extra flavor. If you’re using regular table salt, it will pack down more and take a little less.
  • 1.5 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon very dark brown sugar (the balance here is totally to taste)
  • about 1/8 teaspoon potassium nitrate
  • A teaspoon fresh, coarsely ground black pepper (it may take more later)

All mixed up and ready to go, in an airtight storage container.

This 2L container takes up a lot of space in our smallish fridge, but you want one that’s big enough to lay the meat flat in a single layer.

Now, just sprinkle some of the cure on with a spoon (you don’t want to keep putting meaty hands back into the container!), and rub it in well. You’ll want to use plenty of it to draw the moisture out. Make sure to get all the crevices, especially if the meat you bought was already slashed on the top fat for crispiness in cooking, like all the pork belly I’ve seen here.

Now, without my hand blocking most of the view.

Just a few minutes later, you can see how much moisture it’s already started to draw out of the meat.

Yep, that’s some very brown sugar.

Now it needs to go in the coldest part of your fridge, usually the bottom.

You’ll want to pull it out once a day for several days, to drain off the brine and salt it again with the curing mix. When it stops leaching out a bunch of moisture, it will be ready to wrap in cloth and hang to dry. No more batches than I’ve made so far, that time will vary quite a bit depending on the moisture in your meat starting out. As much lean as this particular pork belly has, it may take a week of daily draining and salting.

I did consider waiting until it was done and doing a post then, but the last time I tried that it just never got written up. 😉 I will try to do some followups as it progresses.

And once that’s done clunking up the fridge, I may try some corned beef or pork again.

Slow cooker Carolina-inspired pulled pork

It tasted a lot better than it looks here. 😉 More on the toast later.

Warning: The lighting in our kitchen is even worse than usual, so these photos are pretty bad! The overhead fluorescent conked out, and Wilko was out of tubes that fit, so I temporarily dragged a halogen floor lamp in there from the living room. I tried to fix these a little, but yeah. At least it’s enough light to cook by.

I hadn’t even planned on posting this one, so I didn’t get any step-by-step photos while cooking it. But, it turned out tasty–and easy!–enough that I wanted to go ahead. 🙂

Lately, I’d been craving something with a Carolina style vinegar-based barbecue sauce. (Interesting article: BBQ History: A Very Brief History of the Four Types of Barbeque Found In the USA) One of the things I’ve missed a lot living in the UK–besides good Mexican restaurants!–is barbecue. Mr. Sweden keeps watching Food Network UK, which doesn’t help, with all the shows from the US full of barbecue and other kinds of food which are hard to impossible to get in restaurants here!

Another thing you need to make for yourself, usually including the sauce because most of the bottled stuff available here is not to my taste, besides all being the thick tomato-based stuff. I like those styles too, but not all the time. A lot of the time I’ll use Tropical Sun Smoked BBQ Seasoning for a dry rub (be careful, I think it was the Island Sun kind that I got home and found was full of wheat!), with a good hickory smoked flavor to it. Reggae Reggae or other jerk barbecue sauces are good too, for a thicker tomato-based option. But, especially with pork, sometimes I just want a mustard or plain vinegar-and-pepper sauce for a lighter flavor. This sauce ended up kind of a hybrid there, with just a hint of mustard flavor to it.

The recipe I worked from with this: Spicy Carolina Style Pulled Pork (In Crock Pot) Recipe, with an average five-star rating, which sounded promising!

I had to substitute a few things, but the version we ended up eating tonight was delicious enough that I’m trying not to run back in the kitchen and eat more of it now. 🙂

The GFSC version

1.5 kg / 3.3 lb. pork shoulder roast

I actually bought two smaller frozen ones, and let them thaw a little before putting on the dry rub. Anywhere near that weight range would work fine for the amount of seasonings.

Dry rub mixture:
1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
1.5 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Rub that all over the meat, then put it on top of a big quartered onion laid in the bottom of the slow cooker. If you have the time and patience, let it sit for a few hours in the fridge. (With the long, slow cooking here, I’m not sure how much difference the extra marinating time makes.)

While that’s sitting, you can mix up the sauce. I just put in a smallish jar, to make it easier to shake up and store about a quarter of it in the fridge while the meat cooks.

Sauce:
1/2 c. / 125mL cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons GF soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I thought we had more in the cabinet!)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 big cloves finely chopped/crushed  garlic (or 1.5-2 tsp. garlic powder)
1 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper (I used half cayenne and half Indian chili powder, for more complex flavor)

Put all of these in a jar, and shake to mix it up.  You may want to add more red pepper when you taste for seasonings later. I like it hot, but started off easy on it because crock pot cooking usually gives intense flavors. If you don’t like the heat so much, use less starting out. 🙂

Pour about 3/4 of the sauce over the meat and onions in the crock, then let it cook 8-10 hours overnight on the low heat setting, or probably 4-5 hours on high. You want it tender enough that it’s starting to fall apart. This batch took longer to cook, but it went in half-frozen.

