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Posts Tagged ‘liver’

So as you may or may not have noticed, I’ve haven’t really written anything in over a month now. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to; Writing has always given me a good way to de-stress and get my ideas out on the page when my brain works faster than I’d like it to. Work has just gotten super busy lately, and pretty much all of my free time has been taking up just trying to recuperate. On the plus side, being busy at work is something I really enjoy, and not something I’ve had since moving from the Burlington area last fall, so it’s nice to have that rush of adrenaline back into my daily routine. But I’ve been kicking myself for not keeping up with getting things written. I’ve still been plugging away at Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge and if you’ve been following along on Instagram or Facebook, I’ve had some fun working up some recipes with Berries, Garlic, and Vanilla, as well as some Dim Sum and Charcuterie.

This week was an especially fun theme for the challenge: Inspired by Magic. This year we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone in the UK, and on Monday the Boy Who Lived celebrated his 37th birthday. Growing up, I was immediately enthralled by the series. Vast, fantastic landscapes and settings, deep character development, and the exploration of ideas and lessons that still resonate to this day. I want to get a big, non-food-related piece written for the US 20th anniversary next year, but that’s still quite a way away.

The wizarding world is full of amazing foods; Pumpkin Pasties, Cauldron Cakes, Treacle Tarts, chocolates, candies, you name it. I’ve never had a super strong arsenal of dessert recipes, but in the past year or two I’ve definitely made some leaps and bounds. While desserts would have been a fairly easy route to go, I dug deep for a cool recipe that would kind of push my boundaries in a different direction.

The morning of Halloween, 1492, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington was set to be executed, having attempted to cast a tooth-straightening spell on an assistant of King Henvry VII the previous evening. After 47 hacks into his neck with a blunt axe, Sir Nicholas’ head was left dangling from his body by no more than an inch of flesh. Returning as a ghost, “Nearly-Headless” Nick took up residence as the ghost of Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

To commemorate his 500th Deathday, Sir Nicholas held a party and feast in “one of the roomier dungeons” at Hogwarts, inviting the main trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, as well as a host of notable deceased: the Bloody Baron, the Fat Friar, the Grey Lady, the Wailing Widow, Peeves and Moaning Myrtle. It would go without saying that ghosts can’t eat or taste food, so the menu consisted of food smelling so foul they could almost taste it: Moldy bread, stinking salmon, fungus-covered peanuts, and the pièce de résistance, Maggoty Haggis.

IMG_6108

Haggis is one of those dishes that, whether or not you’ve eaten it, you’d probably assume is super disgusting. It kind of has that reputation of being a bunch of gross things (organ meats) stuffed into an even grosser thing (stomach) and cooked for a thousand years. I was lucky enough to get a bunch of offal from Howvale Farm, so I figured it was time to finally try this out for myself.

When it comes down to it, haggis is largely similar to black pudding: a loosely bound meat sausage with oats. I took lamb heart, liver and tongue and simmered them in a bit of beef stock until tender, then ground it together with some onion and spices. Oats and the cooking liquid bring it together into a workable dough (I don’t know if that’s the word I mean). Not having a stomach to stuff the mixture into, I baked it off like a meatloaf until browned and crispy.

Admittedly, I was certain that this was going to be as gross as it’s always made out to be. But one bite in and I was singing a different tune. Super savory, fatty, and delicious; Imagine if your favorite meatloaf had a baby with leftover Thanksgiving stuffing. As far as the “maggoty” aspect goes, I had a package of barbecue-seasoned larva that I got for Christmas, which provided a nice salty crunch. Now that I know how great this dish itself is, I think I’m going to start looking for a stomach to try it again.

