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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Charcutepalooza: Duck Breast Prosciutto

When my husband and I were about to be married, we did what many couples do and set up a registry. Rather, I did what many brides do and set up a registry. Husband-to-be wasn't especially keen on the idea, but when I explained that whether we registered or not, people would be buying us gifts and we might as well let them know what we'd most like, he relented and gave me his wish list. On it, a smoker. Uh. Okay? Really? A smoker? And a lawn mower. Alrighty then. A smoker and a lawn mower. He got both.

Well, I'll admit, I was a silly girl to question the smoker. Over the years Mike has made fantastic smoked salmon, bacon, brisket, smokey pulled pork, smoked trout. He's smoked eggplant for me to make baba ganouj, smoked peppers and zucchini stuff with pork sausage. All good.

Bacon, Summer 2009
For Christmas a couple years ago, I bought him a copy of Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman. Good stuff got even better as Mike's understanding of curing and smoking developed. Recently, good friends bought a house with its own freestanding smokehouse. Right smack in the middle of suburbia.

Those two guys are always looking for an excuse to fire up the smoker and we wives are happy to oblige them.

The Guys Smoke Ribs for a Party, April 2010

Myself, I don't mess with smoke, but have made gravlax, pickled salmon, liverwurst, and goose liver pâté (not technically foie gras, as the liver came from the well- but not over-fed goose we raised in our backyard). I also fantasize pretty regularly about making salami at home though I have yet to act on those fantasies. When I stumbled across the Charcutepalooza challenge to make something from Ruhlman's book every month for a year, I signed us up right away.

I hope we'll get to salami.

Duck prosciutto was a particularly fitting first challenge as last year I finally discovered how much I love duck and tucked several locally raised Pekin ducks in the deep freeze in the fall. Mike took care of the preliminaries late at night, after I'd gone to bed, so no pics of him cutting up the duck, setting the breast halves in a bed of salt, or, 24 hours later, wrapping each in cheesecloth and hanging them up to cure. We set up our basement bathroom as our curing area, opening the little window to let in the cold winter air. After 8 days, the duck breasts had not lost 30% of their initial weight, but I took down the smaller of the two as it did feel sufficently firmed up to me. I sliced it and found this:

 I immediately cut the slices into bits and fried them like this... 


And added them to my morning eggs:

For dinner that evening, I made a salad starring thin slices of prosciutto, with mandarin oranges poached in zinfandel*, blood orange segments, water chestnuts, and black sesame seeds drizzled with ginger-miso-blood orange and grapefruit marmalade* dressing:

The orange-duck combo was naturally delicious and the bitter-sour flavors from the dressing balanced the fat beautifully. I kept making myself perfect little bites of prosciutto, blood orange, a bit of orange zest from the marmalade, and romaine. 

Still thinking about what I might make with the second duck breast. What would you suggest?

* Canned during my citrus canning class earlier this month.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Celery-Celery Salad

I'm caring for a family member with a urinary tract infection. We've been using herbs, homeopathic remedies, and healing foods rather than resorting to antibiotics and noticing an improvement after 24 hours of active treatment. Along with lots of water, I've been encouraging my patient to eat parsley and celery as their natural diuretic effect helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Probiotics boost the immune system, so I have been offering probiotic-rich lactofermented veggies. Raw garlic, with its strong antibiotic properties always does a body good.

I wanted to come up with a light, appetizing meal that would bring all those healing foods together. I happened to pick up the February/March issue of Fine Cooking (which is chockful of great recipes, including a piece on quick pickles by Eugenia Bone, author of my favorite canning book of 2009, Well Preserved) and immediately noticed a salad featuring celery, fennel, parsley, and anchovies with a lemon-Parmigiano vinaigrette. I loved the idea and came up with this variation (ignoring the Parmigiano, as my patient is avoiding dairy while fighting this infection). When people taste preserved lemons and lactofermented vegetables for the first time in my classes they love them, but are unsure about how to use them in meals. Here's a great example.