Doesn’t even come close to doing it justice, but yum.

As the original recipe author put it:

remove the meat and onions to a cutting board. remove skin and set aside. using two forks (or your fingers, if you have asbestos hands), pull and shred the pork. chop the onions, and mix into the shredded meat. using a fork, remove some of the fat from under the skin, mince, and add to the shredded meat and onions as needed for moisture and flavor.

I let it cool down enough so I could handle it without burning myself. I’d actually wanted to chop instead of shred it, but that shoulder cooked with vinegar wanted to shred–it’s all good! 😉

Then I put the pulled meat back in the crock, mixed it up with the saucy juices (just about the right amount, though I was afraid it would be too juicy), let it simmer about half an hour longer on low, then tasted for seasoning. Ours needed the rest of the vinegar sauce left in the jar added, along with some extra spices and a few dashes of Tabasco. After a late brunch, we weren’t hungry again yet, so I just let it simmer on low for a couple more hours. It’s hard to get the cooking time too wrong with a crock pot.

Best served with some buns and coleslaw. (And some extra sauce on the side, but we didn’t really miss it.) As you may have noticed from the top picture, I had some trouble with that! I totally forgot to buy any GF buns, and the small store I stopped by only had savoy cabbage out. You could probably make slaw out of that, but I didn’t feel like trying today. It just wasn’t the same without slaw mounded on top. Mr. Sweden plopped some ranch dressing on his (on top of nice wheaty buns :P), and said it was pretty good.

But, toast works, and the bagged salad with homemade ranch dressing has come cabbage and carrots in there. 😀 It made a good meal, anyway!

Not surprisingly, even after the dog looked pitiful enough that he got a big plate of it too (minus salad), we had about half the batch left. It should freeze OK for later.

For one: Broccoli and feta pasta with vaguely jerk pork loin

I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve kept taking photos, but then been too tired to write things up after cooking. 🙂 If I don’t do it immediately afterward, it just doesn’t get done.

But, Mr. Sweden is on another business trip, and I thought trying to get some food blogging done might encourage me to actually cook something decent before I’m hungry enough that I just have to scrounge for something quickly. That keeps being a problem when there are no other humans here wanting food.

Today I’ll mix it up a bit, and go with the photos under desperately bad kitchen fluorescents, without the separate recipe list.

Tonight’s “what needs used up?” fare hardly warrants posting a recipe, but it did turn out tasty. I had considered making a bit of salad too, but probably couldn’t have held it after eating that plate full.

Earlier this evening, I sprinkled some dry jerk rub on a few pieces of pork loin, and let it sit a few hours in the refrigerator. That is purposely more than I needed for supper, so there would be some left over tomorrow. If I had been using the usual Rajah (yes, very Jamaican-sounding 😉 ), that would have been enough seasoning, but we have some fill-in TRS. The flavor turned out good, but not very strong with the amount used. The TRS is also not nearly as heavy on the allspice notes.

It’s not just meat; every kind of food I have put in those bowls looks weird. Bit of a shame, since I like the color on its own. Mr. Sweden usually ends up eating out of them, because it doesn’t bother him.

Once I was getting hungry, I did a little vegetable prep. First: about half a medium heading broccoli’s worth of purple sprouting broccoli, which needed cleared out to make room for the contents of a new vegbox today. (One of the best food decisions I have ever made, getting someone to bring super-fresh veggies to the door most weeks!)

It’s almost a shame to cook the purple sprouting broccoli, and muddy the colors up.

Because we got some decent-looking cherry tomatoes today, I quartered half a dozen of them too.

After that was done, I put some salted pasta water on, planning just to throw the broccoli in during the last couple of minutes’ cooking time.

While that was heating, I put a couple of cloves of garlic through the press, and mixed in a couple of pinches of smoked sea salt (mostly because it was sitting on the counter), to let it sit a while for extra flavor complexity.

Yes, Sainsbury’s is now putting out store brand versions of the little tubs of flavored Cornish Sea Salt–and Mr. Sweden keeps picking up different flavors. 😉 I assumed it was exactly the same, but the Sainsbury’s Chilli flavor is GF, unlike the name brand we picked up before in an assortment pack. (That was full of breadcrumb filler. Yuck.)

The Kitchen Supervisor supervised from the edge of a drawer I’d left open, whether I wanted him to or not. Good thing he’s so cute. 😉

Please ignore the counter clutter. That’s what I’ve been doing. Mirrors really doesn’t care.

I also took the feta out of the fridge to come up closer to room temperature, before the pasta went in, and crumbled it. That is probably a third of a 250g/about 8 oz. pack–i.e., what was left in the fridge. 😉

Once the water was boiling, I threw in about a third of a 500g bag of gluten-free spaghetti, broken in half so it didn’t break itself into even smaller pieces while cooking. (Don’t like the necessity, but every GF spaghetti I have tried has broken itself to bits if you didn’t break it first.) Penne would have been better for this dish, but we were out.

