24 November, 2008

The Paris Beat: Fruit Cakes

The Paris Beat is a new feature on Saucisson MAC. Follow Jolie, (my sister) as she has adventures living in Paris and attending Culnary School. This is her second postacard.

So I’ve been busy baking all week. It’s been great. So far we’ve made some very unexciting stuff, nice and easy for the first week! Shortbread cookies, fruit cake, madelines, apple tart. Tomorrow we are making gateau basque which is fancy talk for a butter cake with a layer of pastry cream and some prunes baked in. The very worst part is, we take everything that we bake home. This means I’ve got 2 fruit cakes, 16 madelines, who knows how many shortbread cookies and an apple tart sitting on the kitchen counter. This problem is going to be compounding. An advanced student was trying to unload a chocolate pistachio cake last night and I had to look at her like she was nuts.

Hope you are doing well. I will send more pics and stories soon!



22 November, 2008

Pizza Chop

Making pizza sausage without a grinder.

Got some chicken and a big knife? Let’s make some sausage. Friday night means pizza here at the hermitage, and I use it as a chance to clean out the fridge. But what if you don’t have any… (Horrors!)… sausage on hand. Here’s a pretty quick way to produce the popular pizza topping.

I bought a whole chicken at the beginning of the week, boned it, made stock. With the stock I made broccoli soup, and from half of the chicken I made a curry. I took the remaining breast and thigh for the sausage. It weighed about a pound, I diced it. The smaller the better.

Diced chicken in the frezzer

Mixing it up.
I mixed some salt and spices with the diced chicken, I let it rest in the fridge for 15 minutes. After the spices had a chance to soak in, I spread the mixture on a sheet pan lined with parchment and popped it into the freezer. It got good and crunchy in about 20 minutes.

Chopping Chicken

Chop Chop Chop
I got the cleaver and started chopping like I was on TV, fast and furious. It took 4 or 5 minutes to get it to the mince that I wanted. Yeah, I suppose I could have used a Cuisinart, but where’s that sport in that? Once chopped, I kneaded the sausage and added a splash of red wine vinegar. Then I cooked it.

Pizza time
My pizza stone cracked into three pieces about eight years ago but it still works. I put it on the top rack and put the oven on high for about an hour. As for the crust, I use a combination of Sapphire and whole wheat and give it an all day rise. The best discussion I’ve found about various pizza dough formulas is in the book American Pie, by Peter Reinhart. Go to the library and check it out.

Here’s where a little heresy comes into play: I don’t care for the mess dusting my peel with semolina or cornmeal causes, so I put my pizza on parchment paper. I would cringe if I saw this in a professional operation (and I have), but at home it saves me from the odor of burning corn meal in the oven. When I’m ready to bake, I move the stone to the bottom of the oven and put in the pie. I pull the parchment after about five minutes and I can use it again for the next pie.

Pizza with sausage, garlic and poblano pepper

When done, cut into wedges, or squares if in Columbus, oh wait, pizza joints cut it in squares here too, and serve with beer. A fire in the fireplace, Myazaki movie on the tube, Friday night family fun.

Here’s the spices I used for 1 pound (450 grams) of Chicken:
8 g salt
3 g black peppercorns
3 g whole fennel
2 g whole coriander
1 g brown mustard seeds

Mix spices together and run them through a spice mill.

Happy Birthday Mom.


17 November, 2008

Smoked Fish in the Southland

Smoked trout

The Accidental Foodie goes to Calumet Fisheries.

Oh boy, I love smoked fish. It's not that hard to make, get some fish, fire up the smoker (really any type of grilling device set on lo) and wait a few hours, Hey Presto, smoky love from the sea. In fact I think it's so easy, that I would never consider buying it. I suppose I have become jaded, I see those golden smoked beauties in the cold case, and I feel like someone is trying to sell me a $20-dollar-a-pound secret that I already know. Well sometimes I'm told to put down my tongs and take a spin on the merry-go-round. And man what a ride.

Family time at Calumet Fisheries

When someone says "fisheries" in Chicago, the person means a place that serves fried fish of some sort in a bag with fries and hot sauce. Calumet Fisheries is a little bit different in that they also offer fish smoked on the premises. We made the trip up to 95th ST, on a bright Sunday morning. We met Carlos who was working the counter and Ray who was tending to the smoker. They weren't too busy so they happily talked to Bonne Femme and me about what they do and showed us the smoker out back.

At the counter

menu portrait

Brick Smokehouse

If for no other reason you should visit just to see the brick smokehouse. Perched between the store and the river, it is truly a relic of the past, no electric stainless steel chambers, just bricks, smoke and fish. The fish is hot smoked for about five hours with a mixture of hardwoods. Ray split some wood to give me an idea of the different aromas from the different woods.

spliting wood 01

Ray brines the fish before smoking, he said he would be happy to tell me the recipe if had had one, he does it all to taste.

Smoked shrimp sign

Back inside Carlos offers a sample of the smoked shrimp. Yum. We get to talking, he reveals that he went to culinary school at CHIC, Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago. After getting his certificate he went to work at the casino down the road, but he didn't like it and came back to Calumet. All the school talk started making the boys antsy, Carlos asks me what I would like.

