Wednesday, July 22, 2009

the Corned Beef Chronicles

haHA! So I found the aforementioned pics. For "logistical" reasons (read: I'm too lazy to recall and writeup the recipe) I will be posting Corned Beef, but not Pickled Pork + red beans and rice. They're pretty similar, though. PLUS this gives me a chance to break the mold and create The first (edible) non-Pork Porkpile post of all time. We're making history here, folks.

Well, I'll make a long story short. I made corned beef for St. Patty's day, and took pictures with the intention of posting 'em up and sharing them with my world of followers. That didn't happen. So I'm posting it now. This is my second time brining brisket. The first time I used red beet powder as a substitute for pink salt/nitrate/salt peter. This was recommended by the hemp wearing hippy butchers at the Whole Foods meat section. Of course, these Michael Pollan followers don't think that meat should be cured with nitrates -- so instead, they mimick pink salt's red-giving properties by dying the meat with red beet powder. This turned into a gastronomic disaster that I'd really rather not relate here. The corned beef tasted ok, but wasn't nearly as red or juicy as this one. Needless to say, the lesson was re-learned that these people should be shunned in all important matters.

Before we jump right into the recipe, let's take a (another) brief tangent. I am currently reading Salt, by Mark Kurlansky. In it, he basically describes why salt is responsible for every significant cultural development for every society ever on Earth. Yeah. It's that epic. Here's an excerpt on corned beef:

"The Irish, starting in the Middle Ages, traded for salt at Le Croisic. They bought salt for herring, salmon, butter, leather curing and especially beef and pork. The salt was usually shipped to Cork or Waterford. Their salted beef, the meticulously boned and salted forerunner of what today is known as Irish corned beef, was valued in Europe because it did not spoil. The French shipped it from Brest and other Breton ports to their new and fabulously profitable sugar colonies of the Caribbean -- cheap, high-protein durable slave food..."

Makes it sound great, right? He goes on about corned beef for three more pages. With that contextualization, let's jump right into the recipe!


Corned Beef (Adapted from Charcuterie Ruhlman and Polcyn):
1 ~5lb beef brisket
1 gallon H2O
2 cups Kosher salt
1 ounce pink salt (not red beet powder)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Pickling spice

Pickling spice (Adapted from Charcuterie Ruhlman and Polcyn):
2 Tbsp black peppercorn
2 Tbsp mustard seed
2 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp allspice (not ground)
1 Tbsp ground mace
24 bay leaves (I used one pack)
2 Tbsp cloves
1 Tbsp ground ginger

1 head cabbage
1 Onion (I used pearl onions... I can't tell you why, but it was a pain in the ass)
Red potatoes
Sprig Rosemary
Sprigs thyme
Broth from Corned beef

Pickling spice:
Combine all in ziploc bag. Bam. Done.

Corned Beef:
Combine all ingredients in large pot (only 1Tbsp of pickling spice, no beef)

Simmer till sugar and salt on the bottom is dissolved
This part smells nice

Let it cool and add the brisket.
This part smells nice, too

Put in fridge for 5 days (put a plate on it to make sure it is submerged in the brine)

Remove and rinse
Cover in water (new water), add 1Tbsp Pickling salt and bring to a boil
Reduce to gentle simmer, cook for 2.5 hours, replenishing H2O as necessary
This is not my pot

Remove the brisket
Stick a fork in to ensure tenderness
I think it's dead. I also scraped/was forced to scrape that fat off the top

Notice the artful arrangement of bottle and fork

Slice more -- it should be pretty easy to cut since the brine/boil will make things nice and tender
Couldn't work the bottle into this shot...

Arrange in psedo-artistic fashion and take a blurry picture in an attempt to have a nice picture on your blog

Put all ingredients in large pot
I'm so into arranging things for these pictures

Add cooking liquid from the brisket
Boil till nice and cooked
And you thought I didn't cook vegetables

Arrange all on plate (Irish soda bread compliments of a loyal follower)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cheesy Bacony Beefy Jalapeno BBQ Sausage (don't try this at home)

Huh... so I had a couple back-logged cooking exploits I thought I was going to re-kick this whole thing off with, but I seem to have misplaced the pictures that would make this possible. Looks like I'm going to have to make do with what I've got and jump right into a more recent adventure.

Just a quick FYI - if I do find those pics we will have Corned Beef, Pickled Pork with Red Beans and Rice, and one other mystery post. If I don't find the pics we probably won't be seeng those for a while.