Time to put the skillet, with a very thin coating of olive oil on the bottom,  over a medium-high flame to pan-broil the meat.

Yay cast iron! This shot is blurry from the sizzling, and I had to wipe oil droplets off the lens. 🙂

When the pasta had two or three minutes left to go by taste-testing, I threw in the chopped broccoli.

After about a minute in there, it was already changing color.

While that was draining in a colander, I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil  (medium-low) for the garlic and spices.

The extent of the seasoning tonight. Looks like almost time to refill both bottles from bigger containers. 🙂 I’d have preferred a pepper blend in here, but black was what we had.

The garlic and spices only need to fry for 30 seconds or a minute. Then I threw in the tomatoes, just long enough to get them heated through and barely starting to soften–maybe a minute?

Looks ready to me.

When that was done, I just dumped the pasta and broccoli into that pan to get it all gently mixed up. Once it was coated in oil, I mixed in the cheese.

Pork chops waiting on a plate. Still nice and juicy; they should only need a couple of minutes on each side to get them well-cooked without drying them out.

Once the pasta is well-mixed, things should be ready to go.  This amount would probably serve two with a salad, but I’m not very good at scaling things down. 🙂

Country Pie

A slice of cheesy meat-and-rice pie on a plate

I have no idea why this dish is called “country pie”, but that’s what my mom always called it. And, from a quick search, she wasn’t alone. Since most of the versions I’m running across call for instant rice, I’d guess it’s one of those ubiquitous ’70s casserole recipes.

We got a lot of one-dish meat and rice dishes when I was growing up, since it’s fairly quick and easy–and filling on a tight budget. This is a slight twist, involving a rice mixture cooked in a meat crust.

It’s also a great way of using up leftover rice. The one time I tried jasmine rice in this, it turned into an unpleasant-textured solid lump, so I wouldn’t suggest that. Leftover basmati tends to disintegrate when used like this (including brown basmati). Plain long grain rice or medium/long grain brown rice works pretty well. For this batch, I cooked some converted and wild rice we had lurking in the cupboard; sort of like with a red jambalaya, cooking with a tomato sauce like this is what converted rice is good for. 🙂 It keeps a good texture, and there’s enough seasoning that the rather bland taste doesn’t matter.

For a vegetarian version, I have used various veggie loaf mixtures for the crust; my favorite is a lentil loaf similar to this gluten-free one.  As long as you pre-bake the crust until it starts to brown and let it cool to set up a bit before you add the rice filling, it works really well. You can also make up a double batch of the loaf mixture and refrigerate or freeze half of it for later use, to save time.

Country Pie

Meat crust mixture:

  • 1.5 lb. (700g) ground meat — for this, I used the 400g of lean beef we had, bulked out with half a coffee mug of TVP reconstituted with 3/4 of the same cup full of veggie broth with a slug of GF soy sauce thrown in for extra flavor>
  • 1/2 a medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 – 1/2 a sweet pepper, also chopped fine
  • 1 -2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp. mixed herbs / Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika (optional, but nice flavor)
  • 1/3 c. (75-100 mL) rolled oats — if you can’t tolerate oats, use about 1/2 c. (125 mL) GF breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • A little water if the mixture is dry when you try to mix the oats in

Basically, you’re making a fairly plain meatloaf mixture.

Chopped veggies, largely because they struck me as pretty. 🙂

The reconstituted TVP, mixed up in the baking dish.

All the crust ingredients in the baking dish

Ready to mix!

Mix it all together, spread it evenly in the dish, and let it sit 20 minutes or so for the oats to rehydrate while you mix up the rice filling.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.

Meat mixture spread into a crust in the baking dish

Rice filling

  • 3 c. (750 mL) cooked rice — I cooked a cup (250 mL) of dry for this, with a beef stock cube and some onion (very optional, but nice extra flavor)
  • The other half of the onion, sautéed — That was in the rice here
  • About 1.5- 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) herbed tomato sauce — Spaghetti sauce from a jar is pretty good, but I mixed up my own quick version in a bowl
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • Extra mixed herbs/Italian seasoning if required
  • Extra salt, if your rice wasn’t salted
  • About 1.5 – 2 c. (350 – 500 mL) grated cheese — I used a mix of medium Cheddar and Red Leicester

The bowl of tomato sauce and grated cheese on a plate

Mix the sauce into the rice, with the extra seasonings as required. Then stir in the cheese, and try to get it distributed fairly evenly.

Assembly

Bake the meat crust for about 10 minutes, to make sure it gets thoroughly cooked in the middle.

Prebaked meat crust

Fill it with the rice mixture.

