Charcutepalooza Challenge #4 – Charcutepalooza goes Intercontinental
April’s challenge is smoking. I’m not usually a huge fan of smoked foods, I like it, but not too much and not too often and it’s probably not something I would choose on a restaurant menu. However, because smoking is an official Charcutepalooza challenge I had to give it a go, as I’m not one to shirk on a challenge, especially when it comes to cooking! There were three options this month, Smoked Salmon, Tasso Ham and Canadian Bacon. With the success of my first batch of bacon I was keen to try the Canadian Bacon and compare the difference between the loin and the belly and smoked versus non-smoked.This month also marks our second official trip back to the UK since we arrived in Australia in 2006. It’s a little concerning when you are packing your bags for a holiday and the first thing you think is not “Have I got my passport?” but “Will I be able to complete my April Charcutepalooza challenge?” By the end of this year I think I might be in rehab with my meat addiction…
With the UK trip fast approaching I had to act on this pretty quickly. As I wasn’t sure whether I would like the smoked food, I didn’t want to rush out and buy a smoker (despite my love of kitchen gadgets) so we had to rig up a system on our trusty barbeque. We found a smoking box and hickory chips in the trusty Australian hardware store. The setup: smoking box and hickory chips on one side of the barbeque, over direct heat; meat on other side over unlit burner.
It was a complete success! Four months into the Charcutepalooza, I should know by now not to doubt the recipes, but yet again, the results were infinitely better than I could ever imagine. The tastiness of the bacon was also increased by the excitement of borrowing a proper slicer from a friends parents. Proper slicers increase the taste sensation ten fold. I was hooked again; desperate to smoke whatever I could get my hands on. Flicking through the book (if you haven’t worked it out by now it’s Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn) the recipe that really caught my eye was smoked duck ham. Even though I enjoyed the Canadian Bacon, bacon for me really needs some fat to crisp it up, so the other thing I really wanted to do was smoke some pork belly.
This month’s trip to the UK has been on the calendar for a good 18 month so I could hardly disappoint my Mother-in-Law in the name of meat. This meant there was only one thing for it, my curing salts had to come for a holiday too! This was a tiny bit concerning as I’ve watched all the reality TV shows and I know what they do to people who carry bags of white powder in their bags, but I was willing to take the risk, what’s the worst they could do for a bag of salt? I was a little bit concerned as I crossed through the green gate with ‘nothing to declare’ but I made it, with no internal examinations to my name!
This meant that my week in Lancashire with the parents turned into a week of brining and smoking rather than relaxing. I had a moment of excitement in the local supermarket when I managed to find a local crown of Goosnargh Duck and some rare breed pork belly. Actually I was torn between excitement and a moment of jealousy and almost homesickness (but not quite!).
With Dad’s help (I’m trying to inspire him to take up curing as a retirement hobby) I rigged up a smoking barbeque. It wasn’t quite as good as the home setup but the backdrop of the English countryside made up for that. Speaking of English countryside, I had a moment of inspiration one morning when I saw a pheasant walking down the garden path, but unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough to turn him into pheasant ham.
With smoked duck ham and pork belly bacon, I had to find a suitable way to serve it. The only way to eat the duck ham is as it is; it was served for lunch with a cheese platter, and as Ruhlman and Polcyn say, the smoked duck ham works perfectly with blue cheese.
The bacon was also served as is as part of a full English breakfast, but with the leftovers I made a fitting tribute to my homeland: Smokey bacon, broccoli and Stilton tart. A memory of my homeland because quiche was a very popular dish served at every buffet in the 1980′s and Stilton being one of the cheeses originating in my home county of Leicestershire. If you can’t find Stilton, any other blue cheese will probably do.
Smoky Bacon, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Tart
225g plain flour
½ tsp salt
50g chilled butter, cubed
50g chilled lard, cubed
1.5-2 tablespoons water
3 thick slices Canadian bacon/smoked streaky bacon
½ small head broccoli
75g blue cheese (I used Stilton)
4 eggs, 1 separated
275 ml double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Make the pastry:
Combine the butter, lard and flour in a food processor until it forms the consistency of breadcrumbs then gradually add the water until it sticks together into a pastry. Remove from the food processor and knead gently until it is all mixed and the consistency of pastry. Leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll out pastry and line a 25cm loose bottom flan tray with the pastry. Prick the bottom and leave to rest in the fridge for another 30 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade. Line the pastry with baking paper, put the baking beans or rice on top of the baking paper and bake the pastry case blind for 15 minutes. Remove baking paper and beads and brush with egg white and return to oven for 2 minutes or until the egg white is set and the pastry is lightly golden.
Meanwhile, as the pastry is baking, prepare ingredients for the filling. Chop the broccoli into small florets, half or quarter the larger ones if necessary. Chop the bacon into 5mm cubes. Break the cheese into small pieces a similar size to the bacon. Evenly distribute the bacon, cheese and broccoli over the pastry base.
Lightly whisk the eggs and additional egg yolk and combine with the cream in a bowl and season with pepper and a little bit of salt. Be careful not to put too much salt in though as the blue cheese and bacon will be salty. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the ingredients in the tart case and shake gently so the filling is evenly distributed.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35-45 minutes or until firm and lightly brown on top.
The tart can be served warm from the oven, or chilled the next day.