A Few Projects We’re Working On

We don’t have any new recipes to share with you today, but I thought I would give you an update on some of the things we are working on right now and some of the projects we will be taking on this year.

Often touted as the Bible when it comes to Charcuterie
Often touted as the Bible when it comes to Charcuterie

     A while back, and I don’t even know how long ago, I got a copy of Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn’s Charcuterie. I had every intention to dive right in and make some home made bacon and Canadian bacon. You know what they say about the best of intentions? I pulled it off the bookshelf, dusted it off and have now committed myself to finally attempting some of those recipes.

Just about 5lbs of raw pork belly
Just about 5lbs of raw pork belly

     At some point, I must have mentioned to my brother, the other Mr. G, that I didn’t know where to find pork belly. He told me to try an Asian market. Later on, he brought me right around 5 lbs of pork belly which got dumped into the freezer and lost.

While I wish it was one solid slab, I'll work with tehe4 smaller ones I have now.
While I wish it was one solid slab, I’ll work with the 4 smaller ones I have now.

     Getting into Charcuterie was one of my New Year’s Resolutions. From what I have heard, store bought bacon does not even compare to the stuff you can make at home. It does require curing the meat for around 7 days with a basic cure of Kosher salt, sugar and Cure #1.

Ingredients for the Basic Cure
Ingredients for the Basic Cure

I’m thinking that since I am doing smaller slabs instead of one big slab and since there will be more surface area, the cure won’t take the full seven days. I’m hoping to pull it Saturday, rinse it, rest it overnight and cold smoke it on Sunday. We’ll see how that goes…

A Book Review!!
A Book Review!!

     The other thing I need to get underway is a book review of Sausage! by Johan Akerberg and Jesper Lindberg. The nice folks at Skyhorse Publishing contacted me back in November and offered me the opportunity to review this new book. Unfortunately, the holidays got in the way, but now that things are returning to normal, I’m looking forward to diving into it. They gave me permission to reprint two or three of their recipes, so I’ll be scouring the book looking for the ones that most appeal to me and I’ll share them with you. The pictures are very appealing so it might be hard to pick, but I’m leaning towards one of their pork sausages, a duck sausage (if I can find some duck) and possibly a seafood sausage.  They have one they call Moules de Mer, crab and lobster sausage with moules mariniere (a bowl of mussels) and French fries. I know Mrs. G will be a fan of that one.

Moules de Mer - I know Mrs. G is going to love this one.
Moules de Mer – I know Mrs. G is going to love this one.

     The authors have also included quick and simple recipes for sides (such as sauerkrauts, pickled red onions or German potato salads to name a few) and home made condiments (mustards, ketchups, curry sauces and more) to go along with each sausage. I am really excited to get started on some of these right away.

The Flame Boss
The Flame Boss

     Don’t think we’ve forgotten about the Flame Boss. We’ve used it a few times here and there and so far our initial impressions have been really postitive, but we are going to really put it through its paces now. Expect a thorough review of how it performs and what we like and/or don’t like about it.

     Along with dabbling in some Charcuterie and stuffing some sausages, we will strive to bring you new and fresh recipes this year including grilled foods, smoked foods and even some prepared solely in the kitchen. And we’ve got a few reviews that will be coming up early in the year of some new products that I am excited to try out. So that’s what we’ve got planned. As always, we love hearing from each and every one of you, whether it’s you sharing your opinions with us, offering us suggestions or asking questions. If you have any ideas or recipes that you would like us to try, feel free to tell us about them. If you have a recipe that you would like to share with us and possible see here on the blog, send it our way. We love interacting with you, so make sure to leave us a comment. Here’s to a bigger and better New Year in 2014!

 

Disclaimer: Michael Ruhlman and Brian Poleyn’s Charcuterie was purchased with our own hard earned dollars. We have had no contact with either of them or their publishers and have received no monetary compensation from them. The publishers of  Sausage! and the makers of  Flame Boss contacted us and sent us their products free of charge. There has been and will not be any monetary compensation from them for reviewing their products. We have always been and will continue to be a non-profit blog, doing it for the love of it and not in the pursuit of money.

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Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderloin

Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderolin
Bacon Wrapped Venison Tenderloin

     I’ve been trying to think about what I wanted to do with the tenderloins from the deer I shot last Thanksgiving. They are a first for me, both to cook and to eat. I finally decided to go with the KISS method…Keep It Simple Stupid, and I’m glad I did.

Two venison tenderloins
Two venison tenderloins

     For those not familiar with deer, the tenderloins are pretty small. These were smaller than the pork tenderloins you would normally pick up at the grocery store. The two of them were just enough for Mrs. G and I. Before getting started, I trimmed them of all the fat (that’s where the “gaminess” is) and the silver skin.

Soaking in a marinade
Soaking in a marinade (excuse the crappy picture, not sure what happened to my camera)

     I then soaked them in a bath of milk (my Father-In-Law said it helps draw out the blood and tenderizes it), some hot sauce, a bit of rough chopped onion, garlic powder and some fresh cracked black pepper for about 45 minutes. I would have like to let them marinate longer, but didn’t have the time.

