March Braise-of-th-Month

Sauerbraten

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This meal was as much about getting in touch with my roots as it was about braising. The meal was ok – not my favorite braise. The meat is marinated in a vinegar and spice mixture for several days before the braise followed by a sweet and sour sauce when serving. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but I just finished an audiobook that put that into perspective. In certain parts of culinary history, the focus has been on very complex and strong flavors that often contrast and compete in a dish. In other parts of culinary history, the focus has been to accentuate the taste of the thing you are cooking. The sauerbraten tasted like everything used to flavor the dish and nothing like the beef that was the starting point. I think back on the smoked and braised short ribs that I made for a wine party – those tasted like beef hooked up to the amplifiers and speakers at a rock concert. Everything has it’s place, I do believe. My preference is for meat to be amplified and I think the flavorings being center stage work better for other courses. Think homemade vinaigrette over greens or a baked apple dessert full of cinnamon. For additional context, think about all of the molecular gastronomy trends that have recently fallen out of style and how everything now is about fresh and local. Your restaurant just isn’t hip if you don’t have a few farm names listed in your menu or some greens that are anything but lettuce.

Short post this time… I have an Italian dinner to prep for today and a make-up April Braise-of-the-Month to plan since I missed this month.

February Braise-of-the-Month

Coq au Vin

“Cock with Wine” or perhaps the less literal “Rooster with Wine” is a French dish typically made with bacon lardons, mushroom, pearl onions and Burgundy (pinot noir) for the braise. I wanted something a little lighter, so I went with an Italian white wine. Call it Coq au Blanc if you like.

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Sticking with the Italian theme, I started off with some of my guanciale along with some bacon I saved from breakfast.

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Once the fat rendered, I pulled the guanciale and bacon out and added a bit of olive oil and seared the chicken pieces.

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When the legs, wings and breasts were browned, I moved them to a platter and worked on the veggies. I found a nice maitake at Costco the day before and used that instead of button mushrooms. I also used shallots and onions in place of the sautéed pearl onions.

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Celery, carrots, onions and shallots went in first. The garlic went in after a few minutes as well.

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The maitake mushroom pieces went in next. The guanciale and bacon went in after the mushrooms cooked for a few minutes.

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I used 2 cups of wine and 2 cups of chicken broth for the braising liquid and seasoned with pepper and thyme.

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I put the legs and wings on the bottom and laid the breasts over the top, skin up to keep them from drying out.

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I used parchment paper to get a better seal with the lid of my dutch oven. The braise went for 90 minutes at 325°F. While that was cooking, I cleaned up my scraps… which all went into a pot for some stock… Chicken carcass, neck, gizzard, heart, veggie trimmings plus some extra veggies, and pepper and thyme.

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The stock simmered during the braise, during dinner, during clean up, and then a little longer for good measure. But back to dinner…

I pull the braise out after 90 minutes, put the chicken on a platter, strained the veggies, and reduced the au jus for dipping. I also found some buffalo mozzarella, a variety pack of tomatoes, and a package of “living lettuce” at Costo the day before which made for a delightful caprese salad with some pesto, olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper.

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The au jus was spectacular and the meal was an unqualified success. I am getting comfortable with the technique and am enjoying braising without needing a recipe to pull off a delicious meal. Now, what to braise next month?

Health, Part II

So, if you read my earlier post, “If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything.” ~ Count Rugen, then you may be wondering if my decadent cooking and food pics are foreshadowing of ill health or the fountain of youth.

My lipid panel and C-Reactive Protein Test results are below.

Total Cholesterol: 146  …  <200 for low risk
Triglycerides: 119  …  <150 for low risk
HDL: 43  … >40 for optimal for men
LDL: 79 … <100 for low risk
Total/HDL Ratio: 3.40  …  <3.5 for low risk
C-Reactive Protein: <0.3 …  <1 for low risk

Clean bill of health! So is it from a low fat diet? Certainly not! Is it from a gluten free diet? No, not that either. Exercise? I’d like to think that helps. Genetics? Mom thinks high cholesterol and blood pressure runs in the family, but my grandfathers lived to be 84 and 93. I’ll say genetics are helping more than hurting. Or is it something else?

That Brain Maker book I just read has me thinking that it is something else. Your liver makes the majority of the cholesterol in blood with your dietary intake being a lesser contributor. My theory is a healthy gut manages your food intake for you and protects your system from the good, the bad, the ugly and the variation.