Anyway... onwards!

As the title suggests, I'm going to recommend you do not replicate or attempt to replicate what I did with what turns out to be a pretty gross endeavor. Not quite a disaster of the Tabastard magnitude (i.e. inedible), but not really one worth trying.

This was the first time I've invented my own sausage. Hopefully this will be the first of many. Hopefully the many to follow will be better than this one. With the ingredients and constitution of this sausage, only one name is appropriate: Cheesy Bacony Beefy Jalapeno BBQ Sausage. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Reasons for this failure may come to light as I describe the creation process. Also... I didn't have my camera handy, so took all pictures with my cell phone. Bear with me, here -- We're in the midst of a financial crisis.

Cheesy Bacony Beefy Jalapeno BBQ Sausage

-Juice of 1 lemon
-3/4 cup ketchup
-3/4 large onion, diced
-1 Tbsp butter
-3 Tbsp molasses
-2 Tbsp brown sugar
-2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
-2 Tbsp California chile powder
-2 Tbsp Mustard
-1 Tbsp Wocestershire sauce

-One block sharp cheddar, cubed (1/4"^3)
-2 nacho-style jalapeno cans
-1/2 lb good slab bacon
-1 1/2 lb beef chuck, ground
-3 lb pork shoulder, ground (see previous sausage post)
-hog casings

**A quick note: I moved recently, and in the process, lost my measuring instruments. Thus, all measurements are approximate. This is not the reason the recipe didn't turn out well.


Sweat onions in butter. Add all the other ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes.

This was not bad for BBQ sauce, but not good for sausage.

So the theory here was to let the EWKR BBQ sauce be the seasoning for the meat. Instead of a bunch of spices making the sausage, I thought it would be clever to use the sauce. It may work in the future, but this could have been mistake number one. Mix everything except bacon.

(From left to right) Top: Beef, Pork, EWKR BBQ sauce
Bottom: Cheese cubes and Jalapenos

Allow to sit over night for seasoning to set in, Add bacon and mix. Prepare stuffing equipment.

Would you call this more of a cumulus or cumulo-nimbus formation of hog intestine?

Stuff the sausage.
I'm considering renaming this blog "Why I don't have a girlfriend." This picture can be the background.

So. Why was it not good? On paper, the Cheesy Bacony Beefy Jalapeno BBQ Sausage sounds perfect. There are a few reasons I've come up with:

1.) The BBQ sauce. Ketchup base for the BBQ sauce was a mistake. It made the whole batch taste like some kind of meatloaf. Next time (if there is a next time) I will try more of a chili sauce. No ketchup and no tomato. Just something nice and hot.

2) My cheap sausage stuffer. Since I use my meat grinder with a different attachment to stuff the sausage, the stuffing auger mashes ingredients up as it stuffs. This made the cheese blocks incorporate too much (not the melted pockets of cheese I envisioned), and the bacon to disappear completely.

3) The cheese. Melted cheese in there made things way too oily.

In summary, the Cheesy Bacony Beefy Jalapeno BBQ Sausage was more of a Mediocre Meatloaf sausage, and I do not recommend trying this one out.

the Indefensible

Like Warren Buffet buying a jet, I really have no excuse for my prolonged blogabsence (I just made that word up) Blogatus? Blog-cation?

By my count it's been about a 5 month layoff. But.. the faithful Porkpile Follower community has clamored for updates and more meaty enlightenment. They've demanded more cooking adventures/follies/shameless recipe stealing, and who am I to disappoint the masses.

Clearly I can't guarantee any measure of consistency, but I'm going to keep trucking at my own pace and try to post something every once in a while when I feel like it if I can find the time ... maybe. Someday I might even make good on my promise to have either a non-meat post, or a totally non-cooking post. You just never know what's going to happen!!

Possible Reasons for the lag (with accompanying odds):

230,890:1 - I became a vegan and started cooking seitan sausages, couscous burgers, and fruit salads

11,408:1 - The rapidly expanding Porkpile follower universe came to include 3 high-ranking members of a publishing company, one of whom offered me a lucrative book deal (I'm not one to divulge numbers.. but let's just say it's in the 7 figure range). The last 5 months I have been writing non-stop.