Celery-Celery Salad
Serves 4

1 medium fennel bulb, shaved thinly (a mandoline helps with this)
2 stalks celery, sliced thinly on the diagonal (you can do that on a mandoline, too)
1 tin of sardines, mashed
2 tablespoon minced preserved lemon peel
4 tablespoons lactofermented celery root (I'll post about how to make those soon)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lactofermented mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine fennel, celery, sardines, preserved lemon, and celery root in a medium bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, mayonnaise and garlic. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Leftovers by Design: Salmon Chowder, Cakes and Fritters (Gluten-Free)

Chinook salmon Mike caught out of the Willamette River last summer
Have I said this before? Well, I'll say it again: leftovers make it easy to put together a quick and tasty meal. Especially after preparing multiple elaborate holiday dinners, I'm usually ready to spend a little less time in the kitchen for a while at the same time I have a fridge bursting with bits of leftover this and that. With some creativity, those bits can become something altogether new and delicious in short order. In The Way to Cook, Julia Child called this notion of turning leftovers into something more than just ho-hum reheats, "Feasting on the Remains." It's all about attitude.

Last summer, members of our buying club bought shares of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon from Iliamna Seafood Company. Each share included 22 pounds of frozen fillets and the fillets are about two pounds each. My family can't eat that much salmon at one meal, so we've been having lots of salmon leftovers. Here are a few favorites.

Gluten-Free Salmon-Corn Chowder
Serves six

I make a big batch of breakfast potatoes once or twice a week and often use the leftover potatoes in chowders. If you have preserved lemons, chop up the peel from half of one and pass it at the table to garnish. If you do not have fish stock on hand, use vegetable stock, chicken stock or more milk.

1 pound red potatoes, diced or a couple cups leftover cooked potatoes
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sauce from jar of chipotles en adobo (or add chopped chipotle to taste)
1/2 cup of salsa
2 cups fish stock 
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
leftover cooked salmon fillet (preferably wild), skin discarded and fish cut into 1-inch pieces
(I augmented with some of my husband smoked salmon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 quart of salted water to a boil, then add potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the bacon in a 6- or 8-quart pot until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and leave fat at least 2 tablespoons of fat in pan (I leave all the rendered fat in the pan). Saute onions in bacon fat until soft, then add garlic and cook for a minute. Add thyme, bay leaf, chipotle, salsa, fish stock, milk and cream, bring to a boil and then immediately turn down to a simmer. Add potatoes, corn, and salmon and cook until everything is thoroughly heated. Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice and serve.

Gluten-Free Salmon Fritters
No potatoes on hand? How 'bout making fritters? Try this recipe for gluten-free corn-shrimp fritters from Cooking for Isaiah, substituting one cup of cooked salmon for the shrimp. If you use wheat flour, use that 1:1 in place of the gluten-free flour. 

Gluten-Free Salmon Cakes
Serves 4-6

I've been making fish cakes--with leftover crab, halibut, salmon, tilipia--for years. Crab cakes were a restaurant favorite of mine growing up in Maryland and at home today, I still usually make them Maryland style, which in essence means seasoned with Old Bay, a blend of herbs and spices that's predominantly mustard, paprika, and celery seed. This Thai-style recipe has a lighter, zestier flavor. In the winter, I serve these with a coleslaw of shredded cabbage and carrots tossed with Oregon pink shrimp and dressed with lime juice, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. In the summer, Cucumber and Wasabi Soup makes a perfect accompaniment.

3/4-1 pound cooked salmon
6 kaffir lime leaves, snipped into thin strips with scissors or zest of one lime
3 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional)
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3 green onions, sliced
1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
small handful cilantro
1 red chili, sliced OR 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chili
1/4 cup or more almond flour 
coconut oil for frying
Break salmon into chunks and place in food processor or large food chopped. Add coconut milk, fish sauce, shrimp paste, chili powder, cumin, ground coriander, brown sugar, lime leaf strips, green onion, galangal or ginger, garlic, cilantro, chili, and almond flour. Pulse to create a thick paste.
Picking up a small amount in your hand (about the size of a golf ball) pat the paste into a small cake and set on a clean plate. If the paste is too wet to easily form into cakes, add a little more flour to the mix. As you continue making the cakes, it helps to rinse your hands every so often with cool water to prevent paste from sticking.
Set plate of cakes in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up. Melt coconut oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Fry several fish cakes at a time, about 2 minutes per side. Fry until golden-brown and drain on a cooling rack set over a sheet pan.