Rice filling is now in the meat crust

Cover the dish and let it bake for 25 minutes (35 if your rice was cold starting out). Then, remove the lid, spread an additional 1.5 c. (350mL) of grated cheese on the top, and bake it uncovered for another 10-15 minutes until the cheese starts browning. When it’s done, let it sit and cool for 10-15 minutes, and enjoy with a salad!

Finished casserole

Roast duck with apples and sage

A roast duck on a serving plate, beside a bowl with the apple and sage stuffing

Photo by Ingvar Mattsson.

This is the bird for our slightly reworked Thanksgiving dinner. Between the chaos of cooking a festive dinner and dead batteries in my camera, I didn’t get process shots for any of these dishes.

With two humans eating the dinner this year, I decided not to go for a turkey. They’re not little birds, and the smallest RSPCA Freedom Food labelled one I could find (frozen) was £18. A duck looked like a pretty good alternative, and very seasonal even though we had to get a domesticated one.

Virginia is part of what they’re calling the Atlantic Flyway, with lots of migrating birds:

As autumn arrives, ducks and geese migrate into the refuges and surrounding areas of Virginia. Shoveler ducks, pintails, mallards, widgeons, teal, rudy ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, ring necked ducks, bluebills, and others fly in. Mergansers, buffleheads, goldeneyes and other diving ducks show up in the bay waters as cold weather sets in. Off the coast, rafts of sea ducks and small groups of oldsquaw ducks forage along the shoals over the winter.

This migration is impressive enough on the coast that people there ‘reckoned a “moon of stags,” a “corn moon,” and a first and second “moon of cohonks”—the Algonquian word sounds just like the call of the geese, the sound from which the word derives.’ The time that they started returning en masse was considered the beginning of winter, and of the new year. The migratory waterfowl  leave just as spectacularly at the end of the winter.

English draws the word “honk”  from the geese:

From honck or cohonk, Canadian goose. Also associated with the sound made by the bird. Also associated with winter and year. The Powhatans called the “Potomac” River “the River of the Cohonks” for the noise made by the yearly arrival of the geese there. To honk, honky, and honky tonk all come from cohonk.

The ducks are a little less spectacularly noisy. 🙂 Not surprisingly, the waterfowl used to be a winter staple, and people still hunt them a lot. There aren’t such huge flocks migrating inland in the mountains, without all the marshes as food sources, but there are enough waterways that many still show up yearly and people used to eat an awful lot of ducks and geese.

Since a goose is still too big, a duck seemed very suitable for this time of year and theme. Apples also seemed like a good seasonal addition. Western Virginia grows a lot of apples–the commercial growing really got started for colonial export to England–though most of them now go into things like apple sauce and cider. The fruity flavor did go very well with the duck, as I’d hoped. I used Braeburn because the flavor is reasonably complex, and we already had a bag of them. They stayed firmer when cooked than I was expecting.

Roast duck with apples and sage

I stayed pretty close to a fairly simple recipe I ran across here.

To stuff the duck, I mixed up in a bowl:

  • 3 chopped Braeburn apples (peeled and cored first)
  • A small chopped onion
  • About 8 crumbled leaves of dried sage from our garden
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

I just stuffed it in the cavity to add flavor to the bird and pan drippings. We didn’t eat more than a spoonful of it to try, but you can if you like. It did lend a nice, not too strong note.

Preheat the oven to 400F / 200C. (That sounded hot to me, but multiple sources said to use that temperature for the whole cooking time!) Peel 3 or 4 carrots to use as a roasting rack and add more flavor to the pan drippings, and stick them in a suitable sized pan. (I used a foil one.)

Rinse the duck off, remove the giblets if it has any, and stuff the cavity with the apple mixture. Close the flap up with toothpicks, and put it breast side up in the pan on top of the carrots. Slash the skin all over with a sharp knife, trying not to cut into the meat, and rub sea salt into it so it gets nice and crispy.

You can truss the bird with string if you really want to, but I didn’t do that; it was also in a pan of a size that the wings brushed the edges, so it couldn’t sprawl out as much.

The duck wrapper said to roast it at the temperature above for 20 minutes per 500g (1.1 lb.), plus 20 minutes. With the 2 kg (4.4 lb.) duck we had, that worked out close enough to the 2 hours called for in the recipe I was basing the dish on.  Baste it when there’s an hour left, then half an hour. I actually turned the oven down to 350F / 180C after about an hour, because it was browning quickly, and it still took about 2 hours. I double-checked it with a meat thermometer, because I’m paranoid that way. 😉

Going by helpwithcooking.com:

A duck is properly cooked when the temperature of the meat at the thickest part of the thigh or breast has reached 165°F (75°C). This may be checked with a meat thermometer.

The duck should also have a nice crispy brown skin all over.