11,507.5:1 - I became so sick of typing thoughtful, parenthetical asides, ellipses, and lists that I couldn't keep blogging ...(someday remind me to tell you about the 'creative essay' in high school I got a C on because I had too many parenthetical afterthoughts...)

11,407:1 - The economic climate has compromised the top 3 Porkpile sponsors, forcing me to seek government bailout money to fund the high-powered research and information gathering (not to mention countless man-hours) that go into each one of these posts. Thankfully, a grant was just... granted for a hefty sum of money that will allow operations to resume.

2,400:1 - My job is so intense I just don't have the time to write these insightful posts

27:1 - All of my time the last four months has been dedicated to intensive fantasy baseball research

4:1 - I feel like a jackass blogging other people's recipes that I've cooked 1-5 times and acting like 1) I invented it and 2) I'm some kind of cooking aficionado

5:2 - I've just been too lazy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Cobb Salad

Wow. Sorry for the hiatus. Despite sky rocketing advertising revenue and followers joining in droves, economic woes have impacted the Pork Pile budget, making posting that much more difficult.

A few weeks ago, I ate the last of the bacon. After the sandwiches, carbonara, etc I was pretty bacon'd out. That might not seem possible... but it happened. Five pounds of bacon is a lot to eat in a week+, even for me. So to kill the last of it, I whipped (literally.. see below) up some cobb salad. What better than salads with 1000+ calories?!

Someone once told me about the 'discovery' of ranch dressing. Apparently some folks somewhere near San Luis Obispo invented a salad dressing that was incredible, but perishable if not refrigerated. Since salad dressings are in the non-cold part of grocery stores, they had to compromise their recipe and change it to make what we currently know as Hidden Valley Ranch. It was still so delicious that it was still a big hit.

I'm too lazy to confirm whether this story is true... and I really don't know if I heard it, or just made it up. Anyway, I decided to try making homemade ranch for my Cobb salad.


1 cup Mayo*:
1 egg yolk
1 cup olive oil*
Juice of one lemon

Mix the yolk with the citrus. Drizzle in the oil slowly, whip the shit out of it till it looks like mayo.
The beginning
I used a whisk and not a food processor or mixer. This was a mistake. I thought it would be more legit or somehow make me more manly. It wasn't and it didn't. If you have a food processor/blender/mixer... use it and avoid the trouble.
My shoulder is probably about to fall off now.

Mayo. !

*Listen: Way too much olive oil, and it ended up overwhelming the taste of the mayo in the end. Next time I will definitely be using 50 percent vegetable oil.

1 cup mayo (above)
1 cup buttermilk
Some dill seeds
Garlic powder
MSG salt (yah, I said it)
Cayenne (little bit)
Other spices that might be good

The makings of the ranch.

Mix together.

The ranch.

Salad Construction:
Hard-boiled egg
Cheddar cheese

My bad for the blur..

Sunday, January 18, 2009

In the future, On the horizon. Down the pipeline. Coming up.

After curing the bacon, I promised myself I would post something non-pork based in the near future. The timeline for that future has been extended - see below for explanation. Someday there will be non-pork (and maybe even non-meat!) posts.

Today I took a Butchery for Adults class through a local butcher shop. It is unclear why 'Adult' has to be specified, as I don't think/doubt they have classes for other age demographics. Reardless, one of the coolest things I've ever done. Our class of 7 broke down a suckling pig and whole lamb.
Lamb shanking (thank you Bellos, for the pic)

Each classmate walked away with about 15 lbs of meat, and this meat will be the foundation of many near-future posts.
Meat grab-bag.
I wonder what's in the unlabeled one??

On the (tentative) menu:

-Suckling pig belly bacon. Savory, cured with black pepper, garlic and bay leaves. The instructor asked who wanted the belly, and I really couldn't resist the thought of trying my new found curing 'prowess' on a mini-belly. Mini bacon! This is the only item on the menu that is not tentative - I started the curing process about 20 minutes ago.
-Lamb sausage (merguez again?)
-Braised Lamb Shanks
-Roasted pork shoulder
-There should also be a Cobb salad with bacon from the original cure left
-we'll see what else

So until next time...
This is where pork comes from!
-I chopped off the head-

Monday, January 12, 2009

Uno Dos Tres... Spaghetti Carbonara

1. As easy as one, two, three.
2. Three ingredients.
3. Three times better than ... pretty much anything.
Three... reasons (above) why I made it.

