Charcutepalooza #12 Showing off!
I’m not usually one for showing off, but this month I want to shout it from the rooftops “I’VE MADE SOME AWESOME MEAT THIS YEAR!” All thanks to an incredible idea bloggers Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy dreamed up a year ago. Charcutepalooza gave me the chance to learn how to make some of my favourite things from scratch, with expert help from Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn. Who else has access to the author of a cook book on a regular basis to problem solve any difficulties there may be with a recipe? And if all that isn’t fantastic enough I have also gained a large group of meat loving friends via Twitter. There is an amazing community of Charcutepalooza Tweeps out there.
Back to the meat. The final challenge is to show off all of the skills we have learnt in the past year. For the apprentice challenge, create something that includes 3 charcuterie skills and for the charcuterie challenge create something that demonstrates 4 or more skills. So where do you start? I’ve learnt so much that I wanted to create something that demonstrated all of my new skills. The first idea that popped into my head was canapés. I love making platters of bite sized goodies and don’t need too much persuasion to cook up a storm. I didn’t manage to include all of the skills from the past twelve months but I gave it a red hot crack.
The most amazing discovery this year has been the smoking. I’ve never smoked before in my life so all the twitter spam I received trying to persuade me to stop was hilarious. If only they knew what I was really up to.
I enjoyed the smoked bacon, but my real triumphs were the smoked duck ham and whole smoked trout. This was the third time I have smoked a duck breast this year and each time it has got just a little bit better. I smoke things using my barbecue which is by no means an exact science resulting in slightly dry meat the first time. But practice makes perfect, and even if I do say so myself, I think I have perfected it.
I don’t think a month has gone by this year without the fridge containing a bag of bacon. I now refuse to buy it. The dishes that the bacon finds its way into are too numerous to name but in the name of showing off this had to be something special. As I was flicking through my cook books this dish caught my eye. A Caesar salad canapé with a bread ‘cup’ that acts as the crouton, holding all the usual elements of a Caesar salad. Don’t be fooled by the egg, these really were bite sized thanks to the mini muffin tray and the quails eggs that grace the top.
Dry cure. Check.
Another item I have made on more than one occasion is the duck prosciutto. I love duck and salting and hanging a breast turns something I love into something I adore! This was also the best batch to date. Over the year I have found that it does take a little bit of practice to get things right and this last batch of duck prosciutto was the perfect texture. Not too dry and just cured enough. In fact this batch was so good I got the seal of approval from an Italian friend who suggested I sold it to the Italian community in Sydney!
I served the duck as part of a charcuterie plate and wrapped around a small piece of dried fig. The left over end that was too small to slice was chopped up and combined with spring onion, fried and served in a lettuce cup with sour cherry and fresh mint.
This year has also given me a freezer full of wonderful leftovers so to finish off the spread I dug out some leftover sausage meat and turned them into sausage rolls by wrapping it in puff pastry, sprinkling with sesame seeds and baking for 25 minutes in a hot oven.
What a year and what a great way to wrap it up by sharing all my new skills with my friends. One thing’s for sure I will definitely continue with home charcuterie and next year I might also add home cheese making to my repertoire. Watch this space.
For the trout:
1 whole rainbow trout
125g rock salt
50g brown sugar
Seasoning to taste
Tarragon leaves to garnish
For the shortbread:
125g plain flour
100g grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
Tiny pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
To smoke the trout combine the salt and sugar and place half of the mixture in the bottom of a non reactive dish. Stuff the trout with the fennel tops and parsley stalks and place some around the trout. Put the whole trout on top of the salt and sugar mixture and cover with the remaining mixture. Cover the dish with cling film and refrigerate for twelve hours.
After twelve hours remove the trout from the salt and rinse off any excess salt. Return to the fridge, uncovered to dry out for about six hours.
To smoke, soak some hickory chips in water before putting in the smoking tin. Prepare the barbecue for indirect cooking and preheat to 100 degrees centigrade. Put the tin with the soaked hickory chips over the heat and the trout on a cooling rack on the other side of the barbecue. Close the barbecue lid and maintain the heat at 100 degrees until the trout is cooked. This usually takes about an hour and a half. Be careful not to over cook the trout as it becomes dry.
Once cooked allow the trout to cool and carefully remove from the bones. Flake the trout into a bowl and combine with some creme fraiche, horseradish cream, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. Add just enough creme fraiche to bind the trout into the pate but be careful not to add too much or the mixture will become sloppy. Set aside while you make the shortbread.
To make the shortbread combine the flour, Parmesan, cayenne pepper, rosemary and salt in a mini food processor. Once combined add the cubed butter and continue to mix until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk until the mixture comes together t form a dough. Tip out onto a clean surface and form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least an hour.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Once the dough has rested, roll it out until it is about 2mm thick and carefully cut out the biscuits using a 4cm cookie cutter. This mixture should make about 40 biscuits, but if you don’t need 40 freeze the remaining dough for another day.
Place the biscuits on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.