So I shall give credit for my health to not poisoning my gut bacteria with processed food chemical additives, to feeding my gut bacteria with lots of prebiotic (aka fiber) rich whole vegetables and fruits, and to reinforcing my gut bacteria with all things fermented (sourdough, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, cheese, kombucha, and whatever is next!).

If you are well and want to be more intentional about eating, give this a read:

Or this, for a shorter “eating” book without all the science behind it:

If you are not well and are looking for a healing process (as opposed to a permanent, life changing, restrictive diet), give this a read:

Swim, Swam, Swum

MiamiPoolI did it. I swam in the Mardi Gras Masters Meet at Miami University. It was my first swim meet in 23 years. That means my last swim meet was on the other side of my half way point in years. I overheard recent college graduates lamenting about how long it had been since they’d been in the pool competitively swimming. And then I heard them exchange ages to determine if they competed at the same time. And then I figured out they weren’t even born yet when I swam in my last meet. It was a like a Doctor Suess book… Tall ones, short ones, fat ones, skinny ones, young ones, old ones, male ones and female ones… Sam, I am. The victory is very much in the showing up to begin with. Some talked of making the national cut time and others talked about their first swim meet since their knee replacement. I got to know some fellow swimmers from Richmond that are 2 or 3 decades older and much faster than I am. And they were so very friendly and encouraging. The one thing that stood out was the absence of a thing… negativity. I didn’t hear anyone say a single negative word about anyone else. The oldest and/or slowest people got the loudest applause. It was quite the encouraging scene.

So how did I do? After about 7 weeks of training and month or so before that of swimming once or twice a week for exercise, I had 3 successes and 1 failure. I signed up for 4 events: 50 Breast, 50 Free, 50 Fly and 100 Free. In high school and college I swam the 50 Free and 100 Free. Breast and Fly events started at 100 so this 50 distance is a new perk of Masters swimming. I’ve never competed in breast stroke and only swam fly once or twice in college. So this meet was about trying new strokes. Maybe the next meet will be about trying to get off of my “I’m a sprinter” crutch and trying a longer distance.

Anyway, back to how I did at this meet. Wait, one more caveat. I went to a YMCA youth practice mid-January so I could practice a few starts and swim a 50 for time in each stroke to turn in for seed times. I did 4 starts that night off of regular blocks with my old school both feet on the edge start.  During the meet warm up, I did 3 practice starts off the new fangled blocks with the raised back with a split stance like a track start. That’s the caveat to my one failure. My last race of the day was the 100 Free and my start was not a good one and my goggles filled with water. In the high school and college days, a swimmer was honor bound to man up and finish the race regardless. I’m old and was paying for the privilege to swim and climbed out of the pool after the first length. My pride isn’t so strong as to push me to swim half blind with chlorine in my eyes. Such was my failure on my 11th start in 23 years. I can live with that and survive to swim another day.

Now for the successes. The practice swims mid-January that I used for seed times were :29.9 50 Free, :36 50 Fly, and :45 50 Breast, in that order on that day. My times from the meet were :40.74 50 Breast, :28.65 50 Free, and 33.14 50 Fly, in that order. The 100 Free was very soon after the 50 Fly and I was still huffing and puffing which probably contributed to my lousy start. So I dropped over 4 seconds in the Breast my first ever competitive swim in that stroke. And I dropped almost 3 seconds in the Fly which I’ve only ever swam a few times. And even in my natural stroke, Freestyle, I dropped over a second. And above all, I showed up and I did it. Thanks to mom and dad for coming to enjoy and cheer. They said they came to make up for not watching any college swim meets, but I think they really wanted to see if I would actually make it from one end to the other without drowning. Special thanks to Jamie for pushing me to compete and special thoughts and prayers to her as she was unable to make it to the meet. Love you, Jamie.

My take aways from the experience:
-training for a competition is more fun than exercising
-competing against yourself (or the clock or weight lifted or distance, etc) reinforces progress much better than logging another hour of exercise
-fellow competitors are very encouraging, more so than fellow exercisers

Sign up for a competition. Train for it. Do it. Enjoy. Repeat.

“If you haven’t got your health, then haven’t got anything.” ~Count Rugen

Who remembers that quote from the pit of despair? Extra points if the memory flashed through your mind just from reading the quote.

