Posts Tagged ‘michael ruhlman’

homemade bacon

My condo smells like bacon. I don’t notice it unless I’m outside first. The other day, walking up the stairs that lead to my floor, I smelled salt and pork, heavy and smoky like the air wafting a short distance from a summer barbecue. I thought a neighbor was having a party.

But the lovely scent was left over from the six strips of bacon, cut so thin that they were almost translucent when raw, that I fried up that morning. This, finally, is my homemade bacon.

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Brined pork chops

Brined pork chops

Brining, a way to kind of marinate meat in a salty liquid, is the challenge I needed to finally catch up with the Charcutepalooza.  Unlike curing and hanging a long stretch of pork belly and duck breasts, brining is a method of curing that I’ve at least seen before.  

Every November, my dad brines a 20-plus pound turkey from Rumbleway Farm for Thanksgiving dinner.  He stirs together water, salt, and brown sugar – the backbones of brine – plus whatever else strikes him in a large plastic storage container. Then he places the plastic bin in the cold garage, where the turkey marinates overnight. My family says the brined bird is always juicy.

For the Charcutepalooza brining challenge, we had two options: an apprentice version (brining chicken or pork) and a charcuterie version (brining and corning a piece of beef).  I did the apprentice challenge because I could use pork chops.  And I have easy access to pork products, at least throughout this year.         

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Chicken Pot Pie

Nearly two weeks into the new year, I’ve added one more New Year’s resolution to my list: 2011 will be the year I really learn how to cook. Or, at the very least, the year I really stretch myself as a cook. And the best way for me to do this is by following a structure, like working through a cookbook on a particular cuisine. (Except for The Art of French Cooking. That one has been well-covered.)

I also want it to be the year I start connecting with more food bloggers. That’s what blogging is all about, right?

As a first step I signed up for Charcutepalooza, the creation of Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen and The Yummy Mummy. Charcutepalooza is a yearlong meat-making project using recipes from Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman.

I’m excited about the prospect of making 11 different types of charcuterie. (I say 11 because I’ll miss the first challenge.) But I’m really scared too.

January’s challenge, for example, is to make duck prosciutto. Cutting up one pork shoulder – and I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this one of a handful of meat dishes I’ve made in the last two decades – doesn’t prepare me to make duck, much less duck prosciutto. But hey, I’m ready to give charcuterie my best shot.  

Unknowingly, I started preparing for the challenges weeks ago by making a very basic meat dish. I took a whole chicken, boiled the heck out of it, and shredded the meat to make one of my favorite dishes as a kid: chicken pot pie.

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