Archive for September, 2011

Home Made Gravy: easy enough for anyone to make

September 22nd, 2011

mushroom gravy

What can beat home made gravy? Nothing!  Whether it be a simple pork sausage gravy to cover flaky biscuits just out of the oven or a morel mushroom gravy to top a fresh grilled New York steak the taste and cost benefits of whipping up this humble sauce at home far outweigh the store bought packages which are filled with who knows what kind of additives and chemicals.

The ingredients required to make gravy are really pretty mundane and are bound to be around any well stocked kitchen.  Flour, butter, bacon or sausage, if it is the pork inspired version of home made gravy, beef and chicken stock, and a little corn starch to tighten it up when all is said and done.  The process is rather simple and doesn’t vary too much depending on what variety you are whipping up.

For example, if it is breakfast time, then the home made gravy that generally ought to be used is the pork sausage variety.  Render some pork sausage, remove the sausage and add flour to the pork fat to make a roux.  Cook that roux until it is a nice golden color and has a little nutty taste, and then add the cold milk slowly…steadily whisking the milk and the roux together. Reduce this down a bit until the flavor is where you want it and then add the corn starch slurry to thicken it more.

Home made gravy doesn’t need to be packed with meat to be a lovely addition to the dinner table.  Make the roux with butter and flour and add a cold vegetable stock that you have made from vegetable trimmings and scraps and whisk this together and finish with a little cream if you like.   In fact you can make the home made gravy vegan if you use olive oil instead of butter and keep the cream away from the process.

I have to admit that I have a bias for meat laden, home made gravy.  This doesn’t mean that I am not interested in vegetable gravies or am unable to whip one up if need be, but only means that my history is that of pork sausage gravy, and brown sauces augmented with veal stock.  Come visit duckspoon and check out our selection of gravies and brown sauces and see how easy it is to make a quality home made gravy for yourself and your family.

Cheers!

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Pate de Campagne: a front line look at French butchery

September 16th, 2011

The butcher didn’t speak english and I don’t speak french so the beginning of my first pate making experience did not look particularly auspicious.  He had agreed to coach me on the fine points of french butchery as a favor to one of his very good clients: my long time friend whom I was visiting after not seeing him for seventeen years.  I had mentioned that I was interested in french butchery and he had arranged this experience for me.

Nikki, the butcher, placed a hotel pan in front of me filled with pork neck, slivers of pork belly and livers.  The initial feelings of discomfort on both our sides evaporated after I dug my hands into the meat pile and started grinding it up  in the first step of making pate. I ground up two kilos of liver and two kilos of neck and two kilos of belly.  I also added garlic, onions sauteed until they were blond, shallots, parsley and chives.

Nikki then added salt, curing salt, pepper and mustard seed and then poured a little cold water and 6 eggs into the mixer: one per kilo, he said.  After the ingredients were ground up, I scraped the ingredients into the mixer.  After a few minutes in the mixer the ingredients had begun to look like pate.  With a baking spatula I scraped the bowl of the mixer, making sure that no remains were left clinging to the sides of the bowl.

I next placed pig belly skin (fat back) in the bottom of the terrine casserole dish and heaped the pate in up to the rim of the dish.  Nikki brought the caul fat out, asked me if I knew it (with gestures and broken english), and when I nodded, proceeded to lay it out over the terrine of pate.  Caul fat is the intestine of a cow, similar to thick spider webs in appearance.  I patted the air bubbles out and then we put the terrines in hotel pans and then put them in the oven at 200 degrees for 2 hours.

After the time had elapsed we pulled the pate terrines from the oven, and then, leaving them in the hotel pans, added water to the hotel pans so that the terrines were in an inch of water.  We then placed the hotel pans back in the oven at 145 degrees and slowly cooked them until they had reached 70 degrees celsius in the middle.  We made quite a few other different kinds of pate, but this one stands out in my head as my very first experience with french butchery.

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Local Eggs

September 10th, 2011

Unknown

The search for local eggs has intensified in the public eye with the outbreak of salmonella poisonings in recent history.  One would think, in an ostesibley free market system, that the best eggs would not only be cheapest,  BUT HEALTHY FOR US AS WELL.  The cost of illness, hospitalization and death were not configured in the chicken egg talleys when it came to corporate profit accumulation.

The eggs sold by some of the large corporate farms killed people.  It became profitable to serve poor food because of marketing and social apathy.  One would guess from our addiction to mass production that finding correctly priced local eggs would be difficult, but it is not.  Websites abound in providing folks the knowledge to find grass fed beef, organic vegetables, etc…It is just the dominant paradigm which quietly urges people into the easiest, most convenient decisions.  Apathy.