At this point, I'm on the verge of 'way too much bacon in the past week' status. However, dramatic increases in reader demand have made it a necessity to stay strong and keep posting (two in one day!!!). I'm pretty sure that at this rate I will be able to make a solid full-time income off of proceeds from this blog in the next... month or so.

So. I'm trying out the Italian path and making some Spaghetti Carbonara. I've made it before, but with thin-sliced tree hugging Whole Foods bacon. As you might expect, it was just ok. The classic version uses guanciale - cured Italian pig jowl. I used muh-bacon, cut into lardons (little ~1/2 inch x ~1/2 inch x ~1 1/2 inch rectangular cuts). Let's just restate the obvious: Thick cut bacon rules.

-2/3 cu grated parmesan reggiano cheese
-2/3 lb bacon
-1 package spaghetti
-4 eggs

**This recipe is adapted from a combination of Ruth Reichl and Mario Batali. Both of whom take a minimalist approach. This is the easiest/cheapest recipe, and what both of the above claim to be the most traditional.

Cook the bacon.
Yea Yeaaaa.

Cook the pasta --> al dente.

Dump pasta + 1/4 cup pasta water into bacon and bacon grease.

Add black pepper, eggs, and cheese. Mix.

Easy, Quick, Delicious dinner.

This bacon is going down.
Just act like the picture isn't blurry.

Bacon Chronicles: The Sandwich Trilogy

'Das Wassup.

"A sausage is an image of rest, peace and tranquility in stark
contrast to the destruction and chaos of everyday life.

Consider the peaceful repose of the sausage compared
with the aggressiveness and violence of bacon."
Tom Robbins
Another Roadside Attraction

So what do I do with 5 pounds of bacon. Some doubt it can be finished in a reasonable amount of time. But don't you worry. It can/will be done.

The opener. Bacon: A New Hope. The morning after the cure was done, I made a Bacon Egg and Cheese sandwich. Sure there are more epic creations possible, but the BEC has a special place in my heart - I basically lived off of them at school in Philly. I used cheddar, but if I was really legit I'd go with some American pre-sliced single wrapped. The redness is Sri Racha and a dab of ketchup.

The second in the series. The Bacon Strikes Back. In celebration of my 8th follower (a 33% increase in the last week - creeping closer and closer to that second digit!) I also made some BLTs and ate them with two loyal Pork Pilers... the winners of a secret poll I held... with myself. SEE what you can get by being a follower?!

Shoutout to Emily and Alex (the loyal Porkers).

The finale: Return of the Bacon. A bacon 'wrapped' hot dog. Mission style. My bacon was too thick to wrap so I just threw it on with the dog. If I was going to write a theme song for this bacon escapade, it would be titled "My Bacon Can't be Wrapped"... think about it. Green chiles, sauted onions, Sri Racha (yes. again.) and a smidgen of ketchup.

I'm speechless...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Six Degrees of ... Bacon - A Running Diary

Over the last week I cured 5 pounds of pork belly using a pretty basic (read: boring) dry cure. This was my first time dry curing, my only other similar experience was a few months ago when I brined some beef into corned beef. So keep in mind that I'm not some curing afficionado, and really I have no idea what I'm doing. For these reasons, I've decided to write about this initial bacon experience in running diary format (copied from a certain sports columnist I read). After the date I am throwing in a single emotion that summarizes what I'm feeling at the time.

1) The week-long curing process is responsible (or I'm using it as an excuse) for lack of postings recently. However, since I now have 5 pounds of bacon to play with there should be a lot more posts in the next two weeks. So all 6 of you reading this should be more than entertained for the forseeable future. YAY!
2) Dates and times are approximate.

December 19th, 5:27PM. Boredom.
I decide it's time to get my ass in gear and order really the only necessary ingredient for basic bacon curing: pink salt/sodium nitrite. Don't listen to Whole Foods tree huggers. A little won't hurt you. Plus it kills pork-loving bacteria, and I don't feel confident enough in my 'curing prowess' to trust the belly sitting in my fridge for ~7 days without spawning some harmful microbes (see link above).

December 26th, 12:00PM. Indifference.
UPS attempts to deliver the pink salt. Surprise... I'm at work. I go pick it up. I don't have the pork belly yet, or an extra pound of kosher salt, so the project is put on a temporary hold.
**The recipe I use, which seems to be a running theme in this blog, was 'borrowed' from Michael Ruhlman/Brian Polcyn's Charcuterie.

