Flourless Chile-Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chile-Chocolate Cake

Add a little spice to your love life, I mean, chocolate, for Valentine’s Day. It’s never a bad idea to shake things up, and this flourless chocolate cake does just that. Laced with chipotle, cayenne and cinnamon, this dense fudgy cake has a naughty kick of smoke and heat cloaked in chocolate. Now that’s an exciting Valentine’s cake. To read more and for the recipe, head over to PhanPhatale where I have been asked by author (and new mother!) Jackie Pham to contribute a guest post. Happy Valentine’s Day!

This month I have the pleasure of guest posting on Jackie’s wonderful blog. When I discovered Phamfatale it immediately resonated with me. It shares a similar love for feeding friends and family, while influenced by our international family and life. Jackie’s Vietnamese parents, Parisian upbringing and vegetarian, sweet-loving husband create a kaleidescope of good eats which keep me coming back for more. And with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I can’t think of a more perfect way to share a little blog (and chocolate) love with her readers than with this guest post.

Flourless Chile-Chocolate Cake
Serves 10-12

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in pieces
3/4 pound semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Powder sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch springform. Line with parchment paper; butter the parchment. Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring occasionally. Whisk eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add melted chocolate, vanilla, chili powder, cinnamon, salt and cayenne. Mix to combine. Pour into springform. Bake until cake is set and top begins to crack, about 40 minutes. (The center will still be moist.) Cool completely on a rack. Remove the side of the pan. (Cake may be made up to one day in advance. Cover and refrigerate.) Serve sprinkled with powder sugar.

The Grand Finale: Charcutepalooza Cassoulet

~ Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew ~

Finally the finale. The year of meat has come to an end. This month is the last Charcutepalooza challenge, which requires a menu, platter or composed dish incorporating 3-4 of the charcuterie items prepared over the year. My first inclination was to prepare a platter, because, frankly, this is how I best prefer to enjoy charcuterie – on a large wooden board with an array of little bowls filled with pickles, mustard, black peppercorns and sea salt, accompanied by slabs of country style bread (and just a little cheese.)

~ Caramelized Home-cured Bacon, Boar & Pork Pate, Pork Rillettes ~

But this is the finale, so something more substantial and celebratory than a charcuterie board is in order. December is holiday season, and nothing speaks more to our Danish family than duck at Christmas. And what better way to celebrate duck than with a cassoulet – a French white bean stew brimming with duck leg confit, sausage and bacon. This version is not an authentic cassoulet, as I had to use whatever homemade charcuterie I had in the freezer or could make on short notice. So, I am calling it a Charcutepalooza Cassoulet – or a Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew.

Duck, Sausage and White Bean Stew

Start with uncooked white beans for best results – canned beans will turn mushy. If you don’t have access to duck confit, then substitute with an additional pound of duck breast. Serves 6.

1 cup dried cannelini beans or northern beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound duck breast (1 large), skin removed and reserved for another use
1/2 pound mild pork sausage links
1/4 pound slab or thick-cut bacon, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can (15 ounces) plum tomatoes with juice
3 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 confit duck legs, boned, meat shredded

1. Bring the beans and 4 cups (1 liter) of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for one hour. Drain.
2. Heat the oven to 325°F.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof pot with lid or a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides. Transfer to a cutting board and do not discard the fat from the pan. Add the duck breasts in batches, if necessary, without overcrowding the pan. Brown on both sides and transfer to the cutting board. When cool enough to handle, halve each sausage, cross-wise and cut the duck breasts into 2-inch chunks.
4. Add the bacon to the pot. Sauté until brown in spots and the fat renders. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat. Add the  garlic, onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until crisp tender and beginning to brown in spots, 6 to 8 minutes. Pour in the wine, scraping up any brown bits and reduce by half. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, bay leaf, and thyme. Stir in the beans and return the sausages and duck breasts to the pot, submerging them in the stock. (If necessary, add more stock to cover.)
5. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Cook until the beans are tender, about 2 hours. Remove from the oven and stir in the duck confit. Return the pot to the oven and cook, partially covered, for an additional 1 hour.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Food52 – The Cookbook

~
Last weekend I was delighted to host a book launch party for Amanda Hesser, Merrill Stubbs and 20 Bay area members of the recipe site Food52.  Amanda and Merrill, the co-founders Food52, were in the Bay area promoting the newly released Food52 Cookbook –  a compilation of a year’s worth of winning recipes. Food52 “grew out of an insight that many of the best recipes come from home cooks.” Each week a contest is announced and entries submitted from the F52 community. Amanda, Merrill and the F52 editors whittle the entries down to 2 selections which are then voted on by the entire community. The winning recipe earns a spot in the cookbook. I am more than honored that 4 of my recipes are in the first cookbook.