Those decisions invariably result in some loss of productive life and the consequent profit for the corporation holding the reigns.  Start a garden, buy local eggs…heck raise chickens (please don’t attempt to raise animals unless you are comitted to the utmost integrity of their existence, and very importantly, their demise).  Capital has an insidious means of influence.  If one can escape the pathways that have been mapped out for us, then one has a chance to be free.

Local Eggs.  Start with a circumference of 15 miles.  Eventually you might be able to get within a mile, or even pehaps your back yard…Local produce…local meat…the possibilities abound.  Just  the first step, say to merely buy local eggs or to shop at the farmers market, is a move away from the system.  Away from money in the pockets of people who don’t know us, and don’t really care about our health or welfare.   We are merely numbers in an inhuman mathmatical equation.

If I had a Volkswagon bus right now, I would paint “Local eggs!” on it and drive around town sparking conversation.  Wouldn’t it be fun (and cost effective, my sceptical friends) to be able to barter eggs from the around the neighborhood;  trade eggs for honey maybe, salads and vegetables during the spring and summertime; squash and apples in autumn.  We can start with local eggs and see where that takes us…

Come learn to flip an egg with us at duckspoon.com!

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How to make enchiladas

September 3rd, 2011

enchiladas

How to make enchiladas is, in my mind, a fundamental lesson for our children to learn how to respect other cultures, and Latino cultures in particular.  Food can help us understand people and learning a people’s cuisine can shed insights on how they think and why they perform certain actions.  Understanding food by the actual cooking of it far surpasses what we can learn by going to eat in a restaurant that serves that food.

The use of corn tortillas, for example, in learning how to make enchiladas shows us that the Mexican culture has an abundance of corn and they can feed the populace cheaply using corn tortillas.  Chickens can be raised in the back yard and tomatoes and chilies can be grown in abundance in the garden as well.  All these geographic nuances can be deciphered by breaking down the varied components of the dish.

First we learn the ingredients, and then we can learn the entire process of how to make enchiladas.  The corn must be milled and then fried into tortillas; the tomatoes must be roasted and made into a sauce; the chiles need to be dried, pounded into powder, and mixed with herbs.  Of course most people in Mexico buy the tortillas from someone who uses those efforts to earn a living, but the knowledge of making corn tortillas is easily learned, and once learned, understood.  Although the final dinner can be put together quickly, the preparation takes time and has a history of its own.

“How to make enchiladas”  isn’t merely a procedural task.  The creation of this truly hispanic meal is ingrained with the culture, history, and character of the people that it sprang from.  Whereas a taco can be thrown together somewhat quickly (if the tortillas are made, the chickens slaughtered, etc…), how to make enchiladas really revolves around the slow formation of the enchilada sauce.  The enchilada sauce itself is a tradition that varies throughout the many regions of Mexico.

I am very happy that when my niece, Ronnie, asks me how to make enchiladas I can reply not only by taking her to a computer and showing her a video detailing the steps out, but I can also fill her in on some of the historic, cultural and geographic facts that helped shape the food we eat.  I sincerely hope that by teaching my niece how to make enchiladas I will be opening her eyes to the vast information that can be learned from world cuisine.

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Cheap food

September 1st, 2011

cheap food

Let us first define cheap food as food that is inexpensive, but not of low quality.  We can even add that this category of food needs to be wholesome in some way as far as taste and nutritional content.  There exists via the internet the ability to view literally thousands of recipes from countries all around the globe.  So often inexpensive food translates into food that is inferior in both taste and content.

Up until recently people shared recipes with other folks that they interacted with and knew personally.  The internet has changed this.  When I surf the internet searching for cheap food recipes, I can gauge the inexpensive nature of the recipe by mentally adding up the cost of the ingredients, but I can’t really evaluate the quality of taste.  So to eliminate the tedium of cooking every meal you come across you must find food a cook you like.

I have tasted foods around the world and find that the vast amount of cheap food is prepared rather poorly.  The novelty of a kid eating land crab stew on an island in Honduras does not disguise the everyday low quality of food that characterizes the staple diet of the poor.  If you were to ask a schoolroom full of Nicaraguan kids whether they knew someone in their immediate or extended family that had diabetes most would nod their head.

Cheap food done right is really an art that has been passed down for a few hundred years.  Braised pig’s feet may now be a popular delicacy on the menus of the upscale eateries in town, but it originated from a time when survival depended on utilizing all parts of the beast, and even the wealthy lived under this edict of nature.  Cheap food meant the pickling and drying of foods.   This now seems trivial to many of us westerners.

Cheap food in today’s world means industrialized fast food, even to the poor.  In Portland, Oregon the poor are able to use food stamps at the farmer’s markets where the farmers come to sell directly to the public.  On duckspoon.com I have started the process of collecting video recipes that are inexpensive, but that do taste good and fill the belly.  Cheap food can be done right; it can be easy on the wallet but still stock full of nutrients to keep us healthy.

Come check out duckspoon.com and check out the Economy Recipes!

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