Haggis
makes 1 loaf

  • Liver*, 8 ounces
  • Heart*, 8 ounces
  • Tongue*, 8 ounces
  • Beef Stock, 2 quarts
  • Vidalia Onion, 4 each
  • Pork Lard or Beef Suet, 8 ounces, diced
  • Rolled Oats (not instant), 8 ounces
  • Sage, dried, 1 tablespoon
  • Allspice, ground, 2 tablespoons
  • Coriander, ground, 2 teaspoons
  • Kosher Salt & ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Maggots, to garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. In a medium-sized pot, combine heart, liver, tongue, 1 chopped onion and beef stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until tender. Remove meat from stock. Roughly chop heat and liver. Remove membrane from tongue and roughly chop. Process meat, 3 chopped onions and fat through medium die of a meat grinder**. Add oats and spices to meat mixture, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Add enough cooking liquid to the mixture to form a workable dough. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease. Transfer meat mixture to baking sheet and form into a tight loaf. Bake at 425F 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

*Organ meats from any animal can be used, but you want about 1.5lb total
**If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can also coarsly grind using a food processor

 

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Well, here we are. The final installment of another year of the  52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. It’s crazy how quickly a year can go by and how much can go by. Since starting the challenge in January, I’ve changed jobs twice, moved twice and I’ve dealt with a lot of professional and personal stress. Luckily, cooking and writing for this blog has given me a bit of release of relaxation. Every week I can kind of sit down and forget about things for a minute and just get everything out on the paper, so to speak. To anybody that’s followed along with these posts for the better part of the past two years, thanks for sticking along. I don’t know how often  this actually gets read, but it’s nice to know that it’s not entirely just to stroke my own ego. Anyway, enough of being mopey! For the final week of the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, we’re celebrating a year of cooking and going all-out with Fancy Ingredients!

When I think of classy, fancy ingredients, nothing quite beats the classic Foie Gras. Just the name brings about the image of snooty French dining, fanciness and class; Foie Gras. For those who don’t actually know what foie gras is, and if you’re not in the food industry it’s entirely likely that you don’t, it is the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened through a process called gavage, force-feeding through a tube. While the practice of fattening birds for food dates back to at least 2500 BCE in ancient Egypt, it has come under scrutiny in recent years because you know, the whole animal torture thing. While I do enjoy the product, I can’t say I support the means of production. However, many producers are now beginning to develop methods to produce the same product without endangering the health and safety of the animals, something which we can all get behind. As far as I could research, the raw foie gras that I purchased was produced humanely. But for now, we’ll save the morality debate for a later time and just get into the food.

foie

The process of preparing foie gras is long and tedious. I won’t go into the excruciating details, but I used the recipe and method described by Michael Ruhlman. If you’re unfamilliar with Ruhlman or his writings, I suggest that you start some reading. The process starts by taking apart the liver and removing any of the membranes and veins. It’s then soaked overnight in milk to remove some of the gaminess that liver is known to have. After that, a quick overnight cure with salt, pepper, sugar, cognac, and curing salt. Next, the liver is rolled into a tight cylinder, wrapped in cheesecloth, and left to hang and solidify overnight yet again. A quick poach in hot water loosens the flesh a little and releases any remaining air pockets, creating a consistent texture throughout the roll. One last overnight hang was all that was left to finish it off. As per Ruhlman’s serving suggestion, I made a nice loaf of buttery brioche to use as a base, and topped the finished foie with a 25 year-aged balsamic vinegar that I picked up years ago when I was in Italy. When it was all said and done, it was about 2:30 in the morning before I had a finished product. I was already a few beers deep, but all I wanted to do was stay up and eat the whole damn thing. Buttery, fatty, a little tartness from the vinegar, but all brought together by the unmistakable funkiness of the foie. It’s not really a flavor you can explain, it’s just something that you need to experience for yourself. And maybe you won’t always get a chance too, it’s a bit expensive after all. But after a year of writing, cooking, and learning from myself, I was happy to splurge a little and go out with a bang.