Aside from publishing recipes, Food52 has evolved into an active and thriving online and offline community, sharing recipes, news, tips and advice while creating long lasting friendships bound together by a love for food and cooking. So, when Amanda and Merrill arrived in San Francisco on their book tour, it was natural that we would gather the Bay area F52 community and enjoy a lunch together. Potluck, of course.


Homemade charcuterie garnished with lots of cheese

Here’s a riddle:
What happens when you gather 20 passionate foodies for a potluck party?
Answer: You are treated to an amazing array of food.

Chicken Pesto Skewers
by Becky (KitchenSolo) – photo by Andrew Gaber

Sausage and Kale Tart – winning recipe by Karen (My Pantry Shelf)
Prepared by Tiffany (Ms. T) – Photo by Andrew Gaber

~
The only downside to hosting a party like this is I was so busy I didn’t have a moment to take any pictures. Andrew Baber kindly shared this photo of Amanda and Merrill chatting with Shelly Peppel (Food52 News) and Beverly Best. Thanks, Andrew!

Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a recipe for Apple Prune Chutney

Pork Rillettes with Calvados and a recipe for Apple Prune Chutney

 Charcutepalooza Challenge #10: Stretching
Pork Rillettes with Calvados 

These little pots of meaty goodness promise to make right in the world. Rillettes are potted jars and terrines of meat confit, slow cooked in fat, shredded and packed in more fat. Rustic, unctuous and oh-so-rich, a little dab goes a long way. Which is why the process of making rillettes is called “stretching,” which is this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge.

Stretching is an economical and sparing way of making meat last – using all of the last bits and preserving them for later use. It’s a method steeped in conservation and frugality, yet its results are rich and luxurious. It’s the paradox of French country cooking, and it’s why I love it.

Duck, goose and pork are traditional proteins for rillettes. I chose pork and adapted a recipe from WrightFood where the pork is spiced and marinated overnight in Calvados, then slowly cooked in duck fat. Need I say more?

~
I like to accompany rillettes with fruit chutney. The sweet piquancy of chutney adds a fresh balance to the rich meat. Chutneys are flexible and forgiving. Use a mix of fresh and dried fruit, combined with an acid, such as vinegar or citrus. Sweet and savory with a kick, chutneys are perfect accompaniments to meat and poultry.

Apple Prune Chutney
Makes about 2 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1 large shallot, chopped, about 1/4 cup
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted prunes
1/3 cup currants or raisins
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Armagnac
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon finely ground juniper berries
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add apples and shallot. Sauté until beginning to soften without browning, 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until liquid has nearly evaporated, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until use. May be made up to 2 days in advance. (Flavors will develop with time.)

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

The Boar and the Pig: Pâté de Campagne

The Boar and the Pig: Pâté de Campagne

~ Boar Pâté with Cranberries and Pistachios ~

Any excuse I have to make pâté is a gift, so this month’s Charcutepalooza challenge (packing) was a bit like an early Christmas. In charcuterie terms, packing involves jamming a terrine with ground spiced meat, spirits, eggs and cream and baking it in a water bath.  The resulting baked brick of spiced and fortified meat is weighted down and banished to the refrigerator to sit for a day or two to become comfortable with it’s brash flavorings while anticipation builds –  just as it would the day before Christmas as you eye unopened presents placed beneath the tree. When the time is right (2 days at least) the terrine is retrieved from the refrigerator and its wrapping discarded, uncovering a rich, meaty country pâté, chunky with nuts and fruit.

I have fiddled with this recipe over the years, and lately become enamored of wild boar. Boar reminds me of Europe, where it is a frequent ingredient in charcuterie. It may be purchased in specialty stores, through a butcher or mail order. Boar is a flavorful meat, kind of a cross between pork and lamb, that lends depth to the pâté. Since it’s so lean, it’s important to combine it with a fattier cut of meat such as pork shoulder.