A pot of gravy

Another photo by Ingvar Mattsson. And another thing just served out of the pot. 🙂

The gravy was also somewhat loosely based on the same Roast Duck with Apples recipe. The inclusion of (British hard) cider sounded intriguing, and it ended up working well.

  • Pan drippings from the duck
  • 1.25 cups (275 mL or 1/2 British pint) Tesco single varietal Redstreak cider, which is apparently made by Thatchers –what we had 🙂
  • About 1 c. (225 mL) mixed duck giblet and previously frozen chicken broth left from making the dressing
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • Salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp. or so, with the salt in the duck juices)
  • A little dried sage and mixed herbs (this blend was like poultry seasoning) — maybe 1/2 tsp. combined, for a hint of flavor
  • Diced cooked giblets, if you have them
  • Enough corn or potato starch to thicken — 1 tbsp. potato IIRC?–mixed into a little cold water

Put everything but the starch into a small pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, then thicken with the starch slurry (add it fairly gradually while stirring). If you’re using potato starch, take it off the heat first, and use about half the amount you would of corn starch.

The cornbread and sweet potato dressing post will have to wait for another day.

Quick GF vaguely Asian pasta with pork and cabbage

A bowl of fusilli tossed with steam-fried veggies and pork, topped with toasted black sesame seeds and nori strips

This is another in the recent series of thrown-together quick meals, which will probably be a continuing trend here. 😉

With what we had on hand, I decided to put together a quick one-dish vaguely Asian pasta meal last week. Normally, I would use longer noodles, but GF fusilli looked like a good texture option to go with the diced cooked pork I wanted to use. It would be good with pretty much any meat or some tofu pieces, but I got a bag of frozen already-cooked pork half-price at our local Iceland. 🙂 I’ve bought it before, and it’s not bad stuff. I put some out on a plate to thaw beforehand.

A bag of frozen diced pork, behind a plate with half the contents set out to thaw

Quick GF vaguely Asian pasta with pork and cabbage

  • 1/2 – 1 lb. (200-500g) meat of your choice, quickly stir-fried (or pre-cooked)
  • 2 tbsp. peanut oil
  • About a quart/litre of shredded cabbage
  • A couple of julienned carrots
  • A medium onion, halved and sliced
  • A couple of dried shiitake/Chinese black mushrooms (same thing), soaked for about half an hour in hot water, stem side down — or a few fresh mushrooms of some type
  • 1/2 lb. (250g) GF pasta, cooked with a little salt in the water
  • Seasonings: listed below

Shred and slice the veggies, and put the pasta water on. Squeeze out the soaked dried mushrooms, if you’re using them, before slicing them; save the liquid.

Prepared veggies

If you’re starting out with raw meat, cut it into bite-sized strips and let it sit with a little salt and pepper for a few minutes, then stir-fry it in the oil and set it aside.

Add a little more oil to the pan if you need to, and steam-fry the cabbage and carrots. Use the mushroom soaking liquid for extra flavor if you’ve got it; if not, water will do.

A pan of cabbage, onion, and carrot, just starting to turn translucent

It's starting to turn translucent, so time to add the seasonings!

When the cabbage and onion start to wilt and turn translucent, add the seasonings and sliced dried mushroom.

  • About a tbsp. each of minced ginger and garlic
  • 3 tbsp. GF soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. mirin (optional) — if not, use 1/2 – 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sake, Shaoxing wine, or dry sherry
  • 1/4 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 tbsp. oyster sauce (optional — I had a little in a bottle to use up!)
  • For later: About 2 tsp. sesame oil, and a little chili oil (I used S&B La-Yu, which also has sesame flavor)

Continue to steam-fry for a few minutes, until the veggies are the texture you want them. If you’re using fresh mushroom, add them the last few minutes, while the lid is off to let most of the liquid evaporate. White cabbage is pretty forgiving with cooking time, so it probably won’t go too soft with a couple extra minutes.

The pan of veggies, almost done, with a little liquid still to evaporate off

This needs a little more of the liquid evaporated off, or the GF pasta will get soggy

At this point, add the meat back in to heat through for a couple of minutes. Adjust seasoning, as required.  When the meat and veggies are done, stir in the hot pasta and the sesame and chili oils.

A sprinkle of chopped cilantro would be great to garnish, but I didn’t have any. So, I used some scissored-into-strips toasted nori for flavor and color, along with the toasted black sesame seeds. It turned out really tasty.

Vaguely Caribbean chicken in foil

Chicken breasts with sliced onions and yellow peppers on top, in an opened foil packet

Ah, trying to photograph things on foil!

I try to keep a bag of frozen chicken breast filets on hand, convenient as they can be. They’re also less expensive than fresh, without much if any quality compromise. I used to feel compelled to mess with whole, bone-in pieces (if not cutting up a whole chicken), but soon saw the benefit of the filets when I got my own household and main responsibility for the cooking, with (a) disabilities that mean I don’t reliably have much energy, and (b) an Iceland just up the street. 🙂

To go with the GF macaroni and cheese and greens last week, I decided to make some easy chicken baked from frozen in foil packets. (You can use fresh filets or whole pieces instead, with a little adjustment in cooking time.) These particular filets were gigantic, four to a kg (2.2 lb.) bag! So, we got one each, and I added on about 10 minutes to the cooking time.