I’m happy to have made it through another year of the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. It’s been fun as always, and definitely a good learning experience. In the past two years, I’ve got to make some of my favorite dishes, as well as experiencing new cuisines, techniques, ingredients and inspirations that I had never really looked at before. However, nothing, no matter how good or bad, lasts forever. It is with a heavy heart that I say this will be my last regular submission for the 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge. I have some other projects I want to focus on for this blog, as well as planning a business venture that I’ve been thinking about for a long time now, so I don’t think I’ll have the time to do the Challenge on top of that. This surely isn’t the end of C&K by any means, it’s just time to move in a new direction with things. Thanks to everyone who has been reading for the weekly recipes, and I hope the new stuff will be just as entertaining!

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I’ve been in kind of a funk lately. Lots of stress in my personal and professional life have drained me of pretty much all energy or ambition to do anything. But in that all, I still have the few things that I can always find enjoyment in: cooking, writing, and listening to music (a nice beer or two never hurts either). The theme for the 46th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge was one of my favorite subjects, and it was just what I needed to try and bring myself back into spirits.

 To me, rustic food brings about fond memories of home cooking and growing up in a substantially agricultural community. To me, rustic cuisine means a lot of things. It means uncomplicated, simple; an intentional lack of refinement. Perfectly imperfect. The kind of food that fills your stomach and warms your soul. For one reason or another, one dish stick out in my mind as incredibly comforting and homeful.

liverpate

Chicken liver pâté isn’t a dish that I grew up eating. I was introduced to the idea while I was in college and surrounded by all that is French cuisine. A simple preparation of what some consider to be the garbage parts of an animal, liver pâté can be found across the French countryside just as easily as it can be found in the finest restaurants in Paris. When I was younger, I was an incredibly picky eater and even the thought of something with liver would turn my stomach. However, once I discovered this delicacy, I knew that it would always hold a special place in my heart, rousing daydreams of being back in a more rural, imperfect setting and just relaxing.

Chicken Liver Pâté

makes about 2 cups

  • Butter, 2 tablespoons
  • Shallot, thinly sliced, 3 each
  • Garlic, minced, 2 cloves
  • Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored, chopped, 1 each
  • Thyme, chopped, 2 tablespoons plus more to garnish
  • Chicken Livers, cleaned, 1.25 pounds
  • Cognac*, 2 tablespoons
  • Heavy Cream, as needed

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, apple and thyme and cook until apples and onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add livers and cook until firm and still pink in the middle. Add cognac to deglaze the pan, then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until blended, but still chunky, adding heavy cream as needed to moisten. Serve over toasted baguette garnished with chopped thyme.

*Cognac is pretty traditional in French iterations of pâté. Feel free to use whatever liquor you prefer and/or have on hand.

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When I was younger, I couldn’t stand horror movies. I don’t know what it was. I was always interested in creepy and weird and spooky things, but for some reasons horror movies always terrified me to no end. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve actually come to really enjoy horror movies. Halloween is my favorite time of the year, and I’ve made it a tradition to watch more than a few scary flicks throughout the month. While I missed out on writing for the actual day itself, the 44th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge celebrates all that is halloween with dishes inspired by horror movies!

One of my favorite horror films I had actually not seen until just a few years ago. Released in 1991, The Silence of the Lambs follows young FBI Agent Clarice Starling in her attempt to apprehend a serial killer wanted by the bureau. In order to gain information about the killer, Starling interviews famed psychiatrist, and infamous cannibalistic killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter. In one of their many meetings, Lecter drops one of the most famous lines in all of cinema, in which he tells Clarice about a census taker and how he “ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti”.  Clearly, this week is an easy excuse to cook Dr. Lecter’s famous meal.

Liver with Fava Beans and a nice Chianti

While it may have just seemed like a verbose way of describing how to cook another human being, there may actually be some science behind the combination of liver, fava beans, and Chianti. One of the first types of antidepressant treatments developed were MAO Inhibitors, a drug that breaks down the enzyme that contributes to depression. Patients institutionalized in psychiatric hospitals were regularly treated with this drug to sedate and calm them down. The Mayo Clinic has this to say about MAO Inhibitors and Tyramine:

“MAOIs block an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine in the body. Blocking this enzyme helps relieve depression. However, tyramine can quickly reach dangerous levels if you eat high tyramine foods, which may cause a spike in blood pressure and require emergency treatment.”