Country Pâté with Boar, Cranberries and Pistachios

This pâté is a perfect appetizer or easy dinner with cheese and salad. Begin at least two days before serving to allow the flavors to develop. (Veal may be substituted for the boar.)

Serves 20

1 pound ground boar shoulder (or veal)
1 pound ground pork shoulder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus extra for greasing terrine
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Calvados
1/4 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Coarsely ground peppercorns for garnish

If you are grinding your own meat, then cut the boar and pork in 3/4 inch cubes. Place in a large bowl. Add garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander and cloves. Mix to thoroughly coat the meat. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. Grind with a meat grinder before proceeding.

If you are using ground meat, combine boar and pork in a large bowl. Add garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, allspice, coriander and cloves. Mix thoroughly; refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 F. (180 C.) Remove meat from refrigerator. Add bacon and return to refrigerator while you prepare the onions. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent but not brown, 6 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Stir into the meat.
Combine eggs, cream and calvados in a small bowl. Add to meat and mix well.
Butter a loaf pan or terrine. Press one third of the meat into the terrine. Sprinkle evenly with half of the pistachios and cranberries. Press another third of the meat into the terrine. Top with remaining pistachios and cranberries. Cover with remaining meat. Cover terrine tightly with foil. Prick 2-3 holes in the foil. Place terrine in a baking pan. Pour boiling water into the baking pan until halfway up the sides of the terrine. Bake in oven until meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 155 F. about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven and remove terrine from the water bath. Place a terrine press over the pate (or a cutting board with cans on top) and cool completely. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit 1-2 days before serving. To serve, un-mold pate. Scrape off any congealed fat. Cut in slices, ½ inch thick. Sprinkle with additional peppercorns if desired. Serve with cornichons, Dijon-style mustard and fresh French baguette or peasant bread.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Homemade Bratwurst and a recipe for Beer Mustard

Homemade Bratwurst and a recipe for Beer Mustard


~ Homemade Bratwurst and a recipe for Beer Mustard ~

This month’s Charcutepalooza challenge had the whiff of Oktoberfest. Not only were we asked to make and stuff more sausages, we were asked to blend and emulsify the meat filling to a consistency found in a hot dog, bratwurst or weisswurst. I chose the bratwurst, partly for it’s happy collaboration with beer and partly for its relative ease compared to the hotdog. Baby steps, please!

As I embarked on this challenge over the July 4th weekend, I envisioned dirndls, sauerkraut and good strong mustard in my future. Somehow a trip to Europe has eluded us this summer, but, by golly, if we can’t make it back for a visit, then I will bring Europe home to my California kitchen. I spent the better part of a day on  this challenge, which provided much thoughtful time to reflect on how I would title this post. Here are a few of the contenders:

How to make a Danish family happy:
Yes, my husband is Danish and bratwurst is German. At the end of the day, they share a border, and, while their history may have been a tad testy, these 2 countries also share a culinary love for sausages. In Denmark, sausage is the fast food of choice, with carts distributed wherever people roam. While I may be hunting down a cup of coffee upon international arrival from the U.S., my husband will sidle up to the nearest airport sausage cart with both of our kids in tow, and order a flight of pølse with mustard, bacon and crispy onions. Apparently his gene pool is the strongest.

How to train a terrier:
Or, more specifically, the unflinching interest my dog is showing in me while making bratwurst is unsettling. I have never succeeded in getting our terrier to consistently obey me. Now I know how.

Why a power hose should be our next new kitchen gadget:
Sausage, sausage everywhere…on the counters, on the floor, in the sink, in the bowls, in the mixer, in the grinder, in my hair, under my nails, on my clothes and countless kitchen towels.  And did I mention that my dog is intently staring at me?

The difference between white pepper and black pepper: 
White pepper is traditionally used in dishes that should not show dark flecks of black pepper. But visuals are not the only difference. White pepper has a potent spiced flavor which, in large amounts, I don’t care for. Too bad I only figured that out after I added a heaping spoonful to the filling.