I briefly considered using some Tropical Sun Caribbean Everyday Seasoning–very much like a lighter Old Bay (no doubt based on earlier spice mixes), which is not too surprising given all the colonial trade links between the Chesapeake and the British Caribbean–but was more in the mood for a barbecue flavor. So, I used a few spoonfuls of the surprisingly good Tropical Sun Smoked Bar-B-Que Seasoning. I had initially avoided it, wary as I am of fake smoke flavor, but this dry rub has a nice hickory note added to a yummy spice blend. The slow, moist cooking really brought out the (normally little bit of) heat! You can use any kind of seasoned salt you like; Creole seasoning would work particularly well here. So would drizzling on some piri-piri (I buy bottled) or barbecue sauce instead.

I also only used half a sweet pepper, because I am consistently the only one eating the cooked peppers here. 🙂 Otherwise, I’d probably use at least a whole one.

This is very good served with rice cooked in chicken or veggie broth, or you can thinly slice up a potato or two per person and spread them under the chicken–both easy and tasty!

Vaguely Caribbean chicken in foil

  • About a lb. (400-500g) chicken
  • Seasoned salt of some type to taste
  • Large onion, sliced (I used 2 small)
  • 1/2 – 1 sweet pepper, cut in half or quartered and sliced
  • Garlic to taste (whole cloves are really nice, but I used dried chips)
  • A couple tablespoons of oil, if you’re using skinless filets — I used sunflower, since I wasn’t sure how well butter or olive oil would work here!

Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C. Take some heavy aluminum foil, or a double layer of lighter foil, and a baking sheet to hold the parcel. Lay the chicken out on the foil, and cover both sides with your seasoning. Spread the sliced onion and pepper and the garlic over the top. If you like, sprinkle more seasoning on top of the veggies. Drizzle the oil over the top, if you’re using it to help keep skinless filets moist. Wrap up the parcel, and bake for about these times:

Frozen filets or fresh bone-in pieces: 1 hour (for the fresh pieces, open the foil up the last 20 minutes)

Frozen bone-in pieces: 1 hour 20 minutes (open the foil for the last 20 minutes)

Fresh filets: 30 minutes (you might want to briefly fry or microwave the onions and peppers first to soften them, because they’ll still be very crisp after this short a baking)

Be very, very careful opening the foil. Even though I should have known better, I scalded my arm with the steam!

Lecsó with cabanossi and mushrooms

A plate with chunks of boiled potato on one side, and saucy sausage with a dollop of sour cream on top on the other side

The potatoes started falling apart, but they tasted good anyway.

The other night, we picked up £6 worth of deli counter cabanossi sausages marked down to about £2 at the local Tesco–hard to pass up! The date was running out within a couple of days, so I put some of them in the freezer, and hit Google for inspiration on what to do with the rest besides snack on them or just serve them with potatoes and onions or something.

I ran across this translated recipe for “GF Letschko with potatoes and cabanossi (German GF brochure)“, which didn’t look too bad. It was a lot less confusing once I looked up what a Varoma is. 🙂 (Spanish site.) I don’t have one of those, nor really want one–but have skillet, will cook! I actually love lecsó, but had no idea what to call it, other than “that Hungarian tomato stuff”.

This, maybe unexpectedly outside the region, ties back in with Appalachian food. Large numbers of Hungarians were brought in to work in the coal mines in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (along with Sicilians and other Italians, and a number of other groups who ended up influencing regional food). From the linked page:

Central and East European immigrants were frequently brought to the United States as strikebreakers. Large industrial firms, unwilling to cede to the strikers’ demands of fewer hours, increased wages and/or safer working conditions, simply brought a shipload of immigrants from Europe to fill the striking workers’ jobs. The agents recruiting such workers were usually instructed to choose immigrants of many different national origins, so that it would be difficult to organize the newcomers because of language barriers.

As you can probably imagine, not many of these immigrants had any idea what kind of situation they were getting brought into. Peonage* was the mining companies’ preferred method of dealing with workers anyway, but the usually already heavily indebted for passage immigrant workers had even less recourse or protection.

The end result, for food blogging purposes? You got an awful lot of particularly Hungarian and Southern Italian dishes–and lots of fusion versions–incorporated into the local cuisine. And I wasn’t even sure what to call “that yummy Hungarian tomato stuff”. *shakes head* A lot of dishes from both sources probably looked even more tempting to adopt and adapt, with the heavy use of already-popular vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. I’ve thought the same with the popularity of Mexabilly (definitely more fusion than Mexican!): interestingly different ways of using and combining locally popular ingredients.