As it so happens, liver, fava beans and red wine all contain high amounts of Tyramine, and would strictly prohibited in the diet of psychiatric patients, such as Dr. Lecter. It would seem fitting that upon release from the institution, the good doctor would indulge in the foods he was denied, such as fine wine and human flesh.

Rather than the more familiar organ, I decided to cook a calf’s liver. I enjoy cooking offals, but liver is one of those things that’s always been strange to me. The texture is weird, the flavor is unusual, all around weird. Soaking in milk is said to help take out some of that funk, so my liver took a quick bath in milk before getting season with salt and pepper and sous-vide for about an hour. After sous vide, I seared it until crispy in a cast iron pan with butter, then served them with a good helping of caramelized onions (my childhood self would kill me right now) For a sauce, I reduced a jug of shitty Chianti with some beef stock until it reached a nice glaze-y consistency. The fava beans were slowly simmered with some garlic and lemon until tender. Topped of with a nice bottle of Chianti, this was actually a pretty great meal. Regardless of my feelings towards eating human meat (which are complicated to say the least), this is was a great substitution to channel my inner psycho killer. Happy Halloween Everyone!

Sous-Vide Calf’s Liver

makes about 2 portions

  • Calf’s Liver, about 8 ounces
  • Whole Milk, as needed
  • Kosher Salt, as needed
  • Black Pepper, ground, as needed
  • Butter, about 2 tablespoons
  • Chianti, 1 jug
  • Beef Stock, 32 oz

In a large stock pot, combine Chianti and beef stock. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and reduce until thickened and syrupy, about 2 hours. In a large dish, soak liver in whole milk for 30 minutes. Heat a circulated water bath to 63C. Remove liver from milk, season with salt and pepper, and seal in a vacuum pouch. Cook liver at 63C for 1 hour. Heat butter in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Remove liver from vacuum pouch and sear in butter until crisp and browned on all sides. Serve Hot.

Caramelized Onions

makes about 3 cups

  • Vidalia Onion, 2 each
  • Red Onion, 2 each
  • Cooking Oil, as needed

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Thinly slice onions and combine. Blanch onions in boiling water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain onions from water and allow to dry. Return pot to heat and add cooking oil. Add onions and cook over low heat until deep brown, about 30 minutes.

Braised Fava Beans

makes about 3 cups

  • Fava Beans (Bob’s Red Mill Brand), 1 cup
  • Water, 3-4 cups
  • Lemon, 1 each
  • Garlic, 4 cloves
  • Kosher Salt, as needed

Combine fava beans, water, lemon and garlic in a medium sauce pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook over medium heat until beans are tender and liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.

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Bánh Mì

The 31st week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of cooking challenge takes us to Southeast Asia and the incredible cuisine of Vietnam!  As with a lot of Asian cultures, Vietnamese cuisine has taken America by storm in the past decade or so. I recently went to a local Vietnamese cafe that I had been meaning to check out, and was amazed. As is common in much of Southeast Asia, the space was small to say the least. But in such close quarters, the kitchen was able to put out food that puts any chain buffet to shame. For lunch, I had light, crispy spring rolls with a homemade hoisin and peanut sauce, and then a HUGE bowl of the best massaman curry I’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible, but it was inexpensive, again similar to true Asian cuisine.  When most people think of Asian food, they immediately jump to the Chinese buffet, which almost couldn’t  be farther away from the many, many distinct  cuisines of the region. Vietnam, for example, has some very interesting aspects to their cuisine. Focused largely on using anything and everything available, Vietnamese cuisine is also greatly influenced by French colonization during the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.  One major influence of the French is coffee: it’s hard to walk more than a few meters in any city in Vietnam without getting a whiff of dark, chocolatey Vietnamese coffee. Coffee had been a big part of French culture since the 17th century, and it didn’t take long to set up sprawling plantations in Vietnam’s fertile soil. Since then Vietnam has become the world’s second largest exporter of coffee.