December 31st, 11:57PM. Action (finally).
Got the pork belly. Complete with a San Francisco-organic mark up courtesy of a not-to-be-named butcher shop in the Ferry Terminal market. I swear a silent oath on the spot never to buy specialty meats from this location again. Ruhlman says $2.50/lb for belly. I pay twice that here. Next time: Chinatown, maybe the Mission. Definitely somewhere cheap.

Beauty. Don't mind the prescription drug packet.
Don't know how that got in there.
(Pork Pile does not condone the abuse of Rx drugs..)

December 31st, 1:12PM. Action (II).
I buy an unnecessarily overpriced ice chest, thinking it the perfect vessel for this curing process. Some other blogger had mentioned makin' bacon in an ice chest. I also buy a plastic container (common name: tupperware) thinking it might come in handy, in case the ice chest doesn't work. Ruhlman says use the fridge. The ice chest is banished to a distant corner of my room. Plastic container + fridge it is. Mental note: check recipe before purchases.

December 31st, 1:44PM. Action (III).
As you can see, December 31st was a day of extreme action. I crack open the pink salt, make one 'batch' of the basic dry cure, and throw it in a resealable plastic bag (common name: Ziploc). I realize that I've purchased enough pink salt to last me the next 20 years, even if I cure bacon and corned beef10+ times a year. (I bought 40 ounces -> two ounces were needed for one 'batch' -> roughly one tenth of a batch was used for the curing).
5 lb pork belly

1 lb Kosher salt
2 oz pink salt
8 oz sugar**

**In Charcuterie, the authors stress that pretty much any spices/herbs/variations of sugar can be subbed into this cure, making badass and unique bacon types. I went with the basic (again. read: boring) cure to use as a stepping stone.

The cure!

December 31st, 1:58PM. Puzzlement.
I shake just over 1/4 cup of the cure over the belly (after trimming some of the fat) in a Ziploc bag. Then I place the meat (covered uniformly) into the plastic container.

The Meat posing with the Cure.

Covered in the Cure - in its beautiful plastic home

That's pretty much it. Cover and throw it in the fridge.

January 1st, 1:58PM. Excitement.
Some liquid has seeped! The cure is working! Flip it!

This is actually a picture from a later day,
but it looks the same for pretty much the whole curing process..

January 2nd, 1:58PM. Waning Excitement.
A little more liquid has seeped! The cure is still working... Flip it.

January 3rd, 1:58PM. Indifference.
Meh. I forgot to flip it.

January 4th, 1:58PM. Waxing Excitement.
Past the halfway point! (looks about the same as day 2) Flip it.

January 5th, 5:58PM. Budding Doubt.
Maybe there should be more liquid? Flip it. Then I add about 1 tbsp more curing mix sprinkled over the top. That'll fix everything.

January 6th, 5:58PM. Doubt.
What if there wasn't enough pink salt? What if it's not curing? What if it's not bacon? Flip it. Sprinkle 1 tbsp curing mix for symmetry.

January 7th, 5:58PM. Fear.
BAH! It's done. Time for a quick low temp roast (I don't have a smoker). I take 'er out of the container, rinse in cold water for about 5 minutes. Dab all the moisture off with some paper towels, and put it on my ghetto version of a roasting pan (some little wire trays on a cookie sheet).
Ready for roasting
Roast for ~2 hours at 200 F. Internal temp is 'supposed' to hit 150 F. At 2.5 hours it is only at 140!! Something must be wrong with the bacon!

January 7th, 8:28PM. F*ck it.
This is as hot as it's going to get. I take it out, let 'er cool down (still on ghetto roast pan).

Post-Roast (see what I did there?)

January 7th, 11:15PM. Morbid Fear/Managed Excitement.
Top Chef is over. Time to try it. I slice two pieces of the meatier end and fry 'em up. Low-medium heat so fat renders off (and any harmful bacteria... are killed off).

It was super easy to slice. Three possible reasons:
1) bacon is tender
2) I have rocking-badass knife skills
3) I have a really new sharp knife

January 7th, 11:36PM. Partial Relief.
The pieces are really good. Not typical bacon since they lack that smoke-y flavor, but they will definitely do. Plus it will be around 10^6 times better once the basic (boring!) cure is modified/enhanced. Overall: easy and totally worth it. Time for some experimenting!

I ate part of the right one.

Apologies for the novella-length post. Sometimes it just has to happen.