WARNING: philosophical post with no gratuitous food photos

TIP: skip to the end for book links if you don’t want to read my blathering

A good friend from work has guilted me into getting a physical now that I’m in the 5th decade of my life. I rarely go to the doctor because I am rarely sick. This point was made clear when the office staff didn’t even have me in their system even though I have considered this doctor my primary care physician for over 15 years. I agreed to the physical per the logic that a good early baseline will aid in monitoring and early detection later in life. I didn’t get admitted to the hospital on site, so that was good. Next week will be the labs for all the blood tests: CBC/Diff to check red and white blood cells, metabolic panel for liver and kidney function, lipid panel for cholesterol, and urinalysis to check the other end of the kidney function. I also asked to add the C-Reactive Protein (CRP) test out of curiosity (more on that in a moment). So, we shall see…

In the mean time, I shall reflect on my food projects, exercise and reading over the last few years.

“Food for thought” statements for your consideration:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~Hippocrates

“Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.” ~Hippocrates

Living food is good & dead food is bad. Do you know what living food is? Do you eat any? some? lots?

Fiber is good for you…unless it is bad for you. Who are you feeding with it?  Healthy gut bacteria or unhealthy gut bacteria? It all starts here. If you don’t ask and answer and understand this, then all of your health, diet and exercise efforts are akin to shooting in the dark. You might or might not hit the mark, but you certainly won’t be aiming. Read up and ferment something while you are at it.

Meat and fat are good for you. If you think they are bad for your heart, consider this… your heart doesn’t pump blood into your tissue so much as your movement pulls blood out of the main pipes and into your tissue. Which is better for you: movement or exercise? What’s the difference? or better yet, how long is the difference?

Dairy is bad for you. Or so they say. What if living (aka raw milk) has all the enzymes and healthy bacteria to be a balanced food? What if it is naturally fermented without chemicals and sweeteners (homemade cheese & yogurt)?

Gluten is evil. Yes, for an unhealthy gut, it very much is. Go back to the “healthy gut bacteria” paragraph and fix that first. And then ferment your grains and make homemade sourdough bread. And dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar which help the body regulate carbohydrate digestion. I like these examples of traditional food culture habits that are supportive of our health and are older than our scientific understanding of the why. I enjoy pasta. It goes well with fat and protein in a healthy portion. And a glass of wine. My healthy gut likes it and so do I.

Eat salad. Eat vegetables. Be a vegetarian. Be a vegan. Hug a tree. All that plant matter is good for you… after you get your gut ready for it. In the mean time ferment some of it, cook some of it, and eat some of it raw – with oil and vinegar.

Exercise. Movement. What is the difference? My simple answer… exercise is short duration, high intensity, specific (repetitive) activity. Movement is long duration, low intensity, varied activity. A two mile run on the beach in 20 minutes in exercise. Shell collecting on the beach for 4 hours is movement full of barefoot walking and squatting. A 30 minute trail ride on a bike is exercise. A 2 hour walk through the woods picking and eating wild black raspberries and taking pictures is movement. Movement is good for you. Exercise can be good for you. Variability drives overall health and specificity (repetitive exercise) drives specific adaptations for that activity leaving relative weakness in unused areas. Know anybody that can run an 18-minute 5K that threw out their back moving furniture? How could that happen?

Are you still here? Are you still reading this long blog post? I’m impressed.

My paradoxical questions… Why am I still overweight? My BMI the past few years has hovered around 29-31 straddling the line between overweight and obese. Really?! I’m obese? Yikes. Well, I can take my pulse by leaning over to tie my shoes and compress my guts with my belly and feeling my pulse pound in my head. Yep, I’m obese. Why do I have old man aches and pains (neck and shoulders… back and hips…)? My body has adapted to it’s overwhelming majority of time wearing heeled shoes, sitting at a desk on a computer or in a car driving. Ankles that don’t flex, hips that don’t extend, shoulders that don’t hold the rib cage up.

My plan… get a physical and benchmark my health per the doctor. Move more while still exercising because I enjoy it. I’ll swim in a masters swim meet or two. I’ll run in a 5K or two. I’ll walk and jog the trails in Winona (especially during raspberry season). I’ll stretch and do yoga – especially at work (I’m lucky to have an office with a door so I won’t get made fun of for stretching). I’ll ferment lots of food. I’ll turn the food pyramid upside down and eat more meat and fat than carbs. I’ll eat lots of veggies and fresh fruit. And I’ll pour my heart and soul into my cooking and eating as I always have.