This pattern also led to one unintentionally darkly hilarious comment overheard at an extended family gathering. One of the sisters-in-law was complaining about the dish another one had brought: “My cabbage rolls are a lot better than Sheila’s! She uses too much rice and not enough meat.” Erm, yeah, Sheila learned to make hers from a Hungarian immigrant grandma who couldn’t afford as much meat. But, by that point, Snarky (Scots-Irish) Sister-in-Law apparently felt like that was one of her own native dishes, too.

This is an opportunity to mention a more recent fusion dish I ran across and am sooo tempted to turn out a gluten-free version of: Cowdery Farms Three Sisters Pizza. That post also includes a pretty good description of the Three Sisters planting method as used in the Ohio drainage, and some really nice photos showing how rich the river bottom fields can be. It’s making me want to try growing squash again here. 🙂

Back to the cooking. The most similar variations I’ve had to this lecsó with sausage dish were made with American “Polish Sausage” , usually not mushrooms, and with the potatoes mixed into the sauce. But, we had mushrooms to use up, and Mr. Sweden doesn’t like nearly as many cooked sweet peppers as I do, so the mushrooms helped make up the difference. 🙂 It worked well.

Lecsó with cabanossi and mushrooms

  • 2 tbsp. oil (I used sunflower)
  • Three medium onions, cut in half and sliced
  • Half a yellow sweet pepper, cut into bigger pieces (normally, I’d use the whole pepper and maybe another one of a different color)
  • About a pound (400-500g) cabanossi sausages, sliced thickly on the diagonal

Fry those ingredients together over medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until the onions are translucent and starting to brown a bit.

Add about 1/2 lb. (200-250g) of sliced mushrooms, and fry for a few more minutes, until they start to wilt. Then add seasonings:

  • 2 rounded tsp. good paprika
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • Hot red pepper to taste, especially if your paprika is mild

Stir that around for 30 seconds to a minute, to release the flavor without scorching the paprika, then add:

  • A 14 oz. (400g) can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried marjoram

Let it simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, and serve with buttered boiled potatoes and a dollop of sour cream. Yum!

_____________

* I just can’t resist a nigh-unbelievable quote from the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey’s History of West Virginia Mineral Industries – Coal article. I know the coal industry still has an awful lot of power, but it’s still hard to believe anybody is trying to put anything resembling a positive slant on this stuff now:

A coal company provided not only a job but a unique way of life for West Virginia miners and their families. Since most of the mines were located too far from established towns, the coal companies built their own towns and provided inexpensive homes, a company store, a church, and often recreation facilities for the miners and their families. Because of the need for daily supplies from the company store, a simplified method of bookkeeping was established, using coal scrip. The earliest coal scrip (tokens) dates back to about 1883. Miners could get advanced credit on their earned wages (in scrip) to pay for daily necessities at the company store. This use of coal company scrip eliminated the need for the coal company to keep a large amount of U. S. currency on hand. Each mine had its own scrip symbols on the tokens, and these tokens could only be used at the local company store.

A “unique way of life” is one way to describe keeping your workers deeply indebted to the company, trying to control every aspect of their lives, and refusing to pay them in real money. *headdesk* That’s usually called peonage (since it stops just short of actual chattel slavery), and is illegal for a variety of reasons. Most of my own relatives in the WV/KY/VA coalfields preferred working for the railroad (and/or the “Copperhead Road” approach) to going to work in the mines, but not everybody had that dubiously more dignified option available–especially not the immigrant workers, nor people who had lost all their land to mining companies. A lot of the 19th century Welsh and Scottish miners in particular, mentioned in the next paragraph there, were flat-out illegally indentured, and some got deported when they complained about conditions.

Apparently, in the early 20th century, “there were so many Italians in the Mountain State that for many years an official of the Italian government was stationed in Fairmont, West Virginia, to look after their interests.”# I didn’t know that.

Again, not a lot of people outside the region know about this history, and I feel a responsibility to talk about it and to acknowledge some of these immigrants’ contributions.

Sausage and tomato “risotto”, and chunky mixed salad with feta

This is a quick supper I made over the weekend, but didn’t get posted earlier.

I really, really like one-pot rice dishes with meat and/or beans and veggies worked in, so you’ll probably be seeing more along those lines here. 🙂 It’s fairly quick and easy and very filling–and you can at least plausibly pretend that it’s balanced. That basic combo is one of my fallback “don’t really feel like cooking” meals. Lately, I’ve been trying to hold back on the rice to some extent, but sometimes I can’t resist.

The “risotto” is in quotes because I just haven’t gotten the hang of the classic open-pan, gradually adding liquid risotto cooking method. The texture just turns out odd, in a way that’s more gluey than creamy; I suspect that stirring it too much, out of fear of sticking and burning, doesn’t help at all. Plus, I was tired on a Friday evening, and didn’t feel like messing with it. So, I’ll call it “risotto”. It was really tasty, anyway.