Familiarity breeds contempt:
I am 6 hours into the meat stuffing process, which includes handling, chopping, chilling, grinding, chilling, mixing, frying, tasting, chilling, stuffing, chilling, poaching, frying and tasting ground, blended meat. I think I’ll tuck these babies away in the freezer and take a time out.  Then I can rename this title to: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I could be watching Wimbledon and sipping Pimms right now:
But, no, I am blending and stuffing bratwurst in the company of my dog. Pass the sauerkraut and a beer, please.

Mustard makes everything taste better:
Especially when everything involves sausage. Truth be told, these were quite tasty, and my family gobbled them up (see title #1). I pan-fried the bratwurst and served them with thick slices of country-style bread, mustard and sauerkraut. As we ate the bratwurst, we watched Wimbledon highlights and enjoyed an ice cold Danish beer. The EU is alive and strong in Northern California.

Homemade Beer Mustard

Begin the mustard at least two days before serving. Makes 1/2 cup. (Recipe may be doubled.)

1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark beer
1 tablespoon dried mustard
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine mustard seeds, vinegar and beer together in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Transfer mustard and liquid to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; immediately remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Transfer to a food processor or blender. Add remaining ingredients and purée. Transfer to a glass jar or container and refrigerate overnight. Mustard may be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.

What is Charcutepalooza?
An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)

Homemade Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta (and the Search for the Elusive Casing)


A recipe for Sausage and Broccolini Pasta and a tale of the Elusive Casing

Charcutepalooza Round #6
The Challenge: Homemade Italian Sausage

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you must be prepared to traverse the county, futilely cold call farmer’s market purveyors, and face rejection at multiple Whole Foods stores and independent markets in search of the elusive casing a.k.a. pig intestines – or the sacred vessel that contains the cherished meat in the form of a sausage.

Should you choose to accept this Challenge, you shall be prepared to pay dearly for said casing when located, because either:

  • The local supermarket is flummoxed when it comes to charging for an empty casing, and, at the risk of compromising highly sensitive payment technologies, will charge you the price of a whole sausage. Yes, that’s right: You will be required to pay for a sausage without meat.
  • You belatedly order from the stalwart Charcutepalooza ally, D’Artagnan, thereby assuming full responsibility (and overnight shipping charges) due to your procrastination, in order to avert a last minute crisis and Charcutepalooza meltdown.
  • Or you flee your suburban confines for the lure and anonymity of the big city  – and the Ferry Building – which entails paying bridge tolls, parking fees, and extraneous charges in the form of lunch and shopping. (Hey, it’s the Ferry Building.)

If you succeed in obtaining the elusive casing you will be jubilant and nearly home free, until you unpack your brand new meat grinder and sausage stuffer and realize you must decipher a cryptic code to correctly assemble the tools to achieve your desired results. Your trusted assistant, a.k.a. spouse, will selflessly risk life, limb and marital conflict, while cautiously advising you on all matters of RTM (that’s code for Reading The Manual). You will soldier on and prevail, sausages and marriage in tact, another Chaructepalooza challenge met with glorious and grillable results.

~
Given the amount of effort required to find the sausage casing, it’s not without irony that many recipes including sausage in pasta or on pizza, recommend discarding the casings and crumbling the meat. Well, rest assured, this recipe requires no such thing.

Italian Sausage and Broccolini Pasta with Basil
Serves 4 

1 pound pasta, such as orecchiette, penne, pipette rigate
Extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage links (see below)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
3/4 pound broccolini, cut in 1 inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn in half, plus extra for garnish
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausages and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice in 1/4 inch pieces.
Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Sauté until fragrant, 1 minute. Add broccolini and continue to sauté until bright green but still crisp, 1 minute. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer 3-4 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with a spoon. Add pasta and sausages to the skillet. Toss to combine and thoroughly heat through. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves and cheese. Serve immediately garnished with extra cheese and basil.

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Homemade Italian Sausage
Makes about 3 1/2 pounds sausage, or 12 links

I followed Hank Shaw’s sausage making technique in this post from Simply Recipes  and used these ingredients  for the filling:

3 pounds pork shoulder
1/2 pound pork fat
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, toasted, finely ground
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup minced  fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry red wine

What is Charcutepalooza?

An inspirational idea hatched by Cathy Barrow and Kim Foster and partnering with Food52 and Punk Domestics. It celebrates a Year in Meat, where participating foodies and bloggers will cure, smoke and salt their way through Michael Ruhlman’s bestselling cookbook Charcuterie.