"I dunno what's coming out of the smoker?" Little did I know Bonne Femme was one step ahead of me, outside:


Unloading the smoker

Smoked salmon on the rack

She zeroed in on a piece of trout and a piece of salmon with pepper and garlic.

Smoked salmon with pepper and garlic

Shrimp Dinner, Half Order

We got a shrimp dinner for the boys, they ate it all. The smoked fish doesn't come as a meal, you have to take it home and make your own magic. Smoked trout rillets maybe?

When You Visit:

While this part of town is remote, it is by no means intimidating. It is more industrial than anything else, on the other side of the bridge is one of Chicago's largest boat yards, Crowley's, they have a very nice ship's store. The bridge spans the Calumet river, not the Chicago. Calumet is also the name of the geologic region that starts roughly at 95th ST and stretches around the bottom of the Lake all the way to Michigan. There's a great book by Kenneth Schoon called Calumet Beginnings, that has a history of the area.

Calumet Fisheries
3259 E 95TH ST
Chicago, IL 60617



Parking for Calumet Fisheries is on the street, and there are no tables. They are open 7 days 10am-10pm. Check it out.


15 November, 2008

More Turkey Tips for Mr. McGee

In response to the recent post, Please Mr. McGee Don't Drown my Turkey, Kit from Santa Cruz sent in the following PSA:

Thanks for sending that in, Chris, it reminds me of the good times we spent parked in front of the TV on Saturday mornings.

Oh yeah, don't down your food! True thirty years ago, true today.


13 November, 2008

The Paris Beat: Getting Started

The Paris Beat is a new feature on Saucisson MAC. Follow Jolie as she has adventures living in Paris and attending Culnary School. This is her first postacard.

I need to take more pictures, but I wanted to send you this one with the cool hat you gave me. I think it is one of a kind in Paris, where people are more stylish than in DC, but dress out of the same color palate.

There is a picture of a coffee at café Delmas where a coffee with cream costs 5.20 euros because Hemmingway used to live on the same street. Wonder what he would think of that.

There is a picture of the Seine,

and finally a shot my window in what my landlord describes as ‘a great view of the rooftops of Paris’. I will get to snapping more.. . .school starts next Monday!



Please Mr. McGee, Don’t Drown my Turkey.

It’s getting to turkey time when the media outlets churn out the usual fodder regarding the best prep for your holiday bird. I try not to use this forum to throw stones at articles that promotes practices with which I don't agree; however I am temporarily suspending my editorial policy to comment on an unusual stinker.

I really enjoy the Curious Cook column penned by Harold McGee. His book, On food and Cooking, sits between my Larousse and my dictionary. It is an important reference book that is cited again and again in modern cookbooks when a writer wants to put science in the culinary arts. But this week…oh I can’t even…

In “Miracle Cure or Just Salt Water,” published in yesterday’s New York Times, McGee stakes out a position against brining. He balances this argument on a couple of wobbly points, but I think the true purpose these straw men is to prop up his notion of how turkey should be served: Swimming in sauce. Yeah, he says you shouldn’t brine because you can’t make a decent gravy, “its drippings become too salty to use.”

Is the holiday called Thanksgravy? Gravy Day?

No it’s about the bird, and the bird should come first. You can make gravy out of anything. How about some chicken stock, a thickening agent, and some of the pan drippings? Brining a turkey at home is a very rewarding process especially it you are going to be cooking your tom in a grill or a smoker. What are the benefits? McGee lists them in the article and also on page 155 of his book.

One of the benefits of brining is it provides some latitude in finishing temperature and meat texture. You can cook the breast to 165F and still have a wonderful white meat AND properly cooked dark meat. But McGee sticks to his gravy. In place of briny latitude he proposes that you slice the breast meat thinly and “coat the meat thoroughly” with sauce. Again, the bird plays second fiddle.

McGee writes that his saucy approach “takes its inspiration from the world of barbecue and its ways of dealing with well-cooked meat. In particular, pulled pork.” Oh no, please don’t tell me you bathe your pulled pork too. Not only is it wrong to hold BBQ in sauce but I found out it’s illegal. I contacted Jim Ellison, proprietor of the blog CMH Gourmand, and a producer of Columbus Foodcast. He also happens to be a Barbeque Judge certified by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. Jim referred me to the KCBS rules which states pooled sauce is grounds for disqualification in competition.

My point here is that to cover something with sauce means that you are covering up something. Don’t get me wrong I am all for ketchup on my French fries, and I have over a kilo of German mustard (thanks Liisa and Karhu) on hand, but sauce is a supporting actor, its roll is to enhance the meal. At the end of the article McGee makes the same point, that his approach enhances the meat. I think there is a line (and not a really fine one) between enhancing and dominating, and saucing meat like this crosses the line.

Thanks Harold McGee for giving me a reason to rant, and by the way, I love your book.

Click Here for MAC’s tips for a Perfect Turkey .

And Click here for my article on Genuine Authentic Barbeque .