Wrapped them in bacon
Wrapped them in bacon and onto the grill

     After 45 minutes, we removed them from the marinade and rinsed and dried them off. Then, we sprinkled on some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Next, we par-cooked four slices of bacon in the microwave for about a minute and a half (should have done two minutes) and then wrapped each tenderloin with two slices.

     The tenderloins were then placed on the Egg which was heated to medium-high (I’m not exactly sure on the temperature. I think my dome thermometer is off and needs to be recalibrated. I just went by feel). We used less than a handful of mesquite chips just to add a hint of smoke flavor. We cooked them for about 12 minutes, turning every so often to crisp up the bacon and pulled them when the internal temperature had reached 125. All my research online had shown that going much higher would ruin the cut of meat and make it very tough. After pulling, we let it rest for, loosely tented with aluminum foil, for five minutes.

Removed from the grill and resting before eating.
Removed from the grill and resting before eating.

     I really have no idea what is going on with my camera, but please excuse the blurry pics. For some reason last night it did not want to focus. Trust me, I tried. I must have taken at least 10 pictures and they all came out bad. I know you’ll let is slide this one time…right? If I had the chance, I’d do the cook again and hopefully get better pictures, but you only get two tenderloins per deer and that’s all I have until next season.

Plated up with some brocolli.
Plated up with some broccoli.

     Kept the sides simple with just some broccoli and a salad, but this was an impressive dinner. I’d be hard pressed to compare it to a beef tenderloin or a pork tenderloin. Sure, it comes from the same general area on the animal, but the taste was something else. It wasn’t “gamey” at all and the bacon and mesquite complimented it perfectly. Just a hint of salt and smoke from the bacon and a light kiss of smoke from the mesquite helped to enhance the flavor of the venison. And talk about tender? It was so tender, it just melted in the mouth.  I’ll take a venison tenderloin over a beef or pork one any day. I know most of you out there don’t have access to venison, but if somebody ever offers you any, take them up on the offer. You won’t regret it.

The Most Hated Vegetable

The most hated Vvegetable on the planet.
The most hated vegetable on the planet.

     Brussels sprouts…they have to be one of the most hated vegetables on the planet  (and yes there is an “s” at the end of Brussels, which is also capitalized, BTW). It ranks above broccoli, spinach, beets and lima beans as the most despised according to some polls I read. It’s not hard to see why. When prepared wrong, they can have a bitter, sulfur-y taste and a strong, unpleasant smell. To make matters worse, children are more sensitive to bitter flavors than adults. They often try them and the mindset that Brussels sprouts are “nasty” stick with them. They refuse to try them again and never realize that as their palates change, so might their view on these amazing vegetables. Yeah…I said amazing. I fell in to that same trap. Didn’t like them as a kid, figured I hated them as an adult.

     Mrs. G and I have been married for three years. In that time, she has made them once. ONCE…and I think I gagged on them. Granted they were frozen. This past weekend we went to Dallas Farmer’s Market. While we were there, she spotted some nice looking sprouts. Knowing that she likes sprouts, I acquiesced to her desires while quietly thinking to myself that I would have to suffer because of it. Little did I know how wonderful they could be when prepared right.

     Before we get on with the recipe, lets talk about the health benefits for a bit. Why should we eat this vegetable that is so hated? I won’t get all scientific on you. I’ll try and keep it simple. Brussels sprouts are loaded with fiber and protein and can be a low-calorie dish for starters. They also have potent anti-cancer properties and can boost DNA repair in cells. Still not convinced? They can help lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, maintain low blood sugar, fight inflammation and aid in digestion.  They are loaded with vitamins. One cup contains 20% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A, 161% of Vitamin C and 273.5% of Vitamin K. Not to mention, they are loaded with folate and plenty of minerals like iron, copper and potassium. That’s just a few of the benefits of eating this little, miniature cabbage looking vegetable. If you need more, you can do some research of your own. For me? That’s plenty.

How can it be bad when you start with bacon?
How can it be bad when you start with bacon?

Ingredients

  • 10 Brussels sprouts, cut in half with stem removed
  • 2 strips of bacon
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup diced red onions (or shallots)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Use the bacon grease to saute the onions. See? Getting better. :)
Use the bacon grease to saute the onions. See? Getting better.!

Directions

  1. In a large skillet on medium high, fry up two pieces of bacon until brown and crisp. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to the bacon grease and saute red onions until soft.
  3. Add in Brussels sprouts and saute until bright green and slightly softened. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium low, cover and allow to cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut bacon into small pieces. Add bacon to the sprouts after they have cooked for 10 minutes. Stir for 30 seconds and serve.
Add chicken broth once sprouts have turned bright green and softened slightly.
Add chicken broth once sprouts have turned bright green and softened slightly.

See? That wasn’t so hard was it?

Everything is better with a little bacon in it!
Add in the bacon after it has simmered for 10 minutes in chicken stock.