This one is actually based on a ground meat and veggie, long-grain rice “risotto” my mom turned out more than occasionally with an ever-changing assortment of vegetables when I was growing up, from an actually rather good mid-’70s cookbook that’s since been lost in a house fire.  I can see the cookbook in my head, but don’t remember the title, or I’d be tempted to track down another copy! Its approach to international fare was, erm, very ’70s, but the results were usually good if rarely anywhere in the neighborhood of authentic.

Bowl of risotto

Sausage and tomato “risotto”

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. (400-500g) sausage — I used the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Sicilian mentioned elsewhere
  • Large onion, chopped
  • Stalk of celery, chopped
  • Half a sweet red pepper, chopped (I like fairly big pieces)
  • 2 carrots, shredded — I used the mandoline again, but a grater works fine
  • Bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, halved and sliced

Heat the oil on medium in the ever-useful deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Squeeze the sausage out of the casings in lumps, into the pan. Add the vegetables other than garlic and the bay leaf. Fry it until the onions and meat start browning, then throw in the garlic and bay leaf for a couple more minutes’ cooking. Chop up the sausage some as you go, if needed; mine was half-frozen going in, so it came out in pretty huge chunks!

  • 1-1.5 c. (250-350mL) medium-grain rice (I had half a British pint–10 fl. oz.–of paella rice left in a bag, so that was an easy choice 🙂 ) — if you can get it readily, medium-grain Mexican rice is great for this (and cheap!)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper
  • 1/4-1/2  tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 14 oz. (400g) can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. (50mL) red wine
  • Enough chicken broth to make 2-3 c. (500-750mL) of total liquid, depending on the amount of rice
  • Salt to taste, depending on how salty your broth is
  • 2 tsp. Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning
  • Optional: 2 or 3 zucchini/courgettes and/or yellow squash, cut into bite-sized cubes, or about a cup (250mL) if frozen peas — we didn’t have either, but it’s a nice addition
  • Grated Parmegiano or Romano to put on top

Throw the rice in with the frying meat and veggies, and sauté it for a few minutes. (Since I was using paella or risotto rice, I didn’t rinse it as usual; the extra starch is not a drawback here.) When that’s almost done, throw in the seasonings. In the meantime, drain as much juice as you can off the tomatoes into a measuring cup. (A can works a lot better for this than the Tetra Pak we had, since you can use the lid as a plunger instead of messing around with a spoon!) Pour the wine into the same measuring cup; it doesn’t have to be precise. Add enough chicken broth to make up twice the volume of liquid as the amount of rice you’re using.

Carefully pour the liquid into the pan–it will spatter at first, hitting the hot rice–and add the drained tomatoes. If you’re using the squash or peas, put it in the top of the pan; it’ll steam nicely as the rice cooks. Bring it to a boil, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to simmer for a few minutes more than you normally would for rice.  The acid in the tomato makes the rice cook more slowly. (Here, I added 5 minutes and let it cook for 25; back home, at higher elevation, I’d let it go for probably 45.) If it still looks very wet when the time is up, put the lid back on and cook it for another 5 or 10 minutes. As you can tell from the photo, it should be a little moist and not very fluffy.

When it’s done, remove the lid and let it steam out for 15 minutes with a dish towel or other cloth on top of the pan. Fluff and distribute the ingredients with a fork, and you’re ready to eat. You could mix some Parmegiano or Romano into the rice, but everybody here likes different amounts, so we usually just add it by the serving.

Chunky mixed salad with feta

Chunky mixed salad with feta

The taste and texture contrast is nice anyway, but since this batch of rice didn’t have much in the way of vegetables, adding some kind of salad was an extra-good idea. 😉 This was definitely another “what veggies do we have?” dish. I hadn’t tried putting daikon in this kind of salad before, but it worked well. The dressing and other flavors even perked up the pretty sad-looking winter tomatoes.

  • Half an English cucumber
  • Half a daikon/mooli radish
  • Half an onion
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 smallish tomatoes (Mr. Sweden picked up a big bag in the reduced section!)
  • About 100g (close enough to 4 oz.) feta, cubed
  • About 1/3 c. vinaigrette (we had that much Zesty Italian from a mix left in the fridge)
  • Some pepper, dried oregano, and parsley to make things a little more interesting

Again, this looks more complicated than it is. Peel and chop all the veggies, and put everything but the tomatoes together in a bowl. Salt them and stir them around to distribute it well, then let them sit for 20 minutes or half an hour; I put this together while the sausage and veggies for the rice were frying. Drain them in a colander or sieve, and gently squeeze more liquid out. Put them back in the bowl, and add everything else. Adjust seasoning to taste, and let it sit for another 20 minutes or half an hour in the fridge if possible.