It will be a journey, not a 2016 1-year dash. I hope to straddle the line between healthy and overweight (around the 200-pound mark for me) instead of the line between overweight and obese. I hope to be able to move any way I like without aches and pains (breaking the adaptation to sitting with my arms out in front and resetting to “normal”). One grandfather lived to 84 and the other to 93. I like the sound of that.

 

Tuttlingen in January

The first trip of the year was to Tuttlingen, Germany. My tradition for each of these trips is to take a picture of the Falken Brauerei on my way through Schaffhausen as my little way of sharing Tirza’s home with her and Jordan.

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In Tuttlingen, I was greeted by snow and cold temperatures just like I had hoped I left behind in Warsaw. I took a couple pictures of familiar sights with a new twist on each. Not a lot of photo opportunities this time but I’m sticking to my goal of taking photos on every trip.

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The red clock face of the church bell tower

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Sunrise over the hills behind bringing life to the hills in front

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The castle ruins watching over the city by night

January Braise-of-the-Month

IMG_0542Sunday was an unplanned playoff football Sunday braise for dinner. This one was a throw it together meal to be sure. I think that makes that much more of a case for braising. I didn’t take a series of photos this time – just the dinner plate ready to be enjoyed.

So… what did I do this time? Pulled a chuck roast from the freezer after church to thaw. Random trivia: I have a freezer full of a side of angus from the Boggs family raised just a couple miles aways and processed by Martin’s in Wakarusa. I highly recommend both.

The seasoning was salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I browned in bacon grease, sautéed onions and celery. I deglazed with a nice but inexpensive bottle of white wine (Sancerre from France, a sauvignon blanc). I had about a cup and a half of leftover chicken and beef broth mixed together (from the udon soup) that made for a suitable braising liquid. I threw in a few dried porcini mushrooms because they make everything better.

That all went in for an hour and a half in the oven at 325°F. I had a few leftover potatoes from my holiday Hasselback potatoes, so I threw in peeled and quartered russet and Yukon Gold potatoes to clean out those leftovers. I added some carrots as well. Back in the oven for another hour and a half. I had a few green beans left from the day after Christmas lamb braise green beans amandine, so they went in for the last 20 minutes. I didn’t reduce the sauce this time. I just spooned the juice over the plate and enjoyed.

I really liked the white wine and chicken broth in this braise. It made for a lighter flavor that let the meat and vegetables flavors come through. And I used up my leftover broth, potatoes, and green beans. And it fed everyone for 2 nights.

What should be next for February’s braise-a-month?

Udon – What’s With Feet in Cooking?!

Grape-stomping seems romantic enough with the beautiful Italian woman lifting her skirt, smiling and stomping away. But I sure hope her feet are clean if I have to drink that wine. Sauerkraut is stomped (ok, that’s supposed to be with a wooden utensil, but somebody must have used their feet for it to get that name). I do confess, to washing Logan’s feet and letting him stomp a batch of sauerkraut in the 15 gallon crock a couple years ago…

And, Japanese noodle dough is kneaded with your feet. My prehistoric theory is that men went out to hunt while women prepared food and found that they could get more work done faster stomping away rather than by wearing their arms out. My modern day theory is that udon is for Sunday dinner. You mix the dough before the noon pregame show. You stomp the dough during the first half of the 1pm Colts game. This season provide many occasions to stomp like a temper tantrum throwing child. You let the dough rest until after the 4:30pm game is over. You cook and eat before Sunday night football starts. Not sure that udon and football qualify as a classic pairing, but work with me here.

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My new silicone baking mat and rolling pin

I have thoroughly enjoyed Ratio by Michael Ruhlman and thought I would look for the same approach to udon. Luckily, I found a post that talked about the proper ratios. I also learned a bit about flour along the way. Udon is typically made with a low protein flour, so the bread flour and AP flour in my kitchen would need a little cutting to be suitable. This is some good engineering math meets chef stuff.

Udon flour is 8-9% protein
All purpose flour is 10-12% protein
Bread flour is 14-16% protein

So how to turn high protein flour into low protein flour? Cut it with cornstarch. I found a 6-serving udon recipe that called for about 360g of flour. I wanted a 3-serving version for a no leftovers dinner, so 180g of 8-9% protein flour is what I needed.

180g * 8.5% / 11% = 139g of AP flour … I rounded to 140g
Add in 40g of cornstarch to get to the 180g @ 8.5% and poof! I have udon flour! Isn’t math fun?!