Another classic Vietnamese dish that borrows heavily from the country’s French roots: the Bánh Mì. Bánh mì is the generic term referring to any number of Vietnamese breads, but more specifically to French style baguettes. The term also also become synonymous with delicious sandwiches which can be served with a wide array of fillings.  I’ve made no secret my love of all things sandwich and this is certainly no exception.  Drawing on the traditional cuisine of the area, common toppings would include chicken, pork, beef, fish, and even tofu, with vegetables, chilies, and herbs. The defining factor of the bánh mì, however, is a crusty French baguette and chicken liver patê. The combination of all these great flavors ranks the bánh mì high on my list of the best sandwiches ever.

Bánh Mì with Braised Pork and Chicken Liver Patê

Some people claim that to be an “authentic” bánh mì, you need to make your own baguette using rice flour, because that’s what would have been available at the time.  After looking into it, however, I found the opposite to be true. Baguettes at the time were baked by the colonizers in the traditional French method. Household ovens were also uncommon, if not completely unheard of, in much of Asia at the time, so it’s likely that the native population would buy their baguettes from a bakery rather than making them themselves. To keep with the tradition, and totally not because I’m lazy, I bought a nice baguette from the store. Everything else I made myself, just like they would do in Vietnam. I topped my baguette with a French-style chicken liver patê, pickled carrots and daikon radish, thinly sliced jalapeñocilantro, homemade mayonnaise and braised pork. The fattiness of the patê and mayo are cut really nicely by the sour pickles and spicy jalapeño. I toasted my baguette just enough so that the outside was a little crusty but the inside was still nice and soft. It’s a bit time consuming but, as with all things, if you take the time to do it right you’ll be thrilled with the results.

Carrots and Daikon Pickles

makes about 1 pound

  • Carrots, peeled, cut into matchsticks, 8oz
  • Daikon Radish, cut into matchsticks, 8oz
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Sugar, 2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup
  • White Vinegar, 1 1/4 cups
  • Water, warm, 1 cup

Combine carrots and daikon and toss with salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Combine remaining sugar with vinegar and water. Toss vegetables in brine and let pickle at least one hour.

Chicken Liver Patê

makes about 1 1/2 pound

  • Chicken liver, rinsed, 1 lb
  • Shallot, minced,  1 each
  • Garlic, minced, 3 cloves
  • Butter, 2 tablespoons
  • Panko bread crumbs, 1/4 cup
  • Sugar, 1/2 tablespoon
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Cognac, 3 tablespoons

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch chicken livers for 30 seconds, then shock in an ice bath. In a small saute pan, saute shallots and garlic in butter until soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth*. Preheat oven to 350F. Pour liver mixture to a greased loaf pan. Bake until set and a toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes**. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Braised Pork

makes about 2 pounds

  • Pork shoulder, diced, 2 lbs
  • Soy Sauce, 4 1/2 tablespoons
  • Fish Sauce, 3 tablespoons
  • Kosher Salt, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Black Pepper, 1/2 teaspoon
  • Brown Sugar, 3 tablespoons
  • Orange, quarters, 1 each
  • Star Anise, 2 each
  • Pork stock***, 2 cups
  • Coconut Water, 2 cups

Combine pork, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, orange and star anise, mixing to coat evenly. Let marinate overnight. Add marinated pork to a slow cooker with stock and coconut water. Cook on low until pork falls apart, about 8 hours. Serve warm.

*Traditionally the patê is kind of rustic and has a rougher texture, but if you’re squeemish about liver, put the mixture through a mesh strainer for a smoother result.

**This is the quick method, for a better result that involves more of a time commitment, bake at 160F until the internal temperature reaches 160, about 8 hours.

***If you can’t get pork stock, this will work just as well with chicken stock, beef stock, or even water. I actually used a mixture of pork and chicken stock from my work which is affectionately known as “baller stock”.

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