How could it be bad seeing as how it has bacon it?

Plated up with a chicken dish we are working on.
Plated up with a chicken dish we are working on (we’ll get back to you on that one when we perfect it).

     Who knew I could like Brussels sprouts so much? Not my Mom, that’s for sure. She once had me sit at the table for hours and hours upon end till I finished everything on my plate. I out lasted her and she finally caved in. But not now! Not with these tasty sprouts. We actually ate them twice this week! I requested Mrs. G make them again and take pictures so we could do a post about them because I liked them that much! I ask you…Nay, I implore you…if you think you hate Brussels sprouts and haven’t tried them in years and years, give them one more chance. Try this recipe out and let me know what you think.

     I wonder…how can I turn this beautiful veggie into a dish prepared on the grill? This is gonna take some thought and research. Once I figure that out, I’ll let you know. 🙂

An Early Christmas Present

Christmas came early!
Christmas came early!

     A buddy of ours stopped off on his way home from work to drop off a Christmas present tonight. I think he’s under the assumption that I like bacon and bourbon….he’s right!! Thanks, Matt. You rock!!

Pork Lover’s Pizza (and some others)

Topped and ready to bake

     I maybe one of the few guys in the world that actually likes his Mother in Law (and I’m not just saying that cuz she reads this 😉  ). I am truly blessed to have a wonderful MIL, so I was thrilled when I heard Mamacita (that’s what Mrs. G and her sister call her) was coming to spend the weekend with us. I knew that I would probably end up cooking for here one night on the Egg, but before I could put any thought into what I should cook her, Mrs. G told me that pizza had been requested. Easy enough.

     When it comes to pizza, I’m a meat kinda guy. Yeah, I’ll tolerate a veggie or two if it will make the wife happy, but if I’m ordering for myself, nothing but meat will touch my pie. Interestingly enough, I’ve never made a meat lovers pizza before. Not really sure why, but I decided to fix that this weekend.

Mmmmm…..look at all that porky goodness!

     What with running around with the girls, shopping and eating lunch and that kind of stuff, I didn’t have time (or energy) to make home-made dough or sauce, so these pizzas were made the easy way using Buitoni’s sauce and Tom Thumb’s (or Randall’s or Safeway) dough. Most grocery stores now carry pizza dough, but if yours does not, you can always try a local Mom and Pop Italian Restaurant. They’ll usually sell you a ball of dough (and sauce if you want). You can usually expect to pay less than $2 for it and its a great way to start making your own pizzas if you are worried about making dough yourself.

     To top my pizza, I spread a thin layer of sauce down on the dough and then topped it with freshly grated mozzarella cheese. This is important. I know you are tempted to buy the pre-grated stuff. Don’t! And I’ve got a few reasons for saying that. One, you save money. Its cheaper to buy blocks of cheese than the pre-shredded stuff. Two, it lasts longer without spoiling. Three, pre-shredded stuff is coated with an additive to keep it from clumping and to prevent mold. This is often cellulose, potato starch or even wood pulp (that has been processed with who knows what) all of which could be a problem for people who are sensitive to gluten. And finally, blocks of cheese melt smoother and taste better than the pre-shredded stuff (as a result of not containing those additives). Don’t believe me? Look it up or try them side by side and let me know what you think.

     Next, its time to move on to the actual toppings. I chose to use pepperoni, Canadian bacon, Italian sausage and bacon. Pork topped with pork topped with pork topped with pork…..how could that not be good? Eat your heart out P.E.T.A.!!

Finished

     For baking the pizzas, I went with our standard method. Big Green Egg heated to 550F, place setter legs down, spacers and then the BGE pizza stone. The pizzas were slid onto the pizza stone with parchment paper. After 2 minutes, slide the parchment paper out from under the pizza stone. Three minutes later, turn the pizza 180 degrees and cook for another 5 minutes (10 in total) or until the pizzas are done. Olive oil can be brushed on the crust half way through to help it achieve a nice golden brown.

Bottom of the crust

     Although I prefer minimal veggies (or none at all), it seems the ladies did not feel the same way as I do and had to have some on their pizzas.

Mamacita’s Pizza

     Mamacita opted for some pepperoni, Canadian bacon, artichokes, black olives, tomatoes and some fresh basil from our garden. Way too much healthy stuff for me, but then again, this wasn’t my pizza.

Mamacita’s pizza is done

      And then Mrs. G also made her own pizza.

Mrs. G’s Pizza

     She topped hers with Buffalo mozzarella, shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, Italian sausage, artichokes, black olives, mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh basil.

Mrs. G’s Pizza

     The great thing about making pizzas at home is that you can make individual pizzas and let each person top them however they want. They can make a cheese pizza or keep it simple with a single topping. You can go all meat, all veggie or throw everything in the fridge on them. You can roll them out super thin and go for a crispy crust, or go with a thick crust. There’s no wrong way to do it when you make them yourself. So what is your favorite way to top your pizza?