Back to the recipe ratio… salt at 5% of the flour weight and water at 42-43% of the flour weight per Hiroko’s post. If you have made dough for bread or pasta before, you’ll notice that’s a lot of salt and not very much water. For my 3-serving recipe, that worked out to 9g salt and 76g water. Since I don’t have an 1ml graduated beaker, I just weighed my water along with my dry ingredients. Random trivia: 1ml water = 1 g water and a pint’s a pound the world round!

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The dough looks more like gravel than dough

The dough does not come together in the KitchenAid. It does pack sort of like a snowball, though.

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Packed dough resting in a bag for about 30 minutes

The next step is for the feet. And I do recommend feet. This is some seriously tough dough.

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Black socks are nicer to look at than my feet

I think i read somewhere that stomping and rolling 6 times would do the trick. I lost count and just leisurely did this through the first half of the football game.

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Rolled dough ready for another stomping

It really does look smooth and shiny and dough like when you are done with all the hard work. The next challenge is to form it into a ball to rest. I couldn’t figure out how to use my feet and my body weight to form a ball, so it took a little elbow grease to get this step done.

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I lightly oiled the dough and let it rest for a few hours (recipes said 3-4 hours with a little oil under a towel). This is dry dough and seemed to soak up the oil and still dry out a bit, so next time I’ll probably wrap it in plastic instead of using the towel. After resting, I rolled with my new rolling pin which was awesome. You can flatten a tough dough much easier with that style rolling pin. Once flattened, I rolled it and sliced it into noodles.

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you can see the rough surface from the dough drying out while resting

After my starch bomb ramen experience a few weeks ago, I went with a pot of salted water for the noodles and a separate pot for the soup. This worked well and the udon worked better than my last attempt at ramen (look for a post in the future on ramen – I will succeed!).

This soup was half chicken stock and half beef stock with a spoonful of miso added to sautéed white onion, garlic and shiitake mushrooms. I made teriyaki beef and topped with scallions and cilantro to complete the meal.

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Success!!!

 

Kimchi – My Fermenting Nemesis

I’m struggling to get a good batch of Kimchi. If you don’t know what Kimchi is but you do know what sauerkraut is, then you are more acquainted with German food than Korean food. Typically, both are fermented cabbage although Koreans call any fermented vegetable kimchi. For my part, I’m talking about cabbage. Many moons ago (summer of 2014?) I made a batch of kimchi using green cabbage from the garden. It turned out fine but was really sauerkraut with hints of pepper and radish. A couple months ago, I decided to make “real” kimchi and ended up with a rotten pile of mush – I had a failure to ferment. Who just heard the movie quote “what we have here is a failure to communicate” run through their mind? Anyway… back to the Kimchi.

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Vegetables for the ferment: napa and bok choy cabbages, daikon and carrot

Sauerkraut as I know it is shredded green cabbage while kimchi is chopped bok choy and/or napa cabbage. Napa comes from nappa which is a colloquial Japanese term for leaves of a vegetable used for food – not from our grapey California valley.

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Cabbage cut into squares for kimchi as opposed to shredded for sauerkraut

I suspect the difference in cutting styles is tied to the fork vs chopstick utensil preference.

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Daikon and carrots cut into matchsticks

The carrots and daikon are tougher vegetables compared to the leafy cabbage and are meant as accents rather than the main focus, so it is cut up smaller.

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A few scallions get cut into 1″ pieces and added in to the mix. I thought they looked better whole and figured there’s nothing photo worthy about cutting 1″ pieces of a green onion…

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Garlic and ginger in stages

Garlic and ginger provide part of the flavor to kimchi. Neither go into sauerkraut. You can see the top to bottom garlic clove smash-peel-mince sequence Craig taught me. It’s the little things… Ginger is a funny shaped root. Just thought I’d throw that in for posterity.

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Seasoning mix

My sauerkraut gets salt, caraway and juniper. Here you can see the garlic and ginger along with the salt, sugar, and a wee bit of crushed red pepper. The seasoning mix then gets combined with fish sauce. That stuff smells vile. That is all.

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Packing the crock for the ferment

Now for a discussion on method… I have had great success with sauerkraut  when i add cabbage and salt and seasoning to the crock and let it do it’s thing. I usually add a little bit of brine (aka salt water) after a day or two in order to ensure everything stays submerged (I spend very little effort stomping or smashing). My first pseudo-kimchi with shredded green cabbage was made this way and fermented just fine. My most recent attempt at kimchi used a different technique that I read as the traditional method.

Using this traditional method, the cabbage is cut and soaked in brine for a period of time and then rinsed and combined with the rest of the ingredients to coat the leaves with the seasoning for the ferment. The theory is that the cabbage quickly absorbs the salt during the brine soak and everything gets going a bit quicker. Mine didn’t ferment – it rotted. So, either the brine wasn’t strong enough or it didn’t soak long enough. Too much extra work to figure out how to fix it, so I’m sticking with the German technique for this next batch. The cabbage and seasoning got mixed in as I filled the crock. I added a bit of brine to keep everything submerged.

We are on day 8 of the ferment now. I’ll taste it today to see if it is fermenting as expected. If not, you may read about an eccentric that died suddenly from eating some strange rotten food concoction. Wish me luck!

UPDATE 1/16/16

Tasted the kimchi today. MUCH better! A touch too salty for my liking but perfectly edible and great flavor and crunch. A little less salt in the added brine will probably do the trick. I might try the “traditional” salt and rinse method again someday, but for now my “sauerkraut” method works for me. The batch yielded 2 packed quarts.

 

An Early Start to 2016’s Braise-a-Month Project

My dad, Logan and I all love lamb and typically reserve it for bachelor dad dinners. Since we were all three together for the holidays, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up to share this common bond. For the non-lamb eaters in the family, there was leftover prime rib from Christmas dinner the day before – not a bad deal as leftovers go. I went with the iPhone camera for this post because there just aren’t that many clear spaces on the counter during the holidays.

So let’s jump in for Braise #1 in this project that has just turned into a 13-month project… Beginning with the end in mind, here is the aerial shot of the plated meal:

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Braised lamb with a bonus end piece on top (I do love the end pieces with the seasoning crust), hassleback potato and green beans amandine.

We joined Costco this year to get a good deal on a pre-lit Christmas tree and picked up a 5-pound boneless leg of lamb for this meal.

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The roast came all nice and neat in a net, but this one got seasoned inside and out. I cut the net off, rolled out the roast, and cut through the thicker section to get it all relatively flat.

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For the inside, I made a rub of shallots, garlic, parsley, thyme and rosemary with olive oil.

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My trussing skills aren’t quite as neat and tidy as the netting, but I eventually got  everything bundled up.

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I seasoned the outside with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

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I seared the roast in the cast iron dutch oven in duck fat. It seemed appropriate for the holidays – not quite a Christmas goose, but the thought was there.

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The braise used shallots, celery, carrots, wine and water seasoned with a little leftover ragú instead of tomato paste and a bay leaf for good measure.  Oh, and a secret ingredient for an extra smooth sauce.

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The veggies all cleaned up for the party

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Sautéed with the ragú

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The bay leaf floating on wine and water

The lamb and secret ingredient went in next with parchment paper under the lid to help hold in the moisture.

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The braise went into the oven at 325° for 2 1/2 hrs. I turned the lamb over twice during the braise as a lazy basting. Next up, I prepped the potatoes.

I found this idea on the internet – Hasselback Potatoes. No, they aren’t some Pinterest idea from Matt’s wife on The View (that show is blocked on my satellite). They are from Sweden’s Restaurant Hasselbacken by way of The Kitchn. I found another suggestion on the web somewhere to use chopsticks to help with the cutting and went with that technique. They are described as a mix of french fries and mashed potatoes. How could that be bad?!

So here we go… Yukon Gold potatoes, chopsticks and my knife.

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I cheated a bit since this was my first time and sliced the bottoms so the potatoes would sit flat and be easier to cut.

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The chopsticks worked quite well as a depth stop.

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In keeping with the Christmas theme, I brushed the potatoes with duck fat but these would be just as good with butter or bacon grease.

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I brushed with duck fat again after 30 minutes in the oven and seasoned with Aromat to keep the European theme going. While the potatoes were in for the second half of the hour, I reduced the strained pan juices for sauce and made the green beans amandine to round out the meal. The ladies even tasted the lamb and didn’t hate it!

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The sauce was decadent and delicious and made the meal to be sure. The lamb without the sauce was a bit dry which was surprising. It was a very lean piece though so perhaps I’ll lay some bacon over the next one. The sauce more than remedied the situation and made the potatoes even better. Speaking of the potatoes – crispy edges and a creamy center. A mix of french fries and mashed potatoes was a fair description and these will definitely become standard fare in my kitchen going forward.

Well, that wraps up braise #1 of the 2016 Braise-a-Month project. The next one will be shot with the Canon. The meat is still TBD… hmmmm….

Have